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Fic for Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief Books

Fic: The Regular

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Fic: The Regular

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Title: The Regular
Author: an_english_girl
Word count: 1103
Genre: Friendship
Rating: K+
Notes: Originally for a non-LJ friend, on her birthday
Summary: “...to a nice wine shop where they have no idea who I am...” (ACoK, Chapter 15). Did nobody suspect the truth?


Her sister always said it was a low-down sort of job, working as a bar-keep in a wine shop. Always the protective big sister, Thelia would have much rather had Eunoe wait until there was a vacancy to work alongside herself. But when you were two orphaned sisters, alone in Attolia with only your four hands and two wits to keep you, any job was valuable. And Eunoe liked her job.

She liked it because she worked the better paying night shift, which meant she had the running of the place to herself, and with the lamps lit it felt like her own wine shop. Doing the night shift also meant she came out into the beautiful blue and gold Attolian dawn, when the city was cool and quiet and it was almost like being back at their old farm. She got to sleep the hot, noisy, crowded day away; and then wake when it was still hot and light but no longer so scorching, and see the sun set over the other side of the city, and walk to work just as the lanterns were lighting and the trumpets of the palace guard calling and everybody out and about in the city was at their cheeriest.

Thelia saw none of those things. Thelia worked in the palace kitchens, and that was the other reason Eunoe liked her own job. It wasn't in the palace. It wasn't for the Queen.

Eunoe considered herself as loyal an Attolian as could be. But loyalty didn't stop you being scared witless, and the mere thought of the Queen scared Eunoe witless. She was so … majestic, and austere, and far above the ways of all her subjects, especially an orphaned bar-keep, that she might as well have been the Great Goddess men said she dressed like. Eunoe didn't know about that. She'd certainly never seen an image of the Great Goddess – that was for the goat-feet up in the Eddisian mountains – and she'd only seen the Queen once, when Thelia had dragged her out of bed to join the crowds lining the route at the Queen's wedding.

Reality had seemed even scarier than the idea. But that left Eunoe with something she could fathom even less. Why, when the Queen was that majestic and powerful, had she ended up being forced to marry the Thief of Eddis?

That was another reason Eunoe was glad to be filling wine jugs in a back street wine shop. She didn't have to serve the Eddisian usurper. There was a low-down job for you – cooking his food, chopping his meals–! Worse even than some of those wine shops on the main roads, where the Queen's Guard went to get drunk. No. Eunoe shook her head and looked out across her wine shop. She liked her job.

Being on a back alley, the shop was always fairly quiet, and tonight was no exception. Just the regulars, all those who wanted good wine and quiet surroundings. Eunoe felt a glow of almost proprietary satisfaction looking out at the tables of shop-owners and merchant traders, upper class okloi and lower patronoi. They charged too much for their wine to attract gutter scum, and if anyone proved too undesirable, well, there were ways of getting rid of unpleasant customers – ways Thelia did not have for her unpleasantness.

Wine that was warm, wine that was weak and watery, a large bill, and the final strike of a good spoonful of sand lying thickly at the bottom of the cup... any drunken lout would soon clear off. Eunoe smiled a little at the review of her arsenal, and then more, because the door opened and here was another of the regulars.

A short man, quite dark, with a scarred cheek and sharp eyes. Between his looks and the way he came often but never really regularly, she had put him down as merchant trader, not guildsman. Patronoi, of course, no okloi had an educated accent like his, but he must have someone else to administer the property for him. Or maybe he had left his own land, for his venture in the city. Whatever it was, whatever he was, he was fairly successful at it, for he was never short of money, though that didn't mean he was gullible. Eunoe had been here the first time he'd come in, and with that scar, she hadn't been too sure. Slightly too much, she'd asked for, and those dark eyes had narrowed:

“That's not what you charged the last man.”

Before she had known what to say, he'd raised one eyebrow. “Uncertain with a stranger?” She hadn't quite had time to die of embarrassment when he suddenly quirked his mouth into a grin. “You're not the only one.”

Somehow, he carried on coming here. She charged him fairly, and he paid it handsomely, plunging one hand deep inside his cloak to extract exactly the right money, each time. He always kept the cloak wrapped tightly about him, one hand always inside it. It would, of course, only be that he kept a tight hold on his money bag, but sometimes Eunoe liked to imagine a bit of mystery about him. Maybe a pirate, or a questionable past, always clutching at a weapon...

That, of course, was silly. He was just another regular, another familiar face without a name, another one of the customers who always drank alone.

Eunoe looked over to the booth he always sat at and her mouth dropped open. He'd brought a friend?!? He'd brought a friend!?! And what a friend!

When you are a bar-keep, you get very good at looking at people while keeping your eyes fixed firmly on the wine. Anything else and the lonelier customers hope you're trying to flirt. You get very good at assessing them too. And the regular's friend … well! Eunoe poured his wine with great care. If the regular wasn't a pirate or a man-killer, his friend had to be. Ordinary people did not end up with a mashed, scarred, self-assuredly leering face like his.

Both men waited quietly while she poured, a sure sign of being happy in each other's company. Silly, really, for somebody you didn't know, but Eunoe was suddenly glad. Glad the regular was here; glad he had a friend; glad – she glanced back as she left the table – that the two men had travelled together far enough in life to flick wine at one another.
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