When the Kraus House is knocking, well you get the idea. After hanging around Ashlance Manor for about a week the team was beginning to go a bit stir crazy. Most of the undead had shambled off after the necromancer had died and the rest left after Dagnal and Legitus decided to see who could pick the most off one drunken night. (Dagnal won.) While Bren and Kraus are “busy” the rest of the team have decided to explore the main house. A large stuffy place that could do with a good scrub and some mouse traps, Ashlance Manor came to Kraus as an award for his services to the Emperor. The Ashlances had been used Shade Magic so no one was in any hurry to hang out in their old house.
Teradil began exploring the main hall, his mouth open in wonder at all the dust and cobwebs. Rosario heads off in another direction, looking for the library that all these great houses had. She passes by Dagnal who is knocking on walls every foot or so, trying to find a secret passage. Once inside the library, she discovered a room filled with books, many of them haven’t been opened in decades. She spots three books in the “Old as Balls” section. They appear to be Pre-Calamity books. “Hmm, I better tell Teradil about these. He’ll lose his mind,” she muttered to herself.
Back out in the main hall, Tobey waves to Legitus as she heads off to the kitchen. As all halflings know, all the good stuff is kept in the kitchen. (There was no good stuff in this kitchen.) Legitus watches Tobey bound off to the kitchen like a small puppy in leather armour. He shakes his head and heads towards an interesting tapestry. Not two steps away, he hears a click just as his foot comes down. He throws himself to the floor just as a crossbow bolt shoots out of the wall, aiming right for him. It whips overhead. Legitus waits to hear the bolt stick but instead hears only the tearing of cloth. He waits a moment, suspecting a second bolt. Standing he makes his way over to the tapestry. It is a beautiful piece of art that must have taken some nobleman’s daughter ages to finish. The tapestry depicted a fierce battle between Karis and the orcs. Feeling a breeze Legitus steps closer. There right between Karis’ legs is a large tear. Big enough to be made by a large cross bolt. Not wanting to ruin the probably priceless tapestry further, Legitus wanders down to the edge of the piece. He pulls at the edge, knocking it to the ground. Hidden behind it, for who knows how long, is an archway.
Finally stopping for a break, Bren decides now is the right time to bring up his feelings. He wants to know if this is going to be a thing or if this was just a one-off (many time off) thing. He goes on and on about his feelings and wanting to keep going once they get back to the guild. Throughout all this Kraus just sits there with a slightly confused look. Bren stops to take a breath. Before he can carry on, Kraus stops him, “So like your boyfriend?” Bren turns pink and just says “Yep, sure, my boyfriend, yep, or whatever.” Kraus just smiles and says “Yeah, sure. Why not? But we have to get going here soon if you want to check out the house. There’s a storm coming in soon.” They discuss the house a bit more and Kraus confides in Bren that there are pre-calamity books in the library. “Oh,” Bren exclaims, “Teradil is going to love that!”
Back together in the main halls, Bren hurries over to Teradil and Rosario. “Teradil, you’ll never guess! There are pre-calamity books in the library!” Rosario smacks Bren’s arm. “I was going to tell him!” Teradil’s mouth drops open, “Great! Maybe now I can figure out why I’m having all these visions!” He bolts towards the library. “Hey! What visions?” Dagnal shouts after him. Teradil has already thrown open the doors of the library. He races over to the table where Rosario left the books. He cracks the spine of the first one and starts reading.
In the main hall, Bren is catching up the rest of the group about the information he learned from Kraus. It mostly sounds like “and then Kraus said this. And isn’t Kraus lovely, and oh look at his arms, he’s my boyfriend. Blah blah blah…” Legitus waits patiently for the right moment to mention that he accidentally set off a trap and ruined Bren’s new boyfriend’s priceless tapestry, which happens to be laying on the floor next to a huge arch that no one seems to have noticed. Suddenly the front door swings open and Mr. Big Arms himself bursts into the room. “The storm is getting worse, we need to leave now.” The adventurers all look at Bren “What storm?” Tobey asks. Bren looks a bit ashamed. “Yes, the storm, the one I was supposed to tell you about, yep that one.” Kraus, however, had wandered over to Legitus and the arch and gave him the sort of look that says, “That wasn’t here before.” Legitus rushes to explain that he is very sorry but there was a trap and he almost died and he didn’t mean to do it but look new staircase. Of course, he said it in a very manly elf-like way though.
Rosario rushes off to get Teradil who looks like he is about to cry at the idea of coming so far and having to leave. He is struggling to carry them all with him when Tobey reminds him “We have a magic bag. Just send them to Pik-Ik-Cha and you can read them later.” After spending so much time figuring things out for themselves, sometimes our adventurers forget that there are easier ways to do things. They all return to the hall and gather around the newly discovered arch and staircase. The choice has to be to start out in the blizzard or to discover what lies at the end of this tunnel. Since the storm has already started, the vote is to go exploring. Rosario is kind enough to fetch the candelabra from the library for Tobey since she has no torch. For some reason, it reminds Tobey of an old halfling children’s song and she begins to softly sing, “Be our guest, Be our guest..” “Ssshh, Tobey enough.” Teradil hushes her.
As Legitus leads the party forward down the stairs, for the second time that day he hears a click. “Oh, come on.” He barely has enough time to swear and the staircase turns into a ramp and dumps them straight down. Lying on the floor, the warriors begin between themselves. Some harsh words are spoken and somehow it ends with Tobey yelling “At least my parents loved me enough to keep me.” Teradil is going to make Tobey pay for that last comment but right now there are more interesting things happening. Picking themselves off the ground, the party notices three doors. They face North, West, and South, with the eastern spot being taken by the stairs/ramp. While Tobey notices a shimmer on the western door, she says nothing still fuming and in pain from being dropped on her tuchas. She doesn’t remember being this sore when she was a dude.
Rosario looks closer to the doors and notices the magical seal on the western door. They decide to hold off on the one for now. Teradil throws open the southern door, ready to fight anything that moves. The draft from the door knocks over a broom. After examination, it is discovered that this broom is none other than The Broom That Swept The Heavens or the Wonder Broom for short. It seems a silly thing but Teradil is determined to keep it. Legitus slowly opens the northern door. It is a dungeon. He walks through the cells not expecting to find anyone. He comes across a skeleton in a cell, all alone. “Well hey there buddy,” Legatis mutters. “Well, Hi! Got any Devil Weed on you?” The skeleton says as it lurches toward Legitus.
The adventurers all rush in behind Legitus, having heard his yelp of surprise and a strange new voice. The skeleton is a former cook/thief named Linguine. He was cursed by this prison and is now stuck this way. He tells the party that he was imprisoned here because he stole a ring that would allow him to vanish and appear 20 yards away. Teradil rolled his eyes. He had heard of another ring with the power to allow a user to turn invisible. “Not that garbage, why would you want to turn invisible? You’re still there, any idiot could still hit you. No, this ring allowed me to teleport. Only 20 yards, but you know.” Linguine seems insulted at the mere idea that anyone would want an invisibility ring. Of course, Tobey found this incredibly racist as that invisibility ring is a well-known halfling ring. Linguine sensing the party wavering on letting him out, tells them that he will help them into the treasury next door. He reveals that when you touch the door you end up in this cell. The party doesn’t trust him but Teradil has decided to let him help. When Linguine points out that they will need to let him out so he can help, Teradil points out that Linguine only needs to step out between the bars and he is free.
Leaving the dungeon, Tobey confides in Bren that she doesn’t trust the newly freed skeleton. “How do we know that the door won’t just explode when we touch it?” Bren decides that this time it is better to err on the side of caution. Even though their highly flammable companions are no longer with them, fire and this water mage’s hair just do not mix. Turning to Teradil and Linguine, who are still chatting away, Bren pops Linguine’s skull off. Dagnal and Legitus step back as all of the bones scattered over the floor. After explaining to Linguine that if he is lying they will leave him here as a skull, Bren has Tobey and Rosario scoop the bones into the magic bag while Teradil writes a note to Pik-Ik-Cha asking him to hold onto these for later. Our party would later learn to write the note first so that Pik-Ik-Cha can ready a box for things like this. A new recruit had wandered by and after seeing piles of bones come racing out of a satchel and scatter all over the floor, promptly quit and noped right out of there.
After conferring with the group, Bren was still hesitant on how to determine if the door would be safe to open or not. Remembering a story that Rosario had told her about throwing a dwarf at the door, Tobey offered that up as a suggestion. Dagnal was not impressed and seemed likely to throw Tobey at it instead. Bren seized upon this idea and without warning chucked the skull at the door. A sonic boom rocked the entire room. Half the party was left temporarily deaf. Rosario, Bren, and Dagnal all began to shout, asking what happened and what the hell Bren. After racing to get Linguini’s head out of the cell. Teradil rushes over to Bren and begins to mime “Arcane Blast” Kraus just looks at him. After watching this go on for too long, he grinds out, “You literally have been writing notes to Pik-Ik-Cha all day. Just write it down.” Teradil sheepishly took out a bit of paper and explained his plan to Bren. As their hearing began to come back and Bren explained what he was going to do, most of the party dashed off to the dungeon. They remembered the poor defenseless cathedral from last time. Winding back Bren launched an Arcane Blast right at the ward, shattering it into splinters.
Before leaving the prison, Kraus turned to the adventurers, “Look I don’t know you guys that well and, well, since you are my boyfriend’s friends, whatever we find, I want to share it with you guys.” They poke their heads out, surveying the damage. As Bren seems to be in one piece the party heads for the newly unwarded western door. Legitus leads the way. Opening the door, he is nearly impaled by a sword hanging just above the door. He decides that someone else can spring these traps next time. Just behind him Kraus comes in and claims all the gold. While it seems unfair that Mr. WeCan Share Guys has just taken all the money, the party is more interested in the magical items that they each discover.
On a low table under some old glasses, Teradil finds the Tome of Understanding. Though he may not realize it, the tome is cursed with possessiveness. Though it will help him immensely, he will not want to let it go. Bren finds a pair of amazing boots over by the door. They are the Boots of Winter. Though they will be of little use once the descend the mountains, right now they feel absolutely blissful. Dagnal discovers a pair of Dimensional Shackles that clang like a bell as they knock together. Perhaps these will come in use when they have to confront the Imposter of the Throne. Rosario has found a lovely brooch sitting in front of a mirror. It is the Brooch of Shielding. More than just a pretty thing, this will protect her against magical damage and arcane blasts. Knowing her brother that last one is a pretty good deal. She feels herself growing tired as she pins it on, almost slothful. Racing in, Tobey grabs a cloak and throws it on. Though she dares not use it yet, she has chosen the Cloak of the Bat. Once a day, she will be able to turn into a bat though she will need to feast on humanoid blood. Legitus has found the Ring of Shooting Stars. Though it will continue to change design and style, the ring will allow him to light up the darkness. They have also found the ring Linguine mentioned.
Scanning the room for anything else that might be of use, Legatis and Rosario discover a secret panel that opens to show a deck of cards. It is the Deck of Many Things. Teradil throws his hands up in the air and sulks off to sit next to the wall. “Nope, nope, nope. Don’t you do it.” He mutters to Legitus. It must be something that warriors have been taught about because Tobey also looks a bit sick at the sight of the deck. Without pause or even sympathy for his warrior companions, Legatis draws four cards right off the deck. His entire world is about to change.
The first card is a picture of an ogre. This is the Comets card. He will have to face the next challenge alone if he wants its reward. The second shows a druid, it is the knight. He is suddenly given the knowledge that if he should ever need one there is a fighter that will come to him and be loyal only to him. The third, a red dragon, a powerful card that will allow Legitus to unweave reality. He could reverse the calamity, stop his own death, stop the great darkness that threatens the land. Or he could create a glass that never empties of booze, it’s really a toss-up with this elf. The last card will be a difficult one, the face of it merely shows an iron golem. This flames card gives him the knowledge that a fierce devil has decided to make him suffer and it will be either him or the devil that survives. With all of this new knowledge swirling through his mind, Legitus puts up no fight when Dagnal snatches two cards from the deck.
Dagnal has chosen poorly. She has pulled not only the hill giant, talons, card which has stolen away her pistol and shackles, she has also chosen the Ruin card. With a Priest and two acolytes on it, the card disappears all but the mundane. Truly a ruining move, it takes all of her money as well. With that, the deck disappears.
Teradil and Tobey exchange a glance and agree that things could have gone much, much worse. Now that the team had emptied the Ashlance vault, they decided there was nothing else to do but to try and get out. After searching the storage room and prison for a way out, Rosario and Legitus discover a mechanism which will activate the stairs. “Anyone know how to turn this into an escalator?” Tobey whined as she stomped up the stairs. “A what?” Dagnal asked. Legitus waved her off. “It’s probably a halfling thing.”
At the top of the stairs, Kraus waves everyone but Dagnal over. He thinks that because Dagnal lost everything that they should give her the ring to hold on to. Tobey, knowing the power and destruction Dagnal could have unleashed, refuses. Rosario, not 100 percent sure why backs Tobey up. Kraus doesn’t understand why Tobey is being such a dick about this and when pressed, Tobey snaps, “Look if you care so much, why don’t you give up some of your stuff!” Kraus steps back and looks at Tobey like she had bitten him. He then unhooks a bag of gold and tosses it to Dagnal. “Here, have 200 gold since your friends have nothing for you.”
Looking out the door, the snow has continued to come down. One way or another, they were going to have to head back in this storm. Keeping his word, Teradil asks Pik-Ik-Cha to return the body of Linguini. There is a brief argument about who will be riding with who. Kraus will ride behind Bren, which he agreed to with a slight blush. Linguini, on the other hand, will be riding with Teradil after Tobey refused to have the skeleton ride with her, even though she would have the most room. This halfling can hold a grudge. Teradil requests that Linguini puts on some clothes, though the maid costume that Linguini chose was not what he expected.
Rosario is beyond thrilled to get to ride her direwolf “puppy” Pablo. She calls him right over and begins to prepare for the trip. While packing she remembers that Sawyer owes her a favor. Instead of taking the long way back to Banished, she thinks about the poor Laternshire Village they left behind. She runs inside to Teradil. Passing messages back and forth through Pik-Ik-Cha and Sawyer, they realize that the Laternshires cursed their own village and it would take someone at least as strong as them to break it. The only one they know is Hunzu Shardmind. He will meet them at Laternshire Village. They head out and make it to the gate of the Ashlance Manor. Just outside, Kraus pulls out a brick and flips it around before inserting it. A shimmering mist forms around the Manor protecting it from outside forces.
A week later, the party is growing nearer and nearer to Lanternshire Village. They have made decent time even with the snow. Tobey has been thrilled to show off her skijoring skills and has even got Teradil to put down the books and spar a few times. Though Dagnal seems sad to have lost her pistol, she seems satisfied with the knowledge that she will be able to find something new with her wealth. The storm has continued to rage and it seems like Kraus was not exaggerating when he said storms like this could last for months.
Suddenly the pack stops short. They begin to whimper and slowly fade into the snow. There is a brief lull, like being in the eye of a hurricane. Just ahead figures begin to form out of the blistering snow and ice. Rosario whips out her eyeglass. There, moving towards them and around them, are a horde of orcs. The orcs and their mounts clearly tower over them. As they encircle the adventurers, the largest of the orcs dismounts and makes his way toward the group. Drawing closer he locks eyes with Rosario. It is the Icon known as the Dire-Orc. He walks over and looms over her. “Hello, Daughter.”