Edmund was an orphan from birth, as was fashionable at the time.
His earliest memories were of a solitary and dreary life in Mrs. Mapleberry’s Home For Wayward Lads and Ladies, a sagging orphanage perched on top of Downs Hill on the outskirts of the smog-blanketed city of Brackenburg.
It was a crowded life with orphans being so plentiful. Brackenburg had been hit hard during the last war, leaving many homes vacant and many children parent-less. More importantly, at least to the Mayor, there were also fewer men and women to perform the necessary farm and factory labor to keep the city alive.
In response, the mayor began to devote his time and energy to subsidizing the experimental inventions that he thought would propel his beloved city into the twentieth century. This seemed to work, and soon a large black sooty cloud of industry began to grow over the Brackenburg skyline.
Sadly, as industry prospered there was a marked increase in industrial accidents as well, which led to even more orphans and vacant homes that began to dot Brackenburg like festering sores, while the black clouds of soot that hung over the city continued to grow larger.
Finally, as abandoned houses, decrepit mansions, and haunted lots sprouted up like weeds, the Mayor decided to donate them to the numerous orphanages that were becoming so necessary.
“A small price to pay for progress,” the mayor had said, closing his speech with a shake of his head in sympathy. “In these havens — these sanctuaries — our children will be cared for and grow up knowing that their parents died either to make this country safe in war, or to make this city great in industry. Either way, it is because of their sacrifice that Brackenburg is one of the greatest and most prosperous cities in the world.”
It had been the proudest moment in Mrs. Mapleberry’s life, standing on the rickety makeshift stage in the pouring rain, not an arms length away from the Mayor himself. Granted, she had been selected along with twenty two other proprietors of orphanages to stand with the Mayor, but she was next to him none-the-less. She couldn’t help but feel uniquely prized as he distributed deeds to the properties like Father Christmas.
After the speech was finished, Mrs. Mapleberry began the unsteady journey down the makeshift stairs to solid ground. She hadn’t gone more than five steps, however, when a pale thin babe was thrust into her arms by an unseen stranger from the swarming mass of citizenry.
Had she been inclined to think faster she might have been able to catch the arm of the mysterious figure, or at least catch a glimpse, as no one could have moved through the thick throng of onlookers with any speed. But she had been smothered with civic pride and a personal sense of duty by the Mayor’s speech, and looking at the child, who looked back at her with thick black eyes, filled her with a sense of purpose.
And so, instead of thinking twice about the mysterious benefactor, she went straight to her new home; the only building on Downs Hill.