An excerpt from the upcoming release.
The armies of the Third Reich's advance were exceeding everyone’s expectations. They were destroying everything in their path. The Russians appeared powerless to stop the onslaught. There were the occasional minor battles won, but on the grand scale, they were losing.
On the opening day of Barbarossa they lost over two thousand planes and countless amounts of equipment and supplies. To date, over two million soldiers were missing, dead or POW’s. The prospects of stopping the advancing German armies were looking grim. Stalin gave the order to relocate the manufacturing plants to the east side of the Urals. He knew they would need a future manufacturing base they couldn't turn the tide of the advancing invaders.
As planned, Himmler sent in his security troops to start rounding up the untermenshen of Eastern Europe. Those who were not directly executed on the spot, found themselves on trains or trucks being shipped west to the camps in Poland under the auspicious they were going to a better life.
* * *
Life for the Romanovs and Boirarskys returned to normal over the last two months. The old agreement between the clans was re-instated. At times it was difficult for Jacub to provide the required people but he managed. The new Colonel, Kurt Von Reichenau paid Jacub little mind. He made it clear when he took the post that Jacub Polasky oversaw all economic and domestic issues for the new protectorate. Jacub would see to it that the plantings, foresting and harvest went on without a hitch. The Reich needed an enormous amount of food for the residents of Germany. The colonel had more pressing matters to attend to north of town, but would keep a close eye on Jacub's activities. If he failed the colonel, he would find himself on a work detail.
* * *
“Good morning Jacub. I gather everything is well in town?” queried Kirilli.
“As well as possible Kirilli.” his tone disguised concern. Nikoli detected the inflection and interrupted.
“What seems to be bothering you today? The Germans have held up their part of the agreement. We are feeding as we used to without arousing concern. So what is weighing on your mind?”
“The activity north of town has dramatically increased. The Germans have built a new rail line north of town. I have heard stories but dare not investigate. I am pleased normalcy has returned to town, but the rumors swirling around are very disconcerting.”
“Why would that be of concern?” asked Nikoli.
“The trains going to the brewery are carrying people from the lands the Germans are rapidly conquering in Eastern Europe.”
“I do not see concern for that. They are probably bringing them to work on the old brewery. I feel you are causing yourself too much concern.” declared Nikoli in his hard tone.
“Nikoli.” pressed Jacub, “What could the Germans be building that requires bringing in five-thousand people a month?” The number shocked both he and Kirilli. “Five-thousand a month?” asked Kirilli.
“Yes, that is what I said. I cannot verify the numbers but those are the rumors I’m hearing. I’ve also noticed the amount of military trains has greatly reduced but there are at least two trains per week carrying heavy equipment and building supplies on the new spur built back in the spring. Whatever they are up to has a sinister feeling.” Jacub stopped talking as he stared at both men. They were temporarily at a loss for words. After several moments of silence Kirilli took the lead.
“Nikoli, remember the last train we saw?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Do you remember what we saw on it?” Nikoli studied the question.
“Yes. Ovens. Kirilli, I think it is time we investigate what the Germans are building. If what Jacub says is true, I don't think the Germans are re-opening the brewery. We should take a trip north and see what, what are they being referred to? Fritz’s? Yes Fritz’s. We should see what Fritz is up to.”
Jacub's face contorted with pain at Nikoli's comment. The last time he and Kirilli investigated a situation, the result ended with the death of many SS men.
“Gentlemen, please show caution. You were lucky once. Would it be wise to test the waters so soon?”
“Fear not dear friend,” replied Kirilli. “Nikoli and I will show restraint when required.” Both of the men bid Jacub farewell, walking out of the cramped office into the town square.
A distant whistle from the north broke the silence of the dead humid air. The whistle was moving to the west. Nikoli and Kirilli contemplatively stared at each other.
“Nikoli, it is time we investigated the brewery.”
* * *
The members were called together all except the young ones. Nicole and Dmitri were excused as the she was very advanced with child. Dmitri needed to stay close to her and provide as much comfort as possible. The child swelled Nicole's belly. Her movements were labored and slow. Dmitri's concern grew with her every day. He remembered what his father told him of the coming birth—a forty percent chance that the child and mother could die. If they did not survive, Dmitri could easily lose his senses and commit an act that would end his life. He was determined that he and Nicole would beat the odds or die together.
Nikoli opened the meeting. “We have come from Krakow with news. Jacub informed myself and Kirilli that the Germans are moving over five thousand people a month to the brewery. It is time we found out what is going on. We have also been informed that Mother Russia is reeling under the weight of the Wehrmacht forces. Svetlana, Sasha, have you heard any word from my brother in Georgia?”
Each of the women shook their heads signaling no news was received since the first reports were issued to the extended family. Nikoli knew his brother Konstantin would be watching events with a keen eye. Konstantin swore death on the Czars after the ambush in Minsk, but he kept his head and moved his clan to Kilyzar in order to regroup. The Revolution temporarily appeased his desire for revenge. The day of the Czars was over and so far, the Communists left them alone. Granted, there was an encounter or two, but nothing he couldn't deal with and deflect attention from his clan. He was a fierce warrior, yet unlike his brother, he knew what battles to fight and which ones to pass on until the odds were more favorable. Nikoli relished in the thought of combining forces with him again, only this time it wouldn't be against the Boirarskys for feeding rights, it would be against a force where military victories could be measured and justified.
“Nikoli,” interrupted Kirilli. “If the Germans continue their onslaught, will the partisan groups be able to accomplish any disrupting actions of consequence or will they only bring more grief and death?”
Nikoli contemplated the thought for a moment. The small groups Kirilli referred to were the ones responsible for him and Svetlana escaping the ‘Minsk Cauldron’. Without their assistance in disposing of the Red Forces on the South of town, the entire clan would have perished.
“Kirilli, they may be small in number, but they are strong in tactics. They will strike at all weaknesses the Germans show. I assure you, they will deal a considerable amount of damage to our shared enemies, ensuring the advance is adequately checked. If my calculations are correct, the first German forces should be arriving near Pochinok in a few days. The town is remote and will be easily by-passed. Our friends will wait and work behind the lines. They specialize in logistical malfunctions. No, they cannot stop the offense, but they can harry the enemy and slow the advance. We also have factions in Pskov, Gdov and Tula on alert.”
“How can you be sure Konstantin has alerted them all since we have heard nothing from him?”
“Because they are Romanovs!” barked Nikoli. “We are warriors and have a sixth sense for such activities unlike...” He let his words play out quietly before mentioned the Boirarskys. Those days were passed. Kirilli and his members showed and proved themselves worthy over the last few months to stand and fight with the Romanovs. Yes, he was pleased with the performance of all the members at the Police Station.
Kirilli's eyes bore into Nikoli's. “Unlike what, Nikoli?”
“Nothing Kirilli, nothing. We are a united band. The past is dead as will be the Germans when we place all of our accumulated assets on them.” Kirilli calmed down and let his anger subside.
Sasha let the moment pass between the two men as they regrouped their composure.
“Nikoli, based on this information, what course of action do you suggest we embark upon?”
The question brought both men back to the current issues.
“I suggest that Kirilli, Dmitri, Svetlana, Dina, Yakov and myself travel to the brewery tomorrow and investigate what is transpiring. We shall also take Corporal Schmidt. He might come in handy. Are there any objections?” No one said a word. All heads nodded in agreement.
“Good, we leave at dawn.”
* * *
The morning broke clear and bright. The air was heavy with the August humidity. Centuries ago, the clans feared the sunlight. They’d seen many of their number flushed out by locals into its deadly rays, bursting into a ball of flame. The smell of human flesh was bearable, but that of a vampire is noxious and deadly. Dead flesh has its own characteristics of ghastly odors. When lit, it is fouler than the sewers of Paris or the waste pits in the bowels of castles. Any human who inhaled the ghastly gas fell into an immediate seizure, resulting in their own death as the nervous system shut down. It was Ivan and Gregori who found a solution to thwart the suns deadly effects:
The clans were raiding Krasnoyarsk for food. Unbeknownst to them, a regiment of Reds were bivouacked around the town. They soon became the hunted. Fearing for their lives and the dawning of morning, Ivan and Gregori found themselves obtaining refuge in the hut of an old woman. She flinched not, when the vampires entered, she only continued to stir the concoction in her black cauldron.
“Why do you not fear us?” yelled Ivan. The old woman said nothing.
“Woman,” spoke Gregori, “Do you know who and what we are?” She was trying their patience. She stirred another moment.
“Woman, I shall kill you…” She looked up from her task. Her eyes penetrated both of the men. They froze. In a quiet, feeble voice she addressed them.
“Yes, I know who and what you are. I know you have killed many of my friends and enemies. I know you kill to survive. I know the pain of your victims and that of your lifeless bodies. Yes, I know you too well and the suffering you spread. I also know your natural enemy.” The first rays of the sun were breaking the horizon. “I know you shall die a horribly, deserved death if the sun dances on your skin. Yes, I know who and what you are.” The men were speechless. “I also know how to combat your enemy.” Ivan tired of her ramblings.
“Woman, you speak nonsense. You have no idea…” Her eyes ended his thought. His throat constricted as she stared at him. Gregori stood in awe. “I know I’m old. I know I’ve lived a questionable life, but that is for another time. I offer a trade.”
“What type of trade?” asked Gregori
“My life and your life. I have a remedy that will protect you and your kind.”
“Why would you care for our well being, old woman?”
“Because I have enemies in my own clans. Your attack today eliminated some, but there are more in Novosihirsk and Kemerovo. They shunned me many years ago for rebellious behavior. I have waited and waited for those strong enough to challenge their authority. Today is the day.” She sat down releasing her eyes from Ivan. He rubbed his sore throat. Her eyes were now focused on the hint of light crawling through the shutters. “Time, my friends, is on my side, not yours. If you spare me, I shall spare you on a condition.”
Gregori’s voice strained. “What condition?”
“Kill those who banished me!”
“Woman, we need not your help with killing people.”
“In the sunlight you do.” The rays were getting brighter.
“Ivan, I fear we have been placed in a grave predicament. If we kill her, we die. If we leave now, we die.” He looked at the old woman as she stirred her brew. “I speak not for my companion, but I shall agree to your terms if what you say is true...”
“It must be agreed between both of you for it will take all your strength to battle my enemies, current and future.” He looked at Ivan.
“I bow to no one, especially a Boirarsky, but I shall agree to the terms. However, old woman, I assure you, once we complete the task, I will not hesitate to kill my main adversary.”
She stopped stirring and picked up two wooden mugs.
“So be it, but I caution you, there will a force more evil than yourselves and my kind to ravish our lands. By then, if you haven’t killed each other, it will require a combination of forces to defeat the enemy.” She ladled the cups full with the stale thick paste. “Drink to your fill.” She forced the mugs to the men.
“And if we don’t?” She glanced at the window as rays of sunlight pierced it with an increasing resurgence.
“Then you shall die. The choice is yours.”
It was the most grotesque, vile, putrid concoction either man tasted. Each could feel the sludge crawling through their system. They fell to the ground in agony as it infested their dead flesh.
“Woman,” cried Ivan, “Your treachery has poisoned us. When I rise…” his body revolted the liquid on the floor. Gregori reacted the same. The small room filled with noxious fumes of vomit and stale blood.
“This too shall pass.” She replied with a sly grin.
As they wretched on the floor, she filled two wooden four liter containers. “Take this to your members and have them drink. I’ve stored enough for future use.”
Gregori wretched once more, expelling more of the concoction, then pushed himself off the floor. His skin took on a fluorescent glow. His body resonated with heat as the liquid infested every cell and crevice.
The old woman smiled, knowing the potion was working. “Place your hand in the light, my friend.” He balked at the suggestion. “Place your hand in the light.” He made his way towards the window, stretching out his hand. Ivan expelled more fluid to the ground and rose, watching Gregori. His hand moved painfully to his nature nemesis, waiting for the known reaction of combustion. Nothing. No burns. No flames. Only a sense of uneasiness. His hand was now fully bathed in the light. His legs were shaky, but retained balance.
“Ivan, it works. Look, it works!”
He rose from the floor, joining Gregori. He also placed his fingers and then his hand in the growing sunlight. The men allowed their hatred for each other to temporarily subside. “Woman, what sorcery is this?”
“My revenge. You are the instruments of vindication.”
“Old woman,” demanded Ivan, “Your riddles have bored me as has your deceit.” Her features were changing. Thick coarse hair covered her hands and face. Her face was no longer round and robust. It was triangular and hard. Her jaw contorted as her rotten teeth became sharp razor instruments. Her girth doubled in size. She leaped from behind the pot and grabbed both men with clawed hands. Her breath was filled with vomit and vile. “You will honor your agreement or I shall kill you both. I’ve given you a weapon many have sought and died for. You will oblige me or join the others who thought they could betray the agreement. Nod if you choose to live.” They did. “Good, I’ve told you where my enemies reside. Dispose of them and the elixir is yours. Fail, and the moon will also burn through your body.”
Ivan struggled to speak. “I don’t understand. You said…”
“I lied. Surprised? What you’ve ingested will wear off in a week, if you’re lucky. Yes, you will be able to walk in the light, but as time goes by, if the second dose isn’t taken in time, let me say the results will be most gruesome, for you.” She released them, watching their bodies fall to the floor. “Choose wisely or choose poorly, but choose.” They never saw her leave; they only felt the stale air whipping around them.
“Ivan, it appears we have a decision to make. I vote for a continued existence.”
“Agreed, the vile creature deceived us, but I would rather kill her enemies then have my skin burst from the bones.”
“One question, how we will know who her enemies are?”
A voice pierced into their brains, “I will guide you.”
It took over two weeks to clean the towns of her enemies. She honored her agreement and provided them with the second dose. In appreciation of them honoring the agreement, she supplied each of them with an ample supply for their members.