“So,” Matron turned her body to face Edmund squarely, her eyes narrow. “You have managed, in one summer, to find the long lost Cavalcadium of Fortune of Plinkerton Moulde along with eight of the most powerful pieces of paper ever written, rebuild the prestige of the Moulde Family, end the conflict between the Mouldes and the Bonnes, arrange a marriage for yourself, and at the end of it all the estate is still nearly broke? You are in desperate trouble.”
“What do you mean?” Edmund asked.
“I mean the heads of the nine families will now think you’re a genius, my boy, and that the family is rich again. That’s not something you’ll be able to just fake with a smile and a nod.”
“We won’t need to fake being rich for much longer,” Edmund smiled, pulling a long thin metal rod out of his pocket. He had managed to put together a small example from the diagram he had drawn in his sleep. “We will be getting much of our income in the future from these, I imagine.”
Matron stretched out her hand and snatched the rod away from Edmund when he offered it. She stared at it closely, turning it around and around with intense inspection. Then, with a small grunt of comprehension, she unscrewed one end of the rod, flipped it over, and screwed it back in, revealing the small nub of a pen.
“A pen?” Matron said, incredulously. “Is that all?”
“It’s already full,” Edmund said, happily. “And that top is quite tight so the ink won’t dry out once it’s inside. Quite a lot of ink in here to–it should last for a long time before needing to be refilled. No more messing about with eyedroppers.”
“Even so,” said Matron, “Pens are terribly common these days–not a very fitting place to get one’s fortune.”
“I assure you, Matron,” Edmund said quickly, “These safe-pens would be terribly expensive. Quite out of reach of the common man.” Matron’s eyebrow raised, and she looked again at the tiny metal pen. After a moment, she gave a small sigh and shook her head.
“Smile all you want, boy, but there is no easy answer to what you’ve done. Pens may do us well for a year or two, but after that? We’re still a poor family among wolves–you’ll need to be on your toes more than ever to keep up the charade. The Families will expect things from you now, as will I. And the next time you won’t have the benefit of surprise. It would have been easier for you to barely scrape by.”
Deep in the core of Edmund’s mind, he saw a knight, standing before his queen, bowing low and saying that for the honor of the kingdom, his liege, and his family name, he had nobly journeyed forth to a foreign land. He had fought the bizarre creatures and disturbing natives that lived there, found an ancient treasure, and survived. And now, as he stood before his queen, he humbly placed his service into her hands, and proclaimed proudly for all to hear, that he had barely scraped by.
Edmund laughed, as long and loud as he ever had in a very long time.
“Very well,” Matron said, finally holding up a hand to silence him. “If you’re intent on fulfilling this charade to its fullest, there is only one thing to do. There is a school you will need to attend if you are going to convince the Families that you are a genius. Come inside, and I will tell you about Grimm’s School for the Intermittently Gifted.”