Last Watch


By Sergei Lukyanenko

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The fourth novel in the blockbuster series from one of Russia’s most popular authors, Last Watch returns us to the hyper-imaginative world of Sergei Lukyanenko, where the endless battle between good and evil is about to reach its climax. Anton Gorodetsky is just getting a feel for his new powers when his boss, Gesar, sends him to assist the Scottish Night Watch in Edinburgh in a murder investigation. A young Russian man has been murdered — apparently by a vampire. But the mystery is more than it seems, and soon Anton is himself in danger. The murderer appears to be someone with intimate knowledge of the Night Watch. Before long, Anton realizes that a plot is being hatched by the forces of both darkness and light that — unless he can intervene — may mean nothing less than Armageddon.


To my wife, Sonya,
and my son, Tema, with love

This text is acceptable to the forces of Light.


This text is acceptable to the forces of Darkness.


Story One



VALERIA LOOKED AT VICTOR AND SMILED. INSIDE EVERY MAN, NO MATTER how grown up, there was still a little boy. Victor was twenty years old and, of course, he was grown up. Lera was prepared to insist on that with all the conviction of a nineteen-year-old woman in love.

“Dungeons,” she whispered into Victor’s ear. “Dungeons and dragons. Oo-oo-oo!”

Victor snorted. They were sitting in a room that would have seemed dirty if it wasn’t so dark. Jostling all around them were excited children and adults with embarrassed smiles. On a stage decorated with mystical symbols a young man wearing white makeup and a long, flowing cloak was making frightening faces. He was lit from below by a few crimson footlights.

“Now you are going to learn what real horror is like!” the young man drawled menacingly at the spectators. “Aagh! A-a-a-agh! Even I feel afraid at the thought of what you are going to see!”

He spoke with the precise articulation that only college drama students have. Even Lera, who didn’t know much English, could understand every word.

“I like the dungeons in Budapest,” she whispered to Victor. “They have real old dungeons there…it’s very interesting. And all they have here is one big ‘house of horror.’”

Victor nodded guiltily and said, “But at least it’s cool in here.”

September in Edinburgh had turned out hot. Victor and Lera had spent the morning in the royal castle, a center of tourist pilgrimage. They had a bite to eat and drank a pint of beer in one of the countless number of pubs. And then they had found somewhere to take shelter from the midday sun….

“Sure you haven’t changed your minds?” the actor in the black cloak asked the audience.

Lera heard someone crying quietly behind her. She turned around and was surprised to discover that it was a grown girl, about sixteen years old, standing there with her mother and little brother. Several ushers surfaced out of the darkness and quickly led the entire family away.

“There you have the other side of European prosperity,” Victor said didactically. “Would any grown girl in Russia be frightened by a ‘house of horror’? European life is too calm and peaceful, it makes them afraid of all sorts of nonsense….”

Lera frowned. Victor’s father was a politician. Not a very important one, but very patriotic, always taking every chance to demonstrate the shortcomings of Western civilization. But that hadn’t stopped him from sending his son to study at Edinburgh University.

And Victor, who spent ten months of the year away from his homeland, stubbornly repeated his father’s rhetoric. You would have to look very hard to find another patriot like him, even inside Russia. Sometimes Lera thought it was funny, and sometimes it made her angry.

Fortunately the introduction was over now, and the slow guided tour through the Dungeons of Scotland began. Under a bridge beside the railway station, some enterprising people had partitioned off the bleak concrete premises into small cages. They had put in weak lightbulbs and draped tattered rags and artificial cobwebs everywhere. On the walls they had hung portraits of the maniacs and murderers who had run amok in Edinburgh over its long history. And they had started entertaining children.

“This is the bootikin!” howled a girl dressed in rags—their guide for the room they were in. “A terrible instrument of torture!”

The children squealed in delight. The grown-ups exchanged embarrassed glances, as if they had been caught blowing soap bubbles or playing with dolls. To avoid getting bored, Lera and Victor stood in the back and kissed while the guides babbled. They had been together for six months already, and they were both haunted by a strange feeling that this romance would turn out to be something really special.

“Now we’ll go through the Maze of Mirrors!” the guide announced.

Strangely enough, this turned out to be really interesting. Lera had always thought that those descriptions of mirror mazes in which you could lose your way and run your forehead straight into the glass were exaggerated. How was it possible not to see where there was a mirror and where there was an empty space that you could walk into?

It turned out that it was possible. In fact, it was very possible indeed. People laughed as they jostled against the cold mirrored surfaces, and waved their arms about as they wandered around in the noisy clamor of the group, which had suddenly been transformed from a handful of people into a crowd. At one point Victor waved in greeting to someone, and when they eventually got out of the maze (the door was slyly disguised as a mirror too), he gazed around for a long time.

“Who are you looking for?” Lera asked.

“Ah, it’s nothing,” Victor said with a smile. “Just nonsense.”

There were a few more halls decorated with the somber trappings of medieval prisons, and then—the River of Blood. The hushed children were loaded into a long metal boat, and it set off slowly across the dark water to the Castle of the Vampires. The darkness was filled with malevolent laughter and menacing voices. Invisible wings flapped above their heads, water gurgled. The impression was only spoiled by the fact that the boat sailed about five meters at the very most, after which the illusion of movement was maintained by fans blowing air into their faces.

But even so, Lera suddenly felt afraid. She was ashamed of her fear, but she was afraid. They were sitting on the last bench; there was no one else beside them, ahead of them there were actors groaning and giggling as they pretended to be vampires, and behind them…

Behind them there was nothing.

But Lera couldn’t get rid of the feeling that there was someone there.

“Vitya, I’m afraid,” she said, taking hold of Victor’s hand.

“Silly girl,” Victor whispered into her ear. “Just don’t cry, all right?”

“All right,” Lera agreed.

“Ha-ha-ha! Evil vampires all around!” Victor taunted, imitating the voices of the actors. “I can sense them creeping up on me!”

Lera closed her eyes and clutched his hand even tighter. Boys! They were all boys, even when they had gray hair! Why was he frightening her like that?

“Ow,” Victor exclaimed very convincingly. Then he said, “There’s someone…someone biting my neck…”

“Jerk!” Lera blurted out, refusing to open her eyelids.

“Lera, there’s someone drinking my blood,” Victor said in a mournful, despairing voice. “And I’m not even afraid. It’s like a dream….”

The fans kept blowing their cold wind, the water slapping against the sides of the boat, the wild voices howling. There was even a smell of something like blood. Victor’s hand went limp. Lera angrily pinched him on the palm, but he didn’t even twitch.

“I’m not afraid, you blockhead!” Lera exclaimed, almost at the top of her voice.

Victor didn’t answer, but he tumbled softly against her, and that made her feel a bit less afraid.

“I’ll bite your throat out myself!” Lera threatened. Victor seemed to be confused. He didn’t say anything. Then Lera surprised even herself by adding, “And I’ll drink all your blood. Do you hear me? Straight after…straight after the wedding.”

It was the first time she had mentioned this word in connection with their relationship, and she froze, waiting to see how Victor would react. A single man simply had to react to the word “wedding”! He would either be frightened or delighted.

Victor seemed to be dozing on her shoulder.

“Did I frighten you?” Lera asked. She laughed nervously and opened her eyes, but it was still dark, although the howling had begun to fade away. “All right…I won’t bite you. And we don’t have to have a wedding!”

Victor still didn’t say anything.

There was a creaking sound, and the iron boat floated another five meters along the narrow concrete channel. The clamoring kids piled out onto the shore. A three-or four-year-old girl who was holding on to her mommy with one hand and sucking on one finger of the other kept turning her head and staring straight at Lera. What could have caught her attention? A young woman speaking an unfamiliar language? No, that couldn’t be it, they were in Europe….

Lera sighed and looked at Victor.

He really was asleep! His eyes were closed and his lips were set in a smile.

“What’s wrong with you?” Lera asked, and gave him a gentle shove. Victor slowly started slumping over, with his head falling straight toward the iron edge of the boat. Lera squealed and managed to grab hold of him. What was happening? Why was he so limp and flabby? She laid him out on the wooden bench. An attendant immediately appeared in response to her cry—black cloak, rubber fangs, cheeks daubed with black and red makeup. He jumped nimbly into the boat.

“Has something happened to your friend, miss?” The boy was very young, probably the same age as Lera.

“Yes…no…I don’t know.” She looked into the attendant’s eyes, but he was bewildered too. “Help me! We have to get him out of the boat!”

“Maybe it’s his heart?” The lad leaned down and tried to take hold of Victor’s shoulders, then jerked his hands away as if he had taken hold of something hot. “What’s going on? What kind of stupid joke is this? Light! We need light!”

He kept shaking his hands, and there were drops of something thick and dark falling from them. But Lera was petrified, staring at Victor’s pale face. The lights came on, bright and white, burning out the shadows, transforming the frightening tourist attraction into the setting for a vile farce.

But the farce was over, vanished with the tourist ride. There were two open wounds with raised edges on Victor’s neck. Blood was oozing from the wounds slowly, like the last drops of ketchup from an upturned bottle. The thin spurts of blood drops were even more terrifying because the wounds were so deep. Right above the artery…as if they’d been made with two razors…or two sharp teeth…

And then Lera started screaming. A thin, terrible scream, with her eyes closed, waving her arms about in the air in front of her like a little girl who has just seen her favorite kitten smeared across the surface of the street after being hit by a dump truck.

After all, inside every woman, no matter how grown up she is, there is still a frightened little girl.

Chapter 1


We were standing in the middle of a boundless gray plain. My eyes could not make out any bright colors at all in the overall picture, but I only had to look closely at an individual grain of sand, and it flared up in tones of gold, purple, azure, and green. The sky over our heads was a frozen swirl of white and pink, as if a river of milk had mingled with its fruit-jelly banks and then been splashed out across the heavens.

There was a wind blowing too, and it was cold. I always feel cold down on the fourth level of the Twilight, but that’s an individual reaction. Gesar, on the other hand, was feeling hot: His face had turned red and there were beads of sweat trickling down his forehead.

“I haven’t got enough Power,” I said.

Gesar’s face turned deep crimson.

“Wrong answer! You are a Higher Magician. It happened by accident, but you are still a Higher One. Why are Higher Magicians also known as magicians beyond classification?”

“Because the differences between their levels of Power are so insignificant that they cannot be calculated, and it is impossible to determine who is stronger and who is weaker…” I muttered. “Boris Ignatievich, I understand that. But I haven’t got enough Power. I can’t get to the fifth level.”

Gesar looked down at his feet. He hooked up some sand with the toe of his shoe and tossed it into the air. Then he took a step forward—and disappeared.

What was that, a piece of advice?

I tossed some sand up in front of myself. Took a step forward and tried in vain to raise my shadow.

There was no shadow.

Nothing changed.

I was still where I had been, on the fourth level. And it was getting even colder. The steam of my breath no longer drifted away in a little white cloud, it fell on the sand in a sprinkling of sharp, frosty needles. I turned around—in psychological terms I always found it easier to look for the way out behind me—and took a step forward, emerging onto the third level of the Twilight. A colorless maze of stone slabs corroded by time, lying beneath a low, motionless, gray sky. In places the desiccated stems of plants trailed across the stone, looking like oversized bindweed killed by the frost.

Another step. The second level of the Twilight. The stony labyrinth was covered with a carpet of interwoven branches.

And another step. The first level—not stone any longer. Walls with windows. The familiar walls of the Moscow office of the Night Watch—in its Twilight version.

With a final effort, I tumbled out of the Twilight into the real world. Straight into Gesar’s office.

Naturally, the boss was already sitting in his chair. I stood there, swaying, in front of him.

How on earth had he managed to overtake me? After all, he had gone on to the fifth level just before I had started making my way out of the Twilight!

“When I saw you were getting nowhere,” Gesar said without even looking at me, “I came straight out of the Twilight.”

“From the fifth level into the real world?” I asked, unable to conceal my amazement.

“Yes. What do you find so surprising?”

I shrugged. There was nothing really surprising about it. If Gesar wanted to present me with a surprise, he always had a huge range to choose from. There’s an awful lot that I don’t know. And this…

“It’s annoying,” began Gesar, interrupting my train of thought. “Sit down, Gorodetsky.”

I sat down facing Gesar, folded my hands on my knees, and even lowered my head, feeling sheepish.

“Anton, a good magician always finds his powers when he needs them,” said the boss. “Until you become wiser, you won’t become more powerful. Until you become more powerful you won’t master higher magic. Until you master higher magic, you won’t go into places that are dangerous. Your situation is unique. You were affected by”—he frowned—“the spell of the Fuaran. You became a Higher Magician when you weren’t ready for it. Yes, you do have the Power. Yes, you do know how to control it…and what you used to find hard to do is no problem at all to you now. How long were you down on the fourth level of the Twilight? And now you’re sitting there as if it was nothing special. But the things that you couldn’t do before…”

He stopped.

“I’ll learn, Boris Ignatievich,” I said. “After all, everyone says I’m making good progress. Olga, Svetlana…”

“You are,” Gesar admitted willingly. “You’re not a total idiot, you’re bound to develop. But right now you remind me of an inexperienced driver, someone who has driven a Lada around for six months and then suddenly finds himself at the wheel of a Ferrari racing car! No, worse than that, a dump truck in a quarry. A huge Belaz truck weighing two hundred tons, creeping up around a spiral road on its way out of a quarry with a hundred-meter drop at one side! And there are other dump trucks driving down below you. If you make one false move, turn the wheel too sharply, or let your foot slip on the pedal—then everyone’s in trouble.”

“I understand,” I said with a nod. “But I never asked to be a Higher Magician, Boris Ignatievich. It was you who sent me after Kostya—”

“I have nothing to reproach you with and there are a lot of things I’m trying to teach you,” said Gesar. And then he added, rather off the point, “Although you did once reject me as your teacher!”

I said nothing.

“I don’t even know what to do….” Gesar drummed his fingers on the file lying in front of him. “Send you out on routine assignments? ‘A schoolgirl has seen a hobo werewolf,’ ‘A vampire has shown up in Butovo,’ ‘A witch is casting real spells,’ ‘There’s a mysterious tapping sound in my basement’? Pointless. With your Power, nonsense like that is no problem to you. You’ll never have to learn anything new. Leave you to rot behind a desk? That’s not what you want anyway. So what, then?”

“You know what to do, Boris Ignatievich,” I answered. “Give me a genuine assignment. Something that will force me to develop and mature.”

Gesar’s eyes glittered with irony.

“Sure, coming right up. I’ll organize a raid on the special vault of the Inquisition. Or I’ll send you to storm the Day Watch office….”

He pushed the file across the desk. “Read that.”

Gesar meanwhile opened an identical file and immersed himself in the study of several pages from a school workbook that was covered in writing.

Why did we have these old cardboard files with tatty lace bindings in our office anyway? Did we buy several tons of them last century, or had we picked them up a little while ago from some charitable organization providing work to home-bound invalids? Or were they produced in some ancient factory that belonged to the Night Watch in the provincial city of Flyshit?

But anyway, it was a fact that in the age of computers, photocopiers, transparent plastic folders, and elegant, robust files with convenient clips and pins, our Watch still used flaky cardboard and string. What a disgrace! We should be ashamed to look our foreign colleagues in the eye!

“It’s easier to apply protective spells that prevent long-distance sensing to files made from organic materials,” Gesar said, in answer to my unasked question. “It’s the same reason why we use only books for studying magic. When a text is typed into a computer, it doesn’t retain any of the magic.”

I looked into Gesar’s eyes, astonished.

“I never even thought about reading your mind,” the boss said. “Until you learn to control your face, I don’t have to.”

Now I could feel the magic that permeated the file: a light, defensive spell that caused no problems for Light Ones. Dark Ones could remove it with no real difficulty, but it would create a real din while they were at it.

When I opened the file—the Great Gesar had tied the laces in a neat bow—I discovered four fresh newspaper clippings that still smelled of printer’s ink, a fax, and three photographs. The clippings were in English, and I began by focusing on them.

The first clipping was a brief article about an incident in a tourist attraction that was called the Dungeons of Scotland. This establishment seemed to be a fairly banal version of the standard “house of horror.” But a Russian tourist had been killed there, according to the article, “as a result of technical faults.” The Dungeons had been closed and the police were investigating to establish whether the personnel were responsible for the tragedy.

The second article was much more detailed. It didn’t mention any “technical faults” at all. The text was rather dry, even pedantic. I grew more and more excited as I read that the man who had died, twenty-year-old Victor Prokhorov, had been studying at Edinburgh University and was the son of “a Russian politician.” He had gone to the dungeons with his girlfriend, Valeria Khomko, who had flown from Russia to see him, and died in her arms from loss of blood. In the darkness of the tourist attraction someone—or something—had cut his throat. The poor guy and his girlfriend had been sitting in a boat that was sailing slowly across the “River of Blood,” a shallow ditch around the “Castle of the Vampires.” Perhaps some sharp piece of metal protruding from the wall had caught Victor across the throat?

When I got to this point, I sighed and looked at Gesar.

“You’ve always been good with…er…vampires,” the boss said, looking up from his papers for a second.

The third article was from the yellow press, one of Scotland’s cheap tabloids. And of course, in this case the reporter told a terrible story of modern-day vampires who suck the blood of their victims in the dismal darkness of tourist attractions. The only original detail was the journalist’s claim that vampires did not usually suck their victims dry and kill them. But like a true Russian, the student had been so drunk that the poor Scottish vampire had got tipsy too and then got carried away.

Even though the story was so tragic, I laughed.

“The yellow press is the same everywhere the whole world over,” Gesar said without looking up.

“The worst thing is, that’s exactly the way it appears,” I said. “Apart from him being drunk, of course.”

“A pint of beer with lunch,” Gesar agreed.

The fourth clipping was from one of our Russian newspapers. An obituary. “Condolences to Leonid Prokhorov, Deputy of the State Duma, whose son has been killed tragically…”

I picked up the fax.

As I expected, it was a report from the Night Watch of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, Great Britain.

The only slightly unusual thing about it was that it was addressed to Gesar in person, not the duty operations officer or head of the international department. And the tone of the letter was just a little more personal than is customary for official documents.

The contents were no surprise to me, though.


On Sale
Jan 27, 2009
Page Count
384 pages
Hachette Books

Sergei Lukyanenko

About the Author

Sergei Lukyanenko is the author of numerous sci-fi/fantasy novels in Russia, and has been published only recently in North America. The 2004 film Night Watch (Nochnoy dozor), regarded as “the first Russian blockbuster,” was based on his book of the same name. The film grossed over $16 million in Russia, a box office record at that time. He lives in Moscow with his wife and son.

Learn more about this author