"What for?" Eudorra thought, "If we are there to solve a puzzle, why bother including these other activities?" It didn't make sense to her any way she looked at it.
She had brought along her homework to do in the evenings so she wouldn't get behind at school. The teachers had all be very accommodating which she also thought was weird, but maybe they really wanted her to stay caught up. She thumbed through the book she was reading for a book report and tried to concentrate, but reading in the car always made her nauseous, so she wasn't really trying all that hard to get into it.
She wondered what kind of puzzle they would have to solve. Dad had opened up quite a bit after he had gotten off the phone with the lawyer. He said they had done all kinds of puzzles as kids, orienteering courses, anagrams, riddles, puzzle boxes, magic squares, you name it! Of those she thought she could handle the puzzle box the easiest, and she was better at Sudoku than crosswords or magic squares, so she doubted she would be much help if they had to solve one of those.
They passed several large houses, and Eudorra began to wonder what the manor would look like. Dad said it had an orchard, ballroom, a library, den, game room, and even a small theater that they used to watch movies in! It must be nice to have money like that.
Eudorra glanced up to the front of the van where her father and mother were chatting away. They seemed to have a lot to talk about now that Dad wasn't being so weird about Simon, and he appeared to be giving Mom all the details from the last puzzle he and Anna had done together at the Manor.
"I was so upset that I couldn't eat dinner, and I threw up on the stairs on the way up to my room."
"Ew! Gross, Dad!" Eudorra yelled from the back of the van.
"Well, it's true. You wouldn't want to do any more puzzles after that, no matter how great the prizes were afterward!"
"What kind of prizes?" Angela asked.
"Oh it was always something impressive, if not very valuable." Mortimer said scratching his head. "Sometimes it was a piece of jewelry like a ring, or bracelet. Other times it was a new toy, or a small figurine made out of some valuable metal, but always it was something impressive!"
That was something to think about. What would be at the end of the puzzle? The deed to the estate maybe? Or some kind of hidden family heirloom that was super valuable?
They turned off the highway into a tree lined lane leading up to the manor. Eudorra slid into the middle row of the van to get a better first look at the Manor and grounds. The trees were tall and thick and blocked the view of much of the land around the manor. However, as they came around a bend in the drive the Manor suddenly came into view and Eudorra let out a gasp.
The two story brick building was capped with bright copper roof tiles. Out front the drive circled around a large fountain. A bell tower rose to a third story above the front porch which was graced by large columns and a large family crest with two ravens and a quill. Emerald green lawns ran out in every direction from the Manor house and the orchard to the right of the manor boasted several types of apples, and pears, as well as two large cherry trees. The bushes were all neatly trimmed into fantastic shapes and spirals, and the white gravel drive looked like it had been freshly raked. Large pine and maple trees dotted the other lawns and green fields of young corn and wheat stretched out to the east.
They pulled up to the house and parked to the left of the front porch where a large black SUV sat with the driver reading a magazine.
"Well, this is it!" said Mortimer with a mix of joy and dread in his voice.
Eudorra climbed out the side door of the van and pulled the trunk open. She was about to grab her beat up purple suitcase when a white gloved hand reached across her and took hold of the handle.
"Allow me." said a gentle elderly voice.
Eudorra jumped back in surprise and looked the man over. He was bald, but had not yet developed wrinkles, and he wore a three piece suit and white gloves. His manor was very practiced and fluid. He lifted the suitcases deftly out of the van and turned to enter the Manor.
The man turned to face her father, and raised an eyebrow as he studied him.
"Master Mortimer, I am sure." he said after studying her father's face.
"Mort, please," said her father, his cheeks flushing.
"Well, Mort, welcome back. It has been some time," said the butler, "If you would be so kind as to follow me, I will show you to your rooms."
Eudorra and Angela followed along behind Mortimer and Jared as they walked up the steps into the Manor. Inside, Jared led them up the grand stair case and down the hall to the right toward Mortimer's old room in the back of the Manor. Mort's room had been refurnished with a Queen size bed and a full closet. The drapes had been hung with a royal blue, and the carpet was new and plush.
Eudorra he led to the neighboring room which had been furnished with a twin bed and a book shelf full of books. There was a dresser and a desk, as well as a private bathroom and shower. Eudorra was beside herself in awe. She had never imagined a house this big could exist, let alone that she would be sleeping in a room that was almost as big as their entire appartment was back home.
Jared set the suitcases on her bed and pointed to a card on the desk.
"You will be pleased to find the wireless password on that card," he said stiffly. "If you require anything, please ring the bell and I will attend to you."
Eudorra blushed at this, and could only nod in response.
"Dinner will be served shortly, please listen for the chime downstairs. The Dinning Room is down the hallway to the left of the grand stair."
Jared then bowed himself from the room, leaving Eudorra to take in her new surroundings.
This place was incredible! She had never been in a house as beautiful as this one, with all the murals and decorative wood work her eyes kept darting from detail to detail. She laid on the bed, checked the bathroom, which was easily larger than her bedroom back home, and looked at the books on the bookshelf. Her backpack she set on the desk and thought about getting out some homework, but first she needed to document this incase it ended up being a dream or some ornate April Fool's joke.
She got out her phone and started snapping pictures and selfies all over the room so she would remember every nook and cranny. The books on the bookshelf were all leather bound hard covers, and many looked like first or special editions. The door to the room was a full ten feet tall, and painted white with gold trimming. Out her window she could look down on the trees in the orchard, and if she stood in just the right spot she could see a Gazebo toward the back of the manor.
Eudorra turned to her bags on her bed and began unpacking. She tucked her clothes in the dresser and placed her toothbrush and shampoo into the bathroom. Through the door she could hear Jared returning with her parents' suitcases. He sounded a little winded, but she could hear the gentle rumble of his voice through the wall, still poised, still professional. She put her backpack full of homework on the desk and went out into the hall to see what her parents were up to.
"Dinner will be served momentarily," Jared was saying as she entered. "You are welcome to peruse the Manor and the grounds as you wish."
"Thank you Jared!" her father said. "We will see you at dinner."
Jared wiped his face with a white handkerchief and bowed himself from the room.
"So Dad, this place is amazing!" Eudorra breathed, "Did you really come here all the time while you were growing up?"
"I did. I guess I kind of took it for granted," he admitted, "I forgot how beautiful the murals were, and the chandelier was always amazing!"
"So what would you do while you were here, dear?" Angela asked.
Mort scratched his head and frowned in concentration. "Well, we read a lot, played lots of Simon's puzzles, oh, and there is the movie theater!"
Eudorra's eyes shone with excitement. "He had a movie theater in this house! Where?"
"Across the hall on the ground floor. Why don't we go there now? We can finish unpacking after dinner." He said, and led the way out of the room, back down the hall to the front of the house.
As they climbed down the staircase Eudorra stared up at the crystal chandelier. It WAS impressive, and so were the two story murals lining each wall. The hardwood floor of the Hall was set in a decorative pattern that centered on the family crest directly under the center of the chandelier.
The theater was dark and housed four rows of red cushioned seats and several different projectors. Some looked like equipment from a horror movie, or something left over from an alien invasion. In one corner was a popcorn machine, an old fashioned soda fountain, and a large selection of candy bars. Behind the fountain a large cabinet held rows and rows of glass cups. At the back of the room a large case held movies in many different formats ranging from old film reel to Blue Ray. A full speaker system was mounted around the front of the room.
Eudorra watched her father closely, as a look of nostalgia came across his face. The childish wonder of entering this room for the first time playing through his memory as he entered it for the first time in years. Her mother looked through the video cupboard curios to see what kinds of movies a man like Simon would watch. There were classic black and white films, modern adventure films, as well as the occasional animated children's film.
"How often would you watch movies while you were here, Dad?" Eudorra asked.
"Pretty regularly, Simon loved films almost as he loved puzzles. Something about the mystique of the theater really grabbed hold of him. The first time I was here I spilled my popcorn after loading it up with butter, in fact, if I remember right," he walked to the middle of the second row of seats and looked closely at the upholstery, "Yep, right here you can still see the stain, it never washed out properly. We would have movie nights all the time, eating popcorn and candy bars until the early hours of the morning."
"I imagine it seemed like you had hit the jackpot every time you came here," said Angela. "With perks like this no doubt it would have been a dream come true!"
"You would think," Mortimer said, the light in his face falling once more.
A chime of five notes sounded out in the hall breaking the silence. Eudorra and Angela looked at Mortimer expectantly, but he seemed to be troubled by another memory and didn't react at first.
"Dad?" Eudorra asked tentatively.
Mortimer shook his head and looked at them once again aware of his surroundings, "Sorry. Let's eat! The dinning room is down this way."
He led them back into the hall and down the east hallway on the ground floor to the double doors that led to the dining room. As they entered the dinning room Mortimer stopped short and Eudorra had to crane her neck around her father's shoulder to see what was going on. Sitting opposite them at the table were a man, woman, and boy who was staring at his phone. The woman's face spread into a wide smile, as she spoke.
"Hi Mort! Good to see you!"