“How’s I supposed to know she’s nobility?” Qaera scoffed, scowling at her empty mug and the equally drained pitcher next to it on the bar. “She dressed like a merchant. A not very successful one, at that.”
“Them foreigners’re hard tah tell wit, tha’s fer sure.” Gelea offered, motioning for the idle barmaid to bring over another bottle. “But it’s not like they’ve the contacts tah get ya in trouble, so why’s the worry?”
“The captain, that’s why.” Qaera drained her mug and began pouring another, pausing when she noticed the label. “She gave us the wrong one.”
“So we get the good stuff fer cheap. Wha’s wrong wi’ tha’?”
“She’ll pay if we don’t. ‘Sides, it’s not right.”
“Her mistake, her loss.”
Qaera frowned in silent disapproval.
“It’s a good lesson fer the newbie.”
Qaera glanced at the raven-haired youth, only then realizing she was new.
“Still not right.”
Gelea intercepted Qaera’s hand as she moved to wave the girl back.
“It’s fine, I paid fer it. No mistake made.”
Qaera eyed her friend for a few moments, then poured the drink for both of them.
The two sat there, nursing their cups and enjoying their liquor in silence for some time before Gelea spoke up again. “Not like ya tah be drinkin’ so heavily afore shift starts.”
Qaera grunted and drained her mug only to promptly refill it. “Not like you to be buying the good stuff. Where’d you get the gold, anyways?”
“Oh, I got meself a nice bonus fer snaggin’ one of the higher-ups o’ the Thieves’ Guild.” Gelea grinned, brimming with pride. “Wasn’t an easy catch, but made fer a nice payday. Might even get meself a promotion out of it.”
“Then I guess you didn’t do it alone, or there wouldn’t be any ‘might’ about it.” Qaera smirked, raising her mug in a toast. “Glad something’s going right for someone in this town.”
“Ya know anythin’ ‘bout wha’s going on inside?” Gelea jerked her head in the general direction of the Inner City. The whole place had been on lockdown since the Chancellor had his opponent executed at the end of their duel. “Or who tha’ red knight be?”
Qaera shook her head. “Nope. Even if I did, I’m not one to gossip. Besides, they’re not letting anyone but Guildmasters in, and even them ain’t getting out. I heard one of the guards taking deliveries at the Gate mention the Vizier hasn’t been seen for days, though. Since the duel.”
“Couple’a nights ago, I could’a sworn I heard someone raving ‘bout the Dead King from atop the wall,” Gelea replied. “And I mean raving like a right proper lunatic. Bellowing loud as they could ‘bout the end times an’ how we’re all doomed.” She shrugged, draining the last of her drink. “Now, wha’s this gloom ya got really ‘bout, eh?”
“I got expelled.”
“Fer not believin’ a foreigner without proof?”
“For that and more. Gate Captain’s been unhappy for a while, with that beacon business and the time he got dragged out in the rain over a guildmaster even he didn’t believe at first. Not like I’ve been on the Chief’s good side, especially after I accused his mistress of having a fake pass and arrested her.” Qaera poured herself another cup.
“And wit’ ya Da’ gone, there’s no one ‘round tha’s got ya back in the Guild.” Gelea offered a firm pat on the shoulder. “Wha’s nex’, then?”
“Another bottle of whatever you’re buying, ‘cause this one’s run out.” Qaera waved over the barmaid.
“Pa’s Monlarian, right?” Gelea turned to the server, who gave a confused nod. “Got any of tha’ coke thing?”
The young girl stared at her with a furrowed brow for a few moments, then broke into a smile. “Oh, cacao. I don’t know if there’s any left, but I’ll ask Pa. It’d be a gem each, though.”
Gelea fidgeted for a bit before handing over a crown to the wide-eyed barmaid, then turned to Qaera. “I’ve always wanted tah try it, and ya ain’t havin’ any more alcohol ‘round me today.”
Silence fell over the table once again, the two women each disappearing into their own thoughts.
Qaera stared into her empty mug, trying to find something to talk about that wouldn’t lead back to her. “D’you hear about the giants?” She asked at length.
“The bunch tha’ landed in Norport?” Gelea shrugged. “I hear they’re right outta the Glass Citadel. Ya think they’re here tah start the war?”
“More likely to stop it. Sollim’s never cared to declare war. They just march their troops right in.”
The barmaid returned, placing down a steaming cup in front of each of them, and returning a handful of silver coins. “It’s a bit old, so you’re getting a discount,” she offered in response to Gelea’s questioning look.
“Maybe it’s a list of demands? Spot of blackmail seems like tha’ kind of thing they’d do.” Gelea carefully sipped the hot drink, apparently having become uncertain if it was really worth all that money.
“How’s it taste?” Qaera sniffed at her mug. The rich aroma was soothing, but not in a way that promised a tasty drink. More like the perfume of the Palace Guard or a flower.
“Bitter in small sips, but sweet and rich wit’ a mouthful,” Gelea replied after swallowing a large gulp. “I could get used tah this.” She grinned and downed the last half-cup in one swoop.
Qaera took a big sip of her own, then scrunched her nose. “Too sweet for my taste. I’d rather it be bitter.”
“Greenskins!” Gelea feigned exasperation, snatching Qaera’s cup from her. “Guess I’ll enjoy it fer ya.”
Qaera didn’t protest, instead waving the girl over again to ask for a bottle of mead.
“Ya always talked ‘bout going east tah Kor, find ya roots and all tha’. Why don’t ya do that now?”
“I’d need passage on a boat up north, then a ship to Alturm or Redsands. How’d I pay for that? I’ve no riches, unlike some.” Qaera bumped her shoulder against Gelea’s, who bumped back right as the maid was handing over the water, jostling the water all over the table.
“Sorry!” Gelea offered an apologetic smile to the girl, then turned back to Qaera. “Ya got ya fath’r’s old gear, and ya got plenty of combat trainin’ from the Guild. I’m sure ya could get work as a guard tah pay fer it.”
The maid paused from wiping up the water, hesitating for a moment before speaking. “If you’re looking for work and know how to fight, you could try the Adventurer’s Guild. Oh, I’m sorry…” The barmaid seemed suddenly flustered, realizing she had spoken uninvited. “I just… I mean… They’re bound to be looking for new people, right? New and all… Oh, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t bother customers… I’m sorry.”
Gelea chuckled as the girl hurried off.
“She’s right, though. Ya got the skills tah suit them. Between conscription and the Guardians having the Inner City on lockdown, there’s not a lot of guards ‘round. Bound tah be plenty work fer ya there.”
Qaera glanced sideways at her friend, shaking her head before grabbing back her kawkaw and draining the mug. Better by far to pack up and leave.