/ Language: English / Genre:sf_epic, / Series: Chronicles of Counter-Earth

Explorers of Gor

John Norman

All the glorious panorama of Earth's planetary twin, barbaric Gor, is present in John Norman's latest novel. When the shield ring of the much feared Kurii falls into the possession of a mysterious black explorer, it becomes vital to the Priest-Kings that Tarl Cabot himself regain that ancient product of an alien science. His quest brings him to the unmapped interior of the great equatorial rain-forests and into new dangers without parallel. Here are jungle kingdoms and tropical trade cities, fierce beasts and fiercer men. And at the heart of this full-bodied Gorean novel is a lost city - and a linkage of the loveliest enemy agents ever lured from the cities of far-off Terra.

EXPLORERS OF GOR

(Volume thirteen in the Chronicles of Counter-Earth)

by John Norman

1. I Talk With Samos

She was quite beautiful.

She knelt near the small, low table, behind which, cross-legged, in the hall of Samos, I sat. At this table, too, cross-legged, sat Samos. He faced me. It was early evening in Port Kar, and I had supped with Samos, first captain in the council of captains, that congress of captains sovereign in Port Kar. The hall was lit with burning torches. It contained the great map mosaic.

We had been served our supper by the collared slave, who knelt near us.

I glanced at her. She wore a one-piece tunic of rep-cloth, cut high at the thighs, to better reveal them, her steel collar, which was a lock collar, and her brand. The brand was the common Kajira mark of Gor, the first letter, about an inch and a half in height and a half inch in width, in cursive script, of the expression ‘Kajira’, which is the most common expression in Gorean for a female slave. It is a simple mark, and rather floral, a staff, with two, upturned, frondlike curls, joined where they touch, the staff on its right. It bears a distant resemblance to the printed letter ‘K’ in several of the Western alphabets of Earth, and I suspect, in spite of several differences, it may owe its origin to that letter. The Gorean alphabet has twenty-eight characters, all of which, I suspect, owe their origin to one or another of the alphabets of Earth. Several show a clear-cut resemblance to Greek letters, for example. ‘Sidge’, on the other hand, could be cuneiform, and ‘Tun’ and ‘Val’ are probably calligraphically drifted from demotic. At least six letters suggest influence by the classical Roman alphabet, and seven do, if we count ‘Kef’, the first letter in ‘Kajira’. ‘Shu’ is represented by a sign which seems clearly oriental in origin and ‘Homan’, I speculate, may derive from Cretan. Many Gorean letters have a variety of pronunciations, depending on their linguistic context. Certain scribes have recommended adding to the Gorean alphabet new letters, to independently represent some of these sounds which, now, require alternative pronunciations, context-dependent, of given letters. Their recommendations, it seems, are unlikely to be incorporated into formal Gorean.

In matters such as those of the alphabet conservatism seems unshakable. For example, there is not likely to be additions or deletions to the alphabets of Earth, regardless of the rationality of such an alteration in given cases. An example of the conservatism in such matters is that Goreans, and, indeed, many of those of the Earth, are taught their alphabets in an order which bears no rational relation whatsoever to the occurrence pattern of the letters. That children should be taught the alphabet in an order which reflects the frequency of the occurrence of the letters in the language, and thus would expedite their learning, appears to be too radical and offensive an idea to become acceptable. Consider, too, for example, the opposition to an arithmetically convenient system of measurement in certain quarters on Earth, apparently because of the unwillingness to surrender the techniques of tradition, so painfully acquired so long ago.

“Do Masters desire aught else of Linda?” asked the girl.

“No,” said Samos.

She put her small hand on the table, as though to reach to him, to beg his touch.

“No,” said Samos.

She withdrew, head down. She picked up the small tray from the stand near the table. On it was the small vessel containing a thick, sweet liqueur from distant Turia, the Ar of the south, and the two tiny glasses from which we had sipped it. On the tray, too, was the metal vessel which had contained the black wine, steaming and bitter, from far Thentis, famed for its tarn flocks, the small yellow-enameled cups from which we had drunk the black wine, its spoons and sugars, a tiny bowl of mint sticks, and the softened, dampened cloths on which we had wiped our fingers.

I had eaten well.

She stood. up. She held the tray. The gleaming collar, snug and locked, was very beautiful on her throat.

I remembered her from several months ago when I had first seen her, when she had had about her throat only a simple collar of iron, curved about her throat by the blows of a metal worker’s hammer.

She looked at Samos, her lip trembled.

She had been the girl who had brought to the house of Samos the message of the scytale. The scytale had been a marked hair ribbon. Wrapped about the shaft of a spear, thus aligning the marks, the message had appeared. It had been to me, from Zarendargar, or Half-Ear, a war general of the Kurii, inviting me to meet him at the “world’s end.” My speculation that this referred to the pole of the Gorean northern hemisphere had proved correct. I had met Half-Ear there, in a vast northern complex, an enormous supply depot intended to arm and fuel, and otherwise logistically support, the projected invasion of Gor, the Counter-Earth. I think it likely that Half-Ear perished in the destruction of the complex. The body, however, was never recovered.

The girl who had served us this night, slender and blond, blue-eyed, of Earth origin, had delivered to us the scytale. She had not, originally, even understood it to contain a message.

How different she seemed now from what she had then been. She had been brought to the house of Samos still in the inexplicable and barbarous garments of Earth, in particular, in the imitation-boy costume, the denim trousers and flannel shirt of the contemporary Earth girl, pathologically conditioned, for economic and historical reasons, to deny and subvert the richness of her unique sexuality. Culture decides what is truth, but truth, unfortunately for culture, is unaware of this. Cultures, mad and blind, can die upon the rocks of truth. Why can truth not be the foundation of culture, rather than its nemesis? Can one not build upon the stone cliffs of reality rather than dash one’s head against them? But how few human beings can think, how few dare to inquire, how few can honestly question. How can one know the answer to a question which one fears to ask?

Samos, of course, immediately recognized the ribbon as a scytale. As for the girl, he had promptly, to her horror, had her clothing removed and had had her put in a brief rep-cloth slave tunic and a rude neck-ring of curved iron, that she would not escape and, anywhere, could be recognized as a slave. Shortly thereafter I had been invited to his house and had received the message. I had also questioned the girl, who had, at that time, spoken only English. I recalled how arrogant and peremptory she had been, until she had learned that she was no longer among men such as those of Earth. Samos had had her taken below and branded, and used for the sport of the guards, and then penned. I had thought that he would have sold her, but he had not. She had been kept in his own house, and taught the meaning of her collar, fully.

I saw the brand on her thigh. Although the brand was the first letter, in cursive Gorean script, of the most common Gorean expression for a slave girl, ‘Kajira’, its symbolism, I think, is much richer than this. For example, in the slave brand, the ‘Kef’, though clearly a Kef and in cursive script, is more floral, in the extended, upturned, frondlike curls, than would be the common cursive Kef. This tends to make the mark very feminine. It is at this point that the symbolism of the brand becomes more clear. The two frondlike curls indicate femininity and beauty; the staff, in its uncompromising severity, indicates that the femininity is subject to discipline; the upturned curves on the frondlike curls indicate total openness and vulnerability. It is a very simple, lovely brand, simple, as befits a slave, lovely, as befits a woman.

Incidentally, there are many brands on Gor. Two that almost never occur on Gor, by the way, are those of the moons and collar, and of the chain and claw. The first of these commonly occurs in certain of the Gorean enclaves on Earth, which serve as headquarters for agents of Priest-Kings; the second tends to occur in the lairs of Kurii agents on Earth; the first brand consists of a locked collar and, ascending diagonally above it, extending to the right, three quarter moons; this brand indicates the girl is subject to Gorean discipline; the chain-and-claw brand signifies, of course, slavery and subjection within the compass of the Kur yoke. It is apparently difficult to recruit Goreans for service on Earth, either for Priest-Kings or Kurii. Accordingly, usually native Earthlings are used. Glandularly sufficient men, strong, lustful, and vital, without their slave girls, would find Earth a very dismal place, a miserable and unhappy sexual desert. Strong men simply need women. This will never be understood by weak men. A strong man needs a woman at his feet, who is truly his. Anything else is less than his fulfillment. When a man has once eaten of the meat of gods he will never again chew on the straw of fools.

“You may withdraw,” said Samos to the girl.

“Master,” she begged him, tears in her eyes. “Please, Master.”

A few months ago she had not been able to speak Gorean. She now spoke the language subtly and fluently. Girls learn swiftly to speak the language of their masters.

Samos looked up at her. She stood there, lovely, holding the tray before her, on which reposed the vessels, the tiny cups and glasses, the bowls, the spoons, the soft, dampened cloths on which we had wiped our hands. She had served well, beautifully, effacing herself, as a serving slave.

“Master,” she whispered.

“Return the things to the kitchen,” he said. I saw, from her eyes, that she was more than a serving slave. It is interesting, the power that a man may hold over a woman.

“Yes, Master,” she said. When she had knelt facing Samos, she had knelt in the position of the pleasure slave. When she had knelt facing me, she had knelt in the position of the serving slave. Samos, it was said, was the first to have brought her to slave orgasm. It had happened six days after she had first been brought to his house. It is said that a woman who has experienced slave orgasm can never thereafter be anything but a man’s slave. She then knows what men can do to her, and what she herself is, a woman. Never thereafter can she be anything else.

“Linda begs Master’s touch,” she said. The name ‘Linda’ had been her original Earth name. Samos had, after it had been removed from her, in her reduction to slavery, put it on her again, but this time as a slave name, by his will. Sometimes a girl is given her own name as a slave name; sometimes she is given another name; it depends on the master’s will. She spoke freely before me of her need for his touch. She was no longer an inhibited, negatively conditioned Earth girl. She was now open and honest, and beautifully clean, in her slavery, in her confession of her female truths.

Seeing the eyes of Samos on her she quickly went to the door, to leave, but, at the door, unable to help herself, she turned about. There were tears in her eyes.

“After you have returned the things to the kitchen—” said Samos.

“Yes, Master,” she said softly, excitedly. The small, yellow-enameled cups moved slightly on the tray. She trembled. The torchlight glinted from her collar.

“Go to your kennel,” said Samos, “and ask to be locked within.”

“Yes, Master,” she said, putting her head down. I thought she shook with a sob.

“I hear from the chain master,” said Samos, “that you have learned the tile dance creditably.”

The tiny cups and glasses shook on the tray. “I am pleased,” she said, “if Krobus should think so.”

The tile dance is commonly performed on red tiles, usually beneath the slave ring of the master’s couch. The girl performs the dance on her back; her stomach and sides. Usually her neck is chained to the slave ring. The dance signifies the. restlessness, the misery, of a love-starved slave girl. It is a premise of the dance that the girl moves and twists, and squirms, in her need, as if she is completely alone, as if her need is known only to herself; then, supposedly, the master surprises her, and she attempts to suppress the helplessness and torment of her needs; then, failing this, surrendering her pride in its final shred, she writhes openly, piteously, before him, begging him to deign to touch her. Needless to say, the entire dance is observed by the master, and this, in fact, of course, is known to both the dancer and her audience, the master. The tile dance, for simple psychological and behavioral reasons, having to do with the submission context and the motions of the body, can piteously arouse even a captured, cold free woman; in the case of a slave, of course, it can make her scream and sob with need.

“I hear that you have worked hard to perfect the tile dance,” said Samos.

“I am only a poor slave,” she said.

“The last five times you have performed this dance,” said Samos, “Krobus tells me that he could not restrain himself from raping you.”

She put down her head. “Yes, Master,” she said, smiling. “After you have been locked in your kennel,” said Samos, “ask for a vessel of warm water, oils and a cloth, and perfume. Bathe and perfume yourself. I may summon you later to my chamber.”

“Yes, Master,” she said, delightedly. “Yes, Master!”

“Slave!” he said.

“Yes, Master,” she said, turning quickly.

“I am less easy to please than Krobus,” he said. “Yes, Master,” she said, and then turned and fled, swiftly, from the room.

“She is a pretty thing,” I said.

Samos ran his tongue over his lips. “Yes,” he said.

“I think you like her,” I said.

“Nonsense,” he said. “She is only a slave.”

“Perhaps Samos has found a love slave,” I said.

“An Earth girl?” laughed Samos.

“Perhaps,” I said.

“Preposterous,” said Samos. “She is only a slave, only a thing to serve, and to beat and abuse, if it should please me.”

“But is not any slave,” I asked, “even a love slave?”

“That is true,” said Samos, smiling. Gorean men are not easy with their slaves, even those for whom they care deeply.

“I think Samos, first slaver of Port Kar, first captain of the council of captains, has grown fond of a blond Earth girl.”

Samos looked at me, angrily. Then he shrugged. “She is the first girl I have felt in this fashion toward,” he said. “It is interesting. It is a strange feeling.”

“I note that you did not sell her,” I said.

“Perhaps I shall,” he said.

“I see,” I said.

“The first time, even, that I took her in my arms,” said Samos, “she was in some way piteously helpless, different even from the others.”

“Is not any slave piteously helpless in the arms of her master?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Samos. “But she seemed somehow different, incredibly so, vulnerably so.”

“Perhaps she knew herself, in your touch, as her love master,” I said.

“She felt good in my hands,” he said.

“Be strong, Samos,” I smiled.

“I shall,” he said.

I did not doubt his word. Samos was one of the hardest of Gorean men. The blond Earth girl had found a strong, uncompromising master.

“But let us not speak of slaves,” I said, “girls who serve for our diversion or recreation, but of serious matters, of the concerns of men.”

“Agreed,” said he.

There was a time for slaves, and a time for matters of importance.

“Yet there is little to report,” said he, “in the affairs of worlds.”

“The Kurii are quiet,” I said.

“Yes,” said he.

“Beware of a silent enemy,” I smiled.

“Of course,” said Samos.

“It is unusual that you should invite me to your house,” I said, “to inform me that you have nothing to report.”

“Do you think you are the only one upon Gor who labors occasionally in the cause of Priest-Kings?” asked Samos.

“I suppose not,” I said. “Why?” I asked. I did not understand the question.

“How little we know of our world,” sighed Samos.

“I do not understand,” I said.

“Tell me what you know of the Cartius,” he said.

“It is an important subequatorial waterway,” I said. “It flows west by northwest, entering the rain forests and emptying into Lake Ushindi, which lake is drained by the Kamba and the Nyoka rivers. The Kamba flows directly into Thassa. The Nyoka flows into Schendi harbor, which is the harbor of the port of Schendi, and moves thence to Thassa.” Schendi was an equatorial free port, well known on Gor. It is also the home port of the League of Black Slavers.

“It was, at one time, conjectured,” said Samos, “that the Cartius proper was a tributary of the Vosk.”

“I had been taught that,” I said.

“We now know that the Thassa Cartius and the subequatorial Cartius are not the same river.”

“It had been thought, and shown on many maps,” I said, “that the subequatorial Cartius not only flowed into Lake Ushindi, but emerged northward, traversing the sloping western flatlands to join the Vosk at Turmus.” Turmus was the last major river port on the Vosk before the almost impassable marshes of the delta.

“Calculations performed by the black geographer, Ramani, of the island of Anango, suggested that given the elevations involved the two rivers could not be the same. His pupil, Shaba, was the first civilized man to circumnavigate Lake Ushindi. He discovered that the Cartius, as was known, enters Lake Ushindi, but that only two rivers flow out of Ushindi, the Kamba and Nyoka. The actual source of the tributary to the Vosk, now called the Thassa Cartius, as you know, was found five years later by the. explorer, Ramus of Tabor, who, with a small expedition, over a period of nine months, fought and bartered his way through the river tribes, beyond the six cataracts, to the Ven highlands. The Thassa Cartius, with its own tributaries, drains the highlands and the descending plains.”

“That has been known to me for over a year,” I said. “Why do you speak of it now?”

“We are ignorant of so many things,” mused Samos.

I shrugged. Much of Gor was terra incognita. Few knew well the lands on the east of the Voltai and Thentis ranges, for example, or what lay west of the farther islands, near Cos and Tyros. It was more irritating, of course, to realize that even considerable areas of territory above Schendi, south of the Vosk, and west of Ar, were unknown. “There was good reason to speculate that the Cartius entered the Vosk, by way of Lake Ushindi,” I said.

“I know,” said Samos, “tradition, and the directions and flow of the rivers. Who would have understood, of the cities, that they were not the same?”

“Even the bargemen of the Cartius proper, the subequatorial Cartius, and those of the Thassa Cartius, far to the north, thought the rivers to be but one waterway.”

“Yes,” said Samos. “And until the calculations of Ramani, and the expeditions of Shaba and Ramus, who had reason to believe otherwise?”

“The rain forests closed the Cartius proper for most civilized persons from the south,” I said, “and what trading took place tended to be confined to the ubarates of the southern shore of Lake Ushindi. It was convenient then, for trading purposes, to make use of either the Kamba or the Nyoka to reach Thassa.”

“That precluded the need to find a northwest passage from Ushindi,” said Samos.

“Particularly since it was known of the hostility of the river tribes on what is now called the Thassa Cartius.”

“Yes,” said Samos.

“But surely, before the expedition of Shaba,” I said, “others must have searched for the exit of the Cartius from Ushindi.”

“It seems likely they were slain by the tribes of the northern shores of Ushindi,” said Samos.

“How is it that the expedition of Shaba was successful?” I asked.

“Have you heard of Bila Huruma?” asked Samos.

“A little,” I said.

“He is a black Ubar,” said Samos, “bloody and brilliant, a man of vision and power, who has united the six ubarates of the southern shores of Ushindi, united them by the knife and the stabbing spear, and has extended his hegemony to the northern shores, where he exacts tribute, kailiauk tusks and women, from the confederacy of the hundred villages. Shaba’s nine boats had fixed at their masts the tufted shields of the officialdom of Bila Huruma.”

“That guaranteed their safety,” I said.

“They were attacked, several times,” said Samos, “but they survived. I think it true, however, had it not been for the authority of Bila Huruma, Ubar of Ushindi, they could not have completed their work.”

“The hegemony of Bila Huruma over the northern shores, then, is substantial hut incomplete,” I said.

“Surely the hegemony is resented,” said Samos, “as would seem borne out by the fact that some attacks did take place on the expedition of Shaba.”

“He must be a brave man,” I said.

“He brought six of his boats through, and most of his men,” said Samos.

“I find it impressive,” I said, “that a man such as Bila Huruma would be interested in supporting a geographical expedition.”

“He was interested in finding the northwest passage from Ushindi,” said Samos. “It could mean the opening up of a considerable number of new markets, the enhancement of trade, the discovery of a valuable commercial avenue for the merchandise of the north and the products of the south.”

“It might avoid, too, the dangers of shipment upon Thassa,” I said, “and provide, as well, a road to conquest and the acquisition of new territory.”

“Yes,” said Samos. “You think like a warrior,” he said.

“But Shaba’s work,” I said, “as I understand it demonstrated that no such passage exists.”

“Yes,” said Samos, “that is a consequence of his expedition. But surely, even if you are not familiar with the role of Bila Huruma in these things, you have heard of the further discoveries of Shaba.”

“To the west of Lake Ushindi,” I said, “there are floodlands, marshes and bogs, through which a considerable amount of water drains into the lake. With considerable hardship, limiting himself to forty men, and temporarily abandoning all but two boats, which were half dragged and thrust through the marshes eastward, after two months, Shaba reached the western shore of what we now know as Lake Ngao.”

“Yes,” said Samos.

“It is fully as large as Lake Ushindi, if not larger,” I said, “the second of the great equatorial lakes.”

“Yes,” said Samos.

I conjectured that it must have been a marvelous moment when Shaba and his men, toiling with ropes and poles, wading and shoveling, brought their two craft to the clear vista of vast, deep Lake Ngao. They had returned then, exhausted, to the balance of their party and boats, which had been waiting for them at the eastern shore of Ushindi.

“Shaba then continued the circumnavigation of Lake Ushindi,” said Samos. “He charted accurately, for the first time, the entry of the Cartius proper, the subequatorial Cartius, into Ushindi. He then continued west until he reached the six ubarates and the heartland of Bila Huruma.”

“He was doubtless welcomed as a hero,” I said.

“Yes,” said Samos. “And well he should have been.”

“The next year,” I said, “he mounted a new expedition, with eleven boats and a thousand men, an expedition financed, I now suppose, by Bila Huruma, to explore Lake Ngao, to circumnavigate it as he had Ushindi.”

“Precisely,” said Samos.

“And it was there that he discovered that Lake Ngao was fed, incredibly enough, by only one major river, as its eastern extremity, a river vast enough to challenge even the Vosk in its breadth and might, a river which he called the Ua.”

“Yes,” said Samos.

“It is impassable,” I said, “because of various falls and cataracts.”

“The extent of these obstacles, and the availability of portages, the possibility of roads, the possibility of side canals, are not known,” said Samos.

“Shaba himself, with his men and boats, pursued the river for only a hundred pasangs,” I said, “when they were turned back by some falls and cataracts.”

“The falls and cataracts of Bila Huruma, as he named them,” said Samos.

“The size of his boats made portage difficult or impossible,” I said.

“They had not been built to be sectioned,” said Samos. “‘And the steepness of the portage, the jungle, the hostility, as it turned out, of interior tribes, made retreat advisable.”

“The expedition of Shaba returned then,” I said, “to Lake Ngao, completed its circumnavigation and returned later, via the swamps, to Lake Ushindi and the six ubarates.”

“Yes,” said Samos.

“A most remarkable man,” I said.

“Surely one of the foremost geographers and explorers of Gor,” said Samos. “And a highly trusted man.”

“Trusted?” I asked.

“Shaba is an agent of Priest-Kings,” said Samos.

“I did not know that,” I said.

“Surely you suspected others, too, served, at least upon occasion, in the cause of Priest-Kings.”

“I had supposed that,” I said. But I had never pressed Samos on the matter. It seemed to be better that I not know of many agents of Priest-Kings. Our work was, in general, unknown to one another. This was an elementary security precaution. If one of us were captured and tortured, he could not, if broken, reveal what he did not know. Most agents, I did know, were primarily engaged in the work of surveillance and intelligence. The house of Samos was a headquarters to which most of these agents, directly or indirectly, reported. From it the activities of many agents were directed and coordinated. It was a clearing house, too, for information, which, processed, was forwarded to the Sardar.

“Why do you tell me this?” I asked.

“Come with me,” said Samos, getting up.

He led the way from the room. I followed him. We passed guards outside the door to the great hall. Samos did not speak to me. For several minutes I followed him. lie strode through various halls, and then began to descend ramps and staircases. At various points, and before various portals, signs and countersigns were exchanged. The thick walls became damp. We continued to descend, through various levels, sometimes treading catwalks over cages. The fair occupants of these cages looked up at us, frightened. In one long corridor we passed two girls, naked, on their hands and knees, with brushes and water, scrubbing the stones of the corridor floor. A guard, with a whip, stood over them. They fell to their bellies as we passed, and then, when we had passed, rose to their hands and knees, to resume their work. The pens were generally quiet now, for it was time for sleeping. We passed barred alcoves, and tiers of kennels, and rooms for processing, training and disciplining slaves. The chamber of irons was empty, but coals glowed softly in the brazier, from. which two handles protruded. An iron is always ready in a slaver’s house. One does not know when a new girl may be brought in. In another room I saw, on the walls, arranged by size, collars, chains, wrist and ankle rings. An inventory of such things is kept in a slaver’s house. Each collar, each link of chain, is accounted for. We passed, too, rooms in which tunics, slave silks, cosmetics and jewelries were kept. Normally in the pens girls are kept naked, but such things are used in their training. There were also facilities for cooking and the storage of food; and medical facilities as well. As we passed one cell a girl reached forth, “Masters,” she whimpered. Then we were beyond her. We also passed pens of male slaves. These, usually criminals and debtors, or prisoners taken in war, then enslaved, are commonly sold cheaply and used for heavy labor.

We continued to descend through various levels. The smell and the dampness, never pleasant in the lower levels of the pens, now became obtrusive. Here and there lamps and torches burned. These mitigated to some extent the dampness, We passed a guards’ room, in which there were several slaver’s men, off duty. I glanced within, for I heard from within the clash of slave bells and the bright sound of zills, or finger cymbals. In a bit of yellow slave silk, backed into a corner, belied and barefoot, a collared girl danced, swaying slowly before the five men who loomed about her, scarcely a yard away. Then her back touched the stone wall, startling her, and they seized her, and threw her to a blanket for their pleasure. I saw her gasping, and, half fighting, half kissing at them, squirming in their arms. Then her arms and legs were held, widely separated, each of her limbs, her small wrists and belled ankles, held in the two hands of a captor. The leader was first to have her. She put her head back, helpless, crying out with pleasure, subdued.

We were soon on the lowest level of the pens, in an area of maximum security. There were trickles of water at the walls here and, in places, water between the stones of the floor. An urt slipped between two rocks in the wall.

Samos stopped before a heavy iron door; a narrow steel panel slipped back. Samos uttered the sign for the evening, and was answered by the countersign. The door opened. There were two guards behind it.

We stopped before the eighth cell on the left. Samos signaled to the two guards. They came forward. There were some ropes and hooks, and heavy pieces of meat, to one side.

“Do not speak within,” said Samos to me. He handed me a hood, with holes cut in it for the eyes.

“Is this house, or its men, known to the prisoner?” I asked.

“No,” said Samos.

I donned the hood, and Samos, too, donned such a hood. The two guards donned such hoods as well. They then slid back the observation panel in the solid iron door and, after looking through, unlocked the door, and swung it open. It opened inward. I waited with Samos. The two guards then, reaching upward, with some chains, attached above the door, lowered a heavy, wooden walkway to the surface of the water. The room, within, to the level of the door, contained water. It was murky and dark. I was aware of a rustling in the water. The walkway then, floating, but steadied by its four chains, rested on the water. On its sides the walkway had metal ridges, some six inches in height, above the water. I heard tiny scratchings at the metal, small movements against the metal, as though by numerous tiny bodies, each perhaps no more than a few ounces in weight.

Samos stood near the door and lifted a torch. The two guards went out on the walkway. It was some twenty feet in length. The flooded cell was circular, and perhaps some forty-five feet in diameter. In the center of the cell was a wooden, metal-sheathed pole, some four inches in diameter. This pole rose, straight, some four feet out of the water. About this pole, encircling it, and supported by it, was a narrow, circular, wooden, metal-sheathed platform. It was some ten inches on all sides, from the circumference of the pole to the edge of the platform. The platform itself was lifted about seven or eight inches out of the water.

One of the guards, carrying a long, wooden pole, thrust it down, into the water. The water, judging by the pole, must have been about eight feet deep. The other guard, then, thrusting a heavy piece of meat on one of the hooks, to which a rope was attached, held the meat away from the platform and half submerged in the water. Almost instantly there was a frenzy in the water near the meat, a thrashing and turbulence in the murky liquid. I felt water splashed on my legs, even standing back as I was. Then the guard lifted the roped hook from the water. The meat was gone. Tiny tharlarion, similar to those in the swamp forest south of Ar, dropped, snapping, from the bared hook. Such tiny, swift tharlarion, in their thousands, can take the meat from a kailiauk in an Ehn.

The girl on the platform, naked, kneeling, a metal collar hammered about her neck, the metal pole between her leg., grasping it with both arms, threw back her head and screamed piteously.

The two guards then withdrew. Samos, hooded, walked out on the floating walkway, steadied by its chains. I, similarly hooded, followed him. He lifted the torch.

The platform’s front edge was about a yard from the tiny, wooden, metal-sheathed, circular platform, mounted on the wooden, metal-sheathed pole, that tiny platform on which the girl knelt, that narrow, tiny platform which held her but inches from the tharlarion-filled water.

She looked up at us, piteously, blinking against the light of the torch.

She clutched the pole helplessly. She could not have been bound to it more closely if she had been fastened in close chains.

The small eyes of numerous tharlarion, perhaps some two or three hundred of them, ranging from four to ten inches in length, watching her, nostrils and eyes at the water level, reflected the light of the torch.

She clutched the pole even more closely.

She looked up at us, tears in her eyes. “Please, please, please, please, please,” she said.

She had spoken in English.

She, like Samos’ Earth girl, Linda, had blue eyes and blond hair. She was slightly more slender than Linda, She had good ankles. They would take an ankle ring nicely. I noted that she had not yet been branded.

“Please,” she whimpered.

Samos indicated that we should leave. I turned about, and preceded him from the walkway. The guards, behind us, raised the walkway, secured it in place, and swung shut the door. They slid shut the observation panel. They locked the door.

Samos, outside, returned his torch to its ring. We removed the hoods. I followed Samos from the lower level, and then from the: pens, back to his hall.

“I do not understand what the meaning of all this is, Samos,” I told him.

“There are deep matters here,” said Samos, “matters in which I am troubled as well as you.”

“Why did you show me the girl in the cell?” I asked.

“What do you make of her?” asked Samos.

“I would say about five copper tarsks, in a fourth-class market, perhaps even an item in a group sale. She is beautiful, but not particularly beautiful, as female slaves go. She is obviously ignorant and untrained. She does have good ankles.”

“She speaks the Earth language English, does she not?” asked Samos.

“Apparently,” I said. “Do you wish me to question her?”

“No,” said Samos.

“Does she speak Gorean?” I asked.

“No more than a few words,” said Samos.

There are ways of determining, of course, if one speaks a given language. One utters phrases significant in the language. There are, when cognition takes place, physiological responses which are difficult or impossible to conceal, such things as an increase in the pulse rate, and the dilation of the pupils.

“The matter then seems reasonably clear,” I said.

“Give me your thoughts,” said Samos.

“She is a simple wench brought to Gor by Kur slavers, collar meat.”

“You would think so?” he asked.

“It seems likely,” I said.  “Women trained as Kur agents are usually well versed in Gorean.”

“But she is not as beautiful as the average imported slave from Earth, is she?” asked Samos.

“That matter is rather subjective, I would say”’ I smiled. “I think she is quite lovely. Whether she is up to the normal standards of their merchandise is another question.”

“Perhaps she was with a girl who was abducted for enslavement,” said Samos, “and was simply, as it was convenient, put in a double tie with her and brought along.”

“Perhaps,” I shrugged. “I would not know. It would be my speculation, however, that she had deep potential for slavery.”

“Does not any woman?” asked Samos.

“Yes,” I said, “but some are slaves among slaves.” I smiled at Samos. “I have great respect for the taste and discrimination of Kur slavers,” I said. “I think they can recognize the slave in a woman at a glance. I have never known them to make a mistake.”

“Even their Kur agents who are female,” said Samos, “seem to have been selected for their potential for ultimate slavery in mind, such as the slaves Pepita, Elicia and Arlene.”

“They were doubtless intended to be ultimately awarded as gifts and prizes to Kur agents who were human males,” I said.

“They are ours now,” said Samos, “or theirs to whom we would give or sell them.”

“Yes,” I said.

“What of the slave, Vella?” he asked.

“She was never, in my mind,” I said, “strictly an agent of Kurii.”

“She betrayed Priest-Kings,” he said, “and served Kurii agents in the Tahari.”

“That is true,” I admitted.

“Give her to me,” said Samos. “I want to bind her band and foot and hurl her naked to the urts in the canals.”

“She is mine,” I said. “If she is to be bound hand and foot and hurled naked to the urts in the canals, it is I who will do so.”

“As you wish,” said Samos.

“It is my speculation,” I said. “that the girl below in the pens, in the tharlarion cell, in spite of the fact that she is, though beautiful, less stunning than many slaves, is simple collar meat, that she was brought to Gor for straightforward disposition to a slaver, perhaps in a contract lot.”

“Your speculation, given her failures in Gorean, is intelligent,” said Samos, “but it is, as it happens, incorrect.”

“Speak to me,” I said.

“You would suppose, would you not,” asked Samos, “that such a girl would have been discovered on some chain, after having passed through the hands of one or more masters, and simply bought off the chain, or purchased at auction,”

“Of course,” I said. “Yet she is not yet branded,” I mused. Kur slavers do not, usually, brand their girls. Usually it is their first Gorean master who puts the brand on them.

“That is a perceptive observation,” said Samos.

“How did you come by her?” I asked.

“Quite by accident,” said Samos. “Have you heard of the captain, Bejar?”

“Of course,” I said. “He is a member of the council. He was with us on the 25th of Se’Kara.” This was the date of a naval battle which took place in the first year of the sovereignty of the Council of Captains in Port Kar. It had been, also, the year 10,120 C.A., Contasta Ar, from the founding of Ar. It was, currently, Year 7 in the Sovereignty of the Council of Captains, that year. in the chronology of Ar, which was 10,126 C.A. On the 25th of Se’Kara, in the first year of the Sovereignty of the Council of Captains, in the naval battle which had taken place on that date, the joint fleets of Cos and Tyros had been turned back from Port Kar. Bejar, and Samos, and I, and many others, as well, had been there. It was in that same year, incidentally, that Port Kar had first had a Home Stone.

“Bejar,” said Samos, “in an action at sea, overtook a ship of Cos.”

I listened. Cos and Tyros, uneasy allies, one island ubarate under large-eyed Chendar, the Sea Sleen, and the other under gross Lurius, of Jad, were nominally at war with Port Kar. There had been, however, no major engagements in several years. Cos, for some years, had been preoccupied with. struggles on the Vosk. These had to do with competitive spheres of influence on the Vosk itself and in its basin and adjacent tributary-containing valleys. The products and markets of these areas are quite important commercially. Whereas most towns on the river are, in effect, free states, few are strong enough to ignore powers such as Cos and its. major rival in these territories, the city of Ar. Cos and Ar compete with one another to gain treaties with these river towns, control the traffic, and dominate the commerce of the river to their respective advantages. Ar has no navy, being an inland power, but it has developed a fleet of river ships and these, often, skirmish with the river ships of Cos, usually built in Cos, transported to the continent and carried overland to the river. The delta of the Vosk, for most practical purposes, a vast marsh, an area of thousands of square pasangs, where the Vosk washes down to the sea, is closed to shipping. It is trackless and treacherous, and the habitat of marsh tharlarion and the predatory Ul, a winged lizard with wing-spans of several feet. It is also inhabited by the rencers, who live upon rence islands, woven of the rence reed, masters of the long bow, usually obtained in trade with peasants to the east of the delta. They are banded together under the nominal governance of the marsh Ubar, Ho-Hak. They are suspicious of strangers, as are Goreans generally. In Gorean the same expression is used for ‘stranger’ and ‘enemy’. The situation on the Vosk is further complicated by the presence of Vosk pirates and the rivalries of the river towns themselves.

“The engagement was sharp,” said Samos, “but the ship, its crew, passengers and cargo, fell to Bejar as prize.”

“I see now,” I said, “the girl was slave cargo on the ship which fell to Bejar.”

Samos smiled.

“It was not a slave ship, I gather,” I said, “else it is likely her head and body hair would have been shaved, to reduce the degree of infestation by ship lice in the hold.” I looked at him. “She could have been, of course, in a deck cage,” I said. These are small cages, fastened on deck. At night and in rough weather they are usually covered with a tarpaulin. This tends to prevent rust.

“It was not a slave ship,” said Samos.

I shrugged. “Her thigh was as yet bare of the brand,” I said, “which is interesting.” I looked at Samos. “Whose collar did she wear?” I asked.

“She wore no collar,” said Samos.

“I do not understand,” I said. I was genuinely puzzled.

“She was clothed as a free woman and was among the passengers,” said Samos. “She was not stripped until she stood on the deck of the ship of Bejar and was put in chains with the other captured women.”

“She was a passenger,” I said.

“Yes,” said Samos, “a passenger.”

“Her passage papers were in order?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“Interesting,” I said.

“I thought so,” said Samos.

“Why would an Earth girl, almost totally ignorant of Gorean, unbranded, free, be traveling on a ship of Cos?”

“I think, clearly, it has something to do with the Others, the Kurii,” said Samos.

“That seems likely,” I said.

“Bejar,” said Samos, “one well known to me, discerning that she was both unbranded and barbarian, and ignorant of Gorean, and knowing my interest in such matters, called her to my attention. I had her, hooded, brought here from his pens.”

“It is an interesting mystery,” I said. “Are you certain you do not wish me to question her in her own language?’

“No,” said Samos. “Or certainly not at present.”

“As you wish,” I said.

“Sit down,” said Samos. He gestured to a place behind the small table on which we had had supper.

I sat down, cross-legged, behind the table, and he sat down, cross-legged, across from me.

“Do you recognize this?” asked Samos. He reached into his robes and drew forth a small leather packet, which he unfolded. From this he took a large ring, but too large for the finger of a human, and placed it on the table.

“Of course,” I said, “it is the ring which I obtained in the Tahari, that ring which projects the light diversion field, which renders its wearer invisible in the normal visible range of the spectrum.”

“Is it?” asked Samos.

I looked at the ring. I picked it up. It was heavy, golden, with a silver plate. On the outside of the ring, opposite the bezel, was a recessed, circular switch. When a Kur wore the ring on a digit of his left paw, and turned the bezel inward the switch would be exposed. He could then depress it with a digit of his right paw. The left hemisphere of the Kur brain, like the left hemisphere of the human brain, tends to be dominant. Most Kurii, like most men, as a consequence of this dominance of the left hemisphere, tend to be “right pawed,” or right handed, so to speak. One press on the switch on the Tahari ring had activated the field, a second press had resulted in its deactivation. Within the invisibility shield the spectrum is shifted, permitting one to see outward, though in a reddish light.

“I would suppose so,” I said.

I looked at the ring. I had given the Tahari ring to Samos, long ago, shortly after returning from the Tahari, that he might send it to the Sardar for analysis. I thought such a device might be of use to agents of Priest-Kings. I was puzzled that it was not used more often by Kurii. I had heard nothing more of the ring.

“Are you absolutely sure,” asked Samos, “that this is the ring which you gave me to send to the Sardar?”

“It certainly seems much like it,” I said.

“Is it the same ring?” he asked.

“No,” I said. I looked at it more closely. “No,” I said, “it is not the same ring. The Tahari ring had a minute scratch at the corner of the silver plate.”

“I did not think it was,” said Samos.

“If this is an invisibility ring, we are fortunate to have it fall into our grasp,” I said.

“Do you think such a ring would be entrusted to a human agent?” asked Samos.

“It is not likely,” I said.

“It is my belief that this ring does not cast the invisibility shield,” said Samos.

“I see,” I said.

“Take care not to press the switch,” said Samos.

“I will,” I said. I put the ring down.

“Let me speak to you of the five rings,” said Samos. “This is information which I have received but recently from the Sardar, but it is based on an intelligence thousands of years old, obtained then from a delirious Kur commander, and confirmed by documents obtained in various wreckages, the most recent of which dates from some four hundred years ago. Long ago, perhaps as long as forty thousand years ago, the Kurii possessed a technology far beyond what they now maintain. The technology which now makes them so dangerous, and so advanced, is but the remnants of a technology mostly destroyed in their internecine struggles, those which culminated in the destruction of their world. The invisibility rings were the product of a great Kur scientist, one we may refer to in human phonemes, for our convenience, as Prasdak of the Cliff of Karrash. He was a secretive craftsman and, before he died, he destroyed his plans and papers. He left behind him, however, five rings. In the sacking of his city, which took place some two years after his death, the rings were found.”

“What became of the rings?” I asked.

“Two were destroyed in the course of Kur history,” said Samos. “One was temporarily lost upon the planet Earth some three to four thousand years ago, it being taken from a slain Kur commander by a man named Gyges, a herdsman, who used its power to usurp the throne of a country called Lydia, a country which then existed on Earth.”

I nodded. Lydia, I recalled, had fallen to the Persians in the Sixth Century B.C., to utilize one of the Earth chronologies. That would, of course, have been long after the time of Gyges.

“One is reminded of the name of the river port at the mouth of the Laurius,” said Samos.

“Yes,” I said. The name of that port was Lydius.

“Perhaps there is some connection,” speculated Samos.

“Perhaps,” I said. “Perhaps not.” It was often difficult to know whether isolated phonetic similarities indicated a historical relationship or not. In this case I thought it unlikely, given the latitude and style of life of Lydius. On the other hand, men of Lydia might possibly have been involved in its founding. The Voyages of Acquisition, of Priest-Kings, I knew, had been of great antiquity. These voyages now, as I understood it, following the Nest War, had been discontinued.

“Kurii came later for the ring,” said Samos. “Gyges was slain. The ring itself, somehow, was shortly thereafter destroyed in an explosion.”

“Interesting,” I said.

“That left two rings,” said Samos.

“One of them was doubtless the Tahari ring,” I said.

“Doubtless,” said Samos.

I looked at the ring on the table. “Do you think this is the fifth ring?” I asked.

“No,” said Samos. “I think the fifth ring would be too precious to be taken from the steel world on which it resides. I do not think it would be risked on Gor.”

“Perhaps they have now learned how to duplicate the rings,” I ventured.

“That seems to me unlikely for two reasons,” said Samos. “First, if the ring could be duplicated, surely in the course of Kur history, particularly before the substantial loss of their technology and their retreat to the steel worlds, it would have been. Secondly, given the secretive nature of the rings’ inventor, Prasdak of the Cliff of Karrash, I suspect there is an additional reason which mitigates against the dismantlement of the ring and its consequent reproduction.”

“The secret, doubtless, could be unraveled by those of the Sardar,” I said. “What progress have they made with the ring from the Tahari?”

“The Tahari ring never reached the Sardar,” said Samos. “I learned this only a month ago.”

I did not speak. I sat behind the table, stunned.

“To whom,” I then asked, “did you, entrust the delivery of the ring to the Sardar.”

“To one of our most trusted agents,” said Samos.

“Who?” I asked.

“Shaba, the geographer of Anango, the explorer of Lake Ushindi, the discoverer of Lake Ngao and the Ua River,” said Samos.

“Doubtless he met with foul play,” I said.

“I do not think so,” said Samos.

“I do not understand,” I said.

“This ring,” said Samos, indicating the ring on the table, “was found among the belongings of the girl in the tharlarion cell below. It was with her when her ship was captured by Bejar.”

“It surely, then, is not the fifth ring,” I said.

“But what is its purport?” asked Samos.

I shrugged. “I do not know,” I said.

“Look,” said Samos. He reached to one side of the table, to a flat, black box, of the sort in which papers are sometimes kept. In the box, too, there is an inkwell, at its top, and a place for quilled pens. He opened the box, below the portion containing the inkwell and concave surfaces for pens.

He withdrew from the box several folded papers, letters. He had broken the seal on them.

“These papers, too, were found among the belongings of our fair captive below,” said Samos.

“What is their nature?” I asked.

“There are passage papers here,” he said, “and a declaration of Cosian citizenship, which is doubtless forged. Too, most importantly, there are letters of introduction here, and the notes for a fortune, to be drawn on various banks in Schendi’s Street of Coins.”

“To whom are the letters of introduction,” I asked, “and to whom are made out the notes?”

“One is to a man named Msaliti,” said Samos, “and the other is to Shaba.”

“And the notes for the fortunes?” I asked.

“They are made out to Shaba,” said Samos.

“It seems then,” I said, “that Shaba intends to surrender the ring to agents of Kurii, receive fees for this, and then carry to the Sardar this ring we have before us.”

“Yes,” said Samos.

“But Priest-Kings could surely determine, as soon as the switch was depressed, that the ring was false,” I said. “Ah, yes,” I said.

“I fear so,” said Samos. “I suspect the depression of the switch, presumably to be accomplished in the Sardar, will initiate an explosion.”

“It is probable then,” I said, “that the ring is a bomb.”

Samos nodded. He, through my discussions with him, and his work with the Sardar, was familiar with certain technological possibilities. He had himself, however, like most Goreans, never witnessed, first-hand, an explosion.

“I think it would be like lightning,” he said, picking his words slowly.

“Priest-Kings might be killed,” I said.

“Distrust and dissension might be spread then between men and Priest-Kings,” said Samos.

“And in the meantime, the Kurii would have regained the ring and Shaba would be a rich man.”

“It seems so,” said Samos.

“The ship, of course, was bound for Schendi?” I asked.

“Of course,” he said.

“Do you think the girl below knows much of this?”

“No,” said Samos. “I think she was carefully chosen, to do little more than convey the notes and the ring. Probably there are more expert Kur agents in Schendi to receive the ring once it is delivered.”

“Perhaps even Kurii themselves,” I said.

“The climate would be cruel upon Kurii,” he said, “but it is not impossible.”

“Shaba is doubtless in hiding,” I said. “I do not think it likely I could locate him by simply voyaging to Schendi.”

“Probably he can be reached through Msaliti,” said Samos.

“It could be a very delicate matter,” I said.

Samos nodded. “Shaba is a very intelligent man,” he said. “Msaliti probably does not know where he is. If Shaba, whom we may suppose contacts Msaliti, rather than the opposite, suspects anything is amiss, he will presumably not come forth.”

“The girl is then the key to locating Shaba,” I said. “That is why you did not wish me to question her. That is why she must not even know she has been in your power.”

“Precisely,” said Samos. “She must remain totally ignorant of the true nature of her current captivity.”

“It is known, or would soon be known, that her ship was taken by Bejar,” I said. “It is doubtless moored prize at his wharfage even now. She cannot be simply released and sent upon her way. None would believe this. All would suspect she was a decoy of some sort, a lure to draw forth Shaba.”

“We must attempt to regain the ring,” said Samos, “or, at worst, prevent it from falling into the hands of the Kurii.”

“Shaba will want the notes for the fortunes,” I said. “Kurii will want the false ring. I think he, or they, or both, will be very interested in striking up an acquaintance with our lovely prisoner below.”

“My thoughts, too,” said Samos.

“It is known, or will soon be known, she was taken by Bejar,” I said. “When his other women prisoners are put upon the block, let her be put there with them, only another woman to be sold.”

“They will be sold as slaves,” said Samos.

“Of course,” I said, “let her, too, be sold as a slave.”

“I will have the iron ring removed from her throat,” said Samos, “and have her, tied in a slave sack, sent to Bejar.”

“I will attend her sale, in disguise,” I said. “I will see who buys her.”

“It could be anyone,” said Samos. “Perhaps she will be bought by an urt hunter or an oar maker. What then?”

“Then she is owned by an oar maker or an urt hunter,” I said. “And we shall consider a new plan.”

Urt hunters swim slave girls, ropes on their necks, beside their boats in the dark, cool water of the canals, as bait for urts, which, as they rise to attack the girl, are speared. Urt hunters help to keep the urt population in the canals manageable.

“Agreed,” said Samos.

He handed me the ring on the table and the letters of introduction, and notes.

“You may need these,” he said, “in case you encounter Shaba. Perhaps you could pose as a Kur agent, for he does not know you, and obtain the true ring for the Kurii notes. The Sardar could then be warned to intercept Shaba with the false ring and deal as they will with him.”

“Excellent,” I said. “These things will increase our store of possible strategies.” I placed the ring and the papers in my robes.

“I am optimistic,” said Samos.

“I, too,” I said.

“But beware of Shaba,” he said. “He is a brilliant man. He will not be easily fooled.”

Samos and I stood up.

“It is curious,” I said, “that the rings were never duplicated.”

“Doubtless there is a reason,” said Samos.

I nodded. That was doubtless true.

We went toward the door of his hall, but stopped before we reached the heavy door.

Samos wished to speak.

“Captain,” said he.

“Yes, Captain,” said I.

“Do not go into the interior, beyond Schendi,” said Samos. “That is the country of Bila Huruma.”

“I understand him to be a great ubar,” I said.

“He is also a very dangerous man,” said Samos, “and these are difficult times.”

“He is a man of vision,” I said.

“And pitiless greed,” said Samos.

“But a man of vision,” I reminded him. “Is he not intending to join the Ushindi and Ngao with a canal, cut through the marshes, which, then, might be drained?”

“Work on such a project is already proceeding,” said Samos.

“That is vision,” I said, “and ambition.”

“Of course,” said Samos. “Such a canal would be an inestimable commercial and military achievement. The Ua, holding the secret of the interior, flows into the Ngao, which, by a canal, would be joined with Ushindi. Into Ushindi flows the Cartius proper, the subequatorial Cartius. Out of Ushindi flow the Kamba and the Nyoka, and those flow to Thassa.”

“It would be an incredible achievement,” I marveled.

“Beware of Bila Huruma,” said Samos.

“I expect to have no dealings with him,” I said.

“The pole and platform below, on which is held prisoner our lovely guest,” said Samos, “was suggested to me by a peacekeeping device of Ella Huruma. In Lake Ushindi, in certain areas frequented by tharlarion, there are high poles. Criminals, political prisoners, and such are rowed to these poles and left there, clinging to them. There are no platforms on the poles.”

“I understand,” I said.

“But I think you have nothing to fear,” said Samos, “if you remain within the borders of Schendi itself.”

I nodded. Schendi was a free port, administered by black merchants, members of the caste of merchants. It was also the home port of the League of Black Slavers but their predations were commonly restricted to the high seas and coastal towns well north and south of Schendi. Like most large-scale slaving operations they had the good sense to spare their own environs.

“Good luck, Captain,” said Samos.

We clasped hands.

As we exited from his hall, Samos spoke to one of the guards outside the huge double doors. “Linda,” he said.

“Yes, Captain,” said the guard, and left, moving down the hall. The Earth slave, Linda, was not kept in the pens. She was kept in the kennels off the kitchens. In spite of this she wore only the common house collar. Too, she was allotted a full share of domestic duties. Samos did not pamper his slaves, even those who knelt often at his slave ring.

I thought of the girl below, imprisoned on the tiny platform in the tharlarion cell. She would have the ring on her neck removed and then be placed in a slave sack and taken to the house of Bejar. I supposed that Bejar, or the slaver to whom he sold her, and the others, would mark her slave.

How piteously and helplessly she had clung to the pole. She had already begun to learn that Gor was not Earth.

“I wish you well, Captain,” I said to Samos.

“I wish you well, Captain,” said he to me. Again we clasped hands and then I strode from him, down the hallway toward the double gates leading from his house. At the first of the two gates, the one which consists of bars, while awaiting its opening, I glanced back.

Samos was no longer in sight, having gone to his chambers. A guard was in the hallway, with his spear.

The gate of bars was unlocked and I slipped through. It closed and locked, and I waited for the outer gate, that of iron-sheathed wood, to be opened.

I glanced back again and I saw the slave, Linda, naked, on a leash, being led to her master. She saw me, and looked down, shyly.

I exited then through the second gate of the house of Samos.

I had heard that she did the tile dance exquisitely. I almost envied Samos. I decided I would have the dance taught to my own slaves. I would be curious to learn which of them could perform it well, and which brilliantly.

“Greetings, Captain,” said Thurnock, from the boat.

“Greetings, Thurnock,” I said. I stepped down into the boat and took the tiller. The boat was thrust off into the dark water, and, in moments, we were rowing quietly toward my house.

2. I Attend The Market Of Vart

The girl screamed, fighting the sales collar and the position chain.

She tried to pull it from her throat.

The two male slaves, to the right, turned the crank of the windlass and she was drawn, in her turn, struggling, before the men.

The men in the crowd regarded her, curiously. Had she never been sold before?

She tried to turn away, and cover herself, her feet in the damp sawdust. The inside of her left thigh was stained yellow, as she had lost water in her terror.

The auctioneer did not strike her with his whip. He merely took her arms and lifted them, so that the position chain, attached to each side of the sales collar, lay across her upper arms. Then he had her clasp her hands behind the back of her neck, so that the chain, on each side of the collar, was in the crook of her arms, and she was exposed in such a way that she could be properly exhibited.

In a higher class market girls are usually fed a cathartic a few hours before the sale, and forced to relieve themselves shortly before their sale, a kettle passed down the line. In the current market such niceties, especially in large sales, were seldom observed.

By the hair the auctioneer pulled her head up and back so that her features might be observed by the men.

“Another loot girl taken by our noble Captain, Bejar, in his brilliant capture of the Blossoms of Telnus,” called the auctioneer. He was also the slaver, Vart, once Publius Quintus of Ar, banished from that city, and nearly impaled, for falsifying slave data. He had advertised a girl as a trained pleasure slave who, as it turned out, did not even know the eleven kisses. The Vart is a small, sharp-toothed winged mammal, carnivorous, which commonly flies in flocks.

“A blond-haired, blue-eyed barbarian,” called the auctioneer, “who speaks little or no Gorean, untrained, formerly free, a purse not yet rent, a thigh not yet kissed by the iron. What am I offered?”

“A copper tarsk,” called a man from the floor, a fellow who rented chains of work girls.

“I hear one tarsk,” called the auctioneer. “Do I hear more?”

“Let us have the next girl!” called a man. The slaves at the windlass tensed, but the auctioneer did not tell them to move the chain, removing the blond girl and bringing forth the next item on the chain.

“Surely I hear more?” called the auctioneer. “Do I hear two tarsks?” I suppose he may have paid two or three tarsks for her himself, to Bejar.

The girl was beautiful, but not as beautiful, it was true, as most Gorean slave girls. I did not think she would bring a high price. Unfortunately, then, almost anyone might buy her. I looked about. It seemed a common, motley crowd for the house of Vart, where men came generally to buy cheap girls, sometimes in lots, at bargain prices. His establishment was located in a warehouse near the docks. I conjectured there were some two hundred buyers and onlookers present. I wore the tunic, and leather apron and cap, of the metal worker.

“Look at her,” said the man beside me. “How ugly she is, what a she-tarsk.”

“A true she-tarsk,” agreed another.

They had seen, I gathered, few Earth girls. They did not understand the effects of years of insidious, pervasive, anti-biological conditioning. Their own culture, perhaps because of the limitations imposed on it by Priest-Kings, who did not wish to be threatened or destroyed by an animal with which they shared a world, had taken different turnings. They would not understand a world in which dirty jokes had point, a world in which a woman’s attractiveness was supposedly a function of the utilization of certain commercial products, or a world in which men and women were taught that they were the same, and in which they attempted to believe it, and would hysterically insist it was true, bravely ignoring the evidence of their reason, senses and experience. Civilization may be predicated upon the denial of human nature; it may also be predicated upon its fulfillment. The first word that an Earth baby learns is usually, “No.” The first word that a Gorean baby learns is commonly, “Yes.” The machine and the flower, I suspect, will never understand one another.

“Let us see another girl!” called yet another man.

“A new girl!” cried others.

Many women, of course, once under the helpless condition of slavery, increase considerably in beauty. This has to do primarily I think with psychological factors, in particular with the destruction of neurotic patterns, inculcated in the Earth female, of male-imitation, and the concurrent necessity imposed upon her by the whip, if necessary, to reveal and manifest her deeper self, that of a female. On the other hand, doubtless, the dieting, exercise, instruction in cosmetics and adornment, and the various forms of slave training, are also not without their effect.

“Do I hear two tarsks?” asked the auctioneer.

If a woman truly is, in her secret heart, a man’s slave, how can any female who is not a man’s slave be truly a woman? And how can any woman who is not truly a woman be happy?

Can a woman be free only when she is a slave? Is this not the paradox of the collar?

“Come Masters, Kind Sirs,” called the auctioneer. “Can you not see the promise of this slender, blond, barbarian beauty?”

There was laughter from the floor,

“What a cheap, slovenly man of business is our friend, Vart,” said the fellow next to me. “Look, he has not even had her branded.”

“Add that into her price,” grumbled another.

“At least you do not have to worry about that,” said a man, to me.

I wore the garb of a metal worker. Usually girls, if not marked by a slaver, are marked in the shop of a metal worker.

I smiled.

The auctioneer was now calling off her measurements, and her collar, and wrist and ankle-ring size. He had jotted these down on her back with a red-grease marking stick.

“Will not an urt hunter give me at least two tarsks for her?” called out the auctioneer good-humoredly, but with some understandable exasperation.

I wished that either Bejar or Vart had had her branded. It would be easier to keep track of her that way.

“She is not worth tying at the end of a rope and using in the water as a bait for urts,” called out a man, the fellow who had first suggested that she be removed from the sales position.

There was laughter.

“Perhaps you are right,” called out the auctioneer, agreeably.

“Would an urt want her?” asked another man.

There was more laughter.

“Perhaps an urt!” laughed a man.

“Go down to the canals,” said another man. “See if you can get two tarsks from the urts!”

There was again general laughter. The auctioneer, too, seemed amused. He apparently recognized that it was futile, and a bit amusing, to be attempting to get an interesting price on this particular bit of slave meat.

There were tears now, and bitterness, in the girl’s eyes. I knew, from her general attitudes and responses, that she understood very little of what was transpiring, and yet, clearly, she must understand that she was the butt of the laughter of the men, who held her in contempt and scorned her, who were not interested in her, who had not bid hardly upon her, who obviously wished her to be taken from their sight. She was a poor slave. She stood there, in the collar, with the position chain attached to each side of it, the chain, on each side, over an upper arm, held in the crook of her arms, her hands clasped behind her neck.

“I hate you,” she cried, suddenly, to them, in English. “I hate you!”

They, of course, did not understand her. The hostility of her mien, however, was clear.

The auctioneer took handfuls of her long blond hair, from the right side of her head, rolled it into a ball between his palms, and thrust it in her mouth. She stood there. She knew she must not spit out the hair. She knew she was not then to speak.

“I am afraid that you are almost worthless, my dear,” said the auctioneer to her, in Gorean.

She looked down, bitterly. I knew this type of response. The woman who fears she cannot please men then sometimes tends to feel hostility toward them, perhaps turning her own rage and inward disappointment outward, laying the blame upon them, and developing the obvious defensive reactions of belittling sexuality and its significance, and attempting, interestingly, to become manlike herself, to be one with them, though in an aggressive, competitive manner, often attempting to best them, as though one of themselves. Since she was not found desirable as a woman she attempts to become a more successful man than the men who failed to note her attractiveness. This type of response, however, however natural on Earth in such a situation, would not be feasible on Gor in a slave. Gorean free women, of course may do what they wish. The slave girl, on the other hand, does not compete with the master, but serves him. The blond-haired girl might or might not hate men, but on Gor, as a slave, she would serve them, and serve them well. The woman who fears that she is unattractive to men, of course, is generally mistaken. She need only learn to please men. A woman who pleases men, and pleases them on their own terms, would, on Earth, be a startling rarity, an incredibly unusual treasure. On Gor, of course, she would be only another of hundreds of thousands of delicious slaves. On Gor a readiness to please men, and an intention to do so, and on their own terms, is expected in any girl one buys. Should a girl prove sluggish in any respect, it is simple to put her under discipline. Eventually, of course a woman learns that to please a man on his own terms is the only thing that can, ultimately, fulfill her own deepest needs, those of the owned, submitting love slave.

“I am afraid you are almost worthless, my blue-eyed, blond-haired prize,” said the auctioneer to the girl. She looked out, dully, bitterly, at the crowd, her hands clasped behind her neck, hair from the right side of her bead looping up to her mouth.

I had little fear for her, however. Her neurotic responses, functions of her Earth conditioning, would have little place on Gor.

They cannot be maintained on Gor.

They would be broken.

She would learn slavery well, like any woman.

The crowd watched the auctioneer, who stood close by the girl.

I was curious, however, that Kurii had brought her to Gor. She did not seem, objectively, of quite the same high quality of beauty as most of the wenches brought by Kurii to Gor, either as agents or as simple, immediate slaves.

The auctioneer made certain her hands were clasped tightly behind the back of her neck. He actually took her hands in his and thrust them closely together. She looked at him, puzzled, slightly frightened. He stepped behind her.

I smiled.

She suddenly screamed, and sobbed and gasped, her hair, wet, expelled from her mouth. She looked at the auctioneer, in terror, but dared not release her hands from the back of her neck. He, with one hand, wadded together her hair, and thrust it again in her mouth. She must not cry out, or speak. In his right hand, coiled, he held the whip which he had removed from his belt a moment before. He had administered to her the slaver’s caress with the heavy coils. She shook her head, wildly. She tried to draw back, but his left hand, behind the small of her back, held her in place.

She threw back her head, shaking it wildly, negatively. Then there was a spasm. Then she sobbed, shuddering, tensing herself. The auctioneer then, holding her, brought the coils near her again. She put her head back, her eyes closed. But he did not touch her then. She opened her eyes, looking up at the ceiling of the warehouse in which she was being sold. Still he did not touch her. She whimpered. Then I saw her legs tense and move, slight muscles in the thighs and calves. She half rose on her toes. Still he did not touch her. Then I saw her, with a sob, thrust herself toward the coils. But still he did not touch her. Then, as she looked at him, tears in her eyes, he, looking at her, deigned to lift the coils against her piteous, arched, pleading body. She then writhed at the chain, sobbing, her hands clenched behind her neck, her teeth clenched on her own hair. She tried to hold the whip between her thighs. He then withdrew the whip, and turned to the crowd, smiling. He fastened the whip at his belt.

“What am I bid?” he asked.

The girl whimpered piteously. He turned about and, with his right hand, open, cuffed her, as one cuffs a slave. Her head was struck upward and to the left. There was a bit of blood at her lip, which began to swell. There were tears in her eyes. She looked at him. She was silent.

“What am I bid?” asked the auctioneer.

“Four tarsks,” said a man.

“Six,” said another.

“Fifteen,” called out another.

“Sixteen,” said a man.

The girl, shuddering, standing as she had, her hair in her mouth, her hands behind her head, put her head down, miserably. She did not dare to look even at the bidders, who might own her. She knew that her needs had betrayed her.

I smiled to myself. The selection of this woman for service in the Kurii cause now seemed clearer than it had before. She, like others, doubtless, when their political duties were finished, would have been collared and silked, and set to the task of learning to please masters. I thought she would make, in time, a good slave. She was already adequately beautiful and, in time, in bondage, might become incredibly beautiful. Her responsiveness, though not unusual for a slave girl, was surely impressive for an unmarked Earth girl in her first sale. Responsiveness, of course, is something that can increase and deepen in a woman, and under the proper tutelage and discipline, does so. The female slave, in the fullness of her womanhood, and helplessness, attains heights of passion from which the free woman, in her pride and dignity, is forever barred. She is not a man’s slave.

“Twenty-two tarsks,” called a man in the crowd.

“Twenty-four!” called another.

Yes, the responsiveness of the girl on sale had been impressive. In some months, in the proper collar, and at the right slave ring, I suspected she would become paga hot, hot enough to serve even in the paga taverns of Gor. Her head was down.

“Twenty-seven tarsks,” called a man.

How shamed she was. Why was she so ashamed that she had sexual needs and was sensuously alive? Of course, I reminded myself, of course, she was an Earth girl.

“Twenty-eight tarsks,” called a man.

The girl’s body shook with an uncontrollable sob. Her secret, doubtless long hidden on Earth, that she had a deep, latent sexuality, had been ruthlessly and publicly exposed in a Gorean market. She had writhed, and as a naked slave.

“Twenty-nine tarsks,” called a man.

She had writhed not only as a woman, but as a slave.

Her head was down. Her body shook.

For a moment I almost felt moved to pity. Then I laughed, looking at her. Her responses had revealed her as a slave.

“Forty tarsks,” said a voice, triumphantly. It was the voice of Procopius Minor, or Little Procopius, who owned the Four Chains, a tavern near Pier Sixteen, to be distinguished from Procopius Major, or Big Procopius, who owned several such taverns throughout the city. The Four Chains was a dingy tavern, located between two warehouses. Procopius Minor owned about twenty girls. His establishment had a reputation for brawls, cheap paga and hot slaves. His girls served nude and chained. Each ankle and wrist ring had two staples. Each girl’s wrists were joined by about eighteen inches of chain, and similarly for her ankles. Further each girl’s left wrist was chained to her left ankle, and her right wrist to her right ankle. This arrangement, lovely on a girl, produces the “four chains,” from which the establishment took its name. The four-chain chaining arrangement, of course, and variations’ upon it, is well known upon Gor. Four other paga taverns in Port Kar alone used it. They could not, of course, given the registration of the name by Procopius Minor with the league of taverners, use a reference to it in designating their own places of business. These four taverns, if it is of interest, are the Veminium, the Kailiauk, the Slaves of Ar and the Silver of Tharna.

“Forty tarsks,” repeated Procopius Minor, Little Procopius. He was little, it might be mentioned, only in commercial significance, compared to Procopius Major, or Big Procopius. Big Procopius was one of the foremost merchants in Port Kar. Paga taverns were only one of his numerous interests. He was also involved in hardware, paper, wool and salt. Little Procopius was not little physically. He was a large, portly fellow. To be sure, however, Procopius Major was a bit larger, even physically.

The girl looked up now, sensing the cessation in the bidding, the repeating of a bid, the tone of the voice of Procopius Minor.

Her hands were still behind the back of her neck. She had not been given permission to remove them. She looked out at Procopius Minor. She shuddered. She realized that he might soon own her, totally.

“I have heard a bid of forty tarsks,” said the auctioneer, Vart. I supposed it would be good for the girl to serve for a time in a low paga house. It is not a bad place for a girl to begin to learn something of the meaning of her collar. “Do I hear another bid, a higher bid?” called Vart. Yes, she would look well in chains, kneeling to masters in a paga tavern. “My hand is open,” called Vart. “Shall I close my hand? Shall I close my hand?”

He looked about, well pleased. He had never counted on getting as much as forty tarsks for the blond barbarian.

“I will now close my hand!” he called.

“Do not close your hand,” said a voice.

All eyes turned toward the back. A tall man stood there, lean and black. He wore a closely woven seaman’s aba, red, striped with white, which fell from his shoulders; this was worn over an ankle-length, white robe, loosely sleeved, embroidered with gold, with a golden sash. In the sash was thrust a curved dagger. On his head he wore a cap on which were fixed the two golden tassels of Schendi.

“Who is he?” asked the man next to me.

“I do not know,” I said.

“Yes, Master?” asked the auctioneer. “‘Is there another bid?”

“Yes,” said the man.

“Yes, Master?” asked the auctioneer.

“I take him to be a merchant captain,” said a man near me.

I nodded. The conjecture was intelligent. The fellow wore the white and gold of the merchant, beneath a seaman’s aba. It was not likely that a merchant would wear that garment unless he were entitled to it. Goreans are particular about such matters. Doubtless he owned and’ captained his own vessel.

“What is his name and ship?” I asked.

“I do not know,” said the man.

“What is Master’s bid?” asked the auctioneer.

There was silence.

We looked at the man. The girl, too, in the sales collar and position chain, her hands behind her neck, looked at him.

“What is Master’s bid?” asked the auctioneer.

“One tarsk,” said the man.

We looked at one another. There was some uneasy laughter. Then there was again silence.

“Forgive me, Master,” then said the auctioneer. “Master came late to the bidding. We have already on the floor a bid of forty tarsks.”

Procopius turned about, smiling.

“One silver tarsk,” said the man.

“Aiii!” cried a man.

“A silver tarsk?” asked the auctioneer.

Procopius turned about again, suddenly, to regard the fellow in the back, incredulously.

“Yes,” he said, “a silver tarsk.”

I smiled to myself. The slave on sale was not a silver-tarsk girl. There would be no more bidding.

“I have a bid for a silver tarsk,” said Vart. “Is there a higher bid?” There was silence. He looked to Procopius. Procopius shrugged. “No,” he said.

“I shall close my hand,” said the auctioneer. He held his right hand open, and then he closed it.

The girl had been sold.

The girl looked at the closed fist of the auctioneer with horror. It was not hard to understand its import.

The auctioneer went to her and pulled the hair from her mouth, then threw it back over her right shoulder. He smoothed her hair then, on both sides and in the back. He might have been a clerk adjusting merchandise on a counter. She seemed scarcely conscious of what he was doing. She looked out, fearfully, on the man who had bought her.

The auctioneer turned to the buyer. “With whom has the house the honor of doing business?” he asked.

“I am Ulafi,” said the man, “captain of the Palms of Schendi.”

“We are truly honored,” said the auctioneer.

I knew Ulafi of Schendi only by reputation, as a shrewd merchant and captain. I had never seen him before. He was said to have a good ship.

“Deliver the girl to my ship,” said Ulafi, “at the Pier of the Red Urt, by dawn. We will depart with the tide.”

He threw a silver tarsk to the auctioneer, who caught it expertly, and slipped it into his pouch.

“It will be done, Master,” promised the auctioneer.

The tall black then turned and left the warehouse, which was the market of Vart.

Suddenly the girl, her hands still behind the back of her neck, threw back her head and screamed in misery. I think it was only then that her consciousness had become fully cognizant of the import of what had been done to her.

She had been sold.

Vart gestured to the slaves at the windlass and they turned its large, two-man crank, and the girl ‘who had been sold was drawn from the sales area. The next girl was a comely wench from Tyros, dark-haired and shapely. At a word from Vart she stood with her hands behind her neck, arching her body proudly for the buyers. I could see she had been sold before.

3. What Occurred On The Way To The Pier Of The Red Urt; I Hear The Ringing Of An Alarm Bar

It was near the fifth hour.

It was still dark along the canals. Port Kar seems a lonely place at such an hour. I trod a walkway beside a canal, my sea bag over my shoulder. The air was damp. Here and there small lamps, set in niches, high in stone walls, or lanterns, hung on iron projections, shed small pools of light on the sides of buildings and illuminated, too, in their secondary ambience, the stones of the sloping walkway on which I trod, one of many leading down to the wharves. I could smell Thassa, the sea.

Two guardsmen, passing me, lifted their lanterns.

“Tal,” I said to them, and continued on my way.

I wore, as I had the night before, the garb of a metal worker.

I heard an urt splash softly into the water, ahead of me and to my left.

I passed iron doors, narrow, in the walls. These doors usually had a tiny observation panel in them, which could be slid back. The walls were sheer. They were generally windowless until some fifteen feet above the ground. Yards, and gardens and courts, if they exist, are generally within the house, not outside it. This is very general in Gorean architecture. But there were few gardens or courts in Port Kar. It was a crowded city, built up from the marshes themselves, in the Vosk’s delta, and space was scarce and precious.

There were pilings along the walkway, to which, here and there, small boats were moored. The walkway itself varied from some five feet to a yard in width.

I had stayed at the sales in the warehouse of Vart for a time after the sale of the blond barbarian. I had not wished to leave immediately after her sale, for that might have indicated, had there been a curious observer present, that that sale had been the one in which I had been interested.

The dark-haired, shapely girl from Tyros had gone for twenty-nine tarsks. She had proved, under Vart’s touch, a hot, helpless slave and the bidding then had been quick and meaningful. She had been purchased by Procopius Minor for the Four Chains. He seemed well pleased with the buy. She was hot and she had cost him not forty but only twenty-nine tarsks. He had then, I conjectured, forgotten the blond barbarian. Tyros is a city enemy to Port Kar. Many men in Port Kar would enjoy having a girl of Tyros weep herself slave in their arms. She would make good money for Procopius Minor. She had been an excellent buy, a superb bargain. He might even enjoy using her himself. Who was the girl who had been previously sold? Ah, yes, the blond barbarian, purchased by Ulafi of Schendi.

The next two women sold had been a mother and daughter from Cos. they were sold to separate buyers, as pot girls. The mother brought sixteen tarsks and the daughter fourteen. They were among the eleven women, including the blond barbarian, who had been sold by Bejar to Vart. They had been taken in the capture of the Blossoms of Telnus. The crew and male passengers of the Blossoms of Telnus had also been sold by Bejar to Vart, but these had been auctioned by Vart in the morning, on the wharf blocks, as work slaves.

I had then stayed for only two more sales, and had then left, those of a peasant girl, blond, from southwest of Ar, and a merchant’s daughter from Asperiche. The peasant girl brought eight tarsks; the merchant’s daughter, to her indignation, brought only six. She had not yet learned slave heat. A strong master would teach it to her. She would learn it, or die. Frigidity is accepted by Goreans only in free women. Slave fires, of course, lurk in every woman. It is only a question of arousing them. Once the slave discovers her sexuality, a venture in which the humiliated slave, to her dismay, is forced to participate to the fullest, she can never again ignore it. Once she has begun to learn the orgasms of the slave girl she can never again be contented with anything less. She is then a master’s girl. “I beg for your touch, Master,” she whispers. Perhaps he will satisfy her; perhaps he will not. It is his whim. He is the master.

I stopped on the walkway. Ahead, some yards, was a girl dark-haired, lying on her belly on the walkway, reaching with her hand down to the canal, to fish out edible garbage. She was barefoot, and wore a brief, brown rag. I did not think she was a slave. Some free girls, runaways, vagabonds, girls of no family or position, live about port cities, scavenging as they can, begging, stealing, sleeping at night in crates and under bridges and piers. They are called the she-urts of the wharves. Every once in a while there is a move to have them rounded up and collared but it seldom comes to anything.

I was not worried about the girl. I was more alert to the fact that, moments before, two guardsmen had passed. The rounds of guardsmen are generally randomized, usually by the tossing of coins, different combinations corresponding to different schedulings. One of the most practical strategies for those who would avoid guardsmen, of course, is to follow them in their rounds. I was very aware of the fact that I carried, in my sea bag, the ring which the blond barbarian had had on the Blossoms of Telnus and the notes, bearing the signatures and seals of Schendi bankers, who had been made out to Shaba, the geographer of Anango, the explorer of Lake Ushindi, and the discoverer of Lake Ngao and the mysterious Ua River. I thought these might bring him out of hiding, with the Tahari ring, if I could not locate him by means of the blond Earth girl who had been purchased by Ulafi, captain of the Palms of Schendi, merchant, too, of that city.

The girl, hearing my approach, drew her legs up quickly under her, and rose to her feet, turning to meet me. She smiled, brightly. She was pretty.

“Tal,” said she.

“Tal,” said I.

“You are strong,” she said.

We were in the vicinity of the pier of the Red Urt. It is not a desirable district.

I put down my sea bag.

She looked up at me.

“It is dangerous for you here,” I said. “You should be home.”

“I have no home,” she said.

She traced an idle pattern on my left shoulder with her finger tip.

“Who would want to hurt a little she-urt,” she said.

“What do you want?” I asked. I was alert to the tiny sound behind me.

“I will please you for a tarsk bit,” she said.

I did not speak.

She suddenly knelt before me. “I will please you as a slave girl, if you wish,” she said.

“When I want a slave girl,” I said, “I will have a real slave girl, not a free woman pretending to be a slave girl.”

She looked up at me, angrily.

“On your feet, free woman,” I said.

She got up angrily. She was not a slave. Why should I accord her the privilege of kneeling at my feet?

“I’m hot and I’m pretty,” she said. “Try me.”

I touched her flanks. They were good. I then took her by the upper arms. I looked into her eyes. She lifted her lips to mine.

“No!” she screamed, wild-eyed, as I suddenly lifted her from her feet and spun about, she knowing herself lifted helplessly into the path of the blow. I dropped her inert body to one side.

“You should take your breath,” I told him, “before you approach. Too, you should have your arm raised early, that the movement of the sleeve not be audible. Too, you should have the girl, in her diversion, keep her eyes closed. That could be natural enough, and, in that way, you would not be reflected in the mirror of her eyes.” It had not been difficult to detect his approach, even apart from the more obvious clues I had called to his attention. The senses of a warrior are trained. His life may depend on it.

With a cry of rage the man attacked. I caught the club hand, which was clumsy, and, twisting it, dashed his face first into the walkway. I then took him by the hair and thrust the side of his head into the wall. He slumped down, unconscious. I took binding fiber from my sea bag and tied his wrists together behind his back, and crossed and tied his ankles. I then turned to the girl. I tied her hands behind her back, and then took her by the ankles and held her upside down, thrusting her head and shoulders, and upper body, under the cold waters of the canal. In a few seconds I pulled her up, sputtering, and sat her, tied, against the wall across from me. She gasped for air; she tried to clear water from her eyes. She choked. Her hair and the rag she wore were wet. She backed further against the wall, drawing her legs up, pressing her knees closely together. She looked at me, frightened. “Please, let me go,” she said. Dawn would be well glistening now over the marshes to the east. It was still rather dark in the canal streets with the buildings on each side. There was fog visible on the canals.

“Please, let me go,” she said. “It will mean the collar for me.”

“Do you recall what you said to me,” I asked, “shortly before I turned you about?”

“No,” she said.

“Oh?” I asked.

“Yes, yes!” she said.

“Say it, again,” I told her.

“Please,” she begged.

“Say it,” I said.

“I’m hot and I’m pretty,” she stammered. “Try me,” she said. She swallowed hard.

“Very well,” I said.

I drew her to me by the ankles.

“Please let me go,” she said. “It will mean the collar for me. Oh, oh.”

Then in moments she moaned and wept.

I forced her to yield well, to the very limits of the free woman. Then I was finished with her.

She looked up at me. “Have I pleased you?” she asked, tears in her eyes.

“Yes,” I said.

“Let me go,” she said.

I took her ankles, crossed and tied them. Then I threw her beside the man, her head to his feet. I tied her neck to his feet, and her feet to his neck. They would wait, thus, for the guardsmen.

“They will banish him and collar me,” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

I knelt down on one knee beside her. I took a tarsk bit from my pouch, and thrust it in her mouth. She was a free woman. Since I had no intent of enslaving her myself, it seemed fit that I should pay her for her use. She had asked, as I recalled, for a tarsk bit. Had I intended to keep her, I might have simply raped her, and then put the collar on her. A slave has no recourse.

I rose to my feet, and, shouldering my sea bag, whistling, continued on toward the pier of the Red Urt, where Ulafi’s ship, the Palms of Schendi, was moored.

I soon hurried my steps, for an alarm bar had begun to ring.

I heard steps running behind me, too, and I turned about. A black seaman ran past me, he, too, heading toward the wharves. I followed him toward the pier of the Red Urt.

4. I Recapture An Escaped Slave; I Book Passage On A Ship For Schendi

“How long has she been missing?” I asked.

“Over an Ahn,” said a man. “But only now have they rung the bar.”

We stood in the vicinity of the high desk of the wharf praetor.

“There seemed no reason to ring it earlier,” said the man. “It was thought she would be soon picked up, by guardsmen, or the crew of the Palms of Schendi.”

“She was to be shipped on that craft?” I asked.

“Yes,” said the man. “I suppose now her feet must be cut off.”

“Is it her first attempt to escape?” asked another man.

“I do not know,” said another.

“Why is there this bother about an escaped slave,” demanded a man, his clothing torn and blood at his ear. “I have been robbed! What are you doing about this?”

“Be patient,” said the wharf praetor. “We know the pair. We have been searching for them for weeks.” The praetor handed a sheet of paper to one of his guardsmen. People were gathered around. Another guardsman stopped ringing the alarm bar. It hung from a projection on a pole, the pole fixed upright on the roof of a nearby warehouse.

“Be on the watch for an escaped female slave,” called the guardsman. “She is blond-haired and blue-eyed. She is barbarian. When last seen she was naked.”

I did not think it would take them long to apprehend her. She was a fool to try to escape. There was no escape for such as she. Yet she was unmarked and uncollared. It might not prove easy to retake her immediately.

“How did she escape?” I asked a fellow.

“Vart’s man,” said he, “delivered her to the wharf, where he knelt her among the cargo to be loaded on the Palms of Schendi. He obtained his receipt for her and then left.”

“He did not leave her tied, hand and foot, among the bales and crates for loading?” I asked.

“No,” said the man. “But who, either Vart’s man, or those of the Palms of Schendi, would have thought it necessary?”

I nodded. There was reason in what he said. Inwardly I smiled. She had simply left the loading area, when no one was watching, simply slipping away. Had she been less ignorant of Gor she would not have dared to escape. She did not yet fully understand that she was a slave girl. She did not yet understand that escape was not permitted to such as she.

“Return the girl to the praetor’s station on this pier,” said the guardsman.

“What of those who robbed me!” cried the fellow with the torn clothing and the blood behind his ear.

“You are not the first,” said the praetor, looking down at him from the high desk. “They stand under a general warrant.”

“Who robbed you?” I asked the man.

“I think there were two,” said the man. “There was a dark-haired she-urt in a brown tunic. I was struck from behind. Apparently there is a male confederate.”

“She approached you, engaging your attention,” I asked, “and then you, when diverted, were struck from behind?”

“Yes,” said the fellow, sourly.

“I saw two individuals, who may be your friends,” I said, “on the north walkway of the Rim canal, leading to the vicinity of this very pier.”

“We shall send two guardsmen to investigate,” said the praetor. “Thank you, Citizen, for this information.”

“They will be gone now,” said the man with the blood behind his ear.

“Perhaps not,” I said.

The praetor dispatched a pair of guardsmen, who moved swiftly toward the Rim canal.

“Be on the watch for an escaped female slave,” repeated the guardsman with the paper. He spoke loudly, calling out, over the crowd. I heard him adding to the available information. New data had been furnished to him from a wharf runner, who had her sales information in hand, brought from the records of the house of Vart. This included, however, little more than her measurements and the sizes of the collar, and wrist and ankle rings that would well fit her.

I went over to the edge of the pier, some hundred yards or so away, to where the Palms of Schendi, was moored. Longshoremen, bales and crates on their shoulders, were filling her hold. They were being supervised by the second officer. It was now grayishly light, a few Ehn past dawn. I could not yet see the golden rim of Tor-tu-Gor, Light Upon the Home Stone, rising in the east over the city.

“Are you bound for Schendi?” I called to the officer.

“Yes,” said he, looking up from his lading list.

“I would take passage with you,” I said.

“We do not carry passengers,” said he.

“I can pay as much as a silver tarsk,” I said. It did not seem well to suggest that I could afford more. If worse came to worse I could book passage on another vessel. It would not be wise to hire a ship, for this would surely provoke suspicion. Similarly, it would not be wise to take one of my own ships, say, the Dorna or the Tesephone, south. They might be recognized. Gorean seamen recognize ships with the same ease that they recognize faces. This is common, of course, among seamen anywhere.

“We do not carry passengers,” said the second officer.

I shrugged, and turned away. I would prefer, of course, to have passage on this ship, for it would be on this ship that the girl, when apprehended, would be transported. I did not wish to risk losing track of her.

I looked up to the stern castle of’ the Palms of Schendi. There I saw her captain, Ulafi, engaged in conversation with one whom I took to be the first officer. They did not look at me.

I stood there for a few moments, regarding the lines of the Palms of Schendi. She was a medium-class round ship, with a keel-to-beam ratio of about six to one; that of the long ship is usually about eight to one. She had ten oars to a side, two rudders, and two, permanent, lateen-rigged masts. Most Gorean ships were double ruddered. The masts of round ships are usually permanently fixed; those of long ships, usually single-masted, are removed before battle; most Gorean ships are lateen-rigged; this permits sailing closer to the wind. The long, triangular sail, incidentally, is very beautiful.

I turned away from the ship. I did not wish to be observed looking at it too closely. I wore the garb of the metal workers.

According to the tide tables the first tide would be full at six Ehn past the seventh Ahn.

I wondered if Ulafi would sail without the blond-haired barbarian. I did not think so. I hoped that he had not put out a silver tarsk for her simply because she had struck his fancy. That would indeed be infuriating. I was certain that he would wait until she was regained. If he missed the tide, however, I did not think he would be pleased.

There seemed to be something going on now at the post of the wharf praetor, so I returned to that area.

“It is she!” said the fellow in the torn tunic with the blood behind his ear, pointing at the small, dark-haired girl. She stood before the high desk of the praetor, her wrists tied be-hind her back. Beside her, his hands, too, bound behind him, stood the fellow who had been her accomplice. They were fastened together by the neck, by a guardsman’s neck strap. The girl, interestingly, was stripped, the brief, brown tunic having been taken from her. I had not removed it. I had only thrust it up, over her hips. It did not seem likely to me that the guardsman, either, would have removed it, as she was, I presumed, a free woman. Yet it was gone, and she was naked.

“We found them both trussed like vulos,” laughed a guardsman.

“Who could do such a thing?” asked a man.

“It was not guardsmen,” said a guardsman. “We would have brought them in.”

“It seems they picked the wrong fellow to waylay,” said a man.

“It is she,” said the fellow with the blood behind his ear. “She is the one who diverted me, while her fellow, he, I suppose, struck me.” He pointed then to the man.

The girl shook her head; negatively. It seemed she wanted to speak.

“What do you have in your mouth, Girl?” asked the praetor.

One of the guardsmen opened her mouth, not gently, and retrieved the coin, a rather large one, a tarsk bit. Ten such coins make a copper tarsk. A hundred copper tarsks make a silver tarsk.

The praetor placed the coin on his desk, the surface of which was some seven feet high, below the low, solid wooden bar The height of the praetor’s desk, he on the high stool behind it, permits him to see a goodly way up and down the wharves. Also, of course, one standing before the desk must look up to see the praetor, which, psychologically, tends to induce a feeling of fear for the power of the law. The wooden bar before the desk’s front edge makes it impossible to see what evidence or papers the praetor has at his disposal as he considers your case. Thus, you do not know for certain how much he knows. Similarly, you cannot tell what he writes on your papers.

“Give me back my coin!” said the girl.

“Be silent,” said a guardsman.

“She is the one who cooperated in the attack upon you?” asked the praetor, indicating the bound girl.

“Yes,” said the man with blood behind his ear.

“No!” cried the girl. “I have never seen him before in my life!”

“I see,” said the praetor. He apparently was not unfamiliar with the girl.

“Ha!” snorted the man who had accused her.

“How did you come to be helpless and tied beside the canal?” inquired the praetor.

The girl looked about, wildly. “We were set upon by brigands, robbed, and left tied,” she said.

There was laughter.

“You must believe me,” she said. “I am a free woman!”

“Examine the pouch of the man,” said the praetor.

It was opened by a guardsman, who sifted his hands through coins.

The girl looked, startled, at the pouch. She had apparently not understood that it had contained as much as it did. Her small hands pulled futilely, angrily, at the binding fiber which restrained them.

“It seems that the fellow who robbed you,” smiled the praetor, “neglected to take your pouch.”

The bound man said nothing. He glared sullenly downward.

“He also left you a tarsk bit,” said the praetor, to the girl.

“It was all I could save,” she said, lamely.

There was more laughter.

“I was not robbed,” said the bound man. “But I was unaccountably, from behind, struck down. I was then tied to this little she-urt. Her guilt is well known, I gather, on the wharves. Clearly enemies have intended to unjustly link me to her guilt.”

“Turgus!” she cried.

“I have never seen her before in my life,” he said.

“Turgus!” she cried. “No, Turgus!”

“Did you see me strike you?” asked the fellow who had been addressed as Turgus.

“No,” said the fellow who had been struck. “No, I did not.”

“It was not I,” said the bound man. “Unbind me,” said he then to the praetor. “Set me free, for I am innocent. It is clear I am the victim of a plot.”

“He told me what to do!” she said. “He told me what to do!”

“Who are you, you little slut?” asked the bound man. “It is obvious,” he said, to the praetor, “that this she-urt, whoever she is, wishes to implicate me in her guilt, that it will go easier on her.”

“I assure you,” smiled the praetor, “it will not go easier on her.”

“My thanks, Officer,” said the man.

The girl, crying out with rage, tried to kick at the man tied beside her. A guardsman struck her on the right thigh with the butt of his spear and she cried out in pain.

“If you should attempt to do that again, my dear,” said the praetor, “your ankles will be tied, and you will hear the rest of the proceedings while lying on your belly before the tribunal.”

“Yes, Officer,” she said.

“What is your name?” asked the praetor of the girl.

“Sasi,” she said.

“Lady Sasi?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said, “I am free!

There was laughter. She looked about, angrily, bound, I did not think she would need be worried much longer about her freedom.

“Usually,” smiled the praetor, “a free woman wears mere than binding fiber and a neck strap.”

“My gown was taken, when I was tied,” she said. “It was torn from me.”

“Who took it,” asked the praetor, “a casual male, curious to see your body?”

“A girl took it,” she cried, angrily, “a blond girl. She was naked. Then she took my garment. Then I was naked! Find her, if you wish to be busy with matters of the law! I was the victim of theft! It was stolen from me, my garment! You should be hunting her, the little thief, not holding me here. I am an honest citizen!”

There was more laughter.

“May I be freed, my officer?” asked the bound man. “A mistake has been made.”

The praetor turned to two guardsmen. “Go to where you found these two tied,” he said. “I think our missing slave will be found in the garment of the she-urt.”

Two guardsmen left immediately. I thought the praetor’s conjecture was a sound one. On the other hand, obviously, the girl would not be likely to linger in the place where she had stolen the she-urt’s brief, miserable rag. Still, perhaps her trail could be found in that area.

“I demand justice,” said the girl.

“You will receive it, Lady Sasi,” said the praetor.

She turned white.

“At least she will not have to be stripped for the iron,” said a fellow near me, grinning.

The girl moaned.

The praetor then addressed himself to the fellow who had the dried blood caked behind his left ear. It was dried in his hair, too, on the left side of his head.

“Is this female, identified as the Lady Sasi, she who detained you, when you were attacked?” asked the praetor.

“It is she,” he said.

“I never saw him before,” she wept.

“It is she,” he repeated.

“I only wanted to beg a tarsk bit,” she said. “I did not know he was going to strike you.”

“Why did you not warn him of the man’s approach behind him?” asked the praetor.

“I didn’t see the man approaching,” she said, desperately.

“But you said you didn’t know he was going to strike him,” said the praetor. ‘Therefore, you must have seen him.”

“Please let me go,” she said.

“I was not seen to strike the man,” said the fellow whom the girl had identified as Turgus. “I claim innocence. There is no evidence against me. Do what you will with the little slut. But set me free.”

The girl put down her head, miserably. “Please let me go,” she begged.

“I was robbed of a golden tarn,” said the fellow with the blood at the side of his head.

“There is a golden tarn in the pouch,” said a guardsman.

“On the golden tarn taken from me,” said the man, “I had scratched my initials, Ba-Ta Shu, Bem Shandar, and, on the reverse of the coin, the drum of Tabor.”

The guardsman lifted the coin to the praetor. “It is so,” said the praetor.

The bound man, suddenly, irrationally, struggled. He tried to throw off his bonds. The girl cried out in misery, jerked choking from her feet. Then two guardsmen held the fellow by the arms. “He is strong,” said one of the guardsmen. The girl, gasping, regained her feet. Then she stood again neck-linked to him, beside him, his fellow prisoner.

“The coin was planted in my pouch,” he said. “It is a plot!”

“You are an urt, Turgus,” she said to him, “an urt!”

“It is you who are the she-urt!” he snarled.

“You have both been caught,” said the praetor, beginning to fill out some papers. “We have been looking for you both for a long time.”

“I am innocent,” said the bound man.

“How do you refer to yourself?” asked the praetor.

“Turgus,” he said.

The praetor entered that name in the papers. He then signed the papers.

He looked down at Turgus. “How did you come to be tied?” he asked.

“Several men set upon me,” he said. “I was struck from behind. I was subdued.”

“It does not appear that you were struck from behind,” smiled the praetor.

The face of Turgus was not a pretty sight, as I had dashed it into the stones, and had then struck the side of his head against the nearby wall.

“Is the binding fiber on their wrists from their original bonds, as you found them?” asked the praetor of one of the guardsmen.

“It is,” he said.

“Examine the knots,” said the praetor.

“They are capture knots,” said the guardsman, smiling.

“You made a poor choice of one to detain, my friends,” said the praetor.

They looked at one another, miserably. Their paths had crossed that of a warrior.

They now stood bound before the praetor.

“Turgus, of Port Kar,” said the praetor, “in virtue of what we have here today established, and in virtue of the general warrant outstanding upon you, you are sentenced to banishment. If you are found within the limits of the city after sunset this day you will be impaled.”

The face of Turgus was impassive.

“Free him,” he said.

Turgus was cut free, and turned about, moving through the crowd. He thrust men aside.

Suddenly he saw me. His face turned white, and he spun about, and fled.

I saw one of the black seamen, the one who had passed me on the north walkway of the Rim canal, when I had been descending toward the pier, looking at me, curiously.

The girl looked up at the praetor. The neck strap, now that Turgus was freed of it, looped gracefully up to her throat, held in the hand of a guardsman. Her small wrists were still bound behind her back.

She seemed very small and helpless before the high desk.

“Please let me go,” she said. “I will be good.”

“The Lady Sasi, of Port Kar,” said the praetor, “in virtue of what we have here today established, and in virtue of the general warrant outstanding upon her, must come under sentence.”

“Please, my officer,” she begged.

“I am now going to sentence you,” he said.

“Please,” she cried, “Sentence me only to a penal brothel!”

“The penal brothel is too good for you,” said the praetor.

“Show me mercy,” she begged.

“You will be shown no mercy,” he said.

She looked up at him, with horror.

“You are sentenced to slavery,” he said.

“No, no!” she screamed.

One of the guards cuffed her across the mouth, snapping her head back.

There were tears in her eyes and blood at her lip.

“Were you given permission to speak?” asked the praetor.

“No, no,” she wept, stammering. “Forgive me—Master.”

“Let her be taken to the nearest metal shop and branded,” said the praetor. “Then let her be placed on sale outside the shop for five Ehn, to be sold to the first buyer for the cost of her branding. If she is not sold in five Ehn then take her to the public market shelves and chain her there, taking the best offer which equals or exceeds the cost of her branding.”

The girl looked up at the praetor. The strap, in the hand of the guardsman, grew taut at her throat.

“This tarsk bit,” said the praetor, lifting the coin which had been taken from her mouth earlier, “is now confiscated, and becomes the property of the port.” This was appropriate. Slaves own nothing. It is, rather, they who are owned.

The girl, the new slave, was then dragged stumbling away from the tribunal.

I noted that Ulafi, captain of the Palms of Schendi, and his first officer, were now standing near me in the crowd. They were looking at me.

I made my way toward them.

“I would book passage on the Palms of Schendi,” I told them.

“You are not a metal worker,” said Ulafi to me, quietly.

I shrugged. “I would book passage,” I said.

“We do not carry passengers,” he said. Then he, and his first officer, turned away. I watched them go.

The praetor was now conversing with the fellow, Bem Shandar, from Tabor. Papers were being filled in; these had to do with the claims Bem Shandar was making to recover his stolen money.

“Captain!” I called to Ulafi.

He turned. The crowd was dispersing.

“I could pay a silver tarsk for passage,” I told him.

“You seem desperate to leave Port Kar,” said he.

“Perhaps,” I told him.

“We do not carry passengers,” said he. He turned away. His first officer followed him.

I went to a guardsman, near the praetor station. “What efforts are being mace to recover the lost slave?” I asked.

“Are you with the Palms of Schendi?” he asked.

“I hope to book passage on that ship,” I said. “I fear the captain will delay his departure until she is recovered.” I was sure this was the case.

“We are conducting a search,” said the guardsman.

“She may be wearing the garment of a she-urt,” I said.

“That is known to us, Citizen,” said he.

“I myself,” said a nearby guardsman, “stopped a girl answering the description, one in the torn rag of a she-urt, but when I forced her to reveal her thighs, she was unmarked.”

“Where did you find such a girl?” I asked.

“Near the Spice Pier;” he said.

“My thanks, Guardsman,” said I.

It seemed to me that the blond girl might well consider various strategies for eluding capture. I did not think she would be likely to flee east along the canal walkways, for these were relatively narrow and, on them, between the buildings and the canal, she might be easily trapped. Also, though this would not figure in her thinking, she could, on the north, east and south, be trapped against the delta walls or at the marsh gates. I did not think it likely she would risk stealing a boat. Even if she could handle a small craft, which I doubted, for she was an Earth girl, probably from an urban area, the risk of discovery would be too great. Also, though she did not know it, a she-urt in a boat would surely provoke instant suspicion. Where would such a girl obtain a boat, if she had not stolen it. Too, it would, given the construction of the buildings of Port Kar, be difficult to attain the roof of one from the outside of the building. I did not think she would try to gain admittance to a building. She would probably then, in my opinion, try to find her way to markets or stay about the wharves. The markets were, for the most part, save the wharf markets, deeper in the city. I did not think she would reach them, or know how to find them. She was then, probably, in the vicinity of the wharves. Here she would, presumably, attempt to conceal herself. She might hide in various ways. Obvious ways of hiding would be to conceal herself among the boxes and bales at the wharves, to creep into a crate, or barrel, or to cover herself with sheets of sail canvas or with heavy coils of mooring rope. Guardsmen, I was certain, would examine such possibilities systematically. Too, a she-urt found in such a place, it not being night, would surely be viewed as a girl in hiding. She would presumably then be tied and taken to the praetor. Perhaps she is wanted for something.

I was now in the vicinity of the Spice Pier.

I did not think my quarry would elect an obvious way of hiding, one in which she, if found, would be immediately exposed as a fugitive. She was doubtless highly intelligent. She had been chosen as a Kur agent.

I seized a dark-haired she-urt by the arm. “Let me go,” she screamed. “I have done nothing!”

“Where do the she-urts band?” I asked.

“Let me go!” she cried.

I shook her. “Oh, oh,” she cried.

I then stopped shaking her. I held her by the arms, her toes barely touching the ground. She was then quiet, looking up at me. Her eyes were frightened. I saw she was ready to be obedient.

“There are some girls behind the paga taverns, on the northern shore of the Ribbon’s alley,” she said.

I released her and she sank to her knees, gasping.

The Ribbon is one of Port Kar’s better-known canals. A narrower canal, somewhat south of it is called the Ribbon’s alley. It was a bit past dawn and the paga taverns backing on the smaller canal would be throwing out their garbage from the preceding night. She-urts sometimes gather at such places for their pick of the remnants of feasts.

It would be less than an Ahn until the fullness of the tide. I quickly crossed two bridges, leading over canals, each joining the sea. Then I walked eastward, and took a left and a right, and crossed another small bridge. I was then on the northern shore of the Ribbon’s alley. The Ribbon’s alley, like most small canals, and many of the larger canals, does not join the sea directly but only by means of linkages with other canals. The larger canals in Port Kar, incidentally, have few bridges, and those they have are commonly swing bridges, which may be floated back against the canal’s side. This makes it possible for merchant ships, round ships, with permanently fixed masts, to move within the city, and, from the military point of view, makes it possible to block canals and also, when drawn back, isolate given areas of the city by the canals which function then as moats. The swing bridges are normally fastened back, except from the eighth to the tenth Ahn and from the fifteenth to the seventeenth Ahn. Most families in Port Kar own their own boats. These boats are generally shallow-drafted, narrow and single-oared, the one oar being used to both propel and guide the boat. Even children use these boats. There are, of course, a variety of types of craft in the canals, ranging from ramships harbored in the courts of captains to the coracles of the poor, like leather tubs, propelled by the thrusting of a pole. Along the sides of the major canals there are commonly hundreds of boats moored. These are usually covered at night.

I saw her with several other girls, behind the rear court of the Silver Collar. They were fishing through wire trash containers. These had been left outside until, later, when the girls had finished with them, when the residues would be thrown into the canals. It was not an act of pure kindness on the part of the attendants at the paga tavern that the garbage had not been flung directly into the canals.

I looked at the girls. They were all comely. There were seven of them there, not including the one in whom I was interested. They wore rags of various sorts and colors; they had good legs; they were all barefoot.

I saw the blond-haired barbarian standing back. She, apparently, was repulsed by the garbage. She did not wish to touch it. The other girls paid her no attention.

Except for her failure to exhibit interest in the garbage she might have been only one she-urt among the others. She was as pretty, and as dirty, as the rest.

Suddenly she saw me. For an instant I saw she was frightened. Then she doubtless reassured herself that I could not know her. She was, after all, only another she-urt. Her thighs were unmarked.

She went then, as not noticing me, to the basket of garbage. She tried to saunter as a she-urt. Steeling herself she thrust her hand into the fresh, wet garbage. She looked up at me. She saw I was still watching her. In her hand there was a half of a yellow Gorean pear, the remains of a half moon of verr cheese imbedded in it. She, watching me, lifted it toward her mouth. I did not think it would taste badly. I saw she was ready to vomit.

Suddenly her wrist was seized by the girl, a tall, lovely girl, some four inches taller than she, in a brief white rag, who stood with her at the basket. “Who are you?” demanded the girl in the white rag. “You are not one with us.” She took the pear from her, with the verr cheese in it. “You have not laid with the paga attendants for your garbage,” she said. “Get out!” Any woman, even a free woman, if she is hungry enough, will do anything. The paga attendants knew this. “Get out!” said the girl in the white rag.

Not unrelieved, though I do not think she understood much of what was said to her, the blond barbarian backed away. She reacted then, despite herself, with momentary horror, as the girl in the white rag bit thoughtlessly into the pear with verr cheese. Then, remembering herself, she tried to look disappointed. “Get out,” said the girl in the white rag. “This is our territory.” The other girls now, too, belligerently, began to gather around. “Get out,” said the girl in the white rag, “or we will tie you and throw you into the canal.”

The blond-haired barbarian backed away, not challenging them. The girls then returned to the garbage. The blond-haired girl looked at me. She did not know which way to go. She did not wish to pass me, but yet, on the other hand, she did not wish to leave a vicinity where the she-urts were common.

The buildings were on one side, the canal on the other. Then she began to walk toward me, to pass me. She tried to walk as a she-urt. She came closer and closer. She tried not to look at me. Then when she was quite close to me, she looked into my eyes. Then she looked down. I think she was not used to seeing how Gorean men looked at women, at least slaves and low women, such as she-urts, assessing them for the furs and the collar. Then she looked boldly up at me, brazenly, trying to pretend to be bored and casual. Then she tossed her head and walked past me. I watched her walk past me. Yes, I thought, she would make a good slave.

I began to follow her, some twenty or thirty feet behind her. Surely this made her nervous, for she was clearly aware of my continued nearness. Surely she must have suspected, and fearfully, that I knew who she was. But she could not know this for certain.

Behind us we heard two girls squabbling over garbage, contesting desirable scraps from the wire basket.

I would let her continue on her way. She was going in the direction which I would take her.

In a few moments, beside one of the canals leading down to the wharves, in the vicinity of the Spice Pier, we came on four she-urts. They were on their bellies beside the canal, fishing for garbage.

The blond-haired girl joined them. Her legs and ankles were very nice.

I knew she was intensely aware of my presence. Boldly she reached out into the water and picked up the edible rind of a larma. She looked at me. Then she bit into it, and then, tiny bite by tiny bite, she forced herself to chew and eat it. She swallowed the last bit of it. I had wanted her to eat garbage out of the canal. It would help her to learn that she was no longer on Earth.

I would now capture her. I wished Ulafi, if possible, to sail with the tide.

I busied myself in the sea bag and, not obviously, drew forth a small strip of binding fiber; then I drew the bag shut by its cords.

The girl had risen to her feet and, looking at me, and tossing her head, turned away.

I caught up with her quickly, took her by the back of the neck and, shoving, thrust her, stumbling, running obliquely, against the wall to my right. I tossed the sea bag to her left. As I had thrown her to the wall it would be most natural for her to bolt to the left. She stumbled over the sea bag and half fell. Then I had her left ankle in my left hand and her right ankle in my right hand. I dragged her back, towards me, on her belly. I then knelt across her body and jerked her small hands behind her. I tied them there.

A small fist struck me. “Let her go!” cried a girl. I felt hands scratching at me. Small fists pounded at me. The four girls who had been fishing for garbage in the canal leaped upon me. “Let her go!” cried one. “You can’t simply take us!” cried another. “We are free! Free!” cried another.

I stood up, throwing them off me. I cuffed two back and two others crouched, ready to leap again to attack.

I stood over the blond girl, one leg on each side of her, She lay on her belly, her hands tied behind her.

Another girl leaped toward me and I struck her to one side with the back of my hand. She reeled away and sank to her knees, looking at me. I think she had never been struck that hard before. Her hand was at her mouth, blood between the fingers.

The other girl who, too, had been ready to attack, backed now uneasily away. She did not wish to come within reach of my arm.

“Let her go!” said the leader of the four girls. “You can’t just take us! We are free! Free!”

“We will call a guardsman!” cried another.

I grinned. How delightful are women. How weak they are. How fit they are to be made slaves.

“I am sorry I struck you as hard as I did,” I told the girl I had last struck. “I lost my patience,” I said. “I am sorry.” She, after all, was not a slave. She was a free woman. Slaves, of course, may be struck as long and as hard as one wishes. The girl between my feet, a slave, would learn that.

“Free her,” said the leader of the girls, pointing to the blond-haired barbarian helpless between my feet.

“You cannot just take her,” said another girl. “She is a free woman.”

“Do not fret your heads about her, my pretty’ little she-urts,” I said. “She is not a free woman. She is an unmarked slave, escaped from Ulafi of Schendi.”

“Is it true?” asked the leader of the she-urts.

“Yes,” I said. “Follow me, if you will, to the praetor station, where this fact may be made clear to you.”

“Are you a slave?” asked the leader of the girls to the girl between my feet.

“She does not speak Gorean,” I said, “or much of it. I do not think she understands you.”

The girl between my feet was crying.

“If she is a slave,” said one of the girls, “she had best learn Gorean quickly.”

I thought that was true.

“I hope for your sake,” said the leader of the she-urts to the girl, “that you are not a slave.” Then she said to the other girls, “Find pieces of rope.”

“Are we going to the praetor station?” asked one of the girls, uneasily.

“Of course,” said the leader.

“I do not want to go to the praetor station,” said one of the girls.

“We have done nothing,” said the leader. “We have nothing to fear.”

‘There are men there,” said one of the girls.

“We have men to fear,” said another.

“We are going,” said the leader, determinedly.

I picked up the Earth-girl slave, and threw her over my shoulder. She squirmed helplessly, crying. I picked up my sea bag then, and, the girl on my shoulder, the sea bag in my left hand, made my way toward the pier of the Red Urt.

“Are her thighs marked?” asked the praetor.

“No,” said a guardsman. He had already made this determination.

The girl stood, her hands bound behind her, in the brief rag of the she-urt, before the tribunal of the praetor. The neck strap of a guardsman was on her throat.

“Is this your slave?” asked the praetor of Ulafi of Schendi.

“Yes,” said he.

“How do I know she is a slave?” asked the praetor. “Her body, her movements, do not suggest that she is a slave. She seems too tight, too cold, too rigid, to be a slave.”

“She was free, captured by Bejar, in his seizure of the Blossoms of Telnus,” said Ulafi. “She is new to her condition.”

“Is Bejar present?’ asked the praetor.

“No,” said a man. Bejar had left the port yesterday, to again try his luck upon gleaming Thassa, the sea.

“Her measurements, exactly, fit those of the slave,” said a guardsman. He lifted the tape measure, marked in horts, which had been applied, but moments before, to the girl’s body.

The praetor nodded. This was excellent evidence. The girl’s height, ankles, wrists, throat, hips, waist and bust had been measured. She had even been thrown on a grain scale and weighed.

The praetor looked down at the girl. He pointed to her. “Kajira?” he asked. “Kajira?”

She shook her head vigorously. That much Gorean she at least understood. She denied being a slave girl.

The praetor made a small sign to one of the guardsmen.

“Leash!” said the fellow, suddenly, harshly, behind the girl, in Gorean.

She jumped, startled, and cried out, frightened, but she did not, as a reflex, lift her head, turning it to the left, nor did the muscles in her upper arms suddenly move as though thrusting her wrists behind her, to await the two snaps of the slave bracelets.

“Nadu!” snapped the guard. But the girl had not, involuntarily, begun to kneel.

“I have her slave papers here,” said Ulafi, “delivered with her this morning by Vart’s man.”

He handed them to the praetor.

“She does not respond as a slave because she has not yet learned her slavery,” said Ulafi. “She has not yet learned the collar and the whip.

The praetor examined the papers. In Ar slaves are often fingerprinted. The prints are contained in the papers.

“Does anyone know if this is Ulafi’s slave?” asked the praetor.

I did not wish to speak, for I would, then, have revealed myself as having been at the sale. I preferred for this to be unknown.

The four she-urts, with which the blond-haired barbarian had fished for garbage in the canal, stood about.

“She should have been marked,” said the praetor. “She should have been collared.”

“I have a collar here,” said Ulafi, lifting a steel slave collar. It was a shipping collar. It had five palms on it, and the sign of Schendi, the shackle and scimitar. The girl who wore it would be clearly identified as a portion of Ulafi’s cargo.

“I wish to sail with the tide,” said Ulafi. “In less than half an Ahn it will be full.”

“I am sorry,” said the praetor.

“Has not Vart been sent for,” asked Ulafi, “to confirm my words?”

“He has been sent for,” said the praetor.

From some eighty or so yards away, from the tiny shop of a metal worker, I heard a girl scream. I knew the sound. A girl had been marked. She who had been the Lady Sasi, the little she-urt who had been the accomplice of Turgus of Port Kar, had been branded.

“I am afraid we must release this woman,” said the praetor, looking down at the girl. “it is unfortunate, as she is attractive.”

“Test her for slave heat,” suggested a man.

“That is not appropriate,” said the praetor, “if she is free.”

“Make her squirm,” said the man. “See if she is slave hot.”

“No,” said the praetor.

The praetor looked at the girl. He looked at Ulafi.

“I am afraid I must order her release,” he said.

“No!” said Ulafi.

“Wait,” said a man. “It is Vart!”

The girl shrank back, miserably, her hands tied behind her back, the neck strap on her throat, before Vart, who had pushed through the crowd.

“Do you know this girl?” asked the praetor of Vart.

“Of course,” said Vart. “She is a slave, sold last night to this captain.” He indicated Ulafi of Schendi. “I got a silver tarsk for her.”

The praetor nodded to a guardsman. He thrust the girl down to her knees. She was in the presence of free men. With the neck strap he pulled her head down and tied it down, fastening it to her ankles by means of the neck strap; the leather between her neck and ankles, which were now crossed and bound, was short and taut. Her rag, the brown, torn tunic of the she-urt, stolen from she who had been Sasi, was then cut from her. She knelt bound then, and naked, in one of several Gorean submission positions.

“The slave is awarded to Ulafi of Schendi,” ruled the praetor.

There were cheers from the men present, and Gorean applause, the striking of the left shoulder with the right hand.

“My thanks, Praetor,” said Ulafi, receiving back the slave papers from the magistrate.

“Slave! Slave!” screamed the leader of the she-urts to the bound girl. “Slave! Slave!” they cried.

“To think we let you fish garbage with us, when you were only a slave!” cried the leader.

Then the she-urts who had accompanied me to the station of the praetor, kicking and striking with their ropes, fell upon the bound slave.

She wept, kicked and struck. “Slave! Slave!” they cried.

“Get back!” called the praetor, angrily, to them. “Get back, or we will collar you all!”

The girls, swiftly, shrank back, fearfully. But they continued to look with hatred on the slave.

The blond girl tried to make herself even smaller and more submissive, that she be not more abused. She sobbed. She had had a taste of the feelings of free women towards a slave, which she was.

“Captain Ulafi,” said the praetor.

“Yes, Praetor,” said Ulafi.

“Have her marked before you leave port,” he said.

“Yes, Praetor,” said Ulafi. He turned to his first officer. “Make ready to leave port,” he said. “We have twenty Ahn.”

“Yes, Captain,” said the man.

“Bring an ankle rack,” said Ulafi to one of the guardsmen. One was brought.

“Put her in it,” said Ulafi. The guardsman removed his neck strap from her throat, freeing, too, her ankles. He untied her hands. Lifting her under the stomach he held her ankles near the rack; another guardsman placed her ankles in the semicircular openings in the bottom block and then swung shut the top block, with its matching semicircular openings, over them. He secured the top block, hinged at the left, to the bottom block, with a metal bolt on a chain, thrust through the staple on the lower block, over the hasp, swung down from the upper block.

The guardsman who had held the girl then ceased to support her. She made a little cry. The weight of her upper body was then on the palms of her hands, her arms stiff. Her ankles were locked in the rack. This helped to support her weight. Her ankles protruded behind the rack. Her feet were small and pretty. She looked about, helplessly.

“Bring the scimitar of discipline,” said Ulafi. This was brought by a guardsman. Ulafi showed the heavy, curved blade to the girl. She looked at it with horror.

“You should not have run away, little white slave,” he said.

“No, no!” she said, in English.

He went behind her and, gently, that be not cut her, laid the blade upon her ankles.

“No, no!” she cried. “Please, don’t! Please, don’t! I will be good! I will be good!”

She tried to turn her head, to look behind her. “I will not run away again!” she cried. “Please, please,” she whimpered, “do not cut off my feet.”

Ulafi handed the scimitar to one of the guardsmen. He then went to the girl’s head, taking the dagger from his sash.

She was trembling in misery.

Ulafi pointed to the high desk of the praetor. Then he looked at her. “Kajira?” he asked.

The girl had lied before the desk of the praetor. She had denied being a Kajira, a slave girl.

She twisted her head upward, toward the praetor’s desk. “Forgive me! Forgive me!” she begged.

“Kajira?” asked Ulafi.

“Yes, yes,” she sobbed. Then she cried out, “La Kajira! La Kajira!” This was a bit of Gorean known to her. ‘I am a slave girl.’

Ulafi, with his dagger, but not cutting her, put it first to her right ear, and then to the side of her small nose, and then to the left ear.

“Don’t hurt me,” she begged. “I’m sorry I lied! Forgive me, forgive me! La Kajira! La Kajira!”

Ulafi stood up, replacing the dagger in his sash. The girl had now learned that her feet might be cut off for running away, that her ears and nose might be cut from her for lying. She was still an ignorant girl, of course, but she now knew a little more of what it might be to be a slave on Gor.

“Release her from the rack,” said Ulafi. The rack was opened and the girl collapsed, shuddering, on the wharf.

“Tie her hands and fasten her at a dock ring,” said Ulafi, to his second officer, and two seamen, one of whom was the fellow who had passed me on the walkway of the Rim canal, on the way to the pier of the Red Urt. “Then whip her,” said Ulafi. “Then bring her to the shop of the metal worker. I shall await you there. Bring, too, a pole and cage to the shop.”

“Yes, Captain,” said the second officer.

“Come with me, if you would,” said Ulafi to me.

I followed him to the shop of the metal worker. Outside the shop, stripped, weeping, chained by the neck to a ring, freshly branded, was the girl who had been the Lady Sasi, of Port Kar. A guardsman stood near her. If she was not soon sold for the cost of her branding she would be taken and put on the public shelves, large, flat steps; leading down to the water, near where the Central canal meets Thassa, the sea. She was a cheap slave, but she was pretty. I did not think she should have attempted to inconvenience honest citizens. When she saw me she tried to cover herself and crouch small. I smiled. Did she not know she was branded?

“Heat an iron,” said Ulafi to the metal worker, a brawny fellow in a leather apron.

“Tal,” said the man to me.

“Tal,” said I to him.

“We always keep an iron hot,” said the metal worker. But he did turn to his assistant, a lad of some twelve years. “Heat the coals,” said he to him. The lad took a bellows and, opening and closing it, forced air into the conical forge. The handles of some six irons, their heads and a portion of their shafts buried in the coals, could be seen.

I looked out the door of the shop. I could see the girl, about one hundred and fifty yards away, her wrists crossed and bound before her, tied by the wrists to a heavy ring at the side of the pier. She knelt. Then the first stroke of the whip hit her. She screamed. Then she could scream no more but was twisting, gasping, on her stomach, and side and back, under the blows of the whip. I think she had not understood before what it might mean, truly, to he whipped. Men passed her, going about their business. The disciplining of a slave girl on Gor is not that unusual a sight.

“I have five brands,” said the metal worker, “the common Kajira brand, the Dina, the Palm, the mark of Treve, the mark of Port Kar.”

“We have a common girl to brand,” said Ulafi. “Let it be the common Kajira brand.”

I could see that the girl had now been unbound from the ring. She could apparently not walk. One of the seamen had thrown her over his shoulder and was bringing her toward the shop. She was in shock. I think she had not realized what the whip could do to her.

Yet the beating had been merciful and brief. I doubt that she was struck more than ten or fifteen times.

I think the purpose of the whipping had been little more than to teach her what the whip could feel like. A girl who knows what the whip can feel like strives to be pleasing to the master.

I could see the lateen sails on Ulafi’s ship loosened on their yards.

Men stood by the mooring ropes.

Two sailors, behind the second officer, carried a slave cage. It was supported on a pole, the ends of which rested on their shoulders.

The, girl was brought into the shop and stood in the branding rack, which was then locked on her, holding her upright. The metal worker placed her wrists behind her in the wrist clamps, adjustable, each on their vertical, flat metal bar. He screwed shut the clamps. She winced. He then shackled her feet on the rotating metal platform.

“Left thigh or right thigh?’ he asked.

“Left thigh,” said Ulafi. Slave girls are commonly branded on the left thigh. Sometimes they are branded on the right thigh, or lower left abdomen.

The metal worker turned the apparatus, spinning the shaft, with its attached, circular metal platform. The girl’s left thigh now faced us. It was an excellent thigh. It would take the mark well. The metal worker then, with a wheel, tightening it, locked the device in place, so that it could not turn.

I looked at the girl’s eyes. She hardly knew what was being done to her.

The metal worker drew out an iron and looked at it. “Soon,” he said, putting it back.

I looked at the girl. She had tried to run away. She had lied at the praetor’s desk. Yet her feet had not been removed. Her nose and ears had not been cut from her. She had been shown incredible mercy. She had only been whipped. Her transgressions, of course, had been first offenses, and she was only an ignorant barbarian. I think now, however, she clearly understood that Gorean men are not permissive, and that her second offenses in such matters would not be likely to be regarded with such lenience.

“She is in shock, or half in shock,” I said.

“Yes,” said the metal worker. “She should be able to feel the mark.”

He took the girl by her hair and, by it, cruelly, shook her head; then he slapped her, sharply, twice. She whimpered.

“May I?” I asked. I pointed to a bucket of water nearby. used in tempering.

“Surely,” said the metal worker.

I threw the cold water over the girl who, shuddering and sputtering, pulled back in the branding rack.

She looked at me, frightened. But her eyes were now clear. She twisted, wincing. She could now feel the pain of the whipping which she had endured. She sobbed. But she was no longer numb, or in shock. She was now a fully conscious slave, ready for her branding.

“The iron is ready,” said the metal worker. It was a beautiful iron, and white hot.

Ulafi threw the metal worker a copper tarsk. “My friend here,” said Ulafi, indicating me, “will use the iron.”

I looked at him. He smiled. “You are of the metal workers, are you not?” he asked.

“Perhaps,” I smiled. He had told me earlier that I was not of the metal workers.

“We are ready to sail,” said Ulafi’s first officer, who had come to report.

“Good,” said Ulafi.

I donned leather gloves and took the iron from the metal worker, who cheerfully surrendered it. He assumed I was, because of my garb, of his caste.

Ulafi watched me, to see what I would do.

I held the iron before the girl, that she might see it. She shrank back. “No, no,” she whimpered. “Please don’t touch me with it.”

The girl is commonly shown the iron, that she may understand its might, its heat and meaning.

“Please, no!” she cried.

I looked upon her. I did not then think of her as an agent of Kurii. I saw her only as a beautiful woman, fit for the brand.

She tried, unsuccessfully, to struggle. She could move her wrists, her upper body and feet somewhat, but she could not move her thighs, at all. They were, because of the construction of the branding rack, held perfectly immobile. They would await the kiss of the iron.

“Please, no,” she whimpered.

Then I branded her.

“An excellent mark,” said Ulafi.

While she still sobbed and screamed the metal worker freed her wrists of the clamps. Ulafi put her immediately in slave bracelets, braceleting her hands behind her, that she not tear at the brand. The metal worker then freed her thighs of the rack, and she sank, sobbing, to her knees. He freed her ankles of the shackles which had held them at the circular, metal platform. Ulafi then, pushing her head down, fastened the sturdy, steel shipping collar on her throat, snapping it shut behind the back of her neck. It had five palms on it, and the sign of Schendi, the shackle and scimitar.

“Put her in the cage and load her,” said Ulafi.

The girl was then taken, braceleted, and thrust into the tiny slave cage, which was then locked shut. She knelt, sobbing, in the cage. The two sailors then lifted the cage on its poles, and, kneeling, she was lifted within it. I looked at her. I saw in her eyes that she had begun to suspect what it might mean to be a slave girl.

She was carried to the ship.

I did not think she would now escape. I thought now she could be used easily to help locate Shaba, the geographer of Anango, the equatorial explorer. In my sea bag were the notes for him, made out to bankers of Schendi. In my sea bag, too, was the false ring, which the girl had carried.

“I am grateful to you for having apprehended the slave,” said Ulafi to me.

“It was nothing,” I said.

“You also marked her superbly,” he said. “Doubtless, in time, she will grow quite proud of that brand.”

I shrugged.

“Captain,” said I.

“Yes,” said he.

“I would still like to book passage with you to Schendi,” I said.

He smiled. “You are welcome to do so,” he said.

“Thank you,” I said.

“It will cost you a silver tarsk,” he said.

“Oh,” I said.

He shrugged. “I am a merchant,” he explained.

I gave him a silver tarsk, and he turned about and went down to the ship.

“I wish you well,” I said to the metal worker.

“I wish you well,” said he to me. I was pleased that I had branded women before.

I wondered how much Ulafi knew.

I then left the shop of the metal worker.

Outside I saw the guardsman unchaining the girl who had been the she-urt, Sasi. Her hands were now bound before her body, and she already had his strap on her throat.

“You did not sell her?” I asked.

“Who would want a she-urt?” he asked. “I am going to take her now to the public shelves.”

Looking at me the small, lovely, dark-haired girl drew back.

“What do you want for her?” I asked.

“It cost a copper tarsk to brand her,” he said.

I looked at her. She looked at me, and trembled, and shook her head, negatively.

I threw him a copper tarsk.

“She is yours,” he said.

He took his strap off her throat, and unbound her hands.

“Submit,” I told her.

She knelt before me, back on her heels, arms extended, head down, between her arms, wrists crossed, as though for binding.

“I submit to you, Master,” she said.

I tied her hands together; she then lowered her bound wrists; I pulled up her head. I held before her an opened collar, withdrawn from my sea bag. I had had one prepared.

“Can you read?” I asked her.

“No, Master,” she said.

“It says,” I said, “‘I am the girl of Tarl of Teletus.”’

“Yes, Master,” she said.

I then collared her. I had thought that some wench, probably one to be purchased in Schendi, would have been a useful addition to my disguise, as an aid in establishing and confirming my pretended identity as a metal worker from the island of Teletus. This little wench though, now locked in my collar, I thought would serve the purpose well. There was no particular reason to wait to Schendi before buying a girl. Besides, the collar on her might help to convince Ulafi, who seemed to me a clever and suspicious man, that, whatever I might be, I was a reasonably straightforward and honest fellow. I traveled with a girl who wore a name collar.

“Are there papers on her?” I asked the guardsman.

“No,” said the guardsman. Most Gorean slaves do not have papers. The brand and collar are deemed sufficient.

I pulled the little slave to her feet, and pointed out the Palms of Schendi.

“Do you see that ship?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Run there as fast as your little legs will carry you,” I said. “And tell them to cage you.”

“Yes, Master,” she said, and ran, sobbing, toward the ship.

I then shouldered my sea bag and followed her. A moment after I had trod the gangplank, it was drawn up. The railing was shut and fastened.

A sailor thrust the small dark-haired slave into a small cage, and snapped shut the padlock, securing it. It was next to another cage, that which contained the blond barbarian. The dark-haired girl looked at her, startled. “You!” she said. The blond girl drew back, as she could, in her cage. “Kajira!” hissed the dark-haired girl, angrily, at her. It was the blond who had taken her garment as she had lain trussed with Turgus of Port Kar, while awaiting the arrival of the guardsmen who would take them into custody. There were tears in the eyes of the blond girl. She pulled with her wrists against the bracelets which held her hands behind her. Then she looked angrily at the dark-haired girl. “Kajira!” she said to her, angrily.

Mooring ropes were cast off.

Sailors, at the port rail, with three poles, thrust the Palms of Schendi away from the dock. Canvas fell from the long, sloping yards.

The two helmsmen were at their rudders.

The first officer directed the crew. The captain. Ulafi of Schendi, stood upon the stem castle.

“Ready,” called the second officer.

Ten sailors, on a side, slid oars outboard.

“Stroke,” called the second officer, he acting as oar master.

The long oars dipped into Thassa and rose, dripping, from the greenish sea. The vessel moved slowly outward, into wider waters. A breeze from the east, over Port Kar, swelled the sails. They lifted and billowed.

“Oars inboard!” called the second officer.

The helmsman guided the ship to the right of the line of white and red buoys.

I watched Port Kar, its low buildings, fall behind. The sky was very blue.

I went to the cage which contained the girl I had bought. She looked up at me. Her wrists were still bound.

“I do not have a name,” she said. It was true. She was as nameless as a tabuk doe or a she-verr. I had bought her. I had not yet given her a name.

“You are Sasi,” I told her, naming her.

“Yes, Master,” she said, putting her head down. She would wear her old name, but it had now been put on her as a slave name, by my will.

The second officer, now freed of his duties as oar master, approached me. He indicated Sasi. “There is an extra charge,” said he, “for the keeping and feeding of livestock. It will cost you an extra copper tarsk.”

“Of course,” I said. I handed him, from my pouch, a copper tarsk. He turned about, and left.

I looked down at the other cage, and the blond-haired barbarian, who had been an agent for Kurii, kneeling, naked, her wrists braceleted behind her, put her head down. I looked at the brand, fresh in her burned thigh. It was small, precise, deep, clean and sharp, a severe, lovely mark, unmistakable and clear; her thigh now well proclaimed what she was, a Gorean slave.

Ulafi, merchant and captain, stood upon the deck of the stern castle.

I stood at the rail. Canvas snapped in the wind over my head. The masts and timbers of the ship creaked. I smelled the sharp freshness of gleaming Thassa, the sea. I heard her waters lick at the strakes. A sailor began to sing a song of Schendi, and it was taken up by others.

I watched Port Kar drop behind.

5. We Ply Toward Schendi

“Lesha,” snapped the second officer to the blond girl.

She spun from facing him, and lifted her chin, turning her head to the left, placing her wrists behind her, as though for snapping them into slave bracelets.

“Nadu!” he snapped.

She swiftly turned, facing him, and dropped to her knees. She knelt back on her heels, her back straight, her hands on her thighs, her head up, her knees wide.

It was the position of the pleasure slave.

“Sula, Kajira!” said the man.

She slid her legs from under her and lay on her back, her hands at her sides, palms up. her legs open.

“Bara, Kajira!” he said.

She rolled quickly to her stomach, placing her wrists behind her, crossed, and crossing her ankles, ready to be bound.

“She is a pretty thing,” said Ulafi, and turned away.

“Yes,” I said.

“Sula!” said the man. “Bara! Nadu! Lesha! Nadu! Bara! Sula! Nadu!”

The girl was gasping. There were tears in her eyes, as she knelt on the deck. Once she had been struck when her transition between two of the movements had been insufficiently beautiful. Another time she had been struck when her response had been insufficiently prompt.

The trip south towards Schendi is a long one, consuming several days, even with fair winds, which we had had.

“Do you think she will make a good slave?” asked Sasi, standing beside me, eating a larma.

“Perhaps, in time,” I said. “How are her lessons in Gorean coming along?”

Sasi shrugged. “I am teaching her as I can,” she said. “Barbarians are so stupid.”

I had had Sasi, at the invitation of Ulafi, spend several hours a day tutoring the blond girl in Gorean. Sasi enjoyed this, standing over the blond girl with a strap, striking her when she made mistakes. When she had had a good session Ulafi would sometimes, when he thought of it, throw her a bit of cake or pastry, which she would gratefully receive. She would then kneel before Ulafi and kiss his feet, clutching the bit of cake or pastry. “Thank you, Master,” she would say. She would then kneel before Sasi, her teacher, and offer her the bit of cake or pastry, which Sasi would take, taking most of it and returning a portion of it to her. “Thank you, Mistress,” she would say, for Sasi was first girl She would then creep to her cage, and be locked within it. She would lie curled up in it, a lovely, helpless slave, and try to make the bit of cake or pastry last as long as possible.

When more than one slave girl stands in a relationship of slave girls, as when they serve in the same shop or house, or adorn the same rich man’s pleasure gardens, it is common for the master, or masters, to appoint a “first girl.” Her authority is then to the other girls as is that of the master. This tends to reduce squabbling. The first girl is usually, though not always, the favorite of the master. There is usually much competition to be first girl. First girls can be cruel and petty but, commonly, they attempt to govern with intelligence and justice. They know that another girl, at the master’s whim, may become first girl, and that they themselves may then be under her almost absolute power. In my own house I often rotated the position of first girl among my slaves who were native Goreans. I never made an Earth-girl slave first girl. This is fitting. Let them be always as the slaves of slaves.

I looked at the Earth girl, who had been left kneeling on the deck, the second officer having left her there. She did not move a muscle. She was being well trained.

“I hate her,” said Sasi.

“Why?’ I asked.

“She is so stupid and slow,” said Sasi.

“Things are hard for her,” I told Sasi. “Remember that she is only a barbarian.”

“She is stupid,” said Sasi.

“I do not think she is stupid,” I said.

“She is slow,” said Sasi.

“She is learning,” I said.

“She will always be a pitiful, clumsy slave,” said Sasi.

“Perhaps,” I said. “I do not know.” Frankly I did not think she was, even now, a pitiful, clumsy slave. She seemed to me to learn quickly. I felt that she would, in time, particularly if put under sex conquest, prove superb.

“Are you going to train me a little tonight, Master?” asked Sasi.

“Perhaps,” I said.

I had already brought her past the limitations of the free woman’s heat.

Sometimes at night I would pull her forth from her cage, the key to which had been given to me, use her, and then put her back in the cage.

After the first three or four days she had begun to grow rather food of her collar. It is an interesting transition in a woman.

I looked at the blond-haired slave, kneeling in the position of the pleasure slave.

Sasi bit into the larma fruit.

The first two days the blond-haired girl could not eat. She had shrunk back in honor from the gruel of meal and fish, fit provender for slaves, thrust in its pan into her cage. She had looked at me. Compared to it, the garbage of Port Kar had been haut cuisine. But on the third day she had finished it, thrusting it with her fingers into her mouth and licking the pan clean. Slaves are often not permitted utensils. Seeing that the pan was clean, Ulafi had then had his second officer commence her lessons. The next day Sasi, at Ulafi’s request of me, had begun to improve her Gorean.

“Do you think she is pretty Master?’ asked Sasi.

“Yes,” I said. I did think she was pretty. She seemed more lovely now than when we had left Port Kar. It was probably the fresh air, the exercise and the finding of herself under the absolute domination of men. The training, too, doubtless helped.

The second officer now returned to the kneeling girl and, standing behind her, loosely, with a movement of the slave whip, looped the five broad blades of the whip about her neck. He then held the loops against the whip’s staff, her neck encircled by them. He then, pulling against the side of her neck, threw her to his feet.

“What are you?” he asked.

“A slave girl, Master,” she said, her neck in the loops of the whip.

“What Is a slave girl?” he asked.

“A girl who is owned,” she said.

“Are you a slave girl?” he asked.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Then you are owned,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Who owns you?” he asked.

“Ulafi of Schendi,” she said.

“Who trains you?” he asked.

“Shoka of Schendi,” she said.

“Do you have a brand?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Why?”

“Because I am a slave.”

“Do you wear a collar?”

“Yes, Master.”

“What sort of collar do you wear?”

“A shipping collar, Master. It shows that I am a portion of the cargo of the Palms of Schendi.” I thought the girl’s Gorean, though the responses were generally simple, had improved considerably in the last few days.

“What is the common purpose of a collar?”

“The collar has four common purposes, Master,” she said. “First, it visibly designates me as a slave, as a brand might not, if it should be covered by clothing. Second, it impresses my slavery upon me. Thirdly, it identifies my master. Fourthly—fourthly—”

“Fourthly?” he asked.

“Fourthly,” she said, “it makes it easier to leash me.”

He kicked her in the side. She winced. Her response had been slow.

“Do you like being a slave girl?” he asked.

“Yes, Master,” she said. She sobbed. She was again kicked.

“Yes, Master! Yes, Master!” she cried.

“What does a slave girl want more than anything?” he asked.

“To please men,” she said.

“What are you?” he asked.

“A slave girl,” she said.

“What do you want more than anything?” he asked.

“To please men!” she cried.

“Nadu!” he cried, loosening the whip coils on her throat.

She swiftly knelt, back on her heels, back straight, head high, hands on her thighs, knees wide.

He then left her again, and she remained kneeling. She moved no muscle.

“Is she more pretty than I, Master?” asked Sasi.

“Your beauties are quite different,” I said. “I think you are both quite pretty. I think you will both make superb little slaves.”

“Oh,” said Sasi.

An additional utility of the collar, though it did not count as one of its four common purposes, was that it made it easier to put the girl in various ties. For example, one can use it to tie her hands before her throat, or at the sides or back of her neck. One can use it with, say, rope or chain, to fasten girls together. One can tie her feet to her collar, and so on. If the feet are tied to the collar the knot is always in the front, so that the pressure will be against the back of the girl’s neck and not the front. The purpose of such a tie is to hold the slave, not choke her. Gorean men are not clumsy in their binding of women.

I looked at the kneeling, blond-haired girl. How miserable, superficially, she seemed in her slavery. I supposed that if she were asked, outside the context of training, where certain answers are prescribed, if she liked being a slave girl, she would have denied it vehemently, perhaps with tears. Doubtless she would have begged piteously for her freedom. Yet I recalled that when her trainer, Shoka of Schendi, had flung her to his feet by the whip coils on her neck she had fallen in a certain way, and had lain at his feet in a certain fashion. I recalled the position of her wrists and palms, and the look in her eyes, as she had looked up at him. Her hip had been turned. Both legs had been drawn back, but one more than the other. Her toes had been pointed, accentuating the turn of her calf. She had not fallen clumsily. She had not lain clumsily at his feet. She had lain at his feet, and looked at him, as a slave. She had not been trained to do that. I did not even think she was aware of this sort of thing.

“Do you like me, Master?” asked Sasi.

“Yes,” I said, “particularly since you have had a bath.”

“Oh, Master,” she said.

I had scrubbed her the first day out from Port Kar, she kneeling in a tub, with sea water and a deck brush.

“What was the last time you had a bath?” I asked her.

“A girl pushed me in the South canal a year ago,” she said.

“I see,” I said.

“Is Master fastidious?” she asked.

“Not particularly,” I said, “but I will expect you to keep yourself reasonably clean from now on. You are no longer a free woman.”

“No, Master,” she said.

“You are now a slave girl,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said. She knew that slave girls must be attentive to matters of appearance, health, cleanliness and hygiene. They are no longer free women.

Yesterday the blond-haired girl had been permitted to walk about the deck. I had stopped near her and she had, immediately, knelt, for she was in the presence of a free man. I had walked slowly about her. She was very nice. I had then stood before her, and she had, suddenly, dropped her eyes. I saw a tiny movement in her hands, on her thighs, as though she would turn them, exposing the palms to me, but then she pressed them down her thighs, hard. I crouched beside her. Then I smiled. I smelled slave heat. Then I got up and went about my business. I saw her later leaning against the main mast. Later I looked at it, and saw that she had made marks in it with her nails.

“I myself prefer the training of the furs,” said Sasi, biting again into the larma fruit.

The blond-haired girl still knelt in the position of the pleasure slave. For the time her trainer had forgotten about her.

“You just do not like being struck with the whip,” I told her.

“Perhaps that is it,” she laughed. “Master,” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“If I am good, you will not whip me, will you?” she asked.

“I might,” I said.

“Oh,” she said.

Sometimes I had had Sasi train with the blond-haired girl, but generally I did not. Ulafi had no objection to her sharing the barbarian’s training. Indeed, he had even suggested the arrangement. Graciously he had made no charge for this. On the other hand I had not charged him for the instruction which Sasi was giving the blond barbarian in Gorean. Our arrangement, thus, though tacit, was a tidy one.

Sasi, Gorean, even in the collar a few days, was already far beyond the blond-haired barbarian. It was for this reason that I had had her seldom train with the barbarian. There had simply not been much point to it. The barbarian still needed the simplest and most elementary lessons of slave training.

Shoka, recollecting her, had now returned to the vicinity of the blond-haired barbarian. She did not know he was behind her. “Bara!” he called. “Sula! Nadu! Lesha! Sula! Bara! Nadu!” Instantaneously she performed. Then she was again kneeling, as before.

“Not bad,” said Sasi, chewing on the larma.

“Yes,” I said. Though Sasi was well advanced beyond the blond barbarian, I suspected that the blond barbarian, moving slowly at first, might in time catch up with her, and perhaps even surpass her. The blond barbarian, I suspected, had unusual slave potential.

Shoka then, without warning, struck her with his whip. She did not break position, but she gasped. Her face was startled, her eyes were wild. She did not know why she had been struck. In a sense there had been no reason. One does not need a reason to strike a slave. But in another sense, in the training situation, there had been a reason, that she was subject to discipline, and that it could be meted out by the master purely at his whim or caprice. She tensed. She did not know, Shoka behind her, if she would be struck again.

But Shoka took her by the hair and, she, pulled to her feet, bent over, was conducted to her cage. There he released her and she fell to her hands and knees, to crawl into the cage, to be locked within.

“May I speak, Master?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“Why was I struck?” she asked.

“Kiss my feet,” he said.

She did so.

Then she looked up at him.

“It pleased me,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Into the cage, Slave,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

In a moment she had been locked within. I saw her looking after him. Then she looked at me, too, and then she looked down. I saw her lie on her side in the cage, her legs drawn up. The cage is very tiny.

I looked out, over the rail. There were white clouds in the sky, and the sky was very blue. We would make Schendi, if the winds held, in four days.

“Master,” said Sasi.

“Yes,” I said. I turned to look at her.

She looked up at me. She smiled. “If I get to be good,” she said, “may I have a garment?”

“Perhaps,” I said.

“I think I would like a garment,” she said, chewing on the larma fruit.

“It would give me something to tear off you,” I admitted.

She looked up at me, smiling.

“The collar looks well on you, Sasi,” I said. “You could have been born in a collar.”

“For all practical purposes,” she said, “I was.”

“I do not understand,” I said.

“I am a woman,” she said, chewing on the fruit.

“Why are you bound for Schendi?” asked Ulafi of me. It was late evening now. I stood again by the rail.

“I have never been there,” I said.

“You are not of the metal workers,” he said.

“Oh?” I asked.

“Perhaps you know Chungu,” said he.

“The hand on watch,” I said.

“He,” said Ulafi.

“By sight,” I said. I did remember him quite well. He was the fellow who had passed me on the northern walkway of the Rim canal, when I had been on my way to the pier of the Red Urt. I had seen him, too, later, in the vicinity of the desk of the wharf praetor.

“Before the general alarm was permitted to sound in Port Kar, in the matter of apprising the wharves of the news of an escaped slave,” said Ulafi, “we, naturally, conducted a search for her ourselves. We expected to pick her up without difficulty in a few minutes, you understand.”

“Of course,” I said.

“She was naked, and a barbarian,” said Ulafi. “Where could she go? What could she do?”

“Of course,” I said.

“Yet she was clever,” said Ulafi.

“Yes,” I said. She had stolen a garment and concealed herself, unmarked and uncollared, among she-urts. I had no doubt that she was a highly intelligent girl. That intelligence could now be applied, now that she was a slave, to the pleasing of masters.

“We did not wish to annoy the praetor,” said Ulafi.

“It would be embarrassing, too, I suspect,” I said, “for one of Schendi, and one who was a captain, too, to call public attention to the fact that he had lost a girl.”

“Would you like to be thrown overboard?” asked Ulafi.

“No,” I said, “I would not like that.”

“Would this not have been embarrassing for anyone?” asked Ulafi.

“Of course,” I said. “Forgive me, Captain.”

“When we decided to enlist the aid of guardsmen, and inquire into the reports of citizens,” said Ulafi, “we had the general alarm rung. One of my men, Chungu, was hunting for the girl in the vicinity of the Rim canal. In that area he saw two assailants, a man and his female accomplice, subdued by one who wore the garb of the metal workers. Further, this deed was apparently performed with dispatch, a dispatch scarcely to be expected of one who was of the metal workers. Soon the fellow who wore the garb of the metal workers had left. He had paused little longer than was necessary to awaken the girl to consciousness, rape her and tie her to the man whose accomplice she had been.”

“Oh,” I said.

“When the alarm rang,” said Ulafi, “Chungu returned to the ship.”

“You were the fellow in the garb of the metal workers,” said Ulafi.

“Yes,” I said.

“When the assailants were brought to the praetor’s desk, too,” said he, “it was seen that their wrists had been bound with capture knots.”

“I see,” I said.

“Such knots are tied by a warrior,” he said.

“Perhaps,” I said.

“Why are you bound for Schendi?’ asked Ulafi.

“If you knew me not of the metal workers,” I asked, “why did you permit me to mark the blond-haired slave?”

“I wished to see what you would do,” he said.

“You risked a badly marked thigh on the girl,” I said.

“The mark was perfect,” said Ulafi.

“Thus you see,” said I, “that I am truly of the metal workers.”

“No,” said Ulafi. “I knew you were not of the metal workers. Thus I saw that you were truly of the warriors.”

“Should I have blurred the brand?” I asked.

“That would have been a shame,” said he, smiling.

“True,” I grinned. All men like a well-marked girl.

“Too,” said he, “that would have shown, had you done poorly, that you were not of the metal workers.”

“Might I not have been a slaver, or one who did work with them?” I asked.

“Perhaps,” said Ulafi, “but that would not have well fitted in with the dispatch with which the assailants were handled, or the knotting on their wrists, or, indeed, with your general mien, how you walk and sit, and look about yourself, your eyes, how you handle yourself.”

I looked out to sea. The three moons were high abeam. The sea was sparkling.

“Was it important to you to leave Port Kar when you did?” asked Ulafi.

“I think so,” I said.

“Why did you choose to voyage to Schendi?” he asked.

“Are there not fortunes to be made there?” I asked.

“In Schendi,” said Ulafi, “there are fortunes and there are dangers.”

“Dangers?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Ulafi, “even from the interior, from the ubarate of Bila Huruma.”

“Schendi is a free port, administered by merchants,” I said.

“We hope that it will continue to be so,” he said.

“As you have suspected,” I said, “I am of the warriors.”

Ulafi smiled.

“Perhaps there are some in Schendi,” I said, “with whom I might take service.”

“Steel can always command a price.” said Ulafi. He made as though to turn away.

“Captain,” I said.

“Yes,” said he.

I indicated the blond-haired barbarian in her cage, a few yards forward of the mainmast. It was chained, at four points, to cleats in the deck, that it not shift its position overmuch in rough weather. A folded tarpaulin lay near it, with which it could be covered. Sasi’s cage had similar appointments.

The girls relieved themselves during the day, when ordered to do so.

“I am curious about the blond-haired slave,” I said. “On the wharf, the slaver, Vart, said that he had gotten a silver tarsk for her.” I looked at Ulafi. “Surely such a girl, a wench of only average beauty, a tense, tight girl, awkward and clumsy, one untrained, new to the collar, one who can hardly speak Gorean, a barbarian, is worth, at best, only two or three copper tarsks.”

“I can get two silver tarsks for her,” said Ulafi.

“Her hair and coloring is rare in Schendi?” I asked.

“Such girls, and better, are cheap in Schendi,” he said. “Do not forget that Schendi is the home port of the black slavers.”

“How then will you get two silver tarsks for her?” I asked.

“She is on my conditional ‘want’ list,” said Ulafi.

“I see,” I said. That seemed to me intelligent on the part of Kur agents. They must have known that she would be sailing from Cos to Schendi. This trip, particularly because of the depredations of pirates from Port Kar, is a hazardous one. It then made sense that provisions would be made to retrieve her in a Port Kar market should she be taken and enslaved. Doubtless a similar arrangement had been made with some Schendi merchants in Tyros and perhaps in Lydius or Scagnar.

“Why are you giving her slave training?” I asked.

“She is a slave,” said Ulafi. “Why should she not receive slave training?”

“True,” I said. I smiled. “Who is your client?” I said.

“Is it worth a copper tarsk to you?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Uchafu,” he said, “a slaver in Schendi.”

I handed him the copper tarsk.

“Is Uchafu an important slaver?” I asked.

“No,” said Ulafi. “He usually handles no more than two or three hundred slaves in an open market.”

“Does it not seem strange to you,” I asked, “that Uchafu should offer two tarsks for such a girl.”

“Yes,” he said. “Obviously he is conducting the transaction at the behest of another.”

“Who?” I asked.

“I do not know,” said Ulafi.

“I would pay a silver tarsk to know,” I said.

“Ah,” said Ulafi, “I see you have business in Schendi that you have hitherto concealed.”

“A silver tarsk,” I said.

“It pains me,” said Ulafi, “but I must confess I do not know. I am sorry.”

I looked at the girl. She was lying in the cage, on her side, turned away from us.

“She is pretty, isn’t she?” asked Ulafi.

“Yes,” I said.

We watched the girl. She lay there, quietly. She ran the index finger of her right hand idly, slowly, up and down, on one of the bars near her face. She seemed lost in thought.

“Yes, a pretty slave,” said Ulafi.

“Look,” I said.

The girl, very delic5tely, lifted her head a bit from the metal floor of the cage and, with her tongue, furtively, touched the bar. Then she again touched the bar, delicately, licking it, with her tongue.

“She is beginning to suspect that she may be truly a slave, said Ulafi.

“Yes,” I said.

“She is beginning to learn her collar,” he said.

“Yes,” I said.

The girl then lay there quietly again, her head resting on her left arm, it lying, flat, elbow bent, beneath her on the sheet-metal floor of the cage. Her face, and lips, were near the bar. The small fingers of her right band touched the bar, near its base.

“Have you not noticed the improvement in her,” asked Ulafi, “since the beginning of the voyage?”

“Yes,” I said. “Her movements have become less constricted. She is no longer as clumsy or tight as she was. She is becoming less inhibited. She is becoming more beautiful.” These things were true. She was being taught her slavery.

“I wonder who it is who has placed her on order,” he said.

“I do not know,” I said. “I would like to know.”

“I, too, am curious,” he said.

Ulafi then turned away from me. He walked down the deck, toward the stern castle.

“I again looked out to sea. I sensed then that the girl, Sasi, was near me. She knelt lightly beside me, to my left. She put her head down. I felt her tongue, soft, at my ankle. She licked and kissed at my ankle and leg for a few Ehn.

“May I speak?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

She looked up at me. “I beg training, Master,” she said.

“Crawl to my blankets, beside the sea bag,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said. Head down, she crawled to the blankets, and lay there.

The blond-haired girl now knelt in her cage. Her fists were on the bars. She was watching me.

I joined Sasi on the two blankets. She lay there, quietly, in her collar. But as soon as I touched her she lifted her lips to mine, and squirmed and sobbed.

I was pleased. The branded she of her was mine.

“You train well, little slave,” I said.

“Please do not stop touching me, Master,” she begged.

“Perhaps I should whip you,” I said.

“No, no,” she begged. “Please let me try to be more pleasing to you.”

I smiled to myself. Already, only a few days in the collar, she was slave hot.

“Perhaps you are ready for the first of the full slave orgasms,” I said.

“Master?” she said.

Then, after a few Ehn, she clutched me wildly, her fingernails cutting into my arms.

“It cannot be! It cannot be!” she said.

“Shall I stop?” I asked.

“No, no,” she said, intensely.

“Perhaps I shall stop,” I said.

“Your slave begs you not to stop,” she said. “Oh, oh,” she said. “It is coming. I sense it. It is coming!”

“What do you feel like?” I asked her.

“A slave! A slave!” she cried. “I must yield to you!” she said. “I am going to yield to you!” she cried.

“As what?” I asked.

“As a slave!” she cried. She threw back her head and, wildly, weeping, sobbing, cried out the submission of her bondage.

I kissed her.

She had not done badly. Her body was growing in vitality. She showed promise for a new slave. I was pleased.

She clutched me. “Please do not leave me,” she said. “Continue to hold me, if only for a time.” There were tears in her eyes. “I beg it, Master,” she said.

“Very well,” I said.

I held her, and kissed her, and caressed her, keeping her close and warm beside me.

“Thank you, Master,” she said. She looked up at me, frightened. “I did not know it could be like that,” she said. “I had no idea.”

I kissed her, gently.

“As a free woman,” she said, “sometimes, late at night, or in my dreams, I had dimly sensed what might he the sexuality of the slave girl, but I had never remotely understood it could be anything like that, anything so overwhelming, so helpless, so total.”

“It was only a rudimentary slave orgasm,” I said. It had been

“Rudimentary?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“You jest with a poor slave,” she said.

“No,” I said.

“Truly?” she asked.

“Truly,” I said.

“What then lies in store for me?” she whispered.

“Slavery,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

She lay beside me then, on her back. She looked up, a slave, at the stars and moons. She touched her collar. Her body, in the moonlight, was white on the dark blankets:

“After a woman has felt anything like that,” she said, “how could she ever go back to being free?”

“Not many would receive the opportunity,” I told her.

She laughed. It was true. Gorean men, on the whole, do not free slaves. The freeing of a girl is almost unheard of. This makes sense. They are not free women. They are belongings, valuables, slaves, treasures. Who discards precious possessions, who surrenders treasures? If the slave girl were worth less perhaps she would be freed more. She is too marvelous to free; and if she is not marvelous, she can be slain. Too, what man who has known the glory and joy of a girl at his feet is likely to wish to exchange that for the inconvenience and bother of a free woman? No, slave girls, for all practical purposes, are not freed. They will remain in one collar or another. Men will have it that way.

“I am owned,” she said, her fingers touching her collar. “You own me.”

“Yes,” I said.

“I do not want to be free,” she said.

“Do not fear,” I said. “You are too pretty to free.”

She kissed me.

Sometimes when a woman is freed, for one reason or another, as can happen upon rare occasions, she becomes, sometimes after an initial elation, restless, and later, miserable. She often becomes unpleasant and irritable, consequences of her frustration. Often she attempts to inflict her dissatisfaction on others. Often she tries to dominate males in her vicinity, perhaps in an attempt to punish them for their inability or cruel refusal to understand or relieve her discomfort, perhaps, too, in an attempt to provoke them into an action which will restore her to her place in nature. She has once been in that place, and she cannot fail to recollect it. Perhaps it would have been better if she had never tasted nature. It is difficult, thereafter, to be satisfied with politics. Ignorance, as always, remains myth’s sturdiest bulwark. Such women often, eventually, take to walking the high bridges or frequenting exposed areas, sometimes outside the city walls. They are courting capture and the collar. They wish to kneel again, slaves, before a man.

“I have been had many times when I was a she-urt,” she said. “I have lain for paga attendants, hoping to be thrown a handful of garbage. I have been raped by vagabonds. Many times did I pleasure Turgus. Yet never did I feel anything like what you did to me.”

“Of the three types of experiences you have mentioned,” I said, “the nearest to what you recently felt occurred when you hoped to be thrown garbage by paga attendants.”

She looked at me with wonder. “Yes,” she said, “how did you know that?”

“Because in that experience you were most under the domination of a man, dependent on him even for food. Would he or would he not throw you a few scraps? Would you be sufficiently pleasing to win from him even a few shreds of garbage?”

“Yes,” she said. “It is the woman in the position of submission and subordination.”

“Doubtless sometimes they even ordered you to dance naked before them,” I said.

“Yes,” she said.

“What occurred later then,” I asked, “when they had you?”

“I reached orgasm quickly,” she said.

“Of course,” I said. “But still you were free. If you wished you could starve for another day, or you could seek garbage elsewhere, or beg, or fish for scraps in the canals.”

“Yes,” she said.

“You see,” I said, “you were not totally dependent on them. You were not totally helpless. You were not their slave.”

“Are you going to let me eat tomorrow?” she asked, suddenly, apprehensively.

“Perhaps,” I said. “I will make that decision in the morning.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Do you begin to see what I am saying to you?” I asked.

“Yes, Master,” she whispered. “I could not have earlier had the feelings you induced in me.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Master,” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“The very nearest thing to what I recently felt occurred on the northern walkway of the Rim canal, when you, not a vagabond, but a strong, free man, who had subdued both Turgus and myself, simply took me and used me for your pleasure.”

“I recall,” I said. “Too, I recall that you responded well. considering that you were at that time only a free woman.”

“You treated me as a slave,” she chided.

“I saw the potential slave in you,” I said. “Accordingly I handled you as I would have handled a slave.”

“That is why I could not help responding to you as I did,” she said.

“And yet,” I said, “that did not compare with what you recently felt.”

“No,” she said.

‘That is because before you were a free woman,” I said. “You did not then truly belong to men.”

“I do now,” she said.

“Yes,” I said. “Now you are a slave.”

“That is the difference,” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“The orgasm was rudimentary?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Just as you could not, as a free woman, attain to the heights of the rudimentary slave orgasm recently inflicted upon you so, too, you, as a new slave, cannot yet attain to the overwhelming and degrading ecstasies familiar to a girl longer in the collar.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“You have a long way to go in slavery, little Sasi,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“But in a year or two,” I said, “I think you will be superb. And beyond that it is just a matter of continued growth.”

“Does any woman ever learn her full slavery?” she asked.

“No,” I said, “I think no woman ever learns the fullness of her slavery.”

“I want to be a good slave,” she said.

“Men will see that you are,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said. “Master,” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“May I please have my ears pierced, Master,” she begged.

“Would you be so degraded a slave?” I asked. Ear piercing, on Gor, is regarded in most cities as the most degrading thing that can he done to a girl. It is commonly done only to the lowest of pleasure slaves. Compared to it, fixing a ring in a girl’s nose is regarded lightly. Indeed, among the Tuchuks, one of the Wagon Peoples of Gor, even free women wear nose rings. These matters are cultural, of course.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

‘That I might be kept always a slave,” she said.

“I see,” I said. A girl with pierced ears on Gor might as well, for all practical purposes, give up even the slimmest of hopes, should she entertain them, of freedom. What Gorean man, seeing a woman with pierced cars, could treat her as, or accept her as, anything but a slave?

“Please, Master,” she said.

“I will have it done in Schendi,” I said. Usually, a leather worker pierces ears. In Schendi there were many leather workers, usually engaged in the tooling of kailiauk hide, brought from the interior. Such leather, with horn, was one of the major exports of Schendi. Kailiauk are four-legged, wide-headed, lumbering, stocky ruminants. Their herds are usually found in the savannahs and plains north and south of the rain forests, but some herds frequent the forests as well. These animals are short-trunked and tawny. They commonly have brown and reddish bars on the haunches. The males, tridentlike, have three horns. These horns bristle from their foreheads. The males are usually about ten hands at the shoulders and the females about eight hands. The males average about four hundred to five hundred Gorean stone in weight, some sixteen hundred to two thousand pounds, and the females average about three to four hundred Gorean stone in weight, some twelve hundred to sixteen hundred pounds.

“Thank you, Master,” she said.

She then lay quietly beside me, on the blankets. The sea bag was to my right.

“Are you going to lock me in my cage tonight, Master?” she asked.

“No,” I said, “tonight you will sleep beside me.”

“Thank you, Master,” she said.

“At my feet,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

Sailors called the watch.

The wind was soft in the triangular sails. Though it was night Ulafi had not had them furled on their yards. The sea hooks, the light anchors at stem and stern, had not been thrown out. We would not lay to. Here the sea was open and the light, from the moons and stars, was more than ample. The Palms of Schendi, though it was night, continued to ply her way southward. Ulafi, for some reason, seemed eager to reach Schendi.

“I love being a woman,” said the girl. “I love being a woman.” She kissed me.

“You are a slave,” I told her.

She kissed me again. “They are the same,” she whispered.

I rolled over and seized her. Almost instantly, this time, she attained slave orgasm. Then she looked up at me, frightened, and I touched the side of her forehead, brushing back some hair.

“I so fear the slave in me,” she said.

“You so fear the woman in you,” I said.

“They are the same, Master,” she said. “They are the same.”

“That is known to me,” I said.

She lifted her lips to mine, and kissed me softly. “Yes, Master,” she said.

“To my feet,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said. She crept tremblingly to my feet.

“Curl up,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

I then threw the second blanket, the top blanket, over her, covering her completely. When a blanket, or cloak, or covering of any sort, is thrown over a slave like this she may not speak or rise. She must remain as she is, silent, until the master, or some free man, lifts the covering away.

I then lay on the blanket, my hands under my head, looking up at the canvas and stars. With my foot I could feel the girl. Her breathing told me that she was soon asleep.

It was the first time, since her enslavement, she had slept outside of a cage.

She was an excellent little slave. I was pleased that I had picked her up.

After a time, restless, I got up and paced the deck. Ulafi was not asleep. He was on the stem castle. Two helmsmen stood below him, on the helm deck. The only other hand awake, as far as I knew, was the lookout, some forty feet above me, on the ringed platform encircling the mainmast, the taller of the two masts.

I walked over to the cage of the blond-haired barbarian. She, I felt, was the key to the mystery, that device whereby I might locate Shaba and the fourth ring, one of the two remaining light-diversion rings, the secret of which had apparently perished long ago with Prasdak, the Kur inventor, he of the Cliff of Karrash. The fifth ring, according to Samos, was still somewhere on one of the steel worlds. It would not be risked, we speculated, on Gor or Earth. Perhaps it served to keep order on some steel world. Shielded in invisibility an executioner could come and go as he pleased. If we could acquire once more, of course, the Tahari ring, the fourth ring, which had been brought to Gor by a Kur faction intent upon preserving the planet from destruction, we could, presumably, have it duplicated in the Sardar. The use of such rings, If their use were permitted by Priest-Kings, might well make it difficult or impossible for the Kurii to function on Gor. With it their secret strongholds might be penetrated. With it one man might, in time, slaughter an army. I was pleased that the fourth ring had been brought to Gor. Without it, given to me by a dying Kur warrior, I doubted that I could have survived to prevent, some years ago, the detonation of the explosives in the steel tower, in the Tahari. Explosives that were intended to destroy Gor and the Priest-Kings, that the path to Earth might be cleared for conquest. But the faction that would have been willing to destroy one world to obtain another was, we speculated, no longer in the ascendancy on the steel worlds. Half-Ear, a war general of the Kurii, whom I had met in the north, had not been of that faction. Kurii now, it seemed reasonably clear, were again intent upon the possibilities of invasion. They sensed the weakness of Priest-Kings. Why now should they think of destroying a world which, like a ripe fruit, seemed to hang almost within their grasp?

I looked at the blond-haired barbarian. I was surprised to see that she was not asleep. Usually a girl in training sleeps well. She, has been worked hard and is tired. But she was not asleep. She knelt in the small cage, her fists on the bars. She was naked; I could see the moonlight on her flesh, striped by the shadows of the bars, and glinting .n the shipping collar locked on her throat. She was looking up at me. I smiled to myself. Clearly she was not sleepy.

If she had been mine I would have dragged her from the cage and thrown her upon the deck.

She looked over to where Sasi lay under the blanket. She looked at her, wonderingly. Then she looked at me, again. “I heard her cry out,” she said, in English, half to herself. “What did you do to her?”

She had heard, an hour ago or so, Sasi’s cry, emitted in the throes of her first slave orgasm, acknowledging her surrender to me as a slave girl.

“What did you do to her?” she asked, in English. Surely she must know, or suspect, what had been done to Sasi. Would not any woman know?

“What?” I asked in Gorean. I crouched down by the cage.

She drew back from the bars. “Forgive me,” she said, frightened, in English. “I was only talking to myself, really. I did not mean to bother you, Master.”

“What?” I asked in Gorean.

She collected herself. “It is nothing, Master,” she said, in Gorean. “Forgive me, Master.”

Her Gorean was still terribly limited. I saw her look again to Sasi, under the blanket, and then to me.

As she knelt before me, within the cage, I saw her straighten her back and draw back her shoulders, lifting her breasts. How beautiful they were. I do not think she even realized she had done this. It was a slave’s act, displaying her imbonded beauty before the gaze of a free man. Yet I do not think she was even aware of what she had done.

I looked at her ears. They had not been pierced. I had never known a female agent of Kurii who had been brought to Gor with pierced ears. That was no accident, of course. Pierced ears in a girl mean to a Gorean that she is a slave among slaves. I looked at her. If I owned her I would have her ears pierced. That would be sufficient guarantee, on Gor, that she would always be kept in a collar.

She opened her knees, slightly, before me, as she knelt. This was done unconsciously. What a naive slave she was, doubtless still priding herself on her freedom.

Some Earth girls, of course, brought to Gor as slaves, as lovely meat for the flesh markets, did have their ears pierced. Some of them did not learn for months why it was that they were treated with a roughness and contempt far beyond that of their imbonded sisters, subjected to a harsher authority and put beneath the rudest predations of a master’s lust. And yet the answer was simple. They were pierced-ear girls. It is said that the ear piercing of slaves, on Gor, originated in Turia. Certainly it was practiced there. After the fall of Turia the custom spread northward. It is now relatively common on Gor, for pleasure slaves. Slavers have discovered that a pierced-ear girl commands a higher price.

I looked into the eyes of the blond girl. She had looked again at Sasi, and then had lifted her eyes to mine. Her lower lip trembled. And then she put her head down, quickly.

I saw that she wished that it had been she, and not Sasi, who had been subjected on the blankets to the pleasure of a master. But she would not, of course, admit this to herself. Sasi, a slave, had served the pleasure of a master. She, a slave, had not. Sasi had been called to the blankets; she had been left in her cage.

Ulafi had not had her thrown to the crew. He had purchased her for another. She was to be shipped intact to her buyer in Schendi, he who had placed her on order.

She lifted her head, and our eyes met I saw her small right hand tremble. It lifted timidly from her thigh. She wanted to reach out, through the bars, to touch me. Then quickly she drew her hand back.

She put down her head.

I thought that whoever eventually owned her would be a lucky fellow. She had excellent slave potential.

I would not have minded having her in my own collar. She had grown considerably in beauty, just on the voyage.

She lifted her head again.

I looked again into her eyes. Yes, I thought, excellent slave potential.

Again she looked down. “I find you so attractive, you brute,” she said, miserably, in English, much to herself. “You are so attractive to me,” she said. “I hate you, you are so attractive to me,” she said. “You make me weak. I hate you.”

“What are you saying?” I asked her, in Gorean as though I could not understand her.

She looked at me, boldly. But she spoke in English, which she believed I could not understand. “I do not know what is going on in me,” she said. “My clothes have been taken. I am caged. I wear a collar. I have been branded. I have been whipped. I am being trained as a slave. And yet I find you attractive. I am no good. I am no good. I want to he before you and lick your feet. I want to serve you, fully, and as a slave!” She looked away. “I hate myself,” she said. “I hate you! I hate all of them! And yet something in me is beginning to sense happiness, joy, fulfillment. How terrible I am!” She sobbed. “perhaps I am a slave, truly,” she whispered. Then she shook her head, tears in her eyes. “No, no, no, no, no,” she said. “I am not a slave!”

“What are you saying?” I asked her, in Gorean.

She looked at me, and brushed back her hair. “Nothing, Master,” she said. In Gorean. “Forgive~ me, Master,” she said. “It is nothing.”

“Nadu,” I said.

Swiftly she knelt before me, in the tiny cage, in the perfection of the position of the pleasure slave.

“Good,” I said. She had assumed it instantaneously, fluidly, beautifully.

“Thank you, Master,” she said.

“It is now time to sleep,” I told her,

“Yes, Master,” she said, and curled up on the sheet-iron square which floored her cage.

I looked at her. Her legs were drawn up. Her toes were pointed. Her belly was sucked in, slightly. Her body was a beautiful armful of slave curves. She had not been taught to do that. I looked into her eyes. She was a natural slave, I saw, as is any woman. Too, I saw that she suspected it. I then took the tarpaulin, which lay to one side. I unfolded it, and threw it over the cage, and then tied it down, fastening it to the four cleats at the corners of the cage, covering her for the night.

6. Schendi

“Do you smell it?” asked Ulafi.

“Yes,” I said. “It is cinnamon and cloves, is it not?”

“Yes,” said Ulafi, “and other spices, as well.”

The sun was bright, and there was a good wind astern. The sails were full and the waters of Thassa streamed against the strakes.

It was the fourth morning after the evening conversation which Ulafi and I had had, concerning my putative caste and the transaction in Schendi awaiting the arrival of the blond-haired barbarian.

“How far are we out of Schendi?” I asked.

“Fifty pasangs,” said Ulah.

We could not yet see land.

The two girls, on their hands and knees on the deck, linked together by a gleaming neck chain, some five feet in length, attached to two steel work collars, these fitted over their regular collars, looked up. They, too, could smell the spices, even this far from land. In their right hands, grasped, were deck stones, soft, white stones, rounded, which are used to smooth and sand the boards of the deck. Earlier they had scrubbed and rinsed and, with rags, on their hands and knees, dried the deck. Later, when finished with the deck stones, they would again rinse and, again on their hands and knees, with rags, dry the deck. Had sailors been doing these things they of course, would have dried the deck by simply mopping it down. This was not permitted to the girls, of course. They were slaves. The boards almost sparkled white. Ulafi kept a fine ship. Behind the girls stood Shoka with a whip. He would not hesitate to use it on them, if they shirked. They did not shirk.

“Those are Schendi gulls,” said Ulafi, pointing to birds which circled about the mainmast. “They nest on land at night.”

“I am pleased,” I said. The trip had been long. I was eager to make landfall in Schendi.

I looked to the girls. Sasi looked up at me, and smiled. The blond-haired barbarian too, had her head lifted. She smelled the spices. She knew we were now in the vicinity of land. She looked up at the birds. She had not seen them before.

Ulafi looked to the blond-haired barbarian. She looked at him, frightened. He pointed upward, at the birds. “We are approaching Schendi,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” she said. She put her head down, trembling. She, a slave, did not know what awaited her in Schendi.

Shoka, behind the girls, shook out the blades of the slave whip he carried. Quickly both girls, their heads down, returned to their work.

I remained at the rail, on the port side. Soon I could see a brownish stain in the water, mingling and diffusing with the green of Thassa.

I drew a deep breath, relishing the loveliness of the smell of the spices, now stronger than before.

“Half port helm!” called Ulafi to his helmsmen. Slowly the Palms of Schendi swung half to port, and the great yards above the deck, pulleys creaking, lines adjusted by quick sailors, swung almost parallel to the deck. The same wind which had pressed astern now sped us southeastward.

I now regarded again the brownish stains in the water. Still we could not see land. Yet I knew that land must be nigh. Already, though we were still perhaps thirty or forty pasangs at sea, one could see clearly in the water the traces of inland sediments. These would have been washed out to sea from the Kamba and Nyoka rivers. These stains extend for pasangs into Thassa. Closer to shore one could mark clearly the traces of the Kamba to the north and the Nyoka to the south, but, given our present position, we were in the fans of these washes. The Kamba, as I may have mentioned, empties directly into Thassa; the Nyoka, on the other hand, empties into Schendi harbor, which is the harbor of the port of Schendi, its waters only then moving thence to Thassa.

Kamba, incidentally, is an inland word, not Gorean. It means rope. Similarly the word Nyoka means serpent. Ushindi means Victory. Thus Lake Ushindi might be thought of as Lake Victory or Victory Lake. It was named for some victory over two hundred years ago won on its shores. The name of the tiny kingdom or ubarate which had won the victory is no longer remembered. Lake Ngao, which was discovered by Shaba, and named by him, was named for a shield, because of its long, oval shape. The shields in this area tend to have that shape. It is also an inland word, of course. The Ua River is, literally, the Flower River. I have chosen, however, to retain the inland words, as they are those which are commonly used. There are, of course, many languages spoken on Gor, but that language I have called Gorean, in its various dialects, is the lingua franca of the planet. It is spoken most everywhere, except in remote areas. One of these remote areas, of course, is the equatorial interior. The dialects of the Ushindi region I will usually refer to as the inland dialects. To some extent, of course, this is a misnomer, as there are many languages which are spoken in the equatorial interior which would not be intelligible to a native speaker of the Ushindi area. It is useful, however, to have some convenient way of referring to the linguistic modalities of the Ushindi area. Gorean, incidentally, is spoken generally in Schendi. The word Schendi, as nearly as I can determine, has no obvious, direct meaning in itself. It is generally speculated, however, that it is a phonetic corruption of the inland word Ushindi, which, long ago, was apparently used to refer to this general area. In that sense, I suppose, one might think of Schendi, though it has no real meaning of its own, as having .an etiological relationship to a word meaning ‘Victory’. The Gorean word for victory is “Nykus,” which expression seems clearly influenced by “Nike,” or “Victory,” in classical Greek. Shaba usually named his discoveries, incidentally, in one or another of the inland dialects. He speaks several fluently, though his native tongue is Gorean, which is spoken standardly in Anango, his island. The inland language, or, better, one of its dialects, is, of course, the language of the court of Bila Huruma, Shaba’s patron and supporter.

“Sails ho!” called the lookout. “Two points off the port bow!”

Men went to the port rail, and Ulafi climbed to the stern castle. I climbed some feet up the knotted rope, dangling by the mainmast, which led to the lookout’s platform.

I could not yet see the sails. Ulafi did not put about or change his course.

I braced myself, holding my feet together on one of the knots on the rope. I steadied myself, puffing one arni about the mast.

His men did not rush to the benches, slide back the thole ports or slip the great oars outboard. Sea water was not brought to the deck from over the side. Sand, in buckets, was not brought topside from the ballast in the hold. The first officer, Gudi, did not preside over the issuance of blades and lances.

I felt distinctly uneasy that the masts could not be lowered. How vulnerable seemed the ship, the masts high, with their sloping yards and billowing canvas. There was a light catapult forward, but it had not yet been erected. If Ulafi had torch arrows they were not in evidence. Too, the fire pans had not been kindled for dipping the arrows, nor had a fire been kindled beneath the oil kettle, for filling the clay globes with flaming oil, to be cast in looping trajectories from the catapult forward. If onagri or springals lay unassembled in the hold they were not yet being brought to the deck.

I looked out, past the bow, almost dead ahead. I could now see the sails. I counted eleven of them. The ships were single-masted. They were ramships. Yet I now breathed more easily. Since I, from my lower elevation, a few feet above the deck, by the mainmast, could see their canvas, I knew that their lookouts, from their superior elevations, could see the Palms of Schendi. Yet the ships were not taking in canvas. They were not bringing down their yards and lowering their masts. It might have been, for all its stately progression, a convoy of merchantmen. Yet the ships were single-masted, tarnships, ramships. Too, Ulafi did not seem concerrned about them, or his men. They knew, apparently, what these would be. Perhaps the lookout, already, had made his routine identifications. I, too, now had little doubt what these would be, as it was the northern spring, and we in the waters of Schendi.

“Convey our greetings to the fleet!” called Ulafi from the stern castle, putting down his glass of the builders. Flags, in colorful series, were set at the port stem castle lines.

I lowered myself now to the deck, hand by hand.

I stood near the bow, now on the starboard side. On each side of us, five on one side, six on the other, the low, lean ships, straight-keeled and shallow-drafted, single-mailed, began to slide past us. I could see the oars lifting and dipping in unison, as they moved by.

“You do not seem concerned,” I said to Shoka, Ulafi’s second officer, who stood near me.

“We are of Schendi,” he said.

I stood with Shoka near the rail. “Suddenly,” I said, “I have this strange feeling, as though I were swimming and then, as though from nowhere, I found myself swimming with sharks, who silently passed me, not regarding me.”

“It could be frightening,” admitted Shoka.

“Do they never prey on ships of Schendi?” I asked.

“I do not think so,” said Shoka. “If they do, I suppose the ship and its crew are destroyed at sea. One never hears of it.”

“I do not find that particularly comforting,” I said.

“We are in the waters of Schendi,” said Shoka. “If they were to attack Schendi ships, it does not seem likely they would do so in these waters.”

“That is slightly more comforting,” I granted him.

The low, sleek ships continued to pass us. I could see the black faces of crew members here and there. I could not see the nearest oarsmen, for these were concealed by the structure of the rowing frame. Occasionally I glimpsed the far oarsmen, as the ship rolled in the swells. The oarsmen would be free men. One does not put slaves at the oars of warships. The wall on the rowing frame, of course, tends to protect the oarsmen against high seas and the fire of missile weapons.

I watched the ships. They were very beautiful.

Shoka indicated that the two girls should rue and come to stand by the rail, to look out and see the fleet.

“Is that wise?” I asked. “Perhaps they should be put on their bellies, under the tarpaulins, that they not attract attention.” Why should one advertise that one carried two lovely slaves?

“It does not matter,” said Shoka. “Let the slaves see.”

“But they will be seen as well,” I pointed out.

“It not matter,” said Shoka. “In two months time those ships will have hundreds of such women chained in their holds.”

The two girls then stood by the rail, lovely, naked, neck-chained together, watching the passing ships, their bare feet on the smooth boards of the deck of the Palms of Schendi.

“I suppose you are right,” I said.

“Yes,” said he.

The ships, then, had slid past us. I saw Ulafi, on his stern castle, raise his hand to a black captain, some seventy yards away, on the stern castle of his own vessel. The captain had returned this salute.

“You did not even take defensive precautions,” I said to Shoka.

“What good would it have done?” he asked.

I shrugged. To be sure, one merchant ship, like the Palms of Schendi, could have made little effective resistance to the ships which had just passed us, nor could she, though swift for a round ship, have outrun them.

“What if they had taken such action as an indication that we were hostile?” asked Shoka.

“That is true, too,” I said.

“Our defense,” said Shoka, “is that we are of Schendi.”

“I see,” I said.

“They need our port facilities,” said Shoka. “Even the larl grows sometimes weary, and the tarn, upon occasion, must find a place in which to fold its wings.”

I turned about, watching the ships vanish in the distance.

“Return to your work,” said Shoka to the girls.

“Yes, Master,” they said and, with a rustle of chain, fell again to their knees and, seizing up the deck stones, once more, Shoka near them, vigorously addressed themselves to their labors.

I turned again to watch the ships. They were now but specks on the horizon. They plied their way northward. In the northern autumn they would return, to be refitted and supplied again in Schendi, and would then, a few weeks later, in the southern spring, ply their way southward. Schendi, located in the vicinity of the Gorean equator, somewhat south of it, provides the ships with a convenient base, from which they may conduct their affairs seasonally in both hemispheres. I was pleased that I had seen the ships. I could not have conceived of a more pleasant way in which to have made their acquaintance. I had seen the passing of the fleet of the black slavers of Schendi.

The girls had been cleaned and combed. Shoka had soused perfume on them.

“Extend your wrists, crossed, for binding,” said he to the blond-haired barbarian.

She, kneeling, complied. “Yes, Master,” she said. The line which Shoka now tied around her crossed wrists was already strung through a large, metal, gold-painted ring, one of two, which were mounted in the huge wooden ears of the kailiauk head which, high above the water, surmounted the prow.

We had lain to after more closely approaching the port of Schendi in the evening of the preceding day, the day in which we had seen the fleet of the black slavers of Schendi. We could see the shore now, with its sands and, behind the sand, the dense, green vegetation, junglelike, broken by occasional clearings for fields and villages. Schendi itself lay farther to the south, about the outjutting of a small peninsula, Point Schendi. The waters here were richly brown, primarily from the outflowing of the Nyoka. emptying from Lake Ushindi. some two hundred pasangs upriver.

“Extend your wrists, crossed, for binding,” said Shoka to Sasi.

“Yes, Master,” she said. Her wrists then were tied to another line, it strung through the gold-painted ring fixed in the right ear of the kailiauk head at the prow. I had volunteered her, at the request of Ulafi, who had his vanities. He was an important merchant and captain in Schendi. Indeed, he had not entered port yesterday evening. The Palms of Schendi would make her entrance in the morning, when the wharves were busy, the shops open and the traffic bustling.

I looked about The Palms of Schendi sparkled. The deck was smoothed and white, ropes were neatly coiled, gear was stashed and secured, hatches were battened, and the brass and fittings were polished. Yesterday afternoon two seamen had reenameled the kailiauk head at the prow with brown, and the eyes with white and black. The golden metal rings, too, had been repainted. The Palms of Schendi would enter Schendi, her home port, in style. At sea, of course, a sensible compromise must be struck between a ship which is constantly ready, so to speak, for inspection, and one which is loose. The ship must be neat but livable; there must be order but not rigidity; the ship must be one on which men are comfortable but it must also be one on which, because of its arrangements and discipline, the efficient performance of duty is encouraged. Ulafi, it seemed to me, struck this sort of balance well with his men and ship. I thought him a good captain, somewhat begrudgingly because he was of the merchants. It was hard to fault him. He ran a clean, tight ship, but with common sense.

The light anchors were raised.

Canvas was dropped from the long, sloping yards.

Oarsmen, at the command of the first officer, a tall fellow named Gudi, he standing now on the helm deck, slid their great levers through the thole ports. Soon, to his calls, the oars drew against the brownish waters about the hull.

The girls knelt on the deck before the stem castle, their wrists bound before them, lines leading to the rings.

The Palms of Schendi began to negotiate its wide turn about Point Schendi.

“Are you proud?” I asked Sasi.

“Yes, Master,” she said. “I am very proud.”

I stood at the port rail, by the bow. I watched the green of the shore, moving slowly by. Last night we had had lanterns at stem and stern.

I looked at the blond-haired slave girl. She was very lovely, kneeling naked, in her collar, her wrists tied before her body, the line running to the golden ring. Seeing my eyes upon her, she put her head down, ashamed.

I smiled.

Last night, an Ahn after she had been put in her cage, I had once glanced upon her. She had been tying on her back in the cage, her knees drawn up. Her hands had been beside her thighs, their backs resting on the metal of the cage floor. Her head had been turned toward me. When she had seen me look at her, she had looked up, quickly, at the square of sheet metal above her.

I had gone to the side of the cage, and crouched there. “Nadu,” I had said to her, and she had then knelt before me, within the cage, behind the bars, in the position of the pleasure slave. I had studied her body, and, in particular, her face, her eyes and expression. I had then reached through the bars and taken her by the upper arms. She seemed terrified, but made no sound. I drew her toward me, until I held her against the bars. I held her there for more than a minute, reading in her eyes, and in my grip of her soft upper arms, the tenseness, the softness, the confusion, the desire, the fear, of the lovely slave.

Then I had seen what I had wanted. She pressed herself against the bars. Her eyes were closed. The lower portion of her face, the bars cruel against it, thrust toward me. Her lips, soft and wet, opened to me.

“Oh, no,” she had then breathed, softly, in English, and, frightened, had drawn back. I had then released her arms and she had crouched back in the cage, against the bars on the other side. I had neither kissed nor, really, refused to kiss her. It had happened, really, neither quickly nor slowly, but as it had happened, she offering her lips, almost inadvertently, hesitating, and then, frightened, dismayed, drawing back. I do not think I would have kissed her, as I did not own her, but she, of course, had not known that. I had been interested, of course, in assessing the current level of her development in bondage. That could make a difference in what happened to her, and what happened to her could make a difference in the success or failure of my own mission in Schendi. If she were still too rigid or irritating to men she might even, possibly, be slain before she could lead me to the mysterious Shaba. But my small test, affirmative in its results, convinced me that she was probably slave enough already to be permitted to live at least until she were thrown naked at his feet.

I had then continued to look at the girl for a few moments. She looked at me, miserably, frightened.

“I am not a slave,” she said to herself, in English, and then, suddenly, put her head in her hands, sobbing.

I smiled.

Surely she must have sensed that the mouth kiss which she had so helplessly proffered, and had proffered as a slave, was the symbolic opening of her vagina to male penetration.

“I am not a slave, I am not a slave,” she wept.

How these Earth women fight the natural woman in themselves. As far as I could tell it was not wrong to be a woman, any more than it was wrong to be a man. I do not know, of course, for I am not a woman. Perhaps it is wrong to be a woman. If not, why should they fight it so? But perhaps weak men, who fear true women, have conditioned them so. It is not clear that any true man would object to a true woman. It is clear, however, that those who fear to be either will object to both. Values are interesting. How transitory and peculiar are the winds which blow over the plains of biology.

“I am not a slave,” wept the girl. “I am not a slave.” Then she looked at me, suddenly, angrily. “You know that I am a slave, don’t you, you brute?” She asked, in English.

I said nothing to her.

“Is that why I hate you so much,” she wept, “because you know that I am a slave?”

I looked at her.

“Or do I hate you so much,” she asked, “because I want you as my master?”

Then she put down her head, again. “No, no,” she wept. “I am not a slave. I am not a slave!”

I then withdrew. I had no objection to the girl addressing herself to me in English, which she was confident I did not understand. I thought it healthy that she be given the opportunity to ventilate her feelings. Many Gorean masters permit a barbarian to prattle upon occasion in her native tongue. It is thought to be good for them.

A few minutes later I had joined Sasi on the blankets.

“Please touch me, Master,” she had begged.

“Very well,” I had said.

I glanced back once at the cage of the blond-haired barbarian. Shoka had covered it for the night.

I had seen her body and eyes proclaim her slavery, and I had heard her mouth both deny it, and affirm it, and then again deny it. The blond-haired girl was still fighting herself. She did not know yet who or what she was. Interestingly I had heard her ask herself if she hated me, because she wanted me as her master. I knew that a girl who wants a man for her master can perform wonders for him. And yet she was only an ignorant girl, a raw girl, new to the collar. What did she know of being the slave of a master? But then I recalled that she had again denied being a slave. I smiled to myself. What a little fool she was. She did not yet know. truly, that she was a slave.

“Oh, Master,” said Sasi.

Then I turned my attention away from the blond-haired girl, her intended role in my plans and what might lie ahead In Schendi. I then turned my full attention to the sweet, squirming, collared Sasi, the branded, curvacious little beast from the wharves of Port Kar. What a delight she was. She had none of the problems of the blond-haired girl. But, too, she was Gorean. Almost as soon as the collar had been locked on her she had begun, happily, to blossom in her bondage. Slavery is cultural for Goreans. They know it is something a woman can be.

“You give me great pleasure, Master,” she said.

“Be quiet,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she whispered.

A quarter of an Ahn later I held and kissed her, gently, letting her subside at her own rhythms. “What are you?” I asked her.

“A slave, Master,” she said.

“Whose slave?” I asked.

“Yours, Master,” she said.

“Are you happy?” I asked.

“Yes, Master,” she whispered. “Yes, Master.”

The Palms of Schendi had now begun to come about, about Point Schendi.

The yards swung on the masts, capitalizing on the wind. The oars dipped and lifted.

We were still some seven or eight pasangs from the buoy lines. I could see ships in the harbor.

We would come in with a buoy line on the port side. Ships, too, would leave the harbor with the line of their port side. This regulates traffic. In the open sea, similarly, ships keep one another, where possible, on their port sides, thus passing to starboard.

“What is the marking on the buoy line that will be used by Ulafi?” I asked Shoka, who stood near me, by the girls, at the bow.

“Yellow and white stripes,” he said. “That will lead to the general merchant wharves. The warehouse of Ulafi is near wharf eight.”

“Do you rent wharfage?” I asked.

“Yes, from the merchant council,” he said.

White and gold, incidentally, are the colors of the merchants. Usually their robes are white, trimmed with gold. That the buoy line was marked in yellow and white stripes was indicative of the wharves toward which it led. I have never seen, incidentally, gold paint on a buoy. It does not show up as well as enameled yellow in the light of ships’ lanterns.

I could see some forty or fifty sails in the harbor. There must then have been a great many more ships in the harbor, for most ships, naturally, take in their canvas when moored. The ships under sail must, most of them, have been entering or leaving the harbor. Most of the ships, of course, would be small ships, coasting vessels and light galleys. Also, of course, there were river ships in the harbor, used in the traffic on the Nyoka.

I had not realized the harbor at Schendi was so large. It must have been some eight pasangs wide and some two or three pasangs in depth. At its eastern end, of course, at one point, the Nyoka, channeled between stone embankments, about two hundred yards apart, flows into it. The Nyoka, because of the embankments, enters the harbor much more rapidly than it normally flows. It is generally, like the Kamba, a wide, leisurely river. Its width, however, about two pasangs above Schendi, is constricted by the embankments. This is to control the river and protect the port. A result, of course, of the narrowing, the amount of water involved being the same, is an increase in the velocity of the flow. In moving upstream from Schendi there is a bypass, rather like a lock system, which provides a calm road for shipping until the Nyoka can be joined. This is commonly used only in moving east or upstream from Schendi. The bypass, or “hook,” as it is called, enters the Nyoka with rather than against its current. One then brings one’s boat about and, by wind or oar, proceeds upstream.

The smell of spices, particularly cinnamon and cloves, was now quite strong. We had smelled these even at sea. One smell that I did not smell to a great degree was that of fish. Many fish in these tropical waters are poisonous to eat, a function of certain forms of seaweed on which they feed. The seaweed is harmless to the fish but it contains substances toxic to humans. The river fish on the other hand, as far as I know, are generally wholesome for humans to eat. Indeed, there are many villages along the Kamba and Nyoka, and along the shores of Lake Ushindi, in which fishing is the major source of livelihood. Not much of this fish, however, is exported from Schendi. I could smell, however, tanning fluids and dyes, from the shops and compounds of leather workers. Much kailiauk leather is processed in Schendi. brought to the port not only from inland but from north and south, from collection points, along the coast. I could also smell tars and resins, naval stores. Most perhaps, I could now smell the jungles behind Schendi. This smell, interestingly, does not carry as far out to sea as those of the more pungent spices. It was a smell of vast greeneries, steaming and damp, and of incredible flowers and immensities of rotting vegetation.

A dhow, with a red-and-white-striped sail, slipped past us on the port side.

The bow of the Palms of Schendi had now come about, and the peninsula of Point Schendi dropped behind us, to port. The impassive, painted eyes, white and black-pupiled, of the huge, brown kailiauk head at the prow now gazed upon the harbor of Schendi.

It lay dead ahead, some four pasangs.

The blond-haired barbarian looked across the deck to Sasi. “Mistress,” she whispered to Sasi, who stood to her as first girl.

“Yes, Slave,” said Sasi.

The blond lifted her bound wrists, the line running up to the golden ring in the left ear of the kailiauk head, through it, and back to the deck. “Why are we bound like this?” she asked.

“Do you not know, you little fool?” asked Sasi. I smiled, for Sasi was actually a bit shorter than the blond girl. I would have guessed they would have weighed about the same. Sasi may have weighed a little more. Neither was a large girl.

“No, Mistress,” said the blond girl. She was deferential to Sasi. If she had not been, she might have been whipped to within an inch of her life.

“Rejoice,” said Sasi. “You have been found beautiful enough to be put at the prow.”

“Oh,” said the blond girl, uncertainly. Then she knelt back, on her heels. She smiled. Then she looked up, uneasily, at the ring in the ear of the kailiauk head, that proud adornment surmounting the prow of the Palms of Schendi, through which her wrist rope was strung.

“On your bellies,” said Shoka to them, and the two girls lay on the deck.

He first crossed the blond’s ankles and tied them together, and then he did the same for Sasi. This is done to improve the line of a girl’s body, as she hangs at the ring.

“Up,” said Shoka to them, and they again knelt. Both were now ready to be put at the rings, the blond at the left, Sasi at the right.

We were now some three pasangs from Schendi.

A light galley, two-masted, with yellow sails, was leaving the harbor, far to port.

Coming about Point Schendi, behind us, some two pasangs astern, was a round ship. She flew the colors of Asperiche. Far to starboard we saw two other ships, a medium-class round ship and a heavy galley, the latter with red masts, both of Ianda.

“What will be done with us in Schendi?’ asked the blond-haired girl of Sasi.

“I do not know what will be done with me,” said Sasi, “but doubtless you will be marketed.”

“Sold?” asked the blond.

“Of course,” said Sasi.

Uneasily the blond girl squirmed a bit in her bonds, but they held her perfectly.

“Do not fear,” said Sasi. “You will learn to obey men with perfection. They will see to it.”

“Yes, Mistress,” said the blond. And then she glanced at me, and then, quickly, looked away. I continued to regard her. She knelt back as she could, her small ankles roped, a bit frightened, lifting her upper body. She displayed herself well. She trembled. She, an Earth girl, knew herself now subjected to the scrutiny of a Gorean male. She did not dare not to display herself well. She did not wish to be kicked or beaten.

Yet, as I regarded her, I saw more in her body and beauty than the mere intelligence of a collared slave.

I saw something, incipiently, of the joy and pride of the slave girl, the girl who knows that though her body is being placed in bondage her womanhood, paradoxically, is being freed.

I continued to regard her. Surely, at the beginning of the voyage, it never would have occurred to Ulafi to have put her at the prow. Better than that she would have been chained in the hold, to a ring, or caged on deck, the tarpaulin thrown over the cage, that she might not detract from the splendor of his entrance into his harbor. But Ulafi and Shoka had, in the voyage, accomplished much with her. She was now, incredibly enough, sufficiently beautiful to be found acceptable for the prow of the Palms of Schendi. What a subtle thing is a woman’s beauty. How little it has to do, actually, generally, with such matters as symmetry of form and regularity of features. It eludes scales and tapes; mathematics cannot, I think, penetrate its mysterious equations. I have never understood beauty; but I am grateful that it exists.

The girl looked up at me, and then, again, looked away. She put her head down, trembling.

I smiled, remembering her eyes. They had been those of a slave. How incredible that she did not yet know that she was a slave.

I pointed ahead, toward the harbor. It was now some two and a half pasangs away. “Schendi,” I said to her.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“You will be sold there,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Men will own you,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“What do you want to do more than anything?” I asked.

“To please men,” she said, recalling well her training.

“Why do you wish to do that?” I asked.

She looked up at me. “Because I am a slave girl,” she whispered.

“Is it true that you are a slave girl?” I asked.

“Yes, Master,” she whispered. -

“Do you desire intensely to be a slave girl?” I asked.

“Am I in training?” she asked.

“Of course,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said, “I desire intensely to be a slave girl.”

“You are not now in training,” I said. “Do you desire intensely to be a slave girl?”

“No, no,” she wept. “No, Master. No, Master!”

“I see,” I said, and turned away from her. She knelt beside me, trembling, sobbing.

We were now some two pasangs out of Schendi. The traffic was heavier.

“Yes, Master,” she whispered.

I looked down at her. “What did you say?” I asked.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Yes, what?” I asked.

She looked up at me, tears in her eyes. “Yes, Master,” she said, “I do desire intensely to be a slave girl.”

“You are not now in training,” I told her.

“I know,” she whispered. “But I do desire, intensely, to be a slave girl.” She choked back a sob. Tears stained her cheeks. She bent her head to me and, delicately, softly, kissed me on the right thigh, below the tunic’s hem. Then she again, timidly, looked up at me. I did not cuff her.

“Have no fear,” I told her, “your wish is granted. You are completely and totally a slave girl.”

“Yes, Master,” she said. Then she put down her head. Her small fists clenched. “No,” she said, suddenly, “I am not a slave girl.”'’

“Fight the collar,” I told her. “In the long run it will do you no good.”

“Why?” she asked, looking up at me. “Why!”

“Because you are a slave,” I told her.

“No,” she said. “No!” But I saw in her eyes that she understood that I had seen the slave in her. She knew that I had recognized it. She had not been able to conceal her from me. It is very difficult for a woman when she meets a man who can see the slave in her. What then can she do? She can flee. or kneel before him.

“No,” she said, “I am not a slave!”

“Be silent, Slave,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said. She knelt back. I saw her body suffuse with a subtle pleasure, that she had been ordered to silence. Her protestations had not been accepted. Her immediate realities were simple. She was silent, ordered so, and kneeling. She had not wanted her protestations to be accepted, though it had been important for her to make them. Her resistance must be overcome. How else could it be clear to her that her will, truly, was subjected to that of another? Like all women, in her heart, she wished to be owned, and mastered.

She looked straight ahead, kneeling, her body held beautifully. She bit her lower lip. She tried to look angry.

I smiled to myself.

Already I could see many signs, some subtle and some quite obvious, that the secret slave, which lurks in every woman, had begun to sense, fearfully, excitedly, that she had been brought to a world on which she might perhaps be free at last to emerge; had the chains been removed; she lifted her wrists; had her small limbs now been unfettered; she looked up from the straw, up the long, narrow stairs toward the iron door; was it now ajar; since her birth a pathological culture had thrust her into the dungeon of suppression, confining her in the darkness; her very reality and existence had been ignored and hysterically denied; but at times, sometimes in dreams, or idle moments, her screams for mercy, unheeded, had been heard from the darkness below; or was it only the sound of the wind; I suspected that the blond-haired girl, uneasily, had many times heard the cries of the imprisoned slave; the slave now, her fetters struck away by Gorean men, crept toward the iron door; could it truly be ajar; had men opened it; outside the door the blond-haired girl, tremblingly, waited; the slave was going to emerge; but the slave feared to emerge; behind her the blond-haired girl heard strong men summon forth the slave; the slave would come forth; then the blond-haired girl would gasp, for she would see that it Was she herself who was the slave. Then she would feel a collar being locked on her throat, and she would kneel in the sunlight at the feet of a master.

“Put them at the prow!” called Ulafi.

Two seamen came to assist Shoka.

We were now some two pasangs out of Schendi. The traffic was heavier.

Shoka lifted up the blond girl, easily, in his arms. She was frightened. The line on her wrists went to, and through, the golden ring in the left ear of the kailiauk head at the prow of the Palms of Schendi. It then, from the ring, returned to the deck. The two seamen then held the line, at the deck. Shoka then threw the girl over the bow. She cried out with misery but, in a moment, swung from the tether, through the ring, fastened to her wrists. At Shoka’s direction she was drawn up until she hung, her wrists over her head, about a foot below the golden ring. One sailor held the rope then while the other secured the line to a ring on the deck. He made a loop in the line, passed the free end through the deck ring, brought the end up through the loop, about the line and down through the loop again, then tightened the knot. The girl thee swung from the ring. The knot at the ring was a simple bowline, familiar to all who know the sea, brought to Gor perhaps hundreds of years ago by mariners who had once sailed the Aegean or the Mediterranean, perhaps who had once called not such ports as Schendi or Bazi their own, but Miletus or Ephesus, or Syracuse or Carthage. h a few moments Sasi, too, swung from a golden ring, she too suspended over the brownish waters outside Schendi.

A heavy galley, out of Tyros, forty oars to a side, stroked past us, her yellow lateen sails loose on their yards. Crewmen paused in their labors to examine the beauty of the displayed slaves. Her captain, lowering his glass of the builders, lifted his hard high, fist clenched, to Ulafi, greeting him, and congratulating him on his ship and the girls which hung at its prow. Ulafi, graciously, lifting his hand, palm open, acknowledged the gesture.

We were then at the mouth of the harbor and, in a moment, had brought the line of yellow-and-white-striped buoys to port. There were already two ships behind us now, and another was ahead of us. As we moved toward the wharves three ships passed us, moving toward the open sea. There are more than forty merchant wharves at Schendi, each one of which, extending into the harbor, accommodates four ships to a side. The inmost wharves tend to have lower numbers, on the starboard side of the port, as one enters the harbor.

We could see men on the docks and on the outjutting wharves. Many seemed to recognize the Palms of Schendi and she was well received. I had not realized that Schendi was as large or busy a port as it was. Many of the wharves were crowded and there were numerous ships moored at them. On the wharves and in the warehouses, whose great doors were generally open, I could see much merchandise. Most in evidence were spice kegs and hide bales, but much else, too, could be seen, cargos in the warehouses and on the wharves, some waiting, some being actively carried about, being embarked or disembarked. As the Palms of Schendi, her canvas now taken in and the long yards swung parallel with the deck, oars lifting and sweeping, moved past the wharves many men stopped working, setting down their burdens, to wave us good greetings. Men relish the sight of a fine ship. Too, the two girls at the prow did not detract from the effect. They hung as splendid ornaments, two slave beauties, dangling over the brownish waters, from rings set in the ears of a beast. We passed the high desks of two wharf praetors. I saw, too, here and there, brief-tunicked, collared slave girls; I saw, too, at one point a group of paga girls, chained together, soliciting business for their master’s tavern. Many goods pass in and out of Schendi, as would be the case in any major port, such as precious metals, jewels, tapestries, rugs, silks, horn and horn products, medicines, sugars and salts, scrolls, papers, inks, lumber, stone, cloth, ointments, perfumes, dried fruit, some dried fish, many root vegetables, chains, craft tools, agricultural implements, such as hoe heads and metal flail blades, wines and pagas, colorful birds and slaves. Schendi’s most significant exports are doubtless spice and hides, with kailiauk horn and horn products also being of great importance. One of her most delicious exports is palm wine. One of her most famous, and precious, exports are the small carved sapphires of Schendi. These are generally a deep blue, but some are purple and others, interestingly, White or yellow. They are usually carved in the shape of tiny Panthers, but sometimes other animals are found as well, usually small animals or birds. Sometimes, however, the stone is carved to resemble a tiny kailiauk or kailiauk head. Slaves, interestingly, do not count as one of the major products in Schendi, in spite of the fact that the port is the headquarters of the League of Black Slavers. The black slavers usually sell their catches nearer the markets, both to the north and south. One of their major markets, to which they generally arrange for the shipment of girls overland, is the Sardar Fairs, in particular that of En’Kara, which is the most extensive and finest. This is not to say, of course, that Schendi does not have excellent slave markets. It is a major Gorean port. The population of Schendi is probably about a million people. The great majority of these are black. Individuals of all races, however, Schendi being a cosmopolitan port, frequent the city. Many merchant houses, from distant cities, have outlets or agents in Schendi. Similarly sailors, from hundreds of ships and numerous distant ports, are almost always within the city. The equatorial waters about Schendi, of course, are open to shipping all year around. This is one reason for the importance of the port. Schendi does not, of course, experience a winter. Being somewhat south of the equator it does have a dry season, which occurs in the period of the southern hemisphere’s winter. If it were somewhat north of the equator, this dry season would occur in the period of the northern hemisphere’s winter. The farmers about Schendi, as farmers in the equatorial regions generally, do their main planting at the beginning of the “dry season.” From the point of view of one accustomed to Gor’s northern latitudes I am not altogether happy with the geographer’s concept of a “dry season.” It is not really dry but actually a season of less rain. During the rains of the rainy season seeds could be torn out of the ground and fields half washed away. The equatorial farmer, incidentally, often moves his fields after two or three seasons as the soil, depleted of many minerals and nutriments by the centuries of terrible rains, is quickly exhausted by his croppage. The soil of tropical areas, contrary to popular understanding, is not one of great agricultural fertility. Jungles, which usually spring up along rivers or in the vicinity of river systems, can thrive in a soil which would not nourish fields of food grains. The farmers about Schendi are, in a sense, more gardeners than farmers. When a field is exhausted the farmer clears a new area and begins again. Villages move. This infertility of the soil is a major reason why population concentrations have not developed in the Gorean equatorial interior. The land will not support large permanent settlements. On the equator, itself, interestingly, geographers maintain that there are two dry seasons and two rainy seasons. Once again, if there is much to this, I would prefer to think of two rainy seasons and two less rainy seasons. My own observations would lead me to say that for all practical purposes there is, on the equator itself, no dry season. The reason for the great amount of rain in the equatorial regions is, I suppose, clear to all. At the equator the sun’s rays are most direct. This creates greater surface heat than oblique rays would. This heating of the surface causes warm air to rise. The rising of the warm air leaves a vacuum, so to speak, or, better, an area of less pressure or density in the atmosphere. Into this less dense area, this “hole,” so to speak, cooler air pours, like invisible liquid, from both the north and south. This air is heated and rises in its turn. When the warm air reaches the upper atmosphere, well above the reflecting, heated surface of the earth, it cools; as it cools, its moisture is precipitated as rain, This is, of course, a cycle. It is responsible for the incredible rains of the Gorean equatorial interior. There are often two major rains during the day, in the late afternoon, when the warm air has reached its precipitation point, and, again, in the late evening, when, due to the turning of the planet, the surface and upper atmosphere, darkened, cools. There can be rain, of course, at other times, as well, depending on the intricate interplay of air currents, pressures and temperatures.

“Oars inboard,” called Gudi, who acted as oar master.

Seamen hurled mooring lines to men on the wharf. These were looped about heavy mooring cleats. Coils of rope slung over the side cushioned the strakes of the ship, lest she grate herself on the boards of the wharf. Men gathered their gear. The gangplank was run from an opening in the starboard rail, swung open, to the wharf. The number of the wharf was eight.

I saw two slavers stop at the wharf, looking up at the slaves suspended from the rings. “If you want to sell them, bring them to the market of Kovu,” called one of them, an ugly fellow, his right cheek disfigured by a long scar.

Shoka lifted his hand to them, acknowledging that he had heard them.

They then continued on their way.

Beautiful slave girls, clothed and unclothed, are not that rare on Gor. That the two girls had attracted the attention of passing slavers was high praise indeed for their unconcealed charms.

Two men from the desk of the nearest wharf praetor, he handling wharves six through ten, a scribe and a physician, boarded the ship. The scribe carried a folder with him. He would check the papers of Ulafi, the registration of the ship, the arrangements for wharfage and the nature of the cargo. The physician would check the health of the crew and slaves. Plague, some years ago, had broken out in Bazi, to the north, which port had then been closed by the merchants for two years. In some eighteen months it had burned itself out, moving south and eastward. Bazi had not yet recovered from the economic blow. Schendi’s merchant council, I supposed, could not be blamed for wishing to exercise due caution that a similar calamity did not befall their own port.

The scribe, with Ulafi, went about his business. I, with the crew members, submitted to the examination of the physician. He did little more than look into our eyes and examine our forearms. But our eyes were not yellowed nor was there sign of the broken pustules in our flesh.

Two slave girls, white, barefoot, in ragged brown tunics, with golden rings in their ears, one chewing on a larma, came to stand on the wharf near the prow. “How ugly you are!” called up one of them to the girls at the rings.

“Have you ever been put at the prow?” called Sasi back to them, unhesitatingly.

They did not respond.

I saw the blond-haired barbarian, suspended at her ring, suddenly shudder with understanding. And then how proud she seemed, bound there, suddenly. She looked up at her bound wrists and the large ring. Her feet moved, rubbing slightly against one another; her ankles, crossed and bound, shifted in the small encircling rope loops which held them closely together. The line of her body, suspended as she was, was very beautiful. She looked over at Sasi, and Sasi smiled at her. Then, to my amazement, the blond girl, though her wrists must have hurt her, her weight drawing against them, smiled back at Sasi. Then she looked down with contempt at the ragged girls on the wharf.

“You are both homely, poor slaves!” called up one of the girls.

“You are homely, poor slaves, not we?” said Sasi. “We are at the prow!” She looked at them, angrily. “Were you ever at the prow?”

Again they did not answer.

Can your master not afford to give you a decent tunic?” asked Sasi. I smiled, for Sasi, herself, did not have a stitch to wear. I would have her improve her slave skills considerably before I would let her have so much as a rag. “I wager your master has you dance for male slaves!” cried Sasi.

The two girls cried out with rage and the one girl hurled the core of the larma at Sasi, stinging her on the lower right abdomen.

“Pierced-ear girls!” cried Saul.

The two girls suddenly looked at one another and, sobbing, turned and fled from the wharf.

Sasi looked back at me, well pleased with herself~ I had to admit she had handled the two girls well. I also recalled that she had, once, in the voyage, begged me to have her own ears pierced, that she might be then all the more helplessly and irrevocably a slave. I did not know If she had changed her mind on this issue, but it did not matter. I looked at her. Yes, rings would look well in her ears. I would, thus, have her ears pierced, or would do it myself. I also looked at the blond-haired girl. Her ears, too, I decided, would look well with rings in them. She would soon have pierced ears, set well with golden rings, should she come into my ownership.

The blond-haired girl looked at me, and then looked away. I was pleased. I could see how proud she was to have been found beautiful enough to be put at the prow of a Gorean ship. Perhaps for the first time she was beginning to sense how lovely she truly was.

How ignorant women are. Do they not know how beautiful they are? Do they not know how incredibly exciting they are to men? Do they not know how they are wanted, how fiercely they are desired. If only they could see themselves but once through a man’s eyes, would they not be terrified to leave the house, lest they be stripped and put under the iron, and collared, by the first man who sees them? Perhaps it is well for women not to know how desirable they are. How they might fear men, if they but knew. I speak, of course, of the men of Gor and those of a Gorean nature.

And yet on Gor women who are put in collars do not long remain ignorant of their own beauty and its meaning. It is soon taught to them, for they are slaves. Perhaps it is only the slave girl, of all women, kneeling and owned, placed uncompromisingly at the mercy of men, who had some sense of her own desirability. What woman can begin to understand men, who has not been owned by one?

“Bring in the slaves,” said the physician.

One seaman held Sasi’s rope taut, above the deck ring. Another undid the bowline which fastened the rope to the ring. Shoka, with a hook on a pole, drew Sasi back to the rail. He put aside the pole, and, one hand about her waist, drew her to him, lifting her then over the rail. He placed her on her back on the deck, her ankles still bound, her wrists, still tied, back over her head.

The physician bent to examine her.

Shoka then retrieved the pole and extended it outward, to draw the blond-haired girl back to the rail.

She was very beautiful. Her eyes, briefly, met mine as Shoka lifted her over the rail. He placed her on her back, beside Sasi, her wrists and ankles, like those of Sasi, still tied. Her arms, like Sasi’s, elbows bent, were back and over her head.

“Oh!” she cried, handled as a slave girl.

Curious, the physician touched her again. She whimpered. squirming. “She’s a hot one,” said the physician.

“Yes,” said Ulafi.

The girl looked at the physician with horror, tears in her eyes. But he completed her examination, looking into her eyes, and examining the interior of her thighs, her belly, and the interior of her forearms, for marks.

Then the physician stood up. “They are clear,” he said. “The ship is clear. All may disembark.”

“Excellent,” said Ulafi.

The scribe noted the physician’s report in his papers and the physician, with a marking stick, initialed the entry.

“May I wish you good fortune in your business in Schendi,” said Ulafi.

“Yes, thank you, Captain,” I said. “My thanks to you, too, for a line voyage.”

He nodded. “Thanks, too,” said he, “for the use of your pretty little dark-haired slave for the prow.”

“It is nothing,” I said.

“I wish you well,” said he.

“I wish you well,” said I.

I bent to Sasi’s bonds, and freed her. Then I took a pair of slave bracelets from my pouch and braceleted her hands behind her back. I would have to find lodging.

“Put that one,” said Ulafi to a seaman, indicating the bound, blond-haired girl, “in sink and chain her to a ring on the wharf. We will not have her run away again, as she did in Port Kar.”

“Yes, Captain,” said the man.

I went and gathered up my sea bag, Sasi behind me braceleted, to my left.

I heard the blond-haired girl being locked in silk. She was then freed of the ropes on her.

She was pulled to her feet by the chain at her throat, that attached to the sink, collar. The sirik collar was close-fitting and would not, like a work collar, fit over the shipping collar. The shipping collar was thrust up her throat, under her chin, where it would be easy to check. The sink collar then had been locked about her throat below it. I did not think the girl would be let out of the shipping collar until she had been delivered into the hands of the slaver, Uchafu, who was to be her buyer. Ulafi, commendably, was taking no chances with the wench. I did not think, however, that she would be likely to attempt to escape again, anyway. She had now learned something of her slavery, and she had felt the whip. Too, surely she could remember the fed of the scimitar of discipline on her ankles at Port Kar, at the desk of the wharf praetor. At a word from Ulafi her feet would have been cut off. Mercifully she had been only whipped, thereafter being identified as what she was, a slave, by brand and collar. I did not think she would wish to lose her feet. I did not think she would attempt to escape again.

Shoka pulled her down the gangplank and, near the ship, with a length of chain and a heavy padlock, running the chain through the sink chain, fastened her to a ring.

She knelt there, on the hot boards.

She looked up at me, naked and chained.

For an instant I saw again, in her eyes, the secret slave of her. Then I saw her eyes try to deny the slave. She bit her lip, and looked down. “No, no,” she whispered to herself, in English.. “I am not a slave.”

“Are you going to sell me in Schendi?” asked Sasi.

“Perhaps.” I said. “I will, if I wish.”

“Yes, Master,” said Sasi.

The blond-haired girl’s head was down.

I supposed the secret slave knew well that her jailer was the blond-haired girl. But I did not think the blond-haired girl realized, or fully realized, that she herself was the slave she so cruelly suppressed.

The blond-haired girl then, timidly, lifted her eyes to mine.

I looked at her.

Gorean men, despite her will, would free that slave. The blond-haired girl would have no choice but to become her deepest, fullest and most ancient self. The lies of her false civilization cast aside, the veneers of her acculturation rent and discarded, being of no interest to Gorean men, who did not share them, the deepest and most primitive female animal in her would be liberated. She would be made to be a woman.

Frightened, the blond-haired girl quickly put down her head.

She trembled. The chains moved. She seemed small.

I continued to look upon her.

Yes, she would be made to be a woman, and in the fullest sense of the word, that of a love slave to strong men.

I turned to leave.

“Master!” she cried.

I turned about, to again face her.

“Do not go,” she said. “Please do not leave me!”

“I do not understand,” I said.

“Take me with you,” she begged.

“I do not understand,” I said.

“Please buy me,” she said. She looked up at me, tears in her eyes, lifting her chained hands to me. “Please, Please, Master, buy me!” she said.

“He already has a girl,” said Sasi, angrily.

“Be silent,” I said to Sasi.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Do you beg to be purchased?” I asked the blond-haired girl.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Only a slave begs to be purchased,” I said. It is regarded as an acknowledgment of their slavery, that they can be bought and sold.

“I am a slave,” she said.

“Yes,” I said, “but you do not yet really know it.” She looked at me.

“You have not yet begun to learn your collar,” I told her.

“Buy me,” she said. “Teach it to me.”

“You tempt me, lovely slut,” I said.

She looked up at me.

“Kiss my feet,” I told her.

She did so, in her chains, kneeling on the hot boards of the wharf at Schendi. Then again she looked up at me.

“Another will buy you,” I told her. Then I turned away from her.

“We must seek lodging,” I said to Sasi.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

I heard the girl behind us cry out in misery. And then she screamed, though we did not turn to regard her, in English, “I hate you! I hate you, Master! And I am not a slave! I am not a slave!”

But I remembered the feel of her lips and tongue, delicate, on my feet. The feel of the caress had been unmistakable. Tier lips and tongue had been those of a slave.

“I am not a slave!” she cried in English.

I thought the girl would be useful. She would lead me, inadvertently, to the geographer Shaba, explorer of Lake Ushindi, discoverer of Lake Ngao and the Ua river. She would lead me, too, not understanding it, to the Tahari ring.

It was that which I sought, and perhaps, too, the blood of Shaba, who had betrayed Priest-Kings.

7. The Market Of Uchafu

There are many fine slave markets in Schendi, in particular, those of Ushanga, Mkufu, Utajiri, Dhahabu, Fedha, Marashi, Hariri, Kovu and Ngoma. The market of Uchafu, on the other hand, is not numbered among these.

One can pick up pot girls and low women there. It was thus appropriate, I suppose, that the blond-haired barbarian, ignorant and untrained, scarcely able to speak Gorean, little more than raw collar meat, should have been taken there. She would attract little attention.

“May I be of assistance to Master?” asked Uchafu, hobbling toward me, supporting himself on a knobbed stick.

“Perhaps, later,” I said. “I am browsing now.”

“Browse as you will, Master,” said Uchafu. “You will find that we have here the finest slaves in all Schendi.” He had lost several teeth and was blind in one eye. His robe was filthy, and stained with food and blood. A long knife, unsheathed, was thrust into his sash.

“Why is that girl blindfolded?” I asked, indicating a girl, kneeling with other girls, chained, under a low, palm-thatched platform.

“Why to keep her quiet, Master,” said Uchafu.

I nodded. It is a device often used by slavers.

Uchafu then hobbled away.

“Buy me, Master,” said a girl near me. I glanced at her, and then passed by, moving down the row.

It was muddy in the market, for it had rained yesterday afternoon and evening, after our arrival in Schendi. The air was steamy. One could smell the vegetation and jungles behind the port. Uchafu’s market was back of the merchant wharves, nearer the harbor mouth. It was on a canal, called the Fish canal, leading back from the harbor. It is adjacent, on the south, to a large market where river fish are peddled for consumption in Schendi. These are brought literally through the harbor by canoes, moving among the larger ships, from the fishing villages of the Nyoka and then delivered via the canal to the market. There are also a number of small shops in the vicinity. The official name of the canal is the Tangawizi canal, or Ginger canal, but it is generally called, because of the market, the Fish canal.

“Buy me, Master,” said another girl, as I passed her. She was brown-skinned and sweet-legged.

There were only, by my conjecture, at the time I was in the market of Uchafu, some two hundred and fifty girls there. Uchafu was not at his full stock at that time. He handled most of his own business but was assisted by four younger men, one of whom was his brother. In spite of the fact that he was not at full inventory he crowded his girls, leaving several of the small, open-sided, palm-thatched shelter, those about the outer wall, a low, boarded wall, empty.

Most of the girls were black, as would be expected from the area, but there were some ten or fifteen white girls there, and some two girls apparently of oriental or mixed extraction.

“Master,” said a red-haired girl, reaching forth her hand, timidly, not daring to touch me.

I looked at her.

Fearfully she drew hack her hand.

I moved farther down the row. Two black girls shrank back. I gathered they were new to their collars.

I then shifted my attention to another of the small shelters. They are some twenty feet long and five feet deep, and four feet high. Two heavy posts are sunk deeply into the ground at each end of each shelter. A chain runs between these posts. Each girl, on her left ankle, wean an ankle ring, with a loop of chain and a lock. By means of the loop of chain and lock she is attached to the central chain. Some of the girls also wore slave bracelets or other devices, fastening their hands before or behind their bodies. One girl, lying on her shoulder in the mud, was cruelly trussed, hand and foot, with binding fiber. Perhaps she had not been fully pleasing.

I crouched down beside a thick-ankled blond girl. I pulled her to me by the hair, and turned her head to one side. I examined her collar. The legend had once read ‘I am the girl of Kikombe’. The name ‘Kikombe’ now, however, for the most part, with a set of rough, zigzag lines, had been scratched out, and the name ‘Uchafu’, with a sharp tool, had been added. I smiled. Uchafu even used second-hand collars. The Kurii were clever. Surely one would not search for a valuable girl in such a market.

“Do you like her?” asked Uchafu, who had come up near to me again. He had kept a close eye on me. “I had her from Kikombe honestly,” he said.

“I do not doubt it,” I said. I gathered he thought mo possibly an agent tracing smuggled slaves.

It had not been for no reason that I had seemed to express interest in the thick-ankled blond.

“Do you like white girls?” asked Uchafu.

“Yes,” I said.

“They make superb slaves,” said Uchafu.

“Yes,” I said.

“This one is a beauty,” he said, indicating the girl whose collar I had just examined.

“Have you others?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“Have you others with hair of this sort?’ I asked.

“Yes,” he said. But he looked at me, suddenly, warily.

I looked about, over the shelter near us to those at the far wall, which were empty. “You have empty shelters over there,” I said. “Why do you put so many girls together? Would it not be better to space them farther apart, for purposes of display?”

“It is easier to feed and clean them this way,” he said. There is less area to be covered.”

“I see,” I said.

“Besides,” he said, “later in the month I am expecting deliveries and I will then need that space.”

There were weeds and grass growing about the interior perimeter of the low board fence encircling the market. The fence was some four feet high. A small wooden hut, with a roof thatched with palm leaves, at one corner of the compound, served as house and office for Uchafu and, I suspect, dormitory for his assistants.

“You seem to have no male slaves,” I observed.

“They are now scarce in Schendi,” he said. “Bila Huruma, Ubar of Lake Ushindi, uses them for work on his great canal.”

“He intends to join Lakes Ushindi and Ngao, I have heard,” I said.

“It is a mad project,” said Uchafu, “but what can one expect of the barbarians of the interior?”

“It would open the Ua river to the sea,” I said.

“If it were successful,” said Uchafu. “But it will never be accomplished. Thousands of men have already died. They perish in the heat, they die in the sun, they are killed by hostile tribes, they are destroyed by insects, they are eaten by tharlarion. It is a mad and hopeless venture, costly in money and wasteful in human life.”

“It must be difficult to obtain so many male slaves,” I said.

“Most who work on the canal are not slaves,” said Uchafu. “Many are debtors or criminals. Many are simply common men, impressed into service, victims of work levies imposed on the villages. Indeed, only this year Bila Huruma has demanded quotas of men from Schendi herself.”

“These have, of course, been refused,” I said.

“We have strengthened our defenses,” said Uchafu, “reinforcing the palisaded walls which shield Schendi from the interior, but we must not delude ourselves. Those walls were built to keep back animals and bands of brigands, not an army of thousands of men. We are not an armed city, not a fortress, not a land power. We do not even have a navy. We are only a merchant port.”

“You have, of course, nonetheless refused the request of Bila Huruma for men,” I said.

“If he wishes,” said Uchafu, “he could enter and burn Schendi.”

“Barbarians from the interior?” I asked.

“Bila Huruma has an army at his command, organized, trained, disciplined, effective,” said Uchafu. “He manages a Ubarate, with districts and governors, with courts and spies and messengers.”

“I did not know anything of this breadth and power existed in the south,” I said.

“It is a great Ubarate,” said Uchafu, “but it is little known for it is of the interior.”

I said nothing.

“Schendi,” said he, “is like a flower at the feet of a kailiauk.”

“You have then acceded to his request for men?” I said.

“Yes,” said Uchafu.

“I am sorry,” I said.

Uchafu shrugged. “But do not concern yourself with our troubles,” he said, “for you are not of Schendi.” He then turned about. “Have you seen the red-headed girl?” he asked. “She is very nice.”

“Yes,” I said, “I have seen her.” I looked about. “There is a blond-haired girl over there,” I said, indicating the girl in the blindfold, kneeling chained, crowded together with other girls, under one of the small, thatched roofs, on its poles. She was dirty. Her knees were in the mud. Her left ankle, like that of the other girls, was fastened in an ankle ring. She, like the others, was, by the loop of chain and lock, run through the chain ring on the ankle ring, attached to the central chain of her shelter, that strung between the two heavy posts, one at each end of the shelter. She, like the others, was naked. Her small hands, her wrists secured in slave bracelets, by means of a locked chain snug at her waist, were held at her belly. She could not, then, reach the blindfold. It was of black cloth. It covered most of the upper part of her head.

“Let me show you these two,” said Uchafu, leading me away from the girl in the blindfold. She was the only one blindfolded in the market. Uchafu had told me, earlier, that it was to keep her quiet.

“What of these?” asked Uchafu.

Yesterday, after I had left the blond-haired barbarian at the wharf, I had taken lodging at the Cove of Schendi, a rooming house in the vicinity of wharf ten which caters to foreign sailors. The rooms were small but adequate, with a mattress, spread upon the floor a sea chest at one side of the room; a low table; a tharlarion oil lamp; a bowl and pitcher of water; and, at the foot of the mattress, a stout slave ring. I threw my sea bag beside the sea chest, braceleted Sasi’s hands before her body about the ring, left the room, locked the door, dropped the key in my pouch and made my way downstairs, to return inconspicuously to the vicinity of wharf eight, where the Palms of Schendi was disembarking her cargo. I did not have long to wait. Uchafu himself had soon appeared and, meeting with Ulafi, completed the brief transaction which purchased him the blond-haired barbarian. Shoka removed the shipping collar of the Palms of Schendi from her neck. Uchafu then snapped his own collar on her. Shoka then freed her wrists of the wrist rings of the sirik and Uchafu locked a waist chain on her and then, about this chain, running the linkage of the bracelets behind it, braceleted her hands at her belly. Uchafu then, with the black cloth, blindfolded her, and snapped a lock leash about her collar. Shoka then removed the sink collar from her, and the ankle rings, freeing her of the silk. He gathered up the sink and he took, too, unlocking it, the chain and padlock which had held her, by the silk, at the wharf ring. He then returned to the Palms of Schendi. Uchafu, by the leash, pulled the braceleted, blindfolded girl to her feet, and pulled her after him, leading her from the wharf. I had followed them. Uchafu, as it turned out, had not taken a direct route to his market. I think the girl, even if she had known the streets of Schendi, would have been utterly confused as to her direction or whereabouts.

“These are nice,” said Uchafu, indicating a pair of white blonds. “These are sisters,” he said, “from Asperiche. You may buy them together, or separately, as you please.”

The blond-haired barbarian, as she knelt frightened, in the mud, with the other girls, still wore her blindfold, that which Uchafu had placed on her at wharf eight. She would have no idea of where she was. Uchafu undoubtedly, because of the prices involved, understood that she was of some importance. On the other hand, I do not think he understood the nature of that importance. Ulafi, I was sure, had not either. There was no blood that I could see on the interior of the barbarian’s thighs. Ulafi, too, I recalled, had not used her nor thrown her to his crew. This tended to confirm in my mind that they did not understand the nature of her importance. Perhaps a rich man, an eccentric of some sort, desired her. Perhaps he would not be pleased, or would not pay, if she were not delivered to him white silk. I smiled to myself. If Ulafi or Uchafu truly understood the nature of the girl’s importance, that it had nothing to do with her being red silk or white silk, she would doubtless, by now, have been richly and abundantly raped. More than a hundred times by now, I expected, had they but known, she would have thrashed and squirmed, gasping, held, in the arms of strong men, her slave beauty the helpless, lascivious wine on which mighty masters would slake the thirsts of their lust.

“What do you think of them?” Inquired Uchafu, indicating the two blond-haired sisters from Asperiche.

Both were blue-eyed. They crouched in the mud, chained, beneath the palm-thatched roof of the tiny shelter.

“What can you do?” I asked them.

They looked at one another, frightened. One whimpered. Uchafu angrily raised the heavy, knobbed stick he carried.

“Whatever Master desires,” said one of the girls.

“Whatever Master desires,” said the other girl, quickly.

“What of that one over there?” I asked, casually, indicating the blond-haired barbarian in a shelter some feet away, diagonally to my left.

“These are beauties,” said Uchafu, indicating the two sisters, the blonds from Asperiche. “Buy one or both,” he said.

But I had begun to walk toward the blond-haired barbarian. Uchafu hurried along behind me, and seized my sleeve, stopping me.

“No,” he said, “not her.”

“Why?” I asked, as though puzzled.

“She has already been sold,” he said.

“How much did you get?” I asked.

“Fifteen copper tarsks,” he said. He had put the price a bit high for this girl and this market. That was, I supposed, to discourage me. I recalled she had had an honest bid on her once at the market of Vart, once Publius Quintus of Ar, in Port Kar, a bid from the tavern keeper, Procopius, of forty copper tarsks. She had received this bid, of course, only after her unusual heat, for a new slave, had been made clear.

“I will give you sixteen,” I told him.

Uchafu looked annoyed. I did not permit myself to smile. I knew that he had not yet sold the girl, for she was still on his chain. He was waiting for his buyer. Further, I knew, from Ulafi, he would have paid two tarsks, of silver, for her. He would doubtless receive three or four silver tarsks from the awaited buyer. But then he smiled and shrugged. “Oh, misery, for a poor merchant,” said he. “I could have received sixteen for her and sold her for fifteen. Misery! But I cannot now renege upon my word, sadly enough, for I am a merchant of well-known integrity. Much as I would love to sell her to you for sixteen tarsks I must let her go to a previous buyer for fifteen. Such is occasionally the sad lot of one who has made the difficult choice, and will abide by it, of dealing straightforwardly and honestly with all men, whomsoever they may be.”

“I had not realized that integrity could be such a handicap,” I said.

“Ah, yes,” he moaned.

“But perhaps your reputation as a noble and honest merchant will yet in the long run redound to your profit as well as your honor.”

“Let us hope so,” he said.

“You are one of the most honest slavers I have ever met,” I said.

“My thanks, Master,” breathed he, bowing low.

“I wish you well,” said I.

“I wish you well,” said he.

I then left his market. I think then he realized that I had not bought a girl.

“We will have more in at the end of the week!” he called. “Come again!”

I waved to him, from the other side of the low board fence.

8. What Occurred In The Golden Kailiauk

“Hurry! Hurry, clumsy slave!” cried the small, scarred man, crooked-backed, his right leg dragging behind him. He wore a dirty tunic; over it was a long, brown aba, torn and ragged. He was barefoot. A brown cloth, turbanlike, was twisted about his head. He seemed angry. His feet and legs, and those of the slave, were muddy and dirty, from the mud in the streets.

“Hurry!” he cried.

“Oh!” she cried, sobbing in the blindfold, driven before him, struck again by the long switch in his right hand.

“Oh! Oh!” she cried. “Please, don’t hit me again, Master!”

Then she cried out again, stumbling and weeping, before him, struck twice more.

I followed at a discreet distance. I had observed her sale by means of a glass of the builders, from a roof top near Uchafu’s market. I had then telescoped the glass and slipped it into my pouch. I had seen silver exchange hands. But I did not know precisely how many pieces had been paid, as the buyer’s back, as be turned, was then toward me.

“Hurry!” he cried. He struck her again.

“Yes, Master!” she cried.

He was dressed as a beggar, but I did not think him of that profession. Too, beggars do not buy slave girls, or openly buy them.

I was sure the man was an agent of Kurii.

He struck her again, and again she stumbled on before him. She still wore her blindfold, that black cloth covering most of the upper portion of her head. She had never seen, I knew, Uchafu’s market and she did not know where she was being driven. All she had seen of Schendi was, the harbor and wharf. Then she had been blindfolded. She stumbled on, miserably, before her herder. Her small hands were still secured at her belly, but now by binding fiber. Her wrists had been crossed and bound, and then the long end of the fiber had been taken about her body and tied again to her wrists. This way she could not, still, reach the blindfold, and her back was fully exposed, as was doubtless intended, for the stroke of the herding switch. Uchafu’s collar had been removed from her in the market and another collar had been snapped on her throat. I had not, of course, had a chance to read it.

“Please do not strike me any more, Master!” she begged, stumbling. “I am hurrying! I am hurrying!”

Then she stumbled against a free woman, who, in fury, screamed at her, and began to strike and kick at her.

She fell to her knees, and put her head down. “Forgive me, Mistress!” she begged. “Forgive me!”

The free woman, angrily, continued on her way.

“Get up!” snarled the herdsman.

The girl tried to get up but her foot slipped in the mud and she fell to her side.

Instantly the man was on her with the switch, lashing down at her. “Get up, you worthless white slut!” he cried.

She struggled to her feet. “Yes, Master! Yes, Master!” she wept.

“Hurry!” he cried. He struck her again.

“Which way?” she cried, disoriented. She looked about, blindly, her feet in the mud. “Oh! Oh!” she cried, richly struck, and then fell to her knees, sobbing, helpless. He pulled her to her feet by the left arm and thrust her ahead of him, down the street.

“Hurry!” he commanded. He struck her again.

“Yes, Master,” she sobbed, and, again, stumbled on before him, a blindfolded, herded slave girl.

I looked behind me occasionally, but I saw only the normal occupants and passers-by of the streets of Schendi. I wore the garb now of a leather worker. If inquiries had been made it would be recalled that he who had arrived in the Palms of Schendi had been, at least ostensibly, of the metal workers.

“In here, worthless slave,” said the man, and, taking the girl by the arm, thrust her through the doors of a paga tavern, the Golden Kailiauk.

He took her over beside a wall, across from the main door, and close to a small side door.

“Lie down here,” he told her.

She lay down on the wooden floor.

“On your side,” he said. “Pull your knees up under your chin.”

She then lay there, small, her knees drawn up.

He hurled his brown aba over her, covering her completely, and limped out, through the small side door.

“Does Master desire aught?” asked a black girl, kneeling before me, a paga slave of the establishment.

“Paga,” I said to her. She rose to her feet and went to the vat behind the counter. I sat down, cross-legged, behind a low table, from which vantage point I could see the girl lying on the floor, she covered with the beggar’s aba.

I assumed her herdsman had delivered her to this tavern, that she be picked up by someone else.

I nursed the paga, making it last.

But no one seemed to come for her.

I began to be apprehensive that perhaps some mistake had occurred. What if Ulafi had been mistaken about the girl. What if he had not, really, received two tarsks from Uchafu for her. What if the beggar had made a serious purchase of the girl on behalf of the tavern keeper? What if she were merely being delivered here to be trained as a mere paga girl? I glanced around. There was only one other white girl in the tavern, a dark-haired girl, collared, in yellow pleasure silk, she, too, apparently a paga slave, like the black girls, waiting on the tables. Perhaps the tavern keeper only wanted another white girl, to add variety for his clientele.

I looked at the blond-haired girl lying hidden under the aba. She did not dare to move.

But, no. I recalled clearly that silver had exchanged hands in her sale.

There was no mistake.

I must wait.

I ordered another cup of paga. I played a game of Kaissa with another guest of the tavern. The paga tasted a bit strange, but it was a local paga and there is variation in such pagas, generally a function of the brewer’s choice of herbs and grains. From time to time I glanced at the girl under the aba. I used the Telnus Defense on the fellow, a response to his Ubara’s Gambit, which I thought might be unknown in Schendi, as it had first been seen only last spring at the Fair of En’Kara, near the Sardar Mountains. He met it squarely, however, and I myself, no Centius of Cos, was soon involved in perplexing difficulties. I did manage, narrowly, to eke out a win in the endgame.

“I did not expect you would handle my response to your Ubara’s Spearman to Ubara five as you did,” I told him.

“You were obviously using the Telnus Defense,” he said.

“You have heard of it?” I asked.

“I have read more than a hundred analyses of it,” he said. “Do you think we are barbarians in Schendi?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

“I congratulate you,” he said. “You are quite skilled at Kaissa.”

“I did not play my best game,” I said.

“No one ever does,” he said.

“Perhaps you are right,” I said. “You are a fine player,” I said. “Thank you for the game.”

He shook hands, and left. He seemed a nice fellow. Those who play Kaissa are good chaps.

I glanced once more at the girl under the aba. I blinked once or twice. My eyes felt a bit strange, scratchy. My forearms, too, and belly, felt a little itchy. I scratched them.

“Master?” asked one of the girls, a black girl with high, regal cheekbones.

“More paga,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

In another Ahn some musicians arrived. Shortly thereafter, as the tavern grew more crowded, they began to play. My thigh felt irritated. I dug at it with my fingernails.

I watched the white-skinned, dark-haired girl, collared, serving cups to a distant table. She was nicely legged.

A skirl on a flute and a sudden pounding on twin tabors, small, hand drums, called my attention to the square of sand at the side of which sat the musicians.

I then gave my attention to the dancer, a sweetly hipped black girl in yellow beads.

She was skillful and, I suspected, from the use of the hands and beads, had been trained in Ianda, a merchant island north of Anango. Certain figures are formed with the hands and heads which have symbolic meaning, much of which was lost upon me, as I was not familiar with the conventions involved. Some, however, I had seen before, and had been explained to me. One was that of the free woman, another of the whip, another of the yielding, collared slave. Another was that of the thieving slave girl, and another that of the girl summoned, terrified, before the master. Each of these, with the music and followed by its dance expression, was very well done. Women are beautiful and they make fantastic dancers. One of the figures done was that of a girl, a slave, who encounters one who is afflicted with plague. She, a slave, knows that if she should contract the disease she would, in all probability, be summarily slain. She dances her terror at this. This was followed by the figure of obedience, and that by the figure of joy.

I looked about and did not see, any longer, the white-skinned, dark-haired girl, she who had been serving paga.

I was growing irritated, and a little drunk. It seemed to me that by now, surely, the blond-haired barbarian should have been picked up.

I glanced again at the aba by the wall. I could still see, beneath it, the lusciousness of a girl’s curves. What marvelous slaves they make.

Suddenly I howled with rage and threw over the small table behind which I sat. I in two strides was at the aba, and I tore it away.

“Master!” screamed the girl beneath it, looking up, frightened.

It was not the blond-haired barbarian. It was the white-skinned, dark-haired girl, collared, in her bit of pleasure silk, who had been serving paga.

I pulled her to her knees by the hair. “Where is the other girl!” I demanded. “Where!”

“What is going on here?” cried the proprietor of the tavern, who had come in earlier, and was now behind the counter, ladling out paga.

One of the paga attendants came running toward me, but, seeing my eyes; hesitated. Several men were now on their feet. The musicians had stopped playing. The dancer stood still, on the sand, startled.

“Where is the girl who was under this aba,” I demanded. “Where!”

“What girl was it?” asked the proprietor. “Whose was she?”

“She was brought in by Kunguni, when you were out,” said one of the black girls.

“I gave orders that he was not again to be admitted to this tavern!” said the man.

“You were not here,” moaned the girl. “We feared to tell a free man he could not enter.”

“Where were you?” called the proprietor to the attendant. “I was in the kitchen,” he said. “I did not know she had been brought in by Kunguni.”

Angrily I threw the girl I held from me.

“Who saw her leave, with whom?” I demanded.

Men looked at one another.

“How came you beneath the aba?” I asked the girl whom I had thrown to one side.

“A man told me to creep beneath it,” she said. “I did not see him! He told me not to look around!”

“You are lying,” I told her.

“Be merciful, Master,” she said. “I am only a slave!”

The paga attendant, he who was closest to me of the crowd, was looking at me, intently. I did not understand this. He edged uneasily backward. I did not understand this. I had not threatened him.

“A silver tarsk to the man who can find me that girl,” I said.

The black girls looked at one another. “She was only a pot girl,” said one of them.

“A silver tarsk,” I said; repeating my offer, “to he who can find me that slave.”

“Look at his eyes,” said the paga attendant, backing away another step.

She could not have been gone long. I must hunt her in the streets.

Suddenly the dancer on the sand threw her hands before her face, and screamed. Then she pointed at me.

“It is the plague!” she cried. “It is the plague!”

The paga attendant, stumbling, turned and ran. “Plague!” he cried. Men fled from the tavern. I stood alone by the wall. Tables had been overturned. Paga was spilled upon the floor.

The tavern seemed, suddenly, eerily quiet. Even the paga girls had fled.

I could hear shouting outside, in the streets, and screaming.

“Call guardsmen!” I heard.

“Kill him,” I heard. “Kill him!”

I walked over to a mirror. I ran my tongue over my lips. They seemed dry. The whites of my eyes, clearly, were yellow. I rolled up the sleeve of my tunic and saw there, on the flesh of the forearm, like black blisters, broken open, erupted, a scattering of pustules.

9. I Decide To Change My Lodgings

“Master?” cried Sasi.

“Do not fear,” I said to her. “I am not ill. But we must leave this place quickly.

“Your face,” she said. “It is marked!”

“It will pass,” I said. I unlocked her bracelets and slipped them into my pouch.

“I fear I may be traced here,” I said. “We must change lodgings.”

I had left the paga tavern by a rear door and then swung myself up to a low roof, and then climbed to a higher one. I had made my way over several roofs until I had found a convenient and lonely place to descend. I had then, wrapped in the discarded aba of Kunguni, made my way through the streets to the Cove of Schendi. Outside, from the wharves and from the interior of the city, I could hear the ringing of alarm bars. “Plague!” men were crying in the streets.

“Are you not ill, Master?” asked Sasi.

“I do not think so,” I said.

I knew that I had not been in a plague area. Too, the Bazi plague had burned itself out years ago. No cases to my knowledge had been reported for months. Most importantly, perhaps, I simply did not feel ill. I was slightly drunk and heated from the paga, but I did not believe myself fevered. My pulse and heartbeat, and respiration, seemed normal. I did not have difficulty catching my breath. I was neither dizzy nor nauseous, and my vision was clear. My worst physical symptoms were the irritation about my eyes and the genuinely nasty itchiness of my skin. I felt like tearing it off with my own fingernails.

“Are you of the metal workers or the leather workers?” she asked.

“Let us not bother about that now,” I said, knotting the cords on the sea bag. I looked about the room. Aside from Sasi what I owned there was either on my person or in the sea bag.

“A girl likes to know the caste of her master,” she said.

“Let us be on our way,” I said.

“Perhaps it is the merchants,” she said.

“How would you like to be whipped?” I asked her.

“I would not like that,” she said.

“Let us hurry,” I said.

“You do not have time to whip me now, do you?” she asked.

“No,” I said, “I do not.”

“I thought not,” she said. “I do not think it is the peasants.”

“I could always whip you later,” I said.

“That is true,” she agreed. “Perhaps I should best he quiet.”

“That is an excellent insight on your part,” I said.

“Thank you, Master,” she said.

“If I am caught, and it is thought that I have the plague,” I said, “you will doubtless be exterminated before I am.”

“Let us not dally,” she said. We left the room.

“You have strong hands,” she said. “Is it the potters?”

“No,” I said.

“I thought it might be,” she said.

“Be silent,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

10. I Make Inquiries Of Kipofu, Who Is Ubar Of The Beggars Of Schendi

The blind man lifted his white, sightless eyes to me. His thin, black hand, clawlike, extended itself.

I placed a tarsk bit in his hand.

“You are Kipofu?” I asked.

I placed another tarsk bit in his hand. He put these two tiny coins in a small, shallow copper bowl before him. He was sitting, cross-legged, on a flat, rectangular stone, broad and heavy, about a foot high, at the western edge of the large Utukufu, or Glory, square. The stone was his etem, or sitting place. He was Ubar of the beggars of Schendi.

“I am Kipofu,” he said.

“It is said,” I said, “that though you are blind there is little which you do not see in Schendi.”

He smiled. He rubbed his nose with his thumb.

“I would obtain information,” I said to him.

“I am only a poor blind man,” he said. He spread his hands, apologetically.

“There is little that transpires in Schendi which can escape your notice,” I told him.

“Information can be expensive,” he said.

“I can pay,” I told him.

“I am only a poor and ignorant man,” he said.

“I can pay well,” I told him.

“What do you wish to know?” he asked.

He sat on his etem in brown rags, a brown cloth wound about his head, to protect him from the sun. There were sores upon his body. Dirt was crusted upon his legs and arms. The peel of a larma lay by one knee. He was blind, and half naked and filthy, but I knew him to be the Ubar of the beggars of Schendi. He had been chosen by them to rule over them. Some said that he had been chosen to rule over them because only he was blind and thus could not see how repulsive they were. Before him the deformed and maimed, the disfigured and crippled, might stand as men, as subject before sovereign, to be heard with objectivity and obtain a dispassionate and honest justice, neither to be dismissed with contempt or demeaningly gratified by the indulgence of one who holds himself above them. But if there were truth in this I think there was, too, a higher truth involved. Kipofu, though avaricious and petty in many respects, had in him something of the sovereign. He was a highly intelligent man, and one who could, upon occasion, be wise as well as shrewd. He was a man of determination, and of iron will, and vision. It was he who had first effectively organized the beggars of Schendi, stabilizing their numbers and distributing and allotting their territories. None might now beg in Schendi without his permission and none might transgress the territory of another. And each, each week, paid his tax to Kipofu, the inevitable price of government. These taxes, though doubtless much went to the shrewd Kipofu, for monarchs expect to be well paid for bearing the burdens and tribulations of office, served to obtain benefits and insurances for the governed. No beggar now in Schendi was truly without shelter, or medical care or needed go hungry. Each tended to look out for the others, through the functioning of the system. It was said that even members of the merchant council occasionally took Kipofu into their confidence. One consequence of the organization of the beggars, incidentally, was that Schendi did not have many beggars. Obviously the fewer beggars there are the more alms there are for each one. Unwanted beggars had the choice of having their passage paid from Schendi or concluding their simple careers in the harbor.

“I seek information,” I said, “on one who seemed a beggar, who was called Kunguni.”

“Pay,” said Kipofu.

I put another tarsk bit into his hand.

“Pay,” said Kipofu.

I put yet another tarsk bit into his hand.

“None in Schendi who begs is known as Kunguni,” he said.

“Permit me to describe the man to you,” I said.

“How would I know of these things?” asked Kipofu.

I drew forth a silver tarsk.

Kipofu, I knew, through the organization of the beggars, their covering of territories, and their reports, as well as his use of them as messengers and spies, was perhaps the most informed man in Schendi. He, like a clever spider in its web, was the center of an intelligence network that might have been the envy of many a Ubar. There were few tremors in Schendi which did not, sooner or later, reach Kipofu on his simple etem in the square.

“That is a silver tarsk,” I said. I pressed it into his palm.

“Ah,” he said. He weighed the coin in his hand and felt its thickness. He ran his finger about its edge to determine that it had not been shaved. He tapped it on the etem. And, though it was not gold, he put it in his mouth, touching its surface with his tongue, and biting against its resistance.

“It is of Port Kar,” he said. He had, too, pressed his thumb against the coin, on both sides, feeling the ship, and, on the reverse, the sign of Port Kar, its initials, in the same script that occurred on her Home Stone.

“This man,” I said, “is small, and has a crooked back, hunched. He has a scar on his left cheek. He limps, dragging his right leg behind him.”

The blood seemed suddenly to drain from Kipofu’s face.

He turned a shade paler. He stiffened. He lifted his, head, listening intently.

I looked about. None were close to us.

“No one is near us,” I said. I had little doubt that Kipofu, who was reputed to have extremely sharp senses, might have heard breathing within a radius of twenty feet, even in the square. I wondered at the nature of the man, the mention of whom might have caused this reaction in the shrewd Kipofu.

“His back is crooked and it is not,” said Kipofu. “His back is hunched and it is not. His face is scarred and it is not. His leg is crippled and it is not.”

“Do you know who this man is?” I asked him.

“Do not seek him,” said Kipofu. “Forget him. Flee.”

“Who is he?” I asked.

Kipofu pressed the coin back at me. “Take your tarsk,” said he.

“I want to know,” I said, determinedly.

Kipofu suddenly lifted his hand. “Listen,” said he. “Listen!”

I listened.

“There is one about,” he said.

I looked about. “No,” I said. “There is not.”

“There,” said Kipofu, pointing, “there!”

But I saw nothing where he pointed. “There is nothing there,” I said.

‘There!” whispered Kipofu, pointing.

I thought him perhaps mad. But I walked in the direction which he had pointed. I encountered nothing. Then the hair on the back of my neck rose, as I realized what it might have been.

“It is gone now,” said Kipofu.

I returned to the etem of the Ubar of the beggars. He was visibly shaken.

“Go away!” he said.

“I would know who the man is,” I said.

“Go away!” said Kipofu. ‘Take your tarsk!” He held it out to me.

“What do you know of the Golden Kailiauk?” I asked.

“It is a paga tavern,” said Kipofu.

“What do you know of a white slave girl who works within it?” I asked.

“Pembe,” he said, “who is the proprietor of the tavern, has not owned a white-skinned girl in months.”

“Ah!” I said.

“Take back your tarsk,” said Kipofu.

“Keep it,” I told him. “You have told me much of what I wanted to know.”

I then turned about and strode away, taking my leave from the presence of Kipofu, that unusual Ubar of the beggars of Schendi.

11. Shaba

The girl stood at the heavy, wooden door, on the dark street, and knocked, sharply, four times, followed by a pause, and then twice. A tiny tharlarion-oil lamp burned near the door. I could see her dark hair, and high cheekbones, in the light. The yellow light, too, flickering, in the shadows, glinted on the steel collar beneath her hair. She wore a tan slave tunic, sleeveless, of knee length, rather demure for a bond girl. It did, however, have a plunging neckline, setting off the collar well.

She repeated the knock, precisely as before.

She was barefoot. In her hand, wadded up, was a tiny scrap of yellow slave silk, which had been her uniform in the tavern of Pembe.

She was not a bad looking girl. Her hair, dark-brown, was of shoulder length.

Her accent, as I had detected yesterday evening, in the Golden Kailiauk, was barbarian. Something in it, when she had cried out, or spoken to me, suggested that she might be familiar with English.

I had little doubt she had been affiliated with he who had called himself Kunguni. She had simulated the appearance of the blond-haired barbarian beneath the brown aba. Her face and body, when she had protested her innocence to me, had belied her words. I had learned from Kipofu that she was not owned by Pembe, proprietor of the Golden Kailiauk. Doubtless, for a fee, paid by her master, if she were a slave, she had been permitted to serve in his place of business. Sometimes masters do this sort of thing for their girls. It is cheaper than renting space for them in the public or private pens. Pembe would not be likely to think anything amiss.

I stood back in the shadows. A tiny panel in the door slid back. Then it shut. A moment later the door opened.

I saw, in the light; briefly, the scarred face, and bent back, hunched, of he who had called himself Kunguni. He looked about, but did not see me, concealed in the shadows. The girl slipped past him, and entered the door. It then shut.

I looked about, and then crossed the narrow street I glanced at the shuttered windows. I could see cracks of light between the wooden slats.

Inside, not far from the door, I could see the girl and the man. The room, or anteroom, was dingy.

“Is he here yet?” asked the girl.

“Yes,” said the man, “he is waiting inside.”

“Good,” she said.

“It is our hope,” said the man, “that you will be more successful this evening than last.”

“I can get nothing out of her, if she knows nothing.” snapped the girl.

“That is true,” said the man.

The girl took the bit of wadded yellow pleasure silk she carried in her hand and, straightening it a bit, slipped it on a narrow wooden rod in an open closet. “Disgusting garment,” she said. “A girl might as well be naked.”

“A lovely garment,” said the man, “but I agree with your latter sentiment.”

She looked at him, angrily.

“Did many ask for you tonight?” he asked. “Or did Pembe have to inform them that you were not for use?”

“None asked,” she said, angrily.

“Interesting,” he said.

“Why is it ‘interesting’?” she asked, not pleasantly.

“I do not know,” he said. “It just seems that your face and body would be of interest to men, but apparently they are not.”

“I can be attractive, if I wish,” she said.

“I doubt it,” he said.

“Behold!” she said, striking a pose.

“It is fraudulent,” he said. “Women such as you understand nothing of attractiveness. With you it is a matter of externals, of acting. Any true man sees through it immediately. You confuse the pretense with the truth, the artificial and imitative with the reality. You think you could become attractive but merely choose not to be so. It is a delusion, as you understand these things. This permits you to console yourself with lies and, at the same time, provides you with an excuse for despising and belittling the truly attractive woman, thinking she is merely, as you would be, if you were she, acting. But it is not true. The source of a woman’s attractiveness is within her. It is internal. It comes from the inside out She is vulnerable, and desires men, and wishes: to be touched and owned. This then shows in her body and movements, and in her eyes and face. That is the truly attractive woman.”

“Like that she-sleen in the other room?” asked the woman.

“She has felt the whip, and known male domination,” he said. “Have you?”

“No,” she said.

“I took the liberty of caressing our lovely bound captive a bit before you arrived,” he said. “She is quite hot.”

“I hate that sort of woman,” said the girl. “She is weak. She is a slave, and I am not”

I saw the man smile.

“Tonight, if she knows anything,” said the girl, “I will get it out of her.”

“I am sure you will,” he said.

I then saw the girl, to my surprise, remove a tiny key from her tunic.

“Permit me,” he said.

“Thank you, no,” she said, acidly. Then she, lifting her arms, fitted the key into the lock at the back of her collar. This action lifted the line of her breasts, which was lovely, and lifted the tan slave tunic a bit higher on her thighs. She was nicely legged, as I had noted before. “You needn’t look at me as I do this,” she said.

“Forgive me,” he said, and turned away. He smiled. He began to undo certain buckles, attached to leather straps, within his own tunic.

She removed the collar, and set it on a shelf in the closet, with the key. “A collar,” she said. “How barbaric it is to put women in collars.” She shuddered.

I saw to my surprise, that the man, he who had been called Kunguni, drew forth, from beneath his tunic, a sewn, padded mound of cloth, heavy, globelike, with dangling straps. He then straightened his back. He was not tall, but he stood now slim and straight His right leg, too, now did not seem to afflict him. He stood straight upon it With the thumb and first finger of his right hand he peeled a cunning, jagged streak of paste and ocher from his left cheek, removing what I had taken to be a scar. I recalled the words of Kipofu: “His back is crooked and It is not. His back is hunched and it is not. His face is scarred. and it is not. His leg is crippled and it is not.” But I did not know who he might be. “Do not seek him,” had said Kipofu. “Forget him. Flee.”

“How long must I continue this farce of feigned service at the Golden Kailiauk?” she asked.

“Tonight,” said the man, “was your last of feigned service there.”

“Excellent,” she said,.

He smiled.

“If you would now excuse me,” she said, coolly, “I would like to slip into something suitable for a woman.”

He looked at her.

“More suitable than this tunic,” she said.

“Slave tunic,” he said.

“Yes, slave tunic,” she said, irritably.

“Are all women on your former world like you?” he asked.

“Not enough,” she said.

“How I pity the men of such a place,” he said.

“True women will teach them how to act and be,” she said.

“What piteous fools,” he said.

“What did you mean, my ‘former world’?” she asked. “It is still my world.”

The trace of a smile moved at the corners of the mouth of the man who had been called Kunguni.

“If you will now excuse me,” she said, “I would like to change.”

“I shall await you with him in the other room,” he said.

“Very well,” she said.

“When you come,” said he, “bring your whip.”

“I will,” she said.

The man then left the small anteroom, closing its door behind him, and the woman reached to the wooden rods in the closet, on which garments hung.

I could not see into the other room from where I stood, nor did it obviously have windows. I backed into the dark street and then, a few feet away, saw a low, sloping roof. Most of the buildings of Schendi have wooden ventilator shafts at the roof, which may be opened and closed. These are often kept open that the hot air in the room, rising, may escape. They can be closed by a rod from the floor, in the case of rain or during the swarming seasons for various insects.

In a few moments I had hoisted myself up to the low roof and then, again, climbing, I eased myself onto the roof of the building in which the man and woman had been conversing. There was a ventilator shaft, or slatted grille, over the main room, as I had anticipated. There is generally one room at least in which this arrangement occurs. Otherwise indoor living in Schendi could be difficult to bear. I could look down into the room, some fifteen feet below, through the slats in the grille. I could not, from my position, see the entire room. I could not see, most importantly,  the figure whom, I gathered from the conversation and glances of the man and woman, sat at the far end of the room, behind a small table. I saw upon occasion the movement of his hands, long and black, with delicate fingers.

I could see, however, the man who had been called Kunguni and the woman who had worn the tan slave tunic. I could also see, kneeling on a dark blanket, naked, her ankles tied. her hands tied to her collar, her head down, still blindfolded, the blond-haired barbarian.:

“I am sorry I am late,” said the girl who had worn the tan slave tunic. “Pembe kept me later than I pleased, to finish serving paga to a drunken oarsman.”

“What sacrifices we must make in the prosecution of our arduous mission,” mused the fellow who had been called Kunguni.

The girl looked at him, angrily. She now wore, interestingly, tight black slacks and a black, buttoned top. I could also see she wore Earth undergarments. On her feet were wooden clogs. Her clothing seemed strikingly at odds with her setting. She apparently had little sensitivity to the aesthetic incongruities involved or, perhaps, she wished merely to reassure herself by this device that she was truly of Earth and not Gor. I had thought the slave tunic and collar had made her fit in better with her surroundings. They seemed more apt, more tasteful, more appropriate. They had been, I recalled, “right” upon her. But are they not right upon any woman, in any world?

There were two other men in the room, and I gazed upon them with some astonishment. They were large fellows, strong and lean, dressed in skins and golden armlets, and feathers. They carried high, oval shields, and short, long-bladed stabbing spears. These men, I was sure, were not of Schendi. They came from somewhere, I was sure, in the interior.

The blond-haired barbarian, blindfolded, frightened, lifted her head. Her lower lip trembled.

The fellow who had been called Kunguni crouched before the girl and, quickly, jerked loose the knot which held her bound hands, which were still tied, tethered at her collar. He held her bound wrists in one hand.

“Please do not hurt me any more,” she said, in English, “I have told you all I know.”

With his right hand, holding the girl’s tied wrists in his left, the man tossed a rope up, over a rafter. He tied it then to her bound wrists, about the cording which secured them. He then signaled to the two large fellows who stood nearby. They put aside their shields and short spears and, hauling on the rope, jerked the blond-haired barbarian to her feet.

“Please,” she wept, “I’ve told you all I know!”

At a signal from the man near her the two large fellows drew the girl from her feet, until she hung suspended some six inches from the floor.

“Begin,” said the voice of the unseen man, he behind the table. He spoke in Gorean.

The girl in the slacks and black, buttoned top swung loose the blades of the slave whip she carried. She touched the blades to the body of the suspended girl.

“Do you know what this is?” she asked.

“A slave whip. Mistress,” said the girl, in English. Their conversation was conducted entirely in English. The two girls, I gathered, were the only ones in the room who spoke English. The girl in the black slacks did, however, of course, translate, here and there, what the blond-haired barbarian said. She herself, of course, inevitably communicated with the men in Gorean.

“Speak,” said the girl in the black slacks.

“I have told you all I know,” wept the blond-haired barbarian. “Please do not beat me again.”

“Speak,” said the girl in the black slacks, touching the other girl lightly with the whip.

“My name is Janice Prentiss,” she said.

“Your name was Janice Prentiss,” corrected the girl with the whip.

“Yes, Mistress,” said the suspended girl. “I was recruited in-”

“Be silent,” said the girl with the whip.

“Yes, Mistress,” moaned the girl.

Then the girl in the black slacks, suddenly, lashed her with the whip. The blond girl cried out with misery, twisting helplessly on the rope, her toes some six inches or so from the floor.

“Speak!” said the girl in the black slacks.

“Mistress!” cried the blond girl.

She was struck again.

“Mistress!” wept the blond girl.

“Speak of important things, of the ring and the papers!” she snarled.

“Yes, Mistress! Yes, Mistress!” wept the blond.

The girl in black slacks prepared to strike her again, but he who had been called Kunguni lifted his hand, and she lowered her arm, angrily. I saw that she enjoyed punishing the blond girl. For some reason, it seemed, she hated her.

“The ring and the papers,” she said, “notes of some sort, and two letters, I received in Cos from one called Belisarius. I took passage for Schendi on the Blossoms of Telnus, a ship of Cos. We fell to pirates on the high seas. I think they were of Port Kar. We were boarded. Fighting was fierce but brief, Our ship was then theirs. I, and other women, placed in a net, were swung to the deck of the pirate ship. On its deck we were stripped and put in chains, we were then carried below, where we were fastened to rings. I was later sold in Port Kar. I was purchased by the merchant, Ulafi, of Schendi. He brought me slave to this port.”

The girl in the black slacks struck her twice with the whip, and the suspended slave, striped by the blows, dangled, shaken, sobbing, before her.

“The ring, the papers!” said the girl in the black slacks.

“I was captured,” wept the girl. “I was put on another ship. I was chained in a dark hold, with other women, naked. I do not know what happened to anything. Have pity on a slave!”

The girl in the black slacks drew back her hand again, again to strike with a five-bladed lash, but he who had been called Kunguni motioned for her not to strike. He spoke, in Gorean, to the girl in the black slacks.

“What was the name of the ship which captured the Blossoms of Telnus?” she asked. “Who was its captain?”

“I do not know,” wept the blond girl. “I do not even know in what market I was sold.”

“It was the Sleen of Port Kar,” said he who had been called Kunguni, “captained by the rogue, Bejar, of that port.”

Watching through the wooden slats above, I smiled. Bejar, in my opinion, was one of the most responsible, decent and serious captains in Port Kar.

“We had this through Uchafu, the slaver, who had spoken to Ulafi,” said the man.

“Ulafi should have been recruited,” said the dark-haired girl. “He will do anything for gold.”

“Except betray his merchant codes,” said he who was called Kunguni.

I was pleased to hear this, for I was rather fond of the tall, regal Ulafi. Apparently they did not regard him as a likely fellow to be used in the purchase of stolen notes on speculation, to be resold later to their rightful owner. Many merchants, I was sure, would not have been so squeamish. Such dealings, of course, would encourage the theft of notes. It was for this reason that they were forbidden by the codes. Such notes, their loss reported, are to be canceled, and replaced with alternative notes.

“Let us send a ship to Port Kar,” said the dark-haired girl, “to obtain the ring and papers from Bejar.”

“Do not be a fool,” said he who was called Kunguni. “By now, Bejar has doubtless disposed of the ring, which would be meaningless to him, and has sold the notes.”

“Perhaps he would give them to an agent,” said the girl, “to be brought to Schendi for sale to Shaba.”

“He would sell them,” said the man. “He would choose to realize a sure profit An agent might betray him. Too, an agent, carrying the notes, might be dealt with in Schendi not with gold but steel.”

“They are then lost,” said the girL

“But we retain the true ring,” said the man. “Belisarius, in Cos, if he learns of the loss of the Blossoms of Telnus, will doubtless contact his superiors, who will act. A new false ring may be fabricated, and new notes prepared.”

“If he learns,” said the girl.

“It could take months,” admitted the man. Then he turned to face the figure seated behind the low table, whom I could not see. “You could take the ring to Cos, to Belisarius,” he said.

“I am not a fool,” he said. “The notes must come first to Schendi.”

“As you wish,” said he who had been called Kunguni. “But,” he said, shuddering, “they may come for it.”

“They?” asked the seated figure.

“They who desire it,” said he who had been called Kisuguni.

“I do not fear them,” said the seated figure.

“I have heard they are not like men,” said he who had been called Kunguni.

“I do not fear them,” said the man behind the table.

“Give me the ring.” said he who had been called Kunguni. “I will keep it safe.”

“I am not a fool,” said the other. “Bring me the notes.”

“What of her?” asked the girl in black slacks, gesturing with the whip to the suspended, blond slave.

“I think she has told us, willingly and helplessly, all that she knows,” said he who had been called Kunguni.

“What shall we now do with her?” asked the girl in slacks.

He who had been called Kunguni looked at the suspended, blond slave. He looked at her carefully, considering her. “She is pretty,” he said. “Let her live.”

He signaled to the two large fellows, those clad in skins and feathers, and armlets of gold, and said something, briefly, to them. I did not understand the language in which he spoke. It was neither English nor Gorean. They lowered the blond to the floor, and took the rope from her wrists by which she had been suspended. They then took the cording from her wrists, which had tied them together, and, with the same cording, fastened them behind her back. They then threw her to her stomach, untied her ankles, and snapped shackles on them, steel shackles, with about a six-inch run of chain. They then threw her on her knees on the dark blanket on which I had originally seen her. They slipped one end of the rope by which she had been suspended under her collar and pulled it some ten feet through, roughly, at the side of her neck. This double strand they then took some two and a half feet behind her. They looped it about a slave ring, set there in the wall, one of four, about a yard above the floor, and tied it there, the long, free ends falling loose, coiling, to the floor. She, blindfolded and shackled, her wrists bound behind her, her neck tethered to a ring, was well secured.

“What a miserable, worthless thing you are,” said the girl with the whip to her.

“Yes, Mistress,” said the blond girl, her lip trembling.

“Observe,” said he who, had been called Kunguni to the dark-haired girl with the whip. Then to the blond, he said, sharply, “Nadu!”

Immediately, as she could, the girl assumed the position of the pleasure slave. Her hands, of course, were tied behind her.

“Despicable slave!” said the dark-haired girl.

“Yes, Mistress,” wept the blond.

The dark-haired girl then drew back the whip to strike her, but he who had been called Kunguni caught her wrist, in the black sleeve of her blouse. “No,” he said. “The whip will be used later.”

He then released her wrist.

“Excellent,” she said. “I shall look forward to it.”

“And I, as well,” said he.

The girl looked with hatred at the blond.

I smiled to myself. I did not think they had need any longer of the services of the dark-haired girl. Her translations, I must admit, had been fluent and accurate.

I then slipped back from the wooden slats, moved back on the roof and, quietly, lowered myself to the first roof, a low one, and, from there, down to the street.

I spun about.

I faced the short, stabbing spears of the two huge blacks. They had slipped out the front door, to receive me.

The door opened again and, in the light, I saw the’ face of be who had been called Kunguni. “Come in,” said he, “we have been expecting you.”

I straightened up. “I bear in my tunic,” I said, “two letters, which should make my business clear to you.”

“Move carefully,” suggested he who had been called Kunguni.

Slowly, watching the points of the two stabbing spears, I drew forth the two letters. I had not carried with me, of course, either the ring or the notes.

I handed the two letters to the man at the door. He glanced at them.

“One of them,” I said, “is for a man named Msaliti.”

“I am Msaliti,” said the man who had been called Kunguni. “Come in,” he said.

I followed him into the building, through the small anteroom and into the larger room, which I had seen through the wooden grille in the ceiling. The two large fellows, in skins and feathers, with golden armlets, entered behind me.

Inside I saw, to one side, the blindfolded, whipped slave. She had revealed eagerly, helplessly, sobbing, all she knew. She still knelt beautifully, in the position of the pleasure slave. She had not been given permission to break position. The other girl, the dark-haired girl with the whip, seemed startled at my entrance. She had not expected me. The men, I understood, had not taken her into their confidence. I did not greet her. She was the sort of woman who is best greeted by throwing her upon her back and raping her.

I looked at the man who sat, cross-legged, behind the table. lie was a large, tall man. He had long, thin hands, with delicate fingers. His face seemed refined, but his eyes were hard, and piercing. I did not think he was of the warriors but I had little doubt he was familiar with the uses of steel. I had seldom seen a face which, at once, suggested such sensitivity, but, at the same time, reflected such intelligence and uncompromising will. Following the lines of his cheekbones there was a stitching of tribal tattooing. He wore a robe of green and brown, with slashes of black. Against the background of jungle growth, blending with plants and shadows, it would be difficult to detect. He also wore a low, round, flat-topped cap of similar material. On the first finger of his left hand he wore a fang ring, which, I had little doubt, would contain a poison, probably that of the deadly kanda plant.

The second letter which I had handed Msaliti lay now on the table before the man.

“That letter,” I said, “is for Shaba, the geographer of Anango.”

He picked up the letter. “I am Shaba,” he said, “the geographer of Anango.”

12. Business Is Discussed In Schendi; I Acquire A New Girl

“I have come to negotiate for the ring,” I said.

“Do you have the false ring, and the notes with you?’ asked Shaba.

“No,” I said.

“Are they in Schendi?” asked Shaba.

“Perhaps,” I said. “Do you have the ring with you?

“Perhaps,” smiled Shaba.

I did not doubt that he had the ring with him. Such an artifact would be far too valuable to leave lying about. Having the ring with him, too, of course, he was terribly dangerous.

“Do you come to us as an agent on behalf of Bejar, a captain of Port Kar?” inquired Shaba.

“Perhaps,” I said.

“No,” said Shaba. “You do not, for you know of the ring’s value and Bejar would know nothing of it.” He looked at me. “A similar argument would demonstrate,” he said, “that you are not a simple speculator, interested in the resale of the notes.”

I shrugged. “You could always wait, in such a case, for their cancellation and reissue,” I said.

“Yes,” he said, “providing they would be reissued, and we had months in which to daily.”

“You have a project afoot?” I asked.

“Perhaps,” said Shaba.

“And you wish to move ahead on it quickly?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“It is perhaps imperative for you to move quickly?” I asked.

“I think so,” said Shaba. He smiled.

“‘What is your project?” I asked.

Msaliti was looking at him, curiously.

“It is personal business,” said Shaba.

“I see,” I said.

“Since,” said Shaba, “you come neither from Bejar nor as a simple speculator, I think we may infer that you come to us from one of two sources. You come to us either from Kurii—or from Priest-Kings.”

I glanced uneasily at the two large fellows, those with the shields and stabbing spears, who stood near us.

“Do not fear,” said Msaliti, “my askaris do not speak Gorean.” The word ‘askari’ is an inland word, which may be translated roughly as ‘soldier’ or ‘guardsman.’

“Regardless from which camp I come,” I said, “you have what we wish, the ring.”

“The ring,” said Msaliti, “may not be returned to Priest-Kings. It must go to Kurii.”

“I will bring with me, when I return, of course,” I said, “the false ring that it may be borne to the Sardar.”

“He is with us,” said Msaliti. “No agent of Priest-Kings would wish the ring conveyed to the Sardar.”

This confirmed in my mind the soundness of the speculation of Samos that the false ring involved some serious threat or danger.

“You will then, of course,” I said, to Shaba, “as an agent of Priest-Kings, bear the ring to the Sardar.”

“Do you not think it is a little late for that now?” inquired Shaba.

“We must try,”

“That is the plan,” said Msaliti, earnestly.

“You must carry out your part of the bargain,” said the dark-haired girl.

Shaba looked at her.

“Be silent,” said Msaliti, angrily, to her, She drew back, angry.

“You do not look like one who would serve Kurii,” said Shaba to me, smiling.

“You do not look like one who would betray Priest-Kings,” I said to him.

“Ah,” he said, leaning back. “How difficult and subtle are the natures of men,” he mused.

“How did you find us here?” asked the girl.

“He followed you, of course, you little fool,” said Msaliti “Why do you think you were kept another night at the tavern of Pembe?”

“You could have told me,” she said.

Msaliti did not respond to her.

“How did you know I was on the roof?” I asked. The askaris had been waiting for me.

“It is an old Schendi trick,” said Shaba. “Look, up there. Do you see those tiny strings, those little threads?”

“Yes,” I said. There were several, about a foot in length, dangling from the ceiling. At the end of each there was a tiny round object.

“It is not uncommon for burglars to enter houses through these grilles,” said Shaba. “Those are dried peas on threads. They are inserted under certain boards and in certain cracks in the ceiling. When the roof is stepped on the tiny movements in the ceiling boards, and the pressures, release the peas. It is then known that someone is on or has been on the roof.”

“It gives a silent warning,” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “The house owner may then, if he wishes, warn the intruder away or, if he wishes, fall upon him when he enters the house.”

“What if the dwellers in the house are asleep?” I asked.

“Small bells are attached to the grille slats,” said Shaba, “which dangle down, near the ears of the sleepers. If one attempts to cut the strings or draw the bells up, of course, a noise is made, one usually sufficient to waken the occupants of the house.”

“That is clever,” I said.

“Actually,” said Shaba, “you did extremely well. Only a few of the threads have been dislodged. Your step was light. Indeed, none were dislodged apparently until you withdrew from the roof.”

I nodded. To be sure, I had withdrawn from the slatted grille with less care than I had approached it. I had feared little in my retreat. I had thought it secure. I had not known about the simple device of the threads and peas.

“Why was I not told that I was to be followed?” asked the girl.

“Be silent,” said Msaliti.

She stiffened, angrily.

“You eluded me brilliantly in the tavern of Pembe, the Golden Kailiauk,” I told Msaliti. “The exchanging of the girls was ingenious.”

He shrugged, and smiled. “It required, of course,” he said, “the aid of Shaba, and the ring.”

“Of course,” I said.

“I did my part well, too,” said the girl.

“Yes, you did,” I said.

She looked triumphantly at the men.

“You took the girl into the tavern,” I said, “and covered her with your aba, that she might not move. Shaba, under the cover of the ring, drugged the paga which I drank. When my attention was distracted he, under the cover of the ring, carried away the blond girl, and this female, by prearranged plan, took her place.”

“Yes “said Shaba.

“My pursuit of you was foiled,” I said, “by the results of the drug you placed in my paga.”

“The drug,” said Shaba, “was a simple combination of sajel, a simple pustulant, and gieron, an unusual allergen.

Mixed they produce a facsimile of the superficial symptoms of Bazi plague.”

“I could have been killed,” I said. “by the mob.”

“I did not think many would care to approach you,” said Shaba.

“It was not your intention then that I be killed?” I asked.

“Certainly not,”. said Shaba. “If that was all that was desired, kanda might have been introduced into your drink as easily as sajel and gieron.”

“That is true,” I said.

“We only wished to make certain that you did not contact us before our own determinations were made. You see, we did not know who you were. We wished to find out first what we could from the girl. Perhaps it would not be necessary to contact you at all.”

“The stupid slave,” said the dark-haired girl, “knew nothing.”

“Had I not found your headquarters tonight, then,” I said, “you would have contacted me?”

“Of course,” said Shaba, “tomorrow. But we speculated that you would find us tonight. We speculated that you would discover or reason out the girl’s role in our business and try to use her as a lead to find us. This possibility was confirmed when you made inquiries of Kipofu, the beggar, in the Utukufu square.”

“You were there,” I said.

“Of course,” he said, “under the cover of the ring, but I could not approach as closely as I desired. Kipofu has unusually keen hearing. When my presence was detected I simply withdrew.”

“Why did you not just contact me directly?” I asked.

“For two reasons.” said Shaba. “We wished, a second time, to interrogate the blond-haired slave, before making contact, and, also, we were curious to see if you could find us by yourself. You did so. You have our congratulations. You are obviously worthy of conducting business on behalf of the Kurii.”

“How long have you known I was in Schendi?”’ I asked.

“Since the arrival of the Palms of Schendi,” he said. “We could not be certain, at first, that your arrival was not a coincidence. Soon, however, it became clear that you were an object for our concern. You appeared at the market of Uchafu. You trailed Msaliti from the market You waited in the Golden Kailiauk.”

“I have been under surveillance since arriving in Schendi,” I said.

“Yes,” said Shaba, “from time to time.”

“You know, then, doubtless, my new residence,” I said, “that which I acquired following my departure from the Cove of Schendi.”

I had taken a large. room on the ground floor, behind a cloth-worker’s shop, just off the Street of Tapestries. Wearing the aba taken from Msaliti, hooding myself with it, that my face and eyes .not be seen, Sasi on my shoulder, rolled in a blanket tied tightly closed with ropes, I had acquired the lodging. The free woman who rented me the room asked no questions. When I had given her a copper tarsk as a tip she had looked down at the tightly tied blanket, containing its helpless burden, and had looked up at me, grinning. “Enjoy yourself,” she had said, slipping the tarsk into a pouch tied at her hip.

“If we knew it,” said Shaba, “men, even now, would be ransacking it for the ring and notes.”

“Of course,” I said.

“You moved quickly,” said Shaba. “By the time I had brought the blond slave here and returned to the cove of Schendi, you had already made your departure.”

“I see,” I said. I was pleased that I had made the haste I had.

“But now,” said Shaba, “we are all friends.”

“Of course,” I said.

“When will you deliver the notes?” he asked.

“And the false ring,” pressed Msaliti.

“Tomorrow evening,” I said.

“You choose to move under the cover of darkness?” asked Shaba.

“I think it might be wise,” I said.

“Very well,” said Shaba. “Tomorrow evening, at the nineteenth Ahn, meet us in this place. Bring the notes and the false ring. I will have the true ring ready then for exchange.

“I shall be here,” I promised.

“Our business then,” said the dark-haired girl, flushing with pleasure, “will at last be well consummated.”

“Let us have a drink,” said Shaba, “to celebrate this long-awaited rendezvous.” Then he smiled at me. “You do not fear to drink with us, I trust,” he said.

I smiled. “Of course not,” I said. “Do you have the paga of Ar, of the brewery of Temus?”

“Woe,” smiled Shaba. “We have here only Schendi paga, but I think it is quite good. It is, of course, a matter of taste.”

“Very well,” I said.

“You will find it is better without sajel and gieron in it,” he said.

“That is reassuring,” I said.

“The symptoms induced by the paga tendered to you at the Golden Kailiauk,” he said, “should have disappeared by the following morning.”

“They had,” I said.

“My dear,” asked Shaba, of the dark-haired girl, “would you bring us paga?”

She stiffened.

“Fetch paga, Woman,” said Msaliti. “You are least among us.”

“Why am I least among your’ she asked.

“Forgive us, my dear,” said Shaba.

“I will bring the paga,” she said.

In a few moments she returned with a bottle of Schendi paga and four cups. She filled these cups.

“Forgive me,” I said to Shaba, taking the cup which she had placed before him.

He smiled and extended his hands. “Of course,” he said.

Then the four of us lifted our cups, touching them, one to another.

“To victory,” said Shaba.

“To victory.” we said, and drank. I had little compunction about drinking this toast. Each of us may not have had in mind the same victory, of course.

“I have not been introduced to this lovely agent,” I said, regarding the dark-haired girl.

“Forgive me,” said Shaba. “It was careless of me. I did not wish to be rude.” He looked at me. “You are going by the name of Tarl of Teletus, I believe,” he said, “if my inquiries in Schendi have served me properly.”

“That is correct,” I said. “That name will do. It will serve to cover my true identity.”

“Many agents use code names,” said Shaba.

“Yes,” I said.

“Tarl of Teletus,” said he, “may I introduce Lady E. Ellis? Lady E. Ellis, Tarl of Teletus.”

We inclined our heads to one another.

“Is ‘E’ an initial or a name?” I asked her.

“Any initial;” she said, “It stands for Evelyn. But I do not like that name. It is too feminine. Call me ‘E.’”

“I will call you Evelyn,” I said.

“You may do as you wish, of course,” she said.

“I see that you know how to treat a woman,” said Shaba. “You impose your will upon her.”

“Is Evelyn Ellis your real name?” I asked, smiling.

“Yes,” she said, “it is. Why do you smile?”

“It is nothing,” I said.

Msaliti and Shaba, too, smiled. It amused me to see that the girl thought she had a name.

“I must admire the perception of Kur recruiters,” I said. “You are obviously highly intelligent and very beautiful.”

“Thank you,” she said.

“She has been well trained,” said Msaliti.

“I have been not only well trained,” she said, “but thoroughly and intensively trained, even brilliantly trained. Nothing has been left to chance. The smallest details have been attended to. In order to play my role more effectively here I have even permitted my body to be branded.”

“I recall,” I said. I had seen her in the Golden Kailiauk, of course, in pleasure silk.

She looked at me, angrily.

“My awe at the cleverness and thoroughness of the practices and techniques of Kur espionage knows few limits,” I said, “and I must admit that my admiration for the products of their schooling, as in the present case, exceeds almost all bounds.”

She flushed with pleasure, flattered and mollified.

I threw down the last of my paga.

“I would like to see further evidence of your skills,” I said. “I am out of paga,” I said.

She reached to the bottle, to refill the cup.

“No,” I said.

She looked at me.

“Did they not teach you how to serve paga as a paga slave?” I asked.

“Of course,” she said.

“Show me,” I said.

“Very well,” she said. She drew back, taking the bottle and cup. In most taverns no bottle is brought to the table but the paga is brought to the table, by the paga slave, a cup at a time, the cups normally being filled from a vat behind the counter. She filled the cup there, before me, and left it behind. She returned the bottle then to the table, and went beck again for the cup.

She lifted it in both hands.

“Put it down,” I said.

She did so, looking at me puzzled.

“You are garbed strangely for a paga slave,” I said, indicating the clogs, the black slacks and the black, buttoned top.

“Do you wish me to put on pleasure silk?” she asked, icily.

“No,” I said.

She tossed her head.

“In many Gorean taverns,” I said, “the paga slaves serve naked.”

“Yes,” she said, slowly, “they do.”

“Did they not teach you how to do that?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“I would see evidence of your skills,” I said.

“Very well,” she said, angrily, in her vanity, taunted.

She slipped from the clogs, and was barefoot. She slipped from the black slacks, and removed the black, buttoned top. She slipped from the panties and, in a moment, had discarded her brassiere. She was furious, but yet I could see, too, as doubtless could the others, that she was sexually charged. She was naked, before clothed men. This can be sexually stimulating to a woman. It is hard for her, in such circumstances, not to see them as her masters and herself, before them, as an exposed slave. Similarly she knew that, in a moment, she would be, naked, on her knees, serving them. For reasons that have to do with nature these things can be erotically momentous to a woman. The relation of master and slave, of course, in a psychophysical organism, of a high order of intelligence, such as the human being, is a beautiful and profound expression of the fundamental and central truth of animal nature, that of order and structure, and dominance and submission. It is merely the articulated, legalized expression, to be expected in rational organisms, of the biological context in which human sexuality developed, a context which can be betrayed but can never, because of the ingrained nature of genetic dispositions, be fully forgotten or, in the long run, successfully denied. In denying it we deny our own nature. In betraying it we betray no one but ourselves. The master will never be happy until be is a master. The slave will never be happy until she is a slave. It is what we are.

I looked upon the girl. She bit her lip. I saw that she was lovely.

“Wait,” said Msaliti, “one more item is needed to complete the effect.”

“Of course,” said Shaba

He left the room and, in a moment, returned with the collar. “Oh!” she said, as he, from behind, snapped it about her throat. I noted that he slipped the key into his pouch. I did not think it would be soon removed from the girl.

Msaliti joined us at the table.

The girl stood, loftily, before us. “Do I meet with the approval of Masters?” she asked.

“Serve us paga, Slave,” said Msaliti.

She stiffened. Then she smiled. “Yes, Master,” she said.

I, too, smiled. I saw that she thought she was playing a role. Did she not know that she had been truly branded and that, in the touch of the iron, as it marked her, she had been made truly a slave? I sensed now that her slavery, latent until now, was soon to be specifically activated. Indeed, it had now been activated, but she did not know it. She thought herself a free woman, serving as a slave. She did not know that she was truly a slave, who, amusingly, still thought herself free. It was a rich joke on the proud girl, one fitting to be played on an insolent slave.

“Paga, Master?” she asked, kneeling before me, the metal cup held before her, in her two hands.

“Yes,” I said.

She proffered the cup to me. She knelt back on her heels, her knees wide, and extended her arms to me, the cup in her hands.

“Did you not neglect to kiss it?’ I asked her.

She drew back the cup and, pressing her lips to it, kissed it.

“Is that how a slave kisses the cup of a master?” I asked.

She again turned her head to the side and pressed her lips softly, lingeringly, against it. Then she kissed it. I saw a tremor course through her body. I think, then, for the first time, she had begun to understand what it might be truly, to kiss the cup of a master. Then again, kneeling back on her heels, her knees wide, extending her arms to me, the cup in her hands, she proffered me the drink.

“Your head should be down, between your arms,” I said. She put her head down. Again I saw a small movement in her body, a tremor, subtle. She had put her head down before a man. Another consequence of this position is that the girl’s eyes, in the specific act of her serving, do not meet those of the master. They are lowered before his, as one who submits.

This is also reminiscent, in an experienced girl, of her training. Often, in training, a girl is not permitted to look into the eyes of the trainer, unless he should specifically extend this permission. Indeed, in some cities, the girl in training may not raise her eyes above the trainer’s belt, unless, again, specifically accorded this permission.

“Speak,” I said to her.

“Your paga, Master,” she said.

But I did not take the paga. “Do you know other phrases?” I asked. There were many, actually, and they tended to vary from tavern to tavern, and from city to city. There was, really, no standardization in such matters.

She trembled, head down, proffering me the paga.

“Your girl brings you drink, Master,” she said.

“Any others?” I asked.

“Here is your drink, Master,” she said. “I beg to serve you further in any way I may.”

“Another,” I said.

“Do not forget I come with the price of the cup,” she said. “Use me as you will, Master.”

“Another,” I said sharply.

“For your pleasure,” she said, “I bring you paga and a slave.”

“Personalized phrase,” I said.

“E.,” she said.

“Evelyn,” I corrected her.

“Evelyn tenders drink humbly to Master,” she said. “Evelyn hopes Master will later find her suitable to give him pleasure.”

“Another,” I said.

“I am Evelyn,” she said. “I serve you, naked and collared. Take me later to the alcove. I beg to be taught my slavery.”

I then took the paga. “You may now serve others,” I said to her.

“You made her serve well,” said Shaba.

“Thank you,” I said.

The girl trembled, and then regained her composure. Then, in turn, as a naked paga slave, she served Msaliti and Shaba. I observed her technique. I thought she could probably survive in a paga tavern, under real conditions, not those artificial conditions under which she had served in the tavern of Pembe, the Golden Kailiauk, though doubtless she would be often beaten in the beginning.

When the girl had finished serving Shaba she straightenedup and came about the table, to where her cup rested on the low wood.

She reached for it, but Msaliti moved it out of her reach. She looked at him, puzzled.

“Does a paga slave drink at the table of masters?” he asked.

She laughed. “Of course not,” she said.

“You could be whipped for that,” he said.

“Yes,” she said, “that is true.” She smiled. She then went to where her clothing had been discarded, on the floor. She bent to pick it up, to reclothe herself.

“Do not dress,” said Msaliti.

“Why not?” she asked.

“Kneel there,” said Msaliti, indicating a place about a yard from the table.

“Why?” she asked.

“There,” he said.

She knelt there, puzzled. It was about where a paga slave might kneel, close enough to be ready to serve at the merest signal, far enough away to be unobtrusive.

“You see,” she said to me, “I have been well trained.”

“Yes,” I said.

“You were not given permission to speak,” said Msaliti to the girl.

She looked at him, puzzled.

“You could be whipped also for that,” he said.

“Of course,” she laughed. Then she looked over to the blond-haired barbarian. The blond-haired girl, miserable, still blindfolded, knelt by the wall. Her slender ankles were shackled. Her hands were tied behind her back. A rope, looped through her collar, tied her to a slave ring behind her, about a yard off the floor. “Do you want her whipped again?” asked the dark-haired girl.

“No,” said Msaliti.

“I thought you said the whip was to be used again tonight,” she said.

“I did,” said Msaliti.

“Are you going to beat her?” she asked.

“No,” he said.

“I do not understand,” she said.

Msaliti looked at her. “It is nearly time, my dear,” he said, “for you to be returned to the tavern of Pembe.”

“No!” she said. “You said that tonight was my last night of feigned service there.”

“It was,” said he. “But this is also the first night of your true service there.”

“I do not understand,” she said.

She got up, angrily, and went toward the small anteroom. But the two askaris blocked her way. She turned about, facing us. “I would like to get the key,” she said, angrily, “to remove this—this collar!” she indicated the collar.

“I have the key here,” said Msaliti, lifting it, he having taken it a moment ago from his pouch.

“Oh,” she said. Then she walked toward us.

“Do not approach more closely without permission,” said Msaliti.

She stopped, about five feet from the table.

“Kneel,” he said.

“I do not understand,” she said.

“Kneel,” he said. I noted that he had repeated a command. Masters do not care to repeat commands.

She knelt. “I do not understand,” she said.

I did not think she was unintelligent. It was only that her Earth mind was not quick to grasp that she might, almost unbelievably, almost incomprehensibly to her, be placed in certain categories.

“Give me the key,” she said.

“Whose collar do you wear?” he asked.

“That of Pembe, of course,” she said.

“What do you wish to do with it?” he asked.

“Remove it, of course,” she said.

“But it is Pembe’s collar,” he said.

“Yes,” she said.

“Thus,” said he, “if or when it is removed is surely a determination to be made not by you but by Pembe.”

“What are you saying!” she cried.

“Are all women on your former world as dull as you?” he asked.

“‘What do you mean my ‘former world’?” she asked.

“Precisely what I said,” said he, “that world which was formerly yours. Surely you must now know that your world is Gor, that it is the Gorean world, and only the Gorean world, which is now yours.”

“No!” she cried.

“You are a Gorean slave girl,” he said.

“No! No!” she cried. She leaped to her feet .and ran toward the door, but the two askaris seized her and flung her again to her knees, before us.

“You’re joking!” she begged.

“No,” said Msaliti.

“Take it off!” she cried, yanking at the collar, suddenly. “Take it off! Take it off!”

“No,” said Msaliti.

She looked at him. The steel collar remained inflexibly fastened on her throat.

Msaliti, in the speech known to the askaris, spoke briefly. They seized the girl by the arms and dragged her to the side of the room. They put her on her knees, facing the wall. They braceleted her wrists about one of the four slave rings in the wall, the one farthest from the blond-haired barbarian and closest to the door. It was, like the others, about a yard from the floor. Msaliti, standing, leaving the table, shook loose the blades of the slave whip.

“I am not a slave!” she cried, looking at him over her right shoulder.

“You were a slave,” said Msaliti, “the instant you were branded, only you did not know it.”

“No! No!” she cried. Then she cried, “I served you well!”

“Yes,” said Msaliti, “but you are now no longer needed.”

“I served you well,” she wept.

“It is fitting that a slave well serves her masters,” said Msaliti.

“I am your colleague!” she said.

“Never were you anything but our slave, you little white fool,” said Msaliti.

“What if our superiors find out!” she cried.

Msaliti laughed. “I act in accord with their instructions,” he said. “Surely you do not think women such as yourself were brought to Gor with any object in mind other than to ultimately wear the collar.”

“No,” she cried. “No!”

He then stepped behind and to one side of her, with the whip.

“Shaba!” she cried. “Shaba!”

“Your services are no longer required, my dear,” said he.

“No!” she cried.

“Hear me, Slave,” said Msaliti. “I have long been patient with you. But the time of masters being patient with you is now at an end. We shall ignore thousands of infractions and insubordinations in the past, presumptions, and speakings and actions, and consider only the past few moments. But a few Elm earlier you dared to touch a cup on the table of masters, as though it were your own, and would have, if not stopped, drunk from it. Also, you have spoken without permission. Also, once you did not respond to the first issuance of a command, but required its repetition. Also, but a moment ago, you addressed a free man not as Master, but by his name.”

“Msaliti!” she begged.

“Ah,” said he, “what a dull slave. You have repeated the offense. ”

“You would not dare to strike me!” she said.

“Earlier I told you,” said he, “that the whip would be later used. You said, as I recall, that you would look forward to it.”

“Do not strike me,” she begged.

“Prepare to be beaten as what you are, a slave,” he said.

“I do not fear the whip,” she said.

“Have you ever felt it?” he asked.

“No,” she said.

“You will find the experience instructive,” he said.

“I am not one of those girls,” she said, “who at a touch of the leather will crawl to you and kiss your feet.”

“Speak bravely,” said he, “after you have felt the whip.”

She tensed at the ring, preparing for the stroke. Her eyes were open. She held the ring with her small. braceleted hands.

Then it fell upon her, once, the slash of the five-bladed Gorean slave whip.

I saw disbelief, startled, wild, enter her eyes. Then she shut her eyes, tightly, tears squeezed from between their lids, wetting the lashes and her cheeks. Her knuckles were now white on the ring they clutched. “No,” she whispered, “it cannot be.”

Msaliti did not immediately again strike her. He knew the whip. He gave her several Ihn, that she might begin to feel the pain of the first stroke.

“I will obey you,” she whispered. “Do not strike me again.

Then the second stroke fell upon her and she screamed with misery, her grip lost on the ring, half thrown against the wall, scratching at it with her braceleted hands, the side of her face against the heavy boards. There were now two layers of pain in her body, overlapping, each reinforcing and intensifying the other. Her body, sensitized by the first stroke, helpless, raw, aware, expectant, exposed, felt the second, as was intended, mingling with the burning echoes, the searing, throbbing wounds of the first, a thousand times more cruelly. “It is enough!” she wept, gasping, sobbing. “It is enough! I will do whatever you want!”

Msaliti then began her beating.

“No, Master!” she screamed at the ring, twisting and writhing. But Msaliti administered to her an efficient, though brief, discipline. As beatings go it was not particularly severe. On the other hand, it was genuine. Evelyn had been truly beaten. She had felt the whip.

“Have mercy, Master, on your slave!” she wept.

Msaliti then, after some ten or twelve strokes, lowered the whip. He spoke to the askaris. They unlocked the left slave bracelet of the girl, freeing her from the ring. She fell to her stomach, weeping.

“To my feet,” said he.

She crawled to his feet and kissed them. “Yes, Master,” she said.

Msaliti again spoke to the askaris and they pulled the girl’s wrists behind her back and, refastening her left wrist in the left slave bracelet, the right still locked on her right wrist, secured them there.

Msaliti looked down at her, on her stomach at his feet.

“What a miserable, worthless thing you are,” he said.

I recalled that these had been the words the dark-haired girl had used to the blond-haired barbarian, still kneeling blindfolded, but now terribly frightened, to one side. She knew little of what was going on. She did understand, of course, that some sister in bondage, near to her, had just been disciplined.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Behold,” said Msaliti, smiling, to Shaba and myself. Then, to the dark-haired girl, he said, sharply, “Nadu!”

She struggled to her knees and, as she could, her wrists braceleted behind her, assumed before him the lovely, elegant position of the pleasure slave.

“Despicable slave,” smiled Msaliti to the girl.

“Yes, Master,” she said, sobbing.

These words, too, I recalled, had been used by the dark-haired girl earlier to the blond-haired barbarian.

The dark-haired girl now knelt, collared, before Msaliti, herself, too, now only a girl, and slave, at the mercy of men.

Msaliti spoke again to the askaris. He gave one of them the key to the girl’s collar.

“Several days ago,” said he to the kneeling girl before him, “your sale to Pembe was arranged. Tonight you will be delivered to him.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“It seems he has taken a fancy to you,” said Msaliti. “He thinks that you may have in you the makings of a paga girl. I do not know if it is true or not. I would, however, if I were you, attempt to do my best to justify Pembe’s confidence in you. Pembe is not a patient man. He has taken the hands and feet from more than one girl.”

She turned white. “Yes, Master,” she said.

The askaris lifted her to her feet, one holding each arm. “Master,” she asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“May I have permission to speak?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“Do I have even a name?” she asked.

“No,” he said, “unless Pembe should choose to give you one.”

“Master,” she said. “Yes,” he said.

“What did you get for me?” she asked.

“You have a slave girl’s vanity,” he said. “Do you not?”

She put down her head. “Yes, Master,” she said.

“That is an excellent sign,” he said. “Perhaps you will even survive.

She looked at him, piteously.

“Four copper tarsks,” he said.

“So little?” she said.

“In my opinion it is more than you are worth,” said Msaliti. Then he waved his hand to the askaris, and they turned the slave about and thrust her, ahead of them, from our presence, out into the anteroom. There, in the anteroom, one of them retrieved the tiny scrap of yellow pleasure silk the girl had brought with her, wadded in her hand, when she had come earlier to the building. He tied this, snugly, on her collar. She looked back at us, frightened. Then she was thrust stumbling though the outside door, and into the street.

I stood up, near the table. “I shall see you, then, tomorrow evening,” I said.

“Bring with you,” said Shaba, “the false ring and the notes.”

“And you,” I said, “do not neglect to bring the genuine ring with you.”

“I shall have it with me,” he averred. I did not doubt it.

Msaliti, to one side, had begun his transformation into the beggar, Kunguni. He had already slipped the padded hump beneath his tunic and adjusted the straps by which it was held in place. He was now, at a mirror, with paste and ocher, attending to the matter of the simulated scar.

“What of this slave?” I asked Msaliti, indicating the blond-haired barbarian.

Msaliti shrugged. “She Is now worthless to us,” he said.

“What did you pay Uchafu for her?” I asked.

“Five silver tarsks,” he said.

“I will give you six,” I said.

“She is hot,” admitted Msaliti.

“Have you subjected her to rape test?’ I asked.

“No,” said he. “Only to the touch of the owner’s hands.”

“That is usually a reliable test,” I said.

“I will take six tarsks for her,” said he, “if you are serious in the matter.”

I gave Msaliti six silver tarsks for the girl. She was then mine. In the situation, as I assessed it, either she should have been given to me, upon my expression of interest, or I should have paid something for her in increments of silver tarsks, something over the price Msaliti had paid. Things turned out much as I had expected. I did not think Msaliti, truly, whom I took to be a shrewd, clever fellow, and one concerned with matters of wealth and power, would wish to give a girl away. Too, since he had paid for her in silver tarsks he would wish to sell her in the same denomination and, presumably, at some profit. My offer of six seemed perfect. It permitted him to satisfy his sense of venality and yet not appear excessively mercenary. Had I tried to obtain her for less than six tarsks or he tried to obtain more for her I think the situation could have become unpleasant.

Msaliti, his scar now affixed, and his disguise intact, bent down and removed the shackles from the blond barbarian’s ankles. He then removed the collar from her and, with it, the rope which had tethered her to the wall. He then jerked her to her feet and unbound her hands. He then thrust her stumbling, blindfolded and naked, but otherwise unbound, to me. She stood against me, clutching me, frightened.

“I now own you,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

She lifted her hands to remove the blindfold.

“Do not remove the blindfold,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said, her lip trembling.

“You may have the blindfold,” smiled Msaliti. “Keep her in it until she is well away from here.”

“Very well,” I said. He did not wish her, of course, to be able to find her way again to this place.

“You are not to touch the blindfold without permission,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said, standing quietly beside me. So simply, she a slave had been placed in the shackles of my will.

“Until tomorrow night,” said Msaliti, lifting his hand.

“Until tomorrow night,” I said.

He then left.

“We are now alone.” I said to Shaba. The presence of the girl, of course, did not count. She was a slave.

“Yes,” said Shaba, rising from behind the table.

I measured the distance to him.

“Who are you truly?” he asked.

“I think,” I said, “you have the ring upon you, and would not leave it elsewhere.”

“You are a shrewd man,” said Shaba. He lifted his left hand, on the first finger of which was a fang ring. He folded his left hand into a fist and, with his thumb, pressed a tiny switch on the ring. The fang, of hollow steel, springing up, was then exposed.

“It contains kanda?” I asked.

“Yes,” said he.

“It will do you little good,” I said, “if you cannot strike me with it.”

“A scratch will be sufficient,” he said.

“One must, upon occasion, take risks,” I said.

“I think I may easily multiply the risks,” said he. He reached into his robes with his right hand. In a moment he had seemed to swirl and then, the light-diversion field activated, had vanished from my view.

“Tomorrow,” I said, “I shall bring the false ring and. the notes.”

“Excellent,” said Shaba. “I think that we now understand one another quite well.”

“Yes,” I said.

“It is a pleasure to do business with such an honest fellow,” he said.

“I entertain a similar sentiment toward yourself,” I said.

I then turned about and, taking the slave girl by the arm, left the room.

Soon I was in the street, outside.

13. I Return To The Golden Kailiauk

“Do not fear,” I said to Pembe. “It was only a passing indisposition.”

His hands shook.

“Look,” I said. “See. I do not have the plague.”

“Your skin,” said he, “is truly clear, and, too, your eyes.”

“Of course,” I said.

“You are well?” he asked, uncertainly.

“Of course,” I said.

“Welcome to the Golden Kailiauk,” he said, relieved. “I shall return to the counter in a moment,” I said. I went to the wall against which I had placed the blond-haired barbarian. I had told her to put her belly and the palms of her hands, lifted, against the wall. She remained, of course, as I had placed her.

“Kneel here,” I said to her. “Back on your heels,” I said to her.

She did so, by the wall.

“Now grip your ankles in your hands,” I said, “and put your head down.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“And do not break that position.” I said, “until given permission.”

“Yes, Master,” she said. “Master!” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

She spoke with her bead down, her ankles gripped.

“Who are you?” she said. “Who owns me!”

“Be silent,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

I then returned to the counter. “Do you have a white-skinned paga slave here,” I asked, “a barbarian girl?”

“Yes,” he said. “I obtained one only tonight, for four tarsks. I have not yet even put her on the floor.”

“I threw him a copper tarsk. “Paga,” I said, “and the slave.”

“You must know the askaris of Msaliti,” he said.

“I have made their acquaintance,” I said.

He turned to one of the paga attendants. “Bring the new paga slave to the floor,” he said. “Excellent,” he said, to himself, “already there is a call for her.”

I saw the girl, naked, in her collar, even the bit of yellow slave silk which had been tied to her collar gone, thrust through the beaded curtain by the paga attendant

“Ah,” I said. She had not yet seen me. “I think,” I said, “you will soon make back your four tarsks on her.”

“But one must figure in, too,” said he, “the cost of the paga.”

“That Is true,” I said.

“She is a new girl,” he said. “If she is not entirely satisfactory, let me know, and I will have her whipped and have your money refunded.”

“Very well,” I said. “I will be at that table,” I said, indicating a table in the rear of the tavern, not far from a red-curtained alcove.

“Yes, Master,” said Pembe.

I went and sat down, cross-legged, behind the table. I had thought it wise not to go directly back to my room. If someone were to follow me, he would have quite a wait. My stop at the paga tavern, I thought, would make it easier to elude pursuit. I had stopped at this tavern, of course, because of Pembe’s new paga slave. When she thought she had been pretending to serve us in the headquarters of Shaba and Msaliti she had, of course, whether she intended it or not, much aroused me. I desired her. So I would now have her. Too, I thought that it might be to the girl’s advantage to be broken in by me, one more aware than would be most Goreans of the limitations of Earth girls. Usually it is the first two or three nights which are the most difficult for a girl to survive in a Gorean paga tavern. After the first two or three nights she has usually learned, and well, what she is, a paga slave. If she has not learned it in that time it is likely that her throat will have been cut by some customer, her sales price being then paid to her owner, plus a token tarsk or two, of copper, for good will.

The girl was thrust, her arm in the grip of the paga attendant, on the far side of the room, to the counter. He released her before the counter. Pembe placed a goblet of paga in her hands. He then pointed in my direction.

She turned about. She nearly spilled the paga, trembling. It was well for her that she did not spill it.

Slowly, alone, a paga slave, naked and collared, she approached my table.

She then knelt there, before me.

“Press the cup to your belly,” I told her.

She did so. She then held it there, in both hands. “Paga, Master?” she whispered.

“Yes,” I said.

She sobbed.

“Kiss the cup,” I told her.

She lifted the metal cup from her belly and, turning her head to the side, pressed her lips against it. She then kissed it. She then, her knees wide, her arms extended to me, her head down, between her arms, proffered the paga to me. “Your paga, Master,” she whispered.

I did not yet take the paga. “Has Pembe given you a name yet?” I asked. she said.

“No, Master,”

“For purposes of your service to me tonight,” I said, “I name you Evelyn.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Use now to me,” I said, “the second of the two formulas, personalized, which you. earlier used to me, when you had so foolishly thought yourself a free woman.”

“I am Evelyn,” she said. “I serve you, naked and collared. Take me later to the alcove. I beg to be taught my slavery.”

“Very well,” I said.

She knelt back, about a yard from the table. I looked at her. I sipped the paga.

“You are a pretty slave, Evelyn,” I said.

“Thank you, Master,” she said.

“Are you white silk?” I asked.

“I am  virgin,” she said.

“Then you are white silk,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Have you ever been curious,” I asked, “about what it would be to be a slave?”

She looked at me.

“Beware,” I said. “You are naked and kneeling. You wear a slave collar. It will not be easy to lie.”

“Yes,” she said, putting her head down, “I have been curious to know what it would be to be a slave.”

“You will learn,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

I then gave my attention to the paga, and to my thoughts. In time I sent her back for another cup. The price for the second cup, in the tavern of Pembe, was only a tarsk hit. I paid it to the paga attendant, who collected it at the table. The girls in Pembe’s tavern, as in many taverns, are not permitted to touch coins. Evelyn, of course, who had come with the higher price of the first cup, was mine until I chose to leave the tavern or in some other way release her.

“May I have permission to speak?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Is it Master’s intention to use me?” she asked.

“Perhaps,” I said, “and perhaps not. I will do what I please.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

I nursed the second cup of paga. Then, after a time, I thrust it from me.

“Is Master going to leave?” she asked.

“Go to the alcove,” I said.

She looked at me, agonized. She rose to her feet and, scarcely able to move, numbly, went to the alcove. She could not bring herself to enter, through the red curtains.

I took her by the left arm and thrust her within, onto the furs at my feet. I then turned about and drew shut the curtains, hooking them shut.

I then turned about, again, to face her.

She sat, numbly, on the furs, her knees drawn up. I took the ankle ring and chain which lay at the right corner of the alcove, as you enter. The chain is about a yard long and runs to a ring bolted in the floor. There are similar chains in the four corners of the room, and in the center of the wall, near the floor, opposite the red curtains. In the left-hand corner of the room, as you enter, of course, on its chain, is another ankle ring. At the far corners of the room, of course, the chains terminate with wrist rings. In the center of the wall, near the floor, opposite the curtains, the chain terminates with a collar. There are provisions for lengthening and shortening the chains. All these devices work from locks, answering to a common key, which hangs high on the wall, toward the back and left, as you enter. Needless to say that key cannot be reached by the prisoner if even one of the chains is fastened upon her. Near that common key, which hangs on a peg, there is a second peg. From the second peg hangs a slave whip.

I locked the girl’s left ankle in the first ankle ring. She looked, wonderingly, at the steel locked on her ankle. She lifted the chain, leading to the locked ankle ring on her left ankle. She looked at me. “You have chained me,” she said. “Oh,” she said. I thrust her to her back on the furs. I then fastened her left and right wrists in their respective wrist rings. I then put the alcove collar on her, shortening its chain, fitting it over Pembe’s collar. She could not then rise more than a few inches from her back. I then went to her right, and shortened the chain there. I then took her right ankle. “Oh!” she said, as I pulled it far to her right. I then locked it in the ankle ring, on its shortened chain, which is at the left of the alcove entrance, as one enters.

She looked up at me, terrified. I looked down at her. “Do you now begin to understand,” I said, “what it might be to be chained as a slave?”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Look now to your right, high on the wall,” I said. “What do you see?”

“A slave whip,” she said.

“Do you now begin to understand what it might be to be a slave?” I asked.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“This is an alcove,” I said. “But you may think of it as a very special sort of place.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“As a chamber of submission,” I said.

“Yes, yes, Master,” she said.

“Think of it now,” I said, “think of it deeply and keenly, with every fiber and particle of your lovely body, as a chamber of submission, a chamber in which you, a slave girl, must bend in all respects, a chamber in which you, only a female slave, must submit, in every bit of you, totally, completely, to the will of men.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“I will now touch you,” I said.

“I am frigid,” she wept. “Do not kill me, I beg of you.”

“Think deeply now, fully,” I said. “You are in the chamber of submission.”

“Yes, Master,” she wept.

I then touched her, with exquisite gentleness.

Her haunches leaped, the chains shook. She looked at me, startled.

“Do you submit, fully?” I asked her,

“Yes, Master,” she said. Then she lifted her body, piteously. “Please touch me again,” she said.

I let her wait for a time. Then, again. I touched her, very gently.

“Aiii!” she cried out, squirming. I continued to touch her for a bit. “Oh, oh,” she began to moan.

Then I stopped touching her.

She looked up at me. “What are these sensations?’ she asked.

“Apparently you should be whipped,” I said.

“Why?” she asked. “Why, Master?”

“Because you have lied,” I said. “You told me that you were frigid.”

She looked up at me, frightened.

“But you are not,” I said. “You are only another hot slave.”

“No, no,” she said. “Not a hot slave, not I!”

“Let us see,” said I.

“Oh, oh,” she moaned, softly.

She looked up at me. “How can you respect me?’ she asked.

“You are not to be respected,” I told her. “You are only a slave.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“You no longer have any pride to guard,” I said. “A slave is not permitted pride.”

“Yes, Master,” she wept. “Oh, oh.” Then she threw her head to the side, on the furs. “I want to respect myself!” she cried.

“Your obligation is not to respect yourself,” I told her, “but to be yourself.”

She looked at me, tears in her eyes. “I dare not be myself,” she whispered.

“Is it wrong for a woman to be a woman?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “yes! It is wrong, and demeaning!”

“Interesting,” I said. “What should a woman be?” I asked her.

“She should be a man!” she said.

“But, quite simply, you are not a man,” I told her.

“I dare not be a woman,” she wept.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because,” she said, “I sense, in my heart, that a woman is a slave.”

“Is it not permissible for a slave to be a slave?” I asked.

“No!” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“I do not know!” she wept. “I do not know!”

“Can it be wrong to be what one truly is?” I asked.

“Yes, yes!” she said.

“It is wrong for the tree to be a tree, the rock a rock, the bird a bird?” I asked.

“No, no,” she said.

“Why, then,” I asked, “is it wrong for a slave to be a slave?”

“I do not know,” she said.

“Perhaps it is not wrong for a slave to be a slave,” I said.

“I dare not even think that,” she said. Then she said, “Please do not stop touching me, Master.”

“Does a slave beg?” I asked.

“Yes, Master,” she said. “Evelyn begs Master not to stop touching her.”

I kissed her, softly, about the breasts, but did not stop touching her.

“Thank you, Master,” she breathed.

Then, suddenly, she tore at the chains, trying to free herself, but could not, of course, do so.

“What is wrong?” I asked her.

“I must resist you!” she cried. “I must not yield! I must not yield!”

“Why not?” I asked.

“I sense the thing in me,” she said. “I have never felt it before, but this must be it. It is like waves, from so deep in me. It is beginning to overwhelm me. It is fantastic. It is unbelievable. No! No! You must stop touching me!”

I stopped touching her. “Why?” I asked.

“I was beginning to come to you,” she said.

“So?” I asked.

“You do not understand,” she said. “I was beginning to come to you—as a slave to her master!”

“But you are a slave,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“And you are in the chamber of submission,” I said.

“You give me no choice,” she said.

I smiled at her. “This time, and this time alone,” I said, “I will give you a choice.”

“A choice?” she said.

“A slave’s choice,” I told her.

“What is it?” she asked.

“You may yield—or die,” I told her.

She looked at me with terror. “I choose to yield, Master,” she said.

“Of course,” I said, “you are a slave.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Next time,” I said, “you will not even be given that choice. It will not be necessary. Your slavery has now been confirmed. You will thenceforth be accorded no choice whatsoever, no alternative, however dire, to the enforcement of your submission upon you.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

Then I began again to touch her, lifting her to the heights she had chosen, the degrading joys of bondage, the humiliating ecstasy of the chained slave girl.

“Aiii!” she cried, throwing her head back. “I yield me yours, my Master!” she cried.

I had not even, this early in the evening, elected to enter her.

“Please touch me, hold me,” she wept, helplessly. I did so. How piteous were her small hands, opening and closing, In the wrist rings.

“I did not know it could be anything like that,” she said.

“It was nothing,” I told her.

“Nothing!” she wept. “It was the most incredible experience of my life.”

“It was only a minor slave orgasm,” I said.

“When I came to you,” she said, “I was submitting, and owned. It is the most beautiful and glorious feeling I have ever had.”

Then, after a time, I began to touch her again.

“What is Master going to do now to his girl?” she asked.

“I am going to teach her a little more of her slavery,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

This time, in less than ten Ehn, she began to squirm and cry. Then, suddenly, she looked at me, frightened. “It is coming,” she said. “It is greater than the first. I will not be able to stand it. It will kill me. I will die!”

“No, you will not,” I told her.

“Aiii!” she cried out, head back. Then she wept, “I’m chained. I’m chained. Hold me, please. Do not let me go. Stay warm, and near to me. Please, Master. Please, Master.”

I held her, and kissed her. Again I had not even elected to enter her.

She looked up, tears in her eyes. “Please come in me,” she begged. “I want to be fully yours, had without mercy by my master. Take me, I beg you. Have me!”

“Later,” I told her. “I have not yet begun to warm you.”

“Yes, Master,” she whispered, frightened.

Later, toward morning, near dawn, I awakened, Evelyn’s lips so intimate upon me.

During the night I had unchained her, save for the steel and chain on her left ankle.

She awakened me as I had instructed her. It is pleasant to be awakened in that fashion. I put my hands down to her hair, as she pleasured me.

During the night I had taught her some small things, some techniques, little, simple things, for her mouth and hands, and breasts, her hair, her lips, and feet, and tongue. They might help her, I thought, to survive in Pembe’s tavern. Most importantly I had tried to impress upon her the fundamental importance of submission, and that she was a slave girl. All else, for most practical purposes, follows from that.

I cried out, softly, and she looked up, pleased that she had made me do that.

“Finish your work, Slave,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

My hands knotted in her hair, tightly, holding her helplessly to me. Then I released her.

I pulled her up to me, and, in the dim light of the alcove, filtering through the red curtain from the slatted grilles in the roof of the main room, wiped her mouth with her hair.

“It is morning, Master,” she whispered.

“Yes,” I said.

I held her arms, as she looked down at me.

“Speak,” I told her.

She then, whispering, said the following. I had taught it to her last night.

He is Master, and I am Slave.

He is owner, and I am owned.

He commands, and I obey.

He is to be pleased, and I am to please.

Why is this?

Because he is Master, and I am Slave.

I took her and put her to her back, beside me. I looked down into her eyes.

“Good morning, Slave,” I said.

“Good morning, Master,” she said.

“Did you sleep well?” I asked.

“In the little time you permitted me to sleep,” she said, “I never slept better before in my life.”

“Did you dream?” I asked.

“I dreamed I was a slave,” she said. “And then I awakened, and found that it was true.”

I smiled at her.

“I am a slave,” she said, “you know.”

“Yes,” I said.

“When I awakened this morning,” she said, “I knew that it was true. You taught it to me last night.”

“Do you think free women could have felt what you felt?” I asked.

“Never,” she said, “for they are not slaves.” She looked up at me. “What I felt were the feelings of a slave in the arms of her master. Those are feelings no free woman will ever know.”

“Unless she is put in bondage,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she smiled. Then she said, “How I pity them, those poor free woman, such as I was. How ignorant they are. No wonder they are so hostile to men. Would not any woman hate a man who did not have the strength to put her in a collar?”

“Perhaps,” I said. I thought of a girl once known, one who once had been my free companion. I thought of her cruelty to me once, in the house of Samos, when she had thought me helpless and crippled. She had once been the daughter of Marlenus of Ar, but he had disowned her, for once, when she had been the helpless slave of the forest girl, Verna, she had begged to be purchased, a slave’s act. Rather than submit to this stain upon his honor he, the Ubar of glorious Ar itself, had sworn against her, upon his sword and upon the medallion of his office as well, the fierce oath of disownment. She lived now, free, but deprived of citizenship, sequestered in Ar. Her left thigh would still bear the brand of Treve, for once, long ago, she bad fallen slave to Rask of Treve, a captain and tarnsman. I wondered if he had made her yield well as a slave, when he had owned her. I did not doubt it. I thought the brand of Port Kar might look well upon her body, placed above that of Treve. I wondered how she might look in scarlet silk, dancing as a slave before any men.

“We belong in collars,” said Evelyn.

I heard, outside the curtain, the sounds of the early morning. Tables were being moved aside, that the floor might be cleaned. This work is usually done by paga attendants. The girls, at this time, are usually asleep, chained in their kennels.

“It is morning,” I said.

“You are going to go in a moment, aren’t you,” she asked, “leaving me behind, a chained slave?”

“Of course,” I told her, “paga girl.”

“Don’t go yet,” she said. “I beg you, Master.”

“Very well,” I said.

“I wear Pembe’s collar,” she said, touching the encircling steel on her neck. “I would wear yours.”

I looked at her.

“Surely what you did to me last night,” she said, “means something to you?”

“It was only a night’s pleasure with a paga girl,” I said.

“Oh,” she said.

“Any Gorean male could do it to you,” I said.

“Make me yield like that,” she asked, “as such a slave?”

“Of course,” I told her, “Slave Girl.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“What do you think now of your collar?” I asked.

“I hate it,” she said. “And I love it!”

“You love your collar?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “I love it” She looked up at me. “I love being a slave,” she said. “I love being enslaved. I love being forced to yield, and to obey men.”

“I see that it is appropriate that you wear a collar,” I said.

“Yes.” she said, defiantly. “It is fully appropriate.”

“You know why it is fully appropriate?” I asked.

“Of course,” she said, “because I am a true slave.”

“Yes,” I said, “Slave.”

“And yet,” she said. “I am an Earth girl.” She put her bands at the collar. “How cruel that I should be put in a collar!” She looked up at me. “Will it never be taken off?” she asked.

“Undoubtedly,” I said.

“Ah,” she said.

“To be replaced with another,” I said.

“Oh,” she said. She looked up at the wall, to her right, at the slave whip hanging there, on its peg. “You did not whip me,” she said.

“Do you wish to be whipped?” I said.

“No,” she said, “no!” She had felt the whip. She then looked again at me. “I suppose,” said she, “that I will be bought and sold many times.”

“Doubtless,” I told her.

“Do you think men will ever free me?” she asked.

“No,” I said.

“Why?” she asked.

“The collar is right on you,” I said.

She touched it. “Yes,” she said, “it is right on me. And you knew it immediately, didn’t you, you beast? That is why you made me, when I thought I was free, serve you as a naked paga slave.”

“It seemed fitting,” I said, “that your slavery be made manifest.”

“Of course,” she said. “You are a Gorean master.”

“Any Gorean male looking upon you,” I said, “whether you wore a collar or not, would see that you should be a slave.”

“And now I am a slave,” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“I do not object,” she said.

“It does not matter whether you object or not,” I said.

“True,” she smiled.

I heard men moving about, outside, cleaning the floor. I sat up.

“Do not go, Master,” she begged.

“I must be on my way,” I told her.

“Leaving me here?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Please remain but a bit longer,” she begged.

“Would you detain me?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “with the charms of a slave.”

“You do not speak as an Earth girl,” I said.

“I am no longer an Earth girl,” she said. “I am now only a Gorean slave,” she said.

“It is true,” I said.

She slipped down my body and began, piteously, to kiss me.

“I do not have time,” I told her.

“Dally, please dally,” she begged, “if only for a few moments more.”

I saw that she feared to be left behind. She looked up at me, miserably.

“You now begin to understand, do you not,” I asked, “something of the meaning of your collar?”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Surely now,” I said, “you would choose freedom.”

She looked up at me, boldly. “No,” she said. “I have been a free woman, and I have been a slave. I have known both.”

“Is not freedom inordinately precious?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “but more inordinately precious to me is my slavery.”

I looked at her.

“I choose the brand,” she said, “the collar, and the hands of a master on my body.”

I pulled her up beside me, and threw her to her back. “Use me ruthlessly, Master,” she begged.

“I shall,” I told her.

“Rape me as a slave,” she said.

“It will be done,” I told her.

In a few moments she screamed her submission and looked at me, unbelievingly.

“I did not know what it would be to be raped as a slave,” she whispered.

“It was so swift, and brutal,” she said. “Please hold me,” she said.

I spurned her with my foot to the side of the alcove, and she lay there, trembling and weeping.

She held out her hand to me. “Please touch me,” she said.

“Be silent, Slave,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she whispered.

I began to dress.

She rose to her knees and knelt there, then, by the side wall, the steel ankle ring, with its chain, leading to the floor ring, still upon her ankle. “How you used me,” she said. She was still trembling.

“Sandals,” I said.

She crept to me and, head down, placed my sandals on my feet. She then tied them, drawing the thongs tight and then fastening them. “How you used me,” she whispered. Then she held my legs and pressed her cheek against the side of my left leg, above the knee. I did not kick her from me. She looked up, tears in her eyes. “If one Is a true slave,” he said, “it is not wrong to be a slave, is it?”

“No,” I said.

She held my legs, looking up at me. “If one is a true slave,” she said, “it is right that one should be a slave, is it not?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I am a true slave,” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“It is thus right that I should be a slave,” she said.

“Yes,” I said. I lifted her to her feet, holding her by the arms before me.

“It is right,” she said, “that a true slave should be en-slaved.”

“Of course,” I said.

“I am a true slave,” she said.

“I know,” I said.

“It is thus right,” she said, “that I should be enslaved.”

“Yes,” I said.

“I am enslaved,” she said.

“Yes,” I said. I then threw her to my feet and, turning, parted the curtains of the alcove,

“Master,” she wept.

I turned to look at her.

“But one more kiss, please, Master,” she said.

She knelt on the furs, chained by the ankle, and I crouched before her, and took her in my arms. We kissed. Then I thrust her back, and stood up.

“You subjected me earlier to slave rape,” she said, soft tears in her eyes, with tender reproach.

“Yes,” I said.

“And afterwards spurned me from you.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Keep me, Master!” she suddenly begged. “Keep me!”

I looked down upon her. She knelt before me. She was so soft and beautiful, her eyes and lashes wet with tears, her hair dark and soft on her shoulders, her lip trembling.

“Keep me,” she begged.

She had been an agent of Kurii.

“Take me with you,” she begged. “Do not leave me behind in this place.”

She had been an agent of Kurii.

“Speak,” I said.

Tremblingly, head down, she spoke.

“He is Master, and I am Slave.

He is owner, and I am owned.

He commands, and I obey.

He is to be pleased, and I am to please.

Why is this?

Because he is Master, and I am Slave.”

“Each night, for a month,” I said, “after you are chained in your kennel, and before you fall asleep, say that”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Similarly, for the same month,” I said, “repeat it to yourself many times during the day.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“It may help you to survive,” I said.

“Thank you, Master,” she said.

“Remember to yield well to men,” I said.

“I will not be able to help myself. Master,” she smiled.

“Remember submission, and that you are a slave girl,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“You may now find this difficult to believe,” I said, “but the time will come when you will find that you are unable to part these curtains and enter this alcove from the floor outside without being hot and wet. Merely to cross this threshold, that of an alcove, that of a chamber of submission, will make you ready for a man’s pleasure.”

“I do not find it difficult to believe, Master,” she whispered. “Merely to look at the curtains excites me.” She touched her collar. “Merely to touch my collar excites me. To kneel on the furs, to feel them on my body, to be kneeling itself, before a man, excites me. To be naked before him, on my knees, makes me miserable with the desire for his touch.”

“I think you will survive, Slave,” I told her.

“May I kiss your feet but once more, Master,” she said.

I permitted this.

I felt her lips, so sweet on my feet, her tears and hair. “Keep me,” she begged. “Keep me, Master.”

I looked down once more at the slave at my feet, who had been an agent of Kurii.

Then I turned about and left the alcove.

“Master !“ she cried.

I looked back at her, once more. She was on her belly, half through the curtains, her left leg extended behind her, held by the ankle ring and chain. She hold out her right hand to me. “Please buy me! Don’t leave me here!” she wept.

“How was she?” asked a paga attendant, pausing in his work, buffing goblets.

“I will not demand a refund,” I told him.

“Do you think she will work out?” he asked. “Pembe was curious.”

“Probably,” I said. “It is hard to know about those things. It is my guess that she will prove satisfactory.”

“Is her slavery close to the surface?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Doubtless it will soon become fully manifest.”

“Does she have slave fire?” he asked.

I remembered her sobbing in my arms, kissing and licking, and begging for my least touch.

“Yes,” I said.

“That is good,” he said. “Perhaps there is hope for the wench. I grow weary of carrying bodies to the harbor.”

I went to the place, near the rear wall, where I had left the blond-haired barbarian. She had fallen asleep, slumped, blindfolded, there. She had, of course, released her ankles.

I touched her gently, and she, with a little moan of anguish, awakened. She realized then, suddenly, she had dropped off to sleep. Suddenly, fearfully, she assumed the kneeling position in which I had placed her, head down, gripping her ankles.

“No,” I told her, softly.

I then took her gently in my arms. How small and light she was. I do not think she weighed more than one hundred and ten pounds.

“I am leaving by the back way,” I told the paga attendant.

“As you wish,” he said.

Outside I waited for a few moments, to see if the door, behind me, should be moved ajar. I examined, too, the dust of the alley, to see if it moved, or otherwise stirred, as it might have, if a foot had passed. I looked about, at the roofs about. The door did not move. The dust did not stir. The tops of the buildings, as nearly as I could determine, seemed clear.

I looked at the girl in my arms. She was again asleep. For a moment I felt moved to tenderness toward her. Her life, in the past few weeks, had not been easy. She had been a pawn in the cruel games of worlds. Too, it is sometimes traumatic for a proud, free woman of Earth to discover that she has suddenly become an owned slave. I would let the girl sleep. I carried her through the streets of Schendi. I did not take a direct route to my room.

14. A Girl Becomes More Beautiful; I Must Take My Leave Of Sasi

Sasi opened the door.

“Master,” she said.

“Prepare a chain for the new girl,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

I do not think Sasi was too pleased when I carried the blond slave over the threshold and placed her on the straw by the slave ring. Gorean slaves, incidentally, are commonly carried over the threshold when they first enter a master’s house or place of residence. This is reminiscent of a bridal custom on Earth, of course. That custom, an ancient one, makes tacitly clear the bride’s ownership by the male, and has clear implications of capture and bondage. It is natural that the bride desires this ceremony, and will plead for it. The oafish male, commonly, does not even understand what is going on. He should, of course, take her directly to the bed, and throw her upon it, his.

Women wish to be the slaves of their men. What woman would want a man who is not strong enough to be her master?

Not all Gorean slaves, of course, are carried over a threshold. Some are leashed and enter on their hands and knees. Some, perhaps bound and collared, are thrust through. The common denominator of these customs, of course, is that the slave must understand that force, either explicitly or implicitly, is involved, and that she will enter the stronghold of the master, and as a slave, whether she wills to do so or not.

“Is that not the girl from the Palms of Schendi?” asked Sasi. The blond girl. exhausted, was still asleep.

“Yes,” I said.

Sasi fastened a short chain to the slave ring, locking it, with its own lock, on the ring. She then, with a key, the same key which would open the chain lock, opened the chain’s ankle ring.

“What do you want her for?” asked Sasi. She handed me the opened ankle ring.

“She interests me, at least for the moment,” I told her. I shut the ankle ring then on the blond’s left ankle. She was secured. Sasi rose and put the key on a hook to one side of the room. Near it, on another hook, there hung a slave whip. From one of the overhead beams, near the side of the room, there was a whipping ring, to which a slave could be tethered, which could be lowered. It was a furnished room. Slaves, it must be understood, are not that uncommon on Gor.

I covered the blond with one of our blankets. The poor thing was exhausted.

“You did not carry me across the threshold,” said Sasi.

“You were bound in a blanket, and on my shoulder,” I said, “when I entered this room.”

“I mean before,” she said.

“No,” I said, “I did not. I did, however, if you will remember, when first I used you, order you to my blankets.”

“I have never forgotten,” she said. She shuddered with pleasure, remembering the moment. “I was simply ordered to your blankets,” she said.

A similar sort of thing is done sometimes when a master brings home a new girl to a house which is completely empty, if necessary, by prearrangement, and new to her, and orders her to enter alone. “Warm wine,” he tells her. “Light the lamp of love. Spread furs. Crawl naked into them, and await me.”

“Yes, Master,” she says.

She then enters the house, obeying. Not a shackle or a cord is on her body. But few women could be more slave than she, entering fearfully the strange, empty house, and preparing herself for her master’s pleasure.

“It is difficult to convey to a man,” she said, “the feelings of a woman at such a time.”

“They are the feelings of a slave,” I said.

“So simply put!” she said. “Yes,” she said, “they are the feelings of a slave. But I wonder if a man, ever, will truly understand what a woman’s collar can mean to her.. I wonder if he, ever, truly, will be able to fathom the nature and depth of the emotions of the woman who kneels at his feet.”

“Surely free women, too, have emotions,” I said.

“I was free,” she said. “I did not know what it was to feel until I became a slave. I was free. There was no need to feel, or be aware. But this has changed since I became a slave. I must now be sensitive to the feelings of others. I have never been so aware of other human beings as now. And I cannot always have my way, and I must yield to male domination. I can be commanded, and I must obey, and be pleasing. This answers to something very deep in me, Master.”

“Of course,” I said, “to the slave in you.”

“Yes,” she said, “to the woman, and slave, in me.”

“They are the same,” I said.

“Yes,” she said.

“It is hard to be a man,” I said, “until one stands in a relation to a woman. And, I suppose, it is hard to be a woman until one stands in a relation to a man.”

“What relation,” she asked, “Master?”

“That of the natural order of nature,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

I looked at her. “I cannot know well the nature of your feelings,” I said, “but I know, and well, that women are deep as well as beautiful.”

“We are so different from you,” she said. “I fear you will never understand us.”

“It is doubtless easier to put you on your knees and push the whip to your teeth than it is to understand you,” I said.

“The man who truly understands us,” she laughed, “is the first to put us on our knees and make us kiss the whip.”

‘Take off my sandals,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said. She looked up. “Never until I was a slave,” she said, “did I feel so helpless, alive and vulnerable.”

I said nothing.

“I must untie your sandals,” she said. “I must crawl to you, if you wish. I must do anything you want. I am happy.”

“Attend to your work,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said. Then she had removed the san-dais. She kissed them, and looked up at me.

“Tonight,” I said, “before I leave the room, I will pierce your ears.”

‘Thank you, Master,” she said.

“You will then be,” I said, “for all practical purposes, irrevocably a slave.”

“Yes, Master,” she said. She looked up. “You do understand us, don’t you?” she asked.

“It will improve your price,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she smiled.

“I think also,” I said, “I will pierce her ears, too.” I indicated the sleeping blond girl. She had been an agent of Kurii. I decided that I would guarantee, for all practical purposes, that she would remain in a collar on Gor. I would pierce her ears.

I looked over to the sleeping girl, so worn and exhausted. I went over to her and, with one hand, lifted the blanket away from her. She stirred, troubled, sensing the difference in the temperature, the air, upon her skin. “No,” she whimpered, softly, in English. “I do not want to get up.” How beautiful she was, lying soft and helpless in the straw. She stirred again, and lifted her knee, shifting the position of her shackled ankle. “No, I do not want to get up,” she whimpered, in English. She reached down, searching for the blanket. I then held her by the upper arms. “Oh!” she said, half awakening, twisting. But I held her. “Oh,” she said, “oh,” suddenly, rudely, returning to a slave’s reality, then understanding that she lay in straw, her back on a wooden floor, held in the arms of a man. She moved her ankle, frightened, and felt the shackle and chain.

“Who is it?” she asked. I did not speak to her.

“Is it my Master?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Who is my Master, please,” she begged. I said nothing to her.

“Who is my Master!” she cried out, miserably.

“I am,” I told her.

“Who owns me?” she begged.

“I do,” I told her.

She turned her head to the side, and moaned. Then she again turned her face toward me, its upper portions obscured by the black, knotted blindfold.

“Why are you holding me like this?” she asked.

I said nothing to her.

“What are you going to do to me?” she asked.

I did not speak to her.

“What do you want of me?” she asked. “Oh, no, please,” she said. “I am a virgin!” Her lip trembled. “No, please!” she said. She tensed. “No,” she said, “please, no, please do not take my virginity like this, not like this. I am blindfolded! I cannot see you! I cannot even see you. I want to see who takes my virginity from me!” Then she cried out, softly, and wept.

“It was your Master, Slave,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she whispered.

I held her very still.

“How sweet and strong it is,” she breathed. “And how helplessly I am held. I could not escape now, unless you were to release me.”

I did not speak.

“Would Master deign to kiss a slave?” she asked.

I put my lips, gently, to hers, and she lifted her lips to mine, tenderly, and kissed me, and then she put her head back to the straw and the floor.

“Thank you, Master,” she said.

“This first time,” I said, “doubtless it is difficult and painful for you.”

“It does not hurt,” she said.

“Oh,” I said.

“I have never been had before,” she said. “I did not know what it was like, to lie like this.”

“Do you like it?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “yes, Master.” She then held my arms. “Master,” she whispered.

“Yes,” I said.

“I begin to feel like I want to respond to you,” she whispered. “May I move, Master?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Oh,” she. said, softly, moving, “I did not know it could be like this. Never before have I been locked in a man’s arms in this fashion. How sweet it is. How helpless I feel. I am beginning to become excited, Master. I am beginning to become terribly excited, Master!”

She lifted her lips, suddenly, to me, and kissed me, and then she put her head back, and turned it from side to side, lost in her pleasure and in the darkness of the blindfold.

Suddenly she clutched my arms. “Master!” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“We are completely alone, are we not?” she asked.

“No,” I said.

“Oh!” she cried out in misery. “Oh, no!” Then she asked, “who else is present?”

“Another woman,” I told her;

“Oh, no, no, no, no!” she wept “No, not”

“Do not fear,” I said. “It is only another slave.”

“Behold how the brute abuses me!” she called out “What we women suffer at the hands of such beasts!”

I was startled. Sasi looked at me, puzzled.

“Rape me as a slave,” she called out “You will get no pleasure from me!”

That seemed to me highly unlikely.

Then the chained girl lay back, pressing her hands against me, her head turned to the side.

“Have your will with me,” she said. “I am inert. I can endure. It means nothing to me.”

“Are you being troublesome?” I asked her.

“No, Master,” she said.

“Have you felt the whip?” I asked.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Do you wish to feel it again?” I asked.

“No, Master,” she said.

“You, then,” I said, “have my permission to again respond.”

“Surely,” she said, “you did not think I was earlier responsive to you?”

“You now have my permission to again respond,” I said.

“I cannot possibly respond with another woman in the room,” she whispered to me. “Surely you must understand that, Master.”

“Respond,” I told her.

“I am commanded?” she asked, disbelievingly.

“Yes,” I said.

“How can you command such a thing?” she asked.

“As I have done,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“And, further,” I said, “you will respond as a slave.”

“Yes, Master,” she said, miserably. She began to move, timidly, slightly, about me.

“I will try to forget that there is another woman in the room,” she said.

“No,” I said, “keep it clearly in mind.”

“Master?” she said.

“Show her your slave heat,” I said.

“But should one not be ashamed of one’s passion?” she asked.

“Why?” I asked.

“I do not know,” she said.

“Is there any rational reason?” I asked. “I do not doubt there may be many irrational reasons, or causes.”

“Perhaps because, in a man’s arms, it makes a woman a slave,” she said.

‘That,” I said, “is doubtless true, but it is a reservation which, if pertinent at all, is pertinent only, surely, to free women.”

“Yes,” she said, uncertainly.

“You are already a slave,” I said.

“Yes,” she said..

“It is permissible, I suppose,” she said, “for a slave to be passionate.”

“It is not only permissible for a slave to be passionate,” I said.

“Master?” she asked.

I held her very tightly.

“Yes Master,” she whispered.

“A slave,” I said, “must be passionate.”

“Master?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, ‘the slave girl has no choice. She must be passionate.”

“Yes, Master,” she whispered.

“Moreover,” I said, “she is to be proud of her passion. It is one of the most splendid, and beautiful and joyful things about her.”

“Yes, Master,” she whispered.

“Begin,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

She began to move, and try to kiss me.

“Oh, no,”’ she said. “I am too miserable. It is too embarrassing.”

“Continue,” I told her.

“But if I continue I may become excited,” she said.

“You will become excited,” I told her.

“But there is another woman present,” she said.

“Move,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she sobbed.

“Be proud of your slave heat,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Show her your slave heat,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she sobbed. Then, in a few moments, despite her intent, I heard a moan of pleasure escape her. “Oh, no,” she added.

“It is not wrong to experience sexual pleasure,” I told her.

“But there is another woman present,” she said.

“Show her your slave heat,” I said.

“Forgive me,” she cried out, calling to whoever might be in the room, “I cannot help myself. The Master is exciting me!”

“Master,” said Sasi, unable to restrain herself. “Withdraw from her! Let me serve your pleasure!”

“No, no!” said the blond-haired barbarian, clutching me. “He is with me now!” Her lip trembled. “Do not withdraw from me,” she begged.

“Why not?” I asked.

“I want to serve your pleasure,” she whispered.

“What do you know of serving a man’s pleasure,” said Sasi. “Beg his forgiveness for disappointing him, and let him seize me in his arms.”

“No!” said the blond-haired barbarian. Then she said to me, “I am sorry if I disappoint you, Master.”

“You have not yet disappointed me,” I said.

“I will try not to disappoint you, Master,” she said.

“Let me serve your pleasure, Master,” begged Sasi.

“It is now I who am serving his pleasure!” said the blond girl.

“If you call that serving his pleasure,” said Sasi.

“Help me,” begged the blond girl.

“Lift your body against his,” said Sasi, “squirm, kiss!”

The blond moaned with misery. “That is like a slave,” she whispered.

“Obey!” said Sasi.

“Is she first girl?” asked the blond.

“Yes,” I said.

“Yes, Mistress,” said the blond, miserably. Then she obeyed, for she was a slave. From time to time Sasi and I made simple suggestions to the blond who, for the first time, was being ravished. We forced her to cooperate in her rape. I began to grit my teeth.

“Stop moving,” I told her.

She stopped moving. But she did not want to stop moving. She clutched my arms.

“My passion is making me a slave,” she whispered.

“You are already a slave,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Passion, technically,” I said, “has nothing to do with the imposition of the yoke of slavery. It is, of course, afterwards required of the enslaved woman. Passion is commanded of her.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“The sense in which passion makes you a slave,” I said, “is that it puts you in what is in effect a slave’s position, helpless, yielding, submitting to the master.”

“Yes, Master,” she whispered.

“But you will not even begin to know what true passion is, ignorant girl,” I said, “until you have been longer a slave.”

“Yes, Master,” she whispered.

“You may begin again to respond now, Slave,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said. Then she began again to move and, soon, was crying out, softly.

“I think she will be a hot slave,” I said to Sasi.

“Yes,” said Sasi, “I think so, Master.”

“Please do not use those words of me,” she begged.

“Say,” I told her, “ ‘I am proud to be a hot slave.’”

“I am proud to be a hot slave,” she cried out, miserably.

“And you are proud of it, you know,” I told her.

She clutched me, startled. Her lip trembled. “Yes,” she said, suddenly, “it is true. How incredible! I am proud! I am proud to be a hot slave!”

“Of course,” I told her, “Slave.”

“No, no!” she said. “I am ashamed to be a hot slave!”

“Whether you are proud or ashamed,” I told her, “in any event, you are a hot slave.”

“Yes, Master,” she said. That could not be denied.

“I come from a far world,” she said. “The girl from that world is ashamed. The girl on this world, the slave, is not ashamed. She is proud.” She put her head to the side. “How shamelessly proud she is,” she said.

“The girl from the far world,” I told her, “no longer exists. What exists now, in her place, is herself transformed, herself become a beautiful slave at the mercy of a master.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“What is the name of your former world?” I asked.

“It is called Earth,” she said. “Have you heard of it, Master?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Her women are not unknown in our markets.”

“Oh,” she said.

“They make excellent slaves,” I said.

She said nothing.

“Do you find that hard to believe?” I asked.

“No, Master,” she said. Then she lifted her lips, and kissed me. “Master,” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“You took my virginity,” she said. “Now, I beg you, consummate your will upon me.”

“Do you beg as a slave?” I asked.

“Yes, Master,” she said. “I beg as a slave.”

“Beg,” I told her.

“Take me,” she begged. “Make me yours. Have me, as your slave.”

“Do you yield,” I asked her, “fully and completely, and as a slave?”

“Yes, Master,” she whispered. “I yield, fully and completely, and as a slave.”

I then took her.

“I thought it might be you, Master,” she said, lifting her lips from my feet.

I had removed her blindfold.

It was now the sixteenth Ahn, several Ahn after I had taken the slave’s virginity.

“From the first instant I saw you,” she said, “I dreamed of being your slave. Now it is true.”

“Help Sasi clean the dishes,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

She put her fingers to her ears, and turned her head, from side to side, looking at the rings in her ears.

“They are very beautiful,” she said, regarding herself in the mirror.

They were of gold, about an inch in diameter. I had pierced her ears, and put her in them.

“How glorious it is to again see,” she said. The blindfold lay discarded, to one side. She was no longer shackled to the slave ring.

Seeing my eyes upon her, she knelt. “Am I beautiful, Master?” she asked.

“Almost,” I told her.

She looked, kneeling, in the mirror. “I do not wish to sound vain,” she said, “but I think that I must be as beautiful as almost any woman upon Earth.”

“You doubtless are,” I said. “But are you as beautiful as a Gorean slave girl?”

“Surely, Master,” she said, “that would depend on the Gorean slave girl.”

“Do you think you are as beautiful as the general run of Gorean slave girls?” I asked.

She put down her head. “No, Master,” she said, “I do not. I did not know such women could exist, until I saw several in Cos, when I was free, and some on the wharves of Port Kar and Schendi, after I myself, sold in a market, became a slave.” She looked at me. “Sometimes,” she said, “it seems almost wrong that a woman should be so beautiful and desirable.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I do not know,” she smiled. “Perhaps it is because I am not so beautiful and desirable. Perhaps it is because men are so fond of them. Perhaps I am jealous of their beauty and desirability, and am envious because they, and not I, are found so attractive by men.”

“It is natural for the ugly to find an error in beauty,” I said.

“I am not ugly, am I?” she asked.

“No,” I said, “you are not. Indeed, you are almost beautiful.”

“I wonder if Gorean men, such as yourself,” she said, “understand how fortunate they are, that there should be such women on their world.”

“Are their not plenitudes of such women on your world,” I asked, “beautiful and desirable who, loving and helpless, beg to serve and please?”

“How you Gorean beasts,” she said, “take naively for granted the glorious riches at your disposal.”

I shrugged.

She looked at me. “How ir it,” she asked, “that on your world things are not as on my world?”

“Gorean men are not weaklings and fools,” I said.

She looked at me.

“They have not chosen to surrender the dominance which is the blood and backbone of their nature.”

She swallowed hard.

“They keep it,” I told her.

“Yes,” she said.

“Yes, what?” I asked.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“What of me?” asked Sasi. “Am I not beautiful? Are not my earrings lovely?”

“Yes,” I said, “you are beautiful, and your earrings, you little she-sleen, are marvelous upon you.” Sasi’s earrings, too, of gold, were the same as those of the blond-haired barbarian.

“Thank you, Master,” she said. Sasi was in a good mood. After I had had the blond this morning, early, upon returning from the tavern of Pembe, I had slept for several hours. But when I had awakened I had contented her slave appetites. We had then eaten, from foods which she had, during my rest, I having given her a few coins, purchased in Schendi. Some of this food I gave to the blond who, at that time, was still blindfolded. I thrust it, some bread and fruit, in her mouth, while she had knelt in the position of the pleasure slave. This is something done with a girl in her first feeding, or feedings, and may, upon occasion, be repeated. She is fed as an animal, and from the hand of the master, and while in the position of the pleasure slave. This helps to reinforce the centrality of her condition upon her. This helps her to understand what she is.

“At least,” smiled the blond, “I am almost beautiful.”

“Perhaps,” I said, “You will someday become beautiful.”

She looked at me.

“Women grow in beauty, and slavery,” I told her.

She looked in the mirror. “Beautiful even for a Gorean slave girl?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, “I think that someday you may find that you have become beautiful even for a Gorean slave girl.”

Her eyes were startled.

“Yes,” I said, “I think that possibly one day you will find that you have become exquisitely beautiful and desirable, and that your least movement, that of even a wrist or hand, or smallest expression, will be tormentingly attractive to a man. You may then tremble in terror, for you will have become a beautiful Gorean slave girl.”

“I am afraid,” she said.

“Of course,” I said.

“I am afraid to be beautiful,” she said.

“Naturally,” I said. “But I am afraid you will not be able to help yourself.”

“But as I become more beautiful, and desirable,” she said, “I would become more helpless, more a slave, more than ever at the mercy of these mighty men of Gor.”

“Yes,’ I said, “of course. You would be then only their helpless, beautiful slave.”

“How fearful,” she said.

I said nothing.

“Do you truly think I might become beautiful?” she asked. She lifted her hair over her head, straightening her body, and regarded herself in the mirror.

“Yes,” I said.

She then removed her hands from her hair. Behind her, her hair came, falling, to the sweetness of her shoulder blades. This was a bit short for the hair of a Gorean slave girl. Their hair, as is required by most masters, is usually somewhat long. There is more that can be done with long hair, both with respect to adding variety to the girl’s appearance and in the furs, than with short hair. Sometimes the girl is even tied in her own hair. Most importantly, perhaps, long hair is beautiful on a girl, or surely, at least, on many girls. Too, many masters enjoy unbinding it, before ordering a girl to the furs. Unbinding a girl’s hair, on Gor, incidentally, is culturally understood as being the act of one who owns her. A free woman, captured, whose hair her captor unbinds, usually the first time by the stroke of a knife, a precaution against poison pins and other devices, knows full well by this act that she will soon be made his slave. Many Gorean masters, incidentally, shape and trim the hair of their own girls. This is less expensive than having it done in a pen. Too, it is pleasant to cut the hair of a girl one owns. She generally kneels, a wrap of rep-cloth about her shoulders, while this is done. Beneath the wrap of rep-cloth, of course, she is naked and in the position of the pleasure slave. When one is through with the cutting it is then convenient to have her.

She looked at herself, kneeling, in the mirror.

“The earrings are beautiful,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said. She brushed her hair back with her two hands and, turning her head from side to side, her finger tips at her ears, again regarded herself.

She had the vanity of a lovely slave.

“What do you see in the mirror?” I asked.

“A slave girl,” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“A girl to be bought and sold, and abused for a master’s pleasure.

“Of course,” I said.

“I may not be beautiful,” she said, “but I am delicate and lovely, am I not?”

“Yes,” I said, “you are.”

“Could you truly bring yourself to put me beneath your heavy and uncompromising will?” she asked.

“Certainly,” I said.

“You could, and you will, won’t you?” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Could you whip me?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“It is a strange feeling, being a slave,” she said.

“You will grow used to it, Slave Girl,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

I went to her, behind her, standing there, before the mirror.

“What do you see?” I asked.

“A slave girl,” she said, “at the feet of her master.”

I put my hand in her hair, and turned her head, from side to side. Then I stopped.

“What do you see?” I asked.

“A slave girl, at the feet of her master,” she said, “his hand in her hair, commanding her, making her do what he wishes.”

I then, with my hand in her hair, turned her to the side and bent back her body, exposing, as she knelt there, helpless, the lovely slave bow of her beauty.

“What do you see?” I asked.

“A displayed slave,” she said. I did not release her. Suddenly she said, “No! Oh, no!”

I waited for a full moment, holding her helplessly there, letting her see well whatever it might be that she saw. And then I released her. She knelt there, terrified, shuddering, before the mirror.

“What did you see?” I asked.

“It is hard to explain,” she said, shuddering. “Suddenly, for a fearful moment, I saw myself as incredibly beautiful, as beautiful as I might someday be, but the beauty was not the cool and formal beauty of a free woman, something I can understand, but the hot, sensuous, helpless beauty of an owned slave, and I was the slave! And, too, for a moment I thought I understood how such a woman might look to a man. It was so frightening! How we must fear that they might simply seize us and tear us to pieces in their lust! Then suddenly I understood the brand and collar, the whip, the chain! Of course they would brand us, marking us as their own. Of course they would put us in steel collars, which we could not remove! Of course they could chain us to their walls and slave rings! Of course they would use the whip unhesitantly upon us if we were in the least displeasing!”

She knelt before the mirror, shuddering. “Perhaps now,” I said, “you understand, in some small particular, what it is for a woman to be attractive to a man.”

“They want us,” she whispered, frightened, “literally.”

“Yes,” I said.

“They want to own us,” she said, “own us!”

“Of course,” I said.

“I did not know such desire, such lust, could exist,” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“And I could be owned by such a man,” she said. Then she looked up at me, and then, suddenly, put down her head. “And I am owned by such a man,” she said, trembling.

“And what do you feel of this?” I asked.

“Nothing on my own world has prepared me for this, Master,” she said.

“There is a stain of blood on your thigh,” I said.

“My Master took my virginity,” she said.

“You are now a red-silk girl,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said, “I am now a red-silk girl.”

“Whose red-silk girl?” I asked.

“Your red-silk girl, Master,” she said.

I walked back to the center of the room and turned, facing her. She knelt before the mirror.

“Stand up,” I told her. She did so.

“Turn and approach me,” I said. “But I am naked,” she said.

“Do you wish for me to repeat a command?” I asked.

She turned white. “No, Master,” she said. She then approached me, and stood quite closely before me. She had not been taught to stand this closely before me. She knew, instinctively, in the circumstances, where she would stand. This pleased me for it indicated, whether she knew it or not, that she was a natural slave. This distance, of course, was not cultural for her. She came from a culture which requires a significant distance, usually a yard or more, between male speakers and as much, or more, between speakers of the opposite sex. Yet she knew readily, or instinctively, or intuitively, or naturally, or somehow, that she should be, in these circumstances, standing as she was before me, at a distance where I might, if I wished, without inconvenience, simply take her in my arms.

She looked up at me. “Master?” she asked.

The Gorean slave girl, incidentally, will space herself from her master quite differently in different situations. For example, if she is somewhat farther away, it is easier for her to display herself in all her beauty; if she wishes to wheedle for his caress she may approach quite closely; if she is receiving instructions she may kneel a few feet away; if she is begging to serve his pleasure she may kneel at his feet, perhaps kissing them, and holding his ankles; obviously, too, a girl who fears she is to be disciplined will commonly hang back; sometimes, too, a girl will fear to approach too closely until the master, by an expression or small sign, indicates that she is not in obvious disfavor and may do so.

I took the head of the blond-haired barbarian in my hands and looked at her. She lowered her eyes. How magnificent it is to own a woman! What can compare with it?

I turned her head, from side to side. How exciting were the earrings, penetrating the soft flesh of her ear lobes. I looked at the tiny wires vanishing in the minute punctures and then emerging, looping her ears, as though in a slave bond, making them the mounting places from which, thus fastened upon her, by my will, dangled two golden rings, barbaric ornaments enhancing the beauty of a slave. I smiled to myself. On Earth I had thought little of earrings. Yet now, in the Gorean setting, how exquisite and exciting they suddenly seemed. Perhaps then, for the first time, I truly began to sense how the Gorean views such things. Surely these things are symbolic as well as beautiful. The girl’s lovely ears have been literally pierced; the penetrability of her sweet flesh is thus brazenly advertised upon her very body, a proclamation of her ready vulnerability, in incitement to male rapine. And when she wears the earrings, he can see the metal disappearing in the softness of her ear, literally fixed within it. Her flesh is doubly penetrated, her softness about the intruding metal, before his very eyes. The wire loop, too, or rod, when it emerges from the ear and, by one device or another, fastens the ring upon her, may suggest her bondage. Too, if the ring itself is closed, perhaps it suggests her susceptibility to the locked shackle, say, a wrist ring or slave bracelet; would there not, in the two rings, be one, so to speak, for each wrist? It is little wonder that Gorean free women never pierce their ears; it is little wonder that, in the beginning, it was only the lowest and most exciting of pleasure slaves who had their ears pierced; now, however, it is not uncommon on Gor for almost any pleasure slave to have her ears pierced; the custom of piercing the ears of a slave has now become relatively widespread: it has been done in Turia, of course, for generations. Too, of course, the ring is an obvious ornament. The girl placed in it has thus been ornamented. Ornamentation is not inappropriate in a slave. Lastly, the ring is beautiful. Thus it makes the slave more beautiful.

I held her head still, and lifted it, that it might face me. She opened her eyes, looking up at me. “Master?” she asked.

I looked down at her.

“You are a legal slave,” I told her.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“But what you do not yet know,” I said, “is that you are also a true slave, a natural slave.”

“I come from a world,” she said, “where women are not slaves.”

“Is that the world called ‘Earth’?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“I have heard,” I said, “that on that world women are piteous slaves, only they lack masters.”

“That lack,” she said, “in my case, on this world, will surely be made up.”

“Yes,” I said.

I released her head and held her, then, by the upper arms.

“I will obey you,” she said, softly. “I will do anything, and everything, that you might want.”

“That is known to me,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said, tossing her head, a bit irritably.

“Would you like to be made more beautiful?” I asked.

“Of course,” she said, lightly, “if it is my master’s wish.”

I then released her, and she stood there.

I went to the side of the room and picked up my sea bag. I threw it to the center of the room. She looked down at it, puzzled. It was of heavy blue material, canvas, and tied with a white rope.

“Lie down upon it,” I told her, “on your back, your head to the floor.”

She did so.

“No, please,” she said, “not like this.” It is a common position for a disciplinary slave rape. In it the woman feels very vulnerable, very helpless.

I then took her.

“No,” she wept, in English, “have you no respect for my feelings? Am I nothing to you?”

I stood up. I had, by intent, given her no time to respond, other than as a brutalized slave, no time to feel, other than as a girl unilaterally subjected to her master’s pleasure. She looked up at me, miserably.

“Crawl now to the mirror,” I told her, “on your hands and knees, and regard yourself.”

Miserable, she did so, her hair falling before her face, trembling, her sweet breasts pendant. She lifted her head, and gasped, looking in the mirror,

“Do you see?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, and then wept, her head down.

“Lift your head again,” I said, “and again look.”

She did so.

“Do you see?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, weeping, “the slave is more beautiful than before.” She then put down her head again, crying.

“Crawl now to the straw, by the slave ring,” I told her. “Lie down there, drawing your legs up.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

I then went to her, with a blanket, and threw it over her, but not yet covering her head.

She looked up at me, so vulnerable and delicate, so helpless and frightened. “I am more beautiful now,” she said. “But how? How could it be?”

“It is the result of an inward change in you,” I said, “outwardly manifested in expression and bodily mien.”

“But what?” she asked.

“Speak your feelings,” I told her.

“Never before,” she said, “did I feel so helplessly owned.”

“That has something to do with it,” I told her.

“You subjected me so casually, so forcibly, to your will,” she said.

“That, too, has something to do with it,” I told her.

“You are my Master, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“You can do with me whatever you want, can’t you?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“And you will, won’t you?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“I love being owned,” she said, suddenly.

“Of course,” I said, “you are a woman.”

“If a woman loves being owned,” she said, “must she not be a natural slave?”

“Answer your own question,” I told her. “You are the woman.”

“I dare not answer it,” she whispered.

“Do so,” I told her.

“Yes,” she whispered, frightened, “she must be a natural slave.”

“And you are a woman,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Draw your conclusion,” I told her, “out loud.”

“I am a natural slave, Master,” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

She looked up at me. “Never, never did I think I would admit that in my life,” she said.

“It takes great courage,” I told her.

There were tears in her eyes.

“But, as yet,” I said, “it is largely only an intellectual recognition on your part. It is not yet internalized, not yet a part of the totality of your being and responses.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Nonetheless, the intellectual recognition, abstract and superficial as it is, is a useful first step in the transformation of your consciousness, and the freeing of your deepest self, with her profundities of emotions and needs.”

“My deepest self is feminine,” she said.

“Yes,” I said, “it is only your present consciousness which has been to some extent masculinized and, to a larger extent, neuterized. Beneath the patterns, the trainings, the roles, lies the woman. It is she whom we must seek. It is she whom we must free.”

“I am afraid to be feminine,” she said.

“You will be punished for femininity on this world,” I told her, “only by free women.”

“Free!” she laughed, miserably.

“They think themselves free,” I said

“Could I dare to be a woman on this world?” she asked.

“Yes,” I told her.

“But what if I wish to crawl to a handsome man, and beg to obey him?” she asked.

“On this world,” I told her, “you may do so.”

“But would he not then, as a gentleman, scandalized, lift me hastily to my feet, embarrassed, implicitly belittling me, and encouraging me to the pursuit of masculine virtues?”

“Would you fear that?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Is that why you would hesitate to crawl to a man?” I asked.

“Of course,” she said.

“On this world, as a slave,” I said, “you need have no fear.”

“What would he do on this world?” she asked.

“Perhaps instruct you in the proper way to crawl to his feet,” I said.

“Oh,” she said.

“If you did not do so beautifully enough,” I said, “he might whip you.”

“Whip me?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

She looked at me.

“Gorean men are not easy to please, Slave,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Masculinity and femininity are complementary properties,” I told her. “If a man wishes a woman to be more feminine, he must be more masculine. If a woman wishes a man to be more masculine, she must be more feminine.”

“I am thinking of the far world from which I came, Master,” she said. “I think there may be a fearful corollary to what you have said. Perhaps if a man fears a woman he will want her to be more like a man, and if a woman fears a man she will want him to be more like a woman.”

“Perhaps,” I said. “It may depend on the individuals. I would not know.”

“I am more beautiful now,” she said. “I saw it in the mirror.”

“Yes,” I said.

“I still do not understand, clearly,” she said, “how it could be.”

“You were taught,” I said, “that you were owned, and that you were subject, totally, to the male will.”

“Yes, Master,” she whispered.

“You had begun to learn just a little then, you see,” I said, “that you, a lovely woman, were truly under male domination.”

“And that made me more beautiful?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“How?” she asked.

“By releasing, in response, more of your femininity,” I said.

She looked up at me, frightened.

“It is a natural thing,” I said. “As a woman becomes more feminine, she becomes more beautiful.”

“I am afraid to be feminine, and beautiful,” she said.

“As well you might be, on this world, as a slave,” I said, “knowing what it will mean for you, how it will excite the lust of masters and make men mad to own you.”

“No,” she said. “That is not it. It is rather that I fear that self. I fear it might be truly me.”

“Have you never wondered,” I asked, “what it might be like, men with whips standing near you, to dance naked in the firelight, your feet striking in the sand, before warriors?”

“Yes,” she said. “I have wondered about that.”

“You see,” I said, “that self you fear is truly you.”

“Give me a choice,” she begged.

“You will be given no choice,” I told her. “Your femininity will be forced to grow, nurtured, if necessary, by the whip.”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Yes, what?” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said. “Master!” she protested, but I lifted the dark blanket and threw it over her head, so that she was completely covered. She could not then speak, or rise up, for the blanket was over her.

I got to my feet. From the sea bag I drew forth the notes for fortunes, made out to Shaba, to be drawn on various of the banks of Schendi, and the false ring, that which he was supposed to carry to the Sardar in place of the true ring. For the notes I, as a putative agent of Kurii, was to receive the true ring, the Tahari ring, which I would then return to Port Kar, that Samos might arrange for its delivery to the Sardar. I did not think I would kill Shaba. If he should actually dare to deliver the false ring to the Sardar he would doubtless there fall into the power of the Priest-Kings. They would then deal with him as they saw fit. If he did not choose to deliver the false ring to the Sardar I might then, at a later date, hunt him down, to kill him. My first priority was surely to return the Tahari ring to Samos as swiftly and safely as possible.

It was now near the eighteenth Ahn.

“Master,” said Sasi. “I fear your eyes.”

“I must leave now,” I told her.

“I fear your eyes,” she said, “how you look at me. Will you return to us?”

“I will try,” I told her.

“I see by your eyes,” she said, “that you fear you will not return to us.”

“It is a hard business on which I embark,” I told her. “In the sea bag,” I said, “are various things. The key to your collar is there, for example. Too, there are coins. They should, in the event that I do not return, or do not soon return, keep you and the barbarian alive for a long time.”

“Yes, Master,” she said. Then she looked at me, wonderingly. “You would let me put my hand on the key to my own collar?” she asked.

“Schendi may not be an easy place in which to survive,” I told her. “You may find it convenient, in some circumstances, to remove your collar.”

“Are you freeing me?’ she asked. It did not even occur to Sasi that anyone might consider freeing the blond-haired barbarian. She, so luscious, and becoming so beautiful, could obviously, on a world such as Gor, be only slave meat.

I looked at Sasi. Swiftly she knelt. “Forgive me, my Master,” she said. “Please do not slay me.”

“No,” I said. “But Schendi may not be an easy place in which to survive. You may find it convenient, in some circumstances, to remove your collar.”

“I am branded,” she said. “I would fear to masquerade as a free woman.”

“I would not advise that,” I said. “You might be fed to tharlarion. But, still, it might be better for you not to be recognized as the girl of Tarl of Teletus.”

“Who are you, truly, Master?” she asked.

“Look to the beam above your head, and behind you,” I said. “What dangles there, which might be conveniently lowered?”

“A whipping ring,” she said.

“What hangs on the wall behind you, to your left?” I asked.

“A slave whip,” she said.

“Do you again request to know my true identity?” I asked.

“No, Master,” she said.

“You are an agile, clever slave, Sasi,” I said, “as quick-witted as you are curvacious. You have lived as a she-urt on the wharves of Port Kar. I have little fear for you.” I glanced at the barbarian, beneath the blanket.

“Do not fear, Master,” said Sasi. “I will teach her to hide, and eat garbage and be pleasing to paga attendants.”

“I must go now,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“In time,” I said, “if I do not return, you will both presumably be caught and put up for public auction.”

“Yes, Master,” she said. I turned to leave.

“Must you leave this moment?” she asked. I turned about, and looked at her.

“I may never see you again,” she said.

I shrugged.

“I do not want to be free,” she said.

“Do not fear,” I told her, “you will not be.”

“Please, my Master,” she said. “Make now to me a gentle love.”

I went to Sasi, and crouched down, and took her in my arms.

15. Msaliti And I Are Tricked By Shaba; What Occurred Outside The Headquarters Of Msaliti And Shaba

“You are late,” said Msaliti.

“I have brought the notes,” I told him.

“It is past the nineteenth Ahn,” he said.

“I was detained,” I said.

“Have you brought the notes,” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, “I have brought them.” He was clearly nervous.

He admitted me, from the street to the small, dingy anteroom, that leading to the larger room in which we had, the preceding day, discussed our business.

“Is Shaba here?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“Then what is so important about me being late?” I asked.

“Give me the notes,” he said. “Give me the ring.”

“No,” I said. I entered the larger room, that in which we had conferred on matters of importance yesterday.

“Where are the askaris?” I asked. They were not in the room.

“They are elsewhere,” said he.

“The room was more attractive yesterday,” I said, “when it contained the two female slaves.”

Msaliti and I sat down, cross-legged, near the low table.

“Yesterday evening,” I said, “after we parted, I paid a visit to the tavern of Pembe. I made use there of the slave who had once been Evelyn Ellis. She is not bad in a collar.”

“She is frigid,” said Msaliti.

“Nonsense,” I said. “The poor girl is paga hot.”

“I find that surprising,” said he.

“She cannot now help herself,” I said.

“Pathetic thing,” he said.

“It required only a bit of chaining and teaching her, so to speak, to kiss the whip.”

“Excellent,” said Msaliti.

“You seem distracted,” I said.

“It is nothing,” he said.

My thoughts strayed to the blond-haired barbarian and Sasi.

“Keep her under the blanket for an Ahn after I have left,” I had told Sasi. “You may then release her, if you wish. If you do not wish to do so, of course, then leave her there as long as you please.”

“Yes, Master,” said Sasi.

“She is an ignorant girl, and a natural slave,” I said, “so keep her under strict discipline.”

“Yes, Master,” said Sasi.

“Do not hesitate to use the whip on her,” I said.

“No, Master,” said Sasi.

“Remember that she is a natural slave,” I told Sasi.

“We are all natural slaves, Master,” she said. “But have no fear. I will keep her under a very strict discipline.”

“As is fitting for any slave,” I said.

“Yes, Master,” smiled Sasi.

I had then kissed her and left.

“Why do you not give me the notes and the ring?” asked Msaliti.

“My orders,” I said, “are to exchange them with Shaba for the authentic shield ring.”

“To whom will you return the ring?” he asked.

“To Belisarius, in Cos,” I said.

“Do you know his house?” asked Msaliti.

“Certainly not,” I said. “I will be contacted.”

“Where will the contact be made?” asked Msaliti, regarding me narrowly.

“At the Chatka and Curla,” I said, “in Cos.”

“Who is Master of the Chatka and Curla?” asked Msaliti.

“Aurelion of Cos,” I said. “Of course.”

“Yes,” said Msaliti.

“Have no fear,” I said, “I will do my best to see that the ring reaches the proper authorities.”

Msaliti nodded. I smiled.

“Why would you wish the ring?” I asked.

“To assure that it reaches the beasts,” he said. “They would not be pleased, should it be again lost.”

“Your concern for their cause is commendable,” I said.

“I have no wish to be torn to pieces,” he said.

“That is understandable,” I said. “Neither would I cheerfully look forward to such a termination.”

“You seem in a good mood,” he said.

“Surely you, too, should be in a pleasant frame of mind,” I said. “Is our business not nearly completed?”

“That is my hope,” said Msaliti.

“Do you truly fear the beasts so?” I asked.

“Our business has been delayed,” he said. “It is my fear that the beasts themselves will come for the ring.”

“But I am to pick up the ring,” I said.

“I do not even know you,” said Msaliti.

“I do not know you either, really,” I said.

“We were looking for the blond girl,” he said.

“She was delayed,” I said. “She was enslaved,” I pointed out, cheerfully.

“A pity,” he said.

“Nonsense,” I said. “Slavery is good for a woman.”

“I do not trust Shaba,” he said.

“I am sure he does not trust us either,” I said. “At least we trust each other.”

Msaliti drummed his fingers on the low table.

“Are you sure we are alone?” I asked.

“Of course,” said Msaliti. “None have entered. Before I came the askaris, in the anteroom, guarded the door.”

“They neglected, I see,” I said, “to replace the peas on their threads in this room,, those dislodged by my peregrination of yesterday evening on the roof.”

“Of course they replaced them,” said Msaliti.

“I would not he too sure then,” I said, “that we are alone.”

Msaliti looked quickly upward. Several of the strings, with the tiny peas attached, dangled downward.

“The grille, too, I note,” I said, “has been removed.”

“You are observant,” said Shaba.

Msaliti staggered to his feet. stumbling backward.

Across the table from us, in his customary place, sat Shaba. There had been a momentary blurring in the area, a sort of twisting swirl of light, something like a whirlpool of light, and then, calmly, he had sat before us.

“I did not think you would be late,” I said. “You seemed a punctual fellow.”

“It is you who were late,” he said.

“Yes,” I said, “I am sorry about that I was detained.”

“Was she pretty?” asked Shaba.

I nodded. “Yes,” I said.

“Matters of great moment are afoot here,” said Msaliti. “With your permission, that of both of you, if you please, I would like to attend to them.”

“It is my understanding,” said Shaba to me, “that you have brought the notes and the false ring.”

“Yes,” I said. I put the notes on the table.

“Where is the false ring?” asked Msaliti.

“I have it,” I told him.

Shaba looked at the notes, carefully. He did not hurry. “These notes seem to be in order,” he said.

“May I see them?” asked Msaliti.

Shaba handed him the notes. “You do not trust our broad-shouldered courier?” he asked.

“I trust as few people as possible,” said Msaliti. He looked at the notes, very closely. Then he handed them back to Shaba. “I know the seals and signatures,” he said. “They may truly be drawn on the banks indicated.”

“There are twenty thousand tarns of gold there,” I said.

“Cash them before you carry the false ring to the Sardar,” said Msaliti. “It is in our interest, in these circumstances, to bargain in good faith.”

“But what if I do not carry the false ring to the Sardar?” asked Shaba.

“I would do so if I were you,” said Msaliti.

“I see,” said Shaba.

“The beasts,” he said, “do not deal lightly with traitors.”

“That is understandable,” said Shaba.

“This business could be conducted in the morning,” I said, “at the banks in question. You might then verify the notes and withdraw or redeposit the gold as you please.”

“Kunguni the beggar,” said Msaliti, “cannot well enter the edifices on Schendi’s Street of Coins.”

“Then enter as Msaliti,” I said.

Msaliti laughed. “Do not speak foolishly,” he said.

I did not understand his answer.

“I am satisfied to do the business tonight,” said Shaba. “If the notes are not genuine, obviously I would not carry the ring to the Sardar.”

“Remember,” said Msaliti, “do not depress the switch on the false ring. It must be depressed only in the Sardar.”

The hair on the back of my neck rose. I then realized that what I had suspected must be true, that the false ring was of great danger.

Shaba put the notes within his robes. He then, from about his neck, removed a long, light chain. It had hung hitherto within the robes, concealed. He opened the chain.

I saw the ring on the chain.

My heart was pounding.

He extended his hand. “May I have the false ring?” he asked.

“I think there is little point in carrying the false ring to the Sardar,” I said. “The delay has surely been such as to provoke suspicion.” This was true. Actually I was not eager, for a personal reason, for Shaba to deliver the ring. I respected what he had done in the exploration of Gor. I knew him to be a man of intelligence and courage. He was a traitor, yes, but there was something about him, indefinable, which I found to my liking. I did not particularly wish to see him subjected to whatever Priest-Kings, or their human allies, might deem fit as the fate of a traitor. I did not think that if they set their minds to it they would be less ingenious than Kurii. Perhaps it would be better if I slew him. I would do so swiftly, mercifully.

“The ring, please,” said Shaba.

“Give him the ring,” said Msaliti.

I handed Shaba the false ring and he slipped it on the chain.

“Were there not eleven strings dangling from the ceiling?” he asked.

Msaliti quickly turned and looked. “I do not know,” he said. “Are there more now?”

I had not taken my eyes from Shaba. “There were twelve” I said.

“There are twelve now,” said Msaliti, counting.

“Then there are the same number now as before,” said Shaba.

“Yes,” I said, regarding him evenly.

“I must commend you,” said Shaba. “You have powers of observation worthy of a scribe—or of a warrior.”

He turned the chain and slipped a ring from it, handing it to me.

Geographers and cartographers, of course, are members of the Scribes.

I allowed for the turning of the chain. I received in my hand the ring which had originally hung on the chain.

Shaba, the false ring on the chain, again fastened the chain behind his neck.

He stood up, and so, too, did Msaliti and myself. “I am leaving Schendi tonight,” said Shaba.

“I, too,” said Msaliti. “I have lingered too long here.”

“It would not be well for you to be too much missed,” smiled Shaba.

“No,” said Msaliti. I did not understand their exchange.

“I wish you well, my colleagues in treachery,” said Shaba.

“Farewell,” said we to him. He then, bowing, took his leave.

“Give me now the ring,” said Msaliti.

“I will keep it,” I said.

“Give it to me,” said Msaliti, not pleasantly.

“No,” I said. I then looked at the ring. I turned it in my hand. I wished to see the minute scratch which would, for me, identify the Tahari ring. I turned the ring feverishly. My hand shook. “Stop Shaba!” I said. “This is not the ring!”

“He is gone,” said Msaliti. “That is the ring from the chain on his neck, where he carried the shield ring.”

“It is not the shield ring,” I said, miserably.

I had been outwitted. Shaba was a brilliant man. He had established for us, earlier, yesterday evening, that the ring on the chain had been the shield ring. Tonight, however, he had substituted a new ring. I might have discerned this had he not appeared to be intent on misdirecting our attention, calling it to the simple warning system, that of the threads and peas, in the ceiling, presumably to effect switch of the rings while our attention was diverted. I had not permitted my attention, however, to be diverted. Too, when he had turned the chain, I had made certain that the ring which he had surrendered to me had been the ring originally on the chain. The exchange of rings, of course, had actually taken place earlier, in privacy. The ring he had apparently intended to exchange for the true ring would have been the false ring, returning it to us as the true ring. I had not permitted this. My smugness at preventing this exchange had blinded me, foolishly, to the possibility that the ring on the chain this evening might not have been the true ring to begin with.

Msaliti looked sick. I gave him the ring.

Shaba now had both the true ring, the Tahari ring, and the false ring, that which Kurii had intended to be delivered to the Sardar in lieu of the true ring.

“How do you know it is not the true ring?” asked Msaliti.

“Surely you have been taught to identify the true ring?” I asked.

I thought swiftly.

“No,” said Msaliti.

The copy of the true ring was well done. At the edge of the silver plate, that held in the ring’s bezel, there was indeed a minute scratch. It was similar to, but it was not the identical marring which I recalled from the Tahari. The jeweler who had duplicated the ring for Shaba had failed slightly in that particular. There was a slight difference in the depth of the scratches, and one small difference in the angulation.

“This resembles the true ring closely,” I told Msaliti. “It is large, and of gold, and, in its bezel, has a rectangular silver plate. On the back of the ring, when you turn it, there is a circular, depressible switch.”

“Yes, yes,” said Msaliti.

“But look here,” I said. “See this scratch?”

“Yes,” he said.

“The true ring, according to my information, possesses no such identifying marks,” I said. “It is supposedly perfect in its appearance. Had it been thusly marred I would have been informed of this. Such a sign would make identification simple.”

“You are a fool,” said Msaliti. “Doubtless Shaba scratched it.”

“Would you yourself treat so valuable an object with harshness?” I asked.

Msaliti turned the ring about. He looked at me. Then he depressed the switch. Nothing happened. He howled with rage, the ring clutched in his fist.

“You were tricked!” he cried.

“We have been tricked,” I corrected him.

“Shaba then has the perfect ring,” he said.

“True,” I said. Shaba had the perfect ring, which was the false ring. He also had the true Tahari ring, which the ring in Msaliti’s hand so ingeniously resembled.

“You must put men upon Schendi’s Street of Coins,” I said. “Shaba must not be permitted to cash the notes he carries.”

“Surely he must realize that could be done,” said Msaliti. “He is not mad. How does he expect to get his gold?”

“He is quite intelligent, even brilliant,” I mused. “Doubtless he has anticipated such a move. Yet it must be made.”

“It will be made,” said Msaliti, angrily.

“How then. I wonder,” said I, “does he intend to obtain the gold?”

Msaliti looked at me, in fury.

“He must have a plan,” I said.

“I am leaving,” said Msaliti.

“Surely you will wish to don your disguise,” I said.

“I do not need it longer,” he said.

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I must move swiftly,” he said. “There are many instructions to be issued. There must be an apprehension of Shaba.”

“How may I be of assistance?” I asked.

“I will handle matters from here on out,” he said. “Do not trouble yourself about them.”

He threw a brocaded aba about his shoulders and, angrily, strode from the room.

“‘Wait!” I called.

He had left the room.

Angrily I followed him. As soon as I had passed through the anteroom and stepped across the threshold, to the street outside, I felt my arms pinioned behind me. A dozen or more men were there waiting, beside the building, on either side of the door. Some seven or eight were askaris, including the two huge fellows whom I had seen yesterday, black giants in skins and feathers, with golden armlets. Another five or six were guardsmen of Schendi. There was also an officer there of the merchant council of Schendi.

“Is this he?” asked the officer of the merchant council.

“That is he,” said Msaliti turning about. “He claims to be Tarl of Teletus but he will be unable to substantiate that identity.”

“What is going on here?” I shouted. I struggled, trying to free myself of the four men who held me. Then I felt two daggers pressed through the fabric of my tunic.

I ceased struggling, feeling the points in my flesh. Both could be driven home before I could hurl my captors from me.

My hands were taken behind me and tied.

“These men were waiting for me,” I said to Msaliti.

“Of course,” said be.

“I see that you were determined, in any event,” I said, “to be the one who would return the ring to our superiors.”

“Of course,” said Msaliti. “I will then stand higher in their favor.”

“But what of me?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Who can tell what may have happened to you?” he asked.

“You are an officer of Schendi,” I said to the man in charge of the guardsmen. “I demand to be released.”

“Here is the paper,” said Msaliti to the officer.

The officer took the paper and looked it over. Then he looked at me. “You are the one who calls himself Tarl of Teletus?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

The officer placed the paper inside his robes. “There is no place in Schendi,” he said, “for criminal vagabonds.”

“Look in my wallet,” I said. “You will see that I am not a vagabond.”

The wallet was cut from my belt. The officer shook out gold pieces and silver tarsks into his hand.

“You see?” I asked.

“He arrived in Schendi,” said Msaliti, “in the garb of a metal worker. You see him now in the garb of a leather worker.” Msaliti smiled. “What metal worker or leather worker,” he asked, “carries such funds?”

“He is obviously a thief, doubtless a fugitive,” said the officer.

“The work levy imposed on Schendi is due to leave in the morning,” said Msaliti. “Perhaps this fellow could take the place of a good citizen of Schendi in that levy?”

“Would you find that acceptable?” asked the officer.

Msaliti looked at me. “Yes,” he said.

“Splendid,” said the officer. “Put ropes on the sleen’s neck.”

Two leash ropes were knotted on my neck.

“This is not justice,” I said.

“These are hard times,” said the officer. “And Schendi fights for her life.”

He then lifted his hand to Msaliti and withdrew, taking his, guardsmen with him,

“Where am I to be taken?” I asked Msaliti.

“To the interior,” he said.

“You had the cooperation of the council of Schendi,” I said. “Someone in a high place must have ordered this.”

“Yes,” said Msaliti.

“Who?” I asked.

“I,” said Msaliti. I looked at him, puzzled.

“Surely you know who I am?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

“I am Msaliti,” he said.

“And he?” I asked. “Who might he be?”

“Why, I,” smiled Msaliti.

“And you?” I asked.

“I thought it was known to all,” he said. “I am the high wazir of Bila Huruma.”

16. Kisu

“Get back!” I shouted, striking at it with the shovel. The edge of the shovel struck, cutting, at the side of its snout. It hissed. The noise is incredibly loud, or seems so, when one is close to it. I saw the pointed tongue. The jaws distended, more than a yard in height, with the rows of backward-leaning fangs.

I had managed to get my foot on the lower jaw and, with the shovel, pry up the jaw, releasing the hold on the lacerated leg of Ayari, who, bleeding, scrambled back. I had felt the draw of his chain against my own collar.

I thrust the shovel out again, against the upper teeth, thrusting back, shouting.

Other men, too, to the right of Ayari and to my left, screamed, and struck at it with their shovels.

Eyes blazing it backed away, twisting, small legs, with the stubby, clawed feet, stabbing at the water. Its gigantic tail thrashed, striking a man, hurling him back a dozen feet. The water was to my thighs. I pushed back again, with the shovel. The transparent eyelids on the beast, under the scaly eyelids, closed and opened. It hissed more, its tongue sopping at the blood of Ayari in its mouth.

“Back!” cried the askari, in the inland language, with his torch, thrusting it into the beast’s mouth.

It roared with pain. Then, thrashing, squirming, hissing, it backed off in the shallow water. I saw its eyes and snout, nostrils open, almost level with the water.

“Away! Away!” shouted the askari, in the inland speech, brandishing his torch. Another askari, at his side, armed with a lance, gripping it with two hands, shouted, too, ready to support his fellow.

Interestingly the incident did not much affect the work in the area. From where I stood I could see hundreds of men, workmen and askaris, and many rafts, some weighted with supplies, others with logs and tools, some with mud and earth we had dug out of the swampy terrain, mud and earth which would be used to bank the flanking barricades, that the area in which we worked might be drained, that a proper channel might later be excavated.

“Are you all right?” I asked Ayari.

He wiped the flies away from his head. “I think I am sick.” he said.

There was blood in the water about his leg.

“Return to work,” said the askari with the torch, wading near us.

“You have had a narrow escape,” I told Ayari.

He threw up into the water.

“Can you work?” asked the askari.

Ayari’s leg seemed to buckle under him. He half fell in the water. “I cannot stand,” he said.

I supported him.

“It is well that I am on the rogues’ chain,” grinned Ayari.

“Never before have I been so pleased with my profession,” said he. “Had I not been chained, doubtless I would have been pulled away.”

“That is quite possible,” I told him.

Ayari was of Schendi, a thief. He had been put on the work levy for the canal of Bila Huruma. Schendi was using the misfortune of the levies in order, as much as possible, to rid itself of its less desirable citizens. I supposed she could scarcely be blamed. Ayari, of Schendi, of course, spoke Gorean. Happily, for me, he could also speak the tongue of the court of Bila Huruma. His father had, many years ago, fled from an inland village, that of Nyuki, noted for its honey, on the northern shore of lake Ushindi. The incident had had to do with the theft of several melons from the chief’s patch. His father had returned some five years later to purchase his mother. They had then lived in Schendi. The inland speech hail been spoken in the home. It is estimated that some five to eight percent of the people of Schendi are familiar with the inland speech.

“Can you work?” asked the askari of Ayari.

Such simple phrases I could now make out, thanks to Ayari’s tutoring.

More impressive to me was Ayari’s capacity to read the drums, though, I am told, this is not difficult for anyone who can speak the inland speech fluently. Analogues to the major vowel sounds of the inland speech are found in certain of the drum notes, which differ, depending on where the hollowed, grooved log, is struck. The rhythm of the drum message, of course, is the rhythm of the inland speech. Thus, on the drum it is possible to duplicate, in effect, the vowels and intonation contours of inland sentences. When one adds to this certain additional drum signals corresponding, in effect, to keys to the message or to certain consonantal ciphers, one has, in effect, a direct, effective, ingenious device at one’s disposal. given the drum relays, for long-distance communication. A message may be conveyed by means of drum stations for hundreds of pasangs in less than an Ahn. Needless to say Bila Huruma had adopted and improved this device and it had played, and continued to play, its role in the effectiveness of his military machine and in the efficiency of the administration of his ubarate. As a communication device it was clearly superior to the smoke and beacon ciphers of the north. There was, as far as I knew, nothing on Gor to compare with it except, of course; the advanced technological equipment at the disposal of the Priest-Kings and Kurii, equipment of a sort generally forbidden, in the weapons and communication laws, to most Gorean humans. I found it astonishing, and I think most Goreans would have, even those of Schendi, that a ubarate of the size and sophistication of that of Bali Huruma could exist in the equatorial interior. One of the most amazing evidences of its scope and ambition was the very project in which I was now unwillingly engaged, the visionary attempt to join Lakes Ushindi and Ngao, separated by more than four hundred pasangs, by a great canal, a canal that would, via Lake Ushindi and the Nyoka and Kamba rivers, then link the mysterious Ua river, it flowing into Lake Ngao, to gleaming Thassa, the sea, a linkage that would, given the Ua, open up to the civilized world the riches of the interior, riches that must then pass through the ubarate of Bila Huruma.

“Can you work?” repeated the askari to Ayari.

“No,” said Ayari.

“Then I must have you killed,” said the askari.

“I have made a speedy recovery,” said Ayari.

“Good,” said the askari and waded away, holding his torch above the water, The other askari, he with the tharlarion lance, accompanied him.

In a few moments the mud raft, of logs bound together with lianas, to be loaded with excavated mud, was again poled to our vicinity.

“Can you dig?” I asked Ayari.

“No,” he said.

“I will dig for you,” I said.

“You would, wouldn’t you?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“I will dig for myself,” he said.

“How is your leg?” I asked.

“It is still there,” he said.

Most of the workers on the canal were not chained. Most were impressed free men.

Waters from the overflow of Lake Ngao entered the great marsh between Ngao and Ushindi, and, thence, made their ways to Ushindi, which, by means of the Kamba and Nyoka, drained to gleaming Thassa, the sea. The intent of the engineers of Bila Huruma was to set in place two parallel walls, low walls, some five or six feet high, placed about two hundred yards apart. The area between these walls, the marsh waters diverted on either side, was then to be drained and readied for the digging of the main channel. In this work draft tharlarion and great scoops, brought from the north, as well as gigantic work crews, would be used. In the event that the central channel, when completed, would not prove sufficient to handle the overflow of Ngao, as seemed likely, conducting it geometrically to Ushindi, side channels were contemplated. The eventual intent of Bila Huruma was not only to open the rain forests of the deep interior, and whatever might lie within the system of the Ua and her tributaries, to commercial exploitation and military expansion, but to drain the marshes between the two mighty lakes, Ushindi and Ngao, that that land, then reclaimed, thousands of square pasangs, might eventually be made available for agriculture. It was the intent of Bila Huruma not only to consolidate a ubarate but found a civilization.

I slapped at insects.

“Work,” said an askari, wading by.

I shoveled another load of mud from the marsh and flung it on the mud raft.

“Work, work,” said the askari, encouraging others along the chain.

I looked about myself, at the hundreds of men I could see from where I stood. “This is an impressive project,” I said to Ayari.

“Doubtless we can be pleased that we are a humble part of so mighty an undertaking,” he mused.

“I suppose so,” I said.

“On the other hand,” said Ayari, “I would be content to surrender my part in this noble endeavor to others more worthy than myself.”

“I, too,” I admitted.

“Dig,” said an askari.

We continued to shovel mud onto the mud raft.

“Our only hope,” said a man to my left, also, like Ayari, from Schendi, “are the hostile tribes.”

“That is some hope,” said Ayari. “If it were not for the askaris they would fall upon us with their slaughtering knives.”

“Surely there is resistance to the canal,” I said.

“There are the villages of the Ngao region, on the northern shore,” said Ayari. “There is trouble there.”

“That is the most organized resistance,” said the man on my left.

“The canal is expensive,” I said. “It must constitute a financial strain on the coffers of the ubarate of Bila Huruma. This must generate discontent in his court. The work levies, too, must be resented by the villages.”

“Those of Schendi, too,” said Ayari, “are not too pleased with the project.”

“They fear Bila Huruma,” I said.

“Yes,” said Ayari.

“There are mixed feelings in Schendi,” said the man to my left. “She would stand to profit if the canal were completed.”

“That is true,” said Ayari.

There was shouting from ahead. Askaris rushed forward.

“Lift me up,” said Ayari. He was not large.

I lifted him to my shoulders.

“What is it?” asked the man to my left.

“It is nothing,” said Ayari. “It is only a raiding party of three or four men. They threw their spears and then fled. The askaris are pursuing them.”

I lowered Ayari again to the water.

“Was anyone killed?” asked the man to my left.

“No,” said Ayari. “The workers saw them and withdrew.”

“Last night,” said the man, “ten men were killed.” He looked at us. “And none were chained,” he said.

“It is true,” said Ayari, “that we would be much at the mercy of such raiders.”

“It is unlikely that such, however,” I said, “could truly do more than delay the progress of the canal,”

“Yes,” said Ayari.

“Could they not free and arm the work crews?” asked the man to my left.

“The men of the work crews are not of their tribes,” said Ayari. “You think like one of Schendi, not one of the interior.” Ayari waved at the lines of men behind us. “Besides,” said he, “most of these men are, in their way, loyal subjects of Bila Huruma. When their work tours are finished they return to their villages. Most of them would not be again impressed for labor for two or three years.”

“Ah,” said the man to my left, disgustedly.

“There are two obvious ways in which Bila Huruma might be stopped,” said Ayari. “First, he must be defeated. Second, he might be killed.”

“The first,” I said, “Is unlikely, considering his army and Its training. There is nothing in these terrains which is likely to be able to meet it in open battle.”

“There are the rebels of the northern shore of Ngao,” said the man.

“How can they be rebels?” I asked.

“Bila Huruma, in virtue of the discoveries of S