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The Order

It grated on Milo that Brother Malus wanted to be called “Squire.” They had come up through the cathedral school just the same, but there had been whispered rumors about Malus’s parentage. If anyone had claim to any sort of title it should be Malus least of all. Yet Malus was his boss, and Milo had disavowed the Church, so even if Malus wanted to be called the Empress Cynthia of Birkenfeathers, that is what he would be called. That thought struck Milo as hilarious though, and he smiled.

“What’s so funny?” Malus was standing right across the bar staring at him as he wiped glasses absently. Milo stood up straight and began drying them with more vigor. It had been a long day and he was finishing the last of the cleanup before locking up for the night and going home.

“Nothing,” he said. “Just thinking about a customer that came in yesterday. This guy had three…”

“I don’t care, I’ve seen them all,” Malus said abruptly. “I need to put in an order at the Port for our next shipment, so what are we running low on?” He placed a leather-covered notebook on the bar and pulled out a pencil.

Milo stopped wiping and leaned forward against the bar, thinking.

“For the taps we’re low on Ironess, Adler’s, and whatever Rookswood is brewing for the seasonal. In the well it’s bourbon and rum as usual, and now for some reason we’re running out of gin more quickly than we typically do.”

Malus looked at him for a moment as if he was going to ask a question, then simply jotted some notes. “Anything else?”

“Yes, I emptied the last bottle of Prince Thomas Reserve last night.”

There was a crunch as Malus crushed the lead of his pencil against the page. “Out of what? Why wouldn’t you have said so immediately?”

Milo took a step back, raising his hands slightly against the urgency in Malus’s voice. “I didn’t know it would be an emergency,” he said. “I thought we would have the conversation we’re having right now, and I’d tell you, and we’d get some more.”

Malus paused to regard the boy for a moment, then set down his pencil and closed the notebook. “We will get some more, Milo. But first I want you to tell me something.”

Unsure of where this was going, Milo said, “anything, Broth- I mean Squire Malus.”

“How quickly have we been going through the Prince Thomas?”

This would be easy. “At a rate of–”

“State the variables.”

“Five regulars who can afford it, two ask for it nightly, the other three at least once or twice a week. Sometimes sailors catch sight of it on the top shelf and ask, but that’s more random. Taking the average number of ships that visit the harbor multiplied by average days moored, and, say, 80% of each crew…”

Malus sneered, cutting him off. “I thought you said you were going to be a poet.” 

Before Milo had time for the meaning to sink in, Malus was on his feet and walking toward the door. He locked it from the inside and turned around.

“Best get some rest. We have a long day tomorrow.”

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