Glori stood waiting at the next snowy intersection, her breath steaming through the scarf she wore over her nose and mouth. It had been a chilling trek after the ambush on the bluff, and Asce craved a warm bed. Well... she hoped for a warm bed. That part of the arrangement was still a little unclear.
"Looks clear all the way back," The ranger captain told her master. She had been scouting ahead for ambushes. She had one of the devil dogs at her heel, and its breath came in great gouts of fog.
"Good," Tirani replied, making small breath clouds of her own. "Fortune favors us. For a moment at least."
Asce was anxious to see their final destination. She had imagined Tirani's lair in the top of a cold tower, ancient summoning circles carved into the stone. Or maybe it was in a dark and lonely crypt, with magic patterns laid in bone among the refuse of generations long past away. It might also be an open field with cairn stones marking cardinal points of power for binding demons. Any of these would be suitable for a master summoner, but none of them were likely to provide many creature comforts.
Glori started off again, through a ruined square. The fountain in the center still burbled weakly below a frosted crust of ice, but neither the ranger nor the wizard paid much attention. They were at ease in a way Asce hadn't seen for the whole trip. This must be a familiar place to them. Did that mean they were close to the end of their journey?
Catching a hint of some familiar smell in the wind, Asce was suddenly reminded of her hearth in her parents' cottage. She could see in her mind's eye orange embers pop and crackle around a black kettle, and could almost hear her mother humming while repairing an unknown garment.
Shaking herself from her reverie, she tried to put it out of mind. Asce caught another whiff of woodsmoke in the air, and looked about to find the source. The surrounding buildings were the same ancient and abandoned husks common throughout Frostgrave. Walking for a few more minutes showed no further sign of life.
"There it is." Tirani said, pointing as they rounded a corner.
Up ahead, Asce could see a tall square tower dominating the edge of an empty public forum, its crenelations standing like crooked teeth and its windows cold and dark. She shivered at the thought of bunking in such a place. Just beyond the tower, though, she saw a rather dignified manor house with a thin stream of smoke rising from the chimney.
The base of the house was constructed of solid flagstone, and the upper levels were of wood and plaster. The rooftop was of clay tile. There was evidence of renovation, with plaster and tiles that didn't quite match the overall color of the aging structure. One end of the roof was covered in a large canvas. Sign of further repairs?
Asce's relief at the sight of a relatively warm and welcoming structure in the dismal city must have been obvious, as Tirani laughed at her apprentice. Captain Glori's eyes betrayed her amusement as well.
"I'm not a monster, you know." Tirani explained. "I like a cup of tea and warm blanket like any other human. Like I told you at the start, you will be expected to work hard for the knowledge I will impart. But that doesn't mean you necessarily have to suffer for it."
The wizard took on a regal pose and a superior tone.
"You are very fortunate to have a tutor such as I. There are necromancers who force their wards to sleep on the bones of their craft, and sigilists who demand their apprentices rest upon their books alone."
With a small bow of appeasement, Asce replied, "Yes. Thank you, Summoner."
Tirani smiled in a self-satisfied way and moved towards the manor house, gesturing for Asce to walk beside her. Glori brought up the rear.
"I found this place many years ago. It has taken quite some time to make it a home. I believe it was a laboratory or a library or an arcanum or some mixture of the three. There are scraps of knowledge and records of experimentation throughout the lower level. The upper levels I have converted into living space for myself and my companions. You shall be assigned your own room, so you may concentrate on your studies when you are not assisting me."