A tall dark carriage squatted at the end of the lane, waiting for them, tied to a massive black horse. There were several long metal handrails lining it up and down, a large red bird with spread wings was painted onto the side. The whole thing was constructed with sharp lines and harsh angles that made the carriage look like a collection of broken eggshells arranged into a jagged cauldron-like shape.
A thin and spidery shadow stood next to the carriage. With eyes wide and staring, it turned to look at them as they left the orphanage. Edmund couldn’t see the face clearly, but the eyes glittered like distant stars in the shadows of a top hat.
“Take us to the mansion, Carron,” The woman snorted at the skeletal form as it tugged at a large shell fragment, opening the carriage for her ingress. A thin and steady hand began slowly reaching to the top hat and tugging at the brim as the woman stepped into the carriage and vanished into the shadows. The tall coachman then turned, focusing those deep-set pale eyes on Edmund and extending its hand to help him enter.
Swallowing his nervousness and taking Carron’s ice-cold hand only briefly, he scrambled into the strange carriage after the woman. She almost looked surprised to see him there. Carron shut the door, and after a momentary pause the carriage started to move, the sound of hooves on the dirt path muffled through the strange black wood.
The woman stared at Edmund. Edmund stared back.
She was his new mother.
It was odd, he realized; she was old enough to be a grandmother. Why had she adopted him? Perhaps she had waited too long to have children of her own? Maybe she never married, which seemed to be a prerequisite to having a child, though Mrs. Mapleberry’s face had blushed when he asked.
He decided he didn’t really care that much so long as she let him read and left him on his own for most of the day. Edmund shuddered at the thought that she might expect him to sit and stare with her, keeping still as stone, spending long hours staring and frowning at twisting shadows from a cold and dying fire.
She was obviously wealthy, Edmund thought. She had a carriage with a driver and she had given away a pen without a moment’s thought. Her clothing didn’t look new but it was ruffled, and that was something. Perhaps he was going to be a Viceroy? Maybe even a Duke. There would be lots of interesting things to read and look at if he was a Duke. Duke Edmund… Edmund… He realized there was an important piece to the whole situation that was missing.
“Excuse me,” he asked, politely as he could. “What is my name?”
The woman’s eyebrows shot upwards so fast Edmund wasn’t sure he had seen them move at all. “Don’t you know your own name, boy?” she asked, sharply. “I certainly don’t.”
“My first name is Edmund,” he said. “But I don’t have a last name, or at least I didn’t, because I didn’t have a family. Now I do, and I don’t know what my last name is.”
The woman’s mouth opened, and then closed. She sighed, waving a hand dismissively.
“My name is Matron Mander Moulde. You can call yourself whatever you wish, I imagine.”
Very well, thought Edmund. In that case, my name will be Edmund Moulde. He sat back in the coach, and looked out the window, not entirely certain yet whether he liked the name or not.