Sneak Peek: All the Dark Souls

We’re headed straight for a fall release, ya’ll! 😀

With this book done and it’s sequel already in full swing, it’s time to show you a glimpse into the world of Dark Souls. *Insert evil grin here*

Below is a scene that occurs early on in the book, when our heroine Joss Brevyn is summoned to the jailhouse to perform an interrogation on a suspect, which history tells us was something that executioners often performed. Of course, interrogations were done by way of torture in order to “extract” information from the suspect, so I haven’t strayed too far from my Benighted roots. 😉

Also, quick disclaimer: This book may be done, but it’s still in it’s editing stages. There may be some minor tweaks in the finished version (spelling/grammar/cleaner sentences, when needed, etc.), so just bear that in mind. You are literally seeing a raw edit. Be gentle. 🙂

ALL THE DARK SOULS

* * Sneak peek * * *

“Hopefully this won’t take long,” Quinn was saying as he led her towards the entrance of the jailhouse. “I hear the prisoner’s a hot head, but most of the time their bark is worse than their bite.”

“Do you think just scaring him will be enough?” Joss asked as they crossed the threshold and was met with a dimly-lit room used for processing newly charged criminals. One was already there, standing in front of an oversized desk used for bookings. The Captain of the Guard who governed the patrols of the town stood next to the convict, giving the specifics. Quinn and the captain nodded to each other, but when the captain noticed Joss, his gaze fell away, stammering a little as he continued on with the account of who the convict was.

“I think if you show him how your toys work, he’ll piss himself,” Quinn grumbled as he continued on, leading her to the stairwell that journeyed down to where the jail was located. They passed the small rooms on either side that were lined with shelves, and Joss couldn’t help but glance at all the guns and swords, left there for safekeeping by the guards currently on watch. That was the rule of the jailhouse: no guards could enter it armed. There had been too many setbacks in the past, too many times a prisoner had stolen a weapon and a guard had abused his privilege. The only exception was Joss, who was allowed her pistol as an equalizer, which she kept tucked away in her boot.

Each step sank them deeper into the jailhouse, and almost immediately the smells of sweat, sewage, and rot filled their nostrils. Quinn was used to it, but Joss never felt she could become accustomed to the odors like he did. A faint scream echoed from somewhere deep, as did muttering voices here and there, revealing just how much of a maze the jail really was. 

They followed the trail of light bulbs overhead, and when they passed by the first couple of cells, a prisoner suddenly yelled, “Angel of death!”

Joss felt her throat tighten despite not trying to give away that she had heard him.

“Angel of death!” another one yelled, followed by another one, and another. Each couple steps produced another call, announcing the arrival of the town executioner.

Even though he kept walking, Quinn peered over his shoulder at her. “I guess they know you’re here now,” he said, smiling a little.

Joss stared forward, any words she would have said already cut off by the distance calls that continued to echo along with them.

There was no reprieve as they continued on, passing cell after cell, the word “Angel of Death” just another noise that filled the dank place. Finally they reached the back rooms, nestled against the torture chamber where the rack and other instruments were, waiting at attention to intervene when called upon.  These tools were never introduced at first, only to those more unwilling to cooperate.

A couple bulbs flickered overhead as Joss followed the jailer into the room that had a guard posted at the door, where three other men were already waiting. One was standing, arms bound and suspended over his head while his ankles were shackled to the floor, keeping him from moving. The two other men, Joss knew, were from the town council. Lord Murlic Vaspin, arms crossed and scowling, was one of the magistrates, while the younger man who sat at a desk in the corner was simply a jail clerk to record the proceeding, parchment and quill at hand.

“Finally,” Lord Vaspin exclaimed, moving to stand in front of the prisoner. “Is everyone present now?” 

“Yes, sir,” Quinn answered, hands clasped behind his back as he took position off to the side with Joss standing next to him in the same manner. “We can proceed,” he reassured.

“Good, good,” Lord Vaspin waved off. Turning to the prisoner, he nodded quickly to the clerk before falling into the proceeding. “Let it be recorded that those present here today include myself, Lord Vaspin, magistrate of Galmoor’s council; Master Quinn Terrif, head jailer; and Master Joss Brevyn, town executioner—” 

“That woman has the title of Master?” the prisoner spoke up.

Lord Vaspin, never taking kindly to people who interrupted him, simply stated, “Master Brevyn comes from a long line of executioners, as you are well aware of, thus the name is fitted to the heir.”

Taking a parchment from his clean vest, Lord Vaspin ignored the gawking of the prisoner as he read off the charges. “Mr. Chadwyn Hillcross, you are accused of assault upon a Miss Annalee Morris with malicious intent to harm during the act of robbery.” Lowering the parchment, Lord Vaspin asked, “Do you confess to these charges?”

“Of course I don’t,” Chadwyn Hillcross growled.

“Despite the fact that two witnesses saw you fleeing from her bedroom window with her belongings in your possession; these same two witnesses being the ones to catch you and bring you to justice here with some of the belongings still in hand?” With this, Lord Vaspin raised an eyebrow, curious of the lie the man would tell.

“They were gifts,” Chadwyn Hillcross shrugged off. “You can’t prosecute me for accepting gifts.”

“And the laceration left on the young lady’s face?” Lord Vaspin’s eyes narrowed at the man.

“No one saw me do it,” he sneered pompously. “Besides, I’m probably not the only man who’s snuck out of her chambers.”

“I have on good authority that the Morris’s have a respectable reputation in this town, unlike yourself, who was here just last year for petty thievery.”

“Again,” the prisoner smirked, “you can’t prove it. It’s only heresy.”

Lord Vaspin stared at the man before putting the parchment back in his vest. “Master Brevyn,” he called to Joss, who took a step forward. “Let’s see if you can help change his mind.”

Joss looked from councilman to prisoner, one eyeing her knowingly while the other eyed her curiously. With a quick nod, Joss stepped out of the room, making her way to the large row of shelves against the far wall. On one of the shelves was a wooden box, and briefly opening it to assess what was in it, she closed the lid and took the box back to the room with her. This time, the guard stationed outside closed the door behind her.

Reentering, Joss knelt down at a safe distance in front of the restrained man, making sure that when she opened the lid he would see all its contents. The knives, the pliers, the hammer, the saw—some still had stains from past interrogations used by her father and grandfather. A couple were even from her own dealings that she hadn’t been able to clean off.

Pulling the thick leather gloves out first, she fitted them onto her hands, and then chose her first weapon. Unsheathing a small knife, she stood up, inspecting to make sure the blade was still sharp. “Lord Vaspin,” she called out while her eyes remained on the metal in her hand. “What kind of laceration was made on the woman’s face?”

Lord Vaspin, who backed away to stand next to Quinn, stated, “it was a deep cut made down her temple towards her chin.” 

Joss nodded, as if in understanding. Stepping up to the prisoner, whose eyes were penetrating hers, she grabbed his face, her grip locking across his mouth as her fingers and thumb dug into his cheeks, holding him in place. He tried to shake her grip, tried to bite her, but the leather gloves were a worthy protector and she kept the tight grip. For a brief moment, a look of surprise overtook the man, who was taken aback by how she was able to hold him in place.

“So you’re saying,” Joss was speaking calmly, directing the edge of the blade to the man’s cheek, “that he started here and cut all the way down.” The prisoner stiffened, breathing heavily against her glove as she ran the blade of the knife down against his skin, barely enough to even cut him.

There was a slight pause, and then Lord Vaspin spoke up, “it grazed part of her eye.”

Joss bit her lip, a bad habit when she was deeply pondering, trying to get a sense of the situation. “So like this,” she stated, bringing the blade point up so that it hovered just an inch in front of the man’s eye.

Panicked, Chadwyn Hillcross tried to move back, tried to throw his head to avoid the blade. His words were muffled against the glove as he began to breathe heavily, his pupils dilating. But Joss moved with him, her grip on his face remaining firm, reigning him down much like she would a reckless steed. She saw the flash of anger before the man closed his eyes, trying to ignore her.

“I wonder,” Joss thought out loud, gaining the man’s attention as his eyes peeled open. “Was it a slow, deliberate cut? Or was it like this—?”

There was no hesitation when Joss grasped the blade in her fist and swung her arm back before throwing her fist forward at him. There was a muffled scream, a chanting of unclear words as Joss caught herself just before the blade could penetrate his eye socket. She dropped her gloved hand a little from his face, his words looping over and over as he pleaded, “No no no, I did it, I did it, don’t take my eye, please—”

Disgusted, Joss shoved his face before releasing him, taking a few steps back in order to give each other space. Eyeing Lord Vaspin, she was given the signal to leave with a nod of his head, the accused clearly on the brink of confessing.

Gathering her tools, Joss stepped out of the room, taking the equipment back to the shelf where it belonged. As she took off the gloves, she heard the interrogation room door open and close again, Quinn entering the chamber after her. 

“Told you so,” he smiled. “He broke a little faster than I thought.”

Joss smiled back but didn’t reply as she placed the gloves back in the wooden box and sealed it shut. “Normally you leave at this point,” she commented, turning to face him. “Have another chore for me?”

Quinn crossed his arms again, the seriousness causing his smile to falter. He glanced at the guard, for no reason than to stall. “We need to talk about tomorrow.”

Joss stared at him, realizing he was being a little more serious than normal.

“The Borrick family has asked for an executioner outside of Galmoor to handle tomorrow’s beheading. They feel that their relative deserves someone more skilled, and they have petitioned that a sword be used instead of an ax. Some noble bullshit excuse, if you ask me.”

Joss didn’t reply, already feeling the weight of what was about to come. 

“Their petition was granted,” he admitted, continuing on quickly as Joss shifted in her stance. “I know that takes the money out of your pocket, but Master Hellis has agreed, and it would just be better this way.”

Better this way,” Joss echoed. “You don’t think I can behead using a sword.”

“Joss, you’re more efficient with an ax than a lot of these fools, but the sword is harder. You aren’t just bringing a blade downward; you have to strike sideways, and that takes a lot of strength, especially since this brute has a thick neck. It’ll be tough for even a skilled executioner. Someone who has strength and speed can do the job.”

Joss’s eyes slowly dropped to the floor as she leaned back against the shelves, admitting defeat. That was the hard part about being a woman executioner, knowing that no matter how much she trained herself, she’d never be looked on as equal to her comrades in strength. Part of her was grateful for the reprieve, and yet that part of her that had come from her father—to do the job and to do it well, at all costs—felt the disrespect of not being allowed to prove herself.

“The sword brings in more money,” she mumbled, more as a reminder of what was being taken from her.

Quinn stared at her before gently saying, “I’m saving your life. You know I am.”

He eyed her before moving in the direction of the condemned cells in order to make room for the next man who was sentenced to die.

 Joss remained where she was for a few minutes, feeling the disappointment fully while Quinn’s words played over and over in her mind. Despite the lost income, it was true; he was saving her. They both knew that executioners, by law, only had three tries in order to kill the condemned. If they failed in those three attempts and the prisoner was still alive, then the executioner themselves would be subject to punishment, either in the form of torture or death itself, depending on how terribly the condemned had suffered beforehand.

And that’s if an angry crowd didn’t get to them first.

Accepting her fate, Joss gathered herself up and somberly left the room, remembering that she had someone to attend to at home. This is a good thing, she thought as she passed the confession room, hearing voices on the other side and only knowing that within days the young arrogant man’s head would be next on the block. 

Moving back through Mortem Hall was much quieter than when she entered, only a couple straggling inmates rattling off her nickname. Taking the steps of the staircase two at a time, she entered the booking room. At the desk was yet again another person charged with a crime, but what made her eyes linger on him was the fact that he was fully bound with a gag in his mouth, something that wasn’t a normal practice. His eyes had immediately caught her movements, and the two stared at each other as Joss crossed the room, only breaking eye contact when she had fully passed. Curious but too concerned with what waited for her at home, she entered the courtyard, her mind forgetting the new inmate as it fell back to what she would need to help with the stranger’s ailments.

By the time she had mounted Drakon and had ridden past the gates, she had already forgotten the man’s eyes, those deep black orbs that held a spark of something furious.

* * * Hope you enjoyed! * * *

(Psst! The above gifs don’t belong to me. They belong to the creators, as always, whoever they are. :))


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