I did. I gazed at the bodies scattered about the lot, at the destruction I'd caused, and I knew. I was truly inhuman. Humans were prey. I craved their blood like the worst addict on the street. They were sheep, cattle, and I was the wolf, stalking them through the night. I had become a monster.
"From here on," Kanin said, "you will have to decide what kind of demon you will be. Not all meals will come to you so easily, ignorant and seeking to do you harm. What will you do if your prey invites you inside, offers you a place at the table?
What will you do if they f lee, or cower down, begging you not to hurt them? How you stalk your prey is something you must come to terms with, or you will quickly drive yourself mad. And once you cross that threshold, there is no coming back from it."
"How do you do it?" I whispered. Kanin shook his head with a chuckle.
"My method would not help you," he said as we started to leave the lot. "You will have to find your own way." As we entered the alley, we passed one of the thugs who was just starting to come around. He groaned and swayed as he staggered to his feet, gasping with pain, and though my Hunger was sated, something inside me reacted to the sight of a wounded, helpless creature. I half turned with a growl, fangs lengthening, before Kanin grabbed my arm and dragged me away into the darkness.
When I awoke next, I was alone, lying on a dusty cot in one of the old hospital rooms. It was night once more, and I knew the sun had set about an hour ago. Kanin had kept me out last night until it was nearly dawn, explaining that, as a vampire, I needed to know when the sun approached and how much time I had to seek shelter. Despite the legends, he explained, we wouldn't immediately burst into f lames, but our body chemistry had changed now that we were, technically, dead.
He likened it to a human disease called porphyria, where toxic substances in the skin caused it to blacken and rupture when exposed to ultraviolet sunlight. Caught outside with no shelter, the direct rays of the sun would burn our exposed skin until it did, eventually, catch fire. It was a messy and extremely painful way to die, he said to my horrified expression, and something you wanted to avoid at all costs.
Despite this, we almost didn't make it back. I remembered approaching the ruined hospital, growing more sleepy as the sky went from pitch-black to navy blue. But even through the lethargy, I had felt a growing panic and desperation, urging me on to find shelter. As I'd fought desperately against the sluggishness weighing me down, Kanin had scooped me up, holding me close as he strode through the grass and weeds, and I had drifted off against his chest.
The events of the previous night came back to me, and I shivered. It still felt unreal, as if everything I'd been through had happened to someone else. Experimentally, I tried growing my fangs and felt them lengthen immediately, pushing through my gums, sharp and lethal. I wasn't hungry, though, which was both a relief and a disappointment. I wondered how often I would have to...feed. How soon before I could plunge my fangs into someone's throat and have that rush of heat and power f low into me-
I shook myself, furious and disgusted. One night as a vampire, and I was already slipping, giving in to the demon.
"I'm not like them," I seethed to the darkness, to the coiling thing inside me. "Dammit, I will beat this. Somehow. I will not become a soulless monster, I swear it." Pushing myself off the bed, I ducked into the dark, narrow hallway in search of Kanin.
He was sitting at the desk in the office, sifting through a large stack of papers. His eyes f licked to me as I came in, then he continued to read.
"Um." I perched on one of the overturned cabinets.
"Thanks. For not letting me burn this morning. I suppose that's what would happen if I get stuck outside in the sun, right?"
"It's something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy," Kanin replied without looking up. I watched him, remembering how he'd carried me inside, and frowned.
"So, why were you able to stay awake when I fell asleep?"
"Practice." Kanin turned over one sheet and started on another. "All vampires must sleep in the daytime," he went on, still not looking at me. "We are nocturnal creatures, like owls and bats, and something in our body makeup makes us lethargic and tired when the sun is high overhead. With practice and a great deal of willpower, we can fight off the need to sleep for a little while. It just grows more difficult the longer we stay awake."
"Well...thank you." I stared at the top of his head and wrinkled my nose. "I guess I'm glad you're extremely stubborn, then."
He finally looked up, raising an eyebrow. "You are welcome," he said, sounding amused. "How are you feeling now?"
"Okay, I guess." I picked at a sheet of paper on the cabinet. No one ever asked me how I was feeling, not since I was young. "I'm not hungry, anyway."
"That's normal," Kanin explained as he started on a new stack of paper. "Typically, barring wounds and overexertion, one needs to take blood every fortnight to remain fed and sated."
"Every two weeks."
"Though it is not unusual for a vampire, if he has the means, to feed every night. The Prince of the city and his council, you can be sure, indulge far more often than that.
But two weeks is the safest amount of time one can go without human blood. After that, you will get hungrier and hungrier, and nothing will satisfy you until you feed again."
"Yeah, you might've mentioned that once or twice." He eyed me over his paper and set it down, coming around the desk to lean against the front. "Do you want me to continue teaching you?" he asked. "Or would you like me to leave so you may figure everything out yourself ?"
"Sorry," I muttered, looking away. "Still getting used to this whole being-dead thing, I guess." A thought came to me, and I looked back, frowning. "So, what am I supposed to do, once this 'training' is over?"
"I suspect you will continue to live as a vampire."
"That's not what I mean, and you know it, Kanin." I gestured vaguely at the ceiling. "Will I be allowed into the Inner City? Will the other vampires let me past the gates now that I'm one of them?"
Now that I'm one of them. That was a disgusting thought.
I'll never be one of them, I promised myself. Not completely. I'm not like them. I won't sink to their level, won't think of humans as nothing more than animals.
"Unfortunately," Kanin said, "there is more to it than that." It sounded as if he was going to give another lecture, so I dropped into the chair from the night before, resting my chin in my hands. Kanin paused, watching me a moment, before he continued. "You're a vampire now, so, yes, you'll be allowed past the gates into the Inner City. That is, if you do not bring up your association with me. But you need to understand the politics of your undead brethren before you can strike out on your own. There is a hierarchy among city vampires, a chain of rank and command, that you must be aware of if you hope to fit in."
"Fit in," I repeated and snorted. "I've been a street rat and a Fringer my whole life. I don't think I'll be cozying up to the vampires of the Inner City anytime soon."
"Regardless." Kanin's voice didn't change. "This is something you need to know. Not all vampires are created equal.
Are you aware of the differences between the Prince of this city and his followers?"
I frowned. To me, all bloodsuckers were the same; they had fangs, they were dead, they drank blood. But Kanin wouldn't accept that for an answer, and I really didn't want him to leave yet, so... "I know the city has a Prince," I replied. "Salazar.
And all the other vamps listen to him."
"Yes." Kanin nodded approval. "Within every city, there is a Prince, a Master Vampire, the strongest and most powerful of them all. He, or she, heads the council, commands the lesser vampires, and makes most of the decisions within the Inner City. That's how most vampire cities work, though there are a few that are set up differently. I've heard of territories where only one vampire rules over everything, though that type of city is extremely rare and usually doesn't last long.
The Prince would have to be very strong, to keep his city from falling to other vampires or even his own humans."
"How many vampire cities are there?"
"Worldwide?" Kanin shrugged. "No one really knows.
It's constantly in f lux, you see, especially within the smaller regions. Cities rising and falling, attempts to take over another's territory, disease or rabids wiping out whole popula-tions. But the largest vampire cities, like New Covington, have survived since the plague, and there are perhaps a few dozen, worldwide."
"All ruled by a Master."
"Usually. Like I said before, there are exceptions, but, yes, most cities are ruled by a Master."
That meant there were several very strong, probably very old, vampires out there. That was something to keep in mind, though it sounded as if most of them stayed in their cities, like Salazar, and never ventured beyond the Wall.
"Beneath the Prince," Kanin continued, "are the Type-2s, the vampires who have been sired by a Master. They are not as powerful as the Prince, but they are formidable in their own right, and usually make up the council, the elite guard and the Prince's trusted seconds. Are you following so far?"
"Type-2s?" I bit down a smirk. "I was expecting something a little more...exotic, and vampirey-sounding. Type-2
sounds like the symptoms of a disease." Kanin shot me an exasperated look. "The bloodlines of certain old families are extremely long and complex," he explained in a sharper voice. "It would be pointless to explain them to a new vampire, so I am giving you the simplified version."
"Sorry. Go on."
"Beneath them," Kanin continued, "are the Type-3s, the mongrels, and these are the most common and least powerful in the hierarchy. They have been sired by either a Type-2 or another mongrel, and they are the type of vampire you will most likely encounter wandering the streets. Mongrels make up the vast majority of the population, and they're the weakest of us all, though still stronger and faster than any human.
"So, the stronger the vamp who sired you, the stronger you're likely to be?"
"To a point." Kanin leaned back, resting his palms on the desk. "Before the virus, vampires were spread across the world, hidden from mankind, blending into society. Most of them were mongrels, Type-3s, and if they occasionally sired another vampire, they would always create a mongrel.
The Masters and their covens were few and far between, se-cluded from the rest of the world, until the Red Lung virus hit. When the humans began to die from the virus, our food source disappeared, and we were in danger of starving or going mad.
"Then rabids started to appear, and things grew even more chaotic. At that time, we didn't know whether the rabids were the final effect of the Red Lung virus or if they were something new, but there was mass panic for both humans and vampires. Eventually a few ingenious Masters devised a way to keep the few remaining, noninfected humans close, creating a never-ending food supply in exchange for protection from outside threats. And so the vampire cities were born.