“It’s been some time since I’ve seen you three together,” she sniffed. “Had I known you were coming I would have joined you at dinner.”
“We had quite a pleasant evening without you,” Matron Scower said.
“You are looking quite terrible,” Patron Vanndegaar smiled. “I do hope you’re feeling unwell.”
“Never better,” Matron didn’t return the smile. “If there’s one thing that brings back pleasant memories, it’s seeing that scar of yours.”
“This young Master of yours is quite an interesting find,” Matron Cromley clucked, looking at Edmund like a skeptical schoolmarm. “I insist you keep him on, at least as a servant, if not an Heir. I think he will make things very interesting for you.”
“He already has. I take it you will all be leaving soon?”
“I believe we’ve taken care of all our business here,” Matron Scower nodded, to general agreement. “Please, don’t bother yourselves; we shall have no problems seeing ourselves out.”
When the last of them had vanished through the doors, Matron turned to Edmund, her eyebrow cocked.
“Where have you been?” he asked, the relief at seeing her paling next to his curiosity. Matron’s eyes flashed, or maybe twinkled.
“I expect to have lunch with you tomorrow,” she said. “Be prompt.”
And with that, she turned on her heels with such force Edmund was amazed she didn’t snap in half, and left.
And that was it.
Edmund sat down heavily in the large chair. In one evening he had ended the generations long feud with the Bonne family, hosted three of the heads of the Nine Families, and showed that he could afford not only provided an expensive meal, but also to use four extremely valuable writs of insurance as bargaining chips, rather than fight tooth and nail to cash them in.
Words were powerful things, Edmund reflected. In the right order and composition, they could illicit memories of springtime or summer breezes; they could entice, befuddle, and horrify; and they could even empower.
The Founding Families lived off of words. They were powerful simply because they said they were. They had money and credit in the town purely because that was how they said it should be, and no one had the gall to disagree.
This evening would be talked about, Edmund was certain. The tailor would whisper about the young Master of Moulde Hall, as would the grocer and the postman. Rumors would spread about how Edmund casually tossed away valuable paintings and statues as though he had too much of them. The Heads of the Families would talk too, though what they would say, Edmund couldn’t guess.
If there was one thing Edmund had learned about being important, it was that what someone said and thought often held more weight than the truth. It didn’t matter how much money the Moulde Estate had; as long as everyone thought they were rich. It didn’t matter how much power or influence they actually had, as long as everyone believed they did. It might take time, and a few more lies–or exaggerations, he corrected himself, hearing Kolb’s voice–but the Moulde family was on its way to rebirth.
And besides, he thought, smiling to himself, if worst came to worst he still had four more writs of investment in his room, rolled up and hidden inside the skull of the first Matron of the Moulde family where it sat on his desk.