- Author: Kathryn Kingsley
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Mask of Poison
Fall of Under: Book One
Kathryn Ann Kingsley
Copyright © 2021 by Kathryn Ann Kingsley
First Print Edition: February, 2021
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
Also by Kathryn Ann Kingsley
About the Author
And here we are, back where we began on this wild “I’m an author!” journey of mine. Under will always hold a special place in my heart. While this series is a stand-alone from the original, it’s been a joy for me to revisit some old friends and meet a few new ones along the way. I hope you enjoy it as well.
Mask of Poison goes “live”—pun intended; you’ll see—almost two years to the date from when King of Flames was first released. It has been an amazing two years. I have made new friends and connected with people in a way that I could never have imagined. I tell stories, and I cannot express how phenomenal and humbling it is to have people who want to listen to them.
So, this book is dedicated to you. The reader. Because without you, I never would have made it this far.
Everything happened at once.
Chaos was funny like that.
Glass shattered. Furniture toppled over. Candelabras crashed to the ground, lit tapers rolling along the granite floor. Somewhere, somebody screamed.
And Ember fell.
Falling wasn’t a terribly remarkable event, all things considered. Not because she was clumsy, but because that was a thing that generally happened when one spent the entirety of one’s life running away from the hungering dead.
Tripping was always a possibility while being chased.
But this fall was more notable for a few reasons. First, she had been completely asleep. Maybe that wouldn’t be spectacular if she had been asleep in a bed or on a cot. But that led to the second—and more important—problem with her sudden jarring impact.
She had been asleep on the ground.
It wasn’t packed dirt or grass that met her face as she collided with the solid surface. It was stone. Specifically, large blocks of smooth, polished, speckled granite that were arranged in neat offset rows. The floor was the first thing she processed as she woke up. The second was the pain. She groaned and placed her hand to her forehead.
Waking up by smacking her head into granite was definitely going to make the list of the worst possible ways to be jarred out of sleep. The sound of glass falling onto the stone peppered the bass rumble of the building around her as it shuddered from whatever had just happened.
The third thought she had as she rolled onto her side and saw a vaulted stone ceiling over her head. Dust and debris rained from the cracks in the stones and streamed to the ground like bits of snow.
And that third thought, she said out loud. “What the fuck…?”
Her bag and its contents were spilled all over the floor next to her, and a large wooden pew had overturned onto its side and had landed on her metal spear. She yanked her weapon out from under the piece of furniture.
Whatever had just happened, it wasn’t an excuse to stand around and stare. She needed to get her things, and she needed to get to safety. Wherever that was, it definitely wasn’t here. Scrambling to gather up her spilled supplies, she slung her bag on her back. Shoving her long knife into her belt, she immediately looked around for somewhere she could defend herself if she needed to.
It must have just been a weird quake. That’s all. I just smacked my head on a—
Ember’s spear almost fell out of her hands.
There was no explanation for what was happening to her. This wasn’t a simple quake. She had fallen asleep in a clearing and woken up in an enormous building. Archways reached high up overhead toward the vaulted ceiling, almost disappearing into the darkness. Banners and tapestries hung from wooden rods stretched over each alcove, decorated in various colors and covered in weird symbols she didn’t recognize.
One thing she could identify quickly was that wherever she was—wherever she’d been brought—was a place of worship. She would know them anywhere. Altars with toppled bowls and candles stood in front of statues. The windows were huge and must have once been stained glass. But most of them were now shattered, bits of them still falling to the stone as they lost the fight with gravity and tumbled down.
Ember felt faint. She never felt faint. Her heart was pounding so quickly, she wondered if it was going to explode in her chest. It wasn’t because she fell and woke up in a place she didn’t recognize. It wasn’t because she woke up in a church—maybe she had been abducted and carried off.
No. The thing that made her want to pass out was the statue behind the altar at the head of the sanctuary. She found herself staring into the stone features of a…
She didn’t know what it was.
But she knew it sent a terrible chill rolling down her spine.
Whatever this temple was built to…I have never seen it before.
The figure loomed over her, towering some twenty feet tall. In each of its many hands it held either a cup or a knife. The knives were being used