• We broke through the warring crowds, with my father unsheathing his machete and slaying a few of the pale abductors. We emerged into a wider grouping of the vampires where they were most concentrated. It didn't take long to see why. This was not only where Davidson was being held, but was also the locale of all the human hostages. Between us and them, however, stood a solid force of thirty or so enemy vampires. Dad and I exchanged a worried look. We may have been tough against groups of vamps or lone pale-skins, but we would definitely have trouble with that many of them and so few of us.

    Looking away from me, Dad didn't hesitate as he brought his fingers up to his mouth and let out a loud, sharp whistle. The noise around us lowered to a mute stillness and all eyes were on us. Perfect for what we needed. The sound of shattering glass came from above us and we saw Team Alpha, whom my father had signaled with the whistle, come flying down at the vamps. They broke their falls with the skulls of a few of the pale vamps. The remaining warriors looked down at the broken bodies of their comrades and then up at us, baring their fangs in challenge.

    I brandished my hunting knife and my father twirled the thick sword in his hand, never taking his eyes from the horde. Meanwhile, Team Alpha regrouped around us, to which Sher Khan replied by moving between myself and my father. One vampire let out a large hiss and lunged at us, to which my father replied with his own charge and the battle was on.

    Dad hacked pale bodies into parts while Sher and I tag-teamed a vampire who had slipped around him to try and sneak attack him. Sher pinned him down while I plunged my blade into his chest, stunning him and opening a wound that seeped nearly black blood. He opened his mouth and with his last breath shrieked a warning to his comrades, a call for reinforcements. Two more pale-faces emerged on the other side of my father. Beside me, Sher roared in challenge at them, which made them hesitate for a fraction of a second. Which gave me time to intercept them, waving the knife in front of me as I jumped at them. The one on the left had sufficient reflexes to side-step the attack, but his companion wasn't so dextrous. My knife cut across his chest, in a long but not deep slash down from his shoulder. He stumbled back from the injury, but that was all he did. He hissed and threw his arms out at me. A blur of gleaming silver swept between us and his head rolled back from his neck and his body fell like the walls of Jericho.

    My father nodded to me and turned his attention away from me again. Sher had made it to the fight and seized the other vamp's leg, all but tearing it from its socket. I sheathed my knife and ducked into body contact with the vamp. I balled a fist and brought it up, planting my opposite foot behind me to lend the uppercut the optimal power. I heard the breaking of his jaw as he flew upward from the blow. Woah. I hadn't meant to infuse the strike with that much power.

    The pale skinned vamp landed in a heap a few feet away, but he wouldn't be down for long. Unfortunately, my work was beginning to pile up. Three more vamps appeared between me and Dad. I narrowed my eyes and felt Sher press his weight against my leg in support. I stroked his neck and nodded to him. "Looks like we've got to get serious, Sher." He growled in affirmation. I closed my eyes and focused on him. I felt his dedication and loyalty and it flowed through me like fire in my veins.

    I felt my eyes snap open with force and I bared my teeth in a confident display of power. I felt a growl come from my own throat and I suddenly felt I had a great deal in common with my pet tiger. Together, we surged forward and split up to tackle a vamp each, then once we had only one immediate threat, we rushed him together and overwhelmed him. Sher's weight impacted into the remaining vamps legs while I drove my feet into his chest. The law of inertia took over, ensuring there was too much force against his front to keep the back of his head from impacting upon the concrete with bludgeoning force. That would keep him down for some time.

    It was a good thing, too. Because the first vamp and the two new arrivals had risen and rejoined the fray. Sher and I shared a righteous growl of triumph and moved forward. Which, the vamps hadn't been expecting. They froze and instead of a dual tackle like before, Sher and I charged past them, forming into a furry and tan battering ram that scattered the vamps. I heard my father shout something and I jerked my head towards him and caught the tossed machete just in time to sweep it in an arc behind me, where intuitively I knew there to be a vampire. The reason for my surety became clear as I turned my eyes upon where my instincts already were and saw Sher with his eyes upon the downed vamp. The vamps head dropped to the concrete and the last two attempted to rise to their feet and run. In a flash, I found myself over them, decapitating them with ferocity and without deliberation.

    A loud, familiar sound drew me from my reverie. My father was whistling again and I felt the urge to return to his side with great impact. It was enough to bring my senses back to me. I suddenly realized the human hostages were gone and my father was several yards further from me than he had been before. The rescue had been completed and it was time to get out of Dodge. My legs felt like rubber as I ran back to my father and as Sher easily passed me, he turned his head toward me, and I felt an unjustified surety that he was concerned for me. I made it to Dads side and he wrapped his arm around me, just in time. My legs went out on me, and I felt Dad bear me up without any obvious effort.

    I was incredibly tired, all of the sudden and it was a good thing the SUV was dark. I really needed a nap.

    I awoke at dawn, when the sun beamed into my room. My eyes cracked open and I felt an urgent impression that I was forgetting something. I searched my memory and the details of everything from last night swept back over me and I bolted upright in my bed, looking all around me.

    I found myself alone, with the exception of Sher, who lounged on the other side of my King-sized bed. If Sher wasn't worried, neither was I, I reasoned. I flopped back down onto my bed and suddenly I felt all the will to wake up drained from me again and I drifted back to sleep.

    The next time I woke up, the sun was still shining, but Sher was missing. I yawned and stretched, feeling grateful for the brief nap. I left my room and trodded down the hall to my father's study. I knocked and a butler swung the door open. My father sat behind his desk as per usual, as if we hadn't just a few hours prior taken on a warehouse of bloodraged feral vampires. I came through the door and waited for him to find a stopping place in his work for me. He did, and when he looked up at me, he removed his reading glasses and placed them upon the paper documents he was laboring over.

    "You're looking better, son," he opened.

    "Better than what?"

    "Than you've looked for the past day. You've been asleep for more than 24 hours." I felt my eyebrows rise in surprise.


    "It would seem you exhausted yourself at the warehouse. Perhaps I put too much strain on you." He said the second part without a dramatic flourish, but they still carried the weight of blame.

    "Dad, I'm fine," I assured him.

    He sighed heavily and let his gaze fall to the desk. "I worry that if I allow you to undertake too much responsibility too fast, you might overexert yourself at a critical moment."

    "But, Dad," I protested. "Everything worked out last night, er, the night before last. Davidson and the humans were safe and everyone came home in one piece."

    "Still, suppose I hadn't been there."

    "Don't say that kind of thing!" I exclaimed.

    He looked up at me. "Yes, we all survived, and our mission was a success. But it seems your ability to bond with Sher allows you to become like him, more reliant on instinct. A king needs more."

    "I won't be the king for a while. I've got time to learn how to master the timing and restraint."

    Dad nodded solemnly. "You're right. I shouldn't worry." He rose and came around the desk to place his heavy hands on my shoulders. "You are a capable young dhamphir, and you showed that the other night. I'm proud of your performance."

    I smiled up at him. "That's more like what I'm used to." He laughed and pulled me into him for a hug. "I'm really glad I'm here, Dad."

    There was a moment of silence from him. And then he said, "I'm glad you're here, too."