“Training?” Edmund wasn’t sure he liked the sound of that.
“Yes!” Kolb resumed his pacing, moving faster and faster through the detritus that surrounded them. “If you have to deal with the old crone, then you must let me give you a few pointers in the way of conversation! She’ll dance circles around you, boy, if you’re not quick on your feet. If you’re going to match wits with her, you’ll also have to match words! By the time we’re done with you, boy, you’ll have Matron wrapped around your little finger! You’ll be making her do back-flips, somersaults, and crying or laughing on command!”
Edmund was skeptical of his claims, but it was true that when Kolb was speaking, everyone else fell silent. Perhaps it would be useful to learn how to speak with strength and confidence. After all, he would become Patron of Moulde Hall one day and he’d need to command respect.
“Why would you help me?” Edmund asked, still cautious.
“Because I’m impressed with you, lad. You haven’t run away yet, which means you are either very stubborn, or very stupid; the two hallmarks of a true Moulde. You have managed to find a place for yourself in a very inhospitable environment and you even managed to strike a verbal blow when I underestimated you… and I learn from my mistakes.”
“And,” he continued, his wide staring eyes glittering in the dim light, “Because if there’s one thing I believe, more than anything in this world–and I’ve seen wonders that most civilized men would scoff at–it’s that all the best laid plans of the wisest among us can fail through a single roll of the dice. And I aim to give you something now so that someday, when I need help, I can ask a favor of you. Deal?”
“Good,” Kolb said, clapping his hands definitively. “Let’s get started.”
It had taken at least two hours before Kolb was satisfied with Edmund’s progress.
After several breathing exercises that Kolb said he had learned from Tibetan Sherpas, and stretches he had learned from Indian fakirs, he had forced Edmund to rattle off the titles of all of Kolb’s posters and expedition diaries as fast as he could. Then, he had to say strange and silly nonsense poems that were incredibly difficult to say properly.
Kolb spent the rest of the time giving advice on how to charm and amuse people while having Edmund make silly faces that pushed his mouth around his face, and make silly noises that caused his nose to itch. Kolb poked and prodded Edmund’s side and back in painful places, talking all the while about flattery, modesty, and savior-faire. He made Edmund push out his stomach when he breathed, taught him how to have his mouth open when his lips were closed, and showed him how to make his voice sound like it was coming out though a cave.
It all seemed rather pointless, Edmund had thought, until Kolb had him try the poems again. They were still difficult, but he could feel his mouth and tongue dance around the words like raindrops, instead of slogging through them like mud. Kolb seemed very pleased, and made Edmund promise to return every Thursday to continue the lessons.