Catacombs, Part One - First Foray
The companions arrived back in York and, after some hot food, were soon summoned to an audience with the Archbishop. Following a plan they had agreed in advance, they gave an account of their movements, speaking of a journey into Scotland and the rescue of Manzio from a pursuing clan of araken. They made no mention of Ice, Ben Nevis, or the Witches. Although the Archbishop asked several questions, the three friends held their nerve and stuck to the script.
The old priest went on to explain that he was satisfied with the defences of the Minster, having spent some time reinforcing the holy wards upon the precinct. He felt that the time was right to investigate how the undead had penetrated the crypt and where they had come from. The companions readily agreed to assist, and the Archbishop sent them away with his blessing.
After a few days of rest and recuperation, the group gathered in the Minster crypt. A Templar and two men-at-arms from York castle stood guard. The stone wall frieze that was knocked inward by the ghoul brute at the start of the attack on the Minster had been lifted back into position, and the guards helped Tector slide it aside, revealing the pitch-black hole beyond through which the undead had emerged into the crypt.
Storm conjured a flickering lightning orb above his head for illumination, and with some trepidation the companions entered the darkened passageway. They were surprised to notice that it was very well made, with flagstone floors, tight-fitting blocks of stone forming the walls, and a vaulted roof.
Proceeding cautiously, Tector led them down the passageway, Storm and Sophia close behind. After a few minutes, they came to a crossroads with similar passageways leading off to either side.
They resolved to continue onward. As they advanced, the passageways on either side were suddenly lit by a red-orange glow. From left and right a pair of huge beetles, easily the size of a large dog, advanced on them. Each had an abdomen that glowed, giving off the reddish light, and emitted a palpable heat.
Before the companions could react, both beetles spayed a burning liquid from glands on their heads, showering both Tector and Storm. While the big warrior was made of stern stuff, the dragonborn was far less resilient and was sorely wounded and unsteady on his feet.
Tector responded, smashing his greataxe into one of the beetles, while behind him, Storm slashed at the other with his lightning claws and Sophia struck with an arrow. The fire beetles retaliated, snapping at the companions with huge, sharp mandibles. One of them sliced deep into Storm’s leg, the heat of the beetle’s abdomen burning him as well. In a few moments, he collapsed from pain and loss of blood.
Sophia rushed forward, stabbing the beetle with her rapier before it could do further damage to the storm sorcerer. Tector stood astride Storm’s unconscious form, protecting his prone friend, and unleashed a huge overhand blow which cleaved the carapace of one of the beetles. Burning fluid leaked from its body as it slumped to the ground. The other clamped onto the big warrior’s leg with its mandibles. Thankfully his heavy armour helped him avoid serious injury, and he combined with Sophia to finish the second beetle with a combination of huge axe blows and precise rapier strikes.
As the bodies of the fire beetles cooled, Sophia knelt next to Storm and channelled healing into his burned and bloody body. The bleeding stopped, and the anger of his burns faded slightly. In a few moments, his eyes flickered open and he sat up.