The tide was rising, and I was drowning.
Great gobbets of blood sprayed through the air, painting a gruesome masterpiece across the fading skyline. I was coated in it, too; an overzealous painter immersed so deep in his ruinous creation that he could not tell one side of the canvas from another.
For every blow I struck, five more fell in return; for every mind I ruled, twenty more defied me. I was slipping – moment by moment, slowly and surely.
My control. My will. My sanity.
Another scream, another spray of gore, another body plummeting down into the carnage below. Another mouthful of death.
I could hardly hear her – I was so tired I could hardly hear myself. My strength became a terrible self-parody. This body would tear through the centuries, some timeless vessel of bloodlust, grinding on and on until its very bones were dust. My mind danced on glass knives, a second’s slip from sharp-edged oblivion, spinning ever closer and closer on the tips toward its own destruction.
She needs me. She needs me now . . . I have to find her . . . she needs me . . .
Morgan fell silent, and over the building pressure I heard two more voices in her place. It was like winter, strangling the last gasps of summer between its crackling fingers.
Hold him! We cannot lose them both!
He’s slipping! Damn him, he’ll tear himself apart at this rate - take the girl and have done with it.
No. We need them both, we need them alive. HOLD HIM!
I did not want to be held. I did not want to do anything – every heartbeat was an effort, while my foul, deadly body cleaved on effortlessly through foe after foe.
There was so much blood I was sure I could have drowned in it.
But I would drown them in it first.
The golem that had once held so much terror for me was scarce more than a blur in my eyeline as I, a sacrificial thunderbolt of blood-soaked abandon, threw myself into the open abandon of the open sky and drove myself down, down, down toward my one and only all-consuming target.
He was waiting for me.
We clashed like lightning upon a roiling ocean. The steel of his sword met the steel of my talons, and with an almighty crash that seemed fit to shatter my skull I smashed my forehead into his. His free arm dropped Morgan to the ground, and with all the unholy strength I possessed I flung Judas a full two feet back to the edge of the parapet. I was black with the coated gore of my kills, and as I bared my teeth in defiance, I tasted blood.
Judas Van Helsing did not so much as twitch as I locked my hands about his throat and flung him from the parapet. Instead, he laughed.
And, with the force of a falling planet, he dragged me after him.
We seized each other with the fury of fire on ice. Tooth and nail, sword and bone, scream and roar; down and down and down we went. Until, suddenly, my wings snapped open – a horrific saving grace that halted us mere feet from the blood-churned earth, and sent my muscles into spasms of agony.
I hit the ground with a dead thump, and my father laughed like a madman.
“Come, my boy. We can’t keep your little love waiting.”
I screamed. I sobbed. I cursed, and cried, and my tears ran red.
I obeyed. Like an almost-forgotten scar, the steel of the command dragged me skyward, my father’s horrific weight in my arms. And still he laughed at me.
The edge of the parapet approached, and I stared out across the carnage and knew that I had lost. The Horde had turned, roiling in its final throes as its former command was restored. My voice held no fear for them – they did not so much as look to see the source of the crying I felt sure would tear my throat and heart to ruin before the end of this fatal ascent
Morgan . . . Morgan, forgive me . . .
Somewhere in the distance, a horn began to ring. Another layer of this horrible symphony, sounding out the climax before the conductor’s hands would fall. And the world, I knew, would fall with it.