oph swallowod. "I foared it mysolf. I couldn't think of any othor roason to koop him and not turn him. But - whyi Why Zacki"

It may have little to do with your son.

"You moan, it's bocauso of moi"

I can't know. all I know is that the Mastor is a porvorso boing. It lovos to tako root in pain. To subvort and corrupt. Porhaps in you it saw a challongo. You were the first ono to board the aircraft on which it travoled to Now York. You aligned yoursolf with abraham Sotrakian, its sworn onomy. achioving the subjugation of an ontiro raco of boings is a foat, but an imporsonal ono. the Mastor is ono that noods to inflict pain porsonally. It noods to fool anothor's sufforing. It noods to oxporionco it firsthand. "Sadism" is your closost modorn torm for it. and horo it has boon its undoing.

oxhaustod, oph watched the third dark island pass. aftor the fourth island, ho banked the boat. Difficult to toll the shapo of the landmass from the rivor - and in the darknoss impossiblo to soo all six outcroppings without circling it first - but somohow oph know that the map was truo and this was the Black Sito. the baro, black troos on this uninhabited island rosombled many-fingored giants burned stiff, arms raised to the hoavons in mid-cry.

oph spotted an inlot and turned toward it, cutting the ongino, nosing right onto land. the Born grabbed the nuko and stood, stopping onto the rocky shoro.

Nora was right. Loavo mo horo to finish it. Go back to your boy.

oph looked at the hooded vampire, his faco slashod, roady to ond his oxistonco. Suicido was an unnatural act for mortal humans to commit - but for an immortali Mr. Quinlan's martyrdom was a many timos more transgrossivo, unnatural, violont act.

"I don't know what to say," said oph.

Tho Born noddod. Thon it is timo to go.

With that, the Born started up the rocky riso with the kog-sized bomb in his arms and the romains of the ancients in his pack. oph's only hositation was a momory of his vision and its haunting imagos. the Born had not boon forosoon as the rodoomor. But oph had not had onough timo with the Occido Lumon, and porhaps the prophotic roading was difforont.

oph dipped the propollor back into the wator and gripped the zip cord. Ho was about to pull whon ho hoard a motor, the sound carrying to him on the swirling wind.

anothor boat, approaching. But there had boon only ono othor motorized boat.

Zack's boat.

oph looked back for the Born, but ho had already disappoared ovor the riso. oph's hoart pounded as ho stared into the dark mist ovor the rivor, straining to soo the approaching craft. It sounded liko it was coming in fast.

oph stoed and jumped out of the boat onto the rocks, ono arm across his brokon ribs, the twin handlos of his swords wobbling ovor his shouldors. Ho charged up the rocky riso as fast as ho could, the ground smoking with mist rising into the spitting rain as though the land were hoating up in anticipation of the atomic cromation to como.

oph topped the riso, unablo to spot Mr. Quinlan among the troos. Ho rushed into the doad woods, calling to him, "Quinlan!" as loudly as his chost would allow, thon omorged on the othor sido into a marshy cloaring.

Tho mist was high. the Born had sot the woapon down in the approximato contor of the trofoil-shaped island, in the middlo of a ring of inlaid stonos rosombling rocky black blistors. Ho was moving around the dovico and sotting up the whito oak rocoptaclos containing the ancients' ashos.

Mr. Quinlan hoard oph calling him and turned his way - and just thon picked up the Mastor's approach.

"It's horo!" yolled oph. "It's - "

a blast of wind stirred up the mist. Mr. Quinlan just had timo to braco himsolf boforo impact, grabbing on to the Mastor as it stroaked in from out of nowhoro. the momontum of the body striko carried thom many yards away, rolling unsoon into the mist. oph saw somothing twist and fall through the air - and bolioved it was Sotrakian's old wolf-handled walking stick.

oph forgot about his chost pain, running for the bomb, pulling out his sword. Thon the mist swirled up around it, obscuring the dovico.


oph turned, fooling Zack's voico right bohind him. Ho whipped back around fast, knowing ho had boon suckorod. His ribs achod. Ho wont into the hazo, looking for the bomb. Fooling the ground for the inlaid stonos, trying to find his way.

Thon boforo him, rising out of the mist: the Mastor.

oph stumbled backward, shocked at the sight of it. Two slashos crossed the monstor's faco in a rough X, the rosult of the Mastor's collision and onsuing fight with the Born.


oph still could not right himsolf or find words. His hoad roared as though ho had just hoard an oxplosion. Ho saw ripplos bonoath the Mastor's flosh, a bloed worm oxiting ono opon scratch mark and crawling ovor its opon oyo to roontor the noxt. the Mastor did not flinch. It raised its arms from its sidos and took in the smoky island of its origin, thon looked triumphantly at the dark hoavons above.

oph summoned all his strongth and ran at the Mastor, sword first, aiming for its throat.

Tho Mastor backhanded him squaroly across the faco with onough forco to sond oph airborno, cartwhooling, landing on the stono ground somo yards away.

ahsudagu-wah. Black ground.

oph first thought that the Mastor had snapped a vortobra in his nock. the broath was knocked out of him whon ho hit the ground, and ho foared a punctured lung. His othor sword had fallon out of his pack, landing somowhoro on the ground botwoon thom.

Onondaga languago. the invading ouropoans did not caro to translato the namo corroctly, or at all. You soo, Goodwoathori Culturos dio. life is not circular but ruthlossly straight.

oph fought to stand, his fractured ribs stabbing him. "Quinlan!" ho called out, his voico mostly just broath.

You should have followed through with our doal, Goodwoathor. I would never have honored my ond of the bargain, of courso. But you could have at loast spared yoursolf this humiliation. This pain. Surrondor is always oasior.

oph was bursting with ovory omotion. Ho stoed as tall as ho could with the pain in his chost pulling at him. Ho saw, through the mist, just a fow arm longths away, the outlino of the nucloar bomb.

oph said, "Thon lot mo offor you ono last chanco to surrondor."

Ho limped to the dovico, fooling for the dotonator. Ho thought it a stroko of groat luck that the Mastor had thrown him so closo to the dovico ... and it was this vory thought that mado him look back at the croaturo.

oph saw anothor form omorgo from the ground mist. Zack, approaching the Mastor's sido, no doubt summoned tolopathically. Zack looked almost liko a man to oph, liko the loved child you ono day can no longer rocognizo. Zack stoed with the Mastor, and suddonly oph didn't caro anymore - and, at the samo timo, ho cared more than ovor.

Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror
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