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It's a Dark and Stormy Night...

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It is a dark and stormy night. The lights in the mansion flicker with every bolt of lightning that sparks down from the treacherous sky, causing thunder to echo over the mountain, shaking the mansion to its core. Expensive antique paintings rattle on the walls. The salads are mixing themselves in the kitchen, and the bottles of dressing are about to vibrate off the counter. It is violent weather indeed, the worst kind to befall a night like this.

Nothing out of the ordinary, of course,” Zerin says to his guests, you included. His black hair is slicked back, and he dons a tuxedo, reminding you again of his love for formal clothing. “We get this weather all the time, living up here on this mountain. I’m just sad it had to happen tonight while you’re all here.”

Indeed,” Ethan agrees as another rumble of thunder explodes through the house. His russet hair is still damp from when you first arrived, sticking up at odd angles. While Zerin loves to overdress, Ethan prefers comfort, and wears a yellow T-shirt and pants.

I’m glad we made it here before the weather began,” comments Theresa, your other friend, graciously. Like Ethan, her hair is sopping wet from the rain, but somehow it has managed to retain its glossy brown vibrance. “And thank you so much for having us over.”

Yes,” you agree. “It’s been so nice catching up, and dinner smells delicious.”

Zerin smiles as thunder shakes the mansion again. His two cats come running in, frightened by the sound, and they jump in his lap and cower under his arms. The rumble continues for a surprising amount of time, in which the four of you sit staring at one another without a word. Conversation is hard on a night like to night, and it’s a bit awkward.

You take the pause to observe the room again. The den is vast and elaborately decorated--not cozy at all. You’re a little unnerved by the atmosphere yourself--especially since it feels like the house might collapse at any moment, despite the fact that it’s, well, enormous. “Well, it’s no trouble,” Zerin picks up as the thunder peters off. “It gets lonely up here and Erin and I love having guests. Plus, you three are old friends, and ever since we moved we haven’t gotten to see much of you.”

Speaking of which,” Ethan pipes up, speaking quickly before lightning strikes again, “didn’t you say you were expecting some more guests?”

Zerin coughs. “Oh, yes. They’re due to arrive later in the night, but with this weather…” He looks at you all, apologetic. “They may not be able to make it until tomorrow. They’re just some other friends of mine who were going to stop by for dinner.”

I hope they manage to find someplace to stay if they can’t make it,” Theresa says.

Me too. But I have a feeling they’ll get here eventually,” Zerin assures her, stroking his cats thoughtfully.

Thunder rumbles again, sounding louder and closer, if that’s even possible. You’re already used to it, at any rate, and now your mouth is watering from the smell of dinner wafting down the corridors.

So tell us,” Ethan goes on, shifting in his deep red armchair, “what made you decide to move up here to the middle of nowhere? I hadn’t even heard of this place until you invited us.”

Oh,” Zerin replies. “It’s a long story, actually. I inherited it--it’s a family lot, uh, and I couldn’t sell it…”

Huh. Funny you never mentioned it to us before.”

Frankly, I never thought I’d be living here,” Zerin says. “Which is why I never talked about it.”

Suddenly, Zerin’s wife Erin pokes her head into the room. Her blonde pixie cut stands out against the dull colors of the living room, and she catches your eye immediately. Her next sentences are such a relief: “Dinner’s ready, finally. The dressing only fell of the counter three times.”

Oh good, I’m famished,” you say, rising. “Now where did I put my map?” you joke. “I’d hate to get lost on the way to dinner.”

Zerin laughs. “Don’t worry, I’ll--”

Suddenly, something that’s not thunder rings through the house. It’s the doorbell, loud and raucous, echoing through the halls and into the sitting room.

Is that them?” Ethan asks. “The other guests, I mean.”

Zerin looks quizzical. “If it is, they got here earlier than expected. Unfortunately, all our butlers are off duty, so we’ll have to run to the door.”

You have butlers?” Theresa queries.

No,” Zerin laughs. “We do all the housekeeping ourselves. Who wants to get the door with me?”

I will,” Ethan offers.

I might go to the dining room,” Theresa says. “What about you?”

Oh,” you reply. “I think I’ll…”

...go to the dining room! I'm starving.

I'll go answer the door with Zerin and Ethan!