Virus Rose
Virus Rose

Virus Rose

Virus Rose

(rhodon ios)

Whenever something nasty happens to Plague-Mort, most decent-thinking cutters smile and say ‘about time too.’ However, when you happen to be a decent-thinking cutter who’s found himself in Plague-Mort (through no fault of his own) at the time something nasty is happening, then you tend to say ‘Help, where’s the nearest portal out of here?’ Of course, this happened to me…

There’s always a plot going down in Plague-Mort, the saying goes, and it seems I’ve stepped right in the middle of this one. I arrived in the horrible burg this morning – though mornings and evenings don’t have much difference between ’em when the sky’s always murky. I’ve only been here once before, and that time the barmy place was busy slipping into the Abyss. This time, the whole town’s covered in these royal purple roses. They’d almost look attractive if I didn’t know what they were.

See, some years ago I was out travelling with an adventuring party on the Abyss, some few layers down. I came across a burg choked with roses just like these, and we stopped by for somewhere to kip. Their scent was voluptuous and buxom, comforting and inviting. We found the whole village’d been deserted by its inhabitants, as if they’d just upped and left.

It was some time before the ranger noticed each of the rosebushes was growing from the decaying corpse of an unfortunate villager. We didn’t shed any tears, as they were probably all nasty sods anyway, but it did rather concern us. We decided to leave the burg that night, and found shelter instead in a cave system with stalactites which whispered to each other about our imminent grizzly deaths. We ignored them, and thanked our stars that the creatures that slaughtered the locals hadn’t got us too.

Later that night, as we settled around the fire, the githzerai mage clutched his throat and began to froth at the mouth, coughing and sneezing. He played ill for a couple of hours, then quite without warning green tendrils sprayed out of his bone-box and all over his face, clawing and grasping! We watched aghast, as his body collapsed and green vines burrowed their way out of his skin, rooting themselves in the rocky ground. As we turned and fled, purple roses blossomed from his corpse, their festering scent wafting throughout the cave.

For the next few nights we moved on, not stopping for longer than an hour at any place. One by one my companions were killed from the inside out by these terrible roses. Mercifully, I alone was spared from their carnage, left to ponder the nature of the affliction that so effectively wiped out the others.

“Ring a ring o’ roses,
Yer body’s full of posies,
Atishoo! Atishoo!
We all fall down.
And then the rest of the town…”

– Tiefling nursery rhyme

Thus I was filled with terror when I saw the roses had somehow escaped the Abyss into Plague-Mort. Folks of the burg would seem healthy enough, then they’d suddenly begin to sneeze, and razor sharp leaves would cut their way out of the sod’s skin. The flowers spread like a disease through the locals, slicing a great swath through the population. Panic seized the hearts of the citizens, who tried to escape by the hundred. They were either cut down at the gates by mask-wearing Hounds, or at portals by tanar’ri who’d mysteriously arrived on the scene. I stayed shut away in my case, and didn’t open the door to any berk. My guess is that the fiends’ve peeled the burg’s high-ups yet again, delivering the roses to the burg to incite enough chaos to push Plague-Mort off the edge of the Outlands and into the Abyss. I never thought I’d see the day, but the tanar’ri’ve really said it with flowers. With the virus trapped in Plague-Mort by fiends to increase the chaos, I’d say it was a narrow escape for Sigil. If some infected sod found his way in the Cage, I’d dread to imagine the scale of the carnage that could ensue. The vegetative infection spreads initially through the scent of the flowers, though I believe it’s at its most contagious when a berk’s coughing his last. By then the infection’s incurable, as the poor sod’s lungs are already full of thorny vines. I guess I’m either immune to the disease, or just plain lucky.

The Virus Rose’ll spread rapidly through a small burg, though some strains seem to be virulent than others; fortunately for the people of Plague-Mort, this one isn’t too serious. It’s the black roses you’ve really got to be careful of. Only half the folk’ve died, and the town’s still on the Outlands – that’s probably because it’s hard to be chaotic when you’re dead. The tanar’ri always slip up somewhere, don’t they? I’m sure they’re not going to leave it long before they try again, though.

Source: Jon Winter-Holt,

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