by Cheryl Petterson

(Standard Year 2247)

Return to Valjiir Stories
Return to Valjiir Continum
Return to Part Four of Hotel California - A Tragic Love Story

The Barbarian

The theater seemed to grow darker, as if the dim lights along the aisles were being extinguished. They stopped trying to move through the increasingly thick air, and Jilla was just about to suggest a problem with the theater’s ventilation system, when the screen began to form a new image.


The room was dark, the air thick and swirling with the smoke of candles and incense and other things not mentioned in the light of day.

“Oh, brother!!” Kevin snorted. “Talk about your melodrama…” His voice faded at he saw the white-knuckled fear in Sulu’s already-riveted-to-the-screen eyes.

The robed and hooded Mage stood safely in his circle of arcane symbols, watching the flickering fire of the brazier as it slowly died. The signs were unmistakable. It was time.

He waited until the last ember was completely covered in ash and his large, nearly obese pink and silver cat had stretched and padded to the heavy door, meowing a lazy command to be let out. He turned, careful not to smudge the markings on the floor, and opened the door. As he expected, the golden witch was curled up in his large, velvet-curtained bed, writhing slowly in the euphoric languor in which his rituals always left her.

“Thank the Buddha, it’s just standard witch and wizard fantasy,” Sulu breathed with relief.

“What were you expecting?” Ruth asked “ Human sacrifice?”

“Don’t even think it, Spike.”

“Ruth,” Jilla whispered, “a pink and silver ball of fur?”

“Coincidence,” Ruth answered, flushing furiously. “It’s a magical cat.”

“What’s the big deal about…?” Kevin began.

Jilla blinked innocently. “Commander Spock has a tribble…”

“Shut up, Jilla!”

“I don’t like where this is going,” the navigator grumbled. “Weren’t we getting out while the getting was good?”

“Raw-eth,” the Mage said.

“Oh no, oh FUCK no!” Ruth snapped.

Upon hearing her name, the witch languidly opened her eyes. The amethyst fire in them gradually calmed, and she stretched her naked body, tossing her hair back like a graceful, golden-maned lion. She got limberly to her knees and looked up at the Mage through long lashes.

The audience cheered wildly, even more loudly than they had for previous nude scenes. Ruth, who was already swearing at the screen, turned her ire on them. Kevin was grinning broadly.

“At least it’s not you this time, hon,” Sulu said to a flushing Jilla, then added, with a shudder, “and not me.”

“Done so soon?” she questioned, almost petulantly.

“Yes,” the Mage answered, and she sighed. “For now.” A slow smile crossed her lips, an eager light rekindling the violet flames in her eyes. “But more must wait until you have helped me prepare,” the Mage continued. “Are you healed?”

The witch laughed, a sensual, seductive sound. “The Master wouldn’t leave me in pain, wizard.”

The hooded figure nodded. “Come then. It is time. I have taught you my arts, you will now join in paying my debt.”

“Have I not?” the witch demanded, though the hunger in her eyes belied her own words. “The Master serves you and takes from me. Is that not payment?”

“I have to get the fuck out of here,” Sulu mumbled. Jilla gently grasped his arm.

“My love?” she asked softly.

“Is it?” the Mage replied with ill-concealed amusement. “Your loins burn with demon seed, but it is mine, not His. Were He to come for you in His own form, then you could claim payment.” Within the dark hood, he smiled coldly at her. “And you so enjoy it, ma cher.”

“Demon seed,” Kevin scowled. “Gee, I wonder who that’s gonna turn out to be.”

“Grow up, Kevin!” Ruth hissed.

“The Mage sounds like Noel Del…” Jilla began.

“Shit, I’m with you, Roy!” Ruth snarled. She stood, starting to move out of the row of theater seats.

The witch snorted indignantly, but got to her feet, wrapping a silk robe around her body.

The audience as one sighed their disappointment.

“What am I to do then?” she asked.

“I need a male, Raw-eth…” the Mage began.

“I’ll just bet he does,” Kevin snorted. Ruth hit him.

“…one who is strong and young and virile. My life is waning, I must give Him fresh blood, a fresh soul, or He will possess me utterly. My pact with Him calls for the sacrifice once in seven years, and it must be by the hand of an innocent.”

“Shit fuck hell damn, get me the fuck out of here!” Sulu roared. “Spike, why did you have to fucking mention fucking human sacrifice!”

“Why can’t we get out?!” Ruth demanded shrilly, her hands on her hips, staring around at the unseen projectors.

“But for now, go. Find me the strongest, most powerful man you can. Enchant him, bring him here.” The Mage turned to go, then stopped, speaking over his shoulder. “You may do as you like with him so long as his potency is not drained to the point of uselessness.”

The witch hissed furiously at his departing back as the Mage returned to his magical chamber, closing the heavy oak door behind him.

“I’ll bet I can guess who the ‘strong, young virile’ male’s gonna be,” Kevin scowled derisively.

“You want the job?” Sulu returned fiercely. “You can fucking have it!”

“We want to get the hell out of here!” Ruth was continuing to yell at the theater walls. From the non-reaction of the rest of the audience, no one else could hear her.


It was cool in the cave, no dawn warmth had yet pierced the darkness, and the barbarian was glad of it. The days had been hot for the season, and while he liked the heat and was not anxious for the coming winter’s cold, he also liked the relief his cave brought him. His furs were soft and at night, kept him warm enough to sleep in comfort.

He stretched as he woke, and smiled at the coolness. Nice, he thought. He wasn’t yet hungry; he’d killed the day before and had eaten his fill, the rest of the game hanging in the inner chamber of the cave where his fire would dry and preserve it. By the smell of the pre-dawn air, it would be a good day to fish and practice his bow-work.

He got up and went to the mouth of the cave. It was grey outside and he pushed the boulder that hid the entrance aside, replacing it before heading to the lake.

“Oh god, I don’t believe this,” Sulu groaned.

“I don’t believe we can’t fucking get out of here!” Ruth shrieked.

Kevin chuckled wickedly.


The witch shook herself and climbed down out of the tree where she’d spent the night. Not that she wasn’t safe from predators, it was simply much easier to cast protections against other things around the base of a tree.

She checked the sky for her bearings, then headed south. Her divinations still pointed in that direction. She only hoped the male she’d tracked was adequate for the Mage’s needs - the twice-damned, bokor bastard!

“What did you say?” Sulu snapped, turning to Ruth.

“We’re trapped here,” Ruth murmured. She was again sitting in her seat. “Zehara, we’re trapped!”

The thought had crossed her mind to take too long in finding the male the Mage needed, but he had been right: to live without the Demon’s caress was impossible now. No mortal could now satisfy her - and any other intermediary would no doubt be as demanding.

Damn all sorcery! she cried silently, and a cold wind suddenly blew up around her. She shivered. And bless it, my Love! she added swiftly.

She followed the Signs all day, and at sunset came upon a small lake. It was fresh, clear; there was no enchantment of evil, protection, or ownership upon it, and she felt filthy from the day’s mundane travels. She had to travel by mundane means – her feet – to conserve energy for the male’s enchantment. It was a necessary chore, but one she wasn’t particularly thrilled with. The lake looked cool and inviting, and she threw off her robe and dived into the water.

There were more catcalls and hoots and Ruth folded her arms in stubborn annoyance. “I may be stuck here,” she muttered, “but I don’t have to get involved.”

She felt the presence as soon as her skin touched the water. The male she sought was here. Swiftly she cut through depths, her head breaking free. As the drops streamed off her face, she saw him.

He wasn’t much taller than she was, she judged. His skin was weathered a dark bronze from long years of exposure to the sun, covering a body powerful and heavily muscled, both strong and sensual. He wore only a loincloth that nevertheless bulged impressively. His hair was a dark silk, his eyes dark, too, as dark as the Mage’s own. But he gazed at her with a child-like curiosity.

“Kevin this is not fair,” Jilla murmured.

The Irishman turned to her. “Whatever do ya mean, my girl?” he replied innocently.

The Indiian frowned at him, and he shrugged. “Sure and I was gettin’ right sick of all the blarney and charm from Mister Cool and Noble there.”

“Goddamn it, it isn’t me!” Sulu spat. “It’s not any of us! For some fucking reason, this fucking thing is fixating on us!”

“So maybe if we just keep out of it, it’ll let us go,” Ruth added. “So don’t engage. Ignore it. And I mean you, Kevin Riley!”

The witch smiled and rose from the water. The curiosity left the dark eyes and was replaced by eager hunger that seemed somehow not at odds with the wonder that remained. She let him drink in the sight of her golden beauty for several long moments. Maybe an enchantment won’t be necessary after all, she mused.

Finally she walked slowly toward him to the shore.

“I am Raw-eth,” she breathed.

His eyes didn’t leave her body. “Am Suul,” he said, his voice deep and rich. “My home,” he added, gesturing to the hill land around him.

“Suul? My, how original,” Ruth snorted.

“Yeah, just like ‘Raw-eth’,” ´Kevin returned, baring his teeth.

She started a retort, then shook herself. “Okay, let’s do this like we did during Rentig Whatever.” She took a breath. “Get your snark on, people – or in your case, not understanding what the hell’s going on,” she added to Jilla.

“Leave her alone, she hasn’t done a fucking thing to you,” Sulu growled.

“Yes,” the witch agreed, though her thoughts were moving rapidly. She had heard of him before. There was talk in the nearby village of a barbarian who had given his friendship to the young son of the lord of the province.

“Lord Conner, again?” Ruth tried to say with just the right amount of bright insouciance.

“But you’re no Lady Meghan this time,” Kevin replied, grinning

“Too bad, I know how to take care of them,” Sulu muttered.

The barbarian had made his home in the hills because it suited him better to be alone and outdoors. His frequent fits of temper could be destructive to property, and maybe lives, if he tried to exist in civilized society, for he was the strongest and – rumor had it – the most virile man the province had ever seen.

“Well, at least there’s a redeeming feature, Roy,” Ruth said.

“Fuck you,” was the dark response.

Raw-eth picked up her robe, well aware that his eyes watched her warily. She spoke slowly, softly – invitingly. “Winter is coming soon, Suul,” she said. “You would be cold out here, and hungry, and there will be animals that would fight you for your kills.”

He nodded. “Am strong,” he said. “Have furs and cave. No one disturb Suul.”

“But you’re all alone out here,” she persisted, coming closer. “Wouldn’t you like to come with me instead?”

“Not like alone,” he agreed. “Not come. You stay.”

The witch laughed silkily. “I can’t do that, I’m afraid. But you can come with me, can’t you? I’ll bring you to my home. It’s nice and warm there, with good food and wine and you can sleep in a huge soft bed…” She paused, her eyes glittering at him. “With me,” she added in a breathy whisper. She moved closer. “There will be servants to tend to your every wish, and me to tend to your every desire. Doesn’t that sound nice, Suul?”

The barbarian smiled, and she was momentarily taken aback by the unexpected charm that lit up his face. “Sound nice,” he said. Then he took a step closer to her. “Raw-eth like Suul?” he murmured.

“Oh yes,” she returned. “Yes, I do. Very much.”

He reached out, pulling her to him with sudden demand.

“Pretty female,” he growled softly.

Raw-eth hesitated for only a moment, remembering the Mage’s instruction, then decided that if Suul’s strength was any indication, there was no danger of draining him. She smiled, dropping her robe again, and Suul carelessly threw her to the ground.

“Again?” Jilla questioned tightly.

“This is bullshit,” Sulu said. “Come on, Jilla, let’s get the fuck out of here.”

“Let me know how that works out for you,” Ruth called with false light-heartedness.


Raw-eth writhed beneath the strong form, using her arts to weave a spell of pliancy about the barbarian. When he completed the act, it would seal the enchantment, and he would willingly follow her anywhere. For long minutes he continued, strangely silent, not even the usual grunts like the others she’d had escaping him. She responded to him, out of will at first, then increasingly despite herself. As it went on, she began to feel desire that had been ashes within her since she had been taken into the Mage’s service. True heat filled her loins, so unlike the flames that consumed her in his rituals, a natural, very Human thing of flesh needing flesh. It became more and more difficult to concentrate on the spell, and she was sweating with the mental exertion when he finally gave a wordless cry and collapsed on top of her.

Again the audience went wild, and Ruth closed her eyes furiously. Jilla’s head was buried against Sulu’s chest, and Kevin was swearing under his breath.

“Not us, baby,” Sulu murmured, but his voice was far more hard than comforting. “Not even real.”

She had to wait for him to recover, for he was far too heavy for her to simply roll him off of her. When he lifted himself from her, staring down at her with a smile that broke through the clouds of the evening like the setting sun, she found herself breathless, her face reflecting as much wonder as did his child-like eyes.

“Darkness coming,” he said. “Raw-eth stay in cave with Suul. Have fire, food.” His hand caressed her breast in a way that was totally unself-conscious. “Suul like Raw-eth.”

She laughed delightedly. “Of course. And in the morning, I’ll take you to my home.”

He frowned as is something was confusing him, then shrugged and turned. She rose from the leaf-strewn ground, shaking the dirt from her robe as she picked it up, and followed him.


The Mage scowled at the images that danced in the flames of his brazier. Why was the witch wasting time? He had given her enough power to be able to spirit the male to him…

And you gave her leave to use him, fool, came the sibilant voice of the Master. Did you think she would not take full advantage of that?

Hasn’t she? the Mage returned with a disdainful sneer.

The Master gave a low, obdurate chuckle. Obviously not. Be patient. She will not forsake me, even for the passion of that body.

Yes, mon seigneur, the Mage answered humbly. He extinguished the divinatory flames, then sighed and went to the large throne-like chair in the corner of his chamber. The cat jumped on his lap, and he absently petted it and tried not to count the hours that were so ominously passing.

“Mon seigneur,” Ruth found herself chuckling. “Like he’d ever call anyone my lord.” She glanced over to where Sulu and Jilla were, despite his declaration, seated next to her. “You still here?”

“Fuck you,” Sulu replied grimly.


Lord Kiv’n waited impatiently at the edge of the town’s gates. Suul has said they would hunt the nocturnal creature that had been preying on the cattle, and the sun was long gone. He’d entreated the gatekeepers to forego closing the heavy wooden doors, sure his friend would arrive soon, but they were getting anxious, and there was still no sign of the barbarian.

“Whoever’s in charge of the names needs to get an imagination,” Ruth commented.

The young man sighed, running his hand through his long, curling red-gold hair. Suul was a simple-minded man, but he seldom forgot anything, and this was an important hunt. Too many of the town’s livestock had been carried off, and as heir to the Lord of the province, it was his duty to protect the livelihood of its people.

“My lord, we daren’t wait any longer,” one of the guards said, a nervous, brown-eyed young man.

“Just a few moments more, Pawl,” Kiv’n returned. “He’ll be along. I know he will.”

“Wanna bet his last name is Chekval or something like that?” Ruth snickered, then glanced around her. “There’s gotta be somebody here with Pavel on the brain.”

Pawl shuddered. “Begging your pardon, my lord, but – how can you trust the man? He’s a simpleton, and with his strength and temperament…”

“He had a good and loyal heart, boy, and don’t you forget it,” Kiv’n chastised. “I won’t hear anyone speak ill of him.”

“I don’t need your fucking endorsement, Riley,” Sulu glowered.

“Please, my love, we must not be engaged,” Jilla reminded softly.

“As long as the little bastard keeps you out of it, I’ll deal,” was the sullen response.

After another hour, even Kiv’n had lost heart. He ordered the gates closed and walked sadly through the streets back to his father’s castle. It never even crossed his mind to think that his powerful friend might need his help.


Raw-eth spent the night in glorious sensuality. Suul had effortlessly moved the large rock that blocked the entrance to his cave – a feat that left her breathlessly excited – and shared his catch of fish with her. The furs that made up his bed were luxurious in their earthy softness, a fitting match to his own earthiness. He took her several times throughout the night, and each time she had to renew her enchantment, for the powerful pleasure he gave her interrupted her purpose time and time again. When the rosy light of dawn began to creep in around the edges of the blocked doorway, she had to satisfy him yet again before he rolled the boulder away to allow them to leave. She waited until he was silhouetted in the entrance before murmuring the Words that would alert the Mage to activate the magic that would bring the barbarian to his dungeon.


Suul stretched in the warm sunlight – then started as the air around him shimmered.

“Transporters are not magic,” Jilla murmured disapprovingly.

“But the Mage is a galaxy-class engineer,” Ruth giggled.


When it cleared, he found himself in a dank, dark place, with glowing manacles at his wrists and ankles, keeping him fastened to a stone wall. He blinked, then glowered, and began pulling against the restraints with all his might.

“You mustn’t struggle so, my strong friend,” a voice said to him, and he looked around wildly. At the bottom of a narrow stone staircase stood a robed and hooded figure. “You cannot break my enchantments with sheer physical force.”

Suul snarled. “Where Raw-eth?”

“Aw, isn’t that sweet now?” Kevin said. “The creature cares for ya.”

“Shut up, Kevin,” Ruth replied.

“Oh, she’s quite safe,” the Mage said as he stepped closer. “But you won’t be seeing her again, I’m afraid.” He came even closer, and Suul yanked at the manacles. The Mage chuckled and reached out a fine, thin hand, tracing down over the muscled chest. “There is much power in you,” he murmured, a dark, sensual sound. “You will provide me with more than enough energy for the next cycle.”

Suul tried to twist away, but the bonds held him fast.

“You’ll make me younger than ever,” came whispered hunger. The touch moved lower, grasping through the loin-cloth. “And far more powerful than the last.”

Suul growled a warning and the Mage chuckled again.

“Conserve your strength, my friend,” he advised. “There is no escape for you now.” Then he suddenly leaned forward, kissing Suul with an obdurate passion, licking the barbarian’s lips in obscene delight.


Then he was gone, and Suul spat the foulness away, then roared in defiant fury.


During the day, the gates of the town were wide open. The witch had enchanted her robe, making it appear as a simple peasant’s dress. She had bathed again in the lake, and had called upon her visionary powers to give her the new focus the Mage had sent her. A maiden was required for the ritual, and the prettier the better. She had to be fully mature, though, and finding a girl both old enough and virginal might not be an easy task. Girls were betrothed early, and often wed just after their first monthly flow. Those that had no good prospects for marriage were often forced to use their bodies to earn coin enough to survive. Still, her divination had shown here that there was such a girl in the town, and Raw-eth had to get to her before the inevitable happened.


Kiv’n stopped in the inn to purchase a few meat pies and a flagon of ale before heading out to find Suul. He had worried all night, and at dawn had determined to ride out to the barbarian’s cave in case some predator had managed to overwhelm or injure the man. It wasn’t a likely scenario, he knew, but Suul’s absence bothered him.

He smiled as he stepped up to the bar. The innkeeper’s daughter, Jillie, was wiping the polished wood with her apron, her dark red hair a tumble of curls held back from her face by a thin band of cloth.

“Again with the imaginative names,” Ruth sighed.

“Keep her out of it, Riley,” Sulu warned.

“Too late,” Kevin quipped and Ruth flinched at the ferocity of the helmsman’s snarl. She was only glad that Sulu hadn’t followed it up with an equally fierce punch to Kevin’s face.

“Good morning to you, Miss Jillie,” Kiv’n said warmly.

“And a good day to you, Sir Kiv’n,” she replied softly. Her grey eyes flashed at him, then lowered demurely.

“Don’t flirt with him,” Sulu ordered.

“Not her, not us, remember?” Ruth said.

“I need several of your excellent pies, Jillie,” Kiv’n said with a smile, “and if you’d be so good as to fill my flagon with ale?”

“Out for a day’s ride, are you, lord?” the girl asked as she turned to the large oven behind her. “And how did the hunt go last night?”

“That’s why I’m heading out to the woods,” Kiv’n replied. “Y’see, Suul didn’t show last evening.”

Her eyes widened as she placed several pies on the bar, her hands protected from their heat by her apron. “That’s not like him, is it, lord?”

He shook his head. “No, it’s not, and it’s got me worried.”

“I hope nothing’s happened to the dear, simple soul.”

“See, she’s sweet on you, too,” Kevin offered.

“She’d better be,” Sulu returned.

“Hey, Roy, you don’t own…” Ruth stopped speaking at the glare Sulu gave her.

Kiv’n nodded as she carefully wrapped the pies in thin parchment. He watched her delicate grace as she tapped a keg of ale, filling the flagon he’d handed her with the fresh, dark, strong liquid. He placed a few coins on the bar, and she shook her head.

“No, sir, you know my father’ll not have you paying for…”

“This is for you, Jillie,” he murmured. “Add it to your dowry.”

She blushed. “My father’s not found anyone he considers suitable yet,” she said.

“And with a prize like you, I’m not surprised,” the young lord complimented. “Nothing but the best for the prettiest girl in town.” He smiled and her flush deepened.

“You flatter me, sir,” she returned shyly.

He leaned forward. “I’d flatter you more if I were but of not quite so high a station, that I can promise you.”

“My lord!” Jillie cried in nervous alarm.

He gently took her hand. “I mean that in all honor, my lady,” he said, and gazed into her eyes as he kissed her fingers. He smiled again, and straightened. “Wish me luck, Jillie.”

“And hope, kind sir,” she returned.

With a wink, he left the bar and the inn.

“Smooth, Kevin,” Ruth offered sardonically.

“If she’s the maiden you’re looking for…” Sulu began.

“And how likely is it that she isn’t?” Kevin pointed out.

“I hate this fucking place.”


The day’s search proved futile. There was no sign of Suul at his cave, though from the freshness of the meat curing in the back-chamber, Kiv’n knew the barbarian could not have been gone long. He rode out around the countryside all day, to all the places Suul liked to go, but found no trace of the powerful man, or any sign of any kind of struggle, nor any blood traces to follow. More concerned than ever, he headed back to the town. Perhaps one of the villagers had seen the barbarian in their day’s work.


With all the people in the town, Raw-eth had a great deal of difficulty focusing on the direction of her target. Other minds and other thoughts interfered with her Vision, and after a frustrating day’s effort, she went to the inn for a meal to renew her strength. After a hearty bowl of soup and a large flask of ale – served by an attractive young boy who flirted outrageously with her…

“Ramon?” Ruth exclaimed.

Kevin snorted. “It’s not gonna be virgin Monique, is it?”

“We already know who it is, Riley,” Sulu scowled.

“Hey, Roy, lighten up, we’re tying to be detached,” Ruth said. His dark mood was making her twitchy.

“When I find out how they’re doing this, someone’s head is gonna get detached,” he muttered.

…Raw-eth decided to use a little of her energy to attempt a Siren Spell. She borrowed a lute from one of the minstrels working in the inn, and started playing softly. She carefully wove the Call into the haunting melody. It would carry throughout the town, and if the maiden the Mage needed was within earshot, she would be drawn to the inn – and to her doom.

“Danger, Will Robinson, danger,” Kevin snickered, quoting a line from one of Captain Kirk’s infamous ‘film festivals.’ Ruth snorted in amusement.

“Oh fuck off,” Sulu commented and Ruth sighed.

It took a while and her power was beginning to weaken to the point where she wouldn’t have enough left for the necessary enchantment when she saw the target. A beautiful young woman was entering the inn, her face lit by the Call. She moved with serene grace directly to the chair in which the witch sat.

“Such beautiful music,” she murmured, her voice as soft as her eyes.

“Would you like me to teach it to you?” Raw-eth asked, altering her power from the Siren Spell to that of the required charm.

“Would you, please?” the girl responded breathlessly.

“I’d be pleased to,” the witch replied with a sweet smile. “I’m Raw-eth. What’s your name, child?”

“Jillie. I’m the innkeeper’s daughter.”

“I’m pleased to make your acquaintance, Jillie, the innkeeper’s daughter,” Raw-eth said. “Is there a place we could go that would be more private? You’d be better able to hear the notes I would teach you.”

“The storehouse just behind the inn,” Jillie said. “No one will disturb us there. We’re stocked for the night.”

“Perfect,” Raw-eth said as she rose. She turned to speak to the owner of the lute, asking permission to borrow it a while longer. When she pressed a gold coin into his hand, the young man readily agreed. She smiled at him and took Jillie gently by the arm, steering her towad the back of the inn.

“Get your hands off her,” Sulu said stridently.

Ruth held hers up. “Not touching her, not me,” she replied. “Tell him, Jilla.”

The Indiian didn’t respond.



Kiv’n stepped into the inn just in time to see Jillie stepping through the back curtain with a beautiful woman, clearly not a peasant despite her clothing.

“Thank you kindly, sir,” Ruth giggled.

“Royalty knows quality when they see it,” Kevin replied with a gracious half-bow.

“She’s not a virgin, you know,” Sulu commented sourly.

“Oh, yes, I know,” Kevin returned, smiling at Ruth.

“I wasn’t talking about Spike.”

Something about the look of the golden-haired woman bothered him, and he quickly followed. He caught murmured words from the woman’s lips that sent a shiver down his spine. The two didn’t stop at the storehouse, but went on to the stables. The golden-haired women said a few more words, and one of the horses the inn kept to sell to travelers stepped up to her. She mounted it, holding her hand down to Jillie, who climbed onto its back in front of the older woman. Kiv’n waited until they had started off down the street towards the gates, then quickly called his own steed to him and continued following them.

He kept several lengths back as they made their way out of the town. Once beyond its gates, he saw the golden-haired woman give the reins a sharp snap, and the horse started galloping as if the devil were on its heels. He swore silently, but urged his mount to keep pace.


Suul was far from exhausted, but no matter how many times he gathered his strength, the chains that held him could not be broken. He’d roared over and over again, but the Mage did not reappear. He had finally worked out that the female had bespelled him somehow, and his fury at that betrayal made his blood boil and his vision turn a dark, roiling scarlet. That there was a power that couldn’t be defeated by his sheer might burned in him and fed his anger. When Suul free, he thought darkly, Raw-eth will pay. Mage will pay. Suul destroy!

The sudden, chilling laughter that echoed around him only served to make him more determined.

“Hulk smash,” Kevin chortled, again quoting from an ancient Terran video play.

“Oh come on, he’s not green,” Ruth rebutted.

“Bet I know who is,” the navigator replied jauntily.

“Seven years,” Jilla was murmuring. “He said a sacrifice was required every seven years…”

“Don’t think about it,” Sulu said. “Don’t feed it.”


The witch urged the horse as fast as it could go, guiding it through the dark forest and into the foothills of the mountain range beyond. She took the winding path to the Mage’s castle, careful to obscure it behind her. His excited need pulled at her, promising the delights of the Master’s caress. There was no need for her to exert her own power so close to him, and she dropped the enchantment she had woven around the girl. She tightened her grip about the child’s waist as the charm faded, laughing with wild delight when she began struggling.

“I’ll be teaching you that song soon, girl,” she whispered, then licked at the shell-like ear beneath the wild tangles of dark-red hair. “And more.”

The loud, “ICK!” was clear over the titillated murmurs of the audience.

The horse stopped under the archway of the castle, and Raw-eth kept her grip on the girl as she slipped off the beast. Once on the ground, Jillie began fighting her.

“What do you want with me?!” she gasped. “What is this place?”

“It’s not what she wants, ma cher,” said a deep, smooth voice, and Raw-eth dropped to her knees, pulling Jillie with her.

The Mage stepped out of the shadows and gestured. Jillie’s eyes went blank, and she rose, moving toward him with eerie grace.

He held out a hand and she stopped. He made a twirling motion and she slowly turned around, stopping when she was again facing him.

“Ah, she’s a beauty, Raw-eth,” he murmured. “You’ve done well. “Secure her in my rooms, then attend to me at the altar.”

“And the Master?” the witch said eagerly.

The Mage gave her a disdainful glance. “But of course, little fool.”

“Oh no, oh FUCK no!” Sulu spat.

Beside him, Jilla was silently shivering, and Ruth, too, trembled – but she was far from cold.


Kiv’n blinked as the road which had been so clear before him disappeared in mist and shadow. Dread had been building in him the entire ride, for there was only one dwelling this far out of the town. Rumor made it an evil place, one of sorcery and depravity – but there had been no activity there for many years, not since he had passed the trials that had made him a man. Legend told of dark occurrences, ones of blood sacrifice and foul wizardry. There were even some that hinted of young women going into the castle, never to be seen again.

His blood running cold, Kiv’n turned his mount and raced back to the town. He had to tell his father – and raise an assault on the ancient wickedness.

“Riley to the rescue!” Kevin crowed, then turned to see his companions staring at the screen in eager delight, mute dread, and furious horror.


The witch bound Jillie to the Mage’s bed, ignoring the girl’s pleas and frantic struggles. Her blood was heating rapidly, the call of the Master nearly making her writhe in expectation. She had dropped the glamour of her appearance on the ride, her peasant dress once more the rich silk of her robe. She disrobed casually, grinning at the flush that came over the girl’s face when she leaned over her tied figure to place a lingering kiss on the full lips.

“Soon you’ll know it too,” she whispered lasciviously, and left the bedroom.

The walk to the top of the castle was exhilarating, not even the night breeze able to cool her heated flesh. When she reached the parapet that led to the Mage’s altar, she stopped, watching as he lit the torches that surrounded it. He was still robed, and she knew he would remain that way until the ritual began. His magic was aging him rapidly now, though his glamour of youth and beauty would yet hold, and would be renewed when the sacrifice was complete. She shivered at the thought, and stepped down to the flagstones that were the floor of this outdoor sanctuary.

The Mage turned to her, his eyes gleaming from beneath his hood. “Come, Raw-eth,” he murmured. “Come prepare us both for the sacrifice.”

She flew to his arms, writhing in his embrace. His hand reached into a large bowl of herbed oil, beginning to coat her skin with the magically charged mixture.

"No…” Sulu moaned softly. “No, no, no…”

He murmured incantations and the oil began to glow on her flesh. He knelt, making sure every inch of her body was covered in the gleaming oil, his fingers even moving between her legs and inside her folds.

The tense expectancy of the audience was nearly as compelling as the images on the screen and Sulu bit back a sob, getting to his knees, burying his face against Jilla’s thighs.

Raw-eth trembled, her head thrown back, guttural moans escaping from her lips. When the Mage at last stood again, she eagerly opened his robe, pushing his hood back. The face that was revealed was cruel and sensual and devastatingly handsome, though the coal-black eyes glittered with a cold light. The dark hair fell in waves about his shoulders, the body lean, but strong and beautiful.

“Anoint me,” he whispered. “Bring the Master to us both.”

The amethyst fire grew in her eyes, and she pulled the robe from his shoulders, eagerly coating his flesh with the heavy oil in the bowl. She paid particular attention to the already risen organ, smiling up at the eyes that watched her.

“Holy Mary!” Kevin breathed, flushing as he glanced around at the rest of the audience.

Ruth gasped silently, her lips parted, her hands reaching out toward the screen.

“Get on the altar, ma cher,” the Mage ordered, his voice seduction personified.

Raw-eth danced to it, climbing up upon the cold stone. She held her arms out. “Come, Master,” she crooned. “Come into your willing vessel and bring the blood that will renew your servant.”

The Mage seemed to shudder, then his body went rigid. The color of it altered, the oil gleaming now with a pale jade. His features sharpened, his ears seeming to form elongated points. He stalked gracefully toward her, giving a powerful leap that landed him on top of her, his knees straddling her hips.

“Vulk’ael,” she murmured throatily. “Master of dark power, lord of intelligence, bringer of wisdom. Legion of Hell, angel of the night, give me your mastery!”

“Oh and for the love of Jesus…” Kevin muttered and Ruth hissed, “Quiet, mortal!”

The demon smiled at her, and slowly lowered himself onto and into her eager flesh.


Kiv’n rode like a man possessed, the town guards and his father’s men close at his back. The horses reared when they reached the wall of shadow obscuring the path into the foothills, but Kiv’n closed his eyes and urged them on. For long moments he saw nothing of either the road or his surroundings. All was shrouded in a heavy mist. Still he rode on, heedless of what his vision told him, trusting to the path he knew was beneath his horse’s hooves. He could hear the sound of galloping behind him, and smiled grimly at the bravery and fortitude of the men he had gathered.

He felt branches whipping his face and lowered his head, riding on. Then his horse whinnied in terror and he gave it one final urging – and the fog cleared, and he had to pull up sharply on the reins to keep from crashing into the stone archway before the castle entrance. He heard the wild screams of the other horses as they, too were stopped abruptly. He dismounted and drew his sword. There was an eerie light coming from the top of the keep, and he and his men charged to the stairs of the bastion.


Jillie struggled in her bonds, her fear filling her with desperation, but the more she writhed, the tighter the ties became. A wild terror was within her, but she seemed to hear voices coming from nowhere, promising her great power and boons beyond her greatest imaginings. She fought not to listen, but the sound was everywhere and it permeated her very flesh, sending heat she had never known into her loins. Shame filled her and she started to pray, only to have the words torn from her lips by an icy wind. Tears streaked down her face and after what seemed like hours, she gave up, her breasts heaving with her sobs.

She heard the creak of the heavy door and jerked her eyes to it. A naked man stood there, tall and slender, his features elegant, his skin pale and streaked with what looked like oil – and blood. Behind him was Raw-eth, also nude, a bowl carried in her arms. Her violet eyes were rolled back in her head, and she moved with slow, jerky motions.

“What is your name, child?” the man said, and though she tried, there was no refusing that voice.

“Jillie,” she whispered.

He smiled, then turned to Raw-eth. “Prepare her,” he said.

Jillie cried out as the woman approached with the bowl. It was set on the bed, and the maiden shrieked as the woman’s suddenly clawed fingers rent her clothing, pulling the scraps of it from her body with methodical ease. When Raw-eths hands began to cover her body with the viscous fluid within the bowl – thick oil and blood and streaks of translucent white – Jillie screamed.

"Ohgodohgodohgod…” Ruth was moaning. Kevin tried to comfort her, only to have her pull harshly away. He glanced over to where Sulu still knelt before Jilla, trembling with sick dread. The Indiian’s mouth was open in a silent cry of horror.

When the girl’s skin was completely coated, the man made a gesture, and the ropes that bound her to the bed disappeared. He murmured something, and Jillie found she could not move, save at his command. Her heart beat wildly in her, her mind thundering against her skull, but she was held by his power. He held out his hand and she rose, despite her desperate attempt to deny him. A sharp, thin dagger appeared in his hand and he offered it to her. Repulsed, she nevertheless took it slowly from him.

“Raw-eth will lead you to the dungeon,” he said softly. “There you will find a monster chained to the wall. You needn’t worry, it can do you no harm. But you must kill it. You must stab it thrice, once through the heart, once in the abdomen, once in the genitals. When this is done, you will be freed. Do you understand this, Jilllie?”

Her mouth moved, the “Yes, Master,” coming from her lips despite her will.

The man leaned forward, kissing her on the forehead. “Go, child. Do me this service, and all the rewards you have been promised will be yours.”

Raw-eth took her hand, her eyes still showing the whites. “Come with me,” she rasped, and Jillie, unable to stop herself, followed.


A chance glance into a window shocked Kiv’n to his very soul. There was Jillie and the golden-haired woman, both naked at the day they were born, heading down a long, winding staircase. He quickly gave orders for his men to continue toward the strange light and backtracked, finding a side entrance into the keep.

He found the staircase, and raced down it.


Suul heard the sound of soft footsteps on the stairs and jerked his head to it. When the two naked females appeared, he growled deep in his throat. He didn’t recognize one of them, but the other…

“Raw-eth!” he cried. “Raw-eth bad! Free Suul!”

The female shuddered, and he called louder. “Raw-eth! Free Suul!”


The witch shivered. There was some power other than the Master calling to her, and it brought pleasure and fierce passion to her loins. It was not the fire that now filled her, but something strong and sensual, an innocent joy, a self-less giving. The image of a strongly muscled body, a child-like face laughing with delight as she writhed beneath it began to crowd out the commands of the Master, and she blinked, her vision returning.

“Raw-eth!” came the furiously pleading roar. “Free Suul!”

She hesitated, and felt Jillie wavering.

Fool, complete the ritual! the voice of the Mage demanded harshly. She balked, shaking her head – and her mind was suddenly filled with a Vision of the future – her broken body devoured by wild animals while Jillie stood in her place, the Master’s arms around her, their lips sealed together as he drank her life’s energy from her. With sudden clarity she remembered how she had come to the Master – another ritual, one seven years before, herself a young maiden, brought to this dungeon, blade in hand, sacrificing the handsome young man who’s visage the Mage now wore. She remembered the face of his then-apprentice, a vapid woman with pale blonde hair and paler blue eyes. She saw again the terror on that woman’s face when she rose from the sacrifice, infused with the power she had stolen, laughingly dragging the hapless woman out into the forest, leaving her there for the beasts of the night.

NO! she shouted at the Mage. I will not be replaced!

You will do as I command! he thundered back at her, and she drew all her remaining power to her.

“Suul,” she said, “You cannot be destroyed if the girl you see before you is not a virgin. Take her, make her yours, and you will be free!”

Then she sent the bolt of energy that would destroy the enchantment of his bonds. As he easily tore them from the wall, she screamed as the Master sent terror and agony into her mind.


The blade was easily twisted from the girl’s hand. Suul’s nostrils flared at the acrid scent that rose from her skin, but her lush figure aroused him and he knew what he wanted. He overpowered her with ease, pushing her against the stone wall. He grabbed her hips, pulling her up off the floor, parting her thighs, and entered her in one powerful thrust.


“Suul, NO!” Kiv’n screamed, but he knew already he was too late. The barbarian held Jillie to the wall, rutting into her with an unstoppable rhythm. He felt a hand at his ankle, and glanced down, seeing the golden-haired woman writhing in torment.

“Help me,” she gasped, “Please… help me…”

With an anguished glance at Suul and Jillie, Kiv’n reached down swinging the woman into his arms and carrying her back up the staircase.


The Mage screamed, his body glowing brightly with a sickly green aura. A demonic roar came from his open mouth, followed by a black and roiling mist. Creatures formed within it, foul and twisted and deformed, and they rushed in a storm of darkness from the bedroom, down the stairs to the dungeon. They passed Kiv’n and Raw-eth without a pause, filling the dungeon below with a horrible maelstrom of harrowing shrieks. Kiv’n heard Suul’s answering roars and Jillie’s cries of terror, and set the woman down, though she clutched at him, entreating in desperate misery.

“I’ll be back for you,” he promised, and raced again down the stairs.

The sight that met his eyes sickened him. Jillie cowered against the wall, her thighs streaked with blood. Suul was a dervish of motion, fighting the demonic forms that sought to tear him to pieces. As he watched, the barbarian faltered, going down amid a swirl of black creatures. Jillie screamed as the shapes converged around her, and Kiv’n was suddenly spattered with blood that gushed out from the great rents torn into Suul’s body.

“SUUL!” he cried in anguish, and rushed to his friend. Then all the noise and darkness fled, and when it cleared, Jillie was nowhere to be seen.

He dropped to his knees beside the barbarian’s laboring body. The dark, innocent eyes opened, and Suul’s lips twisted into a smile.

“Kiv’n friend,” he rasped.

“Yes, yes I am,” the young lord replied, tears in his eyes.

“Suul fight good, yes?”

“Yes, you fought well indeed,” Kiv’n managed through his choked-off sobs. “It’s over now. Suul. Rest. Go to God.”

“Suul go to father, to mother,” the barbarian said, then inhaled sharply. “Suul go to…” then the life in his eyes faded, and Kiv’n wept.


The guards and townsmen burst into the bedroom, where the Mage stood, old and hunched and frail. His hair was strings of white from his scalp, his eyes dull and a pale, yellowed brown. One of the guards drew his sword and ran it through the wizened chest. It made a hissing sound, and the body of the Mage seemed to deflate, shrinking rapidly, then disappearing into a pile of dust on the carpeted floor. Prayers were heard from every man and the castle walls began to shake. As one, they turned and fled.


Kiv’n carried the golden-haired woman out of the castle door just as the ground beneath him rumbled. His men came racing out behind him, and he put the naked woman on his horse, then mounted it himself. The others got to their steeds, and they began a galloping descent out of the foothills and away from the crumbling castle. They didn’t stop until they were well into the woods. Then the horses were reined in, their breath steaming from their nostrils.

Kiv’n hurried borrowed a cloak from one of the men, pulling it around the woman’s shivering body. “Are you alright?” he asked softly.

She stared at him, her violet eyes luminous in the moonlight. “Is he gone?” she rasped. “Is the Mage no more?”

Kiv’n glanced at the men, and they nodded. “Yes, child, he’s gone.” She shuddered, clinging to him. “What is you name?” he asked.

She went very still, her head slowly rising. Her features, which had been beautiful beyond compare, took on a hardened edge, her eyes darkening.

“My name?” she said in a voice as seductive as the night. “My name is Vulk’ael.”


“Ruth? Sulu? Jilla?” Kevin said, his voice quavering.

His companions were staring, unblinking, at the screen. He took a deep breath and shook each one in turn. Sulu shuddered, rising slowly form his knees. Jilla collapsed into his arms. Ruth shuddered, then threw her arms around Kevin’s neck.

The screen flickered distorted images flashing across it, then settled into another moon-lit night, dark and forbidding.


Go to Part Six of Hotel California - The Lure of The Blood

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum