The man was dressed in a fine and modern-cut coat, bright red and rimmed with silver like a circus ring-master. His top hat was a matching red and slightly floppy. His face was rough and unshaven while his long and scraggly black hair flowed behind him like a lion’s mane. His teeth were bared as he strode the distance from the coach in less than a second. When he reached Mrs. Kippling he snapped into a pose that reminded Edmund of some of the statues he had seen lining the hallways of Moulde Hall, his eyes and hands pointing up towards the sky. He only held the pose a second before he had taken Mrs. Kippling’s hand and was brushing it against his lips.
“Mrs. Kindling,” he said, his dulcet baritone dancing about like a spring breeze. “A pleasure to see you again. I cannot express my excitement at eventually enjoying your fabulous food once more! A culinary Castellan! A baroness of banquets!”
“Oh, Mr. Popomus,” Mrs. Kippling’s face seemed to be sweating a bit more than before as she started to fan herself. “You flatterer!”
The man stepped back, his hands flying to his heart as a pained look plastered itself on his face.
“Flattery, my dear?” he said, his voice quivering slightly. “I’ve never flattered in all my life! You wound me almost as much to call me Mr. Popomus. Please, call me Kolb. I couldn’t bear to think that a lady of your good character wouldn’t be on first name terms with me.”
Mrs. Kippling let out a squeak that might have been a giggle had it not turned into a sharp clearing of the throat. “Now that’s enough of that,” she said, somewhat louder than Edmund thought was strictly necessary. “You get yourself inside so I can cook you some lunch.”
“Alas, my travels have taken their toll, and traversing the trail from Ninnenburg has tuckered me out. If you would send one of your lovely lunches to my room, I would be gratuitously grateful. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go and give my hello to Matron, and receive her door in my face.” It wasn’t until then that Kolb looked down and saw Edmund, standing as still as he could in the sweltering heat. Kolb’s eyebrow shot up in surprise, as a new smile split across his face.
“Well now! What have we here?” He gave a low theatrical bow. “My name is Kolberman Popomus, of the Esthington Popomuses. I had the honor of being married to Matron’s dear daughter before she was taken from us so suddenly by consumption, a short six years ago. The pain is still palpable, even to this day,” he whipped out a handkerchief, dabbed his eyes, and tucked it away again before Edmund could draw a breath. “I insist, however, on being called Kolb, no matter what Mrs. Keaping tells you to call me.”
Kolb waved his hands and produced a small apple out of thin air. He handed it to Edmund and patted him on the head. “Better eat that quick — before it hatches!” With a secret-laced grin, he spun about to head towards the front door, nodding towards Ung with an un-embellished “Hello, Ung.” Ung didn’t acknowledge the greeting.