I am actually pretty embarrassed about this scene. It includes several elements which, thank goodness, didn’t make it into the final version of the book. Like the Krynoks. Oh, the Krynoks . . . I’m cringing as I think about them. These stupid little creatures were in my first draft and basically did the Others’ dirty work. Once I figured out how stupid they were, I replaced them with the character of Oran Tighe.
This scene was originally in Chapter 15 and took place the day before Addy’s meeting with the Others. If you’re wondering why Addy and Luc are in London, it’s because in very early versions of the book, the Council meeting took place in the basement of the British Museum. I later changed the location to San Francisco.
We waited on the platform for less than a minute before our train arrived. It was packed with what I assumed was the morning rush hour crowd, before I remembered that London was nine hours ahead of San Francisco, so this was actually the evening rush hour crowd. As we both held onto a metal pole in the very center of the car, it occurred to me that, in the blink of an eye, I had just lost nine hours of what was potentially my last full day of being alive. Bummer.
Luc pointed above my head at the dark blue map of our train’s route.
“We get off at Knightsbridge,” he told me. “Just three stops from here.”
The train started moving, and I shifted my feet into a slightly wider stance for better balance. I felt like asking Luc what his father’s house was like, but even though our car was full to bursting with people, no one else seemed to be talking. I watched the darkness zip by the window instead.
We stopped first at Green Park, then at Hyde Park Corner. We were just slowing down to approach our final stop, Knightsbridge, when something silver came swinging out of the darkness and landed with a thud against the window I was looking out of.
Huge silver eyes searched the car and spotted me. A squished little face, underneath a cone-shaped forehead, formed itself into what I could only assume was either a triumphant smile or a horribly painful grimace.
It was a krynok.
“Luc!” I exclaimed, just as the train lurched to a sudden stop, and the lights in our car went out.
There were several groans, followed by resigned sighs; we were nearly to the station, but not quite. Apparently, Londoners considered tube breakdowns to be more inconvenient than alarming.
“I saw it,” Luc’s voice was in my ear, and I felt him pull me to the other side of the car, shoving aside several irritated commuters as he did. It was pitch black except for a dim light outside the train, which must have been coming from the station up ahead.
I expected Luc to start jabbing at the button that opened the train door, but instead he put his foot directly through the window to the left of the door.
There were gasps of astonishment all around us as Luc whipped off the gray sweater he had been wearing, wrapped it around his hand, and used it to sweep aside the shards of glass that remained hanging on the window frame.
“Come on,” he said, grabbing the top of the window and swinging his legs through. I heard a crunch of broken glass as he landed on the tracks outside the car, and then his head popped up through the window again.
“Come on,” he said again, more urgently this time, as he pulled me awkwardly through the window.
As soon as I was on my feet outside, there was a low screeching sound above my head. I looked up at the roof of the train car, just in time to see a half dozen krynoks scampering over from the other side.
Luc grabbed me by the shoulders and shoved me behind him, over the set of tracks we were standing on and towards the wall on the other side of the tunnel. The six krynoks jumped easily off of the train and converged on us. In their hands were tiny, Annorasi-silver knives.
“Luc –” I began.
“Stay behind me,” he said, and suddenly there was a silver sword in his hand, shimmering in the low light of the tunnel in the exact same way the krynoks’ knives were.
The front two creatures leapt towards Luc at the same time. The other four tried to swing around him, while he was occupied, but he moved too quickly for them; before I could even blink he had sent the first two krynoks flying backwards and had placed himself between me and the remaining four. One of them darted forward and tried to slash at Luc’s legs with his knife; I winced as Luc leapt aside, avoiding the worst of the knife thrust. Only the tip of the blade touched him, ripping a small hole in the knee of his jeans.
The krynok let out an awful screech as Luc struck him with a blow that was so fast I saw only a blur; then Luc was in front of me again, and the krynok was hitting the ground with a sickening clunk. After the creature had been still for the length of several heartbeats, it disappeared. I looked behind Luc, and the two krynoks he had felled, just moments ago, were gone as well.
The three remaining krynoks fanned out in front of Luc, chirping at each other in high-pitched quawks.
The tracks beneath my feet began to tremble, and a blindingly bright light appeared to my left. Apparently only the westbound Piccadilly line had been stopped.
“Luc –” I said warningly.
But his total attention was on the three krynoks, two of which were trying to sneak around his sides while the front one distracted him. He backed up, taking me with him until we were up against the side of the tunnel.
I looked worriedly to the left; the light was getting closer. Judging by the width of the train we had just exited, there was going to be very little room between this train and the wall of the tunnel; definitely not enough for Luc and me.
“Luc –” I said again.
“I see it,” was all he said, still focused on the sharp knives of the glaring creatures in front of him.
Shielding my eyes from the increasingly bright light that was bearing down on us, I squinted down the left hand side of the tunnel, towards Knightsbridge station. We might have been able to make it there before the train did, if we had started running about thirty seconds ago. But it was too late now; there was no help in that direction.
I turned to the right, blinking away the bubbles of light that had formed in my eyes. There – about ten feet down, there was an indentation in the tunnel wall. Probably designed exactly for situations like this – well, maybe not exactly like this – but it looked like it could hold two people and keep them safe from a passing train.
I looked back at Luc, just as the tracks became quiet again and the light seemed to stop coming towards us.
The train had stopped at the station.
Before I could breath a sigh of relief, the leftmost krynok and the middle one launched themselves at Luc, managing to turn him slightly, giving the rightmost krynok a direct line to me.
I heard Luc yell something as the krynok flew at me, hitting me in the chest and sending me crashing back into the tunnel wall with more force than I could have imagined coming from something so small. I had to use both hands to keep the arm that held the knife away from me; how could these things be so strong?
I strained, digging my fingernails into the leathery flesh of the krynok’s arm as its knife inched towards my throat. I wedged my feet against the side of the tracks to keep myself upright against the wall as we struggled; the krynok was hanging on me, using all of its weight to try and drag me down to the floor.
The tracks beneath my feet began to vibrate again, as the train pulled out of the station and started to pick up speed. The light from the front car grew so bright in my eyes that I couldn’t even see the krynok’s face, even though it was only inches away from mine. I could only smell its foul, stale breath and hear its elated chirping noises as its arm started to slip from my grip and move up towards my throat.
Luc’s voice sounded from somewhere to the left of me, and the krynok made a furious squeaking sound as it was ripped away from me, knife and all. The tracks at my feet began to make a deafening clattering sound.
I reached out blindly and grabbed what I hoped was the front of Luc’s tee shirt, pulling him down the tunnel as he threw aside the krynok that had nearly cut my throat. The light from the train was nearly upon us, and I groped along the wall until I found the indentation. Luc realized what I was doing and shoved me inside, jumping in after me and pinning me against the wall just as the train roared by us.
I squished myself as far back as I could, pulling Luc in with me. The roar outside was terrible, and a strong, sucking force was trying to pull us out of our shelter and out underneath the passing train. I dug my feet in and clung to Luc; I could feel him straining. I closed my eyes and waited for the storm of wind and noise to pass us by.
As soon as the train was gone, Luc rolled back out onto the tracks and sprang to his feet. The silver sword materialized in his hand again.
There were three silver shapes, lying still across the tracks. As we watched, they disappeared, just as the three other krynoks had done, seconds after Luc had killed them.
The sword was gone from Luc’s hand as he grabbed mine and started running towards Knightsbridge station.