Season Three

Episode Two: Dark Territory

By Kittsbud & Tree

Part One

 

Dean felt the two long fangs dig into the flesh of his forearm, skin starting to tear and warm blood beginning to flow as he instinctively jarred back from the vicious bite.

The thing’s eyes bored deep into his as it clung to his flesh, the intelligence behind them far more advanced than that of any feral creature the hunter had ever been privy to encountering.

This was no husky, and whatever it truly was knew what it wanted – no –needed to do. It wanted the kill, and it would be relentless until that task was complete.

“You friggin’ Furbee with attitude, don’t you know Winchesters bite back?” Dean snapped at the dog, refusing to give in even though its jaw still held fast on to his arm.

“Dean!”

The hunter’s eyes took one precious glance away from the husky to see Gudrun rapidly approaching. Apparently, his tussle with the pup from hell had roused the Valkyrie from her slumber and she was now racing to his rescue.

“Stay back!” Dean barked out, the sudden realization hitting him that perhaps the creature swinging from his forearm may even have the strength to harm his “reaper” friend. Whatever it was, it was from beyond the grave, of that he was sure.

He’d looked into the lost soulless eyes of the dead long enough to know.

As expected, Gudrun ignored his warning and continued to sprint athletically forward. All the grace of a ballerina and the determination of a warrior showing in her carefully placed moves.

At her side, Sam was less graceful, but no less resolute.

The pair came to a halt either side Dean, each unsure what move to make next. The husky still held on to its prey, but it had stopped the shaking motion from before, abruptly aware that it was being watched.

The thing’s eyes seemed to glow even redder, spittle dripping from its mouth as it attempted a low growl while refusing to unlock its jaw.

Gudrun scrutinized the dog, her gaze seeing far more than any mortals. “Sam, go get a stick from the fire-”

Sam hesitated, not wanting to move for fear the husky would go for his brother’s throat. It seemed only inches away, and Dean’s hold on it was shaky at best. He could see Dean’s good arm quivering with the stress placed upon it as he pushed away the animal.

“Sam! GO!”

Finally, Sam broke away his gaze and made a dash for the muted campfire in the distance. It wasn’t really that far away – and yet to the young man it may as well have been on another continent.

The husky noted the new movement and made a decision based on reasoning skills no dog should possess. It quickly released its maw, letting the bleeding human loose in favor of a more important quarry.

Snarling, the dog honed in on the blonde one – the girl it sensed was more than just a human. She knew its weakness, but likewise it knew who and what she was.

There was no fear.

The thing could not fear the death Gudrun could normally cause, for in truth, it had never lived. It bared blood-marred canines, back legs flexing and tail stiffening ready for another attack.

“Gudrun, don’t move…” Dean clambered to his feet, holding out an arm that still oozed blood in warning to the girl.

To her credit, the Valkyrie actually followed his advice. Her totally static pose reminded the hunter of a stone carving he’d once seen on a Native American reservation. But still, her frozen stance couldn’t save her, of that he was sure.

Reapers, Valkyries, Shield Maidens – whatever their name – they still showed fear with exactly the same expressions as a mortal.

And right now, Dean could see blind terror in Gudrun’s pale blue eyes.

He might not like her kind, he might not appreciate her attitude, but in that instant, Dean knew if the husky moved just one more paw forward in the snow, then he would place himself between it and the girl.

“You want to take a bite out of her, Furbee, you gotta come through me first-” Dean felt his muscles tense, ready to blindly jump forward into the dog’s path. He was prepared for the extra pain of yet another puncture wound, and for the possibility of death from one of its bites.

The husky’s pupils dilated, but instead of pouncing it took a step backwards as Sam dived between it, Gudrun and his brother, flaming branch in hand.

Sam whirled the glowing section of wood back and forth while advancing, trying to push the husky backwards away from his injured brother and Gudrun.

The husky snorted at the move, its scarlet orbs narrowing as it took in the flickering blaze at the end of the stick.

The flames bobbed in the breeze, but did little to instill panic in the animal. Perhaps ordinary dogs would have feared the heat and smoke, but this creature did not.

Instead, the husky cocked back its head and let out a high pitched howl that seemed to reverberate through the woods, bouncing from tree to tree until it dissipated in the heavens.

Before the last echo had dispersed, the dog launched forwards one last time, angling its head to hit the stick in the young hunter’s hand.

Sam stumbled, not expecting the lightning rapidity of the move, and within a split second the branch had been torn loose from his grip.

The stick landed in the snow, hissing wildly as the damp ground began to asphyxiate the flames.

Beside it, Sam slid in the mush churned up from the recent fighting, almost losing his balance as the dog dived at his chest.

“Sammy!”

Sam almost didn’t hear the cry from his brother. In fact, his ears barely heard anything save for the high-speed thumping of his heart against his ribcage and the anguished yelp of the husky as it seemed to bounce away from his touch.

He’d been expecting fangs to sink into his skin, or at least claws to begin digging into flesh through his jacket, but the dog was repelled from him like they were two opposing magnets in a science experiment gone wrong.

Landing on its back from the bizarre retreat, the husky quickly righted itself, shaking away snow from its pelt before its muscles stiffened again in Sam’s presence.

Sam took a tentative step forward, eyeing the creature just as it eyed him.

When the husky appeared frozen in its stance, he took a chance, kneeling just long enough to retrieve the still smoldering stick he’d dropped during the fray.

Locking his gaze with that of the animal, Sam took a second calculated risk and lunged at the beast, for once the attacker instead of the attacked.

The husky yapped like a scolded pup, its tail slamming down between its legs as it saw the full frontal assault and withdrew from it as fast as its legs would carry it.

“Well that was interesting in a painful kinda way-” Dean scowled as he pressed a hand over the puncture wounds in his arm, blood seeping through tightly clasped fingers to melt the snow beneath his feet.

“You okay?” Sam winced in sympathy as he saw the wound.

“I’d feel a whole lot freakin’ better if I knew what just tried to chow down on me,” Dean complained, turning to quickly walk back to the warmth and semi-security of the camp. “I think Teenwolf just used me for his starter…”

“Perhaps I can help..?” Gudrun waited until the hunter had perched himself on an upturned log and then joined him. There was sympathy in her gaze as she inspected the bite, even if she didn’t vocally express it.

“I don’t need any help from a reaper,” Dean snapped crabbily. “Your kind will get your hands on me eventually, what’s the rush?”

Gudrun shrugged. There was no point in denying the title he gave her, or trying to argue with his skewed male logic. “Fine.” She rolled her eyes. “Leave a blood trail in the snow our enemies can see half a mile away…”

“Yeah, well at least I bleed, sister.” Dean leaned over, rummaging in his backpack until he’d found a small first aid kit – not exactly as stocked as the Impala’s – but it would suffice for his needs.

Letting go of his forearm, he delved inside the box until he’d found a suitably-sized dressing and bandage. While he could easily have let the girl help him even if she didn’t use her gifts, he chose not to. Gudrun needed to learn the lesson that Winchesters could take care of themselves – mostly.

As he haphazardly wrapped the bandage, he glanced to Sam. The puppy eyes were watching, but his sibling knew better than to offer his assistance.

This was a Dean thing to prove a point to Gudrun.

“Any ideas what that thing was?” Dean finally asked his brother with a huff. “This is more your kind of territory, Sasquatch.”

Sam shifted his boot, using the toe to push fresh snow over the blood trail his brother had left. He didn’t expect it would deter the likes of the husky, but somehow it made him feel better not to have the glaring red stain on view. “Shapeshifter,” he offered half-heartedly as he worked.

“I think it was something called a tupilaq,” Gudrun intervened, offering her thoughts even though she was sure they probably weren’t welcome.

“Is that a doggie version of a Tulpa?” Dean raised a brow impishly and let out a deep breath, filling the damp air with a thin mist. “If we start seeing Blue Oyster Cult symbols in the snow, we know were screwed, Sammy.”

“As long as you don’t start humming Don’t Fear The Reaper, I think I’m safe.” Gudrun winked at the elder hunter and then paused as she saw the strange look forming on his brother’s face.

Sam had gone from his regular “annoyed at big bro” face into “light bulb” mode. “Tupilaqs?” He asked intently. “I thought they were simply Inuit carvings…just legends from the olden days…” Memories of the book he’d read on their journey here were resurfacing, but they were disjointed and incomplete.

Gudrun took a seat next to Dean on the log, ignoring his best “pissy” expression as she huddled too close to him for comfort – at least – his comfort. “Tupilaqs are carvings now, Sam, but many years ago they were so much more. In the olden days, there were Inuit shamans with enough power to create these creatures by using old bones, pieces of rotting flesh – anything they could lay their hands on. These things were given life and sent after a specific enemy…”

Dean looked at his brother and shook his head. “Ugh oh, who you been pissing off now, Samantha?”

“Hey, it went after you first, remember?” Sam pointed out with annoyance. “So, if we’re the enemy,” he returned his attention to the blonde. “Just how do we stop this thing from coming back for a second try?”

Gudrun shook her head. “There is no way to stop a tupilaq unless a more powerful shaman can reverse the magic. In essence, someone more gifted can send the tupilaq back against its maker. Kind of like mirroring the “kill” order right on back to its sender.”

Dean let out a low whistle. “Good thing we got your magical ass along for the ride after all then.” He softly patted the Valkyrie’s knee. “And a pretty cute ass it is too – for a reaper…”

“Even I cannot fight a tupilaq – as you saw, it turned on me too.” Gudrun didn’t try to be smart. She simply drooped her head, allowing both brothers to realize the severity of the situation. “I’m not omnipotent. A more gifted shaman must reverse the magic and turn the creature back on its master.”

“Oh great!” Dean pulled off a small piece of tape with his teeth, finally securing the bandage he’d been fumbling with for far too long. “Turns out we shoulda brought Barbara Eden instead of our friendly, neighborhood death omen.” He dropped the tape back into his backpack, satisfied with his handiwork. “I guess if we can’t fight this thing, we better shag ass before it decides it wants some Winchester dessert.”

Gudrun tapped Dean’s knee playfully like he had hers only a short while ago. “Finally,” she teased. “Something we both agree on-”

The comment earned her a scowl of frustration from one brother, and a puerile chuckle from the other.

When Dean huffed, showing his annoyance at being the object of their amusement, the group finally began to pack up camp.

“You know after all that effort I’ll kinda be sad not to use that thing at least once.” Dean nodded towards the lean-to as he stomped out the last remnants of their fire with the heel of his boot.

“I thought heroes didn’t sleep?” Gudrun toyed as she hoisted her already full backpack over her shoulder.

“Yeah well, you should know, sister, you collected enough of their souls…” The fire extinguished, Dean moved to grab his own bag, forcing a smile as he pushed past the blonde.

“Will you two ever quit?” Sam’s thought-filled head was spinning, and his two companions constant bickering wasn’t helping. If it wasn’t so damned exasperating it would be better than any network comedy show. As it was, it was giving the young hunter a headache trying to think in between bursts of sarcasm.

He looked to Gudrun for support, hoping the Valkyrie was actually more mature than his brother. “You’ve told us what the dog really is, but why did it run from me?” His expression hardened as he considered the frightening possibilities. “The thing was scared of me…I could see it in its eyes-”

Sam let a hand drift to his pocket and pulled out the tiny wooden charm he’d been given earlier in the evening. It still looked nothing more than an old and very fancy piece of carving, and yet the hunter now believed it was far more. “You said this was for protection?” He held it up in the stark moonlight for everyone to see.

Gudrun bobbed her head knowingly. “It can afford some limited defense against a tupilaq’s magic, but it is nothing on its own.” Reaching forward, she took Sam’s hand, closing his huge palm back around the charm.

“Yeah,” Dean intruded. “You gotta buy the yearly subscription to get the full package, dude.” He grinned, pulling a rock salt-filled shotgun from his bag before slipping the backpack strap over his shoulder.

“You have to trust yourself. Believe in yourself.” Gudrun looked into Sam’s eyes as she held a hand over his closed fist. “I cannot send the tupilaq back, but you can.”

Dean shook his head. “Ugh oh, Yoda strikes again.” He pulled an almost empty packet of M & M’s from his pocket and stuffed a handful into his mouth. When Sam simply stared back at the Valkyrie he shrugged and began to pull the sheet from the lean-too roof in case they needed it later.

“Me…I..?” Sam eventually stammered. “I’m not a shaman. I don’t know Inuit lore or magic.” He shook his shaggy mop of hair, looking away into the night for fear Gudrun would tell him otherwise. He didn’t want to be special – he just wanted to be like everyone else. “What can I do?”

Gudrun pulled her hand away, her eyes narrowing as she inhaled deeply. “You will know, Sam, when the time comes. Remember, everyone has a purpose…” She turned, willing to give away no more secrets – not yet. Pointing north, she began to walk without looking back. “We should go this way. The tupilaq will return soon and we have little time.”

Dean cocked his head, letting the sawed-off muzzle of his weapon rest on his shoulder. “You know, I would ask who died and put her in charge, but given her line of work…”

“You can be such a dork, you know that, right?” Sam didn’t wait for an answer, but began to follow the girl, looking over his shoulder every few seconds.

“Hey, I got nothing against girl power.” Dean shrugged, reluctantly beginning to trudge through the snow after Gudrun. “It’s just I figure it’s kinda like dancing, ya know? Guys lead, gals follow…”

Sam nodded just a little too quickly. “Oh yeah, that’s right, because you’re such a John Travolta in that department. What about that time at the night club in Vegas?”

“Hey, I was still recovering from Liberace’s spook trying to grab my ass! My moves were off…” Dean picked up the pace; suddenly wishing the conversation would take a different direction. If it wasn’t Gudrun beating him up, it was Sam. Those two would so make a great friggin’ tag team…Psychic Boy and The Death Maiden, he thought, abruptly wishing for snow or some other distraction.

Sam saw the annoyed expression on his brother and pulled back just enough to give Dean some space. Big brother had apparently taken enough ribbing for one day. Not only that, but there were more important issues at hand.

While it was good fun to throw the odd jibe and keep their spirits up, they now had the added job of watching for the return of the tupilaq.

Sam had yet to actually see anything conclusive that it was following, but every now and again he couldn’t help but pause and turn just long enough to see what he thought was a blur of fur in the trees.

Of course, it could just as easily be his imagination. It was a known fact that if you feared something enough you could talk yourself into believing it was there. Many reported ghost sightings were simply that – overactive minds reacting on their own fears.

Get a grip, you’re just panicking because of what Gudrun said to you…

Sam held back further, taking slower and slower steps until his brother and the blonde were starting to fade into the distance. The huskything was here, he sensed it.

Lucifer’s goons had known they were coming long enough to bring down the tiny Cessna, they had known the Winchesters and Gudrun hadn’t died in the crash.

Sam was sure that they also now knew the tupilaq had failed in its mission. If the dog didn’t return then its masters surely would.

“And if they don’t come looking for us,” Sam talked to his empty surroundings, blowing into his freezing hands to warm them. “Then they’ll surely be waiting when we reach our destination…”

Some Time Later…

The early morning sun dared to peek over the horizon, its orange and red shades sending a minuscule amount of warmth across the cold and very barren panorama.

After awhile, white on white had become almost blinding, and the sun’s tiny offering was enough for the group to want to wallow in its glow, appreciating the burning star as they never had before.

“Man, what I’d give for a hot shower and a beer right about now.” Dean shielded the sunlight from his eyes, making a beeline for a nearby stream that burbled and beckoned as it flowed over a rocky pool. As he reached the water’s edge, he looked up to Gudrun innocently – although his thoughts were far from chaste. “Don’t suppose you’d like to share that idea?”

Gudrun smiled, passing over a medium-sized canteen to be filled as she slipped off her backpack. “Sure, I’d go for the beer – but I doubt you’d want to share a shower with me.” She turned just enough to slyly wink at Sam.

Dean took the canteen, kneeling at the snow-edged bank to fill it. “Oh sweetheart, I got plenty to share…”

“Even with a reaper, Dean?” The blonde smirked triumphantly. Finally, she’d gotten the hunter to see her beyond his opinion of her kind.

Dean’s cheeks flushed and he feigned a sudden deafness. Dammit if the girl wasn’t starting to get under his skin. If this kept up, he might actually like her before their mission was over. “I gotta take a leak,” he offered lamely, desperately needing a way to escape before he said something wuss-assed he’d regret later.

“You know, he really is a nice guy,” Sam laughed as his brother dodged into a swatch of snow-covered undergrowth. “He just well…”

“I know,” Gudrun nodded. “He’s not had the most normal life. Neither of you have. It’ll get bet…” The Valkyrie’s voice became muted and her pupils narrowed as she suddenly became distracted.

Instinctively, Sam followed the girl’s gaze. He’d been expecting company, but even a moment’s distraction had been enough for him to let his guard down – Dean too.

“What did you see?” He forced through almost gritted teeth. “Is it the dog..?” He hunkered down, fixing his eyes on any drift of snow or clump of vegetation that might hide the enemy.

“I didn’t see anything,” Gudrun admitted. “But I felt eyes upon me.” She gestured to a small patch of scrub to their rear. “There’s something out there…”

“Yeah, and it ain’t no man…”

“Huh?” Gudrun’s brow creased.

“Sorry,” Sam apologized, gently pushing the girl behind him as he moved towards the bushes. “Predator quote. I’ve so been around Dean too long. Wait here…we know this thing doesn’t like me…”

Sam glanced over his shoulder to make sure the girl obeyed. He suspected – no – knew that she had a stubborn penchant for ignoring orders, and today wasn’t going to be the day that particular proclivity sent her back to Valhalla.

To his surprise, Gudrun remained by the stream, her eyes darting across the tumbling vista as if she had x-ray vision.

“Just wait for Dean to come back…”

Sam paused until she nodded, then returned his focus on the shrubbery. The patch of undergrowth was easily large enough to hide the huskything and give it the upper hand should it pounce.

Swallowing hard as the snow crunched noisily beneath his boots, Sam let a hand drift to his belt where his Glock sat snugly against him. He wanted to draw it on impulse, even though he knew the bullets it contained would have little effect on the dog should it attack.

Speeding up his pace, he moved to the left of the bushes, hands outstretched ready to grab the mystery creature should it make a lunge for his throat.

“Sam!”

Gudrun’s cry was like the husky’s fangs piercing warm flesh. It was frenzied, urgent – fraught.

Sam spun back around, boots sliding on the ground as he realized his mistake. Dean had warned that the husky was smart – too smart for an animal – and yet, they’d still treated it as one.

Now, they were in danger of paying for that mistake with someone’s life. The husky had tricked them, using the ancient divide and conquer technique to split them up so that it could concentrate on just one – Gudrun.

It made perfect sense that the creature would go for the sole person who knew all about it, and all about those who had sent it. Gudrun was a mine of information Lucifer’s people needed out of the equation.

“Hey, you don’t want her, you want me!” Sam picked up a rock, pitching it at the husky as it cornered the terrified Valkyrie.

The animal’s back flinched as the stone hit hard and it turned, the hairs of its pelt suddenly standing rigid when its eyes met Sam’s.

There was fear there, and a kind of respect Sam truly didn’t comprehend.

Why does it fear me so much?

The husky pawed at the snow, looking back to Gudrun almost disappointedly as it gave in, darting across the ice-covered landscape before Sam could get near it.

Sam watched it go and then picked up Gudrun’s canteen where she’d dropped it. “You okay?” He asked, handing the once again empty container to the girl.

Gudrun nodded, but her hands shook as she accepted the carafe. “I don’t think I’m on its list of puppy pals,” she muttered, kneeling to refill the canteen, but pausing as foliage to her left began to rustle.

“Are you two fixing up a date or something?” Dean pushed noisily from the Canadian scrub, mischievous eyes darting from Sam to the girl and then back again. “I mean, jeez, how long does it take to fill a canteen?” His pupils narrowed as he realized he’d already filled the container once. “Something you two wanna tell me?”

“The husky came back while you were taking time out,” Sam offered dejectedly. “We screwed up big time, Dean. We knew it was intelligent and we let our guard down-”

“It’s not your fault, neither of you,” Gudrun interjected, picking up her pack again resolutely. “I should have expected more…resistance. Maybe I should never have gotten you involved…”

“Yeah, well you did, sister, and now that thing has started to piss me off.” Dean’s brow scrunched in annoyance as he looked at his brother. “Sammy, I swear I’m gonna hunt that bitch down and use its hide for a freakin’ rug!”

“We don’t live anywhere to lay a rug,” Sam pointed out less than helpfully.

“Then I’ll lay the damn thing on the rear seat of the Impala. ’Cause I’m telling you, Furbee has got to go.” Dean slid on a pair of sunglasses from his pocket, tempering the glare from the rising sun as it continued its journey upwards in the sky. “First, though, I wouldn’t mind finding a safe spot to get some shut eye. We’ve been walking all night, and unlike some people I didn’t get any sleep yesterday…”

“Actually, I don’t need sleep.” Gudrun shrugged. “But I see your point.”

“Maybe I can find us a cave or at least somewhere higher up with better cover.” Sam snatched the Remington from his brother’s grip before the elder Winchester could argue. “Besides,” he grinned, “I get the impression you two need to be alone.”

“Very funny, Sasquatch, the only thing I want to be alone with right now is a double cheeseburger and fries, or maybe some apple pie – with extra cream…” Dean seemed to go into a momentary trance at the thought of his favorite foods. Eventually, he shook himself, knowing he was not going to get anything half as interesting while he was on a hunt. “I should come with you, that thing is stronger than Tyson on PCP.”

“And it’s scared of me, not you,” Sam argued. “You should stay here and watch Gudrun.” He turned to leave, knowing that the longer he held back, the more likely Dean was to argue. “Just watch your backs.”

“Dude, you’re so enjoying leaving me with her, aren’t you?”

Sam continued plowing through the snow, but he couldn’t resist a small chuckle of amusement at his brother’s expense. He didn’t look back, but he could just imagine Dean’s pained expression and wild hazel eyes at the thought of being left alone with Gudrun.

Maybe throwing Dean together with the Valkyrie would keep him from thinking too much – at least, for a little while. That was what Sam was banking on.

He didn’t want his brother putting the pieces together and realizing that he’d been left behind because of the danger he would otherwise likely have put himself in.

Sam had no doubt that when Dean said he was going to hunt the tupilaq, he would. And the tupilaq would welcome the hunter’s attack, because that was what it had been created for.

In truth, Sam feared his brother’s bravado sometimes – and he feared Gudrun’s eerie message of death right along with it.

Stuffing his free hand into his coat pocket, Sam fingered the little charm he’d been given by the blonde. Why had she only given it him? Why not one for Dean too?

Abruptly fearing the thing, his grip loosened and he pulled back his hand into the frigid atmosphere. Placing his palm under the shortened barrel of his weapon while the other remained wrapped around the trigger, he moved on, eyes scanning the compacted snow at his feet for paw prints.

Sam didn’t care whether there were any caves out here. He didn’t care if he found cover. Sam was going to hunt down the tupilaq before it attacked again.

He reached a fallen tree stump and paused, taking care to keep his weapon poised as he clambered over the rotting hulk of timber. As his boots hit the ground the opposite side, he hunkered down, his searching gaze spotting imprints in the snow.

Sam let out a hazy breath and ran his forefinger over the tracks. He was no ranger, but he’d learned enough to know this was probably the thing he was looking for.

The husky was stalking them, keeping just enough behind to remain hidden for the most part, but soon, soon it would strike again.

Sam looked at the shotgun in his hand, knowing the shells it held would have no real impact on the tupilaq. He carried it more for reassurance than anything.

If he returned to Dean and Gudrun now they still had no protection from the thing – not that that would stop Dean trying to kill it.

No, Sam couldn’t afford for his brother to do something stupid and try and hunt the dog, even though he had no chance of winning.

Sam was the one it feared.

He was the one Gudrun had given the Aegishjalmur to.

I have to kill it before…before... He couldn’t even think the words. Not after all he’d been through recently.

Making the choice without clearly thinking it through, Sam straightened and began to track the paw prints. There would be very little time before Dean realized something was wrong and came looking for him, and Sam needed to use that time wisely.

He owed Dean that much, Gudrun too, after all she had done for him.

Following the trail, Sam realized he wasn’t just tracking the creature. He was almost retracing his own steps. The thing had doubled back, and taking higher ground it had basically circled back to where Gudrun and Dean were now held up.

The dogthing was sitting quietly, waiting, watching. Every once in awhile, its ears ticked forward just a little as it took in the conversation from below. Could it actually understand what was being said?

Sam thought of all the times he’d wanted a pet as a child and finally understood why his father had blatantly refused him. It wasn’t just because of their life on the road – it was because animals could so easily be used as vessels for evil.

Carefully sliding the weight of his pack from his shoulder, Sam flipped open the fastener and pulled out his favorite machete. It had been a gift from John after their first vampire hunt together, and he hoped it would afford him some luck now.

If bullets couldn’t hurt the tupilaq, then maybe the loss of its head could. He placed the Remington down across the top of his pack in favor of the new weapon, dragging in a breath of freezing air before launching himself into the trees to his left.

The copse would hopefully give him cover until he was closer to the husky – not that getting closer to the thing would be considered sane by most.

With each step, Sam’s breathing grew slower until he was almost parallel with the dog. Once he was a gunslinger’s distance from the animal, he stepped away from his cover, moving completely into the open.

As expected, the husky’s ears pricked back in the realization that it had company. The dog whirled, churning the snow below as its claws frantically moved to reposition it for attack.

The thing’s eyes locked with Sam’s and its maw dropped open in a snarl of untold, and very unnatural proportions. While it was apparent the thing was still apprehensive of his presence, it showed no intention of retreat.

Sam didn’t break his gaze with the creature, holding the machete high ready to strike the first blow. He didn’t really have a plan beyond decapitating the dog, and right now that looked like he may need to make the first move to achieve.

The husky whined, and for the first time Sam understood that maybe it not only understood human conversation – maybe it detected human thought too. It knows what I’m trying to do…

Resisting the urge to take a step backwards, Sam braced himself as the husky made a dive for his position.

The dog hit hard, surprising the young hunter by its technique. Instead of trying to knock him down as it had Dean, the dog charged at Sam’s arm, jarring it backwards enough for him to lose grip on the sharpened blade he held.

The machete tumbled into the snow outside of his reach and he was knocked backwards by the blow. For precious seconds he tried to keep his center of balance, and was almost winning the battle when the husky attacked again.

Man and beast fell hard against the frozen earth, human and canine limbs flailing as each tried to get a grip on the other.

Amazingly, Sam’s huge hands found a home first, constricting around the husky’s throat as he held the creature away from his body.

The dog yelped as if his touch was somehow poison, its back legs kicking out as it tried to pull free. Its red orbs rolled wildly, but Sam wouldn’t let go.

Instead, the hunter focused on its panicked eyes, looking into them, searching, probing until he felt a connection. He was afraid too, afraid of himself – afraid of what he was about to do even though he didn’t know where the knowledge came from.

The sensation almost made Sam lose his grip, but he held fast for his brother, for Gudrun.

The husky screamed with rage and then seemed to go limp in his hands. It was giving in to him – giving in to a power – a gift Sam didn’t even really know he had.

The feeling wasn’t a new one.

Sam had felt this energy before, he’d felt the strange sensations the day he’d faced Alyssa – the day he had somehow sent the girl’s memory wiping powers right back at her.

The husky’s eyes seemed to flash over white, just for a second, and then it was pulling away, yelping, terrified – changed.

Sam released his grip on the thing’s throat – suddenly more afraid of himself that the creature. Had he really just done the impossible and sent the tupilaq back against its maker? Or was Gudrun’s charm more part of the equation than he realized?

Panting heavily, the hunter rolled over in the snow, tugging himself up to watch as the husky’s frenzied legs carried it into the distance.

Sam glanced at his watch. He’d already been gone for over twenty minutes. Much longer and Dean would break out into search party mode. But still, could he really go back without knowing if the tupilaq had gone for good?

As if to tease further, the clouding sky began to open up, allowing some of its burden to fall from the heavens. The snow wasn’t heavy, but it reminded Sam that it would be all-too easy to lose track of his location should he decide to hike after the dog.

Not only that, but the husky’s prints would soon be covered over, affording him with no way to follow it back to its lair.

Sam walked over to the lost machete, grabbing it from its snowy grave and replacing it in his pack.

He had to know what had just happened. If that meant Dean getting pissy with him, then so be it.

Taking the pack by its strap he launched into a slow jog after the husky’s rapidly disappearing paw prints. Trying to run over this kind of terrain wasn’t easy, and Sam wasn’t exactly one hundred percent yet after Wyoming, but despite the obstacles he made good time. He had to, or suffer the consequences.

About a mile from the overhang where he’d fought the tupilaq, the prints moved onto a path cut into the snow and were almost swallowed up by the mud and slush upon the ground.

Sam paused, winded by the constant influx of biting cold air into his lungs and the uncertainty of what to do next.

The trail was definitely man made, winding up through a multitude of pines until it reached a small cabin.

The structure looked ancient – like some frontier abode left over from the gold rush. It was the first sign of humanity since they’d crashed, and yet the steady whirl of smoke from its chimney did little to comfort the hunter.

The place looked wrong somehow, even though there were no outward signs of anything malevolent at work.

Sam caught his breath and moved off the pathway, picking his way to flank the left side of the building through the snow-laden pines. If this was where the husky had come, then there was a good chance it was the home of the shaman who created it. It wouldn’t be safe to just walk on up and knock on the door.

If I really sent that thing back here, what does that make me? The thought wasn’t a cheering one. He had hoped, no literally prayed that after Haris had died he would be free of the gifts that had haunted him. But if he had sent the dog back here, then could he ever truly be free?

A surge of guilt washed over him and he felt his stomach churn. He’d only recently given Dean a lecture about the amulet, about how he deserved to be a guardian. And yet, here he was, wishing that his own gifts were nothing more than a distant memory.

Sam dropped his pack on the ground as he reached the rear of the cabin, using his height to cautiously peer through an ice-covered window. The pane was grimy - dirt and frost making the view almost indiscernible until he was forced to rub the back of his glove gently against it to clear the view.

Inside was a mishmash of strange items, including shelves filled with potions and jars full of dead and very ugly looking creatures. Inuit carvings covered most of the walls, although the floor was bare save for a body now sprawled across its aged wooden surface.

The body looked to be an Inuit male in his fifties, although only his traditional clothing could really add credence to the assumption. There was too much damage to anything else to clearly tell.

What had once been the man’s face had been chewed and bitten until only bone and mangled, bloody sinew remained. The shaman’s throat was in a similar condition, his lifeblood still leaking from the huge wound inflicted by the tupilaq.

Sam gagged as he realized he was looking at what was left of the man’s windpipe, now exposed in all its raw, fleshy glory.

Alongside the recently deceased Inuit was more evidence that he had been the instigator of the tupilaq. A mangy fur pelt and several yellowing animal bones lay at odd angles, where they had fallen once the thing’s mission had been complete.

The shaman was dead, and now too was the creature he had called to act on his wishes.

Sam stepped back from the window, unsure how to digest the information. The shaman had obviously been using his power to practice the dark arts. Surely that meant he was working for Ferinacci – or rather Lucifer?

Now that the shaman was dead, where did that leave their mission? How many more of Lucifer’s people were up here, just waiting for the kill? And how the hell did I beat one of their kind?

Sam felt the pit in his stomach widen. He needed time to take in what was happening – what was happening to him. But time wasn’t something he had right now.

Dean and Gudrun will be freaking already…

Taking the Remington, but leaving the pack behind, Sam edged to the cabin door, keeping his back to the rough log exterior. So far he’s seen no reason to think there were more bad guys here, but it always paid to err on the side of caution.

Especially when your name was Winchester.

The front entrance to the cabin lay open just a fraction, and Sam used the tip of the shotgun’s barrel to push the door further ajar. There might be no urgent need to check out the place now the tupilaq was gone, but any intel he could find here might be enough to placate his brother once they regrouped.

Because Dean was going to be more than pissed.

Sam couldn’t stifle a smile as he imagined his irate brother storming through the snow with the Valkyrie in tow. Dean could be such a comedian sometimes without even realizing it, and part of Sam wished he was here right now.

Forgetting sibling rivalry, Sam forced his lofty body through the doorway and quickly skewed from left to right, scanning the cabin’s interior. As far as he could tell, he was alone with the remains of the shaman and his canine creation.

The room smelled stale, like the Inuit had lived here in squalor for many months. Old food lay uneaten on the table, until even here in the glacial temperatures, maggots squirmed as they enjoyed their feast.

Sam ignored the rotting food, knowing soon the maggots would move on to the fresher meat of the floor. He kneeled, keeping the Remington across his knee as he examined the wizened Inuit.

An abyss like hole replaced what was once the man’s nose and his cheeks were mere flaps of flesh where the husky had torn at it, but around the shaman’s neck a cord had remained bloodied, but intact.

Yanking off a glove, Sam jerked on the leather until a whale bone carving popped from shaman’s scruffy plaid shirt. The craftsmanship was expert, and the charm jarringly familiar to Sam.

“The sigil of Lucifer,” he mouthed to no one in particular.

Letting the charm fall back around the Inuit’s mangled neck, Sam straightened, his mind shooting backwards in time till he was once again in Wyoming. The demon that had held him captive there had painted Lucifer’s symbol on his forehead. At the time, he hadn’t known what had been daubed on his flesh, but later he’d been forced to look upon it in the mirror before he’d showered.

Lucifer.

The name still stung harder than a bad case of heartburn in his chest.

Sam tried to ignore the implications, striding over the shaman’s body to inspect other obvious more modern occult items that were shattered around the foul-smelling hut.

Behind the table, the hunter noticed a small hand-woven rug that appeared as grimy and as old as the cabin itself. The colors would once have been startlingly bright, but now the only thing interesting about the carpet was where one of its edges had completely frayed away.

Underneath the non-existent section of rug, the floorboards seemed raised and at an odd angle, as if something had been hidden beneath them.

Sam hunkered down again, taking the rug with his fingertips and slowly peeling it back. The boards were in fact a trap door with a small hole carved in the center for leverage rather than a handle.

Around the perimeter of the strange wooden opening were symbols painted onto the wooden timbers in red spray paint – at least, Sam hoped it was paint.

Around the signs and whole door was something that reminded Sam of a Devil’s Trap, but it was different – definitely some kind of cryptogram, but like nothing he’d encountered before.

If it was something Solomon had known about, he hadn’t seen fit to include it in any of his written texts.

Trying to recall the design for later, Sam slid a hand into the handle-hole and carefully tugged, trying to make as little noise as possible.

The wooden doorway swung outwards effortlessly, as if the hinges had been oiled with far more effort than had been put into the housekeeping of the cabin.

Sam leaned closer, letting his body tilt forwards to look into the opening. A fresh breeze greeted his cheeks, with just the tiniest hint of sulfur. He recoiled slightly, getting the distinct idea that this was not the most welcoming place he’d ever visited.

The hunter squinted, but even his 20/20 vision did nothing to reveal the secrets of the chasm below. Rungs peeked through the shadows, giving at least the impression that this was not a pit directly into hell, but from what Sam’s instincts told him, it was close enough.

Sam held his shotgun with one hand, fumbling with the other to find his Maglite in the depths of his winter jacket’s thinsulate-lined pockets. Just as flesh met metal, a scuffling sound from behind made him forget any plans of searching the underground tunnel.

Sam tried to straighten his legs and whirl around at the same time, but in his position the move just wasn’t fluid enough. A dark form was all that his eyes could pick out as someone, or something pushed him forward.

Without anything to regain his balance, there was little Sam could do to stop his forward momentum. There was a brief moment where he was teetering on the edge of the trap door, and then nothing.

His arms thrashed wildly in the darkness as his body suddenly felt weightless, but no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t grab a hold of the elusive ladder rungs he had spotted moments earlier.

He was falling.

Falling into a pit that for all he knew led to Lucifer’s lair and beyond…

 

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The Winchester Chronicles

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