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Four

By December 25, 2017IC

The Matron’s safehouse was an older building in the ignoble part of town. Orphans littered the hallways through which Ura and Aismon walked towards the common room. From the outside, the house looked relatively normal, if not in slight disrepair, but inside, the colors of the Phoenix faction decorated the walls, tables, chairs, and even the floors in crayon scribbles of stick figures and chicken scratch.

“You were a Phoenix?” Ura asked Aismon.

“Where did ya think Baldrick plucked me from?”

“I didn’t even know Phoenix was still around,” replied Ura.

“The Matron never left, she just went underground, so to speak.”

The common room at the end of the hall hosted a great fireplace and dining table. At the edge of the room sat a chair, and perched in the chair, looking over the back, a young orphan with maw agape. As Ura entered the room, the little one sprinted off down the hall. Aismon and Ura took seats at the great table and began to nosh on a meager loaf of bread.

“Did you know that man back there?” Ura asked.

“Yes Sire, clumsy clod of mud named Oswall or Oswald or some such.”

“How did Undertow come to operate so openly in Meridia under my father’s watch?”

A voice from the hallway answered. “Of course, had the late King wanted them dead, they would be dead. Perhaps he did not.”

Ura turned around to see a haggish looking woman, bent over a cane. She wore a threadbare set of robes from the Mage’s College. It took him a moment to place her, but as he did, he exclaimed, “Margaret! I haven’t seen you in decades!”

“As was my intention,” she replied, “after my expulsion from the College, I saw no reason to interfere with the affairs of the King. And please, so as not to confuse the children, just call me Matron.”

“All these years, we thought the Phoenixes were dead, and here you are.”

“Appropriate, I suppose, being arisen from the ashes.”

Aismon shifted in his seat as the Matron joined them at the table. “We’ve just come to say hello, of course.”

“Yes, after your incident at the market, I suspect the first thing on your mind was visiting home again. Do not worry, Aismon, I keep my good eye on you even still. All the new King’s scrying orbs saw was a protest, even as he killed poor Oswald.”

“An illusion, then?” asked Ura.

“Yes, one of the earliest tricks I teach the little ones, to confound your silly little monitoring system. I suspect you’ll forgive the offense in this case. In any case, as the King, I suppose you have nothing to worry about. Unless, of course, you consider that a dozen people saw you kill a man in broad daylight. If I may be so bold, this little revolution seems to be boiling over.”

“The Crown has a plan for dealing with the annoyances in the streets.”