An Aghast Audience

For a moment, a pin falling on a carpet from the height of an ant’s back could have been heard in the still silence. The air itself seemed frozen, not daring to cross the room for fear of disrupting the stunned tableau. Everyone was still, their faces covered in amazement, horror, amusement, and confusion.

Then, as a unit, Edmund saw each of his cousins begin to struggle desperately, aching to cry out, but daring not to, as they cast furtive and surreptitious glances at the three Family Heads, trying to discern what the appropriate reaction might be.

“WHAT?” Tricknee finally broke the silence. Quick as lightning, Edmund spun his head to look Tricknee squarely in the eye, speaking quickly before he could interject further.

“I am sorry for revealing this sooner than we had planned, Mister Tricknee, but I simply didn’t feel right keeping such important news from our honored guests. I understand your anger and apologize, but this is something that everyone should know, and as soon as possible. Don’t you agree?”

Edmund held Tricknee’s terrible gaze. In the depths of his iris he saw the thousand unnatural tortures Tricknee was planning for him, and the slow and inexorable death that would follow. Edmund desperately wanted to look away, to cast his gaze around the room and see what the others were thinking, but he dared not. If he looked away, all would be lost.

“Settling your feud with the Mouldes?” Patron Vanndegaar mused, scratching under his patch. “The Heir to the Moulde estate marrying a Bonne? Intriguing, I must say; I would have thought your families would take your foolish little grudge to the grave.”

“I agree,” said Matron Cromley, her soft smile widening ever so slightly. “Tricknee, that’s a spot of forward thinking I wasn’t expecting from you.”

Tricknee was thinking, Edmund could tell. Everything depended now on how well he had predicted Tricknee’s behavior. Would he ruin everything just to embarrass Edmund by calling him a liar in front of the family heads? Or would he play along while trying to discern exactly what Edmund had planned?

They stared at each other for what felt like minutes while Edmund tried to breathe. Then, for barely a second, Tricknee’s eyes flicked towards the heads of the families.

“I imagine not,” Tricknee said smoothly, though Edmund could hear the slight knife-point hidden in his tone. “Well, you’ve started this little show, boy, why don’t you finish it? Our guests are obviously curious as to what could possibly convince me to allow you to marry my granddaughter.”

“A good point, Master Edmund,” Junapa said sweetly, her voice trembling slightly. “What… on earth… could be going through your head right now? What could the Bonnes give the Mouldes that we don’t already have?”