The Moulde family mansion sat on the top of Haggard Hill, in the fancy part of Brackenburg. Haggard Hill itself comprised four square city blocks on the northern side of the city. Edmund had only ever seen a few hopeful parents come from the north; they were thick, pudgy folk with lots of jewelry, heavy black coats, and no soot on their faces.
The estate was ten acres of hill surrounded by a large wrought-iron fence topped with sharp points and bedecked with horrible faces glowering out from over the tops of shields. The land was a deep gray-green, covered with old trees, tired grass, and a sagging old gazebo with pealing white paint. Tall and foreboding hedges made of thorns and sharp leaves sat behind the fences, and the gate itself was black and heavy, framed by the statues of two large ravens, terrible beaks sharp and open as if to pluck out the eyes of anyone who offended their gaze. The sign over the gate cautioned ‘Moulde Estate’ in a sharp and spidery lettering.
The mansion itself was huge; at least five stories tall. It was painted a deep purple that was fading into gray with age, with a bright green trim that, when compared to the rest of the building, practically glowed. There were two tall towers that stuck out of the roof like castle turrets, each with a tall flagpole on top though neither pole held a flag. The carriage pulled to a halt outside the gate and shook gently as the driver disembarked to open the large gate.
“Is that yours?” Edmund asked, breaking the silence that had stifled the carriage for the whole trip as politely as he could manage. The silence quickly returned as Edmund turned to Matron, only to see her face sour and a look of disdain curling around her nostrils. A long slow creak filtered through the dark wood as the iron gate opened.
“It’s all mine,” she muttered darkly after a few moments of uncomfortable stillness. Edmund turned back to the window as the carriage began to move slowly, only to stop again once the gate had been passed. “Every road, tree, and building you saw was mine.”
Edmund was astonished, though not shocked. It made sense that someone who owned Brackenburg would own such a huge house. He began to wonder what it would be like, living with the person who owned the city, when he remembered the speech that hung on the orphanage wall.
“What about the Mayor?” he asked as the creak of the gate sounded again as it closed.
“Feh,” spat Matron. “‘Public services.’ All of the land was purchased from my family years ago for ‘the good of the city.’ They’re all a squalid and unpleasant group of renters. This land belonged to my family long before Mayors were even invented.”
Edmund looked back at the house. So she didn’t own the city anymore. Well, perhaps it was for the best. Edmund wouldn’t know what to do with a parent that owned everything.