Kanin’s dagger suddenly got through, plunging into Sarren’s chest; the vampire howled. Before Kanin could pull back, Sarren grabbed his wrist, sinking the blade deeper into his own body while slashing at Kanin’s throat. Kanin threw himself to the side to avoid it, leaving his dagger embedded in Sarren’s chest, and stumbled to edge of the platform.
I cried out as for a brief second he teetered there, looking like he would fall. I heard the rabids erupt into a frenzy of screeching, knew they were leaping and clawing for the vampire overhead. All Sarren had to do was shove him back, and Kanin would fall off the edge to his death.
But Sarren reached out, snagged Kanin by the collar, and threw him away from the ledge. Kanin hit the ground and rolled, coming to stop a few feet from me, a split-second look of astonishment crossing his face.
Sarren shook his head at us.
“Ah, ah,” he crooned, waggling a bony finger. “None of that. Can’t have you spreading your nasty sickness and ruining the symphony. We’re just getting to the climax.” Reaching for the dagger still stuck in his chest, he pulled it loose, regarded it calmly, and dropped it to the deck. “And now, I think it’s time I killed you, old friend,” he mused, starting forward. “Once and for all.”
Kanin straightened calmly, unarmed, and watched the mad vampire stalk toward him. Clenching my jaw, I pushed myself upright, gritting my teeth to keep the scream contained.
Every movement still stabbed like a knife, and my right arm dangled uselessly, but my left one still worked. Enough to hold a sword, anyway. Taking one step forward, I put myself between Sarren and my sire and bared my fangs. “You’ll have to get past me,” I snarled, raising my katana. Sarren looked at me in amused surprise, then chuckled.
“Oh, little bird. I see now.” He nodded slowly, smiling almost to himself. “I see why Kanin chose you. You don’t know when to stop. You continue to rage against the inevitable, beating your wings against the coming darkness, even as it drags you down into its sweet, eternal embrace.” His fangs gleamed through the shadows at me. “You have such fire, such…hope.
And for someone like Kanin…it must have been irresistible.
Even though he told himself it was futile to hope.” Cocking his head, he regarded me intently. “So…you must represent everything he believes in. Everything he longs to atone for.”
I spared a glance at Kanin, a few feet from the railings, watching us. His expression was blank, but I met his dark gaze and saw a hundred different emotions staring back at me. Something inscrutable passed between us, a fleeting understanding, almost too fast to be real. Whether it was through our blood tie or something else, I wasn’t certain, but I knew what I had to do.
I gave a tiny nod, and turned back to Sarren.
“What would it do to him,” Sarren mused, unaware of our brief connection, “if I destroyed you right here? Right before his eyes. Everything he hopes for, gone in an instant.
I might not even have to kill him afterward. With his little bird gone, with her song silenced forever, there will be nothing to save him from his own despair.” He finally glanced at Kanin, a truly evil gleam in his eyes. “How does that sound to you, old friend?”
I took one step forward and bared my fangs.
“Hey, psychopath,” I snarled, and Sarren’s gaze flicked to me. “Why don’t you stop talking already? You’re worse than Jackal ever was, and unless you intend to yap me to death, let’s get on with it.” I raised my katana one-handed, giving him a challenging sneer. “I’m not dead yet.”
Sarren laughed and faced me fully, his fangs sliding into view. “Very well, little bird,” he whispered as I gripped my sword and prepared myself. “If you are that eager for death, I will oblige you. Your prince is gone, your brother has deserted you, and Kanin will not be able to save you. You are alone. Think on that, as I send you to hell.”
He attacked, his sword arm a streak of metal in the darkness, coming right at me. I didn’t try to block, or counter. As Sarren stabbed forward, I leaped back and half turned, tossing my blade aside.
Sarren’s eyes widened as he realized what was happening.
He spun, the blade missing my head by inches, to face the unexpected attack from behind. But Kanin was already moving, the katana cutting a deadly arc through the air, right at Sarren’s neck, and the mad vampire desperately lunged back to avoid it.
Too late. The edge sliced into his throat in a spray of crimson, opening a huge gash below his chin. Sarren’s head fell back, the gaping wound streaming blood down his entire front, as his mouth made harsh gurgling sounds and his hand groped at his opened throat. He staggered away, hit the railings, and tumbled over the edge of the barge, vanishing into the foaming waters below.
* * * Sarren was gone.
I slumped against the railing, shaking with relief, as about a thousand different hurts decided to make themselves known.
My arm throbbed, and I didn’t know how much was broken inside, but it felt like my entire rib cage was in pieces, stabbing me with every motion. I was healing; I could feel wounds closing, bones knitting back together, but it was agonizingly slow, and the Hunger had roared up full force with the damage. I needed blood, but there was no one around. No one human, anyway. And we couldn’t relax just yet.
Setting my jaw, I pushed myself upright, gritting my teeth against the instant flare of pain, and looked around for Kanin.
He stood at the side of the barge, still holding my katana in one pale hand, his dark eyes staring at the place Sarren had fallen. His expression was unreadable, and for some reason, it sent a twist of fear through my stomach.
“Kanin?” I limped up to him, searching his face. His eyes were glazed, and he didn’t seem to have heard me. My fear increased. Something was wrong. We had to stop this ship before it plowed straight into the refugee camp and set Requiem loose on the world. Kanin knew that. Why was he just standing there?
“Hey.” I grabbed his arm, and he jerked, finally looking down at me, though his expression was still distant, far away. “We have to stop the ship,” I told him. “Kill the engine, turn it around, something! How do we do that? Tell me what to do.”
He blinked at me. “The pilothouse,” he said, as if just coming out of a daze. “Get inside, turn the ship, if Sarren hasn’t locked in the controls. Go,” he continued, pushing the katana into my hands. “You might still have enough time.”