(A/N: My friends (okay, you're not really friends, but who gives a shit), I have decided to give you four chapters (the rest of the story) seeing as how I will not be able to update tomorrow. Please tell me what you think, and GIVE ME IDEAS FOR ANOTHER STORY. Thank you.)
Jander burst into the room and froze at the sight before him. Pa'das stood, sobbing, on one end of the room. Sarrasor stood at the other end with Korrieana in his arms, a knife at her throat. She, too, was crying, a terrified baby's wail. Near Sarrasor stood four burly men with tan cloaks on. Jander saw they had stakes in their belts, along with crossbows and wooden quarrels. Each also had two water skins, of which at least one was filled with some sort of holy water. Jander knew they were vampire hunters, come for him. Eckerd was dead and Korrieana probably next, all because of him. Once more, his friends were being hurt because of what he was.
"Don't move vampire," Sarrasor spit out the word like it was dirtying his mouth, "or the kid gets it."
"Let them go," Jander said calmly, his tone belying his inner turmoil. "You have me, so let them go."
"What do you take us for, fools?" one of the vampire hunters snarled. "As soon as they are safely away, you will kill us all and get away."
"No." The idea had indeed passed through Jander's thoughts, but he had instantly discarded it. No more would his friends be hurt because of him. "I swear on the light of the morning sun, once they are safely away, you may do whatever you wish to me. I'll offer no resistance. If," and his tone hardened as he pointed to Sarrasor, "you swear on whatever is sacred to you that you will leave them alone. No more chasing, no more hunting. Pa'das will be able to live without fear of you suddenly appearing, and Korrieana will be able to grow up without having to always be on the run from you.
"Swear it, and I will give up without a fight."
"Swear it and give her the babe," another of the hunters said.
"You said I could do whatever I wanted to the girl and the kid once they had served as bait," Sarrasor argued, clutching Korrieana and the knife tighter. The blade drew a thin line of blood across her throat.
"Put away the knife and give her the babe," the same hunter said. He appeared to be the leader of the group.
Sarrasor grudgingly sheathed the knife and started over to Pa'das. Halfway there, he stopped to regard her, and laughed an evil laugh.
"Oh, this is perfect," he said, going the rest of the way and giving Korrieana to Pa'das. They clutched each other, and Pa'das checker Korrieana for injuries other than her throat.
"What better torment," Sarrasor started again, "than to have to choose between your child and the dirty vampire you love. How perfect!" Amazement and, was it longing?, flickered across Jander's face, but then it returned to its impassive mask.
"How could you love such a beast?" Sarrasor said savagely, and Pa'das flinched back. "It's not even human; it has no heart!"
"That's where you're wrong, you bastard," Pa'das said through her tears. "Jander is more human than you ever could be, and has a larger heart than all of you bastards in this room, combined."
"And is your own bastard daughter one of those in this room without a heart?" Sarrasor asked maliciously.
"You know what I mean," Pa'das spat back.
Jander knew he was going to lose it in a few seconds, but luckily one of the hunters cut in, calling Sarrasor off.
"Drop it, Sarrasor. And you are free to go, miss."
Sarrasor backed off, but then stopped to regard Jander. Once more, he let out an evil laugh. "It thinks it loves her, too. How delightful!" A look of shame flickered across Jander's face, as if her were thinking how could he presume to love a living being. In fact, that was exactly what he was thinking. A look of amazement flashed across Pa'das' face at this revelation.
"And neither of you realized the other felt that same? How pathetic," Sarrasor sneered.
"Sarrasor!" the littlest (which wasn't very little at all) of the vampire hunters barked. This one had stayed quiet and to the back for the whole exchange. He definitely looked uncomfortable with what was going on. His hand dropped to the sword at his side; Sarrasor got the point.
"The fun is over; I do believe I'll be leaving now." Sarrasor started to go to the door opposite Jander, but once again, the littlest hunter stopped him.
"I think you should stay for a while, until they," he jerked his thumb at Pa'das and Korrieana, "are far away."
Sarrasor immediately stopped and moved back to his place across the room from Pa'das. He leaned, scowling, against the wall.
"Please," Pa'das said softly, choking on her tears, "can I say goodbye? Alone?"
The leader started to say no, but the little one spoke first.
"Oh, let her. What harm can it bring? We have the vampire, and his oath. Enough's been done to her in he lifetime by this one," he jerked a thumb at Sarrasor, whose faced was growing angrier and angrier. "Why deny her this?"
The leader paused, and then jerked his head to the door, pointing at the two vampire hunters who hadn't said a word. "You two. Go guard that door from the outside." He pointed at Sarrasor and the little hunter. "You two come with me." He strode out the other door, opposite Jander. There were no windows or anything to guard, just those two doors.
As soon as the door closed, Pa'das, with Korrieana, threw herself into Jander's arms. He held her tight for a moment, but then she pushed away.
"You're going to meet us somewhere, right?" she asked, even as he started to shake his head. "Once we leave, you're going to get away, right? Right?" She was crying harder now, as she saw him shaking his head. "You're going to kill them all and come meet us somewhere, right? Tell me you're going to do that. You are, right? You have to! You can't-" she collapsed, sobbing into his chest again. He held her and Korrieana close, savoring every last minute he had with both of them.
"I can't," he said softly into her ear. "Not only did I give my oath, but I can't let any more of my friends be hurt because of me." Jander felt bloody tears begin to roll down his face, the damning tears that marked him for what he was.
Pa'das looked up into his face, recognizing what he felt, knew that he had to do this. With one arm – the other was still clutching Korrieana – she drew his head down for a long, lingering kiss, their first kiss. Pa'das thought she was fair at kissing, but Jander knew how to kiss. He was gentle, but thorough, and left her wishing for more.
"Do you really have to?" she asked when they broke apart, knowing the answer before he even nodded. "But…" He silenced her protests with a finger to her lips.
"You'll always have me right here," he tapped her chest with one finger. "And when you're old and gray and finally die in your bed of old age, I'll be waiting for you." If I haven't been damned to the Abyss, he thought but didn't say out loud. He didn't want Pa'das thinking about that.
"Those are just words. That doesn't help now." Tears were still dripping down her faced, making her already glistening cheeks shine more.
"Go," he told her. "Live your life out, fall in love again. Shed no more tears fro me. I've lived longer than my due and have seen more than I care to. Perhaps I will find my peace in death. Pleas, be happy for me." He drew her into one last, lingering kiss, as sweet as their first and twice as long. And, oh! He could kiss good! Pa'das couldn't believe her stupidity - that she had never taken the chance – and now it was too late.
"Go now. Before they change their minds." Jander kissed Korrieana on the head, and gave Pa'das a gentle shove towards the back door. "Go that way. The little one will let you go."
Pa'das tried to smile, but failed miserably. "The 'little one' is twice as big as I am." She turned and went out the door, starting to sob again. She pushed past the men at the door. The leader and Sarrasor went back in. Sarrasor cast a dark look her way. The 'little one' stayed behind, dropping a comforting hand on her shoulder. She shrugged him off, then whirled to face him, clutching Korrieana close.
"Don't you dare touch me," she hissed. "How dare you touch me!"
The vampire hunter backed off, holding up his hands in a gesture of peace. "I just wanted to say that if that man, Sarrasor, starts chasing you again, seek me out. My name's Josiah Bentham."
"If you thin I would ever, ever come to you for help after what you've done…."
Josiah winced. "Every once in a while we come across a good one. Those fools in there don't mark the difference." A look of sincere shame crossed his face. "The offer for protection is always open."
Pa'das merely turned and strode out with Korrieana on her hip. As she was going out the door, Korrieana realized something was wrong.
"Jan'ner!" she shrieked, struggling to get out of Pa'das' arms. "Jan'ner!"
Pa'das started to sob again, and clutched Korrieana tighter to her as she went out the door.
* * * * *
Back in the windowless room, the three vampire hunters and Sarrasor regarded Jander silently, waiting for Josiah to come back in. When he did, he stalked right up in Sarrasor's face.
"If you ever go after her again, I'll be right behind you," he said coldly. "Trust me, you won't live through the encounter."
Sarrasor blinked and took an involuntary step backwards.
"You're heart's too soft, Josiah," the leader said. "What's one girl to you?"
Josiah ignored him and moved back behind the others. He looked with his eyes filled with sincere sympathy and apology at Jander.
"Let's just get this over with," Jander said. He spread his arms wide, giving a clear target. He faced his fate with a slight smile on his face as the leader lifted his crossbow, fit with a wooden quarrel.