“It’s true, our family has had to struggle in the recent years,” Edmund said as slowly and calmly as he could manage. “But we have turned a corner, I think, and you will no doubt see more of us in the years to come. I asked you here to share a lavish meal with us in celebration of that fact.”
“How lavish?” asked Matron Scower, her lips twitching. Edmund shrugged nonchalantly. His confidence was slowly returning.
“Well, I left most of the details to my servants. I know there will be some soup–I think a Bouillabaisse.”
“You are serving us Bouillabaisse?” Matron Cromley said, somewhat admiringly. Edmund nodded. “Well, I can only say it would be quite rude for us not to stay for dinner.”
“Indeed,” Matron Scower sneered. “Especially since they must have bankrupt themselves to make it–though I wouldn’t be surprised if a tavern in the city has just found themselves a meal short. And I note you have not answered the question as to why only three of the Nine Families are here to celebrate?”
“Four,” Edmund bristled. “I am Matron’s son, and heir to the Moulde Estate.”
There was a pause while the three elders thought for a moment, their faces completely unreadable.
“Of course, my dear,” Matron Cromley smiled soothingly. “I’m sure Lerriet didn’t mean to exclude you, but I must say, and I don’t mean to be rude, but while I’m sure all three of us have heard of you, I dare say none of us know anything about you.”
“Mander doesn’t speak to anyone much,” Patron Vanndegaar said, running his tongue over his teeth. “But I am sure we would have heard of a newborn child. Am I to take it you are adopted?”
“Poppycock,” Matron Scower sniffed, waving a hand dismissively. “Mander wouldn’t adopt anyone–it’s terribly common. No, this is undoubtedly some long lost relative… perhaps the son of some illicit affair with the gardener, or a distant cousin’s descendant.”
“I’m a Moulde,” Edmund said, firmly. “Adopted, long lost grandson, whatever you may think, I am the Heir to the Moulde Estate, and it is as the Heir that I asked you here.”
“No, it was as Matron Mander that you asked us here,” Matron Cromley corrected, holding up a thick finger. “And I have to say, that is starting us off on quite the wrong foot.”
“I wasn’t sure you’d come otherwise.” Edmund explained.
“We don’t lie to each other,” Matron Scower said forcefully. “You should know that by now, as Heir. Lies are always found out in the end, and I repeat, none of us appreciate surprises. Though I must admit I’m learning quite a lot about you already; you are apparently good enough to have gone this long without answering my question. You only sent three letters; you wanted us three specifically. Why are we really here?”