Carron snapped the rains of his carriage gently, and the tired old horse began the long journey down Haggard Hill and into Brackenburg, carrying Edmund’s cousins away.
Edmund watched while Matron stood next to him, her finger gently tapping on her umbrella. After a respectful moment, Edmund dipped his hand into his vest pocket, and pulled out Plinkerton’s large pocket watch to check the time.
It was almost a week after the wedding papers were signed. The next day, at lunch, he had explained everything to Matron, who simply nodded and revealed little of what she thought about his actions. She smiled briefly when he talked about living in the walls for a few weeks, and no matter how cleverly he asked, or subtly he pried, she never explained where she had been for those weeks.
His cousins had spent the inter-meaning time in a state of detached politeness, speaking as little as possible to Edmund, or anyone else for that matter. Wislydale seemed bemused, while Tricknee and Junapa both avoided Edmund entirely. Pinsnip just stared at Edmund whenever he saw him, and Kolb was slightly stiffer than usual, though there was a bright twinkle in his eye. Tunansia gave him a sharp scowl whenever she could, though he thought once he almost saw her blush.
Then one day, almost in unison, they all announced their intent to leave Moulde Hall for places unnamed. And now, they were all riding away in the carriage, out of Edmund’s life for the foreseeable future.
“Well, Young Master Edmund,” Matron said as the carriage slowly shrank away. “It seems you’ve become a Moulde after all. Much good may it do you. I don’t think things will be as simple as you hope they will be. There’s still quite a lot you have to learn.”
“You’ve taught me a lot,” he replied, watching the carriage fade into the black fog of the city. “And I think a bit more than you suspect.”
“Good,” she nodded, her mouth flickering into something like a smile. “Don’t get too confident, you’re far from an expert. You missed some very basic opportunities that could have made your life a lot easier. I don’t suppose you’re serious about carrying on with this marriage of yours.”
“I have to, don’t I? I signed the paper.” Edmund shrugged.
“That’s nothing to a Moulde, Master Edmund,” Matron sniffed. “You should know better.”
“But it’s something to me,” he replied, feeling the weight of Plinkerton’s pocket watch sitting in his vest. Matron nodded once, her face blank.
Autumn was drawing to a close, and the chill winds of the coming Winter were blowing more frequently now. The dull gray grounds of Haggard Hill were fading even further into monochrome, as the sparsely leafed trees shed their foliage. The black smog of industry that covered Brackenburg was contrasting sharply now with the stark white of the cold clouds that were moving in from the north. The birdsong that was rare on the estate had vanished completely, leaving the impression that Moulde Hall was little more than a painting that someone had stepped into; still, silent, and subdued.
Edmund looked around at the dark surroundings. This was his home. Tomorrow there would be new struggles, and new problems to solve, but he could take them as they came. He was a Moulde, and that’s what Mouldes did.