Catacombs, Part Eleven - Revelations
Having destroyed the necromancer in the catacombs and lived to tell the tale, the group made their way happily (if a little unsteadily, in Tector’s case) through the sunny streets of York and back to the Minster. They immediately visited Father Geoffrey who quickly made himself available to see them.
Once they had given a detailed account of their encounter with Deathwhisperer and his servants, the friends handed over his ashes to Father Geoffrey, who confirmed that he would bury them in consecrated ground within the Minster compound that very day. They also produced the notes and journals they had taken from the necromancer’s chamber, together with the copper key, and asked for an urgent audience with the Archbishop, explaining the details they had gleaned from their brief perusal. The senior priest was both intrigued and concerned by the group’s revelations, and assured them that he would review the documents and bring them to the attention of the Archbishop as soon as he had done so. Giving thanks to God for their victory over the forces of evil, he sent the companions off to the infirmary to have their wounds tended.
Whilst Sophia and Storm were relatively healthy, Tector was badly wounded. The priest on duty, having examined his wounds and called upon God’s blessing to ease them, insisted that the big warrior remain under his care at least until the morning. While their friend recuperated, Storm and Sophia spent some time in the Minster library. Sophia perused some old tomes on the subject of the healing arts, and tried to find books on scrying without success. Storm asked the aged Lector Joseph where to find books on sorcerous powers, and the old priest considered that London and Rome were likely to have the best resources.
In the morning, Sophia and Storm went to visit their friend Tector in the infirmary. Sophia channelled her healing power into the big warrior, and feeling his strength return, Tector joined his companions for the audience with the Archbishop. Entering his private chambers for the first time since that fateful day in December 1179 when they had first assembled, the group saw him seated, as before, behind his grand wooden desk, clad in fine ecclesiastical robes.
As the old priest welcomed them with holy blessings, their eyes were immediately drawn to an item on the desk. By the Archbishop’s right hand lay the gilded crucifix, which they had last seen when wresting it from Bloodmask’s iron grasp. It had been broken, split cleanly down its central axis, and beside it sat a large golden key with a head in the shape of a cross. Next to that lay the copper lightning bolt key the group had found with the necromancer’s remains, and the papers and journals they had recovered were stacked across the remainder of the desk.
The Archbishop praised the group for their bravery and determination, and gave thanks for their success. He confirmed that the remains of the necromancer had been buried in consecrated ground, and explained that he had received their report from Father Geoffrey and had been studying the writings they had recovered. Recounting some of the facts the friends had already learned, he revealed more detail.
It appeared from the journals that together, Deathwhisperer and Bloodmask determined that the power sensed by their mistress emanated from the ancient catacombs beneath the city. Extensive notes catalogued how Deathwhisperer set about creating an army of undead, including skeletons, zombies and ghouls, to investigate the catacombs. The journals showed that, in time, they located the elaborate granite door with five strangely shaped locks. With the aid of their mistress, they began to sense that the source of the emanations was ancient and powerful indeed, the suspended consciousness of the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus, who had died in York nearly a thousand years earlier. They hatched a plan, detailed in the documents seized by the group, to locate the keys to the door, wake the Emperor from his slumber, and twist his power to their own ends. Ultimately, their goal was to use the power of Septimus Severus to destroy York and enable Morgana to dominate England. The Archbishop fixed the companions with a level gaze. “In God’s name, we cannot allow that to happen,” he declared.
Further journals showed that, over time, Deathwhisperer’s forces took control of a large portion of the catacombs south of the river. He located the first of the keys, made of copper and with a head shaped like a lightning bolt. He also began to hone his necromantic skills, conducting research and experimenting with the creation of different kinds of undead.
From clues uncovered in the catacombs, the necromancer determined that one of the keys was located in an enchanted pillar engraved with runes running in a spiral pattern from ceiling to floor. He believed that this pillar lay somewhere in the catacombs, but from his notes it appeared that he had not managed to locate it.
Separately, through research and divination, it seemed the witch Morgause had discovered that another key was in the possession of York Minster, hidden in a gilded cross, and this information had been obtained by Morgana. Deathwhisperer and Bloodmask had therefore kidnapped Bran, the Minster carpenter, and tortured him to gain information on the layout of the Minster in order to plan an attack. Although fearing for Bran, given the mention of torture, Sophia felt this at least confirmed that he was still alive, and in the catacombs somewhere. She was more determined than ever to find him.
Having summarised what he had learned thus far, and complemented the group once more on their achievements, the Archbishop gave them three further tasks: to find and return Bran (or his body for Christian burial); to track down and destroy the curséd dark elf Bloodmask; and to locate the keys and deliver them to the Archbishop for safekeeping, to ensure that Septimus Severus could never be awakened. The companions gladly accepted these charges, and the Archbishop sent them on their way with his blessing and two fresh vials of holy water.
Sophia channelled her powers to restore Tector’s vitality, and the three friends bathed and ate well before discussing their plans. Resolving to head back into the catacombs the following morning to look for Bran and pursue the other quests the Archbishop had given them, they retired early to bed.
Having rested well, they returned to the catacombs the following morning, entering through the All Hallows’ crypt. Following the same route as before, they checked an unopened door, but found that the chamber within contained only barrels and boxes of long-decayed provisions. They then checked Deathwhisperer’s chamber, and found it apparently undisturbed. Moving on, they entered the large circular room with the ghoul birthing pool in the centre. As they did so, the large skull-faced chalice once again began to belch odious gas, and the companions rushed across to the opposite side of the room, throwing open the double doors and bursting through . . . straight into a skeletal knight, which appeared to be guarding a door in the corridor beyond.
Tector reacted fastest, slamming his greataxe into the breastplate of the undead knight and jarring its bones. Storm noticed two less heavily-armoured skeletal warriors walking down the wide corridor towards the fight, moving past a skull which lay in the centre of the floor. Thinking quickly, the dragonborn conjured his whirlwind, which engulfed both the skeletal warriors and the skull. As it hurled them up into the ceiling, the skull exploded, and they were then slammed down into the floor, inflicting further damage.
As Tector continued to trade blows with the skeletal knight, Sophia let fly an arrow which took one of the skeletal warriors through the skull, while Storm hurled a lightning orb that slammed into the other, sending it crashing to the floor. The skeletal knight fought on, inflicting further wounds on Tector, but it was only a matter of time as the three friends surrounded the undead and cut it down with blades and lightning claws.
Looking around, the group saw that they were in a wide corridor with double doors at the far end, two single doors in the right-hand wall, and a single door in the left-hand wall. Considering their options, they decided to go through the double doors but found them locked. Determined to head in that direction, Tector smashed them open. Dank, musty air washed over them.
Walking through the damaged doors and down the corridor, they soon found that the dressed stone gave way to an uneven, natural passageway that began to widen and branch off. Demonstrating their excellent memories, the friends recalled the information they had been given by Tinuviel of the Twisted. She said there were three ways into the necromancer’s lair: the bone door, the ‘back way’ by the stairs to All Hallows, and a third way, through natural caverns full of hidden dangers. The group then realised that they must have passed right through Deathwhisperer’s territory, and fearing the hidden dangers they had been warned about, quickly retraced their steps!
Closing the double doors, they looked around the corridor, and remembered that the skeletal knight had seemed to be guarding one of the doors. Unable to open it easily, Tector ripped it off its hinges and they entered. Within they found a truly wretched figure. An emaciated man, malnourished and with many wounds on his body, lay chained hand and foot on the floor in filthy rags. Sophia quickly rushed to his side, finding him to be unconscious. To relieve his wounds, the friends gradually poured a vial of holy water into his mouth, letting him swallow it a drop at a time.
Soon his eyes flickered open, but he appeared terrified, trying to crawl away from the group and begging them not to hurt him. Sophia comforted him, and asked if his name was Bran. Shaking, he nodded that it was. The companions explained that they had destroyed the necromancer and had come to free him, at which he broke down in heart-wrenching sobs. While Sophia comforted him, Tector broke the iron manacles binding Bran’s legs. However, given the extent of his injuries and malnutrition, he was still unable to walk. Resolving to leave the catacombs and get Bran to safety, Tector lifted the poor man and they retraced their route to the All Hallows’ steps and up into the sunlight.
They were greeted by one of the Templars on duty at the church, and made their way back to the Minster. Immediately taking Bran to the infirmary for treatment, the friends went to see Father Geoffrey and reported on their success. He complemented them on finding Bran and promised to visit him in the infirmary. Pleased that they had already completed one of the three quests recently given to them by the Archbishop, they decided to rest and turn in early, the better to search for Bloodmask the following day.