Thought a Nightmare, Darkly (Writing Sample)

Thought a Nightmare, Darkly (Writing Sample)

(Originally published on 21/11/2018) 

This is a writing sample from my WIP novel that I’m currently halfway through writing.  This is an excerpt from chapter 15.  I feel that it is a good jumping in point to show the style and themes of the story and its characters.

This chapter of the story does not feature the main character, but a side character extremely important to the overall story.

Let us begin…

I breathe out a sigh. Why must waiting always be so boring? I recross my legs in discontentment. My boot heels click the castle floor with a sound that almost bounces along the winding hallway.

So boring. How long must he have me wait? I watch as busy pages and scribes in matching grey uniforms squeeze past each other in these narrow halls. If this hall is so narrow that men have to practically climb over each other to get where they are going, why is there a line of chairs for waiting, placed directly outside the intelligence Commissioner’s office? Hmm, one can only assume that it is unusually busy today in this section of Bastone castle.

Perhaps the rumours are true. Maybe the Danneish Occupation Force has finally got wind of the resistance leader’s location. The reinforced doors to the Commissioner’s office slam open, revealing two De’suse soldiers dragging a bloodied prisoner in rags. I can’t see his face. Not that I’d want to see the ghastly expression on his tortured mug.

One of the men yells in Kijon to clear the hallway. The pages and scribes do as instructed, despite the fact that most of them don’t know what the man even said. It seems most Danneishie still didn’t know the Kijon language, even after three years of Kijon occupation. Interesting.

They drag the man out of the room and down the hall, away from my seat in front of the Commissioner’s Office. The dead man is dragged down the length of the corridor, leaving a trail of blood as he goes along the castle’s stone floor. I feel sorry for the servant that will have to clean that up. The Commissioner’s assistant says suddenly,

“The Commissioner is ready for you now, Miss.”

I flick my eyes aside to look him over. I didn’t even hear him approach. I guess that’s what I get for not paying attention in a nest of spies and assassins.

He goes to take my hand and help me up. However, he sees a part of my unconcealed face but for a second, from under my dark hood. He decides not to bother and retracts his hand unkindly. He says in a polite but almost dismissive tone,

“Be quick, the Commissioner is a busy man.”

I stand up by myself. I say in a slightly condescending manner – while maintaining an aura of politeness,

“Thank you, I have enjoyed your… Hospitality.”

I give a slightly wicked smile and stride through the Commissioner office’s double doors. That young assistant surely wasn’t expecting a response that sly from a Jike.

I see the Commissioner wiping blood off his hands while standing behind his majestic mahogany desk. He is a heavy-set man with a thick brown moustache and slightly balding head.

Not so fat that he’d be useless in a fight. More a weight that years of constant stress eating has facilitated. He looks up and says in an unexpectedly squeaky voice that doesn’t match the man talking,

“Arh so it’s you.”

I reply as the assistant closes the double doors behind me,

“It good to finally meet you, Commissioner.”

He says to his assistant,

“Leave us be, and close that door behind you.”

The assistant reluctantly obeys, giving me a piercing look on the way out. I clearly didn’t make a friend there. The Commissioner extends a bloodied hand for me to shake. I take one look at it and decide not to shake it. He looks down at the blood on his hands and says,

“Aw yes, have a seat. Do mind the mess on the floor.”

That voice is throwing me off. I still can’t get a good read on the man because of it. It isn’t posh nor is it common either. I look down to see what he’s talking about. I see a mostly dried splatter of blood before me. No doubt left by one of the Commissioner’s previous “guests”.

I step around it, then go to sit on the chair opposite the desk. I say,

“Is this what constitutes a warm welcome in the capital these days?”

The Commissioner gives a brief laugh while he washes his hands with a glass of expensive whiskey. I sit down. I remove my hood. He’s not surprised. At least he doesn’t act surprised. I guess that was to be expected. He is a Spymaster after all. He says,

“You don’t know how close you are to the mark miss, with that quip. The Kijon have a noose around everyone’s neck. All they need is a reason to pull at it.”

He finishes washing his hands and sits down in his large, almost kingly cushioned desk chair. I say,

“I wouldn’t think the occupation force would see it that way.”

“Right you are. They see it as protection. Protection our delicately positioned kingless kingdom, so desperately needs.”

I smirk. That is the understatement of all time and we both know it.

“So let me get a good look at you.”

He opens a small wooden case on his desk. Then removes a set of glasses. I should’ve picked up on his nearsightedness from the start! I’ve been in the room for a full minute now and I didn’t even notice that. Either this man is very good at hiding it, or I am getting worse at my job. Hopefully it’s the first, not the latter.

I make a slight pose to show off my striking feminine features. I usually have an extra button on my blouse undone as well, but that would have gone against the purpose of this disguised outfit. I find that most human men are less likely to hurt women they are attracted to. A phenomenon very helpful to a woman in my line of work. The Commissioner says in a professional tone while looking at my face,

” Interesting, not quite as I was expecting.”

I return the professional tone,

“What exactly were you expecting?”

“I guess I was somewhat biased by past experience and preconceived expectations. You don’t look like a Jike at all. More like a beautiful young woman, with dark blue skin and dark purple hair. I wonder, do you have any of the Jike tribal tattoos?”

“Not anywhere I’d let you see them.”

He smiles at the joke. Then he continues,

“What about the horns? You cut them off?”

“I was never born with them in the first place.”

“Do you think it has something to do with your particular, gift?”

“Perhaps, but I don’t know anyone that can tell a Caster why they were born with the gifts they have.”

“The state church once said it’s destiny that decides. You believe in that?”

“I believe that a woman ort to make her own way in life.”

I add to that notion in my mind. At least when left to her own devices.

“Splendid, it is not every day that I see something that surprises me. Nay. Meet someone that surprises me.”

“I’m full of surprises.”

“I hope so my dear. It is always good to have a reprieve from the monotony of this world. What do you go by?”

“For the purposes here. Winnie.”

“Winnie? Like the Dannieshie poem?”


He thinks on the name while resting back into his chair. I go to play absentmindedly with my hair but realise that I just got it cut short. The Commissioner raises a finger in thought and says,

“Now that I think on it, that poem is about a young girl stuck in a message bottle. Doomed to stay trapped until a stranger opens it, and reads the message contained within. Am I right?”


“Hmm, somewhat fitting for a spy I suppose. Okay, I agree. You shall be called Winnie for your time here.”

I’m surprised for a moment, but don’t let it show. That was it? The Spymaster is just going to trust me like that? Unlikely. It would be foolish to accept a new agent that easy. There must be some sought of test. But what and when? On my first assignment?

I hear the doors bang open behind me. The previously quiet and peaceful office is replaced by Danneish Houndsmen, dragging in three hooded prisoners. This again?

I stand up. The Houndsmen take immediate notice of my inhuman skin colour and confusing lack of other typical Jike features. They’ve never seen a Jike like me before. The same for all of humanity, I guess.

Their unsettlement lasts but a moment before they get back to their work. The room is quickly filled with four Houndsmen, the Commissioner’s assistant, the Commissioner himself sitting behind his lavish desk, and lastly three ragged prisoners kneeling on the floor. One a woman, the other two men. Their faces are covered so I cannot tell their age, let alone their occupation. They could be three of the twelve lords of Danneish for all I know. The Commissioner stands up and puts his hands together. I am starting to get used to his unusual voice. He says,

“Well then my new friend. We have a slight problem here for you to solve.”

I keep my cool exterior, despite my skittishness for the situation unfolding before me. He takes out a dagger from a drawer in his desk. He says calming,

“I want you to kill one of the prisoners here.”

My blood runs hot. Of course, something like this was going to happen eventually. I’ve heard stories like this before. Prove your loyalty to the group by killing a stranger.

Thus, the group has leverage over your head for the murder. A leverage that discourages betrayal. Cut and clean blackmail. The Commissioner says as he extends the blade towards me,

“Well then my dear.”

I take the blade hesitantly. Is this what they want? Do they want someone that can kill on command? I did not think they needed another assassin. I take the dagger into my right palm. The blade feels familiar to what I usually use.

What the bells am I going to do? I take a few steps to stand before the gaged prisoners. I can hear the women crying through her gage. The other two men weren’t much better off themselves. I see fresh cuts and bruises on their bodies. At least they didn’t have the indecency to beat the woman.

I heard the Kijon treated men and women the same when it came to the torture of prisoners. I’m glad that that little bit of equality hadn’t yet made it to the lands of Danneish. How am I going to play this? All eyes in the room are on me. Everyone eagerly waiting to see what I’ll do next.

Each eye evaluating what I may be thinking in this very moment. What do they want to see of me? The bloodthirsty Jike? Do they expect me to kill the prisoners in a violent rage? With my bare teeth even? Or would it be the dutiful human they wanted to see? Doing exactly as expected. Nothing more, nothing less.

I choose to be myself instead of either. I throw the dagger to the ground in front of me. It clinks as it hits the stone floor. The other spies give me disapproving looks. The Commissioner comes up from behind me and moves to my side, saying,

“Are you sure you want to do that my dear? Somebody in this room needs to die before anybody leaves. If it’s not going to be one of the prisoners, then, maybe… Someone else?”

I’m glad that I didn’t look at his face while he said that. That was quite the intimidating tone. I reconsider my choice. Is one of these nameless prisoners really worth my life? I have a duty to my Master to live. A duty to myself to survive. It’s not like me killing one now, will change anything anyway.

Look at the way they’ve been treated. They would be lucky to be alive a fortnight from now. I could easily save myself if I just did what the Hounds say. It’s not like I haven’t killed before.

I bite my lip. Bells, I shouldn’t have done that. The Commissioner is watching me intently alongside the five other Houndsmen present. They might interpret it as weakness. No. I resolve myself. I will not take after my Master in this regard. I will do something very unlike him. I say in a practiced, commanding and confident voice,

“I refuse to take part in your test. I won’t kill your prisoners for you. I won’t do your dirty work.”

Some of the hounds give me intimating and foul looks once again. That may have come off like I think I’m better than them. What have I done? I’m going to get myself killed! The Commissioner laughs aloud in glee, causing all the tension in the room to dissipate immediately. He says as he slaps me on the shoulder,

“Finally, someone that won’t drop a dagger into a fool on a moment’s notice! Hounds, we have ourselves an informer! I’m shocked but don’t show it. That worked? The Commissioner says, “Get these prisoners off to the gallows. The Kijon nobles want some mid-afternoon entertainment.”

The spies move immediately as ordered. No hesitation. These are very well-disciplined men. I guess they live up to their nickname. Hounds. The Commissioner’s assistant waits dutifully at his place by the door, while the three prisoners are forcefully led out.

I give a quick glance at the young man. “Lovely”. What a look he just gave me, he does not like me at all. It’s more likely he just doesn’t like Jikes. Pity, he is kind of good looking in the right light. The Commissioner addresses his assistant in a dismissive tone,

“You as well. Shut the door.”

The assistant looks especially pissed off at me now. He leaves, without a word. The Commissioner and I move to sit down. He says while sitting,

“I see you are already making friends here.”

I say with a tone of amusement,

“What can I say? I’m a people person.”

He smiles,

“Ah yes, that will be a necessary quality for your work here. Don’t worry about him though. He is but a small cog in a much larger machine. My machine.”

“I thought that this machine belongs to the Kijon?”

He laughs,

“The Kijon have it on lease, my dear. The Hounds serve Danneish and her people, as they always have. So, what did think of our little test? Fun?”

I look away slightly, the thought of what almost happened still making me deeply uncomfortable. I say honestly,

“I thought it was awful.”

“Winnie, we are in a very awful line of work. Are you sure you are up for this?”

“I said it was awful, I didn’t say it wasn’t necessary.”

He smiles again, it seems I’m managing to make a good impression on the man. He says,

“You know my assistant. The one that probably hates you right now for your skin colour. Je’ture or whatever Kijon nonsense he goes by these days. He killed all three prisoners when put to the same test as you.”

I am surprised and I show it. All three? He doesn’t look like a cold killer. And I was only asked to kill one. The Commissioner continues,

“Surprised? Yes. So was I. You see I told him to kill one. He did. I told him to kill another. He did. Then I told him to kill the last one. But this time. We showed him the man’s face. We made Je’ture look into the prisoner’s eyes as he slit his throat.”

My emotions get the better of me. I let slip my disgust at their actions. The actions of people I had just applied to work for. The Commissioner realises this and says,

“Oh don’t feel bad about the prisoners. The ones used for testing are convicted rapists, paedophiles, and murders, every one of them. All have the death sentence. I even looked into their cases myself to make sure of their legitimacy. No political prisoners either if you’re worried about reprisals. You see Winnie my dear, we are the Hounds. We follow the laws of the state here, always.”

Somehow that explanation only somewhat relieved my uneasiness towards my new boss. He continues,

“As I was saying, Je’ture, he killed them all. We didn’t even threaten him once. The implication of threat was there, yes. But he never asked after the consequences of non-compliance. Can you imagine that my dear? To kill three strangers without a single reason given? A soldier going to war on his Lord’s orders has more to go on than that!”

“I can imagine wanting to do what you are told. Even if you know it’s wrong.”

“But no, my dear it’s not that simple. Most initiate spies, bells, the ones you saw in this room but a moment ago. When they took this test. They asked questions. They asked if what they were doing was legal. Some asked if they could think about it first. Others asked if there was another way to punish them. I have never had a man, or woman for that matter. Come in and kill three Strangers in cold blood at a moment’s notice. That was a new and interesting discovery.”

“I believe you are describing a sociopath.”

“Yes, that is the technical word for him.”

It seems like the more the Commissioner talked about Je’ture the more reasons I had to despise the young man. I say,

“I guess I’ll have to keep an eye on him from now on.”

“Precisely my dear. In fact, you should be keeping an eye me as well. Everybody for that matter. You never know from where betrayal comes. The downside of working in this business I’m afraid. Friendships are not forever.”

He looks at me with a piercing gaze for a moment. I act non-threating in return. I want him to think of me as a young beautiful woman. Not some double agent or enterprising Jike, competing above her station in this world. I speak to break the sudden tension,

“So, you saw where I draw the line?”

The Commissioner smiles,

“Yes, I am glad to finally meet someone with such high moral standards as I.”

Is that a joke? This man was wiping blood off his hands when I met him. Hardly the paragon of virtue and ethics. He continues,

“I myself, thirty years ago it must be now. I acted the same way in the test. I did not slay a single one. They could take my life, but not my honour! But never mind my nostalgia dear. We have dallied too long. Let us now talk about your first assignment.”

Bells, I wonder how many years of ordering torture and death it took for this once ethnical man to become the unfeeling bastard he is today. Am I to be the same? Winnie, what the hell did your Master get you into?


Thanks for reading!

But I’m afraid the rest of it is a while off. Because as of this post the book is set to be finished January of 2020.

If you are interested in learning more, please feel free to contact me using the details provided.

Back to blog