Matron slowly turned and sat back down. She reached out with a straw-like hand, and delicately took a teacup and saucer from next to the steaming teapot. With a quick jerk of the head, she pointed at the second cup that sat on the tray.
Quickly, Edmund grabbed the cup and started to sit down when he realized neither of them had any tea. picking up the heavy pot, he poured a bit of still boiling tea into his own cup.
“Pour for others first, boy,” Matron snapped. Edmund looked up in surprise.
“Why?” he asked.
“It’s proper.” Matron’s eyes glittered for a moment before Edmund edged closer to her, pouring what he hoped was the right amount of tea into her cup.
Her eyes didn’t leave him for a moment, but she neither lauded nor scorned his efforts. When he had finished pouring for Matron, he continued pouring for himself, and then put the heavy tea-kettle back on the table. He picked up his cup and saucer as he sat down carefully.
For a moment they just stared at each other, Matron as still as a statue, Edmund desperately trying to juggle the boiling hot teacup while the rain poured harder. A flash of lightning lit up Matron’s face, giving it a corpse-like pallor for a moment, before the harsh color of her cheeks returned. Matron finally broke the silence with her harsh crackling voice.
“Well? Don’t waste my time, boy. I don’t have that much longer to live. What do you want to know?”
“Everything,” Edmund said, without thinking, fingering his cup uncomfortably.
“Don’t we all,” Matron took a sip of her tea. “Always drink your tea when it’s boiling, my boy. It burns away the phlegms and biles on the way down and makes your stomach strong.” She smirked as she set the tea down, replacing the pipe in her mouth. “I won’t tell you everything. It’s a habit you’ll pick up quite quickly as a Moulde. Don’t tell anybody anything unless you have to. Knowledge is power, my boy, and you don’t make your enemies stronger.”
“Am I your enemy, then?” Edmund asked, suddenly unsure if he should drink the molten tea Matron had so casually offered him. She had chosen which cup he would be drinking from, and poisoning had seemed to be an option with his cousins.
“That’s not up to me, I think,” she said, cocking an eyebrow as she tapped her pipe gently against her cup. “I think we could be, but it wouldn’t benefit either of us at the moment to have another front to fight on. I’m glad you’re suspicious, though. It shows you’re learning.”
“I’m not learning anything,” Edmund said, shifting in his seat. “I’ve been looking, and listening, and exploring, and I don’t know anything about what’s going on. I just know everyone keeps talking about fighting.”
Matron nodded, and gave a short sigh.
“Very well,” She settled back into her chair, taking a sip of tea. “I suppose if you’ve got the stones to stand up to me, you’ll need the brains to back them up. Pay attention, and I’ll tell you what you need to know.”