So, this is what you do when I’m gone?
Baldr chuckled as he stared through the glass and sipped his drink.As if you care what I do. As long as the work is done...
You’re right. Okay, what I’m about to say is going to shock you. You probably won’t even believe me, but, well...
Just say it, Hel. Like tearing off a bandage that’s stuck to your wound. What’s up with you? You sound different.
That’s an image I didn’t need. Different how? Never mind. I’m not the Hel you know. I’m from the future.Émilien and I—
Wait a minute. I can believe the time traveling part, but you with your ex-husband? Really? What kind of fool do you take me for?
A protective fool. I can’t tell you why we joined forces, but it’s bad, Baldr. Really bad. And after what just happened, it’s gotten worse. I don’t know what to do.She heard his sharp inhale and said a quick prayer to any god listening that he would come up with a solution.
You are definitelynotthe Hel I know. You sound softer. Forgive the verbiage, but not so cold. Now, tell me what happened.
Émilien brought me to a cave he knew, and we found an abandoned wolf pup inside. Émilien made him a bed where he promptly fell asleep. After eating, we settled down to get some sleep too. I must have dozed off for only a second or two when I heard a noise. When I opened my eyes, I saw a bulbous body floating in front of Émilien. The creature injected something into him. He’s—She swallowed the panicked sob she knew Baldr would hear and continued.Émilien collapsed. He doesn’t know if it’s poison or something worse.
And the wolf? Where is he?
Hel glanced over at the pup. He lay curled up in a ball against the outer edge of the rounded bed. His head rested on his back flank, his hind paws and tail tucked underneath him and weren’t visible. He was a small gray puff of hair but so cute. She scowled. Until he turned into some kind of bloated imp or whatever he was.
He is here, sleeping and looking adorable and cuddly...the rotten scoundrel.
Show me the wolf.
She pictured the pup in her mind, enlarging their connection, so he could see through her eyes as she stared at the ball of fur.
Try not to wake him. Carefully raise one of his eyelids.
Fine.She reached over and with the tip of her black-painted fingernail, lifted one eyelid. The logs on the fire collapsed, sending a shower of sparks into the air and lighting up the silver tips Shalendra had added while waiting for Freyja’s arrival. The wolf’s eye color caught her attention. Mesmerized, she couldn’t blink.
Hel, look away! Look away!
With all the strength she had, she forced her head to turn enough to break contact. Without looking back, she let the pup’s eyelid close and clutched her hands together in her lap.What in all that’s holy was wrong with its eyes?
Well, the good answer is he’s definitely a wolf. The bad answer, he is cursed like Émilien. He has been infused with demon genes, however, what he injected into your ex depends on the breed of demon.
And how am I supposed to figure that out? Ask him? As young as he is, I doubt he would know.Baldr’s low chuckle filled her mind, easing a bit of the rising panic as Émilien’s large body twitched and tensed as if he were having seizures. Maybe he was? It was the constant moaning that drove her anxiety. The sound was so pain-filled, it was heart wrenching.
And there’s the Hel I know. I was almost missing your smart mouth. You might be surprised at what a creature knows, no matter the age, especially if they are experiencing extreme agony in the process. If you think you can wake the wolf and not the demon, I’d say do so and find out before all hope is lost at saving Émilien. And, my friend, thatiswhat’s happening to him. The demon venom is eating him from the inside out, so I wouldn’t put off asking for very long.
Once more, she buried her face in her hands, hating the helpless feeling gnawing at her. Dropping her hands back to her lap, she stared at the wolf pup who, at that moment, yawned and stretched out his small paws. She said a small prayer as he turned toward her, his golden gaze meeting hers. She saw a mixture of emotions swirling in their depths. Without hesitation, she held out her hand. The pup sniffed her fingers then returned his stare to hers, his small head tilting to one side.
She wiggled her fingers and smiled. “Come on, little wolf. We have all had things done to us against our will. Neither Émilien nor I blame you for what you were programmed to do.” The pup let out a plaintive cry before crawling onto her hand.
Lifting him, she cuddled his warm body against her chest, loving the feel of his soft fur against the tender skin of her neck. “Émilien is right, though. You need to fight the demon inside. I know two other wolves who would love to care for you and teach you how to control the beast.” She felt the pup still and held her breath. “Can you understand me?”
“Yessss.” His whispery voice was soft and barely audible, but there all the same.
She smiled and pulled him away, so she could look at him. “Do you know what you injected into Émilien? I need him healthy and strong to protect us in this world.”
“Pure evil. Commanded me to inject. Said it would take his strength.”
“Is there a way to reverse it?” Her gaze snapped to Émilien’s still form before returning to the pup’s.