“How will you do that, wolf? You are one and the Germans are many. We are beyond hope. Go. Leave us to die in peace.”
Anger churned in Émilien’s chest at the man’s growled words. “What kind of man are you to give up hope when so many of you can be saved? You are no leader.” He turned his head, his wolf’s vision acclimating to the total darkness in the far reaches of the large room.
“He isn’t their leader, I am,” a soft voice said. “It has been long since any of us have had hope.”
Émilien walked about halfway through the room before stopping. “Where are you?”
“To your right. Near the wall.”
Émilien followed the man’s voice, hearing the pain in each word. He stopped by the cell, his breath catching in his throat. A large white wolf lay curled in the middle of the cell. Nearby was another wolf, much smaller, his fur a silvery gray. The white wolf opened its eyes, and he swallowed his gasp. The luminescent eyes staring back at him were completely white and reminded him of small moons.
“What is your name?”
“If you are an elf, like you said, why do you have a French name?”
Émilien smiled. “My mother loved to visit Midgard. Her favorite place to visit was France, even before it was known as such. I came with her often to see her dear friend Jeanne Antoinette Lenormant d’Etiolles, whom you would know as Madame de Pompadour.”
“My name is Laurent Allard and this is my son, Marcel,” he said with a quick glance at the silver wolf. “Why are you here?” Just before closing his eyes, Émilien noticed blue bleeding into the whites of the wolf’s eyes.
“I was sent to retrieve the Dark Fae’s book. The one Himmler used to turn you. How many of you are left?”
“No clue. Several die every day but aren’t taken away on a regular basis. The last time we had any kind of light, I counted forty-six. Many since have died.”
Émilien crouched next to the cell. “I can help you get out of here. You and anyone else willing to leave.”
“While the spirits are strong, the bodies are now very weak. If you can get us food and water, I am certain several will rise to the occasion.” One eye cracked open, showing him a brilliant blue gaze. “How long have you been in this form?”
Émilien gave him a crooked grin. “Thousands of years. It takes time figuring out how to be a wolf, but all-in-all, it isn’t a terrible life. There are others who have banded together during this time and have been fighting with the Norse goddess Freyja and her army of Night Witches and their mates against the Nazis. Maxim and Kazimir are formidable in a fight.”
“So, they live.”
“You know them?”
“My son, me, and my entire unit were captured just before they were converted. We were turned several weeks later. One day they were there and the next, gone. I never knew what happened to them. They were good men...for Russians.”
“They are good wolfmen. By accepting their current fate, they survive. One of the Night Witches has been declared their queen, and she created training grounds and temporary sanctuaries to help the wolves adjust to this life. My home in France is one such chosen sanctuary. You and your brethren are more than welcome to return home with me, if you choose.”
White once more bled into the pale blue of Laurent’s white eyes, and he tried to stand, huffing and stumbling a couple of times before his shaky limbs held him. From his length, Émilien figured when Laurant stood on his hind legs, he would be almost as tall as he was, maybe a head shorter, which was still an impressive height for a wolf hybrid.
Remembering the supply room, he stood. “Gather any willing and able to eat. Whatever I find that’s edible, I will bring here.” Without waiting for a response, he strode from the room, heading back up the stairs and through the death room. Inside the supply room, he breathed in the musty air, grateful to get the stench out of his nostrils for as long as he could.
Grabbing several large, folded bags, he began to fill the first one with all sorts of tins, boxes, and pouches. In a second bag, he dropped a couple of openers he found, along with silverware, and three pouches of potatoes, then stuffed more food into his back pants pocket and small bag. He hurried back to the werewolves and stopped in his tracks just inside the room.
In front of him were at least two dozen emaciated werewolves surrounding Laurent and his son in a semi-circle, their eyes blazing with hunger and hope.
He dropped one bag then tipped over the other, letting the contents hit the floor. Picking up the first bag, he almost didn’t get the contents poured out before the creatures pounced, tearing open cans with their claws and gulping down the food. He bit back a chuckle at a few expressions when they tasted the military rations.
“While the taste leaves a lot to be desired, the packets were created with maximum sustenance and nutrition in mind, so eat as much as you can. Your strength will return quickly.”
Those held in the cells the longest still looked scraggly and malnourished, but the newer ones looked almost combat ready, red fire burning in their eyes as they reformed the semi-circle behind Laurent and Marcel. It didn’t escape Émilien’s notice when Laurent gave his son most of the food. As a father, he would have done the same thing, and had.
He pulled out the food from his back pockets and held them out to Laurent. Luckily, they were some of the better military rations. During the war on Midgard, he ate the American K-ration breakfast of ham and eggs and a C-ration of beans and weenies, which he’d found amusing but quite palatable. In his other hand, he had four English compo rations, which contained spam and steak and kidney pudding. Those, he hadn’t tried, and was leery of the pudding. It hadn’t been his favorite meal when he’d tried it in his youth.
“Here, there’s plenty more where this came from. I know you want to care for your son, but he needs you strong and healthy. Make sure everyone eats at least one packet, and I’ll bring back more.”
“Sir, would you like help?” a small voice asked.
Émilien dropped his gaze to Marcel, who was looking up at him with wide, reverent-filled pale blue eyes like his father. “I would love help, but only if your father agrees.” They both looked at Laurent, who smiled down at his son and nodded. “You may go, but help Émilien and do what he says when he says,d’accord?”