Sakari Lock paced the portal’s entrance in the middle of the desert, awaiting the arrival of two demons. The quarter moon illuminated the stark Arizona landscape dotted with clumps of sage brush, prickly pear cacti and mesquite bushes. Her car was safely hidden behind a stand of trees and a rock formation at least a hundred yards off the deserted highway. Ever since she was sent to Earth she was a failure in her duties as a demon drone. She was late and they would come looking for her soon.
Rubbing her arms, she tried to warm her chilled skin in the November air. She’d left her mortal job at the Red Rocks Bar and Grill in such hast she was still wearing her work clothes—tee-shirt, short skirt and cowboy boots. She wished she’d remembered a jacket.
This wasn’t the first time she returned to Anartia late. But this time, not only was she late, she didn’t have her life force offering for the rulers of Anartia. Acquired through sexual encounters, the chi or life force energy sustained their alternative world and those residing there. As a demon drone, it was her duty to replenish that energy and she was doing a lousy job. It didn’t matter if she had a good reason, the demoness did not tolerate disloyalty. Sakari was in a lot of trouble and her immortal life was at stake.
Work had kept her late, so late she was unable to acquire her collections of chi. The tavern was packed with customers all celebrating their yearly event. How was she to get a mortal off alone and seduce him in the middle of all the festivities? She considered luring a susceptible cowboy down into the wine cellar, where she could use her demon skills as seductress, mindful not to indulge in her own pleasures during the encounter, or risk harming her quarry.
But the wine cellar had more traffic that night than the kitchen with the other bartenders constantly restocking. At the end of the night she didn’t have time to seek out quarry. Instead, she packed up the leftover feast and drove out to the desert. The cooks were grateful not to have to waste all that food.
Staring at the boxes sitting on the sand, she had a sick feeling. What if the demoness didn’t accept her alternate offering? This special feast prized by mortals would not sustain their exiled world or its inhabitants, but she hoped the novelty pleased the demoness enough to ease her temper. The smells of roast turkey, stuffing and other baked goods surrounded her and mingled with the earthy desert scents. When she detected the sea salt odor of the ocean the hairs on the back of her neck stood. She knew the portal from Anartia had just opened. She took a couple steps back.
They were coming.
Moments later, she felt the magnetic pull from the vortex—the natural energy center that Anartia used to amplify the portal’s power. The doorway between worlds worked best when aligned within the natural power of a vortex. A shimmer swirled along a rock formation. Dante and Zorian emerged, looking annoyed.
“One day you’ll push Gwyllain too far,” Dante said, lifting his chin and giving her a proud look. With his bronze skin, lean muscular build and long black hair, the demon resembled the local Native Americans.
Zorian, who was much taller and muscular, looked more like Dante’s bodyguard than another of Gwyllain’s drones. He glared at Sakari with his hands on hips. “The demoness and her consort demand your presence immediately.” He said. “It won’t be pleasant.”
“It wasn’t my fault this time. I couldn’t leave work,” she said. But her excuse sounded lame and she knew the demoness and her consort, Tarik, would not be tolerant.
“She has no offering,” Zorian said disgusted. “I don’t sense any life force collection.”
Dante groaned. “Are you mad, Sakari?”
“I didn’t have time. But I have another offering. A feast.” She pointed to the boxes.
Dante bent toward the boxes and sniffed. “Food?” He gave a snort. “Food will not sustain our world or the inhabitants of Anartia.”“It’s all I have,” she pleaded.
“Fine. We’re wasting time.” Dante picked up a box and handed it to Zorian, then picked up another. Sakari picked up the third. “Let’s go.”
With a hand on her nebula stone pendant, Sakari stepped into the portal. Dante and Zorian followed.
Moments later she stepped onto the edge of a great cliff, overlooking the crashing waves of an ocean. Dante and Zorian arrived on either side of her. They strode up a long grassy slope toward the white temple much like an ancient Greek temple from Earth.
Quietly, they entered the Great Hall. Gwyllain and her consort Tarik were in the midst of collecting offerings from several drones. No excuse would save Sakari now.
In the center of the room was a large pool where a dozen slaves and demons leisurely bathed. Surrounding the pool were marble columns and lounge chairs. A few chairs were inhabited by scantily dressed demons, male and female, awaiting their turn to give their offering of chi to either the demoness or Tarik. The demoness and Tarik were preoccupied in the throes of sexual encounters with demon drones, the method of life force transfer. Tarik was having sex with two women and Gwyllain had one male demon. As soon as the drones had completed the sexual act, the next drone stepped forward to give the next offering. Tarik appeared to be enjoying the necessary task far more than his lover, Gwyllain, who appeared only half interested in her male attendees.
“While they’re busy, let’s set the feast up,” Sakari whispered as she placed her box down and went into the dining area and brought out a table with the help of a couple slaves. She set out the turkey, stuffing, potatoes and other delectable dishes. Then she poured goblets of wine. One slave placed gleaming stoneware plates, another, fresh fruits from Gwyllain’s gardens. The demoness loved her wine and fresh fruits. It took several minutes until the demon drones were finished with their offerings.
Gwyllain looked up from her lounger still naked. Her voluminous breasts were rosy from all the physical attention they had received from her minions giving their offerings. She stretched on the lounger like a lazy cat. “You’re late, Sakari.” A slave picked up her shimmery blue sheath lying on the marble floor and helped slide the skin-tight outfit over her body. The thin, transparent fabric barely contained Gwyllain’s breasts.
“Yes, demoness. I could not leave my mortal duties without causing suspicion.”
She ignored her excuse. “And I sense you have no offering of chi. I don’t believe punishment will do you any good this time.” Gwyllain narrowed her eyes and Sakari wondered if this was it. Would the demoness have Tarik drain all her life force until she was nonexistent?
“I have much to learn as a new drone,” Sakari said. Her argument for failing last time. Would it save her life this time?
Gwyllain sniffed the air and crinkled her nose. “What is that smell in my hall?”
“An offering of another kind, demoness,” Sakari said. She glanced at Dante and Zorian but they weren’t going to risk Gwyllain’s wrath. “A feast and a mortal ritual. I brought back many of Earth’s delicacies for you and your consort to taste.”
Curious now, the demoness sauntered over to the table and examined the various dishes. She prodded the turkey with a finger, licked it and made a face. She examined and smelled the other dishes—potatoes, gravy, vegetables, and cranberries. Some she poked with her finger and tasted, others she just sniffed and didn’t venture to try.
At this point, Tarik was at her side, plate in hand as one of the female slaves spooned a sampling of each dish on his plate. He ate heartily while his lover passed over every dish until she got to the two pies—an apple and a pumpkin.
Gwyllain stuck her finger in both and tasted. Her face lit up. “Mmmm.” Turning to the female slave who was ogling Tarik, she ordered. “I will sample this portion of the feast.”
The slave nodded and quickly cut large helpings of the two pies and placed them on a plate. She picked up the slices with her fingers and ate. “Wonderful,” she said, licking her sticky fingers. “What is this ritual for?”
“A feast for thanks,” Sakari said. As a new drone and new to Earth, she hadn’t quite understood the meaning of this tradition.
The demoness nodded, but she didn’t seem to understand either. “Very well. Perhaps, with punishment and more training…” She called to Zorian, the Disciplinarian. “Give her an extra long punishment.”
“Thank you, demoness. You’re very understanding,” Sakari said. A feast of Thanksgiving? A feast that brings about forgiveness and thankfulness? She was beginning to get a glimmer to what the holiday meant.
Zorian approached with flogger, chains and his boltstick. Sakari’s body responded with a flutter of warmth in all her intimate areas. Her insides clutched at the thought of Zorian’s lessons; she craved them. It was almost worth the risk of angering the demoness. “This way, Sakari.” He touched her cheek, staring into her eyes for a moment, then manacled her wrists. “There is much you have to learn.” Wrapping the chain around his hand, he led her across the hall towards his chamber.
Gwyllain ordered the slave woman to cut her another piece of pumpkin pie.