In the end of the first chapter of Ethan’s tale, Stealing the Crown, everyone dies. Ethan returns to the thieves guild to find all his fellow thieves, those that he lived his daily life with, brutally murdered.
At the delivery of my first chapter to my critique group, the top complaint I got about this scene was that they didn’t know enough about those characters to care that they were all dead.
Never fear! I will give Ethan nightmares, throughout his journey, for two purposes: 1) Ethan needs to be more tormented. 2) You get a better sense of those he lost at the beginning as you get to see them in his dreams.
Yesterday, during my push to get to 10k, I wrote his first nightmare. Here, you get your first look at Stealing the Crown, without heavy and major revisions. Read it, let me know what you think. Is it understandable as a dream? Is it too terrifying? Keep in mind, the dreams will only get worse from here on out.
“Ethan, what’s going to happen to us?”
“What do you mean, Harris?” I stretched out in my hammock, rolling my head to pop the muscles in my neck. I cracked an eye open to peer at him across the dimness of my room.
He sat in the corner opposite me, his knees drawn up under his chin like they always were. For the life of me, I didn’t know why he’d sought me out rather than staying with the others in the next room. A sleepy man who’d just gotten back from a heist couldn’t be much fun to hang around. But then, Harris never really had wanted to be around others.
A big chunk of his black hair slipped out from behind his ear to cover his face and he didn’t bother brushing it away. “When you leave us. Who’s gonna do your job?”
I frowned, feeling the skin across my forehead wrinkle in that way I really hated. “Who said I was going anywhere?” Maybe he’d mixed me up for Matthew and Nathan, who were planning to set out on their own next month.
He scuffed the heel of his boot across the floor as he looked anywhere but at me. “The men downstairs. The smoke-bringers. They said you wouldn’t be with us anymore.”
I sat up, my bare feet scratching against the rough floor of my room. “What men?” Smoke-bringers? I’d never even heard of a term like that.
Before he could answer me, a curl of smoke wound its way under my door. Harris watched it dissolve in the air for a moment before looking at me with scared and sad eyes. I moved to the door, throwing it open. The troop of kids that had been playing in here a moment ago, climbing over the tables and chairs, had vanished. Joan stood in the corner, stirring a pot of soup over flames that had lost their color. Without even looking up at me, she sighed, pounding the spoon against the rim of the pot. “It can’t be helped; you’re too late to do anything about it, you know.”
I stared at her as thick smoke filled the room. Coughing against the weight and heat, I stumbled towards the far wall. Real fire, burning red and hot, was climbing the stairs. The familiar roar was doing its best to mask the screams from the missing children. I tried to run down the stairs, tried to find them and get them out of the building, but the fire pushed me back up to the second floor.
A large crack behind me made me turn around. The floor between me and my bedroom had caved in under the heat. Black smoke billowed into my view, blocking out the rest of the floor. I pressed against the back wall, coughing into my arm. As the air cleared a little, I could see Harris standing in the doorway, back to me as he looked out the windows. “Harris! Get out of here!”
My words cut off as he turned. A line of red crossed his neck, spilling blood onto his shirt. He held a hand out to me, a hand that was already smoldering like the logs of a dying fire. “What’s going to happen to us, Ethan?” His words echoed in my head, pulling me towards him.
“It’s going to be alright, Harris. I’ll get you out of here. I’ll—” The floor beneath me caved in, dropping me towards the fire below.
I jerked as the cart beneath me hit a rough bump. The sweat across my face had the hay sticking to me. I swatted it away, trying to untangle the cloak from around me. Sitting up in the cool night air, I groaned as I rubbed at my eyes. So much for getting a decent night’s sleep.
You get a very small glimpse into life in the thieves guild here. More nightmares will expound more on how they all relate to one another. Does this fit the bill for an introductory nightmare?
What’s the most terrifying nightmare you ever had? What made it scary? Regal us with your tales of horror in the comments below. And remember, don’t eat sugar right before you go to bed. It’s not a recipe for a happy night’s sleep.