It was an average winter evening when the invitation slid into your mailbox. A small letter in heavy-grain paper with no sender’s denotation except a crest planted in a wax symbol. Within the envelope, a postcard showing a gorgeous mansion in the countryside welcomes you as a distinguished guest of Lord T.N. Roman. You remembered Lord Roman from a few years back; you had stayed in his estate for a season at his behest. Your parents were close friends of his during their youth and he always sent endearing letters to you.
And that is you how you arrive at Serif Manor. As you walk in through the main gate, the butler welcomes you once more. He introduces himself as Victor Verdana, the new chief of staff. He directs you to the main hall, where a dozen or so people are already gathered and having a lively conversation. You recognise some of them as close friends of old Roman: present are Count and Countess Baskerville, Duchess Georgia, Monsieur Montserrat, the Garamond family, and Signore Palatino. You had seen most of them before as distinguished visitors during your stay in the house and you know of their high social standing. It is a bit intimidating.
Nevertheless, you try as best as possible to approach and join their conversations. After a few minutes of jumping around and interceding in random subjects, it becomes evident that most of them are wondering where the host of the evening is. Even as the bells ring to call people to the dining table, Sir Roman refuses to make an appearance.
You enjoy a lovely display of culinary skills by the manor’s kitchen accompanied by an invisible orchestra playing classical music while the party waits for the host. At this point, most of you wonder whether he will explain the purpose of the reunion.
Suddenly, a thundering noise overcomes the otherwise calm ambience. A crashing sound, like a dozen windows breaking, leads people to scream and cover under the table as the lights go out simultaneously. You sit there confused, watching and hearing the chaos unfold around you. As you are about to stand up, the lights return and the rumble fades away.
The guests reappear from their hiding spots, confused and disoriented. Mr Garamond declares that they will leave lest the children be too frightened, but as he reaches for the door to the courtyard, he realises that it is locked. Soon all the guests scramble toward the exits, trying to pry doors and windows open to no avail. You attempt to break out and promptly realise it is a fool’s errand. Without wasting time, you hurry the rest of the people back to the main hall.
There, you discover something is amiss…