The mansion had just begun to strike eleven when Edmund slipped back into the large sitting room in the east wing of Moulde Hall.
It was a simple plan. People never paid attention to him when he was sitting quietly, and there were plenty of places to sit. Eventually, his cousins would arrive and have their meeting, and Edmund would hear all of it without any of them being the wiser.
He selected a large plush chair in the corner of the room–the most unobtrusive spot he could find–and waited.
He barely had time to settle when the door was pushed open with the sudden arrival of his cousins. They didn’t even glance in his direction as they filed in, settling in various chairs and settees around the large fireplace while Wislydale headed straight for the large drinks cabinet next to the door. Pinsnip joined him, grabbing a small glass as he faced his relative.
“There now, we’re here,” he said as Wislydale reached for the large bottle of brandy on the shelf. “We’re having one of the first family meetings we’ve had at Moulde Hall in a very long time indeed. Now why don’t you tell us why you’ve called it?”
“My dear chap, you should be a bit more patient, what?” Wislydale beamed at him, making Pinsnip’s mustache twitch. “There’s plenty of time.”
“To do what?” Tunansia asked from her settee, not even bothering to turn around. “I’d rather be doing anything than having a ‘friendly’ chat with you lot–what is there to wait for? Why not get it over with?”
“I’m inclined to agree,” Kolb groaned theatrically, posing his hand on his forehead. “Tell us what you have tripping about your tongue, Wislydale.”
“It’s simple, really,” Wislydale slowly began to walk towards the fireplace, his shoes squeaking as they crossed the thin carpet. “Our ultimate problem isn’t that our dear Matron now suddenly has an heir, what? Our problem is the same that it has always been. Matron controls the estate.”
“Well of course she does! It passed to her from Patron Killgore,” Junapa stood from her chair, and walked to stand behind where Tunansia was sitting. “The estate belongs to the Mouldes, and as far as Matron’s highly paid lawyers are concerned, none of us are technically Mouldes.”
“If she’d only died before she’d adopted an heir!” Pinsnip whined, gulping at his brandy. “We’d have been able to get her estate transferred to one of us. I’m sure there was something about that in the original deed.”
“Don’t bet on it,” Tricknee grumbled, stroking his chin. “That rotting crow had to have put something in the will. I’d be shocked if the old bag hadn’t done something tricky like that.”
“It wouldn’t stand with the other families,” Pinsnip waved a hand dismissively. “The deed would have to take precedence, since it was signed by her great-great-great-”
“A moot point,” Wislydale coughed, speaking a bit louder than before. “I dare say I have a plan that will render Matron’s hold over our estate completely… impotent.”