Read The Lostkind Online

Authors: Matt Stephens

The Lostkind

BOOK: The Lostkind
12.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

THE LOSTKIND

By Matt Stephens

 

 

Copyright (c) 2012; Matthew Stephens

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Cover Image courtesy of See-ming Lee:
http://photoblog.seeminglee.com/

 

 

With thanks to my family; and in particular my dad;

who knew I had something like this in me long before I did.

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

THE LOSTKIND

ONE: Yasi

TWO: Hiding In Plain Sight

THREE: Intensive Care

FOUR: The Story

FIVE: The Three Rules

SIX: Two Years Later

SEVEN: "That's Round One…"

EIGHT: The Ultimate Kingmaker

NINE: The Battle On The Seven Steps

TEN: "I Don't Want To Lose You."

ELEVEN: Plans in Motion

TWELVE: The New York Ninja

THIRTEEN: The First Duty

FOURTEEN: Invasion

FIFTEEN: The Last Line Of Defense

SIXTEEN: Three Rules, Always

SEVENTEEN: Rule One: Be Invisible

EIGHTEEN: Rule Two: Be Daring

NINETEEN: Rule Three: Be Beautiful

TWENTY: "Who Are They, Vincent?"

 

 

 

 

ONE: Yasi

 

 

They had been making eye contact for half the train ride. She was standing against a pole, without holding it, and having no trouble balancing as the subway train sped through New York. The carriage was mostly empty at that time of night, and Vincent was hanging onto his can of mace. This time of night was not kind to prey.

She was far too skinny, and wore a long black coat that went down to her ankles, but when she spoke, he fell in love with the sound of whiskey and promise in her voice. "What are you working on? Whatever it is, it must be far too interesting if you hadn't noticed me trying to make eye contact for the whole ride."

Vincent flushed. He wasn't exactly a model himself, and the notion of someone showing an obvious interest in him on the subway just didn't happen in real life. "It's... I'm a city planner." He stumbled over his words. "There's a telecommunications company that want to lay a Fibre-Optic network through some old steam pipes..."

She seemed far too interested in that. "Con Edison's subterranean steam system is the biggest steam district in the world. Some 30 billion pounds of steam every year flow beneath the streets of Manhattan from the Battery to 96th Street. There are five plants in Manhattan and one each in Queens and Brooklyn. But the system is over a century old in some places, so it breaks down constantly; a lot of the pipe sections are abandoned."

Vincent was stunned. "I do this for a living and I can't even remember all that." He quipped. "You in the business?"

"Nope. But I keep my eyes open."

"Really?"

The train was coming to a stop. "Really. You keep your eyes open, you find all sorts of interesting things around you." She drawled.

The doors opened, and she went to the door, pausing to look back at him. "So." She said simply. "You coming?"

The few passengers in the car were grinning at the blatant invitation, and Vincent swallowed. "This... I don't even know your name. Things like this don't happen in real life."

"Not where
you
come from." She agreed without smiling. "But where
I
come from is a far more interesting place."

She turned and stalked out of the train without a glance back at him, and he followed her without letting himself think about it.

But she didn't go anywhere. She went out of the train onto the station, and waited for him to catch up. He did so after a few seconds, and she stood without a sound, still as a statue. The trench-coat billowed around her ankles for a moment as the train started moving again.

There was a sudden stillness, and Vincent realized that the train station was empty. That was nearly unheard of in New York, but she didn't seem surprised. Once it was clear they were alone, she led him toward the edge of the station. It was the first time he was able to observe her movements at all, and she had the easy grace of a feline. Vincent felt his heart rate tick up as he saw the way she moved.

So much so that he didn't notice where she was leading him. It was a maintenance door, marked as restricted access, and she didn't even blink before she pushed it open. Vincent wondered idly if the door was meant to be locked. He hesitated, and she spun around, pulling him forward into the dark corridor sharply. The door closed instantly.

"So." Vincent said, heart in his throat. "Here we are."

There was a clicking sound, like something unlocking…

And then his feet went out from under him, and he fell forward. He fell a long way. He landed next to her in what felt an awful lot like a trapeze net…

And suddenly he was in a whole other place.

~oo00oo~

She led him by the hand through darkness for a long time. She was walking normally, while he was shuffling, one hand reaching out blindly to try and make contact with anything. The floor beneath his feet was stone and tile, and it was the only thing he was aware of, but for the gentle touch of her fingertips. His guide led him by the hand, in a darkness so deep that he could not even make her out, and yet she knew her way so perfectly that he felt safe to follow her.

He knew he couldn't trust her. Technically, she had already kidnapped him, but if he lost her fingers for a second, he would never find his way out. He was completely at her mercy.

And then the ground went from under his feet again, this time only a foot or two. He caught his footing hard with a splash, and found himself ankle deep in water. There was light. Faint blue light coming from under the waves. Just enough to make out the entrance of the Tunnel they had just left. He was surprised how close it was. He had been swinging out blindly with one hand the entire way to this little intersection, and had no idea how close he was to the wall.

The Tunnel that they were in now was deep enough to easily stand upright, and was full to knee height with water. At the mouth of the tunnel leading to the subway was a set of stairs that extended up and down the artificial river for as far as Vincent could barely see them. On one of those stairs was a set of small boats, which would be at home in Venice, thought clapped together from driftwood.

"Sit." She told him, and he did so as pushed off with a barge pole, and they were drifting down the new pipe, rolling gently downhill until they emerged out into the Main Chamber.

Vincent let out a breath that he hadn't realized he was holding. It was such a relief to get out of the tunnel. He felt like the walls were closing in on them. It wasn't claustrophobia, for Vincent had never feared enclosed spaces. It was the dark. He couldn't see his own hand waving in front of his face, and it was paralyzing. Even low light was a gift.

There was a vaguely Victorian-era feel about the place, but not because it was primitive. It felt like somebody had moved in and tried to make it into a work of art. The ceilings were higher than he would have thought, given that they were so far underground, but the high arches would not have been out of place in a grand Parisian Opera House. The ceilings were covered in tiles that were either made from, or made to resemble marble. The grime of centuries had obscured its pattern, but not it's awesome grandeur.

She watched him for a long time, letting him get used to what he was seeing. Finally, she spoke. "Do you like it?" It was the first words they had spoken since he'd fallen.

Impossible!
Vincent thought to himself.
This cannot be possible! It's not real!

"What do you see?" She pressed him gently.

Vincent shivered, wondering for a second if he had gone mad. "Don't you see it too?"

"I do, but I see it all the time. We don't bring your kind of people here. So I'm curious, what do you see when you look?"

"It's… beautiful." Vincent said finally. "Why did you bring me here?"

She brought the barge in to brush against the dry concrete, and stepped out. She held out a hand to him. "Let me show you more."

Vincent struggled to catch up. "I… I still don't know your name."

Her eyes glowed in the dark, her hand still hanging in mid-air. "Yasi."

Spellbound by the world he found himself in, he reached out and took her hand.

~oo00oo~

Vincent felt his jaw drop. "That can't be real. It just can't."

Yasi laughed at him. "Ahh, but it is."

The last century feel continued in the larger chamber, and Vincent suddenly realized how alive it was. There were people on every level, every elevation. There were multiple levels to the chamber, lit by lanterns. Rope bridges and walkways criss-crossed the underground cavern, and condensation built a gray-blue mist that gave the whole area an ethereal fairy-tale sheen.

The lanterns seemed electric, and some of them were surrounded by mirrors and reflective surfaces, so that the light reflected back, magnified across the chamber. Enough light to see by, but not enough to shine a light on the mystery of the place. There was a constant hum of music and laughter, as though a hundred street performers were plying their trade. Vincent could see fire jugglers and walkers on stilts here and there.

But the people here had noticed Vincent instantly. With careful, suspicious eyes, the easy camaraderie and conversation faded to silence as he approached, their eyes glowing by reflected lantern light. They would have fit in at a homeless shelter. They would have fit in at a carnival sideshow. The Lostkind came in all shapes and sizes, yet only a few of them had a normal physique. Most of them were rail-thin, and very pale. They looked... untamed; disorderly; but not filthy. Vincent supposed cleanliness would be important to people who lived underground; more so that keeping clothing or hairstyles up to date. Most of them wore large heavy jackets, or leather vests. Many of them had feathers or beads in their hair; and their visible skin was marked with tribal inks.

Yasi paused at one of the stalls in the marketplace, and produced a pendant from around her neck, with a large crystal hanging on it. She offered it to one of the peddlers, who smiled and traded it back for a fob-watch. Yasi took the watch, flipped it open, and smiled.

Vincent didn't say anything. The peddler was old, his face was lined, and the open suspicion in his gaze was intimidating.

Yasi read that easily and smiled broadly, putting him at ease. "Don't worry Toshi. He's my lawyer."

The peddler's face softened and he gave a deep chuckle. "You bet. Here, I took care of it while you were Above." He reached into his tent and pulled out a sword in a scabbard. It looked like a real samurai sword, and Yasi took it from him, obviously comfortable with it; slinging it across her narrow shoulders.

Vincent shivered. She was suddenly terrifying, just by adding the weapon.

Yasi took off again. "It's best if we don't linger too long down here. Twelfth Level is usually pretty safe, but the folk that live here have reason to distrust people from outside."

"Outside… what, exactly?"

Yasi smiled secretively. "That's a good question, but not one for me. Come on."

She led him to the side of the chamber. Up above was a cliff wall of stone and brick and steel that went high enough he couldn't see the top of it in the gloom. There was a large basket, like on a hot air balloon, hanging by a large set of pulleys. Yasi went to the basket and circled it to a counterweight on the opposite side. There were a large set of free-weights, clearly salvaged from some New York gym, somehow fitting right in with the rest of the salvaged mismatch. Yasi selected a few weights, muttering under her breath as she added them to the counterweight.

BOOK: The Lostkind
12.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Hot by Laura L Smith
The Sea Change by Elizabeth Jane Howard
When the Black Roses Grow by Angela Christina Archer
Wild Ride by Matt Christopher, Stephanie Peters
The Hatching: A Novel by Ezekiel Boone
Fall of Angels by L. E. Modesitt