Very slowly, his arms slid around me, holding me against him. “You won’t be alone,” he murmured, bending his head close to mine. “You have Ezekiel. The road will be hard, and you might have to save each other from time to time.
But Ezekiel has surprised me, and you are one of the strongest vampires I have ever seen. I’ve taught you everything I can.” He pulled back, smiling down at me. “You don’t need me anymore.”
I couldn’t speak. I could barely see him through the tears.
Silently, I let my hands drop from his chest, desperation giving way to despair. Kanin held me a moment longer, then lowered his arms and stepped back, his stare appraising.
“You are my last offspring,” he murmured. “My legacy to this world.” His eyes went solemn, and he brushed a knuckle across my cheek. “You’re a Master now, Allison,” he stated simply. “Possibly the first to have been created since the Rabidism plague. I’ve known it since that night in Old Chicago, when you came out of hibernation—only a Master vampire would revive so quickly. And you will continue to grow stronger and stronger, until you are a match for even the Princes of the cities.” I blinked in surprise, and he gave a faint smile as he stepped away. “Now, it is your turn to leave your own mark on the world.”
“Kanin, wait,” I whispered as he started to turn. He paused, and I swallowed the tears to clear my throat. “I never…got the chance to thank you,” I said shakily, facing my sire for the very last time. “For everything. What you taught me—that I can choose what kind of monster I am…I won’t forget it.”
Kanin leaned forward, bent down, and very lightly touched his lips to my forehead. “I am proud of you, Allison Sekemoto,” he whispered as he drew back. “Whatever you decide, whatever path you choose to take, I hope that you will remain the same girl I met that night in the rain. The one decision for which I have no regrets.”
Then he turned and walked away, pausing only to grab his blade from where it lay on the deck, where Sarren had dropped it. I watched him, unable to move, unable to stop the flow of tears, as Kanin walked calmly to the edge of the platform and gazed down at the rabids below.
For just a moment, he stood there, a Master vampire, my sire, teacher, mentor and friend, silhouetted against the night sky. Then the bloody tears filling my eyes blinded me; I blinked them away, clearing my vision… …and the ledge was empty when I looked back.
A chorus of mad screams and howls rose from the edge of the platform, vicious and bloodthirsty. I turned my face into the wall, clenching my teeth and squeezing my eyes shut, trying to block out the sounds. The screams from the rabids intensified, surging into the air, and the sudden smell of blood laced the wind, making me cry out and beat my fists against the wall, but Kanin made no noise. No cries of pain, no snarls of rage or hate, nothing. Only at the end, when the scuffles had died down, did I feel a last, brief stab of emotion from a dying Master. It wasn’t fear, or anger, or regret.
It was…contentment. Kanin was finally at peace.
Then the feeling flickered and died, and I felt our blood tie fade away, as the vampire who had damned the world, who had made me immortal even as he searched for a way to cleanse his soul, finally found his redemption.
I was alone.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. I could only kneel there on the cold deck, feeling the wall of the pilothouse press into my cheek, and sob. Behind me, the rabids hissed and clawed at each other, their harsh voices rising into the air, but I couldn’t even hate them. I couldn’t feel anything through the numbing grief, the horrible, aching knowledge that I had let my sire die. The fact that he had given his life to stop Requiem wasn’t lost on me, but I didn’t care. He had died saving the world, he had found his atonement, but all I knew right then was that Kanin was gone.
I felt a presence drop beside me, and strong arms on my shoulders, pulling me back, away from the wall. I looked up and met Zeke’s blue eyes, peering down anxiously. He was soaked, his clothes drenched, and his skin was like ice, but it didn’t seem to affect him.
“Are you all right?” Zeke whispered, pressing one palm to my cheek, his gaze searching for wounds. I couldn’t answer, and his expression grew alarmed. “Allie, talk to me. Are you hurt? Where are Kanin and Jackal? Where’s Sarren?”
“They’re gone,” I choked out. “They’re all gone. Jackal took off again. Sarren got his stupid crazy head sliced off and fell overboard. And Kanin…” My gaze went to the edge of the deck, at the spot where Kanin last stood, calm and resolved, accepting his fate.
“Kanin…figured out the cure was inside him,” I whispered, feeling a fresh flood of tears press behind my eyes, even as I tried to compose myself. “Sarren told him as much.
The cure was inside him, and he knew Requiem had to be stopped, before it could reach land. So…so, he…”
Zeke let out a slow breath. Reaching out, he pulled me against him, holding me as tightly as he could. “I’m sorry, Allison,” he murmured into my hair. He didn’t say anything else; there was nothing to be said. For a moment, we knelt there, clinging to each other, as the rabids shrieked below us and the ship plowed on, unconcerned with the passing of one of the last Master vampires.
Finally, I pulled back, wiping my burning face. “How did you get here, Zeke?” I murmured. And then, suddenly remembering why he had gone into the lake, gasped. “Where… where are Caleb and Bethany?” Desperation flared up again, as I realized he was alone. If, on top of everything else, those two little kids had drowned…
“They’re all right,” Zeke assured me, easing my panic. “I got to them in time.” He nodded to the second floor of the pilothouse, where two small white faces peered down at us.
“They’re freezing,” Zeke muttered darkly, “and terrified, but they’ll be all right. At least for now. Had to piggyback them all the way here, and then find the ladder up, with them clinging to my back the whole way.” He shook his head ruefully. “I think it’s the first time I’ve been grateful to be a vampire— we wouldn’t have made it, otherwise.”
At the sight of the two kids, my Hunger surged up and roared to life. But Zeke’s fingers dug into my arms, and his voice became urgent. “Allison,” he said, as I clamped down on my bloodlust, trying to focus, “we’re not done yet. We have to stop the ship.” He nodded toward the edge of the deck.