I reached a hand behind me as I walked backward.
The vampire grinned. “It will do you no good,” he said.
There had to be a way. Why did I even bother to carry a gun if a bullet couldn’t harm what wanted me dead the most? I could not recall a single ward or shield. Would they even matter? My breath came in ragged gasps, my heart raced.
“Stop. Count to four.” The voice resounded in my head like a tenor bell, and time slowed.
I found I could tear my eyes away from my hunter. I looked out toward the seating. In the front row, in the very middle seat, sat Laish. Hair that had once been black as raven feathers was pure white, even his closely-trimmed beard. His eyes were still the deep green of a calm sea. Some part of me knew he wasn’t really there, but I didn’t mind.
I remembered my breathing. Four in. Hold. Four out.
“Now,” he said, as clear as if he spoke in my ear, “remember your true name. Let it fill you with its whole meaning.” He recited our last session together. “When that energy has filled you and set you alight, focus it like a beam at your foe. Nothing can stand before the light that shines forth from the Living.”
The memory glowed at my core and spread outward until it reached my limbs.
The vampire leapt!
I threw both hands in front of me, and focused my shout into physical force. A flash of light, as bright and hot as any lightning bolt, split the air between us, and I flew backward. My heels clipped the top of the bench, and my body slammed into the heavy curtains separating backstage from front. I curled into a ball. My ears rang. People screamed. Fire alarms were going off. Water poured from the ceiling, soaking me. The curtain fell, knocking the remaining breath out of me. I struggled against it for a moment, but all my strength was gone. I curled tighter and waited.
Loud grunts, and the fabric was heaved away. Warm hands grabbed me, scooping me against a massive chest. My consciousness faded to the sounds of a deep, hearty laugh.
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