Edmund had returned to contemplating his dishes and wondering what there could possibly be to drink that would require such strange glasses, when his thoughts were interrupted by a faint conversation that began to filter through the far door.
“We can’t let the old fool win!” came the first hissing voice. “Just because she has an official heir in the Moulde family, that’s no reason to chuck all of our plans out the window!”
“And do you have a way of salvaging yours?” came another voice, grumbling in frustration. “Face the facts. She found out about someone’s plan and now we all have to deal with a new heir. Believe me, I’m no more happy about it than you are, but we–”
The conversation stopped abruptly as the large doors opened, and Mrs Junapa Knittle and Mr. Pinsnip Sadwick stopped short in the doorway in shock. Edmund looked up at them from the head of the table where he was sitting.
Junapa moved first, elegantly sweeping into the room and sitting in the second chair on Edmund’s left, settling with a sharp creak. A look of calm neighboring a self-confident smile had replaced the aghast surprise on her face.
“Edmund,” she said as she pulled her napkin off the table and lay it in her lap. “I am so glad to see you; no doubt Matron appreciates your punctuality. I didn’t see you at lunch, I’m sorry to have missed you.”
“You had lunch in your room,” said Edmund as Ung began to wheel the soup tureen over to Junapa’s elbow. Deftly, he deposited a large ladle-full of soup into her bowl with a slurp.
“Indeed I did,” Junapa nodded, her smile flickering. “That must be why I didn’t see you. Pinsnip, do be a dear and step all the way into the room; you look like a ragged hare.”
Pinsnip hadn’t moved since the doors had opened, his eyes wide and watery. At the mention of his name he started like a frightened rabbit and almost tripped over himself as he stumbled towards the table. He gripped the chair next to Junapa like a drunk man, smiling sheepishly.
“Oh!” he gasped, stammering as he slipped gracelessly into the chair next to Junapa. “Master Edmund! Hello! I suspect you’re wondering exactly what we were talking–”
“I do hope Ung will be here soon with our dinner,” Junapa said, a bit louder than Edmund thought was necessary. “I’m most dreadfully famished.”
“Yes… yes, me too,” Pinsnip smiled, leaning forward towards Edmund. “In fact, that’s exactly what Junapa and I were–ow!” He twisted like he had a cramp in his leg and reached down to rub it as Ung’s ladle served him.
“Oh dear, are you feeling quite well, Pinsnip?” Junapa looked concerned. “Too little sun I suspect–you simply can’t sleep all day and wander the streets at night, as you did in Ninnenburg. It can’t be conducive to a healthy future.”
Pinsnip looked up sharply, his mouth twisting. Edmund never heard what he might have said in response, as Wislydale chose that very moment to walk into the room, hand still gripping a half empty glass of brown liquid.