One day, after getting a turned around inside the dark passageways, he heard a noise on the other side of the wall. Curious, he carefully pushed his ear against the wood. It sounded like someone was talking but the sound was too muffled for him to hear anything specific. Edmund crept slowly along the wall until he found one of the small ear-trumpets. There wasn’t a peep-hole nearby, so he settled for sticking the small rubber tube in his ear.
Instantly, the muffled voices were crystal clear.
“Is that all you have for me?” said Matron. There was no mistaking her withered and weather-beaten voice, even though the wall. She sounded tired, Edmund thought as she sighed. “I expected more from you, frankly.”
“You shouldn’t have,” came another ragged voice, bitterness and scorn heaped on it like a snowbank. “Our families have been fighting each other for generations. You think I’d be the one to suddenly play nice?”
“Of course not,” Matron sneer was audible. “But you’ve never been stupid–you know how to bargain properly. I already have what you’re offering.”
“Don’t play coy,” said Tricknee. Edmund was pretty sure it was him; he had the same sharp tone that sounded like it could cut through bone. “You may have convinced the common folk, and even some of the fools scrabbling after your estate still think you have money, but you and I both know better. The Mouldes are now as poor as the Bonnes, and that’s all there is to it.”
“If that were true, I fail to see how handing my title over to your granddaughter will improve that situation.”
“Ha!” Tricknee snorted. “You’ve lost three holdings this past year, and almost lost a fourth! The others might think you’re simply tired, but I’m just as old as you are and I know your dirty little secret–You’re loosing your touch. You’ll hand over the title because if you don’t, it will be torn from your grasp as you’re weakly gasping out your last breath.”
“Interesting theory,” Matron said.
“It’s no theory–I know you, Mander,” Tricknee said. “You’d outright give your title to me before you let someone take it by force. You’d never let someone take control from you like that.”
There was a silence, and then the sound of someone slowly walking around the room.
“And I get nothing?” Matron said, her voice closer to the wall.
“Not nothing,” Tricknee’s voice came quickly, and a slight twist in his tone made it clear he was smiling, or perhaps sneering. “You get to keep your pride. You are a Moulde, after all; I know how much your pride means to you Mouldes.”
“My…” the pause was tangible “…pride?”
“It’s a pity you went and got that boy, I might have been able to offer more. Insure the family’s survival, for instance.”