again the dream awakened him, and he lay in the dark while the gusts bellowed at the windows and an errant shutter flapped. He had dreamed he was a wolf who dreamed he was a man who dreamed he was a wolf who dreamed. and in that maze of dreams there had been bits and pieces of memory, flying like the fragments of an exploded jigsaw puzzle: the sepia-toned faces of his father, mother, and older sister, faces as if from a burned-edge photograph; a palace of broken white stones, surrounded by thick, primeval forest where the howls of wolves spoke to the moon; a passing steam train, headlight blazing, and a young boy racing along the tracks beside it, faster and faster, toward the entrance of the tunnel that lay ahead.
and from the puzzle of memory, an old, leathery, white-bearded face, the lips opening to whisper: Live free.
He sat up on his haunches and realized then that he had been lying not in his bed but on the cold stone floor before the fireplace. a few embers drowsed in the darkness, waiting to be stirred. He stood up, his body naked and muscular, and walked to the high bay windows that overlooked the wild hills of northern Wales. The March wind was raging beyond the glass, and scattershots of rain and sleet struck the windows before his face. He stared from darkness into darkness, and he knew they were coming.
They had let him alone too long. The Nazis were being forced toward Berlin by a vengeful Soviet tide, but Western Europe-the atlantic Wall-was still in Hitler's grip. Now, in this year of 1944, great events were in motion, events with great potential for victory or terrible risks of defeat. and he knew full well what the aftermath of that defeat would mean: a solidified Nazi hold on Western Europe, perhaps an intensified effort against the Russian troops and a savage battle for territory between Berlin and Moscow. Though their ranks had been thinned, the Nazis were still the best-disciplined killers in the world. They could still deflect the Russian juggernaut and surge again toward the capital of the Soviet Union.
Mikhail Gallatinov's motherland.
But he was Michael Gallatin now, and he lived in a different land. He spoke English, thought in Russian, and contemplated in a language more ancient than either of those human tongues.
They were coming. He could feel them getting nearer, as surely as he sensed the wind whirling through the forest sixty yards away. The world's tumult was bringing them closer, to his house on this rocky coast that most men shunned. They were coming for one reason.
They needed him.
Live free, he thought, and his mouth curled with the hint of a smile. There was some bitterness in it. Freedom was an illusion, in the shelter of his own house on this stormy land, where the nearest village, Endore's Rill, lay more than fifteen miles to the south. For him, a great part of freedom was isolation, and he had come to realize more and more, as he monitored the shortwave broadcasts between London and the Continent, listening to the voices speak in codes through the blizzards of static, that the bonds of humanity had chained him.
So he would not refuse them entrance when they arrived, because he was a man and they would also be men. He would listen to what they had to say, might even consider it briefly before he refused. They had come a long way, over rough roads, and he might possibly offer them shelter for the night. But his service to his adopted homeland was done, and now it was up to young soldiers with mud-grimed faces and nervous fingers on carbine triggers. The generals and commanders might bark orders, but it was the young who died carrying them out; that was the way it had been throughout the ages, and in that respect, the future of warfare would never change. Men being what they were.
Well, there was no keeping them away from his door. He could lock the gate, way up at the end of the road, but they would find a way over it, or cut the barbed-wire fence and walk in. The British had a lot of experience in snipping barbed-wire. So it was best just to leave the gate unlocked, and wait for them. It might be tomorrow, or the day after that, or next week. Whenever; he would still be here.
Michael listened to the song of the wild for a moment, his head cocked slightly to one side. Then he returned to the flagstone floor in front of the fireplace, lay down and curled his arms around his knees, and tried to rest.