“The Moulde family is one of nine very old and very famous families that dates far too far back to explain. A Moulde has been on this land for twenty generations at least–that was when the first Moulde Hall was built.”
“There were others?” Edmund asked. Matron’s eyebrows shot together.
“The first one burned down after the seventh generation, and it was rebuilt by the eighth. Now don’t interrupt.”
Edmund nodded and clamped his mouth shut. Matron put her pipe back into her mouth, and took a deep pull.
“Because we’ve been here so long, we have money, power, and influence. We can make things happen in the world… at least we could.” Here she fell silent, and her sharp eyes began to mist over as she stared off into nothing. “Then there was Plinkerton. He was the worst of it, the fool. And after him came Rotchild, Finnyman, Victrola, Isaybel, Grunder, Patron after Matron who squandered away our fortune and prestige on fool-hearty expeditions, experiments, and… other things.”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong,” Matron’s eyes snapped back into focus. “If it wasn’t for the Plinkerton Engine half the city wouldn’t work, and Victrola gave this city the best hospital in the country and quite a profitable one. But for every genius invention or business venture, for every jungle expedition that brought back some priceless artifact from an ancient temple, there were seven outright failures. Some squandered money, some were dangerous, all of them wasted time and the respect of our… peers.”
“What did they do?” Edmund asked, interested in spite of himself.
“You’ll learn soon enough,” Matron shrugged, “if you keep looking around. Just don’t let any of my cousins stop you; there are a few secrets they’ll definitely want to keep buried. You don’t have that long to look, though. My cousins don’t waste time.”
Edmund considered this while Matron took another sip of tea. The rain continued to fall, rattling against the windows of Moulde Hall. Edmund looked around.
“Do you always have tea out here this late?” he asked.
“Only when I have reason to,” Matron said, crisply.
Edmund shifted in his chair. “Why did your cousins come to visit?” He asked, after a pause. “If they hate you so much, why don’t they just stay away?”
“The lure of fame and fortune is a powerful one,” Matron’s eyes gleamed, smoke leaking through her teeth as she talked. “Enough to brave the old dragon’s den. It’s even enough for Tricknee and Wislydale to risk the Bonnes’… further displeasure to try and wheedle their way inside. My cousins come here because they think they’re smart enough to convince me, or interesting enough to charm me–hah! They hope I might write one of them into my will before I die; or they think they can bribe me to do so. Most of the time, thankfully, my family does it all with letters. Social calls are often a last resort for them…Otherwise they leave us alone.”