The boy was sixteen and running away from his life. He was a guide without someone to guide. A boy whose gifts--heightened empathy among them--had no one to balance them. Had no sentinel to call his own. A lost cause to some and to others just a stand-in until they found their soul mate. He was told he would be a strong guide--that his gifts were more resilient than any other's that had been seen before. He knew it frightened them and he didn't need his gift to see that. He would instead create a new destiny for himself, hoping to avoid the future that had been told to his parents by the Seer they had sought out.
He was changing the path that the Moirai had for him as well as the one the Seer had foretold in her wispy, ringing voice to his parents. He had listened from just inside the door. His own ability singing to him that the Seer was not speaking the full truth.
He was not the bringer of death and destruction. He would admit he enjoyed a little mischief and the chaos it could cause but outright murder was not him. He'd been on the battlefield only once and had killed there but he'd never murdered anyone. The Seer had told his parents he would need to find a strong female as his bond partner. That it was the only way to stop him. The boy ignored the fact that the Seer's daughter was an unmated sentinel, who to his senses reeked of something like decay--and he associated that with insanity.
The boy found women strong, curvy, beautiful, intelligent, lovely to look upon but they did not make him burn with desire. His parents wouldn't listen, but his mother's mother had. His grandmother had listened to all he had to say and all that he felt. She had helped him. Helped him gather supplies, pack it all into a bag, and helped him run.
She told him to go east. That death and destruction could also mean rebirth. That she saw a great destiny in him that others would fear. Hannibal trusted her more than any other Seer and wished his parents had as well.
He ran east. He ran, hoping to find himself. Hoping to find his sentinel.
For one brief moment he thought he had. The man stood atop a desert temple. Commanding, handsome, perfect. Then he changed his appearance. Gone was the light tanned skin and long dark hair moving on the slight breeze; replaced with something darker, harder to penetrate with a weapon, that would protect the man in battle. For the boy, in that moment, everything seemed to snap into place. He had seen LaMagra's people before; even knew there were a few in his own family line. He watched as the man lifted the sword that dripped with blood to his lips, tongue running across the metal, and the boy was unafraid.
The crowd surged, some in panic, some in merriment, but the boy never moved. His eyes stayed focused on the man until the man's eyes seemed to meet his through the crowd. It was like coming home. The man began to descend the stairs and that was when the boy knew. The crowd parted, a clear path between them forming.
Then the boy felt it, a tremendous pain that pushed from his back into his chest. He tasted blood and his own death on his lips. The man howled out in pain and sorrow. He wondered if the Moirai had also seen what the Atë would do; if perhaps he had missed that part of the Seer's prediction. Perhaps it mattered not, because he had seen his sentinel and he was everything and more than he could ever hope for. The last thing the boy felt was his sentinel's hands, turned to claws in his other form but still able to gently caress his face. The last words he heard were, "I will kill them all for you."
Now the once lush grounds and beautiful stone streets that led to the ziggurat were covered in death and destruction. Blood painted almost everything in sight. Bodies lay where they had fallen and the air was ripe with the smell of the dying. And it still wasn't enough.
For the man who had lost his soul mate was LaMagra's King, and with a single death his hope for the future had turned into wanting only carnage and death. He'd slowly torn the man in half who had taken from him what would have been held most dear. Wanting to hear him beg; wanting to hear him scream for mercy. The King turned on the crowd not caring who his claws ripped through; whose blood he tasted on his lips or poured to the ground. It made no difference if they were his people or not. Hundreds died at his hands and he didn't care. Nor did he care when the survivors amongst his own people slaughtered thousands more.
The King looked into the night sky; looked upon the blood red moon and screamed out his pain as he no longer cared if any lived to see the next day. He cursed the world. He cursed the neighboring villages, his own people, and their descendants.
Darkness was all that he wanted for the world so he buried himself deep and slept.
"I hate my life," Hannibal said, knowing it wasn't exactly true, but he was tired of the day to day crap; and also thankful that he had actually listened to that inner voice of his because he owed himself a chocolate milkshake; and maybe even a cookie or two. That inner voice had kept him alive during his brief stint in the military that had taken him abroad and shown him things that he could never unsee.
The first being the harshness of war. The second being that vampires were real. That a war zone presented easy access to food for they could easily come out at night, blend with their surroundings to feed from the wounded and dying and no one was the wiser. He'd also met a few who didn't do that. The moral standings of vampires seemed to be as great as the ones among the humans.
Everything he knew about vampires he'd learned from a man, vampire, who went by the name of Miles whom he had met working the night shift at one of the bases his unit had cycled through. Miles drank blood from willing donors--had told Hannibal that was how it was supposed to be done. That their kind had rules but the young were trying new ways that would be bad for them all and that their King had been lost long ago. Hannibal talked history, movies, and philosophy with Miles and to this day still kept in contact with him.
But four years in the military had been enough for him and he had not re-enlisted. He'd taken the skills he'd learned and added them to the degree in criminal justice he'd gained while in college ROTC and landed himself a job with a private investigator who was planning to retire. Two years later the business was all his.
Still Hannibal's inner voice seemed to have a mind of its own as it had always led him where he needed to be even though it wasn't always where he wanted. A lot of the times it wasn't where he wanted. Like right now, in the middle of a fight in a dark alley.
He had let himself be led into the alleyway; pretty sure about what was going to happen but sometimes he hoped to be surprised. He let his assailants' true motives come to light and then pulled the two short swords out from under his jacket. The revelation was much as he expected--some vampires were really dumb. They let the movies choreograph their actions. Asking would have been a much better option for them than taking.
Hannibal moved as if it was all just a dance--step, slide, block, step, slice--and then there were three vampires turning to fiery ash as his dance came to a stop.
His inner voice gave him a warning, but strangely it came far too late to do any good. He felt it, the sharp pain as a blade entered his back. He guessed the chocolate milkshake would have to wait.
Right that very instant, Hannibal really did hate his life. That moment, like a handful of others throughout his life, felt as if he had done it all before. Not déjà vu but something else. Something more. He knew as he felt the blade withdraw that he'd been stabbed like this before and it wasn't in this life because he sure would have remembered. He'd never thought of past lives before but dying obviously made you think of strange things.
"I don't know what you are," said a gruff voice from behind him as he was pushed forward, stumbling to his knees for only a second before he slipped to lie on the ground. "But you're too fast to be a normal human and we don't need more creatures. At least you bleed like a human. And die like one."
Hannibal gasped for breath he knew would do no good. The last thing he heard was the man's booted feet leaving. His fading vision only telling him the man was shorter than him and dressed all in black leather like some insane biker.
That was an understatement if he'd ever heard one. The fact that he could hear a voice, Hannibal thought, was wrong somehow. He felt like he was floating and half of him wanted to stay where he was--safe and comfortable, and the other wanted to comply with the soft voice bidding him awake.
"You have much still to do," the voice said, and this time Hannibal felt fingers run through his hair and down his cheek.
He thought dying pretty much ended what he needed to do but he gave in and opened not only his eyes but the gift he tried to keep buried. "Great," he whispered, "Heaven is the alley I died in."
The laughter that came was like the tinkling of bells and drew Hannibal's sight from the garbage filled alley to the woman kneeling beside him. She was, Hannibal wasn't sure how to describe her besides beautiful and weird. She seemed to shift in appearance from gray skin with dark, almost black hair to golden skin and hair and many combinations in between.
Hannibal squinted and tried to focus. "Could you maybe pick an appearance?"
She tilted her head and then smiled. "You can see the realms," she said. "I thought perhaps that ability had been lost long ago." Her appearance settled on something that was not quite human but Hannibal still found quite pretty. Her skin became a pinkish gray; as if someone had dropped a single drop of red into a cup of pale gray paint. It reminded him almost of rose quartz. Her hair was a strange mix of black, white and pink, but her eyes remained as black as night.
"You're not an angel, are you?"
She laughed. "No young one," she answered, leveling him with a stare that said important things were about to happen. "Nor are you exactly dead."
Hannibal sat up and looked down at his still blood-soaked shirt. Signs were clearly pointing to dead; especially if he was talking to a ghost. Instead of saying any of that, he asked, "Who are you?"
"I have many names, but you can call me Ananke."
Since he didn't think he was talking to one of Jupiter's moons because even for him, at least when he'd been alive, that would have been out there. "The goddess of Destiny?"
"To some," she replied, standing up, and as she did, the area around them changed to a desert. "To others I'm three sisters and still to others someone else."
"Come, young one," she offered her hand to Hannibal and Hannibal let himself be pulled to his feet. The ghost was much stronger than Hannibal had thought.
"My afterlife is really weird," he muttered. "Even for me."
"Still not dead, young one."
"Hannibal," he commented. "My name is Hannibal and you, since I'm still not sure if I'm imagining you or not, are Ana who is not an angel but something that people worshipped for millennia before I was even born. Why I would choose you for my ghostly death visitor I have no idea."
"That, Hannibal," she answered, as the desert gave way to a beautiful stone road lined with trees. "Is all in how you define life and death."
For a moment the road was empty and then it filled with people moving about their business, almost all heading to the large stone structure. In a blink of an eye there was nothing but death. Throats ripped out, bodies covered in bite marks as blood ran in streams down the brickwork to slowly pool around the bodies on the ground.
He could smell the death and for a moment he thought he felt the souls of the dying, right before he heard a roar of pain that drew all of Hannibal's attention. He looked up towards the stone temple and found himself looking at a beast whose brown skin looked like bone; whose body was covered in blood. In Hannibal's eyes the monster became a man filled with sorrow and pain--as if his soul had been torn in half. Then the monster was back and his jaw split apart and the roar sounded again. Hannibal found himself walking forward, walking toward the pain he could feel rolling off the man.
"Who is he?" he asked, turning to look at the goddess of Destiny.
"Your past, in a way," she answered, a look of regret crossed her face before her expression changed once again to something Hannibal would describe as neutral. "The king of a great people. A sentinel. He lost his soul mate and guide in the very moment they met and he cursed the world. We could all do nothing but agree."
"Sentinel? You mean vampire?" Hannibal asked.
Ananke shook her head slightly. "So much lost in such a short time," she said sadly. "Atë went too far and even she could not stop the coming storm caused by her actions."
Hannibal ignored the mention of the goddess of evil and obsession; right now he was having problems believing that he was talking to Destiny. Instead he looked at the stone ziggurat and blamed watching too much Travel or History channel for his next comment. "Ana, several millennia, at least, have passed. Maybe a few thousand years is a short time for you but for me...humans live maybe two to three percent of that."
She ignored him. "A sentinel was a guardian, a protector of his or her people. They could see further, hear and smell better, and detect the tiniest of things with a simple touch or taste. But," she continued, "that ability came with a weakness or a strength--depending on how one viewed it--in the form of a guide. A person with a connection to the other realms. Some who could read other people and their motives as if reading from a book. They grounded the sentinel, as much as the sentinel grounded the guide, in the here and now."
Hannibal froze. She was describing him but he had never heard of sentinels or guides.
"In the aftermath of the king's rampage they were the only ones who could stop what the people of the area were becoming and were hunted down until almost none remained."
The scene in front of them changed, as if rewind had been pressed. Hannibal could see the young boy and knew that it was somehow him. He watched the crowd parting for the king who walked toward him. He felt the boy's joy as the king's brown eyes stayed solely focused on him. Sensed it as if there was electric cable connecting them. When the blade came unexpectedly through his chest from behind he felt it as if it was happening to him. He experienced the pain, the sorrow, and lost future as the boy took his last breath. He heard the king's promise that had become the curse. Had become the vampires of his time.
"You, young one," the goddess of fate, necessity, and destiny said. "Are my loophole. You were not meant to die this day..."
"Which day?" Hannibal asked. "Then or now. Oh, you know what I mean? Which me?"
"Either," she said, turning to caress his cheek. "You are one and the same. And it is time to correct the road which you walk upon."
Hannibal watched everything fade around him. He was back in the alley and while his chest hurt, he was clearly alive. Standing there he watched as the moon turned red and an eclipse started. A blood moon, just like on the final day of the boy's life.
"Fate's a bitch," he muttered, forgetting who he had just been with until he heard the tinkling of bells he now associated with Ananke's laughter. "So, Ana," he started to say only to have her put a finger to his lips to stop him from speaking.
"Shhh," she said, her presence already starting to fade. "Find him and begin again," she finished before disappearing from sight. "Those against you can be destroyed," came softly on the wind.
"Find him, she says," Hannibal grimaced then scratched at his chest. He needed to get out of sight before the weirdo in black leather who killed not-vampires without asking questions spotted him and tried to kill him again, because Hannibal didn't think he'd survive being stabbed in the chest again...a third time? How did you even count a past life?
Two hours later he was exhausted. There were hundreds of step pyramids all over the world. He'd ruled out Central and South America as those were mostly in lush forest or jungle areas--probably since before they were built, and were mostly built from gray rock. Plus none of them were the right shape.
Which brought up the problem of how much of the structure would still be around in this day and age. Hannibal ruled out a few more areas based on materials used and because they didn't feel right. He thought at first the Mesopotamia area and the structures he could find on the internet were close to the temple or castle from his walk through the past with Ana; but the more he looked at them the more he knew they were not. He just knew he was looking for something that looked more like "golden" sand and sand-colored rock; which wasn't as helpful as one would think.
He couldn't even look up the king's name because he didn't know it; hadn't even thought to ask Ana. He had a feeling though that she wouldn't have told him--that it was for him to figure out. He was even taking a guess on the age of the ziggurat. Hell, for all he knew it could really be a two thousand year old structure and not four.
This whole search was fraught with issues. If he found this king who had buried himself in the ground millennia ago how was he going to communicate with him? What was going to keep the guy from killing him? Not to mention, if he was truly the person who cursed the world with vampires then how was he going to feel about Hannibal being a vampire hunter?
His head hurt from just running all the possibilities. Plus he still needed to visit the morgue to find out if the two new Jane Does and the five John Does matched any of the missing persons he'd been hired to find. The number of vampires leaving corpses had increased in the last few months and Hannibal was getting tired of making those notices to his clients as the police, in general, seemed to be paid to look the other way.
Hannibal laid his head on his desk and closed his eyes. When he opened his eyes he was no longer at his desk but standing on a dais that overlooked a market.
"I'm dreaming," Hannibal muttered to himself, looking around the scene in front of him. "That's the only way to explain this."
He found himself standing in a room simply decorated. If he had to guess it was a bedroom of sorts. A young boy whose body shifted from one appearance to another was standing near a pool of water--maybe a bathing pool--watching his reflection change from human to not-human.
"Draqu," a woman's voice called before walking into the room. She didn't look human with the texture of her skin looking much like stone and bone, though she did favor one of the boy's appearances. "My son," she said, putting her hands on the boy's shoulder and halting his change and Hannibal reformed his previous thought; it was the boy who favored the woman. The boy's appearance settled into that of a human child with brown hair and brown eyes.
"None of the other children can do as I, mother," Draqu stated, still looking at his reflection. "I crave both food and blood and none can see the eagles in the mountain. Am I... is something wrong with me mother?"
The woman smiled softly and knelt down, turning her son from the pool of water. "No, my son. You are exactly as you are meant to be," she said, lifting one of her hands to cup the boy's face. "You are of both your father and myself. You are the first true sentinel the LaMagra have had in generations. We have guided for so long that you are a miracle."
"Then I will have a guide," the boy said firmly, nodding his head and turning to look back at the pool. "One as strong as you."
Draqu's mother laughed softly. "Your guide will find you and be more than even you can expect."
When Draqu's mother walked from the room the boy turned and looked at Hannibal. "Are you my guide?"
Hannibal was startled to be addressed. This was a dream or a history lesson or something and it wasn't supposed to interact with him. Unless this was Ana's doing then who the hell knew what it really was. For a moment he thought he heard the goddess' laugh.
"I," Hannibal paused. "In time," he admitted. "But you must grow..."
The boy nodded. "Then I shall grow and you will find me."
Hannibal was about to say something but the room seemed to dissolve and change. A man strode into the room and even in whatever type of dream state this was Hannibal could feel the anger rolling off the man. With a sweep of his arm the man sent everything on table closest to the pool to the floor before lifting the table and sending it flying as well. When the man turned Hannibal recognized the boy in the man who stood before him. Recognized him as the man who held him as he died in his past life.
"It's been a hundred years," Draqu said. "I have grown and you do not come to me but as a ghost again." Draqu turned to look at Hannibal. "My parents are dead this day. The kingdom is mine and I'm torn between two people. The LaMagra will be no more soon. They have already started to change. Something has happened and I am the last. Will you come to me now?"
Hannibal didn't know how to answer. He still didn't understand how he was here or how he understood Draqu. But he had a feeling he knew where the origin of the name Dracul and Dracula came from. He settled on a modern version to use because if this was real then it would be a way to identify himself in Drake's future.
"Drake," he started but stopped. He didn't know how much he could share and get away with; there were probably rules to this not-time travelling thing. He doubted he could warn Drake that his guide would die and be reborn. "My name is Hannibal," he stated. "I will be your guide when we are both ready, but neither of us is truly ready yet." He gave a small shake of his head because that was an understatement of the millennia, since there was at least that much time separating them.
Drake approached him. If Hannibal had physically been in the room with Drake he would have felt the other man's breath and body heat he was that close. "Tell me what I must do to be ready," Drake ordered.
Hannibal laughed softly. "Ordering me to do something is not going to work now or in the future," he chastised slightly while still grinning at the other man. It wouldn't dawn on him until much later that he had basically reprimanded the King of Vampires.
Drake stepped forward, his hand reaching out only to pass through Hannibal's form. Hannibal shivered at the contact. "I'm sorry," Hannibal said, "but only time will see us together."
"How much time?"
"I honestly do not know," Hannibal answered, only to have the room around him change again.
This time when the room came into view Hannibal was brought to his knees by his senses. Pain and anger radiated everywhere; so did death. The sight before him was out of a horror flick, or worse yet, out of his other vision with Ana. Bodies and blood lay in the room. The once clear reflecting pool ran red as Drake dropped the body he was feeding from into the water.
Drake bellowed out a roar. His appearance once again that of his mother's people. His jaw split wide to allow him to rip the throats from his enemies. "You lied," Drake shouted at him. "You were never to be my guide. You died today. You are nothing but a ghost."
Hannibal figured as much given the mess he was standing in. "And I will die again before we meet," Hannibal said, rubbing at his chest where two different swords had pierced him from behind. "I never said how much time would pass and I guess in a way," he continued sadly, "I am responsible for bringing death and destruction to part of the world."
For the first time since this whole thing started Hannibal moved forward. "But you must sleep long and deep, my sentinel," he said, reaching up to touch Drake's face and was surprised when his hand did not wisp through the form but gently touched Drake's cheek. It stunned Drake as well.
"Ananke said that we will meet again," Hannibal looked up into Drake's eyes. "I promise you," he said, moving his hand to the center of Drake's chest. "I promise you," Hannibal repeated, "I will find you."
A glow appeared underneath Hannibal's hand and Drake hissed. When they both looked down Drake's chest bore a brand that had not been there before. The mark of Ananke intertwined with another symbol. Before Hannibal could back away Drake placed his hand on Hannibal's chest in the same location.
"You will be my guide if I sleep?"
"Yes," Hannibal promised. His chest began to hurt as the same light seemed to burn through him as it had Drake. The last thing he heard before the room faded to black was, "I will wait for you, my guide."
Hannibal woke with paper stuck to his cheek and the imprint of his keyboard across his left arm. His chest hurt and he rubbed at it for a second before the dream all came rushing back. He pulled down the collar of his shirt and stared. Ananke's mark entwined with another symbol was burned into his own chest. If his meant guide, then the one on Drake's chest meant sentinel.
He'd avoided looking into a mirror or down at his chest for three days, because if he did he'd have to come up with an explanation for what he knew he was going to find. He spent two weeks in denial, going back to work as if nothing happened.
Checking with his contacts in the police, on the street, and the one or two in the vampire community who would actually talk to him when they weren't the ones who needed something, brought him very little information on his seven missing person cases. They had helped him find the goods stolen from three different employees who all worked in the same downtown office building. Hannibal had been able to link all the thefts back to one individual on the housekeeping staff who was using her phone to take photos of driver's licenses and then sending them to her cohorts who would rob the homes while the employees were known to be at work.
He checked in at the morgue later that week only to find that two of his missing persons were in residence there. He'd had to bribe the coroner's assistant to get a look at one of the bodies.
Hannibal had really been hoping the sixteen year old girl who had last been seen entering the public library four months earlier would still be alive. The coroner ruled her death due to 'the hardships of living on the streets as a prostitute'. Her arms, inner thighs, neck and a few other places looked like they'd been rubbed raw with sandpaper and Hannibal's guess was she had been held at one of the blood houses and the coroner had been paid to cover up any evidence of vampires.
The second individual had been floating in the bay. Apparent suicide. From what Hannibal had been able to determine the case really was what it appeared to be. The man had been having an affair with one of his subordinates who had then threatened to expose the affair to both his boss and his wife. However, a camera in the office had caught the man's affair on tape and the boss had him discharged for violation of the company's work ethic. The man had driven home that night, stopped his car on the bridge and jumped. The car had been stolen which added to the confusion.
He'd found a third person on his list feeding off his own sister in an alleyway. It had been a fluke. Hannibal knew the sister handed out missing person flyers and he had gone to check on her. She was now in the hospital in a coma, and the brother was ash. He hadn't told the family about the brother and he couldn't take the guilt and pain rolling off the surviving family members. He had left the hospital and hidden in his apartment for two days.
Hannibal knew his abilities had been increasing and expanding since the night he died (again). He also thought his reflexes had gotten a bit better--faster and smoother. He'd spent several weeks adjusting to that change; having to watch what he did as to not draw attention to himself.
He'd talked to his one of his contacts within the vampire hunter world to see if he could learn anything about the biker dude who stabbed him. He learned the man's name was Blade and that he was an angry self-righteous bastard. Blade was apparently believed to be a hybrid human-vampire born when his pregnant mother had been attacked and bitten by a vampire. Hannibal didn't know a lot about biology but something about that seemed a little off to him. Maybe Blade was like him, after a fashion, possessed a recessive trait that had been turned on. The man could have been a sentinel if it hadn't been for the kill first, never ask questions attitude. He'd been able to use his own gifts to avoid several run-ins with Blade. From what Hannibal had been able to sense, Blade didn't have a high sense of morality, liked killing, and didn't have a problem using others to get the results he wanted.
The few human hunters that still existed, after the incident with a group calling themselves the Nightstalkers, stayed as far away from Blade as they could. Three of the Nightstalkers' members had been found dead with their throats ripped out. It was the first time Hannibal remembered a vampire crime scene not having been whitewashed. He guessed that it was supposed to serve as some sort of sign to other hunters. A Doctor Anna Sommerfield and her daughter, Zoe, had been reported missing. Worse yet, their leader, Abigail Whistler, had been turned.
Word on the street was Abigail made for a bad ass vampire who knew all the human hunters' tricks. Though someone was tightly holding her leash and, for now, she was obeying. Hannibal didn't know if the person who was holding her leash was related to everything going on with him, but he could only imagine that once she broke free there would be quite a few less vampires in the world.
He turned them to dust before he could get a name and resorted to calling Miles for help. The conversation with Miles had been interesting.
"They're getting a bit uppity here as well," Miles had told him. "We've taken to policing our own a little stricter, but Danica's making a name for herself. Her reach is getting further and further. She'll go after anyone who opposes her because there's no one as old who dares challenge her."
"Are you safe?"
Miles made a sound that was half laugh, half dismissal. "It matters not, Hannibal, Fate will see me to where I need to be."
In his head, Hannibal repeated what he heard Miles say before asking his next question. "Miles, what do you know about Ananke or the Moirai, sentinels, and guides?"
For a minute Hannibal thought the line had gone dead as only silence answered him. "Why do you ask?" Miles asked softly.
"I, umm," Hannibal started only to realize what he had to say was a lot harder than he thought. Harder because it sounded crazy and because he wasn't sure he wanted to tell anyone. "I may have met her once," he finally answered.
"I knew there was something different about you when we first met. Everything in me told me you weren't to be snacked on."
"Umm, thanks. I think."
Miles sighed. "It's a good thing, Hannibal. Just not as common these days as when I was child. Fate is fickle; about as much as you are."
Hannibal made a face into the phone. He was not fickle, but even he couldn't make himself believe that.
"It was said, that Lady Fate's second job was to care for the guardians. The protectors of the village and its spirit. The guardians would seek out their other half and together they were one. While the two can work apart, they are always stronger together. Lady Fate would always bring true pairs together on the blood moon, a lunar eclipse nowadays."
Hannibal died during the last lunar eclipse. He didn't think that was coincidental either. He flipped through the calendar on his desk. The next one was in less than a month. Miles was still talking but Hannibal had stopped listening. He had less than thirty days to find Drake. He didn't think he would get another try after that.
"But," Miles continued. "Please tell me you are not a sentinel, Hannibal. Hannibal are you listening to me? Danica has her people hunting down and killing anyone that might possess those traits. One of the old rumors was that she traded her guide and all sentinels for eternal life but that a guide would cause her downfall. She's obsessed to the point of insanity."
"Not a sentinel," Hannibal answered; and he had a funny feeling he knew how that rumor began.
"Oh, good. That's...shit," there was what sounded like more cursing. Hannibal might not be able to understand the language but cursing sounded about the same in most languages. "Even worse," Miles finally finished in English. "You're a guide. Of course you are. That explains so much."
"Miles," Hannibal said more calmly than he felt. "What do you know..."
"No, no more of those questions. They can get you killed, Hannibal."
"...about Draqu?" Hannibal finished using the pronunciation as he had in the spirit walk.
“Especially that one,” Miles muttered. There was more cursing on the other end of the phone. Hannibal was almost positive that there was a second voice on the other side of the line and that it was female. The next thing he knew he was talking to both Miles and his wife. He hadn't known Miles was married; and for almost seven centuries at that.
She told him the story he already knew. The king had lost his soul mate and vampires had lost the ability to walk in the sun. That he buried himself into the earth in hopes that his true love would return. If Hannibal hadn't known better he would have called it a fairytale.
The last thing Miles told him before hanging up was, "It's you, have you tried throwing a dart at a map. It worked for you before. And please, just be careful, my friend."
Hannibal glared at the world map that hung from the wall to his left. He closed his eyes, picked up the dart and sent it hurtling toward the map. Two days later he was on a plane to Europe.
He took a taxi immediately to his hotel and fell into much needed sleep. He dreamed. Dreamed that he was wrapped around a strong body. He felt protected, loved, and balanced. When he woke his cock was hard, red, and only took a simple touch before he was coming with a shout he muffled by covering his mouth with his other arm.
It took several minutes for his breathing to normal out and his body to stop shaking. For the briefest of moments it had felt like he wasn't alone. If this was a scene of things to come once he found Drake, Hannibal was both excited and worried.
Hannibal climbed out of the jeep and looked around. There was nothing for miles, even pulling out a pair of binoculars only brought more sand in rolling hills into view. He had enough supplies for two, maybe three more days, before he had to start worrying about not having enough to get back to civilization.
That's when he felt it; the wind began to shift, increasing in strength as the temperature started to fall. Hannibal felt the first drop, then another. It was a storm of rain, wind and sand. He quickly tightened the covering over the hood of the jeep that kept the sand out of the engine before climbing into the vehicle and its relative safety.
The jeep was pelted with the wind, rain, and sand and rocked with the movement of the storm. Sometime in the middle of the storm Hannibal feel asleep.
"You promised," a voice called to him.
"I'm almost there," he called back.
Hannibal bolted awake with that memory and knew that for some reason time was running out fast. Faster, somehow, than just the next eclipse's arrival.
Climbing out of the jeep, the air still cool from the storm, Hannibal was relieved to see that the jeep wasn't buried. If anything it looked like a road had been swept into existence.
"Okay, Ana, let's see where you are taking me," he said, climbing back into the jeep and following the new path that seemed to head deeper into the desert.
Almost two hours later Hannibal crested a small dune and slammed on the brakes. The path continued between two taller dunes that seemed to rest against a long stone ridge that jutted out of the sand. He counted to ten and then took his foot off the brake and continued to slowly drive forward. As he got closer to the stone ridge he recognized its shape as the upper portion of the ziggurat from his dream. Any carvings on the surface had long been eroded away by sandstorms and time. Though, he could make out slits in the stone work which had probably once been windows but he wasn't sure if that meant there would be breathable air and light or not.
He followed the path until it narrowed and the only possible way to continue was on foot. When he turned to look back the way he had come, the path was gone.
"That better not be a sign that this was a one way trip," he commented softly not expecting an answer and already opening the back of the jeep to pull out a hiking pack. He rearranged all the supplies so he could add extra water and food before taking one of the bottles and drinking it down along with finishing off two protein bars. He didn't know if he'd be coming back this way; or even if the jeep would still be here when things were all said and done.
Hannibal followed the ever narrowing path as it edged around the structure and the ground began to slope downward. He was considering turning around when the path and slope angled sharply to the left and stopped. "Dead end," he muttered, reaching to scratch at his chest and the mark that was hidden under his shirt.
A strange wind had started to pick up and Hannibal noticed that the sand was swirling back along the path, as if filling it in. Lifting his hand he ran it across the stone wall. There had to be something there; his sixth sense was screaming at him. His fingers scraped against several divots in a column of stones that had been stacked differently from the rest in this area. Just as he was getting ready to push he heard a familiar sound that he thought was out of place.
He shielded his eyes and looked up. A helicopter was coming towards the ziggurat. "Not good," he said, just as a spike of pain shot through his chest. "Yes," he said, "I get it. I need to move faster."
He closed his eyes and breathed in and out, letting his instincts take over. He lifted his other hand and both his hands seemed to fit over the divots and grooves, he pushed with all his strength. At first nothing happened and he pushed harder. "I made a promise," he said to the wall. "So open already."
The wall gave an inch and then another until Hannibal could just squeeze through. The moment he was inside the wall pushed back into place. Hannibal realized a couple of things right away. The jeep and his path were probably gone. That the tunnel was dark and when he switched on his camping lantern it confirmed that this was a one way door and the exit was elsewhere.
He swung the light to the left and then to the right. He made a step to the right and then changed his mind and went to the left. The air was thick but he could see tiny cracks in the walls and hear the wind outside. He followed the corridor to a set of stairs that only led up. "Up it is," he breathed out.
The higher he went the cleaner the air was but he knew Drake was buried in the sand; buried in the form of his mother's people that would protect him during his long slumber. Hannibal came out on a landing that was high enough that he could see the windows cut into the stone. He was about to turn down the first corridor on the right but stopped when he heard voices.
"Your sister's insane," a female voice said.
"And I've told you before, Abby," a male voice returned and it sounded, from the way the voice pitched that it was an old argument. It also sounded familiar. "That she is not my sister. We changed our name hoping to hide from her."
"It didn't work."
The man snorted. "Obviously. And, for the record, apparently you can't change the way your blood smells even after a thousand years. I told you to run and you didn't listen. Now we are both trapped in this madness. Instead of just me," the last was said quieter than the rest.
"Some more than others," Abby replied.
Hannibal chanced a look around the corner. The woman, and Hannibal recognized her as the missing hunter, Abigail Whistler, was trapped in the only section of the platform not being exposed to sunlight. There was a slight shadow above and Hannibal would bet that it was the helicopter. The man was only a few inches taller than Abby, and slender with spikey blond hair. The man paced away from Abby and Hannibal cursed softly to himself; he did indeed know the man the voice belonged to. Detective Asher Talos had been one of Hannibal's contacts until he disappeared without a trace. The other detectives in his unit had various stories about transfers, injuries, and being on the take. Hannibal had believed none of them and had added him to his own list of missing persons to find. If Asher was walking around in the daylight he hadn't been turned yet.
"I told you to run," Asher repeated. "To warn the hunters. To at least get the child away. Zoe should never have been on that ship."
Abby gave a harsh bark a laughter. "You know I couldn't have done that, Asher. No matter how much you wanted. I wasn't going to...it no longer matters. We are both trapped now. She will use Zoe and you as my leash and sooner or later she will get you to tell her where your family is hiding."
"She's going to kill us," Asher said, sliding to the ground just outside of the ring of darkness. "I remind her of her brother," Asher added. "She somehow knew about you. She wanted you dead until she found out that we were..."
Hannibal watched Abby back away from Asher. "You're too close Asher," she said and Hannibal could see that Abby's fangs were no longer hidden. "I killed Sommerfield," Abby admitted, her voice full of regret. "I was so hungry and they put her in the room with me. She made me promise to watch Zoe and then slit her own wrist knowing I'd not be able to stop."
"You both did what you had to." Asher inched closer. "I'd rather it be you than her. She's insane." Asher inched closer. "I'm in love with you and she knows it. As soon as the sun sets enough that she'll risk coming down here herself and out of the safety of the helicopter she will; and she'll bring Zoe with her. She's going to sacrifice the child to the beast she believes is hidden below us."
Abby moved closer and picked up Asher's hand that rested just within the shadows but before she could do more the sound of a gun firing filled the chamber and Abby was pulling back with a scream. There was a line of blood running across her cheek from a graze of a bullet. "She will not let either of us do what we want," Abby said, wiping the blood away with the back of her hand. "She knows I'll turn you."
"Abby," Asher said.
"From the first time we met I knew you," she admitted. "I wasn't leaving you behind to that woman's madness."
Hannibal had heard and seen enough. He knew what he was looking at even if they didn't, a sentinel and a guide. Another pair being ripped apart by the madness of this Danica person. Like Miles had told him, she was hunting them down but she hadn't killed Abby because she could use her to control her descendant.
He looked up towards the skylight one more time to see the sky slowing changing as the sun prepared to set. Hannibal knew he was running out of time to find the Vampire King that rested below before the evil bitch took something else from him. He backed around the corner and headed down the passageway he had been aiming for before he was distracted by the voices.
"It's time," Hannibal whispered, choosing corridors and staircases on instinct as he moved deeper into the ziggurat. "It's time for you to wake," he said. "It's time for us to finally meet."
The figure roared and reached for a second chain and the rest of the sand began to swirl away to reveal a set of stairs. As the figure climbed from the pit, it once again began to fill with sand. He stood there for a moment and breathed in air that was thick but nonetheless the first breaths he had taken in a long time. He moved out of the hidden sleep chamber into an antechamber that would lead him to the surface. He knew time had passed as the pots that would have contained water were cracked and dry and the cloth that had made up his clothes while in his more human form crumbled at his mere touch.
He moved out of the first antechamber into another and down a hall toward another chamber. Inside he found a man he did not know and who was not his guide. He rolled and stretched his neck. His jaw splitting slightly. The man was not alive, dressed all in black and carrying some sort of helmet.
"The King," the man began, dropping the helmet and bringing a device towards his mouth. "She will be happy."
This was one of the creatures his madness had borne in some of his own people when he cursed the world into darkness. He was hungry and the blood in this man's veins would do even if it smelled of deterioration. Before the man even had a chance to speak again or finish raising the device to his mouth the man had become a dried out husk that turned to ash as the husk was dropped to the ground.
He knew not how long he had slept but this cursed one had barely sated his hunger. He craved more. He was hungry and yet a voice called to him to not strike out at the first human he came upon.
A noise, a beating heart which meant fresh sustenance, had him turning around. This time his ghost was standing in front of him. He smelled of sweat, of life, and spice.
"Are you real?" the King asked, his body aching from his long slumber and his heart quickening as senses latched onto the one thing that had been missing from his life. "Is it finally time?"
"I am," the man breathed out, shrugging out of the bag he carried on his back and lowered the torch in his hand to the ground. He removed the layers of cloth to bare his chest and the mark that was so similar to his own.
"It is," his guide answered.
"I waited," he said, his senses solely focusing on the man in front of him that he was slowly becoming lost in them. It was only when the man spoke again that he realized they were within a hand's reach.
"I know, Drake," the man said, using the name he'd heard only once before. "I made a promise to you," his guide said, walking closer and placing his hand on Drake's chest. "To find you, if you slept. If you waited for me that I would be your guide. That I would find you."
Drake trembled as his guide's hand touched his chest. Brushing the sand away before tracing the mark on his skin that was there no matter his form. "You are my sentinel," his guide said, "and I am your guide."
He reached up and touched his guide's chest, feeling the warmth and soft skin beneath his hand. He started to trace the symbol on his guide's chest with a claw but by the time he finished he was in his human form. "You are my guide and I am your sentinel. I no longer wish for the darkness of pain I once did but for the grace you will bring to my life."
The marks on their chests began to glow slightly until Drake stumbled. His eyes seeing all that was done in his name but it had not started with him, he knew that now. "Hannibal," he said, knowing his guide's name as a voice that sounded like soft bells whispered it to him.
"I just need one arm, Drake. Just for a second." Drake didn't move or let go and Hannibal tried another approach. "Please, my sentinel," he said, his fingers tangling into Drake's long hair. He tilted their heads together so that their foreheads touched for a brief moment and then Hannibal placed a chaste kiss on Drake's lips.
Drake let one of his arms go so that he could grasp Hannibal's head and try to deepen the kiss. Hannibal brought the bag closer and blindly rooted through it. His hand bumped against several bottles and he grabbed two of them before digging around in another pocket for the fruit and nut packets.
"You need to eat," Hannibal said, first offering a bottle. "I know it will not be what you truly want or need and that it will taste different, but please."
Hannibal twisted the lid off one of the protein shakes. He took a drink from the bottle and then offered it to Drake. He watched as Drake took first one swallow and then another before opening a bottle of water. Hannibal took several swallows from the water and then switched the bottles. He tore open the pack of dried fruit and nuts knowing that at least it would look and smell familiar.
Drake ate the offered food and finished off the water while Hannibal opened a second shake and drank it down. He knew what needed to be done next and he was ready.
He could feel Drake's hunger; for contact and blood, but the need for the nutrients that came from blood was slowly overwhelming the budding bond between sentinel and guide. Hannibal shifted his body so that he could straddle Drake's knees and sit on his sentinel's thighs. He brought Drake's lips to his and slowly directed Drake from his lips to his neck.
The temperature in the room shifted, the air seemed to clear and lighten and Hannibal had to believe it was Ananke's doing.
"It's time," he whispered. "It's time the world remembers. It is time we were one."
Hannibal didn't even flinch when he felt Drake's long fangs sink into his neck; nor did he move as the body underneath and against him shifted, changing from human to his LaMagra form and the split jaw grasped his neck even tighter.
Drake drew in more blood as Hannibal's fingers grasped his head and held him in place. With the blood came recent memories. A memory of his guide being stabbed as before, the red moon's rise and fall, of the beautiful goddess Ananke, an overheard conversation that he only grasped a part of, and urgency to complete this part of the bond.
It was the stuttering of his guide's once strong heartbeat that had him letting go; of swiping his tongue over the mark to stop the bleeding. His guide was limp but breathing and Drake thought he had gone too far until Hannibal whispered, "Finish it."
He moved them both so that Hannibal's back now rested against his chest and then he used the claw of one finger to tear through the tough hide of his form, for this was not to be done while in his human guise. Blood quickly welled to the surface and Hannibal was already running his tongue over the wound and latching on before Drake could say a word.
Something shifted within him; made his awareness of the person he held to his chest even brighter in his senses and in his mind. It was like an open door between them and this was just the beginning.
Hannibal's body began to convulse and he let go of Drake's arm. Drake held his guide as Hannibal's body bowed upward and a scream of pain came seconds after the sounds of bones shifting under Hannibal's skin all echoed off the walls and through Drake's very soul.
"You and I shall be one until Fate's road ends," Drake whispered as Hannibal's body shuddered one last time before stilling.
The sound of laughter on bells had him turning his head. He was in the dream world again but he also wasn't. It was strange to see life and, he guessed partial death, overlaid on one another.
"Your body still needs time to adjust to the changes," Ananke said softly. "Though time grows short."
"You could have warned me about this change," Hannibal said, lifting his hand and watching as something moved under the skin. He was only slightly aware that his movement was mimicked by his real body even if his words were not spoken aloud. Though, he wasn't one hundred percent sure of that. He had a feeling this whole guide thing came with a lot of on the job training.
Ananke didn't offer an apology. "There is still much to be done and little time to do it. You must complete the second part of the bond before the red moon sets or Atë's chosen one will be stronger; able to destroy you all."
"That throws romance right out the window, Ana," he said, even as he felt Drake's fingers carding through his hair. Felt Drake's body shift from bone to flesh against his back.
Ananke knelt down and placed one hand on Hannibal's chest over her mark and her other hand against Drake's head. Her eyes glowed a soft red and she smiled as a bright light enveloped the room. "When you succeed there will be time for that, for now this is all I can offer."
Hannibal closed his eyes as the light grew bright and he felt the raw power surge through his body and then the aches and pains were gone.
"Where are we?" he heard Drake ask and Hannibal opened his eyes and looked around.
"My bedroom," Hannibal said with pause. "We're in a dream." He pulled away from Drake and began to stand only for Drake to not let go of his hand.
"I feel the sun has gone for the day," Drake said.
Hannibal sighed. "A quickie it is," he muttered, ignoring the look of confusion on Drake's face as he removed the last of his clothing. "I need you to trust me," he said, reaching up to take Drake's face in his hands, his thumbs gliding gently over Drake's cheeks.
They were the same height and Hannibal knew that Drake must have seemed like a giant more than a millennia ago but now it made it easy to bring their lips together. This time the kiss was not chaste. This time it was filled with a passion that bordered on hunger and need. This close to each other it took barely a step to have their bodies pressed to one another; to feel as the other's cock hardened to readiness. To feel the other's blood rushing in their veins. To read each other's wants and needs.
Hannibal was going to move them to the bed but he lost all thoughts of that when Drake dropped to his knees in front of him. A hand gently wrapping around his cock, fingers moving softly up and down that were quickly followed by a tongue. Hannibal barely had time to process that before Drake was taking him into his mouth and drinking him down. Hannibal's hand grasped tightly on to the strong shoulders of his sentinel just to keep himself upright.
His vision blurred as first one and then a second finger entered him, stretching him before he'd even come down from the pleasure of his orgasm. His fingers tightened on Drake's shoulders as his lover nipped at the vein on his inner thigh causing his cock to jump and begin to harden again. Drake's finger pushed against his prostate and Hannibal moaned out a sound of need that had never escaped his lips before.
"More," he said, breathlessly and barely had to chance to realize that Drake had moved him against a wall and not to the bed.
"It's not real," his sentinel answered the question he had only thought, before his lips and tongue were at Hannibal's throat and neck. "I will stretch you out there and make you scream my name only when it's true and not a vision presented to us by our goddess of Fate."
Hannibal didn't have a chance to argue that it would be him having his way with Drake before Drake's hard cock was entering him. Pushing into him slowly at first, and then quickly at the end. He wrapped one of his legs around Drake's waist and the other just past the hipbone as Drake pulled out and pushed back in, setting a quick rhythm that made Hannibal crave more.
He wasn't sure if he climaxed first or at the same time that Drake bit into his shoulder, that he bit into Drake's. He just knew that the connection was there, that there was a bond humming with life between them and that he wanted to do this again.
His forehead rested on Drake's shoulder as he tried to get his breathing under control. In that moment, the room snapped back into focus and he knew the moon had begun moving across the sky. Had started to turn red from the eclipse.
"We need to move," he said, already feeling the loss as Drake pulled out of him. "They are coming for you," he said, followed by, "She's coming for me."
"You can't kill them all," his guide said, handing him blue fabric. The word jeans came to him and he knew what to do with them just as quickly, but he refused the shirt his guide tried to hand him as he wanted his mark visible for all to see this night.
"I," his lover began, his own shirt half on. "Guess. Yeah, okay." The shirts were both stuffed back in the bag his lover had brought with him. "No shoes either since I don't have spares."
His guide stumbled and grabbed at his chest and Drake was next to him. "She's here. She's come out of hiding," Hannibal said, turning in his arms. "What can you hear?"
"The beat of your heart," Drake answered.
"Yes, no," Hannibal said, smiling at him and then shaking his head. "Further. Above us."
Drake tilted his head, he had never been able to hear as well as he could see but now, with his guide standing this close, noise began to separate. Becoming individual sounds. Movement of people stomping around fifty feet above. It was all so clear. Voices.
"Two heartbeats," he said. "One almost calm, the other quick and frightened."
"Asher and Zoe. Danica is using them against one that should have been yours."
"Voices," he continued, and flinched when another joined the already overlapping yelling. "One that causes my senses to scream out to snap her neck to be quiet. The voice of madness is within her."
"You hear three female voices?" his guide asked and he gave a quick nod to acknowledge the question. "What do the others sound like?"
"Angry and calm, but her heart as well does not beat," Drake answered. He could tell, even from here the female possessed the traits of a sentinel but was now tarnished by the curse he had issued so long ago. He would see about mending the curse within her when this was over. "The child cries," he added. "She tries not to but she is worn and frightened."
"Abby and Zoe. Those are the three you cannot kill, my sentinel. The harpy, has to be Danica. She's, I think she and I are responsible for all this," his guide admitted.
Drake growled. "You are not," he responded firmly. Drake was the one who had cursed the world; had brought blood, death and destruction where there had been little before. And, he knew he would do it again should his guide be taken from him. "We were," he paused trying to think of the phrase he wanted. He had already learned much from his bond with his guide. "Setup," he finished. "A break in the road had us taking a different path until we could meet again. It is our time now."
Hannibal gave him a look and then slowly nodded. "Okay," his guide said, putting the pack he had brought with him on his back and picking up the lantern before drawing a sword from somewhere beneath the pack. "I can agree with that assessment."
Drake looked at the sword then reached out, his hand covering Hannibal's on the hilt. It was one of his swords. It and its twin had been lost shortly after the first time his guide had come to him as a ghost. His guide looked him in the eyes and he looked back. He saw how Hannibal found them in a room of hoarded treasure kept by one of the cursed his lover had destroyed for taking away the innocence and life of a child. How the blades had called to Hannibal; how his guide had taken them, repaired them, used them.
"Do you want them back?" Hannibal asked and Drake knew if he said yes that his guide would hand them over.
"No," he answered truthfully. "They always felt as though I was holding them for someone else. Holding them for you."
Drake tilted his head. He could hear more voices and the barking of dogs. The intruders were searching. "It is time to meet these intruders to my home."
He thought at first, before actually meeting her, that she was the Seer's daughter and the sentinel that he had ignored. The one his own senses had translated into the scent of decay to represent insanity. But that sentinel had been younger than he during that first life and now he realized the decay was caused by Danica feeding from her. As soon as he saw her though, he recognized her.
The calm, serene face of the Seer looked at him and smiled when he entered the large open courtyard at the center of the ziggurat. Several torches had been lit and Danica stood, while Asher and Abby were forced to their knees in front of her. Hannibal could see the eclipse starting. "The girl was never your daughter, was she?" he questioned, loud enough to get Danica's attention while also allowing him to take in the area and the people.
Danica laughed. "Just a cow I found that I could control. She gave me prestige by being a sentinel and the child believed I was her mother--just a babe when I took her from her family. I could use her to bait others as well as guides to me. I led so many down the dark path for my goddess and soon we shall rule it all and the earth will bleed and beg to be my followers. That brand on your chest will not protect you," she raised her hand and pointed, the smile on her face only showing happiness while her voice sounded sickly sweet. "Soon you will kneel at my feet and worship me, for I will be Queen. Your screams as I replace the mark will be so lovely."
"You are insane," Abby yelled, fighting the spiked chain that been attached to her neck. She moved carefully trying to rip it free but when the chain was pulled she either had to move with it or risk the spikes digging into her skin, removing her head.
Danica slapped Abby. "You will pay for your insolence and learn your place or I shall slit your lover's throat. It will not be the first time I have killed my brother to please Atë. The first I have not been able to seduce into bed perhaps. It's always so much better when they give me their hearts." The look on her face clearly reminded Hannibal of the witch in Hansel & Gretel, absolute pleasure at foreseeing her next meal.
"You thought you killed your entire family," Asher said, trying to take Danica's attention away from Abby. "But one got away. A little sister who ran. Who saw you for what you really were. Who became someone else but you still hunted us down one by one instead of letting us go."
Danica grasped Asher by the chin. "I should have killed her first but hunting you through the years, I admit, has been so much fun. Soon there will just be me and you, brother," she said, kissing him even as Asher struggled to move away. "You will tell me where the others are or I will kill your lover. And she will do as I want or I will kill you. The perfect willing pets." She let go of Asher's chin with a hard enough twist that it sent him backwards into the sand. "They will do whatever I want to keep the other one safe," she said, looking up at Hannibal with a manic grin.
Hannibal gripped tighter the blade he held in his left hand, between one breath and another he moved taking the head of one of the foot soldiers and then another.
Danica only laughed again and clapped. "Again, again" she said, signaling a large man to come forward. "Jarko," she ordered, "show this human who is stronger. I want him on his knees in front of me."
"Hannibal?" Asher asked, struggling to sit back up.
"Hello, Asher," Hannibal acknowledged. "Small world. I guess I can take you off my missing person list since I've found you."
Hannibal could tell the other man was in pain and he didn't need to see the bruises that had formed around the other guide's wrists and neck to know. He could sense it. The pained chuckle at Hannibal's words only reinforced what Hannibal was feeling from the other guide.
Asher turned to look at Danica. "I lied," he said plainly. "There is no one left. I am the last. You have gotten what you wanted, you are the last as you are not my family."
This time when Danica lashed out Asher screamed out in pain as his cheekbone was broken by the force and his skin was torn by her fingernails.
Hannibal only had a moment before Jarko was charging at him. He raised his swords, dancing out of the way of the large vampire but directly into the path of two dogs who had undergone some type of transformation for they were able to open their jaws much like Drake's other form. He swept the blade through one but the second jumped into the air and Hannibal had to duck and roll out of its way. A third animal, some small, wiry furred thing that charged at him next he sent flying with a kick. Any other day he'd have felt guilty for even thinking about kicking an animal, but he could feel the disgust rolling through the bond he shared with Drake. His sentinel had never thought his people, even the cursed, would stoop so low as to share blood with an animal.
He barely had time to recover before Jarko was on him. The vampire was all brute strength and no finesse. Nothing but a thug that was loyal to Danica. Hannibal made a mistake blocking a move that had his wrist wrapping around Jarko's arm. "Shielding," he muttered, quickly letting go and shoving away from his opponent. With that one touch he knew all about Jarko on his knees pleasuring Danica as she petted his hair. It was now the number one item on his 'never want to see again' list.
Hannibal stumbled and Jarko used that to his advantage and brought Hannibal to his knees using Hannibal's own blade at his throat. Danica clapped and walked closer. "You look so pretty on your knees," she purred, reaching out to stroke his chin. "I like this body better than the first. Older, stronger, no longer a little a boy." She stroked his cheek and then down towards his neck. "You would have been the most talented guide back then, bonded to my little cow of a sentinel, but you ran. So I had you killed."
Danica looked up towards the moon, shining almost completely red, and smiled. "Bring me the child," she ordered. "Her sacrifice will awaken the Old King. Be ready, warrior mine. I want him hurting and bleeding as I take away his soul again."
Hannibal wasn't sure what he expected from that command, but what he got wasn't it. He'd had to estimate the number of people that Danica had brought within the helicopter--hostages, hostiles, etc. He'd thought a dozen, but with the dogs--he hadn't seen coming, he'd been off by three and there was still a pilot with the helicopter. And one of those three was not who he was expecting.
"Blade!" Abby yelled as the hybrid brought a clearly drugged Zoe into the light of the courtyard. The child's eyes were glassy and her unsteady steps made her appear drunk. "Traitor! You're the one who let them onto the barge? Why?"
Danica laughed. "He's always been mine," she answered as they watched Blade strap Zoe to the altar. "My warrior enjoys the killing," Danica said, moving to kiss Blade on the cheek and the hybrid leaned into the touch. "Doesn't matter if his victims are vampire or human." She ran her hand seductively down Blade's chest. "And I promised my warrior he could help me bleed the world dry as my King."
"You just can't stay dead," Blade said, looking down at Hannibal where he was still being held in place with a sword to the throat. "They say the third time is the charm. I'm going to enjoy tasting your blood."
"Stabbing a person from behind," Hannibal taunted. "You've always taken the coward's way." He should have kept his mouth shut, he knew that and while this had been worth it, him bleeding from the shallow cut the sword made along his throat was not.
"Hannibal!" Asher warned. "Don't taunt the crazy man."
Hannibal gave Asher a look. "Sorry," the blond man said. "Completely forgot who the hell I was talking to."
Hannibal clearly saw Asher roll his eyes and grinned. "It's about to get worse. Just stay alive," he said, as the moon turned fully red.
He saw Danica jerk back in surprise as his voice resounded across the courtyard, obviously unaware that he was already awake. That he had been standing in the darkness waiting for the rest of her game pieces to appear. She would not have the advantage she had thought. Her powers as a seer had apparently waned over time.
Danica let go of the warrior she was all but draped against and took up the knife he offered her. Drake knew he would kill this warrior just as he had last time.
"I do," Danica answered. "I come here to take what is rightfully mine. I shall be Queen and you shall be one with the sand again; permanently. I shall sacrifice this child on your alter and all that is yours shall be mine and Atë will rejoice in the pain and suffering that will follow."
Drake stopped on the other side of the altar that held the child. "And if I say no?" he asked, slicing through the bonds that held the child in place with a clawed finger while the rest of his body stayed human. He placed the child on the ground under the altar where she would be safe without breaking eye contact with Danica.
Danica stepped up to him and smiled. His senses told him she was wrong--broken and that the outside appearance was a lie. She ran the tip of the knife over her own cheek and throat without breaking skin. "We could have done wonderfully evil things together," she said, now gliding the tip of the knife over the top of her breasts. "The world could have been ours. We could have sown discord and misfortune in our wake. It would have been delicious as we fed from the cattle who would throw themselves at our feet in willing enslavement. But you chose to ignore me. Wait for some ghost who hadn't even been born. Wait for Fate's little bastard to show up. I have something better to take your place. He sees that Fate is nothing but a lie. That Atë is more powerful."
She walked around the altar. "You really think a LaMagra could be a sentinel? Could save his people? Blood and death are your people's heritage and I proved that by removing a simple human from your life. No matter what that whore of a mother taught you, your time is over. She betrayed all that she was meant to be for sentiment. You think he's your soul mate, your guide? You think once you two bind yourselves together that you will be one? No," she said, smiling up at him. "It will just make it easier for me to bring the world begging on its knees."
Danice glided the knife glided further down her body and then back up. "If I can't have the child for the first, you will do."
Drake was already moving away when Danica brought the knife about, plunging it into his shoulder instead of his heart. He pulled the knife free and tossed it away as he swept his arm in a backward slap that had her stumbling. Blood from his shoulder wound ran down his chest and the Ananke's mark began to glow.
Danica let out a howl of outrage, it only got worse when she turned to see that the mark on Hannibal's chest was also glowing from the blood of the wound that had been inflicted earlier.
"Kill them!" she screeched. "Kill them both now!"
Destroying the remaining foot soldiers was easy. They were untrained and unskilled with anything but what could be used against a normal human who would run in fear of them. From the corner of his eye he saw the moment Danica's pet who had been holding his guide turned to ash.
As his blade cut through the last of Danica's warriors her supposed king, the man his mate called Blade, stepped forward. Shrugging out of his jacket the dark skinned man rolled his neck and bared a row of sharp fangs in a growl before attacking.
"Once I destroy you," Blade announced, swinging his sword at Drake's chest. The tip of the blade just grazed his skin. "I will bathe in your blood and ashes and the darkness will be ours until there is no more light."
This was an enemy of more skill, and Drake soon found himself dancing and weaving around the area as their swords collided. Each made successful strikes against the other but nothing that could immediately bring the other down.
Meanwhile his guide was going after Danica. Hannibal danced with her as beautifully as he danced with his own opponent. It wasn't until the moon crested and she threw a sword towards the human child that everything became more dire.
Hannibal felt it. The anger boiling up to the surface that he normally held in check. He snapped. "You bitch," he said, swinging his own sword with enough force to break the one Danica had been fighting with. "You've ruined enough lives," he added bringing the sword around again, pushing Danica back with each swing and strike until Danica was pinned to the altar with one his swords.
She screamed out in rage. Cursing his existence while trying to struggle free. "You will pay!" she screamed. "You will die knowing I will destroy all you love."
Something moved under his skin, first under the mark on his chest and then down his arm. He wasn't afraid, he was ready.
"Not possible!" Danica struggled even harder. "That's not possible. She promised me you would be too late. Atë!"
"I've really had enough of you," Hannibal said, stretching out his fingers and watching the skin change to something harder; watching the tips of his fingers become sharper. "Did you forget that your goddess also sows misfortune? Seems that's what you have now. You wanted death and destruction? I'm going to give you yours."
Danica's scream was cut off as Hannibal's claws broke through skin and bone and shredded Danica's heart. He pulled his sword free with his other hand and cleanly swung the blade to remove her head. Danica's ashes floated away on the slight breeze.
Hannibal was already moving toward the pile of people that was Abby, Asher, and Zoe. What he saw was a lot of blood. The collar around Abby's neck had ripped the skin away in places as the chain held taut from where it was wrapped around one of the stone pillars. The blade of the sword was buried in Abby's back and from where he stood he knew the blade went through her body and into Asher's. Abby was unmoving and unresponsive.
He knelt down and looked Asher in the eyes. The blond's eyes were filled with pain and his breathing was ragged and wet. He was struggling to keep himself from falling further towards the ground and the child beneath him.
"You need to move them both," Asher struggled to say. "I can feel Abby's blood pouring into me but Zoe..."
Hannibal maneuvered around and looked under Asher. He could see the child and the tip of the blade was not even half an inch from impaling her. If he moved the child though and Asher fell forward then the chain would pull and Abby would lose her head. The sword also looked to be keeping Asher from bleeding out.
He looked over to where Drake was still battling Blade. He could see wounds on both opponents though Blade's seemed more serious. "My love," he called. "My sentinel, I need you."
He swung the sword with strength and purpose. He knew no mercy for the man who would have taken his guide from him again. No mercy for one who had followed Danica in not only one lifetime but two.
Drake's sword cut through Blade's neck seconds after the other man realized he had lost. Blade's body fell near the altar, his blood mixing with the remains of Danica's ashes. The ashes acted like a catalyst with the blood and the still mostly human body burst into flames that matched the color of the moon. It stayed lit for only seconds before the flame died out, turning the body to dust.
He did not spare the altar a second look as he rushed to his guide's side. Extracting the child was far easier for the two of them than it would have been for his guide alone. He held the dying guide and the cursed sentinel aloft as Hannibal pulled the child loose. She was covered in both vampire and human blood but suffered no other injury save unconsciousness. In time, hopefully, she would recover from this experience.
"You have to save Abby," the other guide was insisting to his own. "Please Hannibal."
"Shut up, Asher," Hannibal answered, his voice rough with sorrow. "I didn't, we didn't go through all this just for another pair to be lost. I can't...please, Ana."
Drake stood behind the cursed one and broke the handle from the sword. It was easy to then lift her off the blade and her human. He gently laid her on the ground beside her guide before snapping off the collar that had been fastened into her neck.
"Give her your blood," a soft female voice said. "Give him your blood," the voice said and it sounded further away. "Fix this night what can be changed."
"Ana," he heard his guide whisper.
He looked down at the newly cursed vampire. Knew the woman had not been among their kind for more than a few weeks. Knew that while she had not known the old tales of sentinels and guides she had been a sentinel in her own right; had managed to find her own guide. "She will protect what you hold most dear," the female voice said softly. "Time grows short and you, my chosen ones, have much to still do."
"She better be right about this," Hannibal muttered, not looking over at him but down at the slowly dying guide. The blond would either succumb to his wound or become one of the cursed if nothing was done. He watched his guide slice his wrist and put it to the dying man's lips.
He could do no less than his own guide, slicing his own wrist he first dropped blood in the wounds around the female sentinel's neck before coaxing her mouth open and letting instinct take over.
A few swallows and he lifted his wrist. He noticed Hannibal doing the same. Now it was a matter of time.
Drake knew what needed to be done. He had cursed the world into darkness wanting revenge for the loss of his guide. He had brought about the vampires that fed only on blood and could not walk in the sun. He had rampaged through his home, caring not for those he destroyed as he tried to feel something beyond the pain of losing his soul mate.
He walked toward the altar his mother had used only to bless new life and celebrate the passing when it reached its end. He shifted his form to human, to that of his father's people, and slit open the vein on his arm. The blood ran onto the altar. "Forgive me?" he asked. "I have tarnished what you tried to build. I destroyed our home because of my loss and I know, into my very soul, that he would be very upset with me should I do it again; but he will stop me before it even gets that far. For my anger will always be tempered by his compassion."
The words had barely been spoken before Hannibal was at his side, hands putting pressure on the wound. "Grief is a strong emotion," Hannibal told him, cutting the palm of his hand and placing it first on the altar and then on top of Drake's wound. "I will be in your mind and heart and you shall be in mine. You and I shall be one until Fate's road ends."
The last light of the red moon shone brightly over the altar. It felt as if the air heated and constricted, pulling the breath from their lungs. There was a pulse of light and then everything turned cold as a breeze rushed from the center of the light. The light and breeze seemed to reach outward, touching Abby, Asher and Zoe before traveling onward away from his home.
Drake felt it; the bond between him and his guide, his soul mate, was complete. After millennia of waiting he was, not at peace, but at rest. He felt that he could be the king his parents had wanted him to be.
He pulled Hannibal to him, sealing the promises made with a kiss.
His life changed when he stepped back into North America. Hannibal was the guide to the first LaMagra sentinel and soul mate to the Vampire King. His abilities as a guide had only grown since his bonding. Combining those with his skills as a detective and he had no rival, save Drake.
Drake was settling into the twenty-first century surprisingly well. Hannibal was sure that was due to the bond because if Drake didn't understand something he merely looked through Hannibal's memories for the answers. It was a shock the first few times, but Hannibal knew he would miss the other man's mind in his own if it should be gone.
Together he and Drake had plans for the vampire community and, thanks to Abby and Asher's insider knowledge, Danica's wealth and estate now belonged to Drake. The estate was an elaborate old brownstone that had been converted to private floors and offices sometime in the past twenty years. It was large, spacious and perfect for their needs once the riff-raff had been tossed out.
Abby and Asher were settling into their new roles in one of the apartments below the penthouse. With some fancy computer work and payoffs Abby and Asher had new lives and careers. For all appearances it looked like Asher hadn't gone missing but transferred to another state and precinct and his paperwork had gotten misplaced. Abby was settling into the role of sentinel. Her senses were not half as strong as Drake's but they were still impressive. She was scheduled to be a new detective transferring in to the same department as Asher. Asher's abilities as a guide were actually quite striking and it seemed that he had already been using them as a police detective before they'd fully woken up.
If asked, Hannibal would say Asher was his second. If anyone asked Drake, the other pair were his bodyguards. Hannibal, on occasion, ignored his soul mate on certain matters.
His biggest worry had been for Zoe, the child had been quiet and withdrawn. But the night after they moved into the estate she had spoken for the first time since being kidnapped and learning her mother had died.
"Mommy told me that I was safe now," she said, hugging first Hannibal and then Drake before running to Asher who picked her up. "That you and Abby would be my new parents. That she made sure Abby would be able to keep me safe."
"When did she tell you this?" Abby had asked so softly, tears in her eyes. Hannibal knew that was one of the few things that had happened to Abby that she could not forgive herself for no matter what he or Asher told her.
"This morning when Lady Ana brought her to visit me. I like Lady Ana's pink hair. Can I have pink hair?"
Asher had laughed softly. "We will discuss that later, for now let's go downstairs and tuck you into bed."
Zoe had laid her head on Asher's shoulder and nodded. That night Hannibal had thanked Ananke for easing Zoe's pain; something even he hadn't been able to accomplish.
It wasn't until three weeks later when Hannibal had finally gotten around to checking his voicemail did he realize that what they had done that night had a much further reach than he had thought. The message from Miles was pretty straight forward.
"Hannibal King, what the hell did you do? I am standing in an open window watching the sun rise for the third day in a row and have not burst into flame." Miles managed to sound perplexed, happy, and pissed all at once. "Also, why the hell can I read the billboard six blocks from here as if it was right in front of me? Hannibal? You better not have gotten yourself killed."
The next message was from Miles' wife and she simply said: Thank you.
His union with the LaMagra King, the Vampire King, his sentinel and soul mate did not fix everything. Only some of the cursed vampires, and there seemed to be no pattern to those who changed, could walk in the light. For Miles and his wife he thought it might be because he considered Miles a friend, but he had no answers and if Ananke did, she wasn’t telling him.
The goddess of Fate had been mostly quiet since they had left the ziggurat. A ziggurat they had watched sink back into the sand along with the jeep he had driven there. He doubted anyone would ever be able to find it.
"Fate is sometimes what you make of it," a voice told him as he glanced out of the window at the setting sun.
"That's a riot," Hannibal answered with a smile, tuning to face the goddess of Fate.
Ananke put her hand on Hannibal's chest. "You have always been my chosen one but not even I can control everything," she said, leaning forward to kiss him on the forehead. "Sometimes I am simply a sign on the path and the decision to follow or not is completely yours."
"What will happen now?" Hannibal asked, watching as the sun disappeared altogether.
"You and your sentinel will find the others that followed Danica and Atë's desires and make sure they harm no one else."
"Others?" he asked. "What others?" But Ananke was already gone.
Minutes later Drake was walking towards him. "What bothers you, my guide?"
Hannibal snorted and turned away from the window and walked towards his sentinel. "Nothing you and I cannot conquer together."
He pushed Drake back towards the leather sofa in his office until both of them were laying on it without clothes. "But right now," he added, "It's just you and I until Fate's road ends."