The Last True Vampire - Kate Baxter

CHAPTER

1

The vampire knew of no one on the face of the earth that he despised as fervently as the Sortiari. Mikhail wondered if his torture somehow assuaged their guilt as the self-proclaimed influencers of Fate? Perhaps it justified the murders they’d tasked their lapdogs to commit? Because as far as Mikhail was concerned, the only thing the slayer had accomplished was to further enrage an already-rabid beast. Careful in his technique, the false priest took great care as he made a show of purifying Mikhail’s flesh. A torch burned bright in the dark dungeon, the fire casting inhuman shadows as though revealing the slayer’s true face. He touched the flame to Mikhail’s skin again and again as he absolved the vampire of sin in preparation for the killing blow.

Mikhail’s fangs punched down from his gums and a feral growl erupted in his chest. Pain fueled his rage and gave him strength as he fought to free himself from the bonds that restrained him. The silver chains were woven, it was said, with strands of hair from an archangel’s head. Those lies might have worked on the simple folk who lived in the villages, but Mikhail knew that the Sortiari were nothing more than butchers hiding behind the cloister of the Holy See and the church’s myths. The slayer wore an elaborate gold crucifix around his neck, which complemented his black and red robes, giving him the appearance of a man of God. But this creature was no priest and neither were the Sortiari holy. No, the members of this secret society were nothing more than zealots with the resources they required to further their cause thanks to the wealth of the church.

Weakened from a fortnight of torture and starved of blood, Mikhail swayed on his feet, the silver chains the only things holding him upright. Once a proud warrior, he’d been reduced to a bloodied mass of flesh and raw nerves. How he wanted to sink his fangs into his enemy’s throat and rejoice in the warmth of the slayer’s blood as it flowed over his tongue. He ached for vengeance, for the opportunity to deliver justice to the bastards who’d all but annihilated an entire race. Mikhail thrashed against his bonds, strained at the heavy length of silver that weighed him down and stole his strength. Endless black swallowed the whites of the slayer’s eyes until no color remained and he laughed. A sound that grated in Mikhail’s ears like the scratch of metal on metal.

The slayer paused in his ministrations, a silver dagger dripping with Mikhail’s own blood clenched tight in his fist. “By the will of Fate, we have rid the world of your kind.” The words were spoken as nothing more than a whisper, yet they resonated with the force of an angry shout. “The Sortiari have killed your females, ripped the wombs from their wretched bodies, and burned the abominations growing inside of them in sacred flames. Your warriors are gone, torn limb from limb, their black hearts speared, and the pieces buried in consecrated ground.”

His breath hot and reeking of rancid flesh, the slayer spoke close to Mikhail’s face. A monster stood in this cold, dank dungeon, but it wasn’t the vampire. As the creature in the guise of a human sliced the blade across Mikhail’s torso, cutting away great sheets of his flesh, he saw a glimpse of the beast that simmered beneath the slayer’s skin. Berserker. He could almost laugh at the folly of the church for allying themselves with the Sortiari. Employing the very creatures they sought to vanquish. As pain clouded