(Author's note: I've written this, a sequel to Wolf at the Door, in response to the wonderful positive comments I've received – thank you all for taking the time to express your opinions. I don't think it'd be necessary to read the first story to follow this one, but if you wanna, and leave some more comments, feel free!)
Samantha Brennan was dabbing a few final strokes of blue to the canvas when she felt the rain begin. She looked up at the darkening sky, without protest; the storm had been generous enough to hold off all day, letting her sell a few of her works at the village market, then return here to put the finishing touches on another one, so she couldn't complain. Quickly she cleaned her brushes and put them and her paints away in her bag, then lifted the board from the easel and held it up, regarding it proudly: a lean, young wolf of silver and black fur and cunning, copper-red eyes, perched upon a fang-shaped rock jutting up from the moss- and leaf-covered earth in a dense forest of dark pine.
The rock was real, as was the forest surrounding it: the wild woods of Panderich Forest, far from the easy trails for the tourists on the opposite end of the Aberdeenshire park. Samantha had discovered this heather-flanked, secluded clearing bordering her property, and had come here many times since. The wolf, however, was a product of her mind.
"You are Sigurd," she whispered softly, lovingly to it. "Swift and straight, as fearless as your father."
Heavier drops pattered onto the canvas, and beside her, her collie Mac whined for attention. She smiled down at him. "You're right, Big Mac, let's get back before we're both soaked."
Siskins, treecreepers, goldcrests and coal tits sang to her as she packed up quickly, careful not to leave anything behind. She was always conscious about leaving this place immaculate. It was, for her, a sacred site, a focal point not only for her creative urges, but her spiritual ones.
Then, of course, there was the sex...
The slope that led back to her property was steep and treacherous in places, but it was one she had walked scores of times, even in pitch black, and despite carrying her easel and painting and equipment in both hands, she moved with a grace that belied what a former friend had once charitably described as Samantha's "sturdy frame". She was a stocky woman in her early thirties, with shoulder-length chestnut-brown hair pony tailed behind her, full lips and nose inherited from her mother's Mediterranean genes, and a full figure that hugged her black jumper and jeans. She knew she'd never be considered svelte, and didn't care either, having learned to her immense satisfaction that there were those who appreciated "sturdy frames"...
As her home for the past year came into view, Mac bounded on ahead, barking all the way, but Samantha took her time, not wanting to trip and damage the painting. She lived on what was once a working farm, complete with cottage, an adjoining field now overgrown, and a dilapidated storehouse that now stored her equally dilapidated car. It, like many other properties in the area, had been sold off cheaply. It was isolated. She preferred it that way.
Mac was out of sight behind the house, still barking. Shaking her head, she speeded up a little along the gravelled path surrounding her house. "Okay, Mac, we'll get you inside and fed-"
Behind her, the sound of the sliding metal door to her storehouse made her stop and turn, spot a man in dark green clothes emerging.
The closer sound of boots on gravel made her turn back, in time to see a large man with a round, hairless pink head smack her across the face with his fist and send her spinning to the ground. White hot pain shot ran through her like electricity as her head spun, and her limbs refused to obey her. Things happened around her, but she felt distanced from them, as if she was encased in a bubble: rain drummed onto her, gravel rubbed against her face, hands grabbed her by the belt and dragged her along like a sack of potatoes. There was Mac, still barking.
Then there was a gunshot...
It must have been only seconds when she'd recovered more of her senses, but it felt much longer. She found herself on the rug in front of her living room fireplace, the coal slack she'd thrown on that morning now lit. She was surrounded by strangers, one of them, a woman, demanding in a harsh Scots accent, "Where the fuck are we?"
Samantha struggled up onto her elbows, moving her jaw back and forth, wincing at the bruise she knew was rising on her cheek, and looked up. There were three men, all dressed in heavy-looking dark paramilitary clothing, and the woman, a tall, thin figure with glacial Nordic features, dressed in a smart dark business skirt suit and pointed shoes – one of which she sent into Samantha's belly. "I asked where the fuck we are!"
Samantha bit her lip in pain, gasping through gritted teeth. "W-Where- what do you mean?"
"I mean where's the motorway? We missed the turnoff!"
It seemed so absurd – people asking directions at gunpoint – but Samantha was too hurt and confused to laugh at it. She swallowed, replying hoarsely, "T-Twelve miles down the road, to the A505. The- the signs round here aren't good-"
The woman, looking like a heroin-addicted Blondie with shoulder-length strawberry blonde hair, grunted. "Told you we'd missed the turnoff, dickheads." To Samantha again she barked, "We want the keys to that piece of shit parked in your barn."
Samantha started to rise to her feet, but a heavy foot from the bald man planted on her rear forced her down again. She looked up. "K-Kitchen drawer, near the sink. But the transmission's gone from it, it won't run."
One of the men cursed. "Jessie, what the fuck-"
"Shut up." The woman grunted. "This is getter better by the fucking minute. Les, go out and check on it yourself. Antony, what about that dog?"
The one Jessie called Ant, a gaunt, swarthy lad with thin eyebrows and a permanently bemused expression, nodded. "Put it in the bin."
Anguish welled up inside Samantha. She had rescued Big Mac from the shelter soon after moving here, had worked hard to give him a better life than the one he'd had with his previous owners. He was a faithful companion, made her smile, laugh many times. That these bastards could-
Jessie caught her attention again with another kick. "Wipe that frown off your face, cow, or you'll join your mutt. Got it?"
Samantha bit back her initial reply with her pain, and nodded.
Contempt vied with satisfaction to twist Jessie's features, as she sat in Samantha's recliner, lifting up some junk mail from the adjacent table and reading the front. "Samantha Brennan. You live alone here?"
For a heartbeat, she thought about lying and saying she was expecting a husband or lover back soon. She couldn't lie to save her life. Literally. Instead she just nodded again.
"Any visitors expected?"
She shook her head.
Jessie casually flung the envelopes aside. "Well, then, here's how things are going to work, Sammy: we'll be staying here for a few hours until it gets dark, and then we'll leave you to this shithole. If you try to run, or fight back, or call for help, we'll gut you." She crossed her legs, making her skirt ride up and expose a stockinged knee. "Understood?"
So many emotions, so much pain running through her, but Samantha nodded.
Jessie gave a smile that never reached her eyes. "Now, how about some tea and biccies?"
Samantha rose again, wincing, even as she was accepting that these people, when they did leave, would not leave her alive, let alone unharmed.
The living room was small, cramped – and painful with memories now, of Mac's blanket, that horrible chewing bone he always pushed under the sofa then whined to have Samantha retrieve for him. She focused instead on the many paintings she had hanging on every wall: paintings of wolves, wolves on hills and in the woods and even at her doorstep, each wolf different, unique, each frame inscribed with runic symbols that few would understand or see as anything other than decorative.
Above the fireplace hung the painting of the largest wolf of all, her first painting: Fenris, a monstrous wolf as big as a bear, with blood-red eyes that burned into all who stared at them. She looked up to it.
And prayed to her Master.
Jessie and her gang were sat around the television, commenting on the news report about a jewel robbery in Edinburgh that afternoon. Samantha worked in the kitchen, staring out every so often at the distant road, but never seeing any headlights. The storm had passed, but the darkness had remained, and even now was swallowing up the light that escaped from her house. She wished she could escape too-
She almost dropped the knife she was using to butter toast when she felt the huge hands grip her by the hips. "Hello, darling."
It was the big, bald one, the one Jessie had called Billy. A huge, threatening man up close, despite the deceptively smooth, melodious voice. "You're a nice fat bird, aren't you?"
She didn't look directly at him, but at the reflection they now shared in the window, parodying some lover's embrace, as if that might distance herself from his violations, from the knowledge that he might have been the one who had killed Mac. It was someone else's breasts that he was fondling now through her damp jumper, it was someone else's rear that he had his erection pressed against.
But then he broke the spell as he leaned in and licked her ear. "You have lovely fat tits. Say it."
Samantha's voice was gone, and her grip on the butter knife in her hand tightened until her knuckles turned beetroot. She thought she'd wet herself.
The hand on her right breasts squeezed until pain shot through her. "Say it."
Samantha's voice was paper-thin. "I- I have lovely fat tits."
He grounded himself against her as he chuckled, and the hand on her breast now descended to her crotch." Yeah. Bet you have a juicy virgin's hole, too. Don't you?"
Samantha trembled, despite the hold he had on her. Her gaze fixed on the reflection of his neck as he struggled with the tab on her jeans, undid them, fat fingers slipping under the waistband of her knickers.
No. No one touched her there but her Master. She took an oath.
She pointed the butter knife in his direction. She would rather be dead than break that oath, even against her will, and if she could kill this bastard-
No... not yet...
She froze. The voice in her head! Her Master's Voice! She gasped aloud.
Behind her, Billy chuckled, unhearing, whispering, "Aye, I've got the touch, darling."
Samantha ignored him. It had been her Master speaking! But He'd never sounded so clear, so close before... and unbidden too, without ceremony!
For what felt like the first time in ages, hope welled up within her – quickly extinguished by pain as Billy roughly pressed at her clitoris.
Then stopped as Jessie called out from the living room. "Get that fucking tea in here now!"
Billy withdrew his hand, put his finger in his mouth and smacked his lips. "Looking forward to getting a better taste later, love."
Samantha disregard him as he left, buttoned up her jeans and prepared the cups and teapot. Help me, Master. Please...
The men lounged about as if they owned the place, keeping their guns close at hand. Jessie, however, was on her feet and studying some of Samantha's paintings. "You have a thing for dogs?"
Samantha stood there, tray in hand like some servant, setting it on the table in front of the couch. "They're wolves."
"What's the fucking difference?" one of the men asked absently.
Samantha ignored him.
But Jessie didn't, lifted up a canvas from the floor beside her– Samantha's painting of Sigurd! She'd forgotten she'd been carrying it when she was attacked! It was still intact!
Then her heart sank as Jessie put her fist through the centre of it. "When my boys ask you a question, you should answer them. Understood?"
Swallowing, her heart racing, Samantha fought back more tears as the words left her. "It's their spirits that are different. Dogs have been tamed for generations, had their wildness and independence bred from them." She poured the tea, shifted when she felt Billy reaching out from a nearby chair to touch her bum. "They can't be tamed. That's why men have feared and admired them through the years."
The men laughed at her words. She didn't care.
Jessie did, however. "Shut up. She's got a point. After all, all of you are my pack, aren't youse? Nobody can tame us." She chuckled to herself, then frowned. "You painted these here? Are there real wolves in the forests?"
Samantha looked up. "There were. The last ones were killed over two hundred years ago." She looked around. "These ones... I imagined."
Jessie drew closer, took a mug from Samantha, cradled it in her hand. "Well, I'm truly impressed... between painting dogs and stuffing Hobnobs down your throat, you lead the most exciting life I've ever seen. I'm so terribly fucking jealous."
Her men laughed.
Tell her... tell them all...
Samantha started again. Clearer now! He was coming closer!
And with that, a new resolve overlaid her fears. She glared at Jessie, and her voice grew taut with anger. "You don't know me. You don't know me at all. What I've been through. What I do with myself-"
"We can guess!" one of the men guffawed, using his gun to graphically demonstrate between his parted legs.
Samantha ignored him, facing their leader. "You don't know. Not you, or any of your idiots."
The men made sounds of protest at that, but Jessie cut them off. "Shut up, you are idiots." She drew closer to the other woman. "So what's your big secret, then? What are you? Fugitive? Swinger? Axe murderer?"
They stood in the clearing, the sky a starless black, the wind whipping through the branches high overhead, the area lit by the high-beamed torches she had provided for her intruders, who surrounded her, watching as she knelt on the ground, opened the wooden chest she had carried here and removed items from within: candles, chalices, bottles, salt, a wax effigy crudely shaped into canine fashion, dipped in blood and bound with wolf hair.
Antony glanced around, visibly unnerved by being out in the dark, despite the apparent comfort of a gun in his hand. "Why are we here? Why haven't we left yet?"
"Because Little Miss Farmer's Daughter here is going to show us how she raises the Devil," Jessie noted, amused. "We'll watch her. Then we'll leave her to it."
Samantha never looked behind her, never reacted, but she knew what the gang's leader was thinking: away from the house like they were, this would be an ideal place to put a bullet in Samantha's head so she wouldn't be found for days. But that wasn't going to happen; she could feel the energies collecting around her even now. "The Devil's a Christian invention. Those of us with sufficient ability summon real entities. Natural, Primal Forces, manifestations of feelings and desires. Like Fenris, the Wolf. He represents a wild, instinctive, passionate nature, untamed, unfettered."
Jessie remained unimpressed. "How very New Age."
Samantha smiled to herself. She once thought that way, too. She set the candles at the cardinal points, left them unlit. There were other rituals she expected to do for the Summoning, but she felt that they would be unnecessary tonight. "Three years ago I was an ordinary librarian in a village down south. I met some Wiccans who showed me my potential." She reached down and pulled her jumper over her head.
Billy's eyes saucered, and he chuckled and aimed his torch at her and her grey bra. Jessie and Antony, meanwhile, didn't seem to believe that their victim was carrying on like this, and exchanged smirks and cold smiles.
Samantha continued. "I found my potential exceeded theirs. As did my arrogance." She reached behind and unclasped her bra, quickly casting it aside and ignoring Billy's whistles and comments about her full, thick breasts and dark roseate nipples. Another few minutes, let them have all their fun... "I read about Fenris, foolishly believed I could summon and control his power for my own ends." She kicked off her shoes, kicked them aside, kept her eyes on Jessie as she continued undressing. "I was so wrong. He was too powerful for me. He took my virginity, made me subservient to Him. And afterwards, I found I was bound to Him."
She worked at her belt, undid it and her jeans, still ignored Billy's inane babblings and wolf whistles as she tucked her thumbs into the waistbands of her jeans and knickers. "And now He guides me, as if I were on a lead. He bade me give up my own life, sell my old house and move on to a better place. This place. He likes the ambient energies here. And here, I serve Him, in ways you can't imagine."
Billy whooped with delight as Samantha breathed in and pulled down the last of her clothes, kicking them aside as well and standing naked and unashamed before her tormentors, arrogant bastards that thought their weapons made them powerful.
"Fucking hell..." Jessie shook her head. "You're a fucking lunatic, out here, starkers in the freezing cold- wait, you don't look like you're freezing."
Samantha ignored her, turned and knelt in the centre of the circle, holding up the effigy, the heat coursing through her body making her feel warmer than she could on a Turkish beach in August. "O Powerful Fenris, son of Loki and Angrboda, bound to the rock of Gioll, I, your servant, your possession, conjure thee on this night and at this hour here, to order firmed affairs with thee...."
Above, the winds howled.
Below, the torches failed, but an eldritch bone-white glow bathed the clearing.
Antony grabbed Jessie's arm. "Can we shoot her and go now? Please?"
The blonde woman nodded, unwilling to display her fear now, even in the growing presence of forces beyond her comprehension. "Billy.."
Samantha laughed giddily as the heady, familiar odour of musk and sweat and fur reached her nostrils.
And then the wind and light vanished.
Billy stepped forward, warily, eyes squinting in the dim light remaining.
And then stepped back, at the appearance of Fenris.
He was as huge as in his painting – but different now, His appearance an amalgam of human and wolf now, His connection with Samantha having strengthened so much since she had first summoned him. He half-walked, half-padded around the circle to stand between Samantha and them, His size closer to a bear's than a wolf's, with a huge head mounted on a thickly-muscled neck, fur thick and ash with black waves. His jaw curled in what appeared to a smiling snarl, pointed fangs gleaming, and He stared at the intruders with blood-red eyes, the pupils black and slitted.
And others joined him.
More like Him, slightly smaller in size but identical in appearance, in eldritch substance, appearing beside Fenris, from behind trees.
From all directions.
Their growls filled the air, seemed to make the very forest shake.
Samantha twisted in her kneeling position in the centre of the circle, looked upon the other humans. "I said I've served Him in ways you can't imagine. That included giving birth to His litter. Not in the physical fashion, but in my mind, giving them wolf images in my paintings, but making them both wolf and human when manifested in the real world. They live now, have personalities, temperaments, relationships with each other-"
"Fucking hell-" Billy drew his revolver, aimed it at Fenris.
Other spectres leapt into view, attacking Billy, ignoring as he fired at them, again and again, until the gun was emptied and the fat man was brought down, crying out as Andvari and Geirolf and Bestla grabbed him by the limbs, held onto him, dragged him along the ground like a bleating stag.