Extract from Dragon Kin and other fantasy stories: Royal Assassin
The black-cloaked man stood in the doorway shrouded in shadows as the two guards passed by a few feet away. The dark-haired man waited for them to pass, then stepped into the passage and crept to the next doorway a few paces away, which he stepped into. Just then, the next two guards rounded the corner, and the man waited for these to pass, too.
The long passage leading down to the castle dungeons was patrolled by guard pairs, each only just out of sight of the others. The passage wound around the dungeons, and was impossible to sneak into because of the clever positioning of guard patrols. The doorway he stood in led to the guards’ sleeping quarters, as did each doorway off this passage. Only a fool would risk hiding there, for the guards changed shifts at irregular intervals that only the king had knowledge of, and any intruder risked quick discovery and capture, since there was no way out unless you went past the guards.
The man drew his cloak snugly around his face – it wouldn’t do for anyone to recognise him if he happened to be spotted, though he doubted he would be. He moved this way, in and out of doorways, until he reached the main entrance to the dungeons. Here, he stepped into the room beyond the shadowy doorway and pressed his back against the wall. Sleeping guards snored softly in their beds. Two guards’ footsteps came past the door outside. The man knew they would enter a room three doors down the passage, and two from inside that room would replace them. It was the king’s clever idea of a shift change and would foil most intruders… but not the black-cloaked man.
The main dungeon door creaked open and three sets of footsteps came past – the next phase of the shift change. The guard room would be empty for about twenty seconds. The man slipped into the passage and ducked into the guard room a few paces away, where he slunk into the shadows behind a large suit of ornamental armour. Footsteps approached and three guards entered the room. Two positioned themselves on either side of the doorway, while the third walked straight through the room and passed under the archway on the other side. He would patrol the cells, then come back and take position next to the door while one of his fellow guards patrolled the cells next. The king had tight security, second to none in the land – he had to, since his enemies were also second to none.
The man was pleased that the guards were doing their jobs properly – it meant his evening would go as planned, which gave him some comfort considering the horrific deed he’d come to do. Now he would have to wait for an hour before the next guard change, when he’d be able to slip unseen into the dungeons and get to the cell that was his destination. All those hours of meditation his mother had insisted on as a boy would pay off tonight.