Songbird in the Kitchen 4: Table Settings

The best and worst ideas are made at the bottom of a bottle.

— Kormar Proverb

Karin sat naked on her bed, her back against the headboard and her eyes focused on a spot three feet in front of her. She couldn’t sleep despite her aching eyes. Her exhaustion plucked at the back of her head.

It had been two days since she stormed away from Lilard’s and she couldn’t stop thinking about Lilian. It wasn’t fancy dreams of sex and fun, but the countless possibilities of what Tristoh had in mind for the young woman.

He was going to use her. That much was clear. Nothing she had seen of the vile man hinted that he was capable of romance or love. Even his offer, which had set off a fire of gossip throughout the city, was too large for anything besides one more of his investments.

It had to be Lilian’s singing. While she was definitely a beauty, it was the way her songs brought back memories and ignited emotions that made her a treasure. She had a gift, one that Karin could too easily see Tristoh wanting to use for his own profit.

What she didn’t know is how. Would he put her on a stage and force her to sing? Would he sell her voice to the highest bidder? Or just rent her out until her eyes were dead and her throat ruined?

Karin pressed her lips tightly together.

Tristoh’s next step would be to marry Lilian. The ceremony was in a few days. No one seemed to know what would happen after that but she couldn’t imagine the rich man moving from his comfortable estates in Tarsan to a muddy town in Kormar. No, he was going to take Lilian away where she had no family, no friends, and no support. She would be helpless.

With a shaking hand, Karin lifted the mug and sipped at the rotgut that had pooled in the bottom. It was warm and the acrid scents burned her eyes. She closed her eyes to focus on the burn as it ripped down her throat.

She drained the glass before reaching out for the bottle to refill it. When she noticed it was empty, she abandoned the effort and focused on her half-eaten dinner next to it. Underneath the congealed foot was a bright bronze plate.

Annoyed at Lilian’s struggle, she set down her glass on the table and picked up the plate. It was fortunate for her that the inn had metal plates. With a tap, she emptied the contents into the garbage can by the bed before bringing the plate to her lap.

With a smile, she thought about the serving trays at the bakery. As she did, she felt the edge warp as the bevel flattened into a sharp blade. She didn’t need any pressure or even to touch it, metal sharpened with her thoughts. Absently, she ran her finger and enjoyed the makeshift blade. She continued to sharpen the edge until the entire rim was lethal. Karin continued to focus on it as she honed it even further, narrowing the edge until it was a sharp as the metal was capable of becoming.

“Fucking asshole,” she muttered. Gripping the plate carefully, she drew back and threw it at the wall with all her might.

The bronze disk plunged deep into the plaster and wood; with a blade so sharp, it didn’t need much strength to bury it, but the impact would dull it instantly. The bronze vibrated from the impact.

She smiled as she listened to the ringing. Her ability to sharpen blades in the middle of the fight made her a valuable member of the Rat Hunters. Without her, the armored beasts they fought would dull or nick the blades in only a few strikes.

Too bad it was murder if she attacked Tristoh. But it would be self-defense if she wasn’t the one who initiated the fight.

A bad idea came to mind.

She smiled. It was time to go back to Lilard’s.

Cover

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