Edmund turned back to the coach, only to see a wrinkled old face not half a foot away from his. The face was framed by a thick stick-like plume of white hair, large bushy eyebrows, and a long chin that stuck out like the bow of a ship. The nose was thick and flat, and the cheeks were sunken and hollow. It was all Edmund could do to keep from crying out.
“What are you?” the wrinkled face shouted, revealing a small cluster of teeth sticking out haphazardly. One eye was peering deeply into Edmund’s, while the other was squinted almost shut. His back was bent almost in half like Matron’s, but while Matron held her limbs close like a vulture, this man stuck his limbs out like a scarecrow.
Edmund was reminded of an old dog he had seen once wandering on the other side of the orphanage’s wooden fence, sniffing among the garbage cans, snapping and barking at anything that moved. Quickly casting his eyes downward, Edmund fought the urge to step back, lest the old man bite at him too.
“Master Edmund, allow me to introduce Mister Tricknee Bonne,” Mrs. Kippling said, smoothly slipping her hand onto Edmund’s shoulder. Tricknee’s gaze darted back and forth from the Mrs. Kippling’s hand to Edmund’s face, only to roll about like a marble as the man snorted.
“That rotten old bag of bones… That’s a good seven weeks of planning down the drain! I’ll have to re-figure half of my schedule now.”
Edmund stared as the gnarled man began to mutter to himself, his eyebrows shifting furiously across his face. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, Tricknee snorted and met Edmund’s eyes again.
“Well. Fine then. Terrible to meet you,” the man reluctantly stuck out a hand and gripped Edmund’s, squeezing hard. “Oh… and I suppose you’ll want to meet Googoltha too.” He looked impatiently behind him. “Well there she is. Come here, girl, and meet your nemesis.”
Googoltha, Tricknee’s granddaughter, couldn’t have been older than Edmund. Her hair shone a pale white in the sun, and she had the palest blue eyes Edmund had ever seen. Her skin was porcelain, and she wore a blood red dress. She looked Edmund up and down, and then slowly grinned. Her teeth were far pointier than they should have been, he thought.
“Right. Done that,” Tricknee muttered, looking around. “Well, boy, I hope you’re a tough one. Matron’s an appalling old bat, adding another Moulde to the family. Well, I look forward to eventually tearing apart your future and ultimately ruining you. I shan’t be in for lunch, nor supper, probably. Too much to do. Perhaps I’ll see you about the place. If I’m unlucky.”
Tricknee stomped off towards the doors, with Googoltha in tow. Just before she started up the steps, Googoltha turned back to Edmund with a glint in her eye and grinned just a bit wider. Edmund felt a chill run down his back.
“By the seven rings on Saturn’s thumb, that was a refreshing ride!”
Mrs. Kippling stood up straighter and poked a bit at her hair as Edmund looked back to see a large bear of a man leap from the coach towards them.