Edmund wasn’t entirely sure they had all told him the truth about their reasons, but he didn’t want to challenge them. It was evident they all were here for a specific reason, whether they were willing to tell him or not, which brought another question to mind.
“What am I doing here?” He asked.
His new cousins looked expectantly at each other, as though they themselves didn’t know the answer and were waiting for someone who did to speak up.
“As we said… well… Matron wants to… that is… is trying to keep to her estate,” Pinsnip finally said, clasping his hands in front of him. “I’m sure she thinks you’ll… be able to help her.”
“You’re a pawn, my boy,” Kolb leaned over and whispered into Edmund’s ear. “A soldier in Matron’s army–maybe her only one. You’ll have to deal with sharp tongues and sharp minds, and maybe even sharp blades before your time is done, but don’t worry. I’ve been family for a long time, and there isn’t anyone who thinks further ahead than Matron. She’ll do anything to keep her hands on this estate. Even if it means going into town and hiring herself an heir.”
“I wasn’t hired, I was adopted,” Edmund mumbled, focusing on his last few spoonfuls of soup.
“Adopted.” Kolb smiled grandly. “I apologize from the depths of my cummerbund for misspeaking. I admit, young master, I am surprised Matron adopted anyone, let alone someone so young. I don’t suppose she mentioned anything at all to you about why she did?”
“It’s obvious, you oaf,” Tunansia sneered. “Now that Matron has an heir, he gets the inheritance. All of it–no questions asked. We won’t even be able to wait for the old crow to die and then fight over the estate ourselves. Now we either have to get written into the will or we’ll get nothing.”
“I get the mansion?” Edmund said, latching on to the one part of the conversation he understood. Tunansia nodded, her frustration with Edmund plain in her burning charcoal eyes.
“Obviously. At the moment, if Matron dies you’ll become head of the family–Patron of Moulde Hall and everything in it.”
“And all the money,” Pinsnip sighed, spinning his spoon aimlessly around his fingers. “Don’t forget the money.”
“I doubt you could,” Junapa smirked. “And I know you haven’t, Wislydale. I’m sure Patron Bonne has been very clear on the subject. How much debt have you sunk the Bonnes into now? I can’t imagine all the fifty-year-old wine and fifteen-year-old girls come cheap.”
“No cheaper than keeping the neighbors quiet,” Wislydale said softly, his blurry eyes shifting to meet Junapa’s. Her mouth twitched as she slowly raised her glass in a mock toast before returning to her soup.
“I’d become head of the family?” Edmund asked, not sure what that really meant.
“Yes, but don’t worry yourself,” Kolb leaned closer to Edmund, his grin splitting his face. “There are a lot of people out there who are going to try very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.”