Narain Khan

Narain Kan is a young man from India who dreams of becoming a world class chef. Knowing that his parents, raising three other children (Aziz 13, Zaheer 10 and Ujaali 5), could never afford to send him to Europe to attend culinary school, he enlists to fight in the British Army on the Western Front during World War I in the hopes that afterward he can stay on in Europe and study the culinary arts.

In many ways World War I changed Narain long before the feral vampires attacked him in No Man's Land.

Deep down Narian has a romantic soul. It's ingrained in him. As a young man in India he believed life was a feast for all the senses. It was that romance, that focus on the joy to be found in life, that helped put aside all doubts about enlistment during active war time. Like so many, he didn't believe that war would last long. He believed that once it was over he would be able to make his dream of attending a European culinary school a reality. That's what he focused on when he left his family and sailed off to war torn France. That's what he focused on when he marched to the front passing the carts full of dead soldiers and their barely living escorts: worn out shells of men used up by war.

Once in the trenches, Narain's passion for life dulled. He saw the stark cruelty of humanity that war brings out, not only in the weapons the two sides aimed at each other, but also in the actions of some of his fellow soldiers. Men like Reginald Jameson who took delight in tormenting those of lesser rank. When Narian wrote his family he wrote about the many soldiers he'd befriended but he couldn't tell them everything of his service.

"How could he describe the Germans dropping chlorine gas into the trenches, sending everyone running for their gas masks? Those unfortunate enough not to reach the masks in time were left contracting like insects, their exposed skin turning horrid shades of green, then blue. Water seeped into everything. Most times, the trenches had at least an inch of it on the ground, sometimes so much that it had to be bailed out. During heavy rains, one wondered if they would be flooded out completely. During winter it became a horrid slush, threatening the soldiers with frostbite. Dysentery was a frequent visitor, as were lice and vermin and the horrible trench foot."

It was a life that would have been completely foreign to him in India. These memories that would now always be a part of him no matter what the outcome of his time of service.

Narain discovered what sort of violence he was capable of before and after his conversion to vampirism and it frightened him. So there's always a part of him on guard trying to retain control and trying to protect those around him. It wars with that natural free spirit that he somehow retained despite the trials of his life.

That's why Sophie was so important to him. By the time he met her (a meeting detailed in book two) Narain was a psychological mess. Suffering the loss of his family to whom he couldn't bring himself to reveal what he had become, he was equally unwilling to show what he considered a coward's face to Alphonse, the man who had found him during his conversion, and later encouraged him to put aside his fears and take the chance to reunite with his family. He was in a sort of limbo: Unable to go back, but unsure which direction to go forward considering the restrictions that the condition placed upon his life.

Sophie helped calm that confusion and anger at what he had lost. Her acceptance of him, her sacrifice for him reignited that passion for life that once burned so brightly within him. She helped him understand that even if the past was closed to him, with the right preparation, the future need not be so frightening.

Narain doesn't regret the life he now has as a vampire but he regrets what it has caused him to give up: The people he's been forced to say goodbye to. The missed opportunities. If Alphonse was right, one could live a relatively normal life with the condition but severe concessions had to be made. Sophie eased the pain of his concessions. While she helped him reconnect with his humanity, in many ways their relationship and the relative comfort of his life during it made him grow complacent about what he was. Her loss throws him off kilter.

Before his conversion, Narain believed he would return to his family after the war. That belief often helped him make it through the day in the trenches. When vampirism took that possibility away, he felt grief not only for the loss of his family but guilt for the promise he made his little sister Ujaali as she saw him off to war with tears in her eyes. He promised he would return. No matter the reason it was a broken promise and the pain the news of his death would have caused his family must have been devastating. Worse is the thought that since she was only five years old when he went to war, Ujaali might yet be alive, thoughts of a dead brother (who yet roamed the streets) cropping up every now and then, taking her back to a very sad time.

Narain does search for information on his sister, even hiring private investigators to track down her whereabouts. He's uncertain though what he will do if he should find her alive. She thought him dead for nearly a century (and yet he had nearly a century to gather his courage and contact her). Why open up the past now?

This is just one of the concerns rolling around in Narain's mind when the story opens. Sophie's death the previous year is now a dull ache where once it was all encompassing grief. But a year later, her loss is striking for reasons beyond grief. When they discovered that Sophie was immune to the vampire condition, she became his food source, releasing him from the worry of having to hunt for his food. 

It's what he finds most upsetting about his condition. Narain does not have to kill a host to feed, but he finds it so intimate an attack that he finds it morally repulsive. He also fears passing the condition on to the hosts. It would be condemning them to the same fate as him. Even worse, if the hosts turn out to be conscienceless before the conversion, they could be terrors after. He fears bringing monsters into the world.

But if he puts off feeding, a time might come when the decision will be made for him. Even sentient vampires can become feral if starvation goes on too long. He fears what he might do if his hunger should lead him to lose control.

The arrival of Cassie Lambert into his life and his attraction to her is another point of worry. Dom encourages him to pursue the romance but as Narain tells him, revealing what he is is not something easily done over dinner on a third date. (bit from book about nourishing presence). And yet, there was something about her. Her presence in his life felt right:

"This dance he sensed they were about to begin was easier at the benefit because he knew, or thought, he would never see her again. It had been about the moment. But her presence here, in his restaurant, felt nourishing and he knew he would want more. That’s how it began and then a person just spiraled down into it, lost to all sense or thoughts of consequences."

It was both a glorious yet unsettling feeling coming at an uncertain time.

Reginald Jameson reentering his life is equally unsettling but for different reasons. He knew Jameson's sadism when they were in the trenches. Now backed by the strange abilities of their condition, there was no telling what the arrogant vampire could do. Narain feels responsible. He had feasted so liberally the night in No Man's Land when he finally became what he is. How many Reg Jameson's might he be responsible for? And more importantly, what is Jameson doing in Chicago, and what is his connection to Cassie?

Narain, with the help of Sophie and later Dom, had worked very hard to create as normal a life as possible for himself. That normalcy is now being threatened by outside forces and his own hunger. As he slowly begins to lose his grip on that normalcy, his greatest fear is that he may never be able to find it again.

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