Twilight Fulfilled - By Maggie Shayne

Coastal Maine

It was the blackest, rainiest night the forgotten and overgrown cemetery had seen in centuries. Ancient tombstones leaned drunkenly beneath the bones of dead-looking trees, while gnarled limbs shivered in the cold. Arthritic twig-fingers scratched the tallest of the old stone monuments like old, yellow fingernails on slate. And the surviving vampires huddled together around an open, muddy grave.

Brigit Poe, part vampire, part human, and one of the only two of her kind, was dressed for battle, not for a funeral. It was only coincidence that she wore entirely black. That breathable second-skin fabric favored by runners covered her body from ankles to waist like a surgical glove. Over the leggings, she wore tall black boots, with buckles all the way up to her knees. The chunky four-inch heels provided extra height, an advantage in battle. And the weight of them would add more potency to a kick. Her black slicker looked as if she’d lifted it straight from the back of a cowboy actor in an old spaghetti western. It was long and heavy, with a caped back, but it did more than keep the rain away. Its dense fabric would help deflect a blade.

She could have wished for a hood. She could have wished for a lot of things, topmost among them: for the task she faced to fall to anyone other than her. But that wasn’t going to happen.

As she stood there, watching each vampire move forward to pour ashes into the muddy hole, her twin brother walked up to her and plunked a black cowboy hat onto her dripping-wet blond curls. She had, she’d been told, hair like Goldilocks, the face of an angel, the heart of a demon—and the power of Satan himself.

Black hat, she thought. It figured. In that spaghetti Western she’d been envisioning, she definitely would have worn a black hat. Her brother would have worn a white one. He was the good guy. The hero.

Not her.

“It’s not going to be easy,” he told her. “Hunting him down. Killing him.”

“No shit. He’s five thousand years old and more powerful than any of us.”

“Not exactly what I meant, sis.” James—known to her as J.W. despite his constant protests—looked her dead in the eyes. She pretended not to know what he was looking for, even though she did. Decency. Morality. Some sign that she was struggling with the ethics of the decision that had been made—that she must find and execute the ancient one who had started the vampire race.

Only days earlier, her brother had located and resurrected the first immortal, the ancient Sumerian king known as “the Flood Survivor.” He was the original Noah, from a tale far older than the Biblical version. His name was Ziasudra in Sumerian, Utanapishtim in Babylonian.

A prophecy, the same prophecy that had foretold the war now raging between vampires and the humans who had finally learned of their existence, had also said that the Ancient One, the first immortal, the man from whom the entire vampire race had descended, was their only hope of survival.

Or at least, that was what they had thought it said. Turned out, their ancestor was actually the means of their destruction. Still believing the Ancient One was their salvation, J.W. had used his healing power to raise Utana from the ashes. And the man had returned to life with his mind corrupted by thousands of years spent trapped, conscious, his soul bound to his ashes.

Believing he’d been cursed by the gods for sharing his gift of immortality and inadvertently creating the vampire race, he’d set out to destroy them all. One look beaming from his eyes, and they were annihilated. He’d killed many vampires already.

Human vigilantes had killed even more.

The end of their kind, it seemed, was at hand.

Unless she could stop Utana from his self-appointed mission.

“What I meant,” her brother went on, “was that killing someone who can’t truly die, knowing that all you’re really doing is sentencing him to spend eternity, virtually buried alive—”

“Are you trying to tweak my conscience, J.W.?” she asked, irritated. “It won’t work. I don’t have one. Never have. That bastard’s killed hundreds of my kind. Our kind. I’ve got no problem taking him out before he can eliminate the rest of us. No problem whatsoever.”

Someone cleared his throat, and she looked toward the open grave again. Thirteen survivors of the recent annihilation had scooped up the dust of their beloved dead and brought the remains here, to this abandoned and long-forgotten cemetery in the wilds of