“You shouldn’t be here, you know.”

He raised an eyebrow at her. She shrugged and poured him a drink.

“Right, you’re off duty. Again,” she said, sliding the glass over.

He took a sip and grimaced. “And I come here for the quality of your whisky,” he joked. “This is supposed to be whisky, right?”

She laughed, stretched, and leaned across the bar. He tried not to be distracted by her assets as she pressed her cheek to his and whispered in his ear.

“A certain group of men have been whispering,” she murmured. “Word is, they would like to see the king dead and have made plans accordingly.”

“Oh really,” he said casually, lifting his glass to his lips before continuing in a quieter tone. “I wonder where such a group of reprobates might find the privacy they need to discuss such an intrigue.”

She leaned back and smiled. “I wonder,” she said loudly and seductively. “You know, we have some… private rooms in the back. We might be lucky. We might find one free.”

She whistled to the lad at the other end of the bar. “Watch business for me, Johann.”

The lad nodded as she slipped out from behind the bar and sauntered, hips swaying, towards the back rooms.

The man at the bar downed the rest of his whisky, winked at Johann and followed her.

She made directly for the the third door on the right, pausing outside the closed door to wait for him. Her seductive attitude was gone; she was all business.

He nodded, she threw the door open and they entered.

The three conspirators leapt up from the table, taken aback by the sudden intrusion. The one nearest the door gathered his wits first.

“The king!” He drew his knife as he shouted, and charged towards them. She stopped him in his tracks with a dagger to his throat. Whatever else he had to say was choked on a gout of blood.

“Not right now,” she said conversationally. “He’s off duty.”

The king looked at the man at the head of the table and tutted.

“Sir Haffrey,” he said. “I’m surprised at you, really. You never seemed like the type to connive in dark corners.”

“Connive? Why, it seems that it’s the only way to get your attention,” Haffrey said. His voice was calm but his tone vehement. “After all, you spend more time in bars like this than you do in your own court!”

The king laughed. “Why yes, I do. That’s because the people here are generally quite honest about their desire to stab you. At least here I can be pretty sure the knife won’t be in my back.”

He was interrupted by a polite cough.

“Oh, I’m sorry, how remiss of me. I haven’t introduced you! Sir Haffrey, this is Shirelle van Easlen, better known as the Red Death and currently owner of this bar. Shirelle, this is Sir Haffrey, late lord of Barrasbrook.”

Haffrey looked puzzled. “Late?”

Shirelle nodded at the king and flicked her wrist. Sir Haffrey struggled briefly to focus on the handle of the delicate knife which suddenly protruded from his forehead, before slumping to the floor.

“My condolences to your wife,” the king said dryly.

The third man, who had been cowering beside the table, fell to his knees and begged for mercy.

The king sighed. “That’s my weak spot, you know,” he said. “Mercy. I’ve always been a merciful king.”

“You’re not king right now,” Shirelle reminded him helpfully. “You’re off duty.”

The king straightened up and smiled. “Oh yes, so I am!”

He took a dagger from his belt and slit the last conspirator’s throat with one smooth motion.

“Bad luck,” he said.
© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: The Three Word Wednesday prompts this week – once Thom’s Blogger problems were sorted – were Connive, Intrigue and Vehement.)