It was almost past lunchtime when they finally stopped, and Edmund had lost every game. The game was deceptively simple, but already he was figuring out the strategy to it. He was learning to see the whole board at once and plan several steps ahead. He knew the rules and the game was beginning to make sense to him. He was also starting to find the pleasure in small victories. He was feeling a little proud that he had captured several of Junapa’s men in the last game, and even kinged two of his own. He had almost forgotten about his plans to learn all about Moulde Hall.
But at last, Junapa jumped Edmund’s final piece, and stood up, her face like marble.
“That’s enough for today, I think. Next time I believe I will feel like playing chess. I generally come to the library to read on Wednesdays, in the morning. I trust you can be unobtrusive, both inside and outside of the library?”
Edmund nodded, and she left without another word, beginning the long walk back up the ramps, stairs, and balconies to the fifth floor. Edmund listened to the fading footsteps until the slam of the dragon-tree door echoed through the room. He let out a breath that he didn’t realize he’d been holding, and walked back to the second floor and the pile of books he had thrown there.
There they sat, a pile of potential, ready to be absorbed into Edmund’s mind… but somehow, Edmund couldn’t bring himself to open them. He looked around, scanning the cylindrical library. It didn’t look the same anymore, now that he knew it wasn’t just his. Everything had shifted somehow, like the room had been rotated several degrees to the left. Edmund picked up the books, and began to climb the floors to the fifth. He still had a bit more of Moulde Hall to explore, and there were sitting rooms all over Moulde Hall; he would find one he could call his own.
Besides, he patted his pocket where the metal tool was still tucked away, there were a lot more doors that were open to him now.
As he entered the dining hall to eat his lunch, he found Mrs. Kippling waiting for him, a tray balanced in one hand.
“Ah, there you are!” she exclaimed, her face filling with color as she held out a small folded piece of paper with the other. “Mr. Kolb has asked to meet with you at lunch…It’s-not-my-place, but will you be joining him, young master?”
Edmund blinked, surprised at the sudden invitation. He took the note and read it, smiling at the bizarre handwriting and strange words.
“I don’t think so,” he said, “but I can take the tray to him, if you’d like.”
“Begging-your-pardon,” she said, her face draining of color again, “but I wouldn’t dream of–”
“I want to,” Edmund said firmly, remembering how he was supposed to talk to servants. “Give me the tray.”
“Of course, Master Edmund,” Mrs. Kippling said, smiling.