THE MASKS OF UNDER Series
About the Books:
Title: KING OF FLAMES
Author: Kathryn Ann Kingsley
Pub. Date: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Limitless Publishing, LLC
Formats: Paperback, eBook
READ FOR FREE ON KU!
Everything about my life has been pretty normal working as a forensic autopsy technician. Until the day I woke up with a mysterious symbol tattooed on my arm.
Suddenly normal no longer existed. The barrier between Earth and a world called Under, dissolved…
Now I’m trapped with dozens of other people. Held prisoner by the creators of myths and legends, where the realm is ruled by two masked kings who want to turn us into creatures like them.
But even though I didn’t choose to be here, this new world manages to pull me deeper, affecting me differently than other humans. Unfortunately King Edu, also known as the King of Flames, notices this and I’m now considered a threat.
If I want to survive King Edu and the dangers of Under, I need to escape. The only problem is, there’s another masked king who seems to have an interest in me. Aon, the King of Shadows, wants me here in this world, and he wants me alive.
I just need to figure out why.
Title: KING OF SHADOWS (The Masks of Under #2)
Author: Kathryn Ann Kingsley
Pub. Date: March 26, 2019
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Formats: Paperback, eBook
READ FOR FREE ON KU!
Some call him a madman. Others call him a warlock. Both are true.
But if it wasn’t for Aon, I’d be dead. I was mere seconds away from dying by Edu’s hands when the King of Shadows appeared in a flash of lightning, saving me from Edu’s murderous plans.
Now I’m under his protection, living in his home. The more time I’m forced to spend with him, the more I start to piece together the puzzle of why Aon and Edu are at war.
Despite how everyone else seems to hate Aon, there’s something that pulls me towards him—like gravity, refusing to let go. My heart is telling me to believe what he says is true, yet there’s this prickle of warning in the back of my skull cautioning me against falling for the King of Shadows.
In the world of Under trusting the wrong person can get you killed. Only the strong survive out here, and that’s what I intend to do.
What do you do when you wake up with a tattoo you didn’t have the night before?
Huh. Well, that’s odd, was the first thing that ran through Lydia’s mind as she looked down at the mark on her forearm.
It looked like any old tattoo. It was small, about the size of a nickel, and done as if in a single pass with black ink from a needle. It was just a single symbol—archaic, strange, and nothing she recognized. After attacking it with rubbing alcohol and bleach, all she succeeded in doing was making her skin red. Slowly and reluctantly, Lydia concluded the ink really was under her skin.
Or, at least, it looked like ink.
She was pretty damn sure it wasn’t a spontaneously appearing black, thin-lined birthmark. One that looked like a backward N with a spiral cut through the middle. It really looked like tattoo ink.
The problem was, it hadn’t been there last night. Lydia hadn’t been out drinking and hadn’t blacked out. Sleepwalking? No. She had gone to bed at about two in the morning after being up late playing video games—no tattoo parlor in the city would’ve been open. She didn’t know any tattoo artists with a sick sense of humor. Lydia had gone to bed, woken up, and—poof. Nickel-sized tattoo. Right there on her forearm, no missing it, no mistaking it.
It was incredible how the human mind processed the seemingly impossible. After attempting to remove the thing for an hour, Lydia’s mind simply decided that it could not process the issue. The mystery was upended by the simple and much more approachable problem of being late to work. That one she could wrap her head around. That one she could solve.
Instead of sinking into the panic of debating what the thing was on her arm, she just…went about her day. Lydia scrambled to get ready, threw on some eyeliner, and brushed her hair before rushing to the T. She didn’t know why she bothered. It wasn’t like her “coworkers” would notice. They weren’t the most sociable, chatty, and observant people. Nothing against them—they couldn’t help it.
They were dead, after all.
Lydia was a forensic autopsy technician. With every person she ever met, she had to explain why her job was not like that thing they saw on CSI that one time. It was hardly that interesting. Her job was only to collect the data. Record the numbers. There were more important, better-paid, smarter people who sat at a desk and actually solved the crimes. She just stuck plastic sticks in dead people, cut bits and pieces out of them for various reasons, and took a whole lot of gross photos.
Now, that wasn’t to say Lydia didn’t have real coworkers. It was just funnier to think about the people on the slab that way, to put them in a slightly humorous, if sardonic light. Otherwise, she’d have to take her job seriously, and that was no way to live. Her real coworkers were friendly, ordinary people with details in their lives about which she had no clue. They were all okay with it that way.
Contrary to popular belief, nobody worked the night shift at a morgue, even if horror movies told you otherwise. She had a normal, nine-to-five, humdrum life, just like most people. Even if hers had to do with dead people. Well, hey, somebody had to do it. It did sometimes leave her with the scent of chemicals, though. She had to use mint shampoo because if she used anything floral, she just came off smelling like a funeral parlor.
Leaning against the side of the train car, she looked down at her phone and flicked her thumb over whatever soup-du-jour game she had downloaded that week. The green line was late getting into South Station. Again.
It was funny that in the city of Boston, you could hit the start of your workday by fifteen minutes in either direction, and honestly, nobody cared. Boston’s T was America’s oldest subway station, and it showed. At this point, she suspected if a pigeon shit on the rails, the train would have to wait twenty minutes for it to dry.
She didn’t even want to think about what happened when it snowed.
Lydia had come to enjoy Boston, if admittedly against her will. She’d moved out here from the New Hampshire countryside to go to college, got an internship, got hired, and got stuck. Now she had a typical life for a late-twenties single professional. Some houseplants, a job, some friends, some hobbies, and—a mark of personal progress in the city of Boston—a one-bedroom apartment to herself.
Lydia’s pattern was, like most people, wake up, work, go home, fill some time, sleep, wake up, work, day after day. Every few days, she’d hang out with friends or catch a beer with her breathing coworkers. Smatter in a date or two, and life was good.
That was a successful life, right?
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Each day wasn’t too different from the last. That also was most people’s opinion of a successful life. Just slowly wandering into the sunset, doing the same thing—predictable and routine.
To be fair, today was just a little different than usual, though.
Lydia kept scratching her arm over her sleeve. The heavy chemicals she used on her surprise tattoo were itching like mad. Maybe she shouldn’t have attacked it with a Brillo pad and bleach, but she had been frantic. Rolling up her sleeve, she tried to surreptitiously glance at it to see if it had magically disappeared. Maybe the bleach had done its trick. But no. There, surrounded by a red rash of her own doing, was the mark.
It didn’t even hurt like she had expected a new tattoo probably should. It hadn’t felt like anything until she attacked it trying to get it off. It was like it had been there for years.
She knew how tattoo ink on human skin should look. She knew how it got that slightly grayish, fuzzy edge to it, no matter how good of a job had been done by the artist. She didn’t have any ink of her own, but more of the bodies that ended up on her table had them than not.
The thing on her arm wasn’t possible. It had no business being there. She should be rushing to the hospital, but what the hell would they say? Tell her not to do drugs, and maybe she wouldn’t wake up with a tattoo she didn’t remember? They wouldn’t believe her when she said she had a Diet Coke, played some PlayStation, and went to bed. They’d assume she either got drunk and didn’t remember it or got roofied at a bar.
Either way, the cops would be called in, she’d fill out a report, and absolutely nothing would be done about it. Nobody was hurt, nobody had been killed, nothing had been stolen, and there was nowhere to start looking. Best case, they’d come to check out her apartment for signs of breaking and entering. She’d already looked; there weren’t any. The cops would be left to simply shrug at the situation and go.
So what on earth was she going to do? Call out of work? Sit on her floor and sob uncontrollably? Call an exorcist?
Lydia wasn’t the type to cry and panic. She considered herself a rational, reasonable, logical human being. In college and med school, she had worked as an entry-level EMT. She had learned the “act first, panic later” mantra from a few of the older, far more beautifully jaded and saltier Boston paramedics.
They were a particular bunch.
The method was clear—solve the problem, then have a breakdown if you had to. More than once Lydia had shown up to an accident where the person who had the original issue was just fine and the person who had made the call needed help because of a panic attack.
Act first, panic later. Lydia kept repeating it to herself in her head to try and stave off the rising tide. She had a tattoo on her arm she didn’t remember getting, one that was impossible. But nothing was impossible, just momentarily unexplainable. Like stage magic, once you knew the secret, it was all a joke. Once she learned the trick, it’d seem obvious.
All the way to work, she scratched absentmindedly at the spot on her arm. Now it was seriously burning. Like a mosquito bite, rubbing at it only made it worse. But like a mosquito bite, she couldn’t help it.
Passing the front desk, she threw her bag onto the track of the x-ray machine. Government building, government security. It was the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, after all, and it wasn’t exactly in the nicest part of town. Even if it was attached to the Boston Medical Center, it was a few blocks from the corrections center and in that no man’s land between the South End and I-93 where it came back out of the Big Dig.
All sorts of people tried to wander in, some high, some nuts, most somewhere in between.
“Hey, Nick,” she said to the security guard. He was younger than most of the other guards. He had initially been a Boston University intern with her almost six years ago. Nick had a penchant for not trying very hard unless he was really interested. Very little interested him, and so security was the perfect spot for him.
“Hey, Lyd,” Nick said with a grin and looked up from his iPad. “Beer? Tonight?” The guy had an endearing, lopsided grin and scruffy brown hair. She figured he spent as little time as possible combing it without looking like a complete hobo. He was the kind of guy who always wore a t-shirt, over which he always wore either a hoodie or his uniform. That was pretty much all she’d ever seen him wear.
Lydia and Nick had hit it off as good friends years ago, and they were still close. He was crass, and most people found him to be more than a little bit of an asshole. The issue was that Nick didn’t know how to communicate, even on the scale of people who dealt with the dead every day. He couldn’t help himself and not say what he thought at every possible moment. Lydia found the humor in it, and he put up with her weirdness, so here they were.
“Sure,” Lydia agreed to after-work beers without really thinking about it. “Why not?” Screw it. She could use a drink. Maybe she could show Nick the mark on her arm and he might—might—not think she was crazy.
“Cool,” he said and went back to his iPad, dismissing her from the conversation. Oh, Nick and his stellar lack of people skills.
Lydia picked up her bag from the other side of the x-ray machine. Nick hadn’t even bothered to look at the screen; he never did. Lydia shouldered her pack and walked to the lab she shared with two other people. But as it was the week before Thanksgiving, most people had taken an extended vacation. Shannon and Dan, her real officemates, were both out for the rest of the weekend.
Today should be a dull day. But surprise tattoo chorused in Lydia’s mind. Fine, a slow workday. She sat down at her desk, flicked on her computer, and checked her email. She had a few cases to button up, boxes to click, photos to upload, and so on.
Lydia scratched the mark on her arm and sighed. It was like a fly, buzzing around her head. Hey! Hey! It was making it very hard to focus now that she wasn’t moving. Idiot, you have a thing on your arm. You should panic. Hey! Hey, idiot!
As she was in the room by herself, Lydia rolled up her sleeve and glared down at the mark. Sure enough, it was still there, under the skin that had now turned a pinkish-red with all her incessant scratching and previous chemical abuse.
Lydia leaned back in the chair and held it up to look at in the light. It’d take a tattoo artist all of five minutes, if that, to put down. So some goon broke into her apartment and set up all his equipment and tattooed her. And the noise and the pain hadn’t woken her up somehow. They must have drugged her first, then.
That seemed laughably like the most logical option. Lydia went to the bathroom and started searching herself for injection marks. She was good at finding them—that was her job, after all. Half an hour in the bathroom, using her phone on selfie mode, and no dice. Nothing to show for it except confirmation that looking at herself up the nose was never attractive, ever, and didn’t do anything for her self-esteem.
She even checked for the classic serial killer trick and looked between her toes and under her nails. Lydia let out a low breath, took her long blonde hair out of her ponytail, and combed both her hands through the loose waves and tried to think. She scratched her scalp with her fingernails as she desperately tried to get her brain to work faster. It was required to keep her hair under a shower cap while working on a corpse, so Lydia always kept it tied up. But honestly, she preferred it down.
No injection marks. Maybe it was somewhere really well-hidden, and Lydia was missing it. Well, she couldn’t just sit in the bathroom all day and look. Somebody was going to notice she wasn’t at her station eventually.
Flopping down at her desk, Lydia realized there was a body on her metal table. It was still in its bag, likely having just been dropped off. Lydia blinked. There wasn’t one scheduled for today. A folder on her desk had a sticky note on it, saying in fine-point Sharpie scrawl, “You’re the lucky winner. Jim.”
Kat has always been a storyteller.
With ten years in script-writing for performances on both the stage and for tourism, she has always been writing in one form or another. When she isn’t penning down fiction, she works as Creative Director for a company that designs and builds large-scale interactive adventure games. There, she is the lead concept designer, handling everything from game and set design, to audio and lighting, to illustration and script writing. Also on her list of skills are artistic direction, scenic painting and props, special effects, and electronics. A graduate of Boston University with a BFA in Theatre Design, she has a passion for unique, creative, and unconventional experiences. In her spare time, she builds animatronics and takes trapeze classes.
3 winners will receive ebooks of KING OF FLAMES & KING OF SHADOWS, International.
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