Dark SentinelBy: Christine Feehan
Contemplating allowing himself to die made Andor Katona feel like a coward. He had never believed that sitting out in the open waiting to meet the dawn and have the sun fry him was an act of nobility. He—and a very few others—had always believed it to be an act of cowardice. Yet here he was, deliberating whether or not to give himself permission to die. The sun wasn’t close, but the wounds he’d sustained battling so many vampires at one time had weakened him.
With the loss of blood, and several near-fatal wounds, the human vampire hunters hadn’t recognized him as a hunter and had attacked while he’d left his body an empty shell so he could try to heal those wounds. A stake close to the heart—they’d missed—hadn’t felt so good. They really weren’t very good at their self-appointed task. They’d torn open his chest, and more blood had spilled onto the battleground. He’d never thought he’d die in a country far from home—killed by a trio of bumbling humans—but dying seemed a good alternative to continuing a life of battle in an endless gray void.
The three men, Carter, Barnaby and Shorty, huddled together a distance from him, casting him terrified and hate-filled glances. They were trying to convince themselves they’d done it right and he was dying. Of course, they’d expected him to die immediately and now wondered why he hadn’t and what they should do about it. He could have told them they’d need another stake and a much better impaling technique if they wanted him to die. Did he really have to instruct others on how to kill him? That was ridiculous.
Sighing, he tried weighing the pros and cons of dying in order to make a rational decision. He’d lived too long. Far too long. He’d killed too often—so much so that there was little left of his soul. He’d lived with honor, but there had to be a time when one could let go with honor. It was past his time. He’d known that for well over a century. He’d searched the world over for his lifemate, the woman holding the other half of his soul, the light to his darkness. She didn’t exist. It was that simple. She didn’t exist.
Carpathian males lost all emotion and the ability to see in color after two hundred years. Some lost it earlier. They had to exist on memories, and after so many centuries, even those faded. They retained their battle skills—honed them nightly—but as time passed, all those long, endless years, even the memories of family and friends faded away. He lived his life far from humans most of the time, working in the night to keep them safe.
Vampires were Carpathians who had given up their honor in order to feel again. There was a rush when one killed while feeding. Adrenaline-laced blood could produce a high. Vampires craved it, and they terrorized their victims before killing them. Andor had hunted them on nearly every continent. As time passed, the centuries coming and going, the whispers of temptation to turn increased. For a few hundred years, those whispers sustained him, even if he knew the promise was empty. Eventually, even that was lost to him. Then he lived in a gray world of . . . nothing.
He had entered the monastery high in the remote Carpathian Mountains, a place where a very few ancients had locked themselves away from the world when they’d been deemed too dangerous to hunt and kill but didn’t believe in giving themselves to the dawn. Every kill increased the danger of turning, and he had lived too long, knew too much to be vampire. Few hunters would ever be able to defeat him, yet here he was, nearly done in by a trio of inept, bumbling human assassins.
He had taken the vow to be honorable in waiting for his lifemate with the other ancients. Of course, the situation had been made worse by secreting themselves in a place where there was no hope of each finding the one woman who could restore emotions and color to their lives—but they had known that. They had accepted the truth: their women were no longer in the same world with them.
The whispers of his would-be killers grew annoying. Really annoying. His head was swimming, making it difficult to think. He lay looking up at the sky. Stars were out, but they appeared as blurred lights, nothing more. Their light was a dull gray, just as the moon was. He looked down at the blood seeping out of his body, pooling around him from more than a dozen wounds—and that didn’t count the stake. The blood was a darker gray. An ugly mess. How had he gotten here, so far from his homeland and the monastery where he’d placed himself so he wouldn’t give in to the nothingness that surrounded him?