“I told you I would always find you, my son. Even Tork refused to give up. So, these are your new friends?”
Drakk glanced back to Émilien and Hel, who now sat beside him on another chair and smiled at the pup, giving him an encouraging nod before Drakk turned back to his father. “They are. They helped me, but I think I did something bad to the werewolf, Papa. I’m sorry.”
Brig frowned at his son. “What did you do?”
“My demon was too strong, and I couldn’t stop him. He put something into the werewolf. Something bad.” He dropped his little head onto his father’s chest. “I’m sorry, Papa,” he said, his voice muffled. “I failed.”
Brig covered his son’s head with his large hand. “No, Drakk, you have not failed. You tried really hard to fight it, right?”
The demon’s smile widened. “Then you didn’t fail, my son. When you try, you succeed a little more each time. I am proud of you for holding out as long as you did. You are still very young, but I am positive you will master holding the demon at bay”
“Is there a way to heal Émilien, then?” Hel interrupted, casting a worry-filled gaze at him.
“Truthfully,” Brig answered, glancing first at his son then turning his own worried gaze to his brother, who shook his head at the silent communication. “I’m not sure. Drakk is newly converted, but the damnable Fae who did it wasn’t very clear as to which demon’s blood he injected him with. I can only go by what’s in me and my brother. Hopefully together, we can come up with an antidote.”
Émilien groaned, the fiery burn growing inside him. “Well, you’d better hurry because I don’t know how long I can control my wolf. He’s fighting the poison, but I’m afraid it’s a losing battle.”
Brig squatted in front of him. “Be vigilant and be strong, guardian, stronger than you have ever been. I cannot guarantee the outcome, but anything is better than what you’re feeling now, am I right?”
Émilien nodded. “It’s unbearable. For the first time, I found an opponent whose biteisworse than his bark.”
Brig chuckled. “You still have your sense of humor, which is a good sign.” He laid his gnarled hand on Émilien’s shoulder. “I’m afraid you are going to need it before this is all over.”
Turning, Brig met his brother’s gaze. “You remember where we hid our last stash of supplies?” Tork nodded. “Go with speed. I do not know how much time he has left.” The demon turned and a glowing pink line appeared in front of him, widening enough for him to step through and lighting up the dark cave. The portal snapped shut behind him, once more darkening the surrounding space.
Drakk whined, his expression sad as he stared at Émilien. He glanced down at the pup, who lay on his belly with his head balanced on his front paws. “You look more miserable than I feel, smár vargr.” The pup’s ears twitched at the endearment. Émilien motioned with a single finger for the pup to come closer, but even that simple movement flooded his body with pain. “Come, little wolf.”
Whining once more, Drakk rose and crept toward Émilien, clearly expecting the worst from him before stopping about a foot away. “Are you going to make me move, so I can see you better? Really? Come closer so I can look at you.” Drakk glanced at his father, who nodded. The pup scooted forward, dragging his hind legs as if they were broken.
Émilien chuckled. “You definitely havepatheticdown pat. I do not blame you for this, Drakk, and understand all too well what the Dark Fae does to creatures like us. I am the first of our kind and have had to learn much to stay alive and remain sane. You will learn to live with the demon inside just as I have, for our wolves and demons are the same. It is our job to make them see that. The memories of those first years are dark and painful. I had no one to help me, but you do. Your father and uncle are good demons and have proven themselves worthy.”
Émilien raised his gaze to Brig’s. “I will never forget what you have done for me today, whatever the outcome. I also have a favor to ask of you, Tork, and Drakk. In case this doesn’t work, please make sure Hel is returned to her home, although I’m afraid you may be in for a difficult time. My wife is anything but docile and will probably cause you all sorts of grief before all is said and done.”
“Hey, I’m being docile right now, you idiot.” Hel glared at him before shaking her head.
Brig’s lips twitched as his gaze returned to Émilien’s, whose answering grin turned into a low groan as another wave of agony flared through him. “I feel like my blood is on fire, torching everything inside me.”
“It is. Demon venom reacts differently to different creatures. You, I’m afraid, are enough like my son that it’s actually burning you from the inside out.”
“Good to know… I think,” Émilien said, his voice fading as his body seized, his back arching high off the floor. He had experienced many injuries over the millennia, some nearly fatal, but this was more than just pain. This was unlimited agony as wave after wave of it assailed his body. Just when he thought he couldn’t take anymore, Hel leaned over and rested her hand on his forehead. The look in her gaze made him want to weep for all the lost time. Time they would never get back.
“Sleep, guardian, sleep,” she whispered.
His eyes closed, ignoring his heart, which only wanted to stare at her beautiful face until the end.
* * *
“There, he is finally asleep.” Hel’s hand remained on his forehead. She was loath to remove it. At least touching him gave her some respite from the growing fear in her mind and heart.
“Is it the stasis you put my son in?”
She nodded. “I couldn’t let him suffer any longer. No one should go through that kind of agony when it can be made a bit more tolerable.” A movement caught her attention, and she turned her gaze to Drakk, who moved next to Émilien and rubbed his cheek with his much smaller forehead. “He will be fine, little one. I will accept nothing less.” Drakk whined then lay down beside him, snuggling as close as he could get.
A glow appeared and once more the area was flooded with a pink light as Tork reappeared with a good-sized brown bag thrown over his shoulder. Stepping through the magical doorway, he waved his hand behind him, and the portal once again snapped closed.
With a single wave of Brig’s hand, a wooden table appeared beside the two demons. Brig immediately began sorting the objects his brother pulled from the bag, laying them in a certain order on the table. A medium-sized wrought iron mortar and pestle appeared from the bag, which impressed her.