Rolford wagged its bony little tail as Evelyn walked up the staircase. It barked its silent little bark, sending a chill and a whisper through the air. Evelyn grinned and crouched down at the landing, lifting her skirts to keep them from the worst of the dust.

“Who’s a good boy?” she asked. The little skeleton hound circled around her half a dozen times, prancing excitedly. She’d been gone a long time. Getting on a century, now that she thought about it. Fortunately, Rolford had the others to keep it company.

“Go get Kol and Norber, Rolford!” Evelyn shouted, waving towards the kennels. Rolford bolted off, his claws clicking noisily through the silent halls. That would buy her a few minutes to get sorted, anyway. Rolford was lousy with directions.

Evelyn plopped her luggage down in the great room, eying the artfully arranged spiderwebs prepared for her arrival. She murmured a thanks to the widowmaster, who returned her greetings with a cool breeze before passing on to his next arrangement.

“It isss goood to ssseee you, misssstresss,” came a familiar, rasping hiss. Her steward, whatever was left of him anyway, had managed to cobble enough of himself back together to greet her in person. “Dinnerrr willl be along ssshortly.”

“Thank you, Jenkins,” Evelyn replied. “No need to stand on formality, though. I know how hard it is to keep yourself together these days.”