“It might be enough drag to turn the barge,” Zeke finished. “Especially when it fills up with water. It won’t stop the ship, but it just needs to turn it so that it misses the checkpoint.” He nodded slowly, though his expression was unsure.
“It just might work, but that container is huge, Allie. Can we move it?”
“We have to,” I growled, and he didn’t argue. Reaching back, I pulled my sword, my fingers still stiff from when Sarren had broken my arm. “We’ll have to go through the rabids,” I said, as Zeke drew his machete, as well. “If we stay on top of the containers, they shouldn’t be a problem. But we have to reach the other side. Nothing else matters now.”
Zeke nodded and raised his weapon. “Go,” he said, nodding to the edge of the deck. “I’m right behind you.”
I stepped to the edge of the platform and surveyed the labyrinth of containers, trying to gauge the best path to the other side. Instantly, the rabids surged forward with screams and wails, clawing at the wall, trying to leap at me. Their numbers were smaller now, I realized, and pale bodies were scattered about the deck, twisted and in pieces. The Master vampire, though severely outnumbered and intending to die, had not gone quietly into his eternal night.
I deliberately kept my gaze from straying to the suspicious dark blot in the center of the platform. The place my sire had fallen.
Taking one step back, I gathered myself and leaped off the deck, aiming for the top of the nearest shipping container. I hit the roof with a ringing clang, and the rabids immediately swarmed around it, their talons screeching off the sides. One of them clawed its way up the backs of its fellows, hissing as it scrambled up beside me. I cut the head from its shoulders with a quick slash of my blade, and it tumbled back into the masses.
Zeke landed behind me with a clang, and together we fled for the opposite side, the rabids screeching and swarming below us. Leaping from container to container, we crossed the platform with only a few pale monsters managing to claw their way onto the roofs. Screaming, they hurled themselves at us, blind with rage, but we cut them down and kept going.
Reaching the edge of one container, I skidded to a halt.
This was the last roof we had to cross, and there was one final, very high jump we had to make before we reached the other side of the barge. To even have a chance I needed a running start, but two rabids blocked my way, hissing and snarling as they came forward.
Or one of them did, anyway. The other staggered, looking confused. As the first rabid lunged and met a swift end on my katana, the second shook its head, nearly falling off the edge of the roof. Its face had been clawed open until it was more skull than flesh, but small patches of skin were starting to grow over the gaping wounds.
The rabid shook itself and came at me again, hissing, but it was slower now, its movements not nearly as frantic as before.
I easily cut it down and kicked it off the edge of the roof, letting it drop to the swarm below.
“You all right?” Zeke asked, coming up behind me. Dark blood streaked his arms, face and machete, but it wasn’t his own. His fangs glinted as he spoke. “What happened?”
I shook my head, wanting to explain what I’d seen with the rabid, but there was no time. “Nothing,” I said, facing the edge of the deck, and the long jump before it. “Ready for this?” I asked, shooting a quick glance at Zeke. “Can you make it?”
A rabid clawed its way up behind us and shrieked, and Zeke tensed. “I don’t have a choice. Go!”
I ran for the edge of the container and flung myself into empty space. Maybe it was the new knowledge that I was a Master vampire, or maybe I was just desperate, but it felt like I leaped higher than I ever had before. I struck the top of the deck with room to spare and instantly whirled, lunged forward, and grabbed Zeke as he fell toward the edge of the platform, yanking him to safety.
We sprawled on the deck for only a moment, tangled in each other, our fingers interlocked, before scrambling upright.
The open container sat at the edge of the barge, empty and hollow in the moonlight, and I sprinted toward it.
“Grab the chain!” I told Zeke, snatching a length of the massive, heavy links myself. The coils were huge, individual links larger than my fist. It wouldn’t snap, that was for certain.
I just had to make sure it wouldn’t break from the container.
Dragging it to the metal box, I searched for something to attach it to. Thick steel bars ran vertically up the back of the open doors; I wound the chain through them, then looked around for something to secure them in place.
“Allie!” Zeke tossed me a pipe. I grabbed it, shoved it through the metal links and, gritting my teeth, bent the pipe around the chain, twisting it several times.
There, I thought, taking a step back, surveying my handiwork. The chain was attached to the container, the doors already open. Now all we had to do was shove it overboard and hope that a huge metal box filled with water would be enough drag to turn the ship.
Something moved from the corner of my eye, and the blood froze in my veins.
No. It can’t be. He should be dead.
I whirled, shouting a desperate warning, and Zeke glanced up from where he was unwinding the heavy coils of chain.
A long, curved blade erupted from Zeke’s chest, punching into the air and gleaming in the moonlight, and Zeke screamed. Sarren, dripping wet, fangs bared in a terrifying snarl, lifted him off his feet, pushing the impaled vampire into the air, and I roared.
Drawing my katana, I flew at Sarren, who swung his arm and hurled Zeke’s body away before turning on me. Zeke crashed to the deck several yards away, crying out in agony, and I closed on Sarren.
“Why won’t you just die!” I screamed, slashing my blade at the mad vampire, intending to cut him in half. No more taking chances; this time I’d sever his head, his legs, his other arm, his spine. I’d slice him into a dozen pieces and scatter them to different ends of the earth to make certain he was dead.
Sarren blocked my swing with his sword, lunged in, and grabbed my throat. Still insanely fast. I felt my feet leave the ground as my opponent lifted me up and slammed me onto the deck with a crash that made my head ring.
Sarren knelt above me, still pinning me by the throat. His face was pulled into a vicious snarl, his eyes blank and terrifying. Fear lanced through my stomach. There’d be no words this time, no toying with his prey, no taunts or hints or creepy poetry. I faced the true demon now, and it wasn’t interested in words. All it wanted was to rip me apart.