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

Kajira of Gor

John Norman

Kajira means slave-girl in Gorean. But when Tiffany Collins was kidnapped from Earth and brought to that orbital counter-world, she found herself on the throne of a mighty city as its "queen." Power seemingly was hers, and she did not realize that her true role was that of a slave puppet of a conniving woman agent of the monstrous Kurii. But a chained slave she was destined to be, and in the course of the complex, visible and invisible, struggles between warriors and cities, between Kurii and Priest-Kings, she would play a pivotal role. KAJIRA OF GOR is one of the most excitingly vivid novels John Norman has written. Here is all the color and terror of Gor. Here, between crown and fetters, between adulation and total submission, is the full-scale panorama of that wonderful, barbaric world as only Tarl Cabot knew it.

KAJIRA OF GOR

(Volume nineteen in the Chronicles of Counter-Earth)

by John Norman

Chapter 1 - THE STUDIO

“Do you not see it?” asked the man.

“Yes,” said the fellow with him.

“It is incredible,” said another.

“The resemblance is truly striking,” said the second man.

“Please turn your profile towards us, and lift your chin, Miss Collins,” said the first man.

I complied.

I was in a photographer’s studio.

“A little higher, Miss Collins,” said the first man.

I lifted my chin higher.

“You may change in here,” had said the man earlier, indicating a small dressing room off the studio. I had been handed a pair of clogs, a white silk blouse and a pair of black shorts.

“No brassiere or panties,” he had said.

I had looked at him.

“We want no lines from them,” he said.

“Of course,” I had said.

The shorts were quite short, and, even without the panties, at least a size too small. The blouse, too, even without the brassiere, was tight.

“Please tie up the blouse, in front,” he said. “We want some midriff.”

I had complied.

“Higher,” he had suggested.

I had complied.

I had then been, to my puzzlement, photographed several times, from the neck up, front view and profile, against a type of chart, on which appeared various graduated lines, presumably some type of calibrating or measuring device. The lines, as nearly as I could determine, however, correlated neither with inches nor centimeters.

“Now, please, step into the sand box,” he had said.

I had then stepped onto the sand, in the wide, flat box, with the beach scene projected onto the large screen behind me. Then, for several minutes, the photographer moving about me, swiftly and professionally, sometimes almost intimately close, and giving me commands, the camera clicking, I had been posed in an incredible variety of positions. Men, I had thought, must enjoy putting a woman thus through her paces. Some of the shots were almost naughty. I think, too, given the absence of a brassiere and panties, and the skimpiness and tightness of the shorts, and the tightness of the blouse, doubtlessly calculated features of my apparel, there would be little doubt in the minds of the observers as to the lineaments of my figure. I did not object, however. In fact I rather enjoyed this. I think I am rather pretty.

I was now standing in the sand, my left side facing the men, my chin lifted. The lights were hot. To my left were the lights, the tangles of cord, the men. To my right, in contrast, there seemed the lovely, deserted beach.

“She is pretty,” said one of the men.

“She is pretty enough to be a Kajira,” said one of the men.

“She will be,” laughed another.

I did not understand what they were talking about.

“Do not see such a woman merely in terms of such predictable and luscious commonalities,” said the first man. “You see clearly her potential for us, do you not?”

“Of course,” said the second man.

I did not understand them.

“Turn on the fan,” said the first man.

I then felt a cool breeze, blown by the large fan in front of me. In the heat of the lights this was welcome.

***

“This coin, or medal, or whatever it is, is very puzzling,” had said the gentle, bespectacled man, holding it by the edges with white, cotton gloves, and then placing it down on the soft felt between us. He was an authenticator, to whom I had been referred by a professional numismatist. His task was not to appraise coins but to render an informed opinion on such matters as their type and origin, where this might be obscure, their grading, in cases where a collaborative opinion might be desired, and their genuineness.

“Is it genuine?” I asked.

“Who sold you this piece,” asked the man, “a private party? What did you pay for it?”

“It was given to me,” I said, “by a private party.”

“That is extremely interesting,” said the man.

“Why?” I asked.

“It rules out an obvious hypothesis,” said the man. “Yet such a thing would be foolish.”

“I do not understand,” I said.

“Puzzling,” he mused, looking down at the coin on the felt between us, “puzzling.”

I regarded him.

“This object,” he said, “has not been struck from machine-engraved dies. Similarly, it is obviously not the result of contemporary minting techniques and technology. It is not the product, for example, of a high-speed, automated coin press.”

“I do not understand,” I said.

“It has been struck by hand,” he said. “Do you see how the design is slightly off center?”

“Yes,” I said.

“That is a feature almost invariably present in ancient coins,” he said. “The planchet is warmed, to soften the metal. It is then placed between the dies and the die cap is then struck, literally, with a hammer, impressing the design of the obverse and reverse simultaneously into the planchet.”

“Then it is an ancient coin?” I asked.

“That seems unlikely,” he said. “Yet the techniques used in striking this coin have not been used, as far as I know, for centuries.”

“What sort of coin is it?” I asked.

“Too,” he said, “note how it is not precision milled. It is not made for stacking, or for storage in rolls.”

I looked at him. It did not seem to me he was being too clear with me. He seemed independently fascinated with the object.

“Such coins were too precious perhaps,” he said. “A roll of them might be almost inconceivable, particularly in the sense of having many such rolls.”

“What sort of coin is it?” I asked.

“You see, however,” he asked, “how the depth of the planchet allows a relief and contrast of the design with the background to an extent impossible in a flat, milled coin?”

“Yes,” I said.

“What a superb latitude that gives the artist,” he said. “It frees him from the limitations of a crude compromise with the counting house, from the contemporary concessions which must be made to economic functionalism. Even then, in so small and common an object, and in so unlikely an object, he can create a work of art.”

“Can you identify the coin?” I asked.

“This, in its depth and beauty, reminds me of ancient coins,” he said. “They are, in my opinion, the most beautiful and interesting of all coins.”

“Is it an ancient coin?” I asked.

“I do not think so,” he said.

“What sort of coin is it, then?” I asked.

“Look here,” he said. “Do you see how this part of the object, at the edge, seems flatter, or straight, different from the rest of the object’s circumference?”

“Yes,” I said. To be sure, one had to took closely to see it.

“This object has been clipped, or shaved,” he said. “A part of the metal has been cut or trimmed away. In this fashion, if that is not noted, or the object is not weighed, it might be accepted for, say, a certain face value, the individual responsible for this meanwhile pocketing the clipped or shaved metal. If this is done over a period of time, with many coins, of course, the individual could accumulate, in metal value, a value equivalent perhaps to one or more of the original objects.”

“Metal value?” I asked.

“In modern coinage,” he said, “we often lose track of such things. Yet, if one thinks about it, at least in the case of many coins, a coin is a way in which a government or ruler certifies that a given amount of precious metal is involved in a transaction. It saves weighing and testing each coin. The coin, in a sense, is an object whose worth or weight, in standardized quantities, is certified upon it, and guaranteed, so to speak, by an issuing authority. Commerce as we know it would be impossible, of course, without such, objects, and notes, and credit and such.”

“Then the object is a coin?” I said.

“I do not know if it is a coin or not,” said the man.

“What else could it be?” I asked.

“It could be many things,” he said. “It might be a token or a medal. It might be an emblem of membership in an organization or a device whereby a given personage might be recognized by another. It might be a piece of art intended to be mounted in jewelry. It might even be a piece in some game.”

“Can you identify it?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

The object was about an inch and a half in diameter and about three eighths of an inch in thickness. It was yellowish, and, to me, surprisingly heavy for its size.

“What about the letter on one side?” I asked.

“It may not be a letter,” he said. “It may be only a design.” It seemed a single, strong, well-defined character. “If it is a letter,” he said, “it is not from an alphabet with which I am familiar.”

“There is an eagle on the other side,” I said, helpfully.

“Is there?” he asked. He turned the coin on the felt, touching it carefully with the cotton gloves.

I looked at the bird more closely.

“It is not an eagle,” he said. “It has a crest.”

“What sort of bird is it?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Perhaps it is a bird from some mythology,” he said, “perhaps a mere artist’s whimsy.”

I looked at the fierce head on the surface of the yellowish object.

It frightened me.

“It does not appear to be a whimsy,” I said.

“No,” be smiled. “It doesn’t, does it?”

“Have you ever seen anything like this before?” I asked.

“No,” He said, “aside, of course, from its obvious resemblance to ancient coins.”

“I see,” I said.

“I was afraid,” he said, “when you brought it in, that you were the victim of an expensive and cruel hoax. I had thought perhaps you had paid a great deal of money for this, before having its authenticity ascertained. On the other hand, it was given to you. You were thus not being defrauded in that manner. As you perhaps know coins can be forged, just as, say, paintings and other works of art can be forged. Fortunately these forgeries are usually detectable, particularly under magnification, for example, from casting marks or filing marks from seam joinings, and so on. To be sure, sometimes it is very difficult to tell if a given coin is genuine or not. It is thus useful for the circumspect collector to deal with established and reputable dealers. Similarly the authentication of a coin can often proceed with more confidence if some evidence is in hand pertaining to its history, and its former owners, so to speak. One must always be a bit suspicious of the putatively rare and valuable coin which seems to appear inexplicably, with no certifiable background, on the market, particularly if it lacks the backing of an established house.”

“Do you think this object is genuine?” I asked.

“There are two major reasons for believing it is genuine,” he said, “whatever it might be. First, it shows absolutely no signs of untypical production, such as being cast rather than struck, of being the result of obverse-reverse composition, or of having been altered or tampered with in any way. Secondly, if it were a forgery, what would it be a forgery of? Consider the analogy of counterfeiting. The counterfeiter presumably wishes to deceive people. Its end would not be well served by producing a twenty-five dollar bill, which was purple and of no familiar design. There would be no point in it. It would defeat his own purposes.”

“I understand,” I said.

“Thus,” said the man, “it seems reasonable to assume that this object, whatever it is, is genuine.”

“Do you think it is a coin?” I asked.

“It gives every evidence of being a coin,” he said. “It looks like a coin. Its simplicity and design do not suggest that it is commemorative in nature. It has been produced in a manner in which coins were often produced, at least long ago and in the classical world. It has been clipped or shaved, something that normally occurs only with coins which pass through many hands. It even has bag marks.”

“What are those?” I asked.

“This object, whatever it is,” said the man, “can clearly be graded according to established standards recognized in numismatics. It is not even a borderline case. You would not require an expert for its grading. Any qualified numismatist could grade it. If this were a modern, milled coin, it would be rated Extremely Fine. It shows no particular, obvious signs of wear but its surface is less perfect than would be required to qualify it as being Uncirculated or as being in Mint State. If this were an ancient coin, it would also qualify as being Extremely Fine, but here the grading standards are different. Again there are almost no signs of wear and the detail, accordingly, is precise and sharp. It shows good centering and the planchet, on the whole, is almost perfectly formed. Some minor imperfections, such as small nicks, are acceptable in this category for ancient coins.”

“But what are bag marks?” I asked.

“You may not be able to detect them with the naked eye.” he said. “Use this.”

From a drawer in the desk he produced a box-like, mounted magnifying glass. This he placed over the coin, and snapped on the desk lamp.

“Do you see the tiny nicks?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, after a moment.

“Those are bag marks,” he said. “They are the result, usually, of the coin, or object, being kept with several others, loose, in, say, a bag or box.”

“There might, then,” I asked, looking up from the magnifying device, “be a large number of other objects like this somewhere?” That I found a very interesting thought.

“Surely,” said the man. “On the other hand, such marks could obviously have other causes, as well.”

“Then all the evidence suggests that this is a coin?” I said.

“The most crucial piece of evidence,” he said, “however, suggests that it cannot be a coin.”

“What is that?” I asked.

“That it fits into no known type or denomination of coin.”

“I see,”I said.

“As far as I know,” he said, “no city, kingdom, nation or civilization on Earth ever produced such a coin.”

“Then it is not a coin,” I said.

“That seems clear,” he said. “No,” he said. “Do not pay me.”

I replaced his fee in my purse.

“The object is fascinating,” he said. “Simply to consider it, in its beauty and mystery, is more than payment enough.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“I am sorry that I could not be more helpful,” he said.

“Wait!” he called after me. I had turned to the door. “Do not forget this,” he said, picking up the small, round, heavy object on the felt.

I turned back to face him. I was angry. I had thought that the object might have had some value.

“It is only some sort of hoax,” I said, bitterly.

“Perhaps,” he said, smiling, “but, if I were you, I would take it along with me.”

“Why?” I asked.

“It has metal value, or bullion value,” he said.

“Oh?” I asked.

“Yes, he said. “Do you not understand what it is composed of?”

“No,” I said.

“It is gold,” he said.

I had hurried back and snatched the object, and put it in my purse. I had then, hurriedly, left his office.

***

“Turn up the fan,” said the man, he who seemed in charge of those in the photographer’s studio. The fan was turned up.

“Keep facing as you are,” he said, “your left side to us, your chin lifted, That’s good.” My hair was lifted and blown back. I felt the breeze from the fan, too, pressing my blouse back against me, even more closely. It rippled the silk at the sides.

It tugged at the collar. The ends of the blouse, where I had tied them together, high on my midriff, as the man had requested, fluttered backward. “Now arch your back and lift your hands to your hair,” he said. “Good, excellent,” he said.

I was not a professional model. I had often thought that I was beautiful enough to be one, but I was not one.

I heard the camera clicking. “Excellent,” said the man.

“Now look at us, over your left shoulder.”

I had had the yellowish, metallic object assayed. It had indeed been gold. I had sold it to a bullion dealer. It would be melted down. I had received eighteen hundred dollars for it.

“Now, face us, crouching slightly, your hands at your hair,” said the man. “Good.”

These men, perhaps, wanted to train me as a model. Yet I suspected this was not their true purpose. I was not particular as to what might be their true purpose, incidentally. They obviously possessed the means to pay me well.

“Now smile, Tiffany,” said the man. “Good. Now crouch down in the sand, your hands on your knees. Good. Now put your left knee in the sand. Have your hands on your hips. Put your shoulders back. Good. Smile. Good.”

“Good,” said one of the other men too. I could see they were pleased with me. This pleased me, too. I now felt more confident that they might hire me. For whatever object they wanted me I could sense that my beauty was not irrelevant to it. This pleased me, as I am vain of my beauty. Why should a girl not use her beauty to serve her ends, and to get ahead?

“Now face the camera directly, with your left hand on your thigh and your right hand on your knee,” said the man, “and assume an expression of wounded feelings. Good.”

“She is good,” said one of the other men.

“Yes,” agreed another.

“Now assume an expression of apprehension,” said the first man.

“Good,” said the second man.

I normally worked at the perfume and notions counter in a large department store on Long Island. It was there that I had been discovered, so to speak. I had become aware, suddenly, that I was the object of the attention of the man who was now directing this photography session. “It is incredible,” he had said, as though to himself. He seemed unable to take his eyes from me. I was used to men looking at me, of course, usually pretending not to, usually furtively. I had been chosen to work at that counter because I was pretty, much like pretty girls often being selected to sell lingerie.

Such employee placements are often a portion of a store’s merchandising strategies. But this man was not looking at me in the same way that I was accustomed to being looked at. He was not looking at me furtively, pretending to be interested in something else, or even frankly, like some men of Earth, rare men, who look honestly upon a female, seeing her as what she is, a female. Rather he was looking at me as though he could scarcely believe what he was seeing, as though I might be someone else, someone he perhaps knew from somewhere, someone be would not have expected to have found in such a place. He approached the counter. He regarded me, intently.

I think I had never been so closely regarded. I was uneasy.

“May I help you?” I asked.

He said something to me in a language I did not understand. I regarded him, puzzled.

“May I help you?” I asked.

“This is incredibly fortunate,” he said, softly.

“Sir?” I asked.

“You bear a striking resemblance to someone else,” he said. “It is remarkable.”

I did not speak. I had thought he might have begun by asking if he did not know me from somewhere. That stratagem, the pretext of a possible earlier acquaintance, hackneyed and familiar though it might be, still affords a societally acceptable approach to a female. If she is unreceptive, he may, of course, courteously withdraw. It was merely a case of mistaken identity.

“It was almost as though it was she,” he said.

I did not encourage him. I did not, for example, ask who this other person might be.

“I do not think I know you,” I said.

“No,” he smiled. “I would not think that you would.”

“I am also sure that I am not this other person,” I said.

“No,” he said. “I can see now, clearly, that you are not. Too, I can sense that you lack her incisive intellect, her ferocity, her hardness, her cruelty.”

“I am busy,” I said.

“No,” he said, his eyes suddenly hard. “You are not.”

I shrugged, as though irritated. But I was frightened, and I think he knew it. I was then terribly conscious of his maleness and power. He was not the sort of man to whom a woman might speak in such a manner. He was rather the sort of man whom a woman must obey.

“May I help you?” I asked.

“Show me your most expensive perfume,” he said.

I showed it to him.

“Sell it to me,” he said. “Interest me in it.”

“Please,” I said.

“Display it,” he said. “Am I not a customer?”

I looked at him.

“Spray some of it upon your wrist,” he said. “I shall see if it interests me.”

I did so.

“Extend your wrist,” he said. I did so, with the palm upward. This is an extremely erotically charged gesture, of course, extending the delicate wrist, perfumed, to the male, with the tender, vulnerable palm upward.

He took my wrist in both his hands. I shivered. I knew I could never break that grip.

He put down his face, over my wrist, and inhaled, deeply, intimately, sensuously.

I shuddered.

“It is acceptable,” he said, lifting his head.

“It is our most expensive perfume,” I said. He had not yet released my wrist.

“Do you like it?” he asked.

“I cannot afford it,” I said.

“Do you like it?” he asked.

“Of course,” I said.

He released my wrist. “I shall take it,” he said. “Wrap it,” he said, “as a gift.”

“It is seven hundred dollars an ounce,” I said.

“It is overpriced for its quality,” he said.

“It is our best,” I said.

He drew a wallet from his jacket and withdrew several hundred-dollar bills from its recesses. I could see that it held many more bills.

Trembling, I wrapped the perfume. When I had finished I took the money.

“There is a thousand dollars here,” I said, moving as though to return the extra bills.

“Keep what you do not need for the price and tax,” he said.

“Keep it?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“It is over two hundred dollars,” I said.

“Keep it,” he said.

While I busied myself with the register he wrote something on a small card.

“Thank you,” I said, uncertainly, sliding the tiny package toward him with the tips of my fingers.

He pushed it back towards me. “It is for you,” he said, “of course.”

“For me?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “When is your day off?”

“Wednesday,” I said.

“Come to this address,” he said, “at ten o’clock in the morning, this coming Wednesday.” He placed the small white card before me.

I looked at the address. It was in Manhattan.

“We shall be expecting you,” he said.

“I do not understand,” I said.

“It is the studio of a friend of mine,” he said, “a photographer. He does a great deal of work for certain advertising agencies.”

“Oh,” I said. I sensed that this might be the opening to a career, of great interest to me, one in which I might be able to capitalize, and significantly, on my beauty.

“I see that you are interested,” he said.

I shrugged. “Not really,” I said. I would play hard to get.

“We do not accept prevarication in a female,” he said.

“A female?” I said. I felt for a moment I had been reduced to my radical essentials.

“Yes,” he said.

I felt angry and, admittedly, not a little bit aroused by his handling of me.

“I hardly know you. I can’t accept this money, or this perfume,” I said.

“But you will accept it, won’t you?” he said.

I put down my head. “Yes,” I said.

“We shall see you Wednesday,” he said.

“I shan’t be coming,” I said.

“We recognize that your time, as of now,” he said, “is valuable.”

I did not understand what he meant by the expression ‘as of now’.

He then pressed into my hand the round, heavy, yellowish object which I had later taken to the shop of a numismatist, and then, later, on the advice of the numismatist, to the office of a specialist in the authentication of coins.

“This is valuable,” he said, “more so elsewhere than here.”

Again I did not understand the nuances of his speech. I looked down at the object in my hand. I assumed, from its shape and appearance, it might be some kind of coin. If so, however, I certainly did not recognize it. It seemed alien to me, totally unfamiliar. I clutched it, then, however, for he had told me that it was valuable.

“You are a greedy little thing, aren’t you?” he said.

“I shan’t be coming,” I told him, petulantly. He made me angry. Too, he made me feel terribly uneasy. He made me feel uncomfortably, and deeply, female. Such feelings were terribly stimulating, but also, in their way, terribly unsettling.

I did not know, really, how to cope with them.

I decided I would take the beginning of next week off from work. I would try to find out something about the yellowish object. I would, then try to think things out. Then, at my leisure, I would decide whether or not to go to the stipulated address on Wednesday.

“We shall see you on Wednesday,” he said.

“Perhaps,” I said.

“Wear the perfume,” he said.

“All right,” I said.

***

“Now kneel in the sand, facing the camera,” said the man.

“Kneel back on your heels. Place the palms of your hands down on your thighs. Lift your head. Put your shoulders back. Spread your knees.”

“Excellent,” said one of the men.

“Now assume the same position,” said the man, “but in profile to the camera, your left side facing us. Keep your head up. Put your shoulders back more. Good. Splendid!”

“Splendid!” said another man.

“Now face the camera on all fours,” he said. “Good. Now lift your head and purse your lips, as though to kiss. More. More sensuously. Now close your eyes. Good.”

“Splendid,” said another man.

“Open your eyes now and unpurse your lips, and turn, staying on all fours, so that your left side is facing us, so that we have your profile to the camera.”

I complied.

“Now put your head down,” he said.

I did so.

“Splendid!” said one of the men.

“Splendid!” said another.

I was keenly conscious of the radical submissiveness of this posture. I almost trembled with arousal. I dared not even think of the effect of such a posture upon a woman if she had been put in it by men who were truly in power over her.

“She will do very nicely, I think,” said the first man.

“She will be ideal for our purposes,” said another.

“You may get up, Tiffany,” said the first man.

I rose to my feet. I gathered that the session was over. I was confident that they were pleased.

The fan, which had produced the surrogate of an ocean breeze, was turned off. The photographer began to extinguish his lights and put them to the side, in a line against the wall.

One of the men turned off the projector and the beach scene which had been projected behind me vanished, leaving in its place a featureless, opaque, white screen.

“You are very pretty, Tiffany, Miss Collins,” said the first man. “And you did very well.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“You may now change,” he said.

“Very well,” I said. I feared I might be being dismissed. I returned to the dressing room. I could hear them talking outside, but I could not make out what they were saying. In a few moments I emerged from the dressing room. I wore a man-tailored, beige blazer with a rather severe, matching pleated skirt, with a rather strict white blouse, of synthetic material, and medium heels. I had wished to present a rather business-like look. I did not wish to wear particularly feminine clothes as men are inclined to see women who do this as females, and behave towards them and, relate to them as such.

Women are no longer forced, in effect, to dress as females, in particular ways, with all the dynamic, attendant psychological effects for both sexes which might accrue to such a practice.

I then stood before the fellow who seemed to be in charge.

I saw that be did not particularly approve of my ensemble. I hoped this would not diminish my chances of meeting whatever requirements they might have in mind with respect to my acceptability. Perhaps I should have worn something more feminine. After all, I was a woman. Too, the shorts and blouse in which I had been placed, for the pictures, left little doubt in my mind that my femaleness, at least in some sense or another, might well be pertinent to their interests.

“Perhaps I should have worn something less severe?” I said, tentatively. I did want to be pleasing to them. Obviously they had a good deal of money to spend. Too, interestingly, they were the sort of men towards whom, independently, I felt a strong, disturbing, almost inexplicable desire to be pleasing.

“Your attire does seem a bit defensive,” he said.

“Perhaps,” I smiled. How interestingly, I thought, he had put that.

“Such defenses, of course,” he said, “may be removed from a woman.”

His remark, rightly or wrongly, struck me as being broader and deeper in its meaning than the mere bantering witticism it might have been taken to be. It suggested more to me, unsettling me, than a mere change of, or removal of, attire. It suggested to me, for a moment, a reference to a world in which a woman might be without defenses, fully, a world in which she was simply not permitted defenses.

“Perhaps I should have worn something more feminine,” I said.

He regarded me, appraisingly. I sensed that he was looking past the severe man-tailored blazer, the rather strict blouse, the rather strict, beige pleated skirt. As they had had me pose in the shorts and blouse, and had had me move, I was sure they had little doubt, for most practical purposes, as to what I looked like.

“If you are selected,” he said, “any apparel which you might receive, I assure you, will leave little doubt as to your femininity.”

“If I am selected?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“It is my hope that I pleased you,” I said. “I thought you were pleased.” One of the men, I recalled, had thought that I might be ideal for their purposes.

“We are pleased,” he said, “very. You did very well.”

“When will you be able to make your decision?” I asked. “When will I learn whether or not I have been selected?”

“For one thing,” said the man, “you have already been selected.”

One of the men laughed.

“That decision we are empowered to make,” said the first man. “The second decision, that with respect to the more important post, so to speak, of necessity, must be made elsewhere.”

“May I call you?” I asked.

“We have your number,” he said.

“I understand,” I said. I was not really displeased, for he had told me that for one thing, at any rate, I had already been selected.

“Process the photos, immediately,” he said to the photographer.

The photographer nodded.

They were apparently going to proceed expeditiously in the matter. This pleased me. I do not like to wait.

“When do you think you will know,” I asked, “—about the more important post?”

“it will take at least several days,” he said.

“Oh,” I said.

“Come here,” he said, beckoning to me. I went and stood quite close to him. “Put down your head,” he said. I did so, and he, moving behind me, and pulling the collar of my blouse out a bit with his finger, put his head down, close to the side of my face, by my neck. He inhaled, deeply.

“Yes,” I said, “I am wearing the perfume, as you asked.”

“As I commanded,” he said.

“Yes,” I said, softly, rather startled at myself, “as you commanded.” I then left. I wore his perfume.

Chapter 2 - THE CRATE

I turned off the shower.

It must have been about ten minutes after eight in the evening. It was now some six weeks after my test, or interview, or whatever it had been, in the photographer’s studio. On each Monday of these six weeks I had received in the mail, in a plain white envelope without a return address, a one-hundred-dollar bill. This money, I had gathered, was in the nature of some sort of a retainer. I recalled that the man who had first seen me at the perfume counter, he who seemed to be in charge of the group, had said that he recognized that my time, as of now, was valuable. I was still not clear on what he had meant by the phrase ‘as of now’. These bills, until a few days ago, had been my only evidence that the men had not forgotten me. Then, on a Monday evening, a few days ago, the Monday before last, at eight o’clock, I had received a phone call. I had returned home to my small apartment only a few minutes earlier, from the local supermarket.

I was putting away groceries and was not thinking of the men at all. I had, to be sure, taken the hundred-dollar bill from the mail box earlier and put it in my dresser. This had become for me, however, almost routine. I was, at any rate, not thinking of the men. When the phone rang my first reaction was one of irritation. I picked up the phone. “Hello,” I said. “Hello?” Then I was suddenly afraid. I was not sure there was someone on the line. “Hello?” I said. Then, after a moment’s silence, a male voice on the other end of the line spoke quietly and precisely. I did not recognize the voice.

“You have been selected,” it said. “Hello!” I said. “Hello! Who is this?” Then the line was dead. He had hung up. The next two nights I waited by the phone at eight o’clock. It was silent. It rang, however, on Thursday, precisely at eight. I seized the receiver from its hook. I was told to report the next evening to the southwest corner of a given intersection in Manhattan at precisely eight P.M. There I would be picked up by a limousine.

I was almost sick with relief when I saw that the man I knew, he whom I had met at the perfume counter, he who had seemed in charge of the others, was in the limousine. The other two were with him, too, one with him in the back seat and one riding beside the driver. I did not recognize the driver.

“Congratulations, Miss Collins!” he said, warmly. “You have been fully approved. You qualify with flying colors, as I had thought you would, on all counts.”

“Wonderful!” I said.

The driver had now left the vehicle and come about, to open the door. The man I knew stepped out, and, while the driver held the door, motioned that I might enter. I did so, and then he entered behind me. The driver shut the door, and returned about the vehicle to his place. I was sitting between the two men in the back of the limousine.

“I had hoped I might qualify,” I said.

“I was confident you would,” he said. “You have the appearance, and, independently, the beauty and the dispositions. You are perfectly suited to our purposes.”

“Am I to gather that I have been found acceptable for what you spoke of as the more important position, or post, or something like that, then?” I asked.

“Precisely,” he said, warmly.

“Good,” I said, snuggling back against the seat. I was quite pleased. These men, it seemed, were rich, or, at least, had access to considerable wealth. They would doubtless be willing to pay highly for the use of my beauty.

“I recall, you said,” I said, “that I had already been selected for one thing, even at the photographer’s studio.”

“Yes,” he said.

“But it was less important, I gather, than this other, more prestigious assignment, or position?”

“Yes,” he said. “The other position, so to speak, could be filled by almost any beautiful woman.”

“I see,” I said.

“And if there should come a time in which your services are no longer required for this more important post, as I have put it, you might still, I am sure, meet the qualifications for this other thing.”

“That is reassuring,” I said.

The man on my left smiled.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“Were you given permission to speak?” asked the man I knew, he who had originally seen me in the department store, he on my right.

I looked at him, startled.

“Kneel down here,” he said, pointing to the floor of the car, “your left side to the back of the front seat.” I did so, frightened. I was the only woman in the car. “Get on your hands and knees,” he said. I did so. I could then, facing as I was, see him, by lifting and turning my head. He was unfolding a blanket. “You will not speak,” he said, “until five minutes after you have left the limousine.” He then, opening the blanket, cast it over me. I on all fours before them, covered by the blanket, hidden by it, was in consternation. The limousine drove on. No one outside the car could have told that I was in the car. I was silent.

As I knelt on all fours before them my mind was racing.

Why had they done this? Perhaps they did not wish anyone to know that I was in the car with them. Perhaps they did not wish for me to be recognized with them, or they with me.

Perhaps they were driving to some secret location, which they did not wish me to know. I was frightened. I did not know what their purposes were. After a time they let me lie down at their feet, with my legs drawn up, still covered with the blanket. I lay near their shoes. Once they even stopped for gas. “Do not move,” I was told. I was perfectly quiet, at their feet. They drove about for at least four hours. It was all I could do to keep from rubbing my thighs together and moaning.

Then the limousine pulled to one side and stopped. The blanket was lifted from me.

“You may get out now,” said the man who seemed in charge, pleasantly.

I rose to my feet and, crouching down, my muscles aching, stepped from the limousine. The driver had remained in his place. The man who had been to my right when I was sitting, he who seemed to be in charge of the others, had opened the door. I stood outside then, on the curb. There was traffic. The lights were bright. I was in the same place where I had originally been picked up, at the southwest corner of the intersection in Manhattan. It was a little after midnight.

I watched the limousine drive away, disappearing in the traffic. I did not really understand what they had done, or why they had done it. I stood back on the sidewalk then. I was extremely disturbed. I was almost trembling. Too, inexplicably, it seemed, I was terribly aroused, sexually.

Why had they done what they did?

For the first time in my life I had been put to the feet of men, and kept, uncompromisingly, in ignorance and silence.

They had dominated me. I almost trembled, filled with unfamiliar sensations and emotions. These feelings, these responses, were not simply genital. They seemed to suffuse, overwhelmingly, my whole body and mind.

I became aware of a man asking me for directions.

I turned away from him, suddenly, and hurried away. I had not yet been out of the limousine for five minutes. I could not yet speak.

***

I took my hand from the shower handle. A few drops of water descended from the shower head. It was warm and steamy in the bathroom, from the warm water which I had been running. It was about ten or eleven minutes after eight P.M. It was Tuesday. Yesterday, on Monday evening, at eight P.M., I had received another call. I had been instructed to take a shower at precisely eight P.M. this evening. I had done so. I slid back the shower curtain. There was steam on the walls and mirrors. I looked for my robe. I had thought I had left it on the vanity. It was not there. I stepped from the shower stall, and picked up a towel and began to dry myself.

Suddenly I stopped, frightened. I had thought I had heard a noise on the other side of the bathroom door, from beyond the tiny hall outside, perhaps from the tiny kitchen or the combination living and dining room.

“Is there anyone there?” I called, frightened. “Who is it?”

“It is I, Miss Collins,” said a voice. “Do not be alarmed.” I recognized the voice. It was he I took to be the leader of the men with whom I had been in contact, that of he who had first seen me at the perfume counter.

“I am not dressed,” I called. I thrust shut the bolt on the bathroom door. I did not understand how he could have obtained entrance. I had had the door to the apartment not only locked but bolted.

“Have you cleaned your body?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. I thought he had put that in an unusual fashion.

“Have you washed your hair?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. I had done so.

“Come out,” he said.

“Do you see my robe out there?” I called.

“Use a towel,” he said.

“I will be out in a moment,” I said. I hastily dried my hair and put a towel about it, and then I wrapped a large towel about my body, tucking it shut under my left arm. I looked about for my slippers. I had thought I had put them at the foot of the vanity. But they, like the robe, did not seem to be where I thought I had left them. I slid back the bolt on the bathroom door and, barefoot, entered the hall. There were, I saw, three men in the kitchen. One was he whom I now knew well. The other two, who wore uniforms much of a sort one expects in professional movers, I did not recognize.

“You look lovely,” said the first man, he whom I recognized, he who was, by now, familiar to me.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Make us some coffee,” he said.

I proceeded, frightened, to do so. I was very conscious of my state of dishabille. Their eyes, I could sense, were much on me. I felt very small among their powerful bodies. I was conscious, acutely, how different I was from them.

“How did you get in?” I asked, lightly, when the coffee was perking.

“With this,” he said, taking a small, metallic, pen like object from his left, inside jacket pocket. He clicked a switch on it. There was no visible beam. He then clicked the switch again, presumably turning it off.

“I do not understand,” I said.

“Come along,” he said, smiling, and getting up from behind the kitchen table. I followed him into the combination living and dining room. I noticed the coarse, fibrous texture of the rug on my bare feet. The other two men followed us into this room.

“There is my robe,” I said, “and my slippers!” The robe was thrown over an easy chair. The slippers had been dropped at its base.

“Leave them,” he said.

I knew I had not put them there.

He opened the door to the apartment and looked outside.

He was seeing, I supposed, if anyone was in the hall.

He stepped outside. “Lock and bolt the door,” he said.

I did so. I then stood, waiting, behind the locked, bolted door. I glanced back at the other two men, in their garb like professional movers. They stood behind me, in the apartment, their arms folded.

I heard a tiny noise. Fascinated, I saw the bolt turn and slide back. I then heard the door click. The man re-entered the apartment. He closed the door behind him. He returned the pen-like object to his pocket.

“I did not know such things existed,” I said, Inadvertently, frightened, I put my hand to my breast. I was very much aware that only a towel stood between me and this stranger.

“They do,” he smiled.

“I didn’t hear you enter,” I said.

“It makes little noise,” he said. “Too, you had the water running.”

“You knew, of course,” I said, “that I would not hear you enter.”

“Of course,” he said.

It had been in accordance with his instructions that I had been showering at the time.

“What are those things?” I asked. I referred to two objects.

One was a large carton and the other was a weighty, sturdy metal box, about three feet square. The metal box looked as though it would fit into the carton, and, presumably, had been removed from it, after having been brought into the room.

“Never mind them now,” he said.

The metal box appeared extremely heavy and strong. It reminded me of a safe. I wondered if it was. Too, I wondered why it had been brought to the apartment.

“Is that a safe?” I asked, indicating the box. It was sitting on the rug, like the carton. It was squat and stout, and efficient looking. Because of its weight it was impressed, with sharp lines, into the rug.

“Not really,” he said. “But it may be used for the securing of valuables.”

I nodded. There seemed little doubt about that. It appeared to me, indeed, that it might serve very well, by virtue of its strength and weight, for the securing of valuables. I conjectured that I, with my strength, would scarcely be able to move it about.

“What is in it?” I asked. I was curious. In the side of the box facing me I could see two small holes, about the size of pennies. I could not, however, because of the light, and the size of the holes, see into the interior of the box. The interior of the box was, from my point of view, frustratingly dark.

“Nothing,” he said.

“I see,” I said, in an acid tone. I was certain he was not being candid with me.

“Come over here,” he said, pleasantly, beckoning to me.

I joined him.

I glanced over at my robe on the easy chair, and the slippers at its foot.

“My robe and slippers,” I said, “were in the bathroom, were they not?”

“Yes,” he said.

“You then entered the bathroom while I was showering, and removed them, did you not?”

“Yes,” he said.

I had neither seen nor heard him doing this, of course. The water had been running. The shower curtain had been drawn.

“Why?” I asked.

“We decided that you would appear before us much as you are,” he said.

“But, why?” I asked.

“It would be more convenient for us,” he said. “Matters might then proceed somewhat more simply for us than might otherwise have been the case.”

I was angry. Obviously I had been manipulated. I had been ordered to shower. Then, while I had showered, my apartment had been entered and my robe and slippers removed from the bathroom. I had been surprised in my own apartment. Then I had been given little alternative other than to present myself before them, doubtless as they had planned, well cleaned, fresh from the shower, and half naked.

“Are you angry?” he asked.

“No,” I said, suddenly, “of course not.” I was suddenly afraid that they might cease to find me pleasing. Doubtless their entry into my apartment had some purpose. I was then certain I understood their motivations. They had wished to take me by surprise, to observe my reactions, to see me as though I might be confused or startled, to see how fetching and exciting I might appear, captured, so to speak, in a moment of charming disarray. I hoped I had not disappointed them. Doubtless they were interested in testing me for a performance in some commercial, perhaps having to do with soaps or beauty products. I hoped that my responses had not jeopardized my chances for participation in whatever might be their intended projects. I did so want to please them. They paid well.

He was looking down at me. He was so large and strong. I was afraid he was not pleased. I smiled my prettiest up at him. I adjusted the towel a bit about my breasts, seemingly inadvertently, accidentally, pulling it down a bit, and then, hastily, with seeming modesty, tucking it securely, much higher, even more closely, about my body. “It is only,” I smiled, “that you took me by such surprise. I did not know what to do.”

“I understand,” he said.

“It is not every day,” I said, smiling, “that a girl finds herself surprised in her own apartment and then, in effect, forced to present herself before unexpected guests clad only in a towel.”

“That is true,” he said.

I smiled again.

“I hope that you are still interested in me,” I said, teasingly, and, I am afraid, a bit anxiously.

“Perhaps,” he said.

I would have preferred a more affirmative response.

There was a moment of awkward silence. I hoped they were not disappointed. I did not want to fail to please them. I would have been willing to do anything. I would even have been willing to let them hold me in their arms, or kiss me. I would even have been willing to let them make love to me. I knew such things were common. Why should a girl not turn her charms to her own profit? I did not want them to lose interest in me. They paid well.

“The coffee is ready,” he said.

“Yes,” I said, gratefully. I could no longer hear it perking.

I recalled I had been told to make it.

I hurried into the kitchen.

In a few moments I was serving them coffee, in white cups on the rectangular, black-legged, white-topped Formica table.

The kitchen tiles felt smooth and cool under my feet. They sat about the table. I felt aroused, and very feminine, serving them. I then poured myself a cup.

“Put your cup on the floor,” said the man, “there, on the tiles.”

Puzzled, crouching down, I did so.

“Now, kneel behind it,” he said.

I knelt down on the tiles, behind the cup, the refrigerator to my right, the table, with the men seated about it, in front of me.

They sipped their coffee.

“You may drink,” said the man.

I reached for the cup, before me, on the floor. I lifted it.

“No,” he said. “Do not hold it by the handle. Hold it in your hands, as a bowl.”

I then sipped the coffee in this fashion, the cup warm in my fingers. I then put it down. They were using the handles of their cups, I noted. And, too, of course, they were sitting at the table. Why should they be sitting, and I kneeling, I asked myself. Are we not the same? Are we not identical? I watched them drinking in the customary fashion. Then I, again, sipped coffee from the cup, holding it in both hands, like a small bowl. I felt an urge to put the cup aside, tear off the towel, and put my body naked to the cool tiles before them, at their feet. I wondered what the tiles would feel like against me, against my breasts, my belly, my thighs.

The men finished their coffee.

“Have you finished your coffee?” asked he who seemed in charge.

I finished the coffee, holding the cup as I had been instructed to do. “Yes,” I said.

“You may clear the table,” he said.

I rose to my feet and put my cup in the sink. I then went to the table. I began to gather together their cups. “What is in the metal box?” I asked, lightly.

“I told you,” he said. “Nothing.”

I stacked the cups and carried them to the sink. “Really?” I asked.

“I thought maybe you were delivering something to the apartment,” I said.

“No,” he said.

I rinsed off the cups.

“Is it really empty?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. I put the cups in the dishwasher.

“Do you want to store the box here for a time?” I asked. “Do you want me to keep it for you, for a time?”

“No,” he said.

I turned to regard them, puzzled.

The man made a sign to his two assistants and they took the table and turned it, lengthwise, in the kitchen.

“Please sit on the table, Miss Collins,” said the man.

I sat on the table, at one of the small ends, that nearest the dishwasher, puzzled, my feet dangling over the edge.

“No,” he said, “sit on the table, completely, your feet on it, as well.”

I slid myself back and then sat on the table, completely upon it. The formica top was cool and smooth. The sensations I felt were interesting and disturbing. I had never, of course, sat on the table in this fashion before. I held the towel tightly down by my thighs. I kept them closely together. The man in charge was by my feet, on my left. The other two men were behind me.

“We did not bring the box here to bring something to the apartment,” said the man, “but to take something from it.”

“But I have nothing of value here,” I said, “or at least not of much value.”

I saw the man then remove a heavy, sturdy steel anklet from the lower, right-hand pocket of his jacket. It was open. He then flipped it widely open. I then saw it with a casual, expert gesture, snapped shut about my left ankle.

“What are you doing!” I cried.

Something rounded and leathery was then thrust in my mouth, something attached at the back of a broad, leather rectangle, by one of the men behind me. There were straps and buckles attached to this and, apparently, a heavy, slotted leather pad which went behind the back of my neck. I felt the leather rectangle drawn tightly back and felt, too, the apparently slotted leather pad, through which the straps apparently passed, one above, and one below, pressing against the back of my neck. Then I winced as I felt the straps drawn back, even more tightly. Then they were buckled shut. The apparatus was then fixed upon me. I had been effectively gagged.

I looked wildly at the man who had put the anklet on me. I tried, wildly, with my right foot, to slide it from my left ankle. I could move it, of course, only a tiny bit. I hurt the instep of my right foot. I scraped my left ankle. I looked again, wildly, at the man who had ankleted me. There was no doubt it was fastened on me, locked shut. There had been no mistaking the heavy, efficient snap with which the device’s closure had been registered.

“Now,” he said, to one of his fellows, “we need not listen to her blithering.”

I felt my head pulled back. There was apparently a ring at the back of the leather pad now pressed so closely into the back of my neck.

I shook my head. I whimpered.

The man then jerked the towel from my hair. I looked at him. I shook my head. He then jerked away the towel I wore on my body. I was then turned and thrown on my belly, on the table, the two assistants pressing me helplessly against it, holding me tightly down by the arms. The men, when I had been stripped, had not even paused to look at me. They had seen, I gathered, many women.

I felt a piece of cotton or cloth touch my back, above and behind my left hip. It was wet. The area then felt cool. Then I whimpered. I felt a needle being entered into my flesh, in the center of that chemically chilled area. Tears sprang to my eyes. The needle was then withdrawn and I felt the area swabbed again with fluid. I was then drawn from the table and, by the arms, carried into the combination living and dining room of my small apartment. Their leader then, he who had ankleted me, opened the side of the stout, metal container. It had a heavy door. Inside were various straps, and rings.

I tried to struggle.

“Resistance is useless, Miss Collins,” said the man.

I looked at him pleadingly.

Then I was thrust, in a sitting position, into the box. The ring at the back of the gag, doubtless sewn into the slotted leather pad, was snapped about a ring mounted at a matching height in the box. My head was thus held in place. For a moment the room seemed to go dark and then I gathered my wits again. My left wrist, to my horror, was fastened back, and at my left side, by straps attached to a ring. My right wrist was then secured similarly. In moments both of my ankles, too, had been fastened in position. I fought to retain consciousness. Then I was thrust back further in the box. A broad leather strap was then drawn tightly about me. I winced. Then it was buckled shut. I could hardly move. I looked at the men, from the box. My eyes pleaded with them.

“She is secured,” said one of the men.

The man in charge nodded. “Close the container,” he said.

I looked at the door. There was no handle or device for opening it on my side, and, even had there been, I could not, restrained as I was, have begun to reach it.

I whimpered piteously, as an utterly helpless, restrained woman. I looked at them, piteously. They must show me mercy!

Then the door was closed.

I was plunged into darkness, save for the tiny bits of light coming through the two small, round holes on my right, near my face.

When the door had closed two snap-fastenings had shut, one near the top of the door and one near its bottom. I then sat inside, helpless. I heard ten screw bolts twisted shut, unhurriedly. Three were along the top of the door and three were along the bottom of the door; two each were at the sides of the door, two between the hinges and two between the locks.

Earlier I had asked the man if the box might have been a safe. I had gathered from his response that it was not really a safe but that it might, indeed, upon occasion, be used in the securing of valuables.

I struggled in the straps, helpless.

I wondered if I might take some bitter consolation in his laconic response, which now seemed so ironic. Perhaps I, now so well secured within the box, might, at least, count as a valuable.

I pressed my head back against the iron behind me. I heard the movement of the two rings.

But how valuable could I really be, I asked myself. I doubted, frankly, that I could be of much value. If I were really of value, of much value, I did not think I would be fastened like this, strapped naked in a box.

I tried to peer out the small holes in the door.

I could see very little, a part of the upper wall in the apartment, a small framed print, of flowers, which had been there when I had rented the apartment.

The box was then lifted, apparently by handles.

I suddenly felt extremely faint. I fought against the loss of consciousness.

The box was then lowered into the cardboard carton.

I turned my head, moaning. I heard the clink of the two rings. I tried to move my wrists and ankles. I could hardly move them. The broad leather strap, buckled shut, pressed, too, deeply into my belly, holding me in place.

Outside of the two small holes now lay the cardboard. I could see a little light from the overhead lamp.

I turned my head and struck with the side of it against the iron behind me.

“Do not be stupid, bitch,” said the man outside the box.

I sobbed.

I fought more fiercely to retain consciousness.

Because of the rings and straps, and the closeness with which they held me to the wall, I could gain little leverage. I could do little more than tap or rub my head against the iron.

I had indeed been stupid. Even under ideal conditions, fully conscious, and with an abundance of possible rescuers in the vicinity, any girl confined and gagged as expertly as I was would be able to do very little to call attention to her captivity. It was unlikely that even her fiercest and most desperate signals would be audible more than a yard or so from her tiny prison.

I began to moan and whimper. They must show me mercy!

The top of the cardboard carton was then closed.

I struggled, fiercely, for a moment, but then felt exhausted.

I heard a segment of sealing tape torn from a roll and then, apparently, the top of the carton was sealed shut.

I put my head back against the iron. The two rings made a tiny sound. I became very conscious of the feel of the leather straps binding me. I pressed back. This eased the pressure of the strap at my belly. I felt my hair, still damp from the shower, between my back and the iron. Beneath my body, where I sat upon it, the iron felt cool, smooth and hard. I felt it this way, too, beneath my heels.

Then the carton was lifted, and was being carried. It would appear to be a carton in the care of professional moving men.

No one would think twice about it.

The thought crossed my mind that it was Tuesday evening.

Tomorrow would be Wednesday, my day off at the store. I would not be missed until Thursday.

I then lost consciousness.

Chapter 3 – CORCYRUS

It was warm in the room.

It seemed a lazy morning.

My fingers felt at the red-silk coverlet. I lay on my stomach on the soft, broad, red-silk surface. I tried to collect my wits. I moved my body, a little. I felt the soft silk move beneath it. I was nude. Too, I felt the warm air on my body and legs. I was not covered. I was lying nude, uncovered, on my stomach, on a wide, soft, silken surface.

I remembered the men, the straps and the box.

I turned and sprang to my hands and knees on the soft surface. I was on a vast bed, or couch. It was round and some fifteen feet in diameter. I was, half sunk in its softness, near the center of it. I had not realized such luxury could exist. A glance informed me, to my relief, that I was alone in the room. The room was a large one, and extremely colorful.

The floor was of glossy, scarlet tiles. The walls, too, were tiled, and glossy, and covered with bold, swirling designs, largely worked out in yellow and black tiles. At one point there was a large, scarlet pelt on the floor. Against some of the walls there were chests, heavy chests, which opened from the top. There were mirrors, too, here and there, and one was behind something like a low vanity. I also saw a small, low table. It was near the couch. There were also, mostly near the walls, some cushions about. To one side there was a large, sunken basin. This was, perhaps, I thought, a tub. There was no water in it, however, and no visible faucets.

I saw myself in one of the mirrors, on all fours in the great bed. I hastily looked away. To one side there appeared to be some sliding doors. On my right, and several feet away, there was, too, a heavy wooden door. It looked as though it might be very thick. I saw no way, no bars or locks, no chains or bolts, whereby its closure might be guaranteed on my side. It might be locked on the outside, I supposed. But, clearly, I could not lock it from the inside. I could not keep anyone out. I could, on the other hand, doubtless be kept in. At one point on the floor there was, fixed in the floor, a heavy metal ring. I also saw, in one wall, two such rings. One was mounted in the wall about a yard from the floor and the other, about a yard to its left, was mounted in the wall, about six feet from the floor.

I quickly, frightened, crawled back off the bed. It was not easy to do, given its softness. I felt the smoothness, the coolness, of the scarlet tiles on my feet. I saw that there was, anchored at one point in the couch, at what may have served as its foot, another such sturdy ring. Beneath it lay a coil of chain. Smaller rings, too, I noted, circling the couch, appeared at regular intervals about its perimeter, about every four or five feet, or so. Beneath these, however, there lay no chains. I fled to the window, which was narrow, about fifteen inches in width. It was set with heavy bars, spaced about three inches apart, reinforced with thick, flat, steel crosspieces, spaced at about every vertical foot. I shook the bars. They did not budge. I hurt my hands. I stood there for a moment, the shadows of the bars and crosspieces falling across my face and body. Then I fled back to the couch and, fearfully, crawled onto it.

There seemed something different, frighteningly so, about this place in which I now found myself. It seemed almost as though it might not be Earth. This did not have to do primarily with the room, and its appointments and furnishings, but rather with such things as the condition of my body and the very quality of the air I was breathing. I supposed this was the result of the lingering effects of the substance with which I had been sedated or drugged. The gravity seemed different, subtly so, from that of Earth. Too, my entire body felt alive and charged with oxygen. The air itself seemed vivifying and stimulating. These things, which appeared to be objective aspects of the environment were doubtless merely subjective illusions on my part, resulting from the drug or sedative. They had to be. The obviously suggested alternative would be just too unthinkable, just too absurd. I hoped I had not gone mad.

I sat on the bed, my chin on my knees. I became aware that I was very hungry.

One thing, at least, assured me that I had not gone mad.

That thing supplied a solid reference point in this seemingly incredible transition between environments. It had been locked on me in my own kitchen. It was a steel anklet. I still wore it.

I looked over to one of the mirrors. I looked small, sitting on the great bed. I was nude. I wondered in whose bed I was.

I then heard a sound at the door.

Terrified I knelt on the bed, snatching up a portion of the coverlet on which I knelt, and held it tightly, defensively, about me.

The door opened, admitting a small, exquisite, dark-haired woman. She wore a brief, whitish, summery, floral-print tunic, almost diaphanous, with a plunging neckline. The print was a tasteful scattering of delicate yellow flowers, perhaps silk-screened in place. The garment was belted, and rather snugly, with two turns of a narrow, silken, yellow cord, knotted at her left hip. She was barefoot. I noted that she did not wear an anklet, such as I wore. There was something on her neck, however, something fastened closely about it, encased in a silken yellow sheath or sleeve. I did not know what it was. It could not be metal, of course. That would be terrifying. I noted that the door, which now closed behind her, was some six inches thick.

“Oh,” said the girl, softly, startled, seeing me, and knelt.

She put her head down, and then lifted it. “Forgive me, Mistress,” she said. “I did not know whether or not you were yet awake. I did not knock, for fear of disturbing you.”

“What do you want?” I asked.

“I have come to serve Mistress,” she said. “I have come to see if Mistress desires aught.”

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Susan,” she said.

“Susan who?” I asked.

“Only Susan,” she said.

“I do not understand,” I said.

“That is what I have been named,” she said.

“Named?” I asked.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“I am Tiffany,” I said. “Tiffany Collins.”

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“Where am I?” I asked.

“In the city of Corcyrus,” she said.

I had never heard of this city. I did not even know what country it was in. I did not even know in what continent it might be.

“In what country is this?” I asked.

“In the country of Corcyrus,” she said.

“That is the city,” I said.

You are then in the dominions of Corcyrus, Mistress,” she said.

“Where is Corcyrus?” I asked.

“Mistress?” asked the girl, puzzled.

“Where is Corcyrus?” I asked.

“It is here,” she said, puzzled. “We are in Corcyrus.”

“I see that I am to be kept in ignorance,” I said, angrily, clutching the coverlet about my neck.

“Corcyrus,” said the girl, “is south of the Vosk. It is southwest of the city of Ar. It lies to the east and somewhat north of Argentum.”

“Where is New York City?” I asked. “Where are the United States?”

“They are not here, Mistress,” smiled the girl.

“Where is the ocean?” I asked.

“It is more than a thousand pasangs to the west, Mistress,” said the girl.

“Is it the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific Ocean?” I asked.

“No, Mistress,” said the girl.

“It is the Indian Ocean?” I asked.

“No, Mistress,” said the girl.

I looked at her, puzzled.

“It is Thassa, the Sea, Mistress,” said the girl.

“What sea is it?” I asked.

“That is how we think of her,” said the girl, “as the sea, Thassa.”

“Oh,” I said, bitterly.

“Has Mistress noted certain feelings or sensations in her body, perhaps of a sort with which she is unfamiliar?” asked the girl. “Has Mistress noted any unusual qualities in the air she is breathing?”

“Perhaps,” I said. These things I had construed as the lingering effects of the substance which had been injected into me, rendering me unconscious.

“Would Mistress like for me to have her bath prepared?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “I am clean.”

“Yes, Mistress,” she said. I realized, uneasily, that I must have been cleaned.

“I have been perfumed, have I not?” I asked. I did not know if the room had been perfumed, or if it were I.

“Yes, Mistress,” said the girl.

I pulled the coverlet up, even more closely, about my neck.

I felt its soft silk on my naked, perfumed body. The perfume was exquisitely feminine.

“Am I still a virgin?” I asked.

“I suppose so,” said the girl. “I do not know.”

I looked uneasily at the heavy door, behind her. I did not know who might enter that door, to claim me.

“In whose bed am I?” I asked.

“In your own, Mistress,” said the girl.

“Mine?” I asked.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“Whose room is this?” I demanded.

“Yours, Mistress,” said the girl.

“There are bars at the window,” I said.

“They are for your protection, Mistress,” said the girl. “Such bars are not unusual in the rooms of women in Corcyrus.”

I looked at the girl in the light, floral-print tunic, kneeling a few feet from the bed. It was almost diaphanous. It was not difficult to detect the lineaments of her beauty beneath it seemed a garment which was, in its way, demure and yet, the same time, extremely provocative. To see a woman such a garment, I suspected, might drive a man half mad with passion. I wondered what was concealed in the silken sheath about her neck.

“Why have I been brought here?” I asked. “What am I doing here?”

“I do not know, Mistress,” said the girl. “I am not one such as would be informed.”

“Oh,” I said. I did not fully understand her response.

“Is Mistress hungry?” she inquired.

“Yes,” I said. I was ravenous.

Smiling, the girl rose lightly to her feet and left the room.

I left the bed and stood then on the tiles, near the bed, the coverlet still held about me, almost like a great cloak. The tiles felt cool to the bottoms of my feet. The weather seemed warm and sultry. I wondered if I might be in Africa or Asia.

I looked at the rings on the couch, at the ring in the floor, and the two rings in the wall, one about a yard from the floor and one about six feet from the floor.

I looked at the door. There was a handle on my side of the door, but no way to lock or bar it, at least from my side.

I heard a noise, and stepped back.

The door opened and the girl, carrying a tray, smiling, entered.

“Mistress is up,” she said. She then set the tray down on the small table. She arranged the articles on the tray, and then brought a cushion from the side of the room and placed it by the table. There was, on the tray, a plate of fruit, some yellow, wedge-shaped bread, and a bowl of hot, rich-looking, dark-brown, almost-black fluid.

“Let me relieve Mistress of the coverlet,” she said, approaching me.

I shrank back.

“It is too warm for it,” she smiled, reaching for it.

I again stepped back.

“I have washed Mistress many times,” she said. “And Mistress is very beautiful. Please.”

I let the coverlet slip to my hips. There was no mistaking the admiration in the eyes of the girl. This pleased me. I let her remove it from me. “Yes,” she said, “Mistress is quite beautiful.”

“Thank you,” I said.

She folded the coverlet and placed it on the great couch.

“Susan,” I said. “That is your name?”

“Yes, Mistress,” smiled the girl.

“What are these rings?” I asked, indicating the heavy ring in the floor, and the two rings in the wall.

“They are slave rings, Mistress,” said the girl.

“What is their purpose?” I asked, frightened.

“Slaves may be tied or chained to them,” said the girl.

“There are slaves, then, in this place?” I asked. This thought, somehow, alarmed me, terribly. Yet, too, at the same time, I found it inordinately moving and exciting. The thought of myself as a slave and what this might mean suddenly flashed through my mind. For an instant I was so thrilled, so shaken with the significance of this, that I could scarcely stand.

“There are true men in this place,” explained the girl.

“Oh,” I said. I did not understand her remark. Did she not know that true men repudiated their natural sovereignty, forsook their manhood and conformed to prescribed stereotypes? Was she not familiar with the political definitions? I wondered then if there might not be another sort of true men, true men, like true lions, who, innocent of negativistic conditionings, simply fulfilled themselves in the way of nature. Such men. I supposed, of course, could not exist. They, presumably, in the way of nature, would be less likely to pretend that women were the same as themselves than to simply relish them, to keep them, to dominate, own and treasure them, perhaps like horses or dogs, or, I thought, with a shudder, women.

“Would Mistress care to partake now of her breakfast?” asked the girl.

I was looking, fascinated, at the heavy ring set in the tiles.

“If Mistress wishes,” said the girl, “she may tie me to it and whip me.”

I looked at her, startled. “No,” I said. “No!”

“I shall tidy the room,” said the girl, “and prepare it for the convenience of Mistress.”

She turned about and went to the side of the room. She began to take articles from the vanity, such as, combs and brushes, and vials, and place them on its surface, before the mirror. She moved with incredible grace.

Glancing in the mirror she saw me behind her, watching her. “Mistress?” she asked.

“Nothing,” I said.

She continued her work. She straightened pillows at the side of the room. She then went to one of the sliding doors at the side of the room and moved one back a few inches. She reached inside and, from the interior of the door, where it had doubtless been hanging, from a loop on its handle, removed an object.

I gasped.

“Mistress?” she asked.

“What is that?” I asked.

“A whip,” she said, puzzled. Seeing my interest she brought it towards me. I stepped back. She held it across her body. Its handle was about eighteen inches long. It was white, and trimmed with yellow beads. Depending from this handle, at one end, were five, pliant yellow straps, or lashes. Each was about two and a half feet long, and one and a half inches wide.

I trembled.

I could scarcely conjecture what that might feel laid to my body.

“Am I to be whipped?” I asked. I was terribly conscious of my nudity, my vulnerability.

“I do not think so, Mistress,” laughed the girl.

I regarded the whip. I wished that she had been more affirmative in her response.

“Whose whip is it?” I asked.

“Yours, Mistress,” said the girl.

“But for what purpose is it to be used?” I asked.

“It is for whipping me,” she said. “It is my hope, however, that I will be so pleasing to Mistress that she will not wish to use it, or not often, on me.”

“Take it away,” I said. It frightened me.

The girl went to a wall and, near the large door, by a loop on its butt end, hung it from a hook. I had not noticed the hook before.

“There,” said the girl, smiling. “It is prominently displayed, where we both, many times a day, may see it.”

I nodded. I regarded the object. There was little mistaking its meaning.

“Susan,” I said.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“Are there truly slaves here, in this place, in this city, or country?”

“Yes, Mistress,” she said, “and generally.”

I did not understand what she meant by “generally.”

I felt the warm air on my body. I smelled the perfume, so delicately feminine, which had been put on me.

“You said you had been ‘named’ Susan,” I said.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“The way you said that,” I said, “it sounded as though you might have been named anything.”

The girl shrugged, and smiled. “Of course, Mistress,” she said.

“You are very pretty, Susan,” I said.

“Thank you, Mistress,” she said.

“These other rings,” I said, indicating the rings about the couch, “are they also slave rings?”

“Yes,” she said, approaching lightly, gracefully, “in their way, but most of them are only anchor rings, to which, say, chains or cords might be attached.” She then crouched by the heavy ring, that with coiled chain beneath it, that fastened at what might, perhaps, count as the bottom of the couch. “But this,” she said, “more appropriately, is the more typical type of ring which one thinks of as a slave ring. Do you see its resemblance to the others, that in the floor, those at the wall?”

“Yes,” I said.

She lifted the ring. I could see that it was heavy. She then lowered it back into place, so that it again, in its retaining ring, fastened in a metal plate, bolted into the couch, hung parallel to the side of the couch. “By means of such a ring,” she said, “a male silk slave might be chained at the foot of your couch.”

The girl rose to her feet. “Surely Mistress is hungry,” she said.

The light from the barred window was behind her. I also saw the shadows of the bars and crosspieces lying across the couch.

I turned and went to the low table where the tray had been placed.

“There are no chairs,” I said.

“There are few chairs in Corcyrus,” said the girl.

I turned to face her, almost in anguish. Something in this place terrified me.

“I have been unable to keep from noticing your garments,” I said.

“Mistress?” asked the girl.

“Forgive me,” I said, “but they leave little doubt as to your loveliness.”

“Thank you, Mistress,” said the girl.

“You are aware of how revealing they are, are you not?” I asked.

“I think so, Mistress,” said the girl.

“By them the lineaments of your beauty are made publicly clear,” I said.

“That is doubtless one of their intentions, Mistress,” said the girl.

I suddenly felt faint.

“Mistress?” asked the girl, alarmed.

“I am all right,” I said.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said, relieved.

I then, slowly, walked about her, frightened. She stood still, very straight, her head up. She was incredibly lovely, and exquisitely figured.

“There is something on your left leg,” I said, “high, on the thigh, just under the hip.” I saw this through the almost diaphanous, white, floral-print tunic she wore.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said. “It is common for girls such as I to be marked.”

“Marked?” I asked.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said. “Would Mistress care to see?”

Seeing my curiosity, my fascination, she drew up the skirt of the brief tunic, with both hands, and looked down to her left thigh.

“What is it?” I asked. It was a delicate mark, almost floral, about an inch and a half high and a half inch, or so, wide.

“It is my brand,” she said.

I gasped.

“It was put on me in Cos,” she said, “with a white-hot iron, two years ago.”

“Terrible,” I whispered.

“Girls such as I must expect to be marked,” she said. “It is in accord with the recommendations of merchant law.”

“Merchant law?” I asked.

“Yes, Mistress,” said the girl. “May I lower my tunic?”

“Yes,” I said.

She smoothed down the light tunic.

“It is a beautiful mark,” I said.

“I think so, too,” she said. “Thank you, Mistress.”

“Did it hurt?” I asked.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“It doesn’t hurt now though, does it?” I asked.

“No, Mistress,” she said.

I reached out, timidly, toward her throat. I touched the object there.

“What is this?” I asked.

“The silk?” she asked. “That is a collar stocking, or a collar sleeve. They may be made of many different materials. In a cooler climate they are sometimes of velvet. In most cities they are not used.”

Under the silk I touched sturdy steel.

“That, Mistress, of course,” she said, “is my collar.”

“Would you take it off,” I asked, “please? I would like to see it.”

She laughed merrily. “Forgive me, Mistress,” she said. “I cannot take it off.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“It is locked on me,” she laughed. She turned about. “See?” she asked.

Feverishly I thrust apart the two sides of the silken sleeve at the back of the girl’s neck. To be sure, there, below her hair, at the back of her neck, at the closure of the steel apparatus on her neck, there was a small, heavy, sturdy lock. I saw the keyhole. It would take a tiny key.

“You do not have the key?” I asked.

“No, Mistress,” she laughed. “Of course not.”

“Then you have, personally, no way of removing this collar?” I said.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said. “I have no way of removing it.”

I shuddered.

“May I ask you an intimate question, Susan?” I asked.

“Of course, Mistress,” she said.

“Are you a virgin?” I asked.

The girl laughed. “No, Mistress,” she said. “I was opened by men long ago for their pleasures.”

“Opened?” I whispered.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“For their pleasures?” I asked.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

You have called me ‘Mistress,’ I said. “Why?”

“That is the customary way in which girls such as I address all free women,” she said.

“What sort of girl are you?” I asked.

“A good girl, I hope, Mistress,” she said. “I will try to serve you well.”

“Are you a slave?” I whispered.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

I stepped back. I had tried to fight this understanding. I had told myself that it could not be, that it must not be. And yet, now, how simple, how obvious and plausible, seemed such an explanation of the girl’s garb, and of the mark on her body, and of the collar on her neck.

“I am the slave of Ligurious, first minister of Corcyrus,” she said. She slid the collar sleeve about the collar and, feeling with her fingers, indicated some marks on the collar. I could see engraving there. I could not read the writing. “That information,” she said, “is recorded here.”

“I see,” I said, trembling.

She slid the collar sleeve back about the collar, arranging it in place. “I was purchased almost two years ago, from the pens of Saphronicus, in Cos,” she said.

“The purpose of the collar sleeve is to hide the collar,” I said.

“No, Mistress,” she said. “Surely the collar’s presence within the sleeve is sufficiently evident.”

“Yes,” I said, “I can see now that it is.”

The girl smiled.

“The yellow fits in nicely with the yellow of your belt,” I said, “and the yellow flowers on the tunic.”

“Yes, Mistress,” smiled the girl. The sleeve I saw now could function rather like an accessory, perhaps adding to, or completing, an ensemble. It did, in this case, at least, make its contribution to the girl’s appearance. “The belt is binding fiber, Mistress,” said the girl, turning before me. “It may be used to tie or leash me, or even, coiled, to whip me.”

“I see,” I said. It was a part of her ensemble.

“And the flowers,” said the girl, “are talenders. They are a beautiful flower. They are often associated with love.”

“They are very pretty,” I said.

“Some free women do not approve of slaves being permitted to wear talenders,” she said, “or being permitted to have representations of them, like these, on their frocks. Yet slaves do often wear them, the masters permitting it, and they are not an uncommon motif, the masters seeing to it, on their garments.”

“Why do free women object?” I asked.

“They feel that a slave, who must love whomever she is commanded to love, can know nothing of love.”

“Oh,” I said.

“But I have been both free and slave,” she said, “and, forgive me, Mistress, but I think that it is only a slave, in her vulnerability and helplessness, who can know what love truly is.”

“You must love upon command?” I asked, horrified.

“We must do as we are told,” she said. “We are slaves.”

I shuddered at the thought of the helplessness of the slave.

“We may hope, of course,” she said, “that we come into the power of true masters.”

“Does this ever happen?” I asked.

“Often, Mistress,” she said.

“Often?” I said.

“There is no dearth of true masters here,” she said.

I wondered in what sort of place I might be that there might here be no dearth of true masters. In all my life, hitherto, I did not think I had ever met a man, or knowingly met a man, who was a true master. The nearest I had come, I felt, were the men I had encountered before being brought to this place, those who had treated me as though I might be nothing, and had incarcerated me in the straps and iron box. Sometimes they had made me so weak I had felt like begging them to rape or have me. I had the horrifying thought that perhaps I existed for such men.

“How degrading and debasing to be a slave!” I cried.

“Yes, Mistress,” said the girl, putting down her head. I thought she smiled. She had told me, I suspected, what I had wanted to hear, what I had expected to hear.

“Slavery is illegal!” I cried.

“Not here, Mistress,” she said.

I stepped back.

“Where Mistress comes from,” said the girl, “it is not illegal to own animals, is it?”

“No,” I said. “Of course not.”

“It is the same here,” she said. “And the slave is an animal.”

“You are an animal—legally?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Horrifying!” I cried.

“Biologically, of course,” she said, “we are all animals. Thus, in a sense, we might all be owned. It thus becomes a question as to which among these animals own and which are owned, which, so to speak, count as persons, or have standing, before the law, and which do not, which are, so to speak, the citizens or persons, and which are the animals.”

“It is wrong to own human beings,” I said.

“Is it wrong to own other animals?” she asked.

“No,” I said.

“Then why is it wrong to own human beings?” she asked.

“I do not know,” I said.

“It would seem inconsistent,” she said, “to suggest that it is only certain sorts of animals which may be owned, and not others.”

“Human beings are different,” I said.

The girl shrugged. “So, too, are tarsks and verr,” she said.

I did not know those sorts of animals.

“Human beings can talk and think!” I said.

“Why should that make a difference?” she asked. “If anything, the possession of such properties would make a human being an even more valuable possession than a tarsk or verr.”

“Where I come from it is wrong to own human beings but it is all right for other animals to be owned.”

“If other animals made the laws where you come from,” she said, “perhaps it would be wrong, there to own them and right to own human beings.”

“Perhaps!” I said, angrily.

“Forgive me, Mistress,” said the girl. “I did not mean to displease you.”

“It is wrong to own human beings,” I said.

“Can Mistress prove that?” she asked.

“No!” I said, angrily.

“How does Mistress know it?” she asked.

“It is self-evident,” I said. I knew, of course, that I was so sure of this only because I had been taught, uncritically, to believe it.

“If self-evidence is involved here,” she said, “it is surely self-evident that it is not wrong to own human beings. In most cultures, traditions and civilizations with which I am familiar, the right to own human beings was never questioned. To them the rectitude of the institution of slavery was self-evident.”

“Slavery is wrong because it can involve pain and hardship,” I said.

“Work, too,” she said, “can involve pain and hardship. Is work, thus, wrong?”

“No,” I said.

She shrugged.

“Slavery is wrong,” I said, “because slaves may not like it.”

“Many people may not like many things,” she said, “which does not make those things wrong. Too, it has never been regarded as a necessary condition for the rectitude of slavery that slaves approved of their condition.”

“That is true,” I said.

“See?” she asked.

“How could someone approve of slavery,” I asked, “or regard it as right, if he himself did not wish to be a slave?”

“In a sense,” she said, “one might approve of many things, and recognize their justifiability, without thereby wishing to become implicated personally in them. One might approve of medicine, say, without wishing to be a physician. One might approve of mathematics without desiring to become a mathematician, and so on.”

“Of course,” I said, irritably.

“It might be done in various ways,” she said. “One might, for example, regard a society in which the institution of slavery, with its various advantages and consequences, was an ingredient as a better society than one in which it did not exist. This, then, would be its justification. In such a way, then, be might approve of slavery as an institution without wishing necessarily to become a slave himself. In moral consistency, of course, in approving of the institution, he would seem to accept at least the theoretical risk of his own enslavement. This risk he would presumably regard as being a portion of the price he is willing to pay for the benefits of living in this type of society, which he regards, usually by far, as being a society superior to its alternatives. Another form of justification occurs when one believes that slavery is right and fit for certain human beings but not for others. This position presupposes that not all human beings are alike. In this point of view, the individual approves of slavery for those who should be slaves and disapproves of it, or at least is likely regret it somewhat, in the case of those who should not be slave. He is perfectly consistent in this, for he believes that if he himself should be a natural slave, then it would be right, too, for him to be enslaved. This seems somewhat more sensible than the categorical denial, unsubstantiated, that slavery is not right for any human being. Much would seem to depend on the nature of the particular human being.”

“Slavery denies freedom!” I cried.

“Your assertion seems to presuppose the desirability of universal freedom,” she said. “This may be part of what is at issue.”

“Perhaps,” I said.

“Is there more happiness in a society in which all are free,” she asked, “than in one in which some are not free?”

“I do not know,” I said. The thought of miserable, competitive, crowded, frustrated, hostile populations crossed my mind.

“Mistress?” she asked.

“I do not know!” I said.

“Yes, Mistress,” said the girl.

“Slavery denies freedom!” I reiterated.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“It denies freedom,” I said.

“It denies some freedoms, and precious ones,” said the girl. “But, too, it makes others possible, and they, too, are precious.”

“People simply cannot be owned!” I said, angrily.

“I am owned,” she said.

I did not speak. I was frightened.

“My Master is Ligurious, of the city of Corcyrus,” she said.

“Slavery is illegal,” I said, lamely.

“Not here,” she said.

“People cannot be owned,” I whispered, desperately, horrified.

“Here,” she said, “in point of fact, aside from all questions of legality or moral propriety, or the lack thereof, putting all such questions aside for the moment, for they are actually irrelevant to the facts, people are, I assure you, owned.”

“People are in fact owned?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “And fully.”

“Then, truly,” I said, “there are slaves here. There are slaves in this place.”

“Yes,” she said. “And generally.”

Again I did not understand the meaning of “generally.”

She spoke almost as though we might not be on Earth, somewhere on Earth. My heart was heating rapidly. I put my hand to my bosom. I looked about the room, frightened. It was like no other room I had ever been in. It did not seem that it would be in England or America. I did not know where I was. I did not even know on what continent I might be. I looked at the girl. I was in the presence of a slave, a woman who was owned. Her master was Ligurious, of this city, said to be Corcyrus. I looked to the barred window, to the soft expanses of that great, barbaric couch, to the chain at its foot, to the rings fixed in it, and elsewhere, to the whip on its hook, to the door which I could not lock on my side. I was again terribly conscious of my nudity, my vulnerability.

“Susan,” I said.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“Am I a slave?” I asked.

“No, Mistress,” said the girl.

I almost fainted with relief. The room, for a moment, seemed to swirl about me. I was unspeakably pleased to discover that I was not a slave, and then, suddenly, unaccountably, I felt an inexplicable anguish. I realized, suddenly, shaken, that there was something within me that wanted to be owned. I looked at the girl. She was owned In that instant I envied her her collar.

“I am a slave!” I said, angrily. “Look at me. Do you doubt that I am a slave? I am wearing only an anklet and perfume.”

“Mistress is not marked. Mistress is not collared,” said the girl.

“I am a slave,” I said. I wondered, when I said this, if I was only insisting that I was a slave, that I must be a slave, because of such things as the barred window and the anklet, or if I was speaking what lay in my heart.

“Mistress is free,” said the girl.

“I cannot be free,” I said.

“If Mistress is not free,” she said, “who is Mistress’ master?”

“I do not know,” I said, frightened. I wondered if I did belong to someone and simply did not yet know it.

“I know Mistress is free,” said the girl.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“Ligurious, my master, has told me,” she said.

“But I am naked,” I said.

“Mistress had not yet dressed,” she said. She then went to the sliding doors at the side of the room, and moved them aside. Thus were revealed the habiliments of what was apparently an extensive and resplendent wardrobe.

She brought forth a lovely, brief, lined, sashed, shimmering yellow-silk robe and, holding it up, displayed it for me.

I was much taken by it, but it seemed almost excitingly sensuous.

“Have you nothing simpler, nothing plainer, nothing coarser?” I asked.

“Something more masculine?” asked the girl.

“Yes,” I said, uncertainly. I had not really thought of it exactly like that, or not consciously, but it now seemed to me as if that might be right.

“Does Mistress wish to dress like a man?” she asked.

“No,” I said, “I suppose not. Not really.”

“I can try to find a man’s clothing for Mistress if she wishes,” said the girl.

“No,” I said. “No.” It was not really that I wanted to wear a man’s clothing, literally. It was only that I thought that it might be better to wear a more mannish type of clothing. After all, had I not been taught that I was, for most practical purposes, the same as a man, and not something deeply and radically different? Too, such garb has its defensive purposes. Is it not useful, for example, in helping a girl to keep men from seeing her as what she is, a woman?

“Mistress,” said the girl, helping me on with the silken robe. I belted the yellow-silk sash. The hem of the robe came high on the thighs. I looked at myself, startled, in the mirror.

In such a garment, lovely, clinging, short, closely belted, there was no doubt that I was a woman.

“Mistress is beautiful!” said the girl.

“Thank you,” I said. I turned, back and forth, looking at myself in the mirror.

I adjusted the belt, making it a little tighter. The girl smiled.

“Are such garments typical of this place?” I asked.

“Does Mistress mean,” asked the girl, “that here sexual differences are clearly marked by clothing, that here sexual differences are important and not blurred, that men and women dress differently here?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Yes,” she said. “The answer is ‘Yes,’ Mistress.”

“Sexuality is important here, then?” I said.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said. “Here sexuality is deeply and fundamentally important, and here women are not men, and men are not women. The sexes are quite different, and here each is true to itself.”

“Oh,” I said.

“By means of different garbs, then,” she said, “it is natural that these important and fundamental differences be marked, the garbs of men being appropriate to their nature, for example, to their size and strength, and those of women to their nature, for example, to their softness and beauty.”

“I see,” I said. I was a bit frightened. In this place, I gathered, the fact that I was a woman was not irrelevant to what I was. That I was a woman was, I gathered, at least in this place, something fundamentally important about me.

This fact would be made clear about me even by the clothing which I wore. I glanced at the wardrobe. Deceit and subterfuge, I suspected, were not in those fabrics. They were such, I suspected, as would mark me as a woman and even proclaimed me as such. How would I fare in such a place, I wondered, where it might be difficult to conceal or deny my sex. How terrified I was at the thought that I might have to be true to my sex, that I might have little choice here but to be what I was, a woman, and wholly. I looked in the mirror.

That is what I am here, I thought, a woman.

There was a sudden, loud knock at the door.

I cried out, startled. The girl turned white, and then, facing the door, immediately dropped to her knees. She cried out something, frightened. The door opened.

A large man stood framed in the doorway. He seemed agile and strong. He glanced about. His eyes seemed piercing.

He had broad shoulders and long arms. His hair was cut rather short, and was brown, flecked with gray. He wore a white tunic, trimmed in red. He looked at me and I almost fainted. It was something in his eyes. I knew I had never seen a man like this before. There was something different about him, from all other men I had seen. It was almost as though a lion had taken human form.

“It is Ligurious, my Master,” said the girl, her head now down to the floor, the palms of her hands on the tiles.

I swallowed hard, and then tried, desperately, to meet the man’s gaze. I must show him that I was a true person.

“Get on the bed,” he said. His voice had an accent. I could not place it.

I fled to the bed and crept obediently upon it.

He came to the edge of the bed and looked down at me. I half lay, half crouched on the bed. I was very conscious of the shortness of the robe I wore.

He said something to Susan and she sprang up and came to the edge of the bed. He said something else to her. I did not understand the language, or even recognize it.

“He says he thinks you will prove quite suitable,” she said to me, in English.

“For what?” I begged.

“I do not know, Mistress,” she said.

“Get on your back,” he said.

Immediately, obediently, I lay supine before him.

“Raise your right knee, and extend your left leg,” he said, palms of your hands at your sides, facing upward.”

I immediately assumed this position. I felt very vulnerable, particularly, interestingly, as the palms of my hands were exposed. I began to breathe deeply. I was terrified. I also realized, suddenly, that I was very aroused, sexually, obeying him.

The man glanced to the side. He said something to the girl.

“He notes that you have not touched your breakfast,” she said.

I moaned. I hoped that he was not displeased. It had been safe to displease the men I had hitherto known, or most of them. They might be displeased with impunity. I was afraid, however, to displease this man. I did not think he would accept being displeased. He, I was sure, would simply punish me, and well. He might even kill me.

He looked down at me.

I was much aroused. I whimpered. I expected him to rape me. I was even eager to be raped, anything to please him.

I felt his hand take my ankle. I was so charged with sensation that I almost fainted at the touch. Then I became aware that his grip was like steel. Then I saw him take a string from about his neck. On this string there was a tiny key. Startled, I felt the key inserted in the lock on my anklet. Then the anklet was removed. I lay trembling on the bed.

He stood there then, looking down at me, the anklet, string and key in his hand. I then realized, partly in relief, and, in a part of me, with disappointment, that I was not then, or at least not then, to be raped. I was not then to feel his strong hands on me, forcing me, as a woman, imperiously to his will.

“May I speak?” I whispered.

“Yes,” he said.

“Who are you?” I asked. “Who is she? Where am I? What am I doing here? What do you want of me?”

“I am Ligurious, first minister of Corcyrus,” he said. “She is unimportant. Her name is Susan. She is a slave.”

“No,” I said. “I mean, who is Ligurious? Who are you? I have never heard of you.”

“You need know little more of me than that I am the first minister of Corcyrus,” he said.

I looked at him. He must have some connection, of course, with the men who had come to my apartment. He had a key for the anklet.

“Where am I?” I asked.

“In Corcyrus,” he said.

“But where is Corcyrus?” I begged. “I do not even know in what part of the world I am!”

He looked at me, puzzled.

The girl said something to him. He smiled.

“Am I in Africa?” I asked. “Am I in Asia?”

“Have you not noticed subtle differences in the gravity here,” he asked, “from what you have been accustomed to? Have you not noticed that the air here seems somewhat different from that with which you have hitherto been familiar?”

“I have seemed to notice such things,” I said, “but I was drugged in my apartment, Obviously such sensations are delusory, merely the effects of that drug.”

“The drug,” he said, “does not produce such effects.”

“What are you telling me?” I asked, frightened.

“After a short while,” he said, “you will no longer think of these things. You will not even notice them, or, at least, not consciously. You will have made your adjustments and accommodations. You will have become acclimated, so to speak. At most you may occasionally become aware that you are now experiencing a condition of splendid vitality and health.”

“What are you telling me?” I asked, frightened.

“This is not Earth,” he said. “This is another planet.”

I regarded him, disbelievingly.

“Does this seem to be Earth to you?” he asked.

“No,” I whispered.

“Does this seem to be a room of Earth to you?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

“You have been brought here by spaceship,” he said.

I could not speak.

“The technology involved is more sophisticated, more advanced, than that with which you are familiar,” he said.

“But you speak English,” I said. “She speaks English!”

“I have learned some English,” he said. “She, however, speaks it natively.” He turned to the girl. He said something to her.

“I have been given permission to speak,” she said. “I am from Cincinnati, Ohio, Mistress,” she said.

“She was brought to this world more than two years ago,” he said.

“My original name was Susan,” she said. “My last name does not matter. When I became a slave, of course, my name was gone. Animals do not have names, except as their masters might choose to name them. The name ‘Susan’ was again put upon me, but now, of course, I have it only as a slave name.”

“Why was she brought here?” I asked.

“For the usual reason for which an Earth female is brought here,” he said.

“What is that?” I asked.

“To be a slave,” he said.

He then turned to the girl and said something. She nodded.

He then turned again to me. “You may break position,” he said.

I rolled to my stomach on the couch, clutching at it. I shuddered.

I was not on Earth.

“Why have I been brought here?” I asked. “To be a slave, to be branded, to wear a collar, to serve some man as though he might be my master?”

“He would be your master,” said the man, very evenly, very quietly, very menacingly.

I nodded, frightened. It was true, of course. If I were a slave then he who was my master would indeed be my master, and totally. I could be owned as completely, and easily, as Susan, or any other woman.

“But I think you will be pleased to learn what we have in store for you,” he said.

“What?” I asked, turning to my side, pulling the robe down on my thighs.

“In time,” he said, “I think things will become clearer to you.”

“I see,” I said.

“Do you have any other questions?” he asked.

I half rose up on the couch, my left leg under me, my palms on the surface of the couch. “Am I still a virgin?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

This pleased me. I would not have wished to have lost my virginity while unconscious. A girl would at least like to be aware of it when it happens. Too, I was pleased because I thought that the possession of my virginity might make me somehow more valuable. Perhaps I could use it somehow to improve my position in this world. Perhaps I could somehow use it as a prize which I might award for gain, or as a bargaining device in some negotiation in which I might be involved. Then I looked into the eyes of Ligurious, first minister of Corcyrus. I shuddered. I realized then that my virginity, on this world, was nothing, and that it might simply be taken from me, rudely and peremptorily, whenever men might please.

Ligurious then turned and left the room. As he had left the room, though he had scarcely noticed her, Susan had knelt, with her head to the tiles. She now rose to her feet.

“Earlier,” I said, “your master, when beside the couch, said something to you. What was it?”

“It is his desire,” she said, “that you eat.”

I quickly left the couch and went to the small table, on which the tray reposed. I did not wish to displease Ligurious.

He was the sort of man who was to be obeyed, immediately and perfectly.

I loosened my robe and sat down, cross-legged, on the cushion before the table. I picked up a piece of the yellow bread.

“Oh, no, Mistress,” said the girl, putting out her hand. “That is how men sit. We are women. We kneel.”

“I will sit,” I told her.

“Mistress understands, surely,” said the girl, in misery, “that I must make reports to Ligurious, my master.”

“I will kneel,” I said.

“That is much more lovely,” said the girl, approvingly.

I then began to eat, kneeling. This posture, to be sure, though I do not think I would have admitted it to the girl, did strike me as being much more feminine than that which I had earlier adopted. Certainly, at least, it made me feel much more feminine. I wondered if there was a certain rightness to women kneeling. Certainly we look beautiful, kneeling. The posture, too, at least if we are permitted to keep our knees closed, permits us a certain modest reserve with respect to our intimacies. Too, it is a position which one may assume easily and beautifully, and from which it is possible to rise with both beauty and grace. To be sure, the position does suggest not only beauty and grace but also submissiveness.

This thought troubled me. But then I thought that if women should be submissive, then, whatever might be the truth in these matters, such postures would be appropriate and natural for them. In any event, the posture did make me feel delicately and exquisitely feminine. I was somewhat embarrassed, to be sure, by these feelings. Then it suddenly seemed absurd to me that I should be embarrassed, or should feel guilty or ashamed, about these feelings. I think I then realized, perhaps for the first time, fully, the power of the conditioning devices to which I had been subjected. How strange, and pernicious, I thought, that a woman should be made to feel guilty about being feminine, truly feminine, radically feminine! What a tribute this was to the effectiveness of contemporary conditioning techniques! In the world from which I came sexuality was not an ingredient but an accessory. Here, on the other hand, I suspected, men and women were not the same.

Indeed, it seemed that here I would be expected to assume certain postures and attitudes, and genuinely feminine ones, perhaps merely because I was a woman. In this world it seemed that sexuality, and perhaps a deeply natural sexuality, was an ingredient, and not a mere accessory. It might be at the very core of this world. An essential and ineradicable element in this world appeared to be sexuality, with its basic distinctions between human beings, dividing them clearly into different sorts, into males and females. In a world such as this I realized that I might not only be permitted to express my natural, fundamental nature, but that I might be encouraged to do so. This was a world in which my femininity, whatever it was, and wherever it might lead, was not to be denied to me. I glanced at the whip on the wall. On this world, I suspected, I might even be given no choice but to be true to my sex, and fully. For a moment this made me angry.

Surely I had a right to frustrate and deny my sex if I wished! If I was afraid to be a woman, truly and fundamentally, with all that it might entail, surely I should not be forced to become one! Yet I knew that in my heart I felt a sudden, marvelous surge of hope, a sense of possible liberation, that I might here, on this world, be freed, even if I were placed in a steel collar, to be what I truly was, not merely a human being, but the kind of human being I actually was, a human female, a woman.

“Mistress’ drink is cold,” said the girl. “Let me have it reheated or fetch you a fresh one.”

“No,” I said. “It is fine.” I lifted the small, handleless bowl in two hands. I was excited that she had had used the word “fetch.” She was the sort of girl who might carry or fetch for a Master or a Mistress.

“No, Mistress,” said the girl. “You are a woman. Drink more delicately.”

I then sipped from the bowl.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said. “That is more feminine.” I then realized, even more profoundly than before, how deeply sexuality must characterize and penetrate this culture. The differences between men and women were to be expressed even in their smallest behaviors. What a significant and real thing it is in this culture to be a man or a woman.

“This is warmed chocolate,” I said, pleased. It was very rich and creamy.

“Yes, Mistress,” said the girl.

“It is very good,” I said.

“Thank you, Mistress,” she said.

“Is it from Earth?” I asked.

“Not directly,” she said. “Many things here, of course, ultimately have an Earth origin. It is not improbable that the beans from which the first cacao trees on this world were grown were brought from Earth.”

“Do the trees grow near here?” I asked.

“No, Mistress,” she said. “We obtain the beans, from which the chocolate is made, from Cosian merchants, who, in turn, obtain them in the tropics.”

I put the chocolate down. I began to bite at the yellow bread. It was fresh.

“Perhaps Mistress should take smaller bites,” she said.

“Very well,” I said. I then began to eat as she had suggested. I was a woman. I was not an adolescent boy. Again, even in so small a thing as this, I began to feel my femininity keenly. Too, again, I became very sensitive of the depth and pervasiveness of the sexuality which might characterize this world. Men and women did not even eat in the same way.

“Exceptions can occur under certain circumstances, of course,” said the girl. “Mistress might, for example, in the presence of a man she wishes to arouse, take a larger than normal bite from a fresh fruit, and look at the man over the fruit, letting juice, a tiny trickle of it, run at the side of her mouth.”

“But why would I wish to arouse a man?” I asked.

The girl looked at me, puzzled. “Perhaps the needs of Mistress might be much upon her,” she said. “Perhaps she might wish to be taken and overwhelmed in his arms, and forced to surrender to him.”

“I do not understand,” I said, as though horrified.

“That is because Mistress is free,” she said.

I had understood only too well, of course. But I was terrified to even think such thoughts.

“Slaves, I suppose, occasionally have recourse to such devices,” I said. I was eager to learn.

“A device such as that with the fresh fruit,” she said, “is more appropriate to a free woman. We do have at our disposal, as slaves, however, a number and variety of begging signals, such things as groveling and moaning, and bringing bonds to him in our teeth, wherewith we may endeavor to call our needs to his attention.”

“Begging signals?” I said.

“We are at the complete mercy of our masters,” she said.

“Are the masters then kind to you?” I asked.

“Sometimes they consent to content us,” she said.

“How horrifying to be a slave,” I said.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said, putting her head down, smiling. I saw that, again, she was answering me in the fashion in which, doubtless, I wished to be answered, doubtless with deference to my dignity, status or freedom. Sorely then I envied her her collar. My feelings now began to alarm me. I decided that it would be safest to change the subject.

“Where are the spaceships?” I asked.

“Spaceships?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“I do not know,” she said. “I have never even seen one.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Has Mistress?” she asked.

“No,” I said. I gathered that Susan, like myself, had been brought to this world unconscious. We knew nothing, or almost nothing, of how we had come here.

“The people of this world have very little evidence,” she said, “that such things even exist. The only evidence they have, for the most part, is that of certain objects brought from Earth.”

“Objects?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “Usually girls, in chains.”

“You refer to them as ‘objects’?” I asked, horrified.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said. “They are slaves.”

“I see,” I said.

“This world is, as Mistress will discover,” said the girl, “on the whole a very primitive and barbaric place. Do not expect to see complex machines and spaceships.”

“Oh,” I said.

“I do not even think that such ships are housed on this world,” she said. “I think they merely visit it, from elsewhere.”

“Surely men must come and go between here and Earth,” I said.

“Perhaps, Mistress,” she said. “But I know nothing of it.”

“Have you no hope of returning to Earth?” I asked.

“Look at me, Mistress,” she smiled. “I am half naked. I am branded. I am collared. I do not think I was brought to this world to be returned to Earth.”

“But surely you wish to return to Earth,” I said.

“No, Mistress,” she said.

“But you are branded and collared,” I said. “You are a slave!”

“It is my lot, Mistress,” she said. “I am not discontent.”

“But, why?” I asked.

“There are true men here,” she said.

“I do not understand,” I said.

“A thousand times better a collar on Gor than freedom on Earth,” she said.

“I do not understand,” I said.

“That is because Mistress is not a slave,” she said.

“May I call you ‘Susan’?” I asked.

“Of course, Mistress,” she said.

“You need not call me ‘Mistress’,” I said. “You may call me ‘Tiffany’. “

“No, please, Mistress!” said the girl, turning white. “Please, no!”

“Very well,” I said. I saw that she was under some strict and superb discipline.

“At the very least,” I said, “I want us to be friends.”

“No, Mistress, please,” she said.

“But you are a girl from Earth,” I said. “You are an American. I am an American.”

“Please, no, Mistress,” she begged.

“You are from Cincinnati, Ohio, in America,” I said.

“I am a female slave,” she said.

“Why can we not be friends?” I asked.

“You are free, and I am only a slave,” she said.

I looked at her.

“I will try to serve Mistress well,” she said. “Whip me, if I do not please you.”

“Very well,” I said. I thought that I was now beginning to understand something of the discipline under which slaves might be held. I wondered what it would be like to be under such discipline. I shuddered.

“Does Mistress enjoy her breakfast?” asked the girl.

“Yes,” I said.

“Good,” she said.

“Susan,” I said.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“This seems to be a very sexual world,” I said.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“Are women safe here?” I asked.

“No, Mistress,” she said. “Not really.”

“You said earlier,” I said, “that I was very beautiful.” She had seen me naked.

“Yes, Mistress,” said the girl.

“Do you think that men here, on this world, might find me of interest?”

“Do you mean really of interest,” she asked, “as a female slave?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Will Mistress open her robe?” she asked.

I did so.

“Will Mistress please stand and remove her robe, and let it dangle from one hand, and turn, slowly, before me?”

I did so. I waited, inspected.

“Yes, Mistress,” said the girl.

I nearly fainted in fear, terrified, but not a little thrilled by this insight.

“Mistress would look well being sold from a block,” she said.

Hastily, frightened, I pulled the robe on again, and belted it tightly.

“But I think Mistress has little to fear,” she said.

I regarded her. In the girl’s view, in some respects at least, as I had just learned, I was not unsuitable for slavery.

“Why?” I asked.

“You are well guarded,” she said. “Your quarters, even, are in the palace of Corcyrus.”

“This is the palace? There are guards about?” I asked.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“I am frightened by your master,” I said.

“I, too, am frightened by him,” she said.

“No doubt our fears are quite silly,” I said.

“No, Mistress,” she said.

“No?” I asked.

“No, Mistress,” she said. “Our fears are fully justified. They are quite appropriate.”

“Do you think he wants me?” I asked. I was terrified of Ligurious.

“I do not think so,” she said.

“Why?” I asked, puzzled.

“If he wanted you,” she said, “by now you would have been branded. By now you would be in his collar. By now you would have been chained naked at the foot of his couch. By now you would have felt his whip. By now you would have learned to beg to serve him.”

“Oh,” I said.

“It is not that he does not recognize your beauty,” she said. “That any man could see at a glance.”

“Oh,” I said, somewhat mollified. I would have been outraged, or something in me would have been outraged, if I had not been thought worth a chain. I was sure I could prove to a man that I was worthy of a chain.

“His interest in you, merely, does not appear to be in that way,” she said. “Too, of course, he has many beautiful women, and is a busy man.”

“Many beautiful women?” I asked.

“Slaves,” she said.

“More than you?” I asked.

“I am only one of his girls,” she laughed, “and I am surely one of the least beautiful.”

“How many slaves does he have?” I asked.

“He is an ambitious and abstemious man,” she said. “He worked long hours in the service of the state. He has little time for the meaningless charms of slaves.”

“How many slaves does her have?” I asked.

“Fifty,” she said.

I gasped.

“Perhaps Mistress would like to finish her breakfast,” said the girl.

I knelt down before the small table, as I had been taught. I was trembling.

Here, as I had just learned, one man might own as many as fifty women.

“Mistress is not eating,” said the girl.

“I am not hungry,” I said.

“Am I to report to my master, Ligurious,” asked the girl, “that Mistress did not finish her breakfast?”

“No,” I said. “No!”

“Every bit of it, please, Mistress,” said the girl.

I nodded. I ate. I felt like a slave.

Then I had finished.

“Excellent, Mistress,” said the girl. “I shall now dress Mistress. I will teach her the proper garments, and their adjustments, and the veils, and their fastenings. Then it will be time for her lessons.”

“Lessons?” I asked, frightened.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“What, sort of lessons?” I asked, apprehensively.

“Lessons in language,” she said. “Lessons in our habits and customs. Lessons in the details of the governance of Corcyrus.”

“I do not understand,” I said.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“Tiffany Collins,” I said.

“No, Mistress,” she said.

I looked at her, puzzled.

“Put that identity behind you,” she said. “Regard it as being gone, as much as if you were a slave. Prepare to begin anew.”

“But, how?” I asked. “What am I to do? Who am I to be?”

“That much I know,” smiled the girl. “I know your new identity. My master has told me.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“From this moment on,” said the girl, “accustom yourself to thinking of yourself as Sheila, Tatrix, of Corcyrus.”

“Sheila, Tatrix of Corcyrus?” I said.

“Yes,” said the girl.

“What is a Tatrix?” I asked.

“A female ruler,” she said.

I looked at her, disbelievingly.

“It is a great honor for me,” said the girl, “to serve the Tatrix of Corcyrus.”

I trembled, kneeling behind the small table. The brief robe of yellow silk did not seem much to wear. I was afraid of the world on which I found myself.

“Who are you?” asked the girl.

“Sheila?” I said. “Tatrix of Corcyrus?”

“Yes,” she said. “Please say it, Mistress. Who are you?”

“I am Sheila, Tatrix of Corcyrus,” I whispered.

“That is correct, Mistress,” said the girl.

“I do not understand,” I said. “I do not understand anything! I do not even know the name of the world on which I find myself.”

“It is called Gor,” she said.

Chapter 4 - A NIGHT IN CORCYRUS

I awakened, sometime late at night. I had been dreaming in Gorean, the language spoken in Corcyrus, and, I had learned, in much of this world.

Several weeks had passed since I had been brought here. In this time I had been immersed, for hours, for Ahn, a day in studies and trainings pertinent to my new environment. I was still muchly imperfect in many things, but there was little doubt in my mind, nor I think in that of my numerous teachers, that I had made considerable progress.

I lay nude, late at night, on the great couch. The night was warm.

Supposedly I was Sheila, the Tatrix of this city, Corcyrus.

I could still feel the effects of the wine I had had for supper. I do not think that it was an ordinary wine. I think that it was an unusual wine in some respects, or, perhaps, that it had been drugged.

I had had a strange dream, mixed in with other dreams. It was difficult to sort these things out.

In the past few days, gradually, I had been entered into the public life of Corcyrus, primarily in small things such as granting audiences, usually with foreigners, and making brief public appearances. Always, in these things, Ligurious, happily, unobtrusively, was at my side. Often, had it not been for his suggestions, I would not have known what to do or say. I Had even, the day before yesterday, held court, though, to be sure, the cases were minor.

“Let the churl be stripped,” I had said, imperiously, “and a sign be put about his neck, proclaiming him a fraud. Then let him be marched naked, before the spears of guards, through the great gate of Corcyrus, not to be permitted to return before the second passage hand!”

This was the one case which I remembered the most clearly.

The culprit was a small, vile man with a twisted body. He was an itinerant peddler, Speusippus of Turia. I had found him inutterably detestable. A Corcyran merchant had brought charges against him. He had received a bowl from Speusippus which was purportedly silver, a bowl seemingly stamped with the appropriate seal of Ar. The bowl upon inspection, the merchant becoming suspicious as to the weights involved, had turned out to be merely plated. Further, since the smithies of Ar, those authorized to use the various stamps of Ar, will not plate objects without using relevant variations on the seal of Ar to, indicate this, the object was not only being misrepresented but was, in effect, a forged artifact. This had led to a seizure and search of the stores and records of Speusippus.

Various other discrepancies were found. He had two sets of weights, one true and one false. Too, documents were found recording the purchase of quantities of slave hair, at suitable prices, some even within the city of Corcyrus itself. This hair, as was attested to by witnesses, had been represented to the public as that of free women, with appropriate prices being expected.

Hair, incidentally, is a common trade item in Gorean markets. It is used for various purposes, for example, for insect whisks, for dusters, for cleaning and polishing pads, for cushionings, decorations and ropes, particularly catapult ropes, for which it is highly prized.

It is not unusual, incidentally, for slave girls, particularly for those who may not have proved superbly pleasing, as yet, to discover that their hair, even while it is still on them, is expected, like themselves, to serve various lowly, domestic purposes. For example, when a girl, serving at a banquet, hears the command, “Hair,” she knows she is to go to the guest and kneel, and lower her head, that her hair may be used as a napkin or wiping cloth, by means of which the free person, either male or female, may remove stains, crumbs or grease from his hands. Similarly a girl’s hair, if sufficiently long, may be used for the washing and cleaning of floors. In this she is usually on her hands and knees, and naked and chained. The hair is used in conjunction with the soap and water, in the appropriate buckets, being dipped in, and wrung out, and rinsed, and so on.

Hair incidentally, is not used for the application of such things as waxes or varnishes, because of the difficulty of removing such substances from the hair. Such a mistake could necessitate a shearing and a lowering of the market value of a girl for months. For similar reasons, a girl’s hair, even within a cloth, if it is still on her, is seldom used for such purposes as buffing and polishing. Hair is common, of course, as a stuffing for pads used for such purposes, for example, for the purposes of cleaning, buffing and polishing.

I was pleased to see the odious Speusippus turned about by guards and dragged from my presence. How pleased I was, too, to see the awesome strength of men serving my purposes.

I lay on my back, on the great couch, in the hot Corcyrus night.

Some things I did not understand. Even Susan, who knew much more of Gor than I, did not understand them.

In my audiences, and public appearances, for example, and even in the court, I appeared without the veils common to the Gorean free woman. I knew the veils, and Susan had instructed me in their meanings, arrangements and fastenings, but, publicly, at least, I seldom wore them. This omission seemed puzzling to me, from what I had learned of Gor, particularly in the case of a free woman of so lofty a station as a Tatrix, but I saw no real reason for objecting, particularly in the warm weather of Corcyrus.

Indeed, Susan’s being so scandalized, and her reservations about sending me forth unveiled from my quarters, she once of Cincinnati, Ohio, seemed to me exquisitely amusing. I did try to explain the matter to her, as Ligurious had explained it to me, when I had asked him about it. The important difference between myself and other free women, of high station, was precisely that, that I was a Tatrix and they were not. A Tatrix, Ligurious had informed me, has no secrets from her people. It is good for the people of a Tatrix to be able to look lovingly and reverently upon her. “Yes, Mistress,” had said Susan, her head down.

I had wondered if Ligurious was being candid with me. At any rate, there was little doubt that the features of their Tatrix had now become well known in Corcyrus, at least to many of her citizens. Indeed, only this morning I, unveiled, in a large, open, silken palanquin, borne by slaves, Ligurious at my side, had been carried through the streets of Corcyrus, behind trumpets and drums, flanked by guards, through cheering crowds. “Your people love you,” had said Ligurious. I had lifted my hand to the crowds, and bowed and smiled. I had done these things with graciousness and dignity, as I had been instructed to do by Ligurious. It had been a thrilling experience for me, seeing the people, the shops, the streets, the buildings. It was the first time I had been outside the grounds of the palace. The streets were clean and beautiful. The smell of flowers was in the air. Petals had been strewn by veiled maidens before the path of the palanquin.

“It is good for you to appear before the people,” had said Ligurious, “given the trouble with Argentum.”

“What is the trouble with Argentum?” I had asked.

“Skirmishes have taken place near there,” he said. “Look,” he said, pointing, “there is the library of Antisthenes.”

“It is beautiful,” I said, observing the shaded porticoes, the slim, lofty pillars, the graceful pediment with its friezes.

“What is the problem with Argentum?” I asked.

“This is the avenue of Iphicrates,” I was informed.

The people at the sides of the street did not seem surprised that my features were not concealed by a veil. Perhaps it was traditional, I gathered, as I had been informed by Ligurious, that this was the fashion in which the Tatrix appeared before her people. At any rate, whatever might have been the reason, the people, reassuringly, from my point of view, seemed neither scandalized nor surprised by my lack of a veil. If anything, they might have been saluting me, as though for my courage.

At one point the retinue passed five kneeling girls. They were barefoot and wore brief, sleeveless, one-piece tunics. Their heads were down to the very pavement itself. They wore close-fitting metal collars and were chained together, literally, by the neck. I gasped.

“Do not mind such women,” said Ligurious. “They are nothing. They are only slaves.” I was shaken by this sight. My heart was pounding rapidly. I could scarcely breathe. It was not outrage which I felt, interestingly, nor pity. It was something else. It was a state of unusual sexual excitement, and arousal.

“Smile,” suggested Ligurious, himself lifting his hand graciously to the crowd. “Wave.”

I controlled myself, and then, again, favored the crowd with my attentions, with my smiles and countenance.

At one time, later, we passed by a set of low, broad, recessed-from-the-street, cement steps or shelves. Behind these levels, these shelves or steps, there was a high cement wall. There were several women, perhaps ten or eleven, on these steps or shelves. Most were white but there were at least two blacks and, I think, one oriental. Each was naked, absolutely. Too, chains ran from heavy rings to their bodies, to perhaps a lovely neck, or a fair wrist or ankle. They were fastened in place, literally, on the cement shelves.

As the retinue passed, they oriented themselves to the street and knelt, their heads down to the warm cement. There were more rings than there were women on the shelves, and there were rings, too, set at various heights, in the wall behind the shelves. These rings, too, however, like many of the shelf rings, were not being used. There was an apparatus at one side, like a canopy wrapped about poles, but it, too, was not now in use.

I looked at the women, naked, kneeling, their heads down, chained on the shelves.

“More slaves,” explained Ligurious.

Again I fought for breath. I clutched the side of the palanquin to steady myself.

“What is wrong?” he asked.

“Nothing,” I said. “Nothing.”

“It was only an open-air market,” he said, “a small one. There are several such in Corcyrus.”

“A market!” I said.

“Yes,” He said.

“But what is bought and sold there?” I asked. I recalled the naked, chained beauties.

“Women,” he said.

“Women!” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

“I see,” I said. How matter-of-factly he had put that! Such markets, clearly, like other sorts of markets, were a common feature of Gorean life.

“Bow, and wave,” he suggested.

Again I lifted my hand to the crowds. Again I smiled forth from the palanquin.

But I began to tremble. I had seen owned, displayed human females, women who were merchandise, women who were literally up for sale.

“Put them from your mind,” said Ligurious. “They are nothing, only slaves.”

How terrifying, how horrifying, I thought, to be such a woman, one at the mercy of anyone who has the means to buy her. What a horrifying and categorical thing it would be, I thought, to be subject to sale.

“Hail Sheila, Tatrix of Corcyrus!” I heard.

“The people love you,” said Ligurious.

On this world, I said to myself, a woman could be literally owned by a man. She could be as much his, literally, as a shoe or a dog. I fought the feelings within me. I strove against them. I tried to force the memory of the women chained on the shelves from my mind. I could not do so. I moaned. Then I could no longer deny to myself that I was aroused sexually, helplessly and terribly.

The crowds, from time to time, surged closer to the palanquin. The guards, flanking the palanquin on both sides, pressed them back with the sides of spears. Among these guards, though he did not have a spear, was Drusus Rencius. He had been assigned to me, some weeks ago, as my personal guard. Behind the retinue, following it, came soldiers. Some of these had canvas sacks slung about their shoulders. From these sacks, from time to time, they would fling coins, and bits of coins, to the street. This was, I thought, a nice gesture. The people would scramble for these coins. It seemed they found them very precious.

I continued to smile and wave to the crowd. From time to time, too, I stole a glance at Drusus Rencius. He, however, walking beside the palanquin, had eyes only for the crowd. Outside, perhaps, I seemed charming and benign. Inside, however, almost uncontrollable emotions raged within me. On what sort of world was this that I found myself? I had not known a woman could be so aroused! Again I looked at Drusus Rencius, and the others, guardsmen of Corcyrus. I wondered what it would be like to be owned by a man such as one of those. The thought almost made me faint with passion. I had no doubt they well knew how to teach a woman her slavery. I would be kept by them true to my womanhood, by the lash, if necessary.

“Is anything amiss, my Tatrix?” inquired Ligurious.

“No,” I said. “No!”

Then I continued, again, to smile and bow, to nod and wave to the crowd.

I hoped that my condition was not evident to the stern, practical Ligurious, first minister of Corcyrus.

His maleness, and Goreanness, too, of course, were felt keenly by me. At his least word I would have stripped myself in the silken palanquin and presented myself publicly to him for his pleasures.

Soon the procession began to wend its way back to the palace. One incident, perhaps worthy of note, occurred. A man rushed forth, angrily, from the crowd, to the very side of the palanquin. Drusus Rencius caught him there and flung him back. I screamed, startled. In a moment, the retinue stopped, the man was held by the arms, on his knees, at the side of the palanquin.

Swords were held at the man’s neck. “He is unarmed,” said Drusus Rencius.

“Down with Sheila, not Tatrix but Tyranness of Corcyrus!” cried the man, looking angrily upward.

“Silence!” said Ligurious.

“You shall pay for your crimes and cruelties!” cried the man. “Not forever will the citizens of Corcyrus brook the outrages of the palace!”

“Treason!” cried Ligurious.

The man was struck at the side of the head by the butt of a spear. I cried out, in misery.

“This man is a babbling lunatic,” said Ligurious to me. “Pay him no attention, my Tatrix.”

The fellow, his head bloody, sagged, half unconscious, in the grip of the soldiers.

“Bind him,” said Ligurious. The man’s arms were wrestled behind his back and tied there.

He looked up, his head bloody, from his knees.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“One who protests the crimes and injustice of Sheila, Tyranness of Corcyrus!” he said, boldly.

“He is Menicius, of the Metal Workers,” said one of the soldiers.

“Are you Menicius?” I asked.

“Yes,” said the man.

“Are you of Corcyrus?” I asked.

“Yes,” said he, “and once was proud to be!”

“What do you want?” I asked.

“Obviously it was his intention to do harm to his Tatrix,” said Ligurious. “That is clear from his attack on the palanquin.”

“He was unarmed,” said Drusus Rencius.

“On a woman’s throat,” said Ligurious, coldly, “a man’s hands need rest but a moment for dire work to be done.”

I put my finger tips lightly, inadvertently, to my throat. I did not doubt but what Ligurious was right. Assassination so simply might be accomplished.

“Why would you wish me harm?” I asked the man.

“I wish you no harm, Lady,” said he, surlily, “save that you might get what you deserve, a collar in the lowest slave hole on Gor!”

“It is treason,” said Ligurious. “His guilt is clear.”

“Why, then, did you approach the palanquin?” I asked.

“That the truth might be spoken in Corcyrus,” he said, “that the misery and anger of the people might be declared!”

“Prepare his neck,” said Ligurious. A man seized the fellow’s head and pulled his hair forward and down, exposing the back of the fellow’s neck. Another soldier unsheathed his sword.

“No!” I cried. “Free him! Let him go!”

“Tatrix!” protested Ligurious.

“Let him go,” I said.

The man’s hands were freed. He stood up, startled. The crowd about, too, seemed startled, confused. The face of Ligurious was expressionless. He was a man, I sensed, not only of power, but of incredible control.

“Have him given a coin!” I said.

One of the soldiers, one of those who had had a bag of coins, and coin bits, about his shoulder, came forward. He put a copper piece in the man’s hand.

The man looked down at it, puzzled. Then, angrily, he spit upon it and flung it to the stones of the street. He turned about, and strode away.

I saw another man snatch up the coin.

There was a long moment’s silence. Then this silence was broken by the voice of Ligurious. “Behold the glory and mercy of the Tatrix!” he said. “What better evidence could we have of the falsity of the lunatic’s accusations?”

“Hail Sheila, Tatrix of Corcyrus!” cried the man who had snatched up the coin.

“Hail Sheila!” I heard. “Hail Sheila, Tatrix of Corcyrus!”

In a moment the retinue resumed its journey back to the palace.

“Is there anything to what the fellow said?” I asked Ligurious. “Is there unrest in Corcyrus? Is there some discontentment among our citizens?”

“You have surely received the reports of our officers,” said Ligurious.

“Yes,” I admitted.

“Heed them, then,” said Ligurious. “They are objective, and official.”

Such reports, I recalled, unequivocally attested to the hardiness and health of Corcyrus.

“Do not pay attention to the babblings of lunatics,” said Ligurious. “They are not worth taking seriously. Too, you will always be able to find frustrates who, excusing themselves, will seek to lay their failures and shortcomings not at their own door but at the gate of their city.”

“I need not concern myself with such charges, then?” I asked.

“No,” said Ligurious. “Forget them. Dismiss them, completely.”

I looked at him.

“If you need reassurance,” he said, “listen to your people.”

“Hail Sheila!” I heard. “Hail Sheila, Tatrix of Corcyrus!”

“You see?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. My heart, then, was flooded with elation, and with affection for the people of Corcyrus.

“You are loved,” said Ligurious.

“Yes,” I said. “I am loved.” I waved happily at the crowd. I dismissed then the rantings of the lunatic from my mind.

“You did make a mistake,” said Ligurious. He was smiling and waving to the crowd, but he was speaking to me.

“What was that?” I asked, waving to the crowd, speaking to Ligurious.

“You should have permitted us to execute Menicius,” he said. “You did not. That was a mistake.”

“Perhaps,” I said. “But I am Tatrix of Corcyrus.”

“Of course,” said Ligurious.

***

I rolled onto my stomach on the silken coverlet. I touched it with my finger tips. It was exquisitely soft.

“May I present to you Drusus Rencius, Lady Sheila, my sovereign, he who is first sword among our guards?” Ligurious had inquired several days ago.

“The name seems not to be of Corcyrus,” I said.

“Various mercenaries are within our services,” said Ligurious. “We have soldiers from as far as Anango and Skjern.”

“From what city does Drusus Rencius derive?” I inquired.

“Ar, Lady,” said Ligurious.

“Our allegiances, I thought,” I said, “are with Cos.”

“Drusus Rencius is a renegade, Lady,” said Ligurious. “Do not fear. He now serves only himself and silver.”

I inclined my head to Drusus Rencius. He was a dark-haired, tall, supple, lean, long-muscled, large-handed man. He had gray eyes. He had strong regular features. In him I sensed a powerful intelligence.

“Lady,” said he, bowing before me.

He seemed quiet, and deferential. But there was within him, I did not doubt, that which was Gorean. He would know what to do with a woman.

“He is to be your personal guard,” said Ligurious.

“A bodyguard?” I inquired.

“Yes, Lady,” said Ligurious.

I looked at the tall, spare man. He carried a helmet in the crook of his left arm. It was polished but, clearly, it had seen war. The hilt of the sword in his scabbard, at his left hip, too, was worn. It was marked, too, with the stains of oil and sweat. His livery, too, though clean, was plain. It bore the insignia of Corcyrus and of his standing in the guards, that of the third rank, the first rank to which authority is delegated.

In the infantry of Corcyrus the fifth rank is commonly occupied for at least a year. Promotion to the fourth rank is usually automatic, following the demonstrated attainment of certain levels of martial skills. The second rank and the first rank usually involve larger command responsibilities. Beyond these rankings come the distinctions and levels among leaders who are perhaps more appropriately to be thought of as officers, or full officers, those, for example, among lieutenants, captains, high captains and generals. That Drusus Rencius was first sword among the guards, then, in this case, as his insignia made clear, was not a reference to his rank but a recognition of his skill with the blade.

That these various ranks might be occupied, incidentally, also does not entail that specific command responsibilities are being exercised. A given rank, with its pay grade, for example, might be occupied without its owner being assigned a given command. The command of Drusus Rencius, for example, if he had had one, would presumably be relinquished when he took over his duties as a personal guard. His skills with the sword, I suppose, had been what had called him to the attention of Ligurious.

These, perhaps, had seemed to qualify him for his new assignment. To be a proper guard for a Tatrix, however, surely involved more than being quick with a sword. There were matters of appearances to be considered. I felt a bit irritated with the fellow. I would put him in his place.

“The guard for a Tatrix,” I said to Ligurious, “must be more resplendent.”

“See to it,” said he to Drusus Rencius.

“As you wish,” responded Drusus Rencius.

Ligurious had then left.

Drusus Rencius looked down at me. He seemed very large and strong. I felt very small and weak.

“What is wrong?” I asked, angrily.

“It is nothing,” he said.

“What!” I demanded.

“It is only that I had expected, from what I have heard, that Lady Sheila would be somewhat different than I find her.”

“Oh,” I said.

He continued to look at me.

“In what way?” I asked.

“I had expected Lady Sheila to seem more of a Tatrix,” he said, “whereas you seem to me to be something quite different.”

“What?” I asked.

“Forgive me, Lady,” be smiled. “If I answered you truthfully I would fear that I might be impaled.”

“Speak,” I said.

He smiled.

“You may speak with impunity,” I said. “What is it that I seem to be to you?”

“A female slave,” he said.

“Oh!” I cried, in fury.

“Does Lady Sheila often go unveiled?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “A Tatrix has no secrets from her people. It is good for her people to be able to look upon their Tatrix?”

“As Lady Sheila wishes,” he said, bowing. “May I now withdraw?”

“Yes!” I said. He had seen me without my veil. I felt almost naked before him, almost as though I might truly be a slave.

“I shall be at your call,” he said. He then withdrew.

***

I twisted on the couch and turned again to my back. I looked up at the ceiling.

The effects of the wine I had had for supper were still with me. I think it may have been drugged.

It was not easy to sort things out. I had had a strange dream, mixed in with other dreams.

“I am the Tatrix of Corcyrus,” I had said to Ligurious, in the palanquin. “Of course,” he had said.

How can I be the Tatrix of Corcyrus, I asked myself. Does this make any sense? Is it not all madness? I could understand how women could be brought to this world to be put in collars and made slaves, like Susan, for example, and doubtless others. That was comprehensible. But why would one be brought here to rule a city? Surely such positions of privilege and power these Goreans would reserve for themselves. The more typical position for an Earth girl, I suspected to find herself at the feet of a master. I wondered if I were truly the Tatrix of Corcyrus. Surely I had seldom exercised significant authority. Too, at times, my schedule seemed a bit erratic or strange. At certain Ahn I was expected to be in the public rooms of the palace and, at others, even at the ringing of palace time bars, for no reason I clearly understood, I was expected to be in my quarters.

“Certain traditions customarily govern the calendar of the Tatrix,” Ligurious had informed me. At certain times I had been conducted to my quarters, I had thought that sessions of important councils had been scheduled, councils at whose sessions it would be natural to expect the presence of the Tatrix. The matters to be discussed in certain of these meetings, however, I had learned from Ligurious, were actually too trivial to warrant the attention of the Tatrix. Thus it was not necessary that I attend. In certain other cases, I was informed, the meetings had been postponed or canceled. Protocols and customs are apparently extremely significant to Goreans. What seemed to me inexplicable oddities or apparent caprices in my schedule were usually explained by reference to such things. It is fitting that the proprieties of Corcyrus be respected by her Tatrix, even when they might appear arbitrary, had said Ligurious.

I looked up at the ceiling, in the hot Corcyran night.

Was I the Tatrix of Corcyrus?

Susan, I was sure, believed me to be the Tatrix of Corcyrus. So, too, I was confident, did my bodyguard, Drusus Rencius, once of Ar.

Too, I had not been challenged in the matter in my audiences, my public appearances, or even in court. By all, it seemed, I was accepted as the Tatrix of Corcyrus. Ligurious, first minister of the city, even, had assured me of the reality of this dignity. And had I wished further confirmation of my condition and status surely I had received it earlier today, from the very citizens of Corcyrus itself. “Hail Sheila, Tatrix of Corcyrus!” they had cried.

“I am the Tatrix of Corcyrus,” I had told Ligurious. “Of course,” he had said.

Inexplicable and strange though it might seem, I decided that I was, truly, the Tatrix of Corcyrus.

I closed my eyes and then opened them. I shook my head, briefly. The effects of the wine I had had for supper were still with me. I think that it might have been drugged. What purpose could have been served by such an action, however, I had no idea.

I had had a strange dream, mixed in with other dreams.

I whimpered on the great couch, lying in the heat of the Corcyran night.

I was Tatrix.

How extraordinary and marvelous this was! Too, I was not insensitive to the emoluments and perquisites of this office, to the esteem and prestige that might attend it, to the glory that might be expected to be its consequence, to the wealth and power which, doubtless, sometime, would prove to be its inevitable attachments.

In office, clearly, I acknowledged to myself, I was a Tatrix.

I wondered, however, if there was a Tatrix within me, or something else.

I forced from my mind, angrily, the memory of the girls in brief tunics, chained by the neck, kneeling down, heads down, in the street. I forced from my mind, angrily, the memory of the women in the market, naked, chained in place, awaiting the interest of buyers.

I twisted on the great couch, in misery.

Nowhere more than on this world had I felt my femininity, and nowhere else, naturally enough, I suppose, had I felt it more keenly frustrated. I wondered what it was, truly, to be a woman.

I had had a strange dream. I had awakened into it, or had seemed to awaken into it, from another. In the preceding dream, I had been on my hands and knees on the tiles of a strange room. I was absolutely naked. There was a chain on my neck and it ran to a ring in the floor. Drusus Rencius, standing, was towering over me. He carried a whip. He was smiling. I looked up at him, in terror. He shook out the long, broad, pliant blades of the whip. It was a five-stranded Gorean slave whip. I looked at the blades, in terror. “What are you going to do?” I asked. “Teach you to be a woman,” he said.

I had then seemed to awaken into another dream. In this one was Ligurious. I felt portions of the coverlet being wrapped about me, between my shoulders and thighs. My arms were pinned to my sides, within the coverlet. I whimpered. It seemed that I was only partially conscious. Then I became aware of someone else in the room, bearing a small, flickering lamp. Ligurious held the coverlet with his right hand, holding it together, holding me in place, helplessly within it. With his left hand, it fastened in my hair, he pulled my head back painfully. This exposed my features to the lamp. I sobbed, responding to this domination.

“Do you see?” he asked. “Is it not remarkable?”

“Yes,” said a woman’s voice. I gasped. It was as though I looked upon myself. She, as I had, earlier in the day, wore the robes of the Tatrix. She, too, as I had, wore no veil. In the madness of the dream, in its oddity, it was surely I, or one much like myself, who looked upon me. How strange are dreams!

“I think she will do very nicely,” said Ligurious.

“That, too, would be my conjecture,” said the woman.

Ligurious moved his right hand, grasping the rim of the coverlet, tight about my breasts.

“Do you wish to see her, fully?” he asked. I whimpered. I realized he could strip the coverlet away, baring me in the light of the lamp.

“You are not so clever as you think, Ligurious,” she said. “Do you think I do not see that you, in stripping her, would be, in effect, and to your lust and amusement, stripping me, and before my very eyes?”

“Forgive me,” smiled Ligurious, first minister of Corcyrus.

“Pull the lower portion of the coverlet down further,” she said. “You have revealed too much of her thighs.”

“Of course,” he smiled, and adjusted the coverlet, drawing it down, over my knees.

“Men are beasts,” she said.

“You well know my feelings for you,” he said.

“They will go unrequited,” she said. “Content yourself with your slaves.”

I feared the woman bending over me. I could sense now that even if she seemed superficially much like me, at least in appearances, she was in actuality quite different. She seemed highly intelligent, doubtless more so than I, and severe and decisive. She seemed harsh, and hard and cold. She seemed merciless and cruel; she seemed arrogant, impatient, demanding, haughty and imperious. Such a woman I thought, as I am not, is perhaps a true Tatrix. Surely it seemed more believable that such a woman might hold power in a city such as Corcyrus than I.

The lamp again approached more closely. Again my head was pulled back, helplessly, firmly, forcibly.

“She is not as beautiful as I,” said the woman.

“No,” said Ligurious. “Of course not.”

Then my hair was released and the two figures took their way from the room.

I had then twisted on the couch, freed myself of the confinements of the coverlet, and, sensible of the effects of the wine, or perhaps a containment of the wine, had fallen into a dreamless sleep.

I heard movements outside the door. The guard was being changed.

I could not lock the door from the inside. Yet I lay nude, on my back, on the great couch. I wondered if this was brazen. I rolled to my side and pulled my legs up. I bit at the silken coverlet. I wondered if there was a Tatrix within me. I did not think so. There was something else in me, I feared, something that I had only become clearly aware of on this barbaric world, this world in which I must be true to my femininity, and in which there were true men.

I then understood, I thought, the strange dream I had had.

It was not contrasting now, I thought, perhaps two selves, or, more likely, two women, muchly resembling one another, but rather it had been calling to my attention, in its figurative imagery, in the symbolic transformations common to dreams, a discrepancy between what I in actuality was and what it was expected, doubtless, that a Tatrix should be. The contrast, I realized, had been clear, I helpless, sobbing under the domination of Ligurious, little better than a slave, and she above me, far superior me, haughty, decisive, imperious, cold and powerful. I sobbed. I knew then from the dream, or from what had seemed a dream, that there was no Tatrix in me. I was not a Tatrix, not in my heart. I was, at best, something different.

Angrily I arose from the couch. I went to the window. I put my hands on the bars. Many times, secretly, I had tried them. They were heavy, narrowly set, reinforced, inflexible. I laid my cheek gently against them. They felt cool. I then drew back and, my hands on the bars, looked out, across the rooftops of Corcyrus, to the walls of the city, and to the fields beyond. The city was muchly dark. Some of the major avenues, however, such as that Iphicrates, were illuminated, dimly, by lamps. In many Gorean cities, when men go out at night, they carry their own light, torches or lamps.

I then looked upward, into the humid night. I could see two of the three moons of this world. I then, suddenly, angrily, shook the bars. They were for my own protection, I had been informed. But I could not open them, or remove them, say, with knotted clothing or bedding, to lower myself to the levels below. They might indeed serve to keep others out, perhaps climbing upward, or descending on ropes from the roof above, but they surely served as well, and as perfectly, to keep me within! What is this room, I asked myself, is it truly my protected quarters, or is it, rather, my cell?

I walked back to the center of the room, near the great couch. I looked at the bars. Then I went to the long mirror behind the vanity. I looked at myself, in the mirror, in the dim moonlight, filtered into the room. She is rather pretty, I thought. She may be pretty enough, even, to be a slave. Susan, I recalled, had thought it possible that a man, some men at least, might find her of interest, really of interest, of sufficient interest to be worth putting in bondage. I wondered if she could please a man. Perhaps if she tried very hard to be pleasing, some man, in his kindness, might find her acceptable. I turned before the mirror, studying the girl that I was thusly displaying. Yes, I thought, it is not impossible that I she might be considered worthy of a collar. “Mistress would look well being sold from a block,” Susan had said.

“Are you free, Tiffany?” I asked the image in the mirror. “Yes,” I told myself. “I am free.” I turned my left thigh to the mirror, I lifted my chin. I studied the girl in the mirror. I wondered what she would like, with a brand, with a collar. “You see, Tiffany,” I said. “You are not branded. You are not collared.”

I looked at the girl in the mirror. I wondered who I was, what I was.

“I am the Tatrix of Corcyrus!” I said.

But the girl in the mirror did not appear to be a Tatrix. She appeared, clearly, to be something else.

I forced from my mind the memory of the slaves I had seen earlier, the girls in the street, in their one-piece, skimpy garments, heads down, kneeling, chained together by the neck, the girls in the market, in their chains, stark naked, kneeling, too, their heads down to the warm cement, being publicly displayed for sale.

“What are you?” I asked. “Do you not dare speak? Then show me. Show me!”

Slowly, numbly, frightened, I turned about and went to the foot of the great couch. I knelt there, and, putting my head down, tenderly lifted up, in two hands, a length of the chain that lay coiled there. I kissed it. “No!” I cried out to myself, replacing the chain. But then I rose up and, timidly, softly, went to the wall where the whip hung. I removed the whip from its hook and knelt down with it. I wrapped its blades back about the handle. Then, humbly, my head down, submissively, near the point where the five long, soft blades join the staff, holding it in both hands, I kissed it. “No!” I wept, in protest. Then I replaced the whip on its hook.

I went then again to the mirror. The vanity was low enough, meant to be used by a kneeling woman, and I was back far enough, that I could see myself on the tiles, completely. I saw the girl in the mirror kneel down. “No,” I said. I saw her kneel back on her heels. I saw her straighten her back, and lift her chin, and put her hands on her thighs. “No!” I said. I saw her spread her knees. “No,” I said. “No! No!” I had seen girls in the palace do that, for example, when a free man had entered a room.

Sometimes, too, in identically this same position, they would keep their heads submissively lowered, until given permission to raise them. This variation, and similar variations, depend on the specific discipline to which a given girl is subjected. The head is usually kept raised; this precludes the necessity of a specific command to lift the head; in the headlifted position she has no choice but to bare her facial beauty to the viewer; too, her least expression may be read; too, of course, she can see who is in the room with her and is thus better able, even from the first instant, to discern his moods, anticipate his needs, and respond to his commands.

I leaped to my feet, furious with the girl in the mirror. She lied! She lied! I fled to the wardrobe. I flung back the sliding doors. I am Tatrix! I tore my yellow robe, that of brief silk, from its carved hanger. I put it on me, swiftly, angrily, belting it, tightly. I ran to the door leading from my quarters. I reached to the handle and jerked it wildly towards me. I had opened this door a hundred times. I cried out in surprise, in misery. This time it did not yield. I jerked twice again, both of my hands on the handle. The door, somehow, was fastened on the other side. It seemed, or something on it seemed, to strike against some obstacle or barrier.

I struck at it, pounding on it. “Let me out!” I cried. “Let me out!” I heard two sliding sounds. On the other side, I knew, were four pairs of brackets. Never, however, as far as I knew, had they been used. Two of these pairs of brackets were on the door itself, one at the lower part of the door and one at the upper part. Matching them in height, but in the wall, were the other two pairs of brackets. One of these pairs, its members located on opposite sides of the door, corresponded to the upper door brackets, and the other pair, its members opposite one another, one on each side of the door, corresponded to the lower-door brackets. The door was thus, if beams or bars were to be inserted through these brackets, prevented from swinging inward, its natural opening motion.

The door opened. Five guards were there. Two of them I noted, at a glance, were laying heavy beams against the wall. It was these, then, obviously, which had secured the door.

“The door was locked!” I said.

“Yes, Lady,” said the leader of the guards. He was of the third rank, like Drusus Rencius. He, like the others, seemed surprised. Obviously he had not expected to see me at this time of night, or this early in the morning.

“Why was the door locked?” I demanded.

“It is always locked at this time of night,” he said.

“Why?” I demanded.

“Orders,” said he.

“Whose orders?” I asked.

“Those of Ligurious,” he said.

“Why would such orders be given?” I asked.

“It is custom,” said the guard.

“Why?” I asked.

“To protect the Tatrix, I suppose,” said he. “Surely we would not want her wandering about the palace at night.”

“There is danger in the palace?” I asked, angrily.

The guard shrugged. “Perhaps an assassin might have gained entrance,” he said.

“I would be safe enough accompanied by guards, I am sure,” I said.

“At this Ahn,” he said, “it is customary for the Tatrix to be within her quarters.”

“I am leaving them,” I said. I made as though to brush past him. But his arm, like a bar of iron, barred my way. “No, Lady, forgive me,” he said, “but you may not pass.”

I stopped back. I was startled.

“I am Tatrix!” I said.

“Yes, Lady,” said he.

“Get out of my way!” I said.

“I am sorry,” he said. “You may not pass.”

“Call Ligurious!” I said. I was determined to get to the bottom of this matter.

“I cannot disturb the first minister at this Ahn,” he said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“He is with his women,” said the man.

“His women!” I said.

“Yes, Lady,” said the man.

“I see,” I said.

“If you wish,” said the guard, “I can call Drusus Rencius.”

“No,” I said. “No.” I then withdrew into the room. I saw the door close. Then, a moment or so later, I heard the two beams, one after the other, slid into place.

“I am the Tatrix!” I screamed, angrily, from behind the door.

I then took off the robe, angrily, and threw it to the tiles. I could not go out. What need did I have of it?

Then, trembling, naked, with my finger tips, in the half darkness, in moonlit room, I examined the door. I even felt the great hinges, with their pins, like rivets, on my side of the door. The lower ends of the pins had been spread, beaten wide, so that they could not be forced upwards, freeing them. I sank to my knees behind the door. I lifted my head and put my finger tips to the heavy wood. “I am the Tatrix,” I whispered. Then I rose to my feet and went to the side of the great couch. I looked back to the mirror behind the vanity. I saw the frightened girl there. She was, indisputably female, with all that that might entail on a world such as this.

“I am the Tatrix,” I whispered.

Then I crept onto the great couch. I lay on my stomach on the couch, on the silk, near its foot. I supposed that sometimes girls might even be chained in such a place, like a dog at a man’s feet, or perhaps even on the hard, cold tiles, under the slave ring. If I were so chained, I thought, I would quickly learn to be pleasing.

What manner of world was this, I wondered, on which I found myself. It was a world, I thought, on which men had never relinquished their sovereignty, on which they had never submitted to the knives of psychic castration.

From Earth, I could scarcely believe the men of this world, in their power and naturalness.

Where were such men on Earth, I asked myself. They must exist there, some few perhaps, somewhere. Thousands, perhaps millions of women on Earth, I thought, must secretly pine for such men. How, without submitting themselves to such men, how without satisfying the complementary equations of sexuality, could their own femininity be fulfilled? I had wished to go forth in the palace. I had not been permitted to do so, by men. I was angry! But, too, I knew that there were other emotions, deeper emotions, unfamiliar and troubling emotions, uncontrollable emotions, that were welling up within me. These emotions frightened me, and released me. I had not been able to do what I wished. It had not been permitted by men. My will had been overridden. I had been forced to comply not with my own wishes but with those of others. I had had to obey. “I am a Tatrix!” I said, angrily. But I did not believe that it was a Tatrix which lay most deeply within me.

“What am I?” I wondered.

I rose on the couch to a position half sitting, half kneeling. I looked at the girl in the mirror, half sitting, half kneeling, as I was.

“What are you?” I asked. “Are you a Tatrix?”

She did not respond.

“You do not look like a Tatrix,” I told her. Again she did not respond. I then lowered myself to the couch and lay, again, on my stomach, near the foot of the couch. I recalled the girl in the mirror. I did not think she was so much different, truly, from the girls I had seen on the street, or those who had been chained on the cement shelves. I did not think that a man would think twice about it, for example, if he found her in a slave market. I was angry with Ligurious. I had been told he was with his “women.”

I wondered what it would be like to be one of his “women.” Susan, I knew, was one of his women. She was half naked, branded and collared. She knelt before him, head down. She accorded him the utmost deference and respect. I wondered what it would be to be the woman of a man such as Ligurious. Suppose I did not please him, I said to myself. Would I be whipped? Yes, I said to myself, I would be whipped.

“What am I?” I wondered.

“I am a Tatrix,” I responded.

I saw then that it was near morning. I then fell asleep where I had lain down, near the bottom of the couch, near the chain and slave ring.

Chapter 5 - MILES OF ARGENTUM; DRUSUS RENCIUS SPECULATES ON WHAT I MIGHT RING AS A SLAVE; I HAVE OBTAINED GREATER FREEDOMS

“The arrogant knave now approaching the throne,” said Ligurious, whispering in my ear, “is Miles, an ambassador, and general, from Argentum.”

The fellow, approaching, coming up the long aisle toward the great dais, on which my throne reposed, had indeed a bold stride. In the crook of his left arm he carried a helmet, crested with sleen hair. Behind him swirled a huge cape of trimmed, white fur.

“Remember that those of Argentum are our enemies, the enemies, too, of our great ally, the island of Cos.”

“I remember,” I said.

“The men behind him,” said Ligurious, “carry chests, filled with riches, to sue for your favor.”

“He seems not to approach so humbly,” I said.

“Brush back your robes a bit, so that he may better see you,” said Ligurious.

I did this.

“Allow me,” said Ligurious, “as these matters may be sensitive, to conduct this audience.”

“Of course,” I said. I was relieved that Ligurious would do this for me. I knew matters were tense between Corcyrus and Argentum. I did not wish to commit any blunders which might reflect adversely on the throne. Ligurious know would what to do.

I took an immediate dislike to the fellow approaching. He was from Argentum, our enemy.

I straightened myself on the great throne of Corcyrus, on the high dais, in the great hall of the palace. Men of high councils were about me. Guards, too, were plentiful. My own guard, Drusus Rencius, now in resplendent regalia, fitting for the guard of a Tatrix, was nearby. About the throne, here and there, spilled on the steps of the dais, in the manner of Corcyrus and some other cities, was a tasteful display of riches, rich cloths, golden coins and some chained female slaves. Susan, who was to me as my personal serving slave, kneeling, in a brief, white, see-through lace tunic, was chained on my right, her chain, fastened on her neck, running to a ring on the throne.

“Miles, Ambassador of Argentum, Miles, General of Argentum!” announced the herald.

The men behind Miles put down the boxes they brought. Doubtless new riches would soon grace the steps the dais.

“The throne of Corcyrus,” said Ligurious, “greets the ambassador from Argentum, Miles, general of Argentum.”

“On behalf of Claudius, Ubar of Argentum,” said Miles, “I accept the greetings of Corcyrus.”

“But do you not accept them for yourself, as well?” inquired Ligurious.

“Had I my will,” he said, “I would have come to the walls of Corcyrus not with the scrolls of protest but the engines of war.”

“Beware the quickness of your tongue,” said Ligurious, “for you rant now not in one of Argentum’s taverns but in Corcyrus, and before the throne of her Tatrix.”

“Forgive me, noble Ligurious,” said Miles. “I forgot myself. It was a natural mistake. In the taverns of Argentum we of Argentum are indeed accustomed to speaking freely before women such as your Tatrix. They are paga slaves.”

There were cries of rage about me.

“Indeed,” said he, “I have had many women far superior to your Tatrix in just such taverns. They served, well in their chains, naked, in the pleasure alcoves.”

More than one blade about me slipped swiftly, menacingly, from its sheath. Miles did not budge, nor flinch, at the foot of the throne. He had a great shock of black hair. His piercing gray eyes rested upon me. I wished that I was veiled. I did not think he would ever forget what I looked like.

“Your scrolls have been examined,” said Ligurious. “I, the Tatrix, and those of the high councils, have scrutinized them with more care than they deserved. Their evidences are false, their arguments specious, their claims fraudulent.”

“Such a dismissal of their contents I expected,” said Miles. “I myself would not have transmitted them. Better to have sent you the defiance of Argentum and a spear of war.”

I myself had examined the scrolls only in a sense. Excerpts had been read to me, with criticism, by Ligurious. His analysis of their contents, I did not doubt, was sound. He was a highly intelligent man, and familiar, clearly, with the geographical and political features of the problems. The issues had to do primarily with our silver mines, which, unfortunately, lay near Argentum. Force, it seemed, was required to protect them. These mines were said to be almost as rich as those of Tharna, far to the north and east of Corcyrus. The claim of Argentum, course, was that the silver mines were theirs. My education, so full and exacting in many ways, was incomplete in at least one obvious and glaring detail. I had not been taught to read Gorean. I was illiterate in Gorean.

“It is fortunate for Corcyrus, and for peace,” said Ligurious, “that he with whom we truly have to deal is not Miles, general of Argentum, but with Claudius, her Ubar. He, I trust, is far less hotheaded. He, I trust, is more rational. He, I trust, may be expected to see reason and acknowledge, however reluctantly, the justice of our cause.”

“Corcyrus is not feared by Argentum,” said Miles.

“Yet,” smiled Ligurious, “it seems that men with you have brought chests, bound with bands of iron, and intricately wrought coffers, to the foot of our throne.”

“That is true,” said Miles. These chests and coffers were behind him, on the floor.

“If the gifts are suitable,” said Ligurious, “our Tatrix, after the cession of the mines, may be moved to deal somewhat less harshly with the miscreants of Argentum.”

“I am sure that Claudius, my Ubar, would be relieved to hear that,” said Miles.

Ligurious inclined big head, acknowledging these words graciously. There was some laughter about me. I heard blades being returned to sheaths.

“I see,” said Ligurious, lightly, “that you bring With you no male silk slaves, in chains, to be presented to the Tatrix.”

“It is well known,” said Miles, “that the Tatrix of Corcyrus is not interested in men, but only in gold and power.”

“Beware,” said Ligurious.

I did not understand, truly, the remark of Miles of Argentum. I was not interested in men, of course, I reassured myself, as a woman of Earth, but, on the other hand, I did not think that I was unusually greedy either. Such things, at any rate, were generally not uppermost in my mind. There was a difference sometimes, I supposed, between the true and reputed characters of public figures. How odd, sometimes, are fame and rumors. That I might conceivably be presented with male silk slaves took me aback for a moment but then I realized that, as a female ruler, it was not out of the question that I might be presented with such gifts.

Typical gifts for a male ruler, I knew, might include beautiful female slaves, additional riches for his pleasure gardens.

“You may now open the chests and coffers,” said Ligurious, eyeing them with interest.

“How is it,” inquired Miles, “that the Tatrix of Corcyrus goes unveiled?”

“It is custom,” said Ligurious.

“From our former messengers and envoys,” said Miles, “I gather that the custom is a new one.”

“Every custom has its beginning,” said Ligurious. I was interested to hear this. I had not realized that the custom was a recent one. “There are many justifications for initiating such a custom. Foremost among them, doubtless, is that it is now possible for her subjects to gaze upon her with awe and reverence.”

“I should think, rather,” said Miles, smiling, “that you might fear that her subjects would gaze upon her not with awe and reverence, but interest.”

“Interest?” asked Ligurious.

“Yes, said Miles, “wondering, perhaps, what she might look like in a collar.”

“I think it is time,” said Ligurious, “that you should improve your service to your Ubar. Let us see what gifts he proffers to Corcyrus, petitioning for our mercy and favor.”

“Take no offense, Lady,” said Miles to me, “for it is high commendation I extend to you. Though I have had many women far superior to you, and even in the alcoves of taverns, I am not insensitive to your beauty. It is not inconsiderable. Indeed, I have no doubt that in the middle price ranges you would prove to be a desirable buy.”

I clenched my fists on the arms of the throne. How insolent he was! How I hated him! I wondered, too, if some men, indeed, might find me a desirable buy.

“Open the chests and coffers,” said Ligurious, menacingly.

“Surely Corcyrus needs no more riches,” said Miles. “Consider the lavishness of the appointments of this hall, the richness of the regalia of those here convened.”

“Let us see what Claudius has sent us,” said Ligurious.

“I see rich cloths here,” he said, indicating the cloths spread tastefully about the steps of the dais. “I see that there is gold in Corcyrus,” he said, indicating the coins in their plentitudes, seemingly casually spilled about the steps. “I see, too,” he said, “that there are beautiful slaves in Corcyrus.” His eyes rested then, fully, upon Susan, kneeling, chained by the neck to the side of my throne. This was not the first time that he had seen her, of course. Indeed, I had seen him picking her out more than once. I think he found her of interest. At any rate, clearly, she was not now being noticed in passing, as a mere component in a display, but was being attended to, observed, scrutinized, even studied, as a specific, individual slave, on her chain. She drew back, fearfully, with a small sound of the chain. She did not dare to meet his eyes.

She clenched her thighs closely together. She was trembling her breathing was rapid; doubtless her heart was pounding; doubtless she was aware of it in her small rib cage. Yet I had seen her looking at him. She had hardly been able to keep her eyes from him. I supposed it was difficult for mere female slaves, in their scanty garments, and in their lowly station, not to be excited by rich, powerful, handsome, resplendent free men, so far above themselves. It was much easier for one like myself, a free woman, and richly robed, to control, resist and fight femininity. In the case of the slave, on the other hand, femininity is actually required of her.

Indeed, if she is insufficiently feminine she will be beaten. It is no wonder female slaves are so helpless with men.

I noted the eyes of Miles of Argentum on Susan. She trembled, being appraised. I felt sudden danger, and jealousy. He had not looked at me like that! To be sure, she was a slave, and I was free. It would certainly be improper for anyone to look on me, a free woman, in that candid, basic way! Too, Susan had me at a disadvantage. Would not any woman look attractive if she were half naked and put on a chain? How could I compete with that? Let us both be stripped and chained, I thought, and then let men decide, examining us, which was most beautiful. But then I realized that Susan was, doubtless, far more beautiful than I. She was exquisite. It had been no mistake on the part of slavers that she had been brought to Gor.

I then thought that tonight I might whip Susan. She could not resist. She was a slave. I could have her take off her clothes and then tie her to a ring. I could then whip her.

That would teach her to be more beautiful than I! Then I thought how absurd that was. It was not Susan’s fault if she were more beautiful than I, or my fault if I might not be, objectively, as beautiful as she. I felt ashamed of my hostility, my jealousy. But Susan’s beauty, I realized, then, was not a matter merely of features and figure, exquisite though these might be. Her beauty had to do more intimately and basically I thought, somehow, with matters which were more psychological and emotional; it had to do, somehow, in its softness and femininity, with the slavery of her. I wondered if I might become more beautiful than I was. I wondered if I might become as beautiful, someday, as the women cited by Miles of Argentum as being so superior to me. I wondered if I might one day be so beautiful that he might see nothing to choose from, between me and them. I wondered if I might not, one day, even be their superior! But then I put such thoughts from my mind. Where was my pride and freedom!

“Let us see,” insisted Ligurious, “what Claudius has sent us.”

“Of course,” said Miles of Argentum. He handed his helmet to one of the men about him. With a great key he unlocked the largest chest. The other chests and coffers, too, by others, were then unlocked.

Ligurious, and I, and the others, leaned forward, to glimpse the contents of these chests and coffers.

“In suit for the favor of Corcyrus, in deference and tribute to Corcyrus, Claudius, Ubar of Argentum,” said Miles of Argentum, “sends this!”

He flung open the great chest, and turned it to its side. The other chests and coffers, by his fellows, were similarly treated.

“Nothing!” cried Ligurious. “There is nothing in them!”

“And that,” said Miles of Argentum, “is what Claudius, Ubar of Argentum, sends to Corcyrus!”

“Insolence!” cried Ligurious. “Insolence!”

Cries of rage broke out from those about me.

Miles put out his hand and his helmet was returned to him. He put it again in the crook of his left arm. His great furred cape, by one of the men behind him, was adjusted on him.

“I now leave Corcyrus,” he said. “When I return, I shall have an army at my back.”

“You have insulted our Tatrix,” said Ligurious.

“Your Tatrix,” said Miles, “belongs in a cage, a golden cage.”

There were further cries of rage from those about me. I did not understand, clearly, the nature of this insult, or the meaning of the reference to a golden cage.

“Here,” said Miles, reaching into a pocket on his belt, “if you of Corcyrus are so eager for the silver of Argentum, I will give you some.” He held up the coin. “This is a silver tarsk of Argentum,” he said. He flung it to the foot of the dais. “I give it to you,” he said. “It is about the worth of your Tatrix, I think, in so far as I am now able to assess her. It is, I think, about what she would bring in a slave market.”

Blades flashed forth from sheaths. I saw Drusus Rencius restrain one man from rushing upon Miles of Argentum. In the small retinue of Miles blades, too, had leapt from sheaths.

“Strip him, and chain him to the slave ring of the Tatrix!” cried a man.

I shuddered. I would be terrified to have such a man chained at my couch. It would be like having a lion there.

Too, I thought, surely it would be more fitting for women, in their softness and beauty, with their dispositions to submit and love, irreservedly and wholly, asking nothing, giving all, holding nothing back from the dominant male, their master, to be chained to a slave ring. This, in its way, is a beautiful symbol of her nature and needs. On the other hand, symbolic considerations aside, it must be noted that the chain is quite real. She is truly chained there.

Miles turned about and, followed by his retinue, left the great hall.

Those about the throne, most of them, began to take their leave.

“Do you think there will be trouble?” I asked Ligurious.

“No,” he said. “Argentum, upon reflection, will think the better of her rash decision. Even Claudius knows that behind us stands the might and weight of Cos.”

“The ambassador, he, Miles, the general of Argentum,” I said, “seemed very firm.”

“He is a hothead,” said Ligurious. “In time, have no fear, when there is a more objective assessment of realities, cooler wisdoms will prevail.”

“I would not like for there to be trouble,” I said.

“Do not worry about it in the least,” said Ligurious. “Put all such matters from your mind. I assure you that there will be no trouble whatsoever. You have my word on it.”

“You relieve my mind,” I said. “I take great comfort in your words.”

“What did you think of Miles of Argentum?” asked Ligurious.

“I thought he seemed very strong, and handsome,” I said.

“I see,” smiled Ligurious. “Incidentally,” he said, “would you like for me to have Susan whipped for you?”

“Why?” I asked. At the words of Ligurious there was a small sound from the chain of Susan. She shrank back, cowering beside the throne.

“Surely you saw her,” said Ligurious, “when she knew herself to be under the gaze of the sleen from Argentum. She was dripping to the tiles before him. Forgive me. I did not I mean to offend your sensibilities.”

“She is only a slave,” I said, lightly. Surely I could not admit to Ligurious that I, too, had been made uneasy by the presence of the ambassador from Argentum.

“True,” laughed Ligurious. “I must take my leave now. Drusus Rencius will see you to your quarters.”

I nodded, permitting Ligurious to take his leave.

“Thank you, Mistress,” said Susan to me, kneeling beside the throne, “for not having me whipped.”

“Is it true,” I asked her, “that you might possibly have experienced feelings of a sexual nature before Miles of Argentum?”

“I cannot help myself, Mistress,” she said. “Before such a man I begin to secrete the oils of submission.”

“The oils of submission?” I said.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“I have never heard them called that,” I said.

“It is what they are,” she said, “at least in a slave.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Does Lady Sheila wish to return to her quarters now?” inquired Drusus Rencius.

“What of the treasures here,” I asked, “and Susan, and the other slaves chained here?”

“Scribes from the treasure rooms will be along shortly,” he said, “to gather in and account for the cloths and coins. The palace slave master will be along later, too, to release the girls and put them back about their more customary duties.”

I then began to precede Drusus Rencius to my quarters.

“Miles of Argentum is an arrogant knave, isn’t he?” I asked Drusus.

“So it would seem, Lady,” said Drusus.

I remembered the sight of the silver tarsk from Argentum, in the hand of Miles of Argentum, and the way it had looked, on the soft carpeting of the dais, on one of the broad steps leading up to the throne.

“Do you think,” I asked, lightly, “that I might bring a silver tarsk in a slave market?”

“It would be difficult to say, without assessing Lady Sheila naked,” he said.

“Oh,” I said.

“Does Lady Sheila wish me to assess her naked in her quarters?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “No, of course not!”

We continued to walk along the carpeted, ornamented corridors toward my quarters.

“But, from what you know of me,” I said, “do you think that I might bring a silver tarsk?”

“As a Tatrix,” he asked, “or only as another woman in the market, another mere female, up for vending, one about whom there is nothing politically or socially special, one who, like most others, will be priced and sold only on her own merits?”

“Like that,” I said, “one whose price is determined merely by what she is, and nothing else.”

“Are you serious?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, “as one whose value is determined only by herself.”

“I would think, then,” he said, “the price would be too high.”

“Oh?” I said, angrily. “And what do you think I would go for?”

“Lady Sheila must remember,” said Drusus Rencius, “that even if she might prove to be quite lovely, she is still untrained.”

“Untrained!” I cried.

“Yes,” he said.

“You speak as if slaves were mere animals!” I said.

“They are,” he said.

I turned to face him, angrily. “And if I were such an animal, and for sale, what do you think I would bring?” I asked.

“May I speak with impunity?” he inquired, smiling.

“Yes,” I said, “of course!”

“My remarks,” he said, “will be based on the hypothesis that Lady Sheila’s figure is acceptable, that her curvatures fall within suitable slave tolerances.”

I looked at him.

“Am I entitled to assume this?” he asked.

“I suppose so,” I said. I had no idea what these tolerances might be. I did regard myself as being rather pretty.

“We shall further assume,” he said, “that Lady Sheila’s figure is not merely acceptable, but quite lovely. This, I think, from what I know of her, would be a fair assumption. In any event, it will enhance the speculation.”

“Very well,” I said.

“Your face, for example,” he said, “is quite delicate and lovely. If your body matches it, I think you would clearly have the makings of a superb slave.”

“Proceed,” I said. It pleased me to have received this compliment from Drusus Rencius. Too, I had little doubt but what my body, which is slender and lovely, and not overly developed, well matched my face. Surely I would bring a high price.

“Let us, further assume,” he said, “that your beauty had been enhanced considerably, by being branded and collared.”

“Very well,” I said. I was beautiful. I would bring a high price indeed!

“Even so,” he said, “you have had no previous owners, as I understand it.”

“That is correct,” I said.

“Having been unowned,” he said, “it seems natural, then, to assume that you are inexperienced and untrained.”

“Yes,” I said.

“And there are many beautiful women,” he said. “There is no dearth of them in the slave markets.”

“And what, then,” I asked, “do you think I would bring?”

He looked at me, smiling.

“What?” I asked.

“I would think,” he said, “that you would bring somewhere between fifteen and twenty copper tarsks.”

“Copper tarsks!” I cried.

“Yes,” he said.

“Beast!” I cried. “Beast!”

“But remember,” he said, smiling, “it is slaves who are assessed and have prices. Free women are priceless.”

“Yes,” I said, somewhat mollified, stepping back. “Yes!” I must remember that I was priceless. I was a free woman.

“Shall we continue on to your quarters?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, and then, turning about, once more preceded him down the corridor toward my quarters.

I had had matters out with Ligurious earlier, about such things as the barring on my door. My door, now, was no longer barred. The guards remained outside but that, of course, was an understandable precaution, one clearly in my own best interests, one pertinent to my personal security. Furthermore I was now free, almost whenever I wished, to go forth from my quarters. The only restriction was that I must be accompanied by my guard, Drusus Rencius.

Chapter 6 - THE SIRIK

“There are places you have not taken me in Corcyrus,” I reminded him.

We stood on the height of the walls of Corcyrus, on a stone riser behind the parapet, which permitted us to look out over the parapet, rather than through its apertures, on the surrounding fields.

“Not all places in Corcyrus,” he said, “are safe, particularly at night, and not all are suitable for the sensibilities of a free woman.”

There was a breeze blowing toward us, over, the wall. It was welcome. I felt it move my veils back against my features. I reveled in its lightness and freshness.

“You should adjust your hood,” said Drusus Rencius.

I had thrust it back, a few moments ago, to better revel in the breeze. To be sure, it was now possible to detect the color of my hair.

Angrily I readjusted the hood. Drusus Rencius was so protective!

He looked about, nervously. Why, I wondered, should be seem so tense or uneasy here?

I could smell the tarns, gigantic, crested saddlebirds, on their perches some hundred feet away, to our right. There were five of them.

“Do not approach them too closely,” I had been warned by him.

“Do not fear,” I had laughed. I had a terror of such things.

But why, then, if he were so wary of them, or fearful for my safety, had he wanted to come to this portion of the wall? It was he who had suggested that we come this close to those fearful monsters.

“I can still see your hair,” said Drusus Rencius.

I drew the hood angrily even more closely about my features. Little more now could be seen of me, as is common with the robes of concealment, but a bit of the bridge of my nose and my eyes. It was five days ago that I had suggested we come to the height of the wall, that I might look out. He had originally been reluctant to bring me here, but then, almost too suddenly, it had seemed to me, had finally agreed. Now, here on the walls, he seemed nervous.

“You are still angry with me,” I said, “about the Kaissa matches.”

“No,” he said.

“They were boring,” I said.

“Centius of Cos was playing,” he said. “He is one of the finest of the players on Gor.” The appearance of a player of the stature of Centius of Cos at the matches in a city such as Corcyrus, I gathered, had to do with the alliances between Cos and Corcyrus. Otherwise it did not seem likely to me that he would have graced so small a tournament with his presence. He had won his games easily with the exception of one, with a quite minor player, which he had seemed to prolong indefinitely, as though attempting to bring about some obscure and particular configuration on the board. Then, apparently failing to achieve this, almost as though wearily, he had brought the game to a conclusion in five moves.

“You are still angry with me,” I said.

“No,” he said.

“Yes, you are,” I said.

He did not respond.

“They were boring,” I said. I had asked to be brought home early.

He did not respond.

The most exciting thing about the matches from my point of view was going in and out of the grounds. There were several slave girls there, just outside the grounds, fastened to various rings and stanchions. They had been chained there, to wait like dogs for the return of their masters.

“After you returned me to my quarters, I wager,” I said, you returned to the matches.”

“Yes,” he said. “I did.”

“And did you get to see your precious Centius of Cos finish his final games?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“Please do not be angry with me, Drusus,” I said.

“I am not angry with you,” he said.

I wondered why I had spoken as I had. I was a Tatrix. Authority was mine, not his. He was only a guard, a mere guard. Yet I did not want him to be angry with me. There was something in me, something deep, I did not know what, that wanted to be pleasing to him.

I continued to look out over the fields. They were lovely.

In a Gorean city it was not difficult for a woman to travel incognito. By the robes of concealment this is made easy. I wore the robes of a woman of high, caste, today the yellow of the Builders. Drusus Rencius wore a nondescript tunic and a swirling maroon cape. The only weaponry he carried, that I could detect, was his sword. He might have been any mercenary or armed servant, in attendance on a lady. I was pleased to travel incognito in the city, in this fashion. Otherwise, had I gone abroad in the robes of the Tatrix, we would have been encumbered by guards and crowds; we would have had to travel in a palanquin; we would have been forced to tolerate the annunciatory drums and trumpets, and put up with all the noisy, ostentatious, dreary panoply of office. To be sure I sometimes found such accouterments stimulating and gratifying but I certainly did not want them every time I wished to put my foot outside the palace gate.

I thought I heard a small noise, as of metal, from within the cloak of Drusus Rencius.

He had glanced to our right, to the tarns on their perches.

They were saddled, and their reins were upon them. They were ready for investigatory excursions or, if the randomly selected schedules were appropriate, for routine patrols. The left foot of each tarn, by a spring clasp, which could be opened by hand, and a chain, was fastened to the perch. The birds, thus, for most practical purposes, could be brought to flight almost immediately. Their riders, or tarnsmen, were not in the immediate vicinity, but were, as is common, quite close, in this case in a guard station at the foot of the wall. In a matter of Ihn, given a command or the sounding of an alarm bar, they could be in the saddle.

Drusus Rencius looked back from the tarns. I heard again the small sound of metal from within the cloak.

He looked about, uneasily. This nervousness did not seem typical of him.

“Have you heard aught of the sleen of Argentum?” I asked. It had been several days now since the return of Miles of Argentum to his city.

“No,” said he.

“It is nice of you to bring me here,” I said. “It is a lovely view.”

He said nothing.

“I enjoyed the song drama last night,” I said.

“Good,” said he.

To be sure it had been difficult for me, at my present level in Gorean, to understand all the singing. Too, the amplificatory masks, sometimes used in the larger of the tiered theaters, somewhat distorted the sound. Some of the characters had seemed unnaturally huge. These, I had been informed, wore special costumes; these costumes had expanded shoulders and had exaggerated hemlines, long enough to cover huge platform-like shoes. These characters, thus, were made to appear larger than life. They represented, generally, important personages, such as Ubars and Ubaras.

There had not been a great deal of action in the drama but movement on the stage was supplied in abundance by a chorus whose complex activities and dances served to point up and emotionally respond to, and interpret, exchanges among the principals. The chorus, too, sometimes singing and sometimes speaking in unison, took roles in the drama, such as first the citizens of one city and then of another, and then of another, and so on.

It also was not above commenting on the activities and speeches of the principals, chiding them, calling certain omissions to their minds, offering them constructive criticism, commending them, encouraging them, and so on. Indeed, it was not unusual for the chorus and a principal to engage with one another in discourse. What I saw was clearly drama but it was not a form of drama with which I was familiar.

The chorus, according to Drusus Rencius, in its various sections and roles, was the original cast of the drama. The emergence of principals from the chorus, of particular actors playing isolated, specific roles, was a later development. Some purists, according to Drusus Rencius, still criticize this innovation. It is likely to remain, however, in his opinion, as it increases the potentialities of the form, its flexibility and power.

Such dramas, incidentally, are normally performed not by professional companies but by groups of citizens from the communities themselves, or nearby communities. Sometimes they are supported by rich citizens; sometimes they are supported by caste organizations; sometimes, even, they are sponsored by merchants or businesses, as a matter of goodwill and promotion; sometimes, too, they are subsidized by grants from a public treasury. Art in a Gorean city is taken seriously; it is regarded as an enhancement of the civic life. It is not regarded as the prerogative of an elite, nor is its fate left exclusively to the mercies of private patrons. The story in the song drama, in itself, apart from its complex embellishments, was a simple one. It dealt with a psychological crisis in the life of a Ubar. He is tempted, in the pursuit of his own schemes, motivated by greed, to betray his people. In the end he is convinced by his own reflections, and those of others, of the propriety of keeping the honor of his own Home Stone.

“What did you think of the drama?” Drusus Rencius had asked me last night. “The story of it,” I had told him, seeking to impress him with my intelligence, “aside from the impressiveness of it, and the loveliness of its setting and presentation, is surely an unrealistic, silly one.”

“Oh?” he had asked.

“Yes,” I had said, “no true ruler would act like that. Only a fool would be motivated by considerations of honor.”

“Perhaps,” had said Drusus Rencius, dryly. I had looked at him, and then I had looked away, quickly. I had felt like I might be nothing. He was regarding me with total contempt.

“I did enjoy the drama,” I insisted to Drusus Rencius, standing on the riser, looking over the parapet, “really.”

“Splendid,” he said.

“I still think my comments were true, of course,” I said lightly. Surely it would not do to retreat on such a matter.

Besides, for most practical purposes, I did regard them as true. Who, in these days, in a real world, could take anything like honor seriously?

“Perhaps,” granted Drusus Rencius.

“You are a hopeless romantic, Drusus,” I said to him, turning about, laughing.

“Perhaps,” he said. He turned away from me. Again I heard the small sound in the cloak. He looked at the tarns.

I turned away from him, hurt. I did not want him to be disappointed with me.

“The view here,” I said, lightly, “is lovely. We should have come here before.”

“Perhaps,” he said.

I had seen much of Corcyrus in the past few days. Drusus Rencius, for the most part, had been an attentive and accommodating escort. I loved the markets and bazaars, the smells, the colors, the crowds, the quantities and varieties of goods, the tiny shops, the stalls, the places of business which at times were so small as a tiny rug on the stones, on which a peddler displayed his wares.

Drusus Rencius had permitted me, with coins, helping me, to bargain. I had been very excited to come back to the palace with my small triumphs. I loved shopping, and looking, even when I was buying nothing. Trailing me about, while I satisfied my curiosity as curious nooks and crannies, must have been tiresome for Drusus, but he had not complained.

I had begun to fall in love with the Gorean city. It was so vital and alive. In particular, I was excited by the female slaves I saw, barefoot, in their tunics and collars, not exciting much attention, simply being taken for granted, in the crowds. Such women were an accepted part of Gorean life. Sometimes, too, I would see a naked slave in the crowd, one sent forth from her house only in her collar. These women, too, did not attract that much attention. Their sight was not that uncommon in Gorean streets.

One such woman, in particular, startled and excited me. She wore not only her collar. She also wore an iron belt. This belt consisted of two major pieces; one was a rounded, fitted, curved bar-like waistband, flattened at the ends; one end of this band, that on the right, standing behind the woman and looking forward, had a heavy semicircular ring, or staple, welded onto it; the other flattened end of the waistband, looking forward, had a slot in it which fitted over the staple; the other major portion of this belt consisted of a curved band of flat, shaped iron; one end of this flat band was curved about, and closed about, the bar-like waistband in the front; this produces a hinge; the flat, U-shaped strap of iron swings on this hinge; on the other end of this flat band of iron is a slot; it fits over the same staple as the slot in the flattened end of the left side of the bar-like waistband.

The belt is then put on the woman in this fashion. The waistband is closed about her, the left side, its slot penetrated by the staple, over the right side; the flat U-shaped band of iron, contoured to female intimacies, is then swung up on its hinge, between her thighs, where the slot on its end is penetrated by the staple, this keeping the parts of the belt in place. The whole apparatus is then locked on her, the tongue of a padlock thrust through the staple, the lock then snapped shut.

I almost fainted when I first saw this thing. She actually wore it. It was on her! It was locked on her! The insolent mastery it bespoke made me almost giddy, the very thought that a woman might be subjected to such domination. She did not even control her own intimacies. They were controlled by him who owned her, and them.

“You seem interested in the iron belt,” had said Drusus Rencius. “No,” I had said. “No!”

“There are many varieties of such belts,” said Drusus. “You see a rather plain one. Note the placement of the padlock, at the small of her back. Some regard that arrangement as more aesthetic; others prefer for the lock to be in front, where it may dangle before her, constantly reminding her of its presence. I personally prefer the lock in the back. Its placement there, on the whole, makes a woman feel more helpless. Too, of course, its placement there makes it almost impossible for her to pick.”

“I see,” I had said. How irritated I had been then with Drusus. He had discussed the thing as though it might have been a mere, inconsequential piece of functional hardware. Could be, not see what it really was, what it meant, what it must teach the girl, how it must make her feel?

“There are wagons,” I said, pointing over the parapet.

There were some five wagons approaching the city, in a line.

Each was being drawn by two strings of harnessed male slaves, about twenty slaves in each string.

“Those are Sa-Tarna wagons,” said Drusus, “bringing grain to the city.”

“What is that other wagon,” I asked, “the smaller one, there near the side of the road, which has pulled aside to let the grain wagons pass?” I had been watching it approach. I thought I knew well what sort of wagon it was. It was the sort of wagon whose contents are of so little value that it must yield the road in either direction to any vehicle that to pass it. It was a squarish wagon. It was drawn a single tharlarion, a broad tharlarion, one of Gor’s quadrupedal draft lizards. It was covered by a canopy, mounted on a high, squarish frame, of blue-and-yellow silk.

“Lady Sheila is much too innocent, and her sensibilities are far too delicate,” said he, “to inquire as to what sort of His wagon that is.”

“No,” I said, “what?” I would pretend to an innocent ignorance.

“It is a slaver’s wagon,” he said, “a girl wagon.”

“Oh,” I said, as though surprised. After a time, I said, “I wonder if there are any girls in it.”

“Probably,” said Drusus. “Its canopy is up, and it is approaching the city.”

“Are girls fastened in such wagons?” I asked.

“Usually,” he said.

“How?” I asked.

“The most usual arrangement,” he said, “involves a metal bar and girls who are independently shackled. The bar runs parallel to the length of the wagon bed. It is a liftable bar. It has a hinge at the end of the wagon bed near the wagon box. The bar is lifted, by means of the hinge, and the girls, by means of their ankle chains, are threaded upon it. It is then lowered and locked into a socket at the end of the wagon bed, near the gate.”

“They are then well held in place,” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

“Are they clothed in such a wagon?” I asked.

“Sometimes they are, sometimes they are not,” he said.

“I see,” I said. I wondered what it might feel like to wear shackles, to have my ankles chained in proximity to one another, to have the chain looped about such a bar, so that I might not, even if I wished, be able to pull my ankles more than a few inches from it. I wondered what it might feel like, to know myself so helplessly and perfectly confined. My breath began to come more quickly.

“Lady Sheila seems much interested in the small details in the lives of female slaves,” he said. Perhaps he had noticed the quickening of my breath, in the inward movements of the veil.

“Do not become presumptuous,” I said.

“Forgive me,” He said.

“I was merely curious,” I said, irritably.

“Of course, Lady Sheila,” he said. He need not know that I often, for no reason I clearly understood, in the loneliness of my quarters, slept at the lower end of the great couch, near the slave ring, and sometimes, seemingly almost unable to help myself, had knelt beside it in the darkness, and kissed it.

“The wagon is moving now,” I said. The grain wagons had passed it. It was now, again, pulling toward the center of the road, the high iron-rimmed wheels trundling on the stone, seeking the long, shallow, shiny, saucer-like ruts, polished in the stone by the earlier passage of countless vehicles.

I had been sure it was a slave wagon, of course, from the blue-and-yellow silk. Outside the establishments of slavers there often hung streamers and banners in these colors, and sometimes, on the walls, or doors, or posts near the doors, these colors, in diagonal stripes or slashes, were painted. When I had seen signs or emblems of this sort I had often, as though interested in something else, requested that we take our way down that street. Generally I had been able to see little or nothing, usually only the narrow, gloomy doors, often of iron, of grim, almost fortress-like buildings, but, sometimes, there would be an open-air market or some girls, as displays, would be chained outside.

Inside some of these buildings I had learned there were display courtyards where girls, for example, might be examined in natural light. In the open-air markets, or in the outside displays, the girls, seeing me viewing them, had usually knelt, immediately, putting their heads down, exhibiting total deference and respect before a free woman. Some, seeing me looking at them, had actually thrown themselves, trembling, to their bellies. “They are afraid of you,” Drusus Rencius had explained. “Why?” I had asked. “Because you are a free woman,” he had said. “Oh,” I had said. They must have had, I gathered, some of them at least, unfortunate experiences with free women.

I watched, the wagon trundling slowly down the road. I wondered what it felt like to ride in such a wagon, not as its driver of course, but as its cargo. I considered the lack of springs in such a vehicle, the high, iron-rimmed wheels, with their lack of cushioning, the primitiveness of the roads it must traverse. I did not think the ride would be a smooth one. How much protection might be afforded a girl chained on the boards in the wagon bed of such a vehicle by the single layer of the fabric of a slave tunic, if, indeed, she were permitted one?

“Are such wagons padded?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “Oh,” I said.

“But sometimes, cloths are thrown in them,” he said. “That way the goods will not be so bruised when they come to the market.”

“I see,” I said. If I were such a girl I would not wish to brought bruised to the market. That way I might bring lower price. That way I might get a master who was less well fixed.

“It is natural for slavers to wish to get the highest possible prices for their girls,” he said.

“Of course,” I said.

I could not see the wagon now. It was somewhere below the wall.

I straightened myself on the riser, behind the parapet. I drew a deep breath. How pleased I was that I was free! How dreadful, how horrifying, it would be to be merely a lowly slave!

“You seem nervous today, Drusus,” I said.

“Forgive me, Lady Sheila,” he said.

“Is there anything wrong?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“What is that sound from within your cloak,” I asked, “as of metal?”

“Nothing,” said he.

One of the tarns moved on the perch, several feet to our right. I did not wish to approach too closely to such things. I wondered why Drusus had brought me to this particular place on the wall. The proximity of the tarns made it less pleasant than it might otherwise have been. The view, however, as I had remarked, was lovely.

“You do not think much of me, do you, Drusus?” I asked.

“I do not understand,” he said, startled.

“You think that I am petty and ignoble, don’t you?”

“I receive my fees for guarding Lady Sheila,” he said, “not for forming opinions as to her character.”

“Do you like me?” I asked.

“Having suggested that I might think little of you, and might regard you as pretty and ignoble, now you inquire if I might like you?” he smiled.

“It is not impossible,” I said.

He smiled.

“Do you?” I asked.

“Does it matter?” he asked.

“No,” I said, angrily. “Of course not!”

“Then,” he smiled, “there is no point in answering.”

“Do you?” I asked, angrily.

“I am paid to guard you,” he said, “not to consider any personal feelings, one way or another, which I might have towards you.”

“One way or another?” I asked, angrily.

“Yes,” he said.

“You despise and hate me!” I said.

“I could find it easy to despise you,” he said, “and, at one time, from all that I had heard of the Tatrix of Corcyrus, and know of her governance of the city, I would have thought it would also be easy to hate you, but now, now that I have met you, I could not honestly say that I hate you.”

“How flattering!” I remarked.

“Your official self and your personal self, or your public and private selves, seem quite different,” he said.

“Perhaps,” I said, irritably.

“It is doubtless that way with many people,” he said.

“Doubtless,” I said.

He looked from one side to the other, along the walk behind the parapet. For most practical purposes we were alone on the wall. The nearest people, a couple, were better than a hundred yards away, to our left. He looked again then to the tarns. Then he looked at me. Then, angrily, he looked out, over the parapet. His fists were clenched.

I, too, looked out, over the parapet. I could feel tears in my eyes. I wanted to please Drusus Rencius. I wanted, desperately, for him to like me. Yet everything I did or said seemed to be wrong. Then I was very angry with myself. It did not matter. I was not a slave at his feet, half naked in a collar, fearful of his whip, piteously suing for the least sign of his favor. I was a Tatrix. He was only a guard, nothing! I wondered, shuddering, what it would be to be the slave of such a man. I did not think he would be weak with me. I thought that he would, like any typical Gorean master, keep me under perfect discipline.

“I enjoyed the czehar concert,” I said, lightly.

“Good,” he said.

The czehar is a long, low, rectangular instrument. It is played, held across the lap. It has eight strings, plucked with a horn pick. It had been played by Lysander of Asperiche.

The concert had taken place two nights ago in the small theater of Kleitos, off the square of Perimines.

“The ostraka were quite expensive, weren’t they?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

It was quite commonly the case, I had learned, that for a concert by Lysander one could not buy admission at the gate, but must present ostraka purchased earlier in one of the market places or squares. These were apparently originally shells or pieces, shards, of pottery, but now were generally small clay disks, with a hole for a string near one edge. These were fired in a kiln, and glazed on one side. The glazing’s colorations and patterns are difficult to duplicate and serve in their way as an authentication for the disk, the glazings differing for different performances or events. The unglazed back of the disk bears the date of the event or performance and a sign indicating the identity of the original vendor, the agent authorized to sell them to the public.

Some of these disks, also, on the back, include a seat location. Most seating, however, in Gorean theaters, except for certain privileged sections, usually reserved for high officials or the extremely wealthy, is on a first-come-first-served basis. These ostraka, on their strings, about the necks of their owners, make attractive pendants. Some are worn even long after the performance or event in question, perhaps to let people know that one was fortunate enough to have been the witness of a particular event or performance, or perhaps merely because of their intrinsic aesthetic value. Some people keep them as souvenirs. Others collect them, and buy and sell them, and trade them.

If the event or performance is an important one, and the ostraka are limited, their number being governed by the seating capacity of the structure or area in question, it is unlikely that they will be publicly displayed until after the event or performance. It is too easy to snatch them from about the neck in the market place. Too, sometimes rich men have been known to set ruffians on people to obtain them.

Needless to say some profiteering occasionally takes place in connection with the ostraka, a fellow buying a few for a given price and then trying to sell them for higher prices later outside, say, the stadium or theater.

“How much did they cost?” I asked.

“Together,” he said, “a silver tarsk.”

“That is more, I recall,” I said, “than you thought I might go for if I were sold for myself alone, as a slave.”

“Yes,” he said.

I stiffened, somewhat angrily.

“Lady Sheila must remember that she is not trained in the intimate and delicious arts of the female slave.”

“Arts?” I inquired.

“Yes,” said he, “the complex, subtle and sensuous arts of being pleasing, fully, to a man.”

“I see,” I said.

“It is natural,” he said, “that some women will bring much higher prices than others.”

“Of course,” I said, irritably.

“Some women,” he said, “do not even know the floor movements of an aroused, pleading slave.”

“They must indeed be stupid,” I said. I had no idea, of course, what they might be.

“I do not think they are necessarily stupid,” he said, “merely ignorant, perhaps because untrained, or perhaps merely because they have not yet been awakened sexually, have not yet been forced to feel the slave fires in their belly, have not yet, by strong men, been made the helpless victims of their own now-enkindled needs.”

“I thought Lysander played well,” I said.

“He is regarded as one of the finest czehar players on all Gor,” said Drusus Rencius, dryly.

“Oh,” I said. I felt so stupid. It seemed I could do nothing right with Drusus Rencius.

I looked out, again, over the fields.

“Is Lady Sheila all right?” inquired Drusus Rencius.

“Yes,” I said.

The last few days had been full ones. Aside from the markets and bazaars, and the theaters in the evening, I had seen much else of Corcyrus as well. It had been pleasant to walk through the cool halls of the libraries, with their thousands of scrolls organized and cataloged, and through the galleries on the avenue of Iphicrates.

The fountains in the squares, too, were impressive. It was almost hard for me to remember that they were not merely ornaments to the city but that they also, in the Gorean manner, served a very utilitarian purpose. To them most people must come, bearing vessels, for their water. Some of the smaller fountains were worn down on the right side of their rim. That was where right-handed people would rest their hand, leaning over to drink.

I particularly enjoyed the public gardens. Given the plantings, flowers in them, of one sort or another, are in bloom almost all of the year. Here, too, are many winding and almost secluded paths. In them, combined, one finds color, beauty and, in many sections, if one wishes it, privacy.

I knew few of the flowers and trees. Drusus Rencius, to my surprise, whenever I was in doubt, could supply me with the name. Goreans, it seemed, paid attention to their environment. It means something to them. They live in it. How few children of Earth, I thought, are taught the names and kinds of the trees and shrubs, the plants, the insects and birds, which surround them constantly.

I was also surprised to find that Drusus Rencius seemed genuinely fond of flowers. I would not have expected, given my Earth background, that a man of his obvious power and competence could care for anything, and so deeply, as innocent, delicate and soft as a flower. At one secluded point in one of the gardens I had paused and, pretending to adjust my veil, had stood quite close to Drusus Rencius, but he had stepped back, and looked away. He had not kissed me. I had then, angrily, refastened my veil. I wondered why he had not kissed me. Was it because I was a Tatrix? I wondered what it would be like to be kissed by him. I wondered if he might, touching my lips, I in his arms, helplessly held there, suddenly rape my lips with his kiss, and then, unable to help himself, hurl me to his feet, crouching over me then ferociously, to remove my robes and force me to his service.

I felt the wind, over the parapet, move my veil.

I had enjoyed these days with Drusus Rencius but, at night, returned to my quarters, I would often be restless and lonely. At such times, though I did not confess this to Drusus, nor even to Susan, I would feel helpless, weak and needful. I had formed the habit, for no reason I clearly understood, of sleeping near the foot of the couch or near the ring. I would sometimes lie there miserably, twisting and turning, almost sobbing, afflicted with helpless feelings and strange, troubling emotions that I could scarcely begin to understand. I did not know what was wrong with me. I knew only that I felt empty, miserable and unfulfilled.

Drusus Rencius occasionally took me to see various portions of local games. These involved such things as races, javelin hurling and stone throwing. I would usually stay for an event or two and then leave. On the whole I found such games boring. When I wished to leave, or change my location, to see something different, he always deferred to my wishes. I was, after all, the Tatrix and he was, after all, only my guard. From one set of contests, however, I could not, to his surprise, be budged. I had sat on the tiers, close to the fenced enclosure, thrilled. These were contests of sheathed swords, the sheaths chalked with red, so that hits might be noted. The contestants were sturdy men, stripped to the waist, in half tunics, bronzed and handsome, with rippling muscles.

As they thrust at one another and fended blows, moving with great speed and skill, in their swift passages, under the watchful eye of the referee, backed by two independent scorers, I could scarcely conjecture what would be involved in actual swordplay, with steel unencumbered with sheaths. I was terrified to consider it.

And women, I thought, must abide its outcome. On a cement disk, about a foot high and five feet in diameter, on the opposite side of the enclosure, as though in symbolism of this, a young, naked woman was chained. The chain was on her neck and ran to a ring anchored in the center of the disk. It was long enough to permit her to stand comfortably which, sometimes, she did. Most of the time, however, she sat or lay, almost cat-like, on the disk, watching the fighting. Her body was slim and well formed. Her hair was brightly red and, when she stood, it fell almost to her knees. When the contests had begun she had not seemed particularly interested in them, but, as they had proceeded, she had become more and more attentive. She was now watching them with great closeness. She was the prize. She would be given to the victor.

“Do you wish to leave now?” Drusus Rencius had asked once, during an interval between passages.

“No!” I had said. He had regarded me, puzzled. “I want to see who wins her,” I said, angrily. He looked over to the woman. She was then standing, the chain on her neck dangling down to the ring. She had one hand at her bosom. She was frightened. “She is only a slave,” he had said. But he had sat down, patiently, beside me, content, it seemed, to wait until I was ready to leave. How angry I was with him then.

Could he not conjecture the feelings, the trepidation, of the poor girl? She had a chain on her neck. She was a prize. She did not know to whom she would be awarded. She did not know who it would be whom she would have to serve, who it would be to whom she would belong! The poor, soft, helpless chained thing! How callous and stupid are men! Too, I like she, as fortunes shifted in the matches, as points were won and lost, was torn back and forth in my conjectures and anticipations. Doubtless the men in the audience were intent on the bouts, observing the styles and skills of the contestants, tallying points, and assessing the play. Surely they seemed to have little mind for the chained prize. Surely they seemed eager to applaud, striking their left shoulders, particularly fine a thrusts or particularly tight, fierce passages. I, on the other hand, I am sure, tended to see the bouts rather differently. I saw them, I think, almost as though through the eyes of the prize. This was natural. I was a woman. Accordingly, I, too, in a sense, was a prize in such matters.

Then the bouts were ended. I almost fainted with relief. He whom the girl had favored, and whom I had favored, had won, a swift, lithe, bronzed giant of a youth. After the men, and his opponents, had swept about him, congratulating him, she was unchained. She crept to his feet and kissed them. Then she fetched him a dipper of water and, kneeling, head down, lifting her arms, holding the dipper with both hands, proffered it to him. He drank and then she returned the dipper to the bucket, near the fence. She then returned to where he stood on the sand, talking with men, and, crouching down, or kneeling or standing, as was most efficient at the time, lovingly, kissing him meanwhile, softly and timidly, wiped his body clean of sand and sweat with her long hair. When he left the pit she followed him, a bit behind him and on his left, heeling him.

I was much aroused and was almost trembling as Drusus Rencius, who seemed unaware of my condition, conducted me back to the palace. In a deserted corridor, before we would turn into the corridor leading to my door, and come into the view of any guards there, I stopped. I would give Drusus Rencius another chance to kiss me.

“This veil,” I said, irritatedly, “is loose,” reaching to it, fussing with it, taking a pin from it, with the result that the cloth, as though temporarily disarranged, fell to my left. I then stood quite close to Drusus Rencius. “It is hard for me to see,” I said to him. “Could you please fasten it for me?”

“Of course,” he said, and took the pin. I lifted my head to him. He was tall and strong. As he reached to the right of my face I gently stayed his hand. “I give you my permission to kiss me,” I whispered.

“Does Lady Sheila command me to kiss her?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “Of course not.”

“I do not require a woman’s permission to kiss her,” he said. Then he repinned my veil, closing my lips away behind it. He had then escorted me to my quarters.

After supper, when I was alone in my quarters, I was furious and miserable.

I stripped myself and threw myself on the great couch. I lay on it for hours, sometimes pounding it in anger, clawing at it with my fingers, biting at it in misery, dampening it with hot tears, squirming on it in misery.

I had been rejected by Drusus Rencius. I had thrown myself at him like a tart, and had been rejected! How could I have done that? Was I only a little tart, or was I a desperate, needful woman, one who had dared to be true to her needs?

How I hated him! I was a Tatrix, a Tatrix! He was only a soldier, a mere guard! I had power. I could have my vengeance on him! I could tell Ligurious that he had become fresh with me, that he had dared to try to kiss me. Surely he might be broken in rank for that, or whipped, or even slain! I wondered why he had not kissed me. Was it because I was a Tatrix? But I did not think that that thought, momentous though it might be, would have deterred a man such as Drusus Rencius. Was it then because I was not sufficiently attractive? Perhaps. But on Earth I had been thought to be very pretty. Too, Miles of Argentum had speculated that I might bring as much as even a silver tarsk in a market. Was it then because I was free? Were Gorean men spoiled for free women by those collared, curvaceous little sluts they had crawling about their feet, desperately eager to please them?

Given such luscious alternatives it was natural enough, I supposed, that men would see little point in subjecting themselves to the inconvenience, frustration and pain of relating to a free woman, with her demands, inhibitions and rigidities.

Perhaps they could not be blamed for not choosing to reduce the quality of their lives in this fashion. To be sure, if slaves were not available, then it was understandable how men might relate to free women. Sexually starved, and driven by their needs, they would then be forced to make do with whatever might be available, the best in such a case perhaps being the free woman. But on Gor alternatives, real alternatives, slaves, were available. It was no wonder free women as I had heard, so hated slaves. How could they even begin to compete with a slave, those dreams come true for men? Perhaps that is it, I thought, perhaps that is why he did not kiss me.

Perhaps he did not kiss me because I was free, or, I added, in my thinking, not truly understanding the qualification, because he thought I was free. I lay there in the darkness, in the heat of the silks. I wondered why I had made that qualification in my thinking “because he thought I was free.”

Could he have been wrong, I asked myself. Could he have been mistaken? How absurd, I thought. What could you possibly mean, I asked myself. The meaning is perfectly clear, I told myself, irritably. Are you stupid? I am a Tatrix, I cried out to myself. I am free! Of course, I am free!

“Go now to the slave ring,” a voice seemed to say to me. I got up and, almost as though in a trance, scarcely understanding what I was doing, went to the slave ring, that at the foot of the couch. I knelt there.

“Are you positioned at the ring?” the voice seemed to say. “Yes,” I whimpered, to myself. “Take it in your hands, Tiffany,” it said, “and kiss it.” I took the heavy ring in my hands, lifted it, and kissed it. I then put it back gently, lovingly, against the couch. I then felt it would be permissible for me to return to the couch. I crawled again upon it, to its center.

“Get where you belong,” said the voice, a bit impatiently. I crawled then to the bottom of the couch and lay there, near its foot, by the slave ring. I wondered if Drusus Rencius would have refused to kiss me if I had not been a free woman, but a slave. If I had been a slave, say, perhaps, a fifteen-copper-tarsk girl, that amount for which be had once suggested a slaver might let me go, I think I might have received a somewhat different treatment at his hands. “It is fortunate for you,” said the voice within me, “that Drusus does not know that you are a slave.”

“I am not a slave,” I said, aloud. “I am not a slave!”

“Remain where you are, at the foot of the couch, until morning,” said the voice within me. “I will,” I said, frightened. I had then fallen asleep.

To my embarrassment I was still there in the morning when I awakened, Susan having entered the room. “I must have moved about in my sleep,” I said to Susan.

“Yes, Mistress,” she had said, her head down, smiling. I had considered whipping her, but I had not done so.

“What is it like, being owned, and having a master?” I had later asked Susan, while being served breakfast, as though merely curious.

“Consider yourself as having a master, and being owned,” said Susan, “that you are totally his, and that he may do with you, fully, whatever he wants.” I shuddered. “It is like that,” she said, “only it is real.”

“I see,” I had whispered.

***

I stood on the riser, behind the parapet.

“I hear it again,” I said, “that sound, as of metal, from within your cloak. What is it?”

“Nothing,” he said.

On Gor my entire mind and body, in the fullness of its femininity, had come alive, but yet, in spite of my new vitality and health, I was in many ways keenly miserable and unfulfilled. On Earth, in its pollutions, surrounded by its crippled males and frustrated women, exposed to its antibiological education and conditionings, subjected to the perversions of unisex, denying their sexuality in its fullness to both sexes, the nature of the emptiness in my life, and its causes, had been, in effect, concealed from me. I had not even been given categories in terms of which I might understand it.

Where I had needed reality and truth I had been given only lies, propaganda and false values. Here on Gor, on the other hand, I was becoming deeply in touch with my femininity.

Never on Earth had I felt it as keenly and deeply, never on Earth had I been so deeply sensitive to it, so much aware of its needs, delicacy and depth. But here on Gor I was clearly aware of my lack of fulfillment, instead of, as on Earth, usually only vaguely or obscurely aware of it. What had been an almost unlocalizable malaise on Earth, except at certain times when, to my horror, I had understood it more clearly, on Gor had become a reasonably clearly focused problem.

On Earth it had been as though I was miserable and uncomfortable without, often, really knowing why, whereas on Gor, I had suddenly become aware that I was terribly hungry. Moreover, on Gor, for the first time, so to speak, I had discovered the nature of food, that food for which I so sorely hungered, and the exact conditions, the exclusive conditions, perhaps so humiliating and degrading to me, yet exalting, under which it might be obtained. Such thoughts I usually thrust quickly from my mind.

“You are right, Drusus,” I said, suddenly. “Slaves are unimportant. They are nothing.”

“Of course,” he said. “But what has brought this to mind?”

“A conversation I had this morning with that little chit of a slave, Susan.”

“Oh,” he said.

“It is unimportant,” I said.

He nodded.

“Do you know her?” I asked.

“I have seen her, yes, several times,” he said.

“What do you think she would bring?” I asked.

“She is a curvaceous little property,” he said, “and seems to understand herself well, and the fittingness of the collar on her beck.”

“Yes?” I said.

“Three tarsks, perhaps,” he said.

“So little?” I asked, pleased.

“Three silver tarsks, of course,” said he.

“Oh,” I said, angrily.

“There is little doubt what she would look like at the slave ring,” he said, “and, too, she has doubtless received some training.”

I did not doubt but what Susan, the little slut, had received some training. There was not a detail about her which did not seem, in its way, a perfection.

This morning she had again, in entering my quarters, discovered me near the foot of the couch. Usually, early in the morning, before she entered, I would try to be elsewhere.

“I do not know what is wrong with me,” I confessed to her, desperately needing someone to talk to, as she served my breakfast. “I sometimes feel so empty, so miserable, so uncomfortable, so meaningless, so restless.”

“Yes, Mistress,” she had said, deferentially.

“I just do not know what is wrong with me,” I had lamented.

“No, Mistress,” she had said.

“You,” I said, “on the other hand, seem contrastingly content and serene, even fulfilled and happy.”

“Perhaps, Mistress,” she smiled.

“What is wrong with me?” I asked.

“Your symptoms are clear, Mistress,” she said.

“Oh?” I said.

“I have seen them in many women,” she said.

“And just what is wrong with me?” I asked, irritably.

“I would prefer not to speak,” she said.

“Speak!” I had said.

“Must I?” she asked.

“Yes!” I said.

“Mistress needs a master,” she said.

“Get out!” I had screamed, leaping to my feet, kicking aside the small table, sobbing. “Get out! Get out!”

The girl had fled from the room, terrified.

I had sobbed then in the room, and thrown things about and run to the wall, and struck it with my fists, weeping.

“No!” I had cried. “That is stupid, stupid! She is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong!”

Only later had I been able to wash and compose myself, and prepare to accompany Drusus Rencius to the height of the walls, to enjoy the view, as we had planned. I had recalled that he had not, initially, wished to take me to the walls, and then, rather suddenly, it had seemed, had agreed to do so.

“I am a larger woman than Susan,” I informed Drusus Rencius, on the wall, acidly. “I am taller, and my breasts are larger, and my hips are wider.”

“These things being equal, such things might somewhat improve your price,” he admitted.

“I scorn slaves,” I said. “I despise them.”

“Quite properly,” said he.

I looked out, over the wall.

How pleased I was that I was free! How frightful, how terrible, it would be, to be a slave!

“Is Lady Sheila crying?” he asked.

“No!” I said.

I fought the wild needs within me, seeming to well up from my very depths, needs which seemed to be to surrender, to submit and love, totally irreservedly, giving all, asking nothing. How superficial, suddenly, seemed then the dispositions to selfishness and egotism in me. From whence could these other emotions, so overwhelming within me, have derived, I asked myself. Surely they, frightening me in their way, seemed directly at odds with the Earth conditionings which I had been subjected. I feared they could have their source only in the very depths of my nature and being.

I dabbed at my eyes with the corner of my veil. “I am not crying,” I said, “It is the wind.” I then turned about, to look back from the wall over the city of Corcyrus. “There,” I said. “That is better.”

The tarns on their perches were now on my left.

I looked over the roofs of Corcyrus. I could see, among trees, the various theaters, and the stadium. I could see the palace from where we stood. I could see, too, some of the gardens, and the roof of the library, on the avenue of Iphicrates.

“The city is beautiful,” I said.

“Yes,” he said, joining me in surveying it.

I was in love with the Gorean world, though I found it in some ways rather fearful, primarily, I suppose, because it permitted female slavery.

I wondered if Susan were right, if I needed a master. Then I put such thoughts from my mind, as absurd.

I was not a cringing, groveling slave, a girl locked in a collar, who must hope that some brute might see fit to throw her a crust of bread. I was quite different. I was a woman of Earth. I was proud and free. Indeed, on this world I even enjoyed a particularly exalted status, one a thousand times beyond that of my imbonded sisters in the city below. I was a Tatrix!

I looked down from the wall, over the many roofs of Corcyrus.

Why was Susan happy, and I miserable? She was only a collared slave. I was free.

I surveyed Corcyrus. In the Gorean world, and I sometimes still had difficulty coping with this comprehension, female slavery was permitted. How horrifying! Yet something deeply within me, undeniably, was profoundly stirred and excited by this comprehension. This stirring within me troubled me. It did not seem to be a response which I had been taught.

“There is the palace,” said Drusus Rencius, pointing.

“I see,” I said.

Given the sovereignty of males in nature, general among the mammals and universal among the primates, it was natural enough, I supposed, that in a civilization congenial to nature, rather than in one opposed to it, that an institution such as female slavery might exist. This might be regarded as the civilized expression of the biological relationship, a recognition of that relationship, and perhaps an enhancement, refinement and celebration of it, and, within the context of custom and law, of course, a clarification and consolidation of it.

But why, I asked myself, irritatedly, should a civilization be congenial to nature? Is it not far better, I asked my self, for a civilization to contradict and frustrate nature; is it not far better for it to deny and subvert nature; is it not far better for it to blur natural distinctions and confuse identities; is it not far better for it, ignoring human happiness and fulfillment, to produce anxiety, guilt, frustration, misery and pain?

“There is the theater of Kleitos,” said Drusus Rencius, “the library, the stadium.”

“Yes,” I said.

But whatever might be the truth about such matters, or the optimum ways of viewing them, female slavery, on Gor, was a fact. There were, as I had long ago learned, slaves here. I looked out, over the city. In the city, within these very walls, there were women, perhaps not much different from myself, in collars, who were literally held in categorical, uncompromised bondage. I had seen several of them, in their distinctive garb, in their collars. I had even seen one who, naked and in her collar, had been locked in an iron belt. Such women were owned, literally owned, with all that that might mean.

“There, where you see the trees,” said Drusus Rencius, “is the garden of Antisthenes.”

“How many slave girls do you suppose there are in Corcyrus?” I asked, as though idly.

“I do not know,” he said. “Probably several hundred. We do not count them.”

“Do such women seem happy?” I asked.

“As they are only slaves,” said Drusus Rencius, “their feelings and happiness are unimportant.”

“Of course,” I said. Men are such brutes! How helpless are the slaves!

“There, where you see the trees,” said Drusus Rencius, again, “is the garden of Antisthenes.”

“Yes,” I said. We had visited it twice. It was there, on our second visit, that I had first tried to entice Drusus Rencius to kiss me. The second time had been after we had witnessed the fencing matches. I had been rejected both times. I wondered if I would have been rejected had I been a collared slave. To be sure, he might have made me whimper and beg for his kiss.

I rejected an impulse to kneel before Drusus Rencius. How I hated him!

“There are places you have not taken me in Corcyrus,” I said.

“Perhaps,” he granted me.

“There was a place two days ago,” I said, “which we passed in the afternoon.”

“Surely you heard the music which was coming from within?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. It would not be easy to forget that music, so melodious, so exciting and sensual.

“A girl was dancing within,” he said. “It was a paga tavern.”

“You did not let me enter,” I said.

“Such girls often dance in little more than jewels, or chains,” he said. “It is better, I think, too, that free women not see how they look at men and how they move before them.”

“I see,” I said. “And how do men find such women?”

“It is in the best interests of the woman,” said he, “that the men find her pleasing, very pleasing.”

“I see,” I said, shuddering. I wondered if I could be pleasing to a man in that way, dancing before him, and then, later, if he had paid my owner my price, in an alcove. Most girls in such a place, I had heard from Susan, but generally not the dancers, came merely with the price of the drink itself. I supposed that if one were a dancer, and was then serving in an alcove, an additional price having been paid for one’s use, one would have to strive to be particularly good.

Gorean men, I was sure, would see to it that they got their money’s worth.

“Sometimes I feel sorry for slaves, mere slaves,” I said.

“Do not,” he said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“As you suggest,” he said, “they are merely slaves.”

“Of course,” I said, bitterly.

“Does Lady Sheila identify with slaves?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “Of course not!”

“Good,” he said.

“Why is it good?” I asked.

“It is said,” he said, “that she who identifies with slaves wants the collar on her own neck.”

“No!” I cried.

“It is only a saying,” he said. “Another such saying is that she who identifies with slaves is a slave.”

“Absurd!” I said.

“Doubtless,” her said.

“But if I were a slave,” I said, poutingly, “I suppose I would have to obey. I would have to do what I was told.” I stood quite close to him. I was quite small compared to him.

His size and masculinity made me feel weak.

“Yes,” he said, looking down into my eyes. “In such circumstances, you would have to obey. You would have to do what you were told.”

I turned away from him, suddenly, frightened, and looked again out over the wall, toward the fields. The tarns, now, were again on my right.

“It is fortunate that I am not a slave,” I laughed.

“Yes,” he said.

“Soldiers, too, are to obey, are they not?” I asked.

“Lady?” he asked.

“Hereafter,” I said, “when I wish to go somewhere, or do something, I shall expect you to respect my wishes.”

“If Lady Sheila is dissatisfied with my services,” he said, “she need only call this to the attention of Ligurious, first minister of Corcyrus. A replacement, perhaps one more pleasing to her, may then be assigned.”

“While you are assigned as my guard,” I said, “you will obey me. I shall decide if, or when, you are relieved of your duties, or even if you are to be discharged entirely from the service of Corcyrus.”

“Yes, Tatrix,” he said.

“Your services are not entirely displeasing to me,” I said, “but it is my intention to see that they are improved. I am Tatrix of Corcyrus.”

“Yes, Tatrix,” he said.

“Should I wish to enter a paga tavern, for example,” I said, you will accompany me.”

“In most paga taverns,” he said, “free women are not permitted. In some they are.”

“I see,” I said. To force an entry to such a place, I then understood, might necessitate an altercation, one perhaps ensuing in the exposure of my identity as the Tatrix. A common free woman, for example, might simply be forbidden to cross certain thresholds.

“Too,” he said, “even if commanded, I could not knowingly lead you into danger, for example, into certain sections of the city at night. It is my duty to protect the Tatrix, not to place her in jeopardy.”

“You are an excellent guard, Drusus,” I said. “You are right, of course.”

“I could take you to a tavern in which families are served,” he said.

“It was not such a tavern I had in mind,” I said.

“Oh,” he said.

“Slaves can enter taverns, can they not?” I asked.

“If on an errand, or in the company of a free person,” he said.

“There seems little concern for their sensibilities,” I observed.

“Sometimes,” said he, “they are even taken to such places by their masters, that they may see the paga slaves, and the dancers, and thus learn from them how to serve even more deliciously and lasciviously in the privacy of their own quarters.”

“What if I were clothed as a slave?” I asked.

“It is unthinkable!” he said.

I was pleased that this thought, obviously, had touched a nerve in him. I wondered if he had speculated, privately, on what I might look like clad as a slave, or perhaps, in chains, not clad at all. Many men had probably wondered what I looked like, naked. I had always been rather jealous, rather private, about my body, though. I had never had a master who might simply order me to strip. I had been seen naked, of course, by the men in my apartment, when they had removed the towel from me. I remembered how casually and efficiently they had handled me, how I had been injected with the contents of the syringe, how I had been secured with leather straps, helpless and gagged, in the heavy metal box, with air holes.

“Too,” he said, “in so public a place you might, unveiled as is a slave, be recognized. Your resemblance to the Tatrix, at least, would surely be noted.”

“You are right again, of course,” I said. He was.

He was silent.

“Drusus,” I said.

“Yes,” said he.

“I would like to see a slaver’s house, inside. I would like to see the ‘pens’.”

“Such are not fit for the sensibilities of a free woman,” he said.

“I would like to see them,” I said. “That would not be dangerous, would it?”

“No,” he admitted, reluctantly. Such places, I gathered, might be among the safest on Gor. I could scarcely conjecture the effectiveness of the security that might be practiced within them, how helplessly the slaves might be confined.

Too, a free person on Gor is almost never in any danger from a slave unless it be a guard slave, and he is attacking its master. In some cities a slave can be slain for so much as touching a weapon. Insubordination, slaves are quickly taught, is not acceptable, in any way, to the Gorean master.

“Then,” I said, triumphantly, “I shall expect you to arrange a tour.”

“Are there any particular pens of interest to Lady Sheila?” he asked.

“The choice,” I told him, airily, “may be yours.”

“Did you merely wish to see girls in the grated pits, or chained in their kennels, or at their rings,” he asked, or did you wish, perhaps, to gain also an idea of what goes on in such a house?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“How, for example,” he said, “girls might be trained.”

“That might be interesting,” I said, as though considering it, trying to keep the excitement out of my voice. The thought of women being trained, actually trained, as Susan might have been trained, almost made me faint with excitement. I wondered if I might train well. I supposed I might be punished if I did not. Under such conditions I suspected I would train quite well. I would do my best to be a diligent and apt pupil.

“Your presence, of course,” he said, “as you may be aware, may inhibit the slaves.”

“You are an intelligent man,” I said. “Perhaps you can figure out a way to prevent that.”

“It might be possible,” he said, “in the privacy of the house, where few would know you.”

“What do you have in mind?” I asked.

“Do you have pretty legs?” he asked.

“Yes!” I said. I thought I had very pretty legs.

“It might be possible,” he mused.

“Tomorrow!” I said.

“So soon?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Why should you wish to see such a place?” he asked. “Why should it be of interest to you?”

“I am merely curious,” I said, tossing my head.

“Tomorrow?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“I shall attempt to make the arrangements,” he said.

“Do so,” I said. “I shall be totally cooperative.” I then heard again that small sound, as of metal, from within his cloak.

“Why did you wait so long to bring me to the height of the wall?” I asked. That small sound of metal had reminded me of his reticence with respect to its origin. That had puzzled me. Too, I recalled his earlier nervousness, though now that had seemed to pass. Too, I had not understood why he had brought me to this particular place on the wall. Its proximity to those fearful tarns, only feet away, had been unsettling.

He shrugged. Too suddenly, it had seemed, after earlier demurrings, he had brought me to the wall. It had almost been as though he had decided on some action. His nervousness, too, had seemed uncharacteristic. What was there here, other than the tarns, which need not be closely approached, to be nervous about?

“You seem strange today, Drusus Rencius,” I said. “You seem less communicative than usual. There are many things here I do not understand. I do not know why you hesitated so long to bring me here. It is a lovely view. Then why would you have so suddenly, so belatedly, have found my suggestion agreeable? Had something happened to make you change your mind? Why, too, earlier, did you seem so distracted, as though your thoughts were elsewhere? Too, of all these places on the wall, why did you bring me here, so close to those terrible birds? They frighten me.”

“I am a poor guard, Lady Sheila,” he said. “Too, I am poor company this day. Forgive me. Worse, I fear I am a poor soldier.”

“Why should you say that?” I asked. That genuinely puzzled me.

“I had long considered bringing you to this place, Lady Sheila,” he said, “even before you yourself expressed an interest in the walls, but, again and again, I forced the thought from my mind. This thought I resisted further, even more tenaciously, when you yourself broached it, now and again. Then finally, after much troubled thought, it seemed to me that perhaps it was best that I let myself accompany you here.”

“I do not understand what you are saying,” I said.

“Here I would be alone with the Tatrix of Corcyrus, near saddled tarns,” he said. “It seemed then that I knew what I should do. It seemed then that a given course of action would be appropriate. It would be easy enough to execute. Indeed, I could undertake it now. It is perhaps what I should do. I shall not, however, do it. I contravene no orders. Rather I will let the game take its course.”

“You speak in riddles,” I chided him.

“Let us now descend from the wall,” he said. “Let us now return to the palace.”

I glanced at the tarns. They were gigantic, fierce birds.

Drusus Rencius stood close behind me. I thought for a moment he might take me in his arms. I felt faint. I wanted him to do so.

“What is that sound from within your cloak?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he said.

“Show me,” I said. I turned. He held open the side of the cloak, it then like a curtain between me and the city. The parapet was at my back.

There, held by a snap catch against the silken lining of the great cloak, looped, in coils, there hung a set of light chains.

I could not determine the exact arrangement of the chains, coiled as they were. There seemed, however, to be a longer chain, which was a base chain, and two smaller, subsidiary chains. At one end the base chain was attached to a rather small neck ring, but suitable for closing about a woman’s neck; at the other end it was attached to one of the subsidiary chains, about a foot long, and terminating on each end with a ring; those rings looked as though they might fit snugly about a woman’s ankles; the other subsidiary chain seemed to be placed about two feet or so below the, neck ring; at its terminations were smaller rings, which looked as though they might close snugly, locking, about a woman’s wrists.

“What is that?” I asked.

“It is called a sirik,” he said.

“Do men carry such things?” I asked.

“Sometimes,” he said.

I wondered what chains like that would feel like on my body. They looked very graceful. They were doubtless flattering. Too, they would hold me quite well.

“Let us descend from the wall,” said Drusus Rencius. “Let us return to the palace.”

Chapter 7 – BRACELETS

“It is so skimpy,” I said, “so tiny.”

“Retire behind the screen,” he said, “and put it on.”

I hurried behind the three-part screen in one corner of the large, well-lit room in the inn of Lysias, off the square of Perimines, on the street of Philebus. It is not far from the house of the slaver, Kliomenes, on Milo Street. We had entered the inn through its front door. We would leave it through its back door, which opened onto an alley. Later, we would return to it through this same back door. We would then take our final exit, once again, later, through the front door.

I put the small garment on the broad, dark-stained, polished boards of the floor near my feet, behind the screen. I then began to remove the veils and robes of concealment.

“There is no place back here,” I said, “to put my garments.”

“Put them on the top of the screen,” he said. I will fold them and place them on the chest.” I did this, reaching above my head to place them on the top of the screen. He then removed them from this location.

“You are to be barefoot,” he said.

I removed my slippers and put them to the left side of the screen. I saw his hand take them.

I then removed the remainder of my garments, and saw them, from the top of the screen disappear. Now, behind the screen, I was naked. Only an inch of wood separated me from such a man. I wished that I had retained some of my other garments behind the screen, if only for psychological security. I felt the dark, polished floor beneath my bare feet.

I felt the air of the room, behind the screen, on my body. I touched the screen lightly with my finger tips.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

“No!” I said. I hastily, trembling, crouched down and seized up the small bit of cloth I had placed at my feet. I moaned, inwardly. It was so light, tiny and short. It would be dismayingly revealing. Surely such garments are an insult to a woman, I thought, forcing her to show how beautiful she is, to anyone who might care to look upon her. I drew it over my head and pulled it down, desperately, about my body. It was a gray, beltless, one-piece garment of rep cloth, with inch-wide straps over the shoulders. I tugged it down, at the hem, at the sides, trying to make it cover more of my thighs.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, faltering.

“Step forth,” he said.

I came forth, from about the edge of the screen.

“Aiiii,” he said, softly, to himself.

This response pleased me.

“Stand there,” he said, indicating a place on the floor.

I went to where he had indicated.

“Now turn, slowly, and then face me,” he said.

I did so.

“Are my legs pretty?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “But your face and figure, as a whole, are also quite pretty.”

“You find my pleasing, then?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Indeed, I had not supposed that the Tatrix of Corcyrus would prove to be such a beauty.”

“Surely, then,” I smiled, “I would be worth at least a silver tarsk.”

“There are many beautiful women in the markets,” he said. “You are untrained.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Come here,” he said, “and remove my cloak. Then fold it, and place it on the chest.”

I did so.

“Now return to where you were, facing me.”

I did so.

“The Tatrix of Corcyrus does not often remove cloaks for gentlemen,” I informed him. I did not tell him, of course, how I had almost trembled being so near him, and how pleased I was to have performed this small service for him.

He did not respond but continued to gaze upon me, as though studying me. My scanty garb, of course, I understood, invited such scrutiny.

“Few men,” I said, “have looked upon the Tatrix of Corcyrus clad in this fashion.”

“Stand, straighter,” he said.

I did so.

“Doubtless they would think of her somewhat differently, if they saw her clad like this,” I said.

“Or any woman,” he said.

“Of course,” I said. I shuddered to think how men might think of women clad like this.

“The garment,” he said, “is perhaps too modest.”

“Too modest?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, “but it will perhaps do. I tried to find a garment which would be both serviceable for our purposes and, at the same time, considerate, within the limitations of our project, of your modesty. That explains the neckline which does not plunge to your belly, revealing much of the beauty of your breasts, and the hemline, which is surely something less than slave short.”

I pulled down the sides of the garment. It seemed quite short to me.

“It does not even have a nether closure,” I said to him.

“In that it is authentic,” he said. “Such a closure, or the lines of a lower garment, affording such a closure, would be instantly detected by slaves.”

“I see,” I said.

“The slave, at any instant,” he said, “is to be available to the master.”

“I see,” I said.

“Do you wish to continue with this project?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“I will take you into the house as though you might be a new girl or a fresh capture. This will explain why you are not in a collar. It will also make plausible your lack of a brand, should the matter arise. Your garment, incidentally, is long enough to cover most common brand sites. That you are totally free woman, and not a slave, or a capture enroute to collar, will be known to several members of the staff. They will, accordingly, refrain from handling you as though you were such a slave or capture, for example, stripping you, hurrying you through the halls with whips, and so on. Certain other members of the staff will not know that you are free. I shall take it upon myself to protect you from them. The pose of a jealous captor should suffice. The slaves, of course, will not know you are free. They will think you are merely a new girl, either a slave or one who, optionless, will soon be reduced to their status, one who will then be no more than they.”

“No one will know, even high members of the staff, will they,” I asked, “that I am actually the Tatrix of Corcyrus?”

“No,” he said. “They will know only that you are a free woman.”

“Good,” I said.

“Come here,” he said, pointing to a place before him. I went there and stood there, before him. It was not far from the couch, behind him. The couch was a large, square one, with, in its foot, the slave ring, an almost inevitable feature, it seemed, in Gorean domiciles. There was a small mat, and blanket, both rolled up, beneath the slave ring. They would doubtless be used there by a chained slave, if the master permitted it.

I glanced about the room. It was spacious, well-lit, comfortable and private. I wondered if free men and free women ever met in such places, for affairs. But then I glanced again at the slave ring. It seemed more likely that a man might bring a slave here, perhaps one rented for the afternoon or evening. I looked at Drusus Rencius. How could a free woman, I thought, ever compete with a slave?

“Drink this,” said Drusus Rencius.

What is it?” I asked, startled. It seemed he had produced this almost by magic. It was a soft, leather bota-like flask drawn from within his tunic.

“Slave wine,” he said.

“Need I drink that?” I asked, apprehensively.

“Unless you have had slave wine,” he said, “I have no intention of taking you through the streets clad as you are. Suppose you are raped?”

I put the flask, which he had opened, to my lips. Its opening was large enough to drink freely from. “It is bitter!” I said, touching my lips to it.

“It is the standard concentration, and dosage,” he said, “plus a little more, for assurance. Its effect is indefinite, but it is normally renewed annually, primarily for symbolic purposes.”

I could not believe how bitter it was. I had learned from Susan, whom I had once questioned on the matter, the object. It is prepared from a derivative of sip root. The formula, too, I had learned, at the insistence of masters and slavers, had been improved by the caste of physicians within the last few years. It was now, for most practical purposes, universally effective. Too, as Drusus Rencius had mentioned, its effects, at least for most practical purposes, lasted indefinitely.

“Have no fear,” said Drusus Rencius. “The abatement of its effects is reliably achieved by the ingestion of a releaser.”

“Oh,” I said. I knew this, of course. Susan had told me.

When a female slave is given the releaser, she knows that she may soon expect to be hooded, and bred.

“Could it not be sweetened?” I asked.

“I have chosen that you drink it as it is,” he said, “as it is normally drunk.”

“You would have the Tatrix of Corcyrus drink unsweetened slave wine?” I asked.

“Shall we return to the palace?” he asked.

“I will drink it,” I said. I was a bit irritated with Drusus Rencius. Clad as I was before him, he had seemed to become much more domineering, much more aggressive with me, than he had before. Something in me resented this, but I felt something else, something deeper within me, how deep I did not know, excited and deeply moved, responding to it.

“Do you wish help in drinking it?” he asked.

“How could you help me drink it?” I asked, puzzled.

“The female is put on her knees,” he said. “The man crouches behind her. Her head and body are bent back. Her nostrils are pinched shut. The liquid is then poured into her mouth. Before she can breathe, she must swallow. In this way even a frightened or stubborn girl, early in her bondage, learns that she must, if her master wishes it, accept nourishment.”

“What if she keeps her mouth closed, her teeth clenched?” I asked. “What if she chooses to expel the nourishment later?”

“A mouth may be forced open,” he said. “Too, it is difficult to induce gagging if the hands are tied behind one.”

“I see,” I said.

“To be sure,” he said, “this method, for its best results, requires two men. Do you wish help?”

“No, thank you,” I said. “I shall manage very nicely by myself.”

I then, grimacing, forcing myself, a little at a time, and then, desperately, tears in my eyes, hurrying, in great swallows, downed the foul beverage.

“Very good,” he said.

I thrust the soft leather flask back to him. Gasping, half choking, I wiped my mouth with the back of my forearm.

“Go stand there,” he said, pointing to a place near the door, “facing me.”

I went to where he had indicated and turned, then, facing him.

He tossed the soft flask to the top of the chest, atop his cloak, which I, earlier, bidden, had folded and placed there.

“Why did you make me drink unsweetened slave wine?” I asked.

“Stand straighter,” he said.

I stood straighter.

“Why did you make me drink unsweetened slave wine?” I asked.

He looked me over, casually, not hurrying, from my head to my toes, and then, slowly, back.

“It was fitting,” he said.

I gasped. The arrogance of him!

“What do you have there!” I said.

He had removed a pair of light bracelets, joined by about five inches of light chain, from his pouch.

“Slave bracelets,” he said. “Turn around, facing the door, your hands behind your back.”

Almost numbly I did so. I heard him approach me. Then he stood behind me, quietly, not moving. Perhaps be was looking at me. Then, suddenly, I felt the two bracelets flung about my wrists, striking them, encircling them and snapping shut.

I was suddenly very frightened.

I tried, tentatively, behind my back, to separate my hands.

They could move only to the ends of their short chain.

“You are braceleted,” he said.

I leaned against the door, terrified, almost fainting, using it for support. I was breathing deeply. My heart was pounding.

I was braceleted! He was busying himself elsewhere in the room. I do not think he noted my condition.

How helpless I felt, braceleted.

In a moment he had returned to my vicinity, by the door. I now straightened my body. I was struggling to regain my composure.

“You braceleted me easily,” I observed, lightly.

“It is not hard to bracelet a woman,” he said.

It had been done so casually, so expertly, with apparently so little thought. Too, it had seemed to me to happen very suddenly, very decisively. In one instant I was free, and in the next I was held helplessly, the prisoner of bands and a chain. I was still shaken, perhaps even visibly so, with the enormity, of what had been done to me. I had been made helpless.

“You have braceleted other women, haven’t you?” I asked.

He had done it so easily, so nonchalantly.

“Yes,” he said. I hated those other women. I tried again to separate my wrists. I could not do so, of course. How short, how strong, seemed the chain that held them in proximity to one another. Suddenly I felt very weak. I, like the other women before me, perhaps women who were mere slaves, wore the steel of Drusus Rencius.

“We shall leave now,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” I said. “Oh!” I said. “I did not mean that! Forgive me! It slipped out. I did not mean it.”

“Do not worry about it,” he said. “It is difficult for a woman clad as you are, and braceleted, not to think of a man as her master.”

“Thank you, Drusus,” I said. “You are very kind. Such a mistake, as you might imagine, is very embarrassing.”

“Doubtless,” he granted me, indulgently.

I wondered what it would be like to be owned, and to have to call a man “Master”. But, of course, owned, it would be quite suitable and proper for one to do so, for he would be, in fact, in such a situation, one’s Master. My mind was racing. How could it be that I had called Drusus Rencius “Master”? How inadvertently, how naturally, it had slipped out. I wondered if I were actually a proud, free woman, as I thought, or was something else, perhaps only a slave.

“If Lady Sheila is ready,” he said, “perhaps we should leave now.”

I put up my head.

I reminded myself that I was not really, in a sense, braceleted. Oh, I wore the steel. It was locked on me, and well, but I was the Tatrix of Corcyrus. I could order Drusus Rencius to remove it from me at any moment I wished, and he would. Thus, in that sense, it was not truly on me. I did shudder, for a moment, at the thought of what it would be to be truly in such bonds, but then I hastily dismissed such fearful and unsettling thoughts from my mind.

“Lady Sheila?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Let us go.”

He then opened the door and, holding me by the left arm, conducted me from the room.

Chapter 8 - I HAVE BEEN IN THE HOUSE OF KLIOMENES; THE ROOM IN THE INN OF LYSIAS; WAR

“Perhaps now,” said Drusus Rencius, “you have a better idea of the nature of the pens.”

I could not even answer him, accompanying him back through the alleys to the inn of Lysias. I feared that my head might begin to swirl, that I might lose consciousness. I was scarcely aware of my surroundings, of where I was or what I was doing, or even of my feet touching the ground. I felt light-headed. I was trembling. I was filled with wild, turbulent emotions. I would never have believed that women could be subjected to such domination. I hoped that Drusus Rencius could not smell my arousal.

“Leading position,” said Drusus Rencius.

I put my head down to his waist and he fastened his left hand in my hair.

“Tal, Citizen,” said Drusus Rencius to the fellow passing us in the alley. He soon released my hair and I again straightened up. I was following him, generally, a little behind and on his left. It seemed appropriate that I, in my disguise, might seem to heel him, as though I might be a mere slave. It seemed to me that he had held my hair more tightly than be had needed to, when we had passed the stranger. I still wore the slave bracelets. He had declined to remove them when we had left the house of Kliomenes. In his steel, heeling him, occasionally being put into leading position by him, I felt much in his power.

“Did you enjoy the pens?” asked Drusus.

“Please do not make me speak,” I whimpered. I was terribly conscious of the heat in my body, and the absence of a nether closure in my garment. Had Drusus Rencius so much as snapped his fingers I think I might have thrown myself to my back in the alley, begging for his touch.

***

“This is the house of Kliomenes,” had said Drusus Rencius, climbing the stairs to the narrow, heavy iron portal, recessed some feet back, at the end of a narrow tunnel, in the wall. It was on the street of Milo. Above the entrance to the tunnel, and on its right, in the wall, hanging from an iron projection, was a narrow, blue-and-yellow banner. I followed Drusus Rencius carefully, that I might not fall. “This is one of the better, and more respectable of the slave houses in Corcyrus,” he said. “That is one of the reasons that I have selected it for your visit, that your sensibilities, those of a free woman, not be excessively offended.”

“I see,” I said.

“On the other hand, do not expect it to compromise overly much with its women. Such would be a violation of the ethics of the slavers. Its women, you will find, all things considered, are held rather close to the standards of slave perfection.”

“I see,” I said.

He beckoned and I joined him in the narrow tunnel leading to the door. I regarded the iron door, apprehensively.

“There are truly slaves in there?” I asked.

“Of course,” he said. “If you enter, you will be, probably, the only free woman in the house, unless there is a new girl in there, in chains, awaiting, say, the iron and the collar.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Do you wish to enter?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“You are a woman, and it is the house of a slaver,” he said.

“I will enter,” I said.

He then struck on the iron door. He then thrust me in front of him, so that I, in the tunnel, was between him and the door.

There was a small, rectangular, iron observation panel, now shut, in the door.

I felt the stone of the tunnel beneath my feet, the steel holding my wrists helplessly behind me.

The observation panel slid back. I saw eyes looking at me, and then, beyond me, at Drusus Rencius.

The panel slid shut with a click.

I wanted to turn and run. I could not do so, of course, because of the walls of the tunnel, and Drusus Rencius behind me.

“They are expecting us,” said Drusus Rencius, sensing my sudden terror.

I heard chains and bars behind the door, bolts being freed.

Then the door swung open. “Enter,” said a pleasant enough looking young man in the threshold. I entered, followed by Drusus. Beside the young man there was a guard, too, within. I heard the door, with its various devices, being refastened behind me. We were in a tiny torchlit room. Only a few feet before us was another door, also iron, similar to the outside door.

“Bracelet check,” said the young man to me, pleasantly.

“Turn your back to him, and lift your wrists,” said Drusus Rencius.

I did this and the young man quickly, expertly, checked the bracelets. They were locked on me. I was helpless.

I then turned again, to face the interior door.

I cried out, startled.

The guard, crouching beside me, had taken my left ankle in his left hand and run his right hand beneath my foot.

“No,” said Drusus Rencius, deterring the guard, “there is nothing taped to her instep, nor is there anything else of the sort for which you might be searching concealed about or in her body or hair. She is to be exempted from slave search.” I then realized, shuddering, just how thorough slave search might be.

The guard looked at the young man, who nodded. The guard then stood up.

The young man then tapped a complex signal on the inner iron door. In a moment I heard it being freed of its fastenings. It then swung open and we, the young man, Drusus Rencius and myself, were admitted to the corridor beyond.

The guard there refastened the door and then took his place on a stool behind a small table.

“We need a pass and a license,” said the young man to the guard.

I looked at Drusus Rencius.

“The license is only a formality,” he said. “No free woman, unless a capture, may proceed beyond this point unless she is in the charge of a free man who is responsible for her and has a current license for her. This is a device to control the movements of free women in the house and a precaution against the attempted escape of slave girls pretending to be free women.”

“Here is your pass,” said the young man, handing a small disk to Drusus Rencius. It was not unlike one of the ostraka used as tickets or tokens for admission at the theater or other such events. The guard, meanwhile, was writing something down on a small, rectangular form. I had little doubt what it was. “And here,” said the young man, taking the form from the guard and handing it to Drusus Rencius, confirming my speculations, “is your license for the female.” I was a woman. Accordingly, I had to be licensed in the house of Kliomenes.

How humiliating! The Goreans have a saying, “There are only two kinds of women, slaves, and slaves.” I pulled at my wrists. They were well held in the bracelets.

“Is she really free?” asked the young man.

“Yes,” said Drusus Rencius, putting the pass and license in his pouch.

“Interesting,” said the young man.

“Do you find it surprising?” asked Drusus Rencius.

“Yes,” said the young man.

The guard then stood up and came about the table. I backed away a foot or two.

He crouched down near me, and then stood up, regarding me. “Those are slave curves,” he said, “and rather lovely ones.”

I blushed, helpless.

“Such curves,” he said, “should not be wasted on a free woman.”

“I do not think Publius will believe she is free,” laughed the young man.

I looked at Drusus Rencius.

“Publius,” said Drusus Rencius, “is the house master. I know him from Ar.”

“He would like to see you, after your tour,” said the young man, “to drink a cup of paga.”

“I shall be delighted,” said Drusus Rencius. He did not ask me for my permission to do this, I noted.

“She is truly free?” asked the guard.

“Yes,” averred Drusus Rencius.

“It is a shame,” said the guard. “Curves like that should be up for sale.”

“From what I have heard of her,” said Drusus Rencius, smiling, “she is the sort of a woman who has her price.” I wondered what her meant by that.

“Hermidorus will accompany you in the house,” said the young man, “if we can tear him away from his scrolls.”

“He understands, does he not,” asked Drusus Rencius, “that the woman is free and, accordingly, certain things are not to be seen.”

“Of course,” smiled the young man. “Hermidorus!” he called, loudly.

In a few moments, from a side door, a few yards farther down the corridor, another young man emerged. He was dark-haried and dark-eyed, and had a rather scholarly look about him. He did not seem much different to me than some young men I had seen about universities. He seemed an improbable inhabitant of such a place.

“This is Drusus, a soldier of the city,” said the first young man. “He is known to Publius.”

Drusus Rencius and the newcomer inclined their heads to one another.

The newcomer then looked me over.

“Do you think she could pass as a slave?” asked the first young man.

“Easily,” smiled the second. I realized then the question had been rhetorical. I flushed. Why did Gorean men, seeming so naturally, look upon me as a slave?

“Follow me,” said the young man, turning about.

***

“Leading position,” said Drusus Rencius.

Swiftly I put down my head again and winced as Drusus fastened his hand in my hair.

Thus again was I led past a stranger in the alleys. As we passed the stranger, he approaching us, he was on our right.

Goreans commonly pass in this fashion, the sword arms of right-handed individuals being thus on the side of the approaching stranger.

I saw some girls rummaging through a garbage can. They wore short tunics but they were not slaves. Goreans sometimes refer to such women as “strays”. They are civic nuisances. They are occasionally rounded up, guardsmen appearing at opposite ends of an alley, trapping them, and collared.

***

“Buy me, Master,” begged the girl, kneeling before Drusus Rencius. “I will give you much pleasure.”

“Next!” barked the trainer, in the house of Kliomenes.

The next girl hurried forward and knelt before Drusus Rencius, kissing his feet, and then lifting her head, piteously, to him. “Buy me, Master,” she said. “I will give you much pleasure.”

“Next!” barked the trainer.

The next woman then hurried to Drusus and, threw herself to her belly before him, kissing his feet. She then rose slowly to her knees, kissing him from the ankles to the waist.

Kneeling before him, then, close to him, holding his legs she looked up at him. “Buy me, Master,” she whispered. “I will give you much pleasure.”

How furious I was that these women were being sent to the feet of Drusus Rencius. They were naked and beautiful, but who would want to buy them? They were only slaves. That could be told by the collars they wore, bars of rounded iron which, here, in the house, had been curved about their necks and hammered shut. I stood in the background, angry, braceleted, helpless.

“You!” said the trainer, gesturing to another girl with his Whip. “To his feet! Beg for love!”

This girl hurried forward and knelt before Drusus Rencius.

“I beg for love, Master,” she whispered.

“You!” said the trainer, indicating another girl. She, too, hurried forward. She knelt before Drusus Rencius, her palms on the floor, her head to the very tiles. “I beg for love,” she whispered. “I beg for love, Master.”

I was startled. I realized, suddenly, that these two women, indeed, were begging for love. “Beg elsewhere, sluts!” I thought. “Leave Drusus Rencius alone!” And how offensive that a woman should beg for love! Surely her intimate, desperate needs for attention, for affection and love were better concealed even from herself, if possible, and certainly, at least, from others! And if they must beg, the helpless sluts, did they not know how a woman begs, by looks, by glances, by small, hopeful services. Surely a woman should not be expected to speak honestly in such matters. What brute would force her to such extremities? Too, how vulnerable a woman would make herself, placing herself so at the mercy of men, subject to being spurned, subject to his scorn and rejection.

Yet how simple, how straightforward and liberating might be such a confession. How beautiful it might be to so express one’s vulnerability, and femininity, so tenderly, so piteously, so openly. To be sure, one would expect such a confession only from a woman whose needs were both desperate and deep, a woman who had needs such as might characterize slaves.

“Come along,” said Hermidorus.

***

“Please, Drusus,” I said. “My hands have been braceleted long enough. I am beginning to feel too helpless, too much like a slave. Please release me.”

“I will release you in the room,” he said. I then continued to follow him, still braceleted, through the alleys, toward the inn of Lysias.

***

“Slowly, more humbly,” cautioned the trainer, half crouching over, watching carefully, moving slowly beside the girl. Then he moved about her, more quickly, varying his perspective. Then he moved to the end of the room, where he might wait for her to approach. “Head lower,” he said. “Better, better.”

I watched her approach him, head down, on her hands and knees, her breasts depending beautifully. Then she dropped the whip from her teeth before his booted feet. She then remained there, head down, in position. “Better,” he said. He then picked up the whip and tossed it across the tiles. “Again,” he said. She then rose lightly to her feet and hurried to the whip, where, once more, she dropped to her hands and knees. She picked up the whip delicately in her teeth, and looked at him. He snapped his fingers. Again, then, head down, slowly, she approached him, the whip held in her mouth.

***

“Kneel, back on your heels,” said the trainer to the dark haired woman. “Straighten your back, suck in your gut, put your shoulders back, thrust out your breasts, spread your knees, widely, lift your chin, put your hands on your thighs. You are not going to be sold as a tower slave, Lady Tina. You are going to be sold as a pleasure slave.”

***

The whip cracked, and I jumped. But it had not touched the girl, only startled her.

She knelt behind the dark, smooth post, facing it, her knees on either side of it, her belly and breasts against it, her hands embracing it.

“This may be done to music,” said Hermidorus, “and, as you know, there are many versions to the post dance, or pole dance, singly, or with more than one girl, with or without bonds, wand so on, but here we are using it merely as a training exercise.”

The whip cracked again and the girl, suddenly and lasciviously, became active.

I gasped.

She began to writhe about the pole. “Kiss it, caress it, love it!” commanded the trainer, snapping the whip. “Now more slowly, now scarcely moving, now use your thighs, and breasts more, moving all about it, holding it. Touch it with your tongue, lick it! Use the inside of your thighs more, your breasts, turn about it, slowly, sensuously. Lift your hands above your head, palms to the pole, caressing it. Turn about the pole! Twist about it! Now to your knees, holding it!” He then cracked the whip again. “Enough!” he said. She was then as she had been before, kneeling behind the post, her knees on either side of it, her belly and breasts pressed against it, her hands embracing it. The girl was looking at me. She was wondering, perhaps, if I were the next to be put to the post. I looked away, angrily. Did she not know I was not a lowly thing like she? Did she not know I was free?

“It is a useful exercise,” said Hermidorus to Drusus.

“Obviously,” agreed Drusus.

I looked back at the girl. She was now looking away. I looked at the post. It was dark, and shiny. It had been polished smooth, apparently, by the bodies of many girls.

The girl looked suddenly at me. There was a hostility in our looks toward one another. She saw, I think, in my eyes, that I thought I could have done better at the post than she.

Then I looked away. What would I care for her opinions? Were we competitive women?

“Come along,” said Hermidorus.

***

“These women,” said Hermidorus, “are practicing their floor movements.”

A trainer stood among them, with a whip. Occasionally he would snap this whip near a girl. I did not doubt but what the girls on the tiles, if they were found sufficiently displeasing to the trainer, or too frequently required the admonitory signal of the cracking leather, would soon hear the snap of the lash not in their mere vicinity but on their own bared bodies. Two of the girls, I saw, had stripes on them, one on the thigh, and one on the side. The trainer was not now paying them much attention. They were now, apparently, doing well.

“Come along,” said Hermidorus.

***

“How beautiful!” I breathed.

Drusus Rencius looked sharply at me. I feared for a moment I might be struck.

Hermidorus, on the other hand, did not seem to notice. My exclamation, perhaps, had seemed sufficiently inadvertent, involuntary and irrepressible, to be ignored; or perhaps it was to be ignored because I was not a slave, but a free woman. I did not meet Drusus Rencius’s eyes. It was not like I had just decided to speak and had spoken. In a place like this I did not know if I was subject to discipline or not. I did not think so, for I was a free woman. On the other hand I knew I was here on the sufferance of the house of Kliomenes. Indeed, on these premises, I knew that Drusus Rencius even held a license on me.

The drummer and the flautist prepared once more to play.

The girl in the long, light chain smiled at me. She, at any rate, was pleased by my response.

A wrist ring was fastened on her right wrist. The long, slender, gleaming chain was fastened to this and, looping down and up, ascended gracefully to a wide chain ring on her collar, through which it freely passed, thence descending, looping down, and ascending, looping up, gracefully, to the left wrist ring. If she were to stand quietly, the palms of her hands on her thighs, the lower portions of the chain, those two dangling loops, would have been about at the level of her knees, just a little higher. The higher portion of the chain, of course, would be at the collar loop.

The musicians began again to play. There is much that can be done with such a chain. It was a dancing chain. Its purpose was not to confine the girl but to allow her to incorporate it in her dance, enhancing the dance with its movements and beauty. It is, of course, symbolic of her bondage, this adding fantastic dimensions of significance to the dance. It is not merely a beautiful woman who dances, but one who can be bought and sold, one who is subject to male ownership. Too, of course, the wrist rings, and the collar, are truly locked on her. There is no doubt about it. It is a slave, with all that that means, who is dancing.

I watched her, my breath almost taken away by her beauty.

“She is a valuable woman,” said Hermidorus.

I did not doubt it.

“Come along,” he said.

***

“We are readying her for her sale,” said Hermidorus.

I watched her naked on the block, under the tutelage of a whip-carrying trainer. It was small, rounded room, with mirrors. He was putting her through slave paces.

“She is to be auctioned in five days,” said Hermidorus.

My eyes and those of the girl met. At that instant her weight was on the palms of her hands, her arms straight, and the sides of her feet, her body lifted from the block, her legs tight and spread widely behind her.

I realized then, with a shock, that she was going to be sold.

Then she was being put through further slave paces.

“Come along,” said Hermidorus.

I wondered what it would be like to be sold. That girl was going to be sold. Susan had been sold. The other girls, too, or many of them, I supposed, and countless others like them, passing through just such houses as this, would be sold. Such sales would not be uncommon on Gor. They would take place with little more thought than might attend the vendings of horses or cattle.

I was trembling. The hand of Drusus Rencius on my arm drew me, bodily, from the room.

***

“I have changed my mind!” wept the girl. “I will be pleasing! I will be pleasing!”

I looked through the heavy bars of the cell, some three inches in thickness, reinforced with crosspieces, to the opposite wall. It was hard to see. There, kneeling on straw, trying to pull towards us, her wrists tied behind her back to a ring set in the wall, was a blond girl. “I will be pleasing!” she wept. “I will be pleasing! I will be pleasing!”

I then turned away from her, following Hermidorus and Drusus Rencius.

“She is not yet begging to be pleasing,” said Hermidorus to Drusus.

“Correct,” he said.

I looked behind myself, following them, at the dark cells, most of them empty, along the corridor. This was certainly not my favorite part of the house. It was dark, and cold, and clammy. Occasionally my bare feet stepped in puddles of cold water, seeped to this level, and caught in concavities or irregularities in the corridor flooring. And, here and there, I could see passages, narrow, crooked and dark, leading to even lower levels. I was pleased that we were not going to traverse them. It had seemed frightening enough to me to come even to this level.

Sometimes, in our descent, on catwalks, we had even passed over pit cells, little more than holding holes, ceilinged with locked iron gates, sunk in the floor of the corridor. I had cried out with misery and terror in passing over one of these for a large hand, emerging suddenly through the grating, had seized my ankle. Drusus Rencius had pried open the fingers and thrust the hand away. I then kept closely to the center of the catwalks. There were male slaves in this house, too, I had learned.

Had the slave known I was free, I do not think he would have touched me. He might have remained crouching in his hole, thinking what thoughts he might, but I do not think he would have dared to touch me. A male slave can be slain for touching a free woman.

“She is not here for punishment,” Hermidorus had informed the dark shapes beneath the grating. I then realized that a slave girl, perhaps for purposes of her discipline, might be lowered through the grating hole, doubtless into eager hands, the grating then being resecured.

In the corridors, in our movements through them, particularly in the upper levels, we would sometimes encounter slaves, usually employed in domestic tasks, such as running errands, carrying burdens, dusting or cleaning. These women were usually naked, except for their collars, which, I gathered, was the way women were usually kept in a slaver’s house. At the approach of the free men, Hermidorus and Drusus, they would immediately position themselves, usually with their knees wide, kneeling back on their heels, their heads up, their hands on their thighs, in the position I had come to understand was that of the pleasure slave, but sometimes, instead kneeling with the palms of their hands on the tiles, their heads down, too, to the same tiles.

There was one temporary, partial exception to this, which I will mention. After we had left some carpeted corridors, higher in the house, and were moving to the lower levels, and traversing heavy, flagstone-like tiles, we approached a slender, dark-haired girl who, on her hands and knees, in chains, with a bucket of water, cloths and a brush, in that portion of the corridor, was scrubbing tiles.

As we approached, she oriented herself towards us, palms of her hands on the floor, and put her head to the tiles. But, as we neared her, she lifted her head, desperately.

“Hermidorus!” she cried, suddenly. “Hermidorus!”

He stopped before her, a few feet from her, and we stopped, too, behind him.

“Do you not know me?” she begged. The chain she wore was a work sirik. It resembles the common sink but the wrists, to permit work, are granted about a yard of chain.

Like the common sirik, it is a lovely chain. Women are beautiful in it. “Deirdre!” she cried. “Deirdre! Two years ago in Ar we lived in the same building!”

He looked at her, not speaking.

“Deirdre,” she whimpered.

“In the instant you were imbonded, you ceased to be Deirdre, Girl,” he said.

“Girl?” she said.

“What is your house name?” he asked.

“Oh, no,” she said. “Not you! Not you, of all people! You not see me as a slave! You could not see me as a slave! I know you. That would be impossible! You could not relate to me as though I might be a slave! You could not! One such as you would never enforce my slavery upon me! One such as you could never do so!”

Then she looked up at him, her lower lip trembling. “‘Renata’ is my house name,” she said.

He then removed the belt from his tunic. The accouterments on it he handed to Drusus Rencius.

“You lifted your head from the tile position before free persons had passed you, Renata,” he said. “You also addressed a free man twice by his name. Similarly your speech has been inadequately deferential. It has not been interspersed at appropriate points, for example, by the expression ‘Master.’ You have also referred to yourself as though you might still be ‘Deirdre.’ Such falsifications of identity are not permitted to slaves. Deirdre is gone. In her place there is now only a slave, an animal, who must wear whatever name masters choose to put on her. Similarly, when asked a question, that pertaining to your house name, you did not respond with sufficient promptness. Do you understand all that I am saying, fully and clearly, Renata?”

She looked up at him, tears in her eyes. “Yes, Master,” she said.

“On all fours, Renata,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” she sobbed, assuming this position.

“Perhaps you should precede us a few paces down the hall,” said Drusus Rencius to me.

I moved, frightened, a few feet down the hall, not looking. Then, suddenly, I heard the belt beginning to fall, sharply, on the girl. I turned in time to see her on her side, in her chains, receiving the last few blows. She had not been pleasing. She was a slave. Of course she was being punished.

Then Hermidorus, without further ado, took back his accouterments from Drusus and slipped them on his belt. He then fastened the belt again about his waist.

I was startled that one such as he, seemingly so scholarly and gentle, possessed such uncompromising strength. The female had learned, to her sorrow, that in his presence she would not be permitted the least slackness in her discipline.

“I am sorry for the interruption,” Hermidorus apologized to Drusus Rencius.

“That is perfectly all right,” said Drusus.

The girl lay on her stomach, in her chains, in the water on the tiles. She lifted her head, gazing in pain, disbelief and awe at Hermidorus. She was a slave who had not been pleasing. She had been put under his belt.

We then continued down the hallway.

“Master,” she called out, “I want to lay for you! I want to lay for you! Please have me sent to your rooms! I want to lay for you!”

Hermidorus did not look back.

I looked back. I saw in the girl’s eyes that she now knew she was a slave, and helplessly so, and that she loved him.

We continued on our way.

I wondered if he would have her sent to his rooms. The decision was his. She was a slave.

“As the house opens to the public at the tenth Ahn,” said Hermidorus, “perhaps I should now take you to the office of Publius, who wished to greet you before you left the premises.” The tenth Ahn is the Gorean noon.

“Splendid,” said Drusus Rencius.

We were then making our way upward from some of the lower pen areas.

I had not realized the complexities of a slaver’s house, and this house was not an unusually large one. We had seen the baths and the sales yard, which is also used for exercise; we had seen various holding areas, ranging from silken, barred alcoves for superb pleasure slaves, through cells and cages of various sorts more fit for medium-priced women, to incarceration chambers that were little more than grated pits or gloomy dungeons, areas in which a slave might be terrorized to find herself placed; other holding areas, ranging from good to bad, were no more than a ring position, in a wall or on a floor; we also saw kitchens, pantries, eating areas, some with mere troughs or depressions in the floor, storage areas, guard rooms, offices, and places for the keeping of records; there were also a laundry and an infirmary; too, there were rooms where such subjects as the care and dressing of hair, the application of cosmetics, the selection and use of perfumes, manicure and pedicure, and slave costuming were taught, and even rooms where inept women, usually former members of the upper castes, could be instructed in the small domestic tasks that would now be expected of them, small services suitable for slaves, such as cleaning, cooking and sewing.

Certain areas of the house, however, I was not shown, presumably because I was a free woman, such as the lowest pens, the branding chamber, the discipline room, and the rooms where girls were taught to kiss and caress, and the movements of love.

“I will be good! I will be good!” I heard a girl cry, from within a low, steel, rectangular box, shoved against the side of the passage, presumably that it would not be in the way. I stopped, startled. It had not occurred to me that a girl could be held within those small confines. Indeed, in the half-darkness of the lamp lit passage I had hardly noticed the box.

It was about four feet long and three feet wide, with a depth of perhaps eighteen inches. It was of steel and opened from the top. In the lid, at each end, there was a circle, about five inches in diameter, of penny-sized holes. It was locked shut, secured by two flat, steel bars, perpendicular to its long axis, padlocked, in front, in place. “I will be good!” wept the girl, from within.

“It is a slave box,” said Hermidorus.

“I beg to be pleasing, Masters!” cried the girl, from within.

“Surely she must be a very tiny woman,” I said, horrified, to Drusus Rencius.

“She is the former Lady Tais of Farnacium,” said Hermidorus. “Her house name is Didi. She is, as I recall, a normal-sized slave.”

“The box is so small,” I said.

“It is supposed to be small,” said Drusus Rencius.

“But consider the cramping, the tightness, the girl’s helplessness,” I said.

“Those are among its purposes,” he said.

“But it is so small!” I protested.

“It is not really so small,” he said.

I looked at him.

“It would be, for example,” he said, “more than large enough for you.”

“I will obey lovingly and with total perfection, Masters,” averred the woman from within the box. “I beg only to be permitted to be fully and totally pleasing to my Masters!”

“Come along,” said Hermidorus.

We then, once again, followed him.

“I beg to be pleasing!” cried the woman from within the box. “I beg to be permitted to be totally pleasing!”

“She is almost ready to leave the box,” said Hermidorus.

***

“Let me see the license on her,” said Publius. “I see,” he smiled, surveying the scrap of paper given to him by Drusus Rencius, “the Lady Lita.” He looked at me. “A pretty name,” he said.

I thought so, too.

He smiled at me, as though amused by the name. I did not understand this.

“It is not her true name, of course,” said Publius to Drusus Rencius.

“Of course not,” said Drusus Rencius.

“Doubtless, in the circles in which you travel, Lady Lita,” said Publius to me, “it would not do for your friends to know how you were brought half naked and braceleted into a slaver’s house.”

I looked away from him. I did not deign to respond to such a remark.

“It would be quite a scandal doubtless,” he said, “and make a quite good story in the telling.”

I looked away, loftily, still braceleted.

“Here, Lady Lita,” he said, “let us stand you in the light, where we can get a better look at you.” He conducted me to a pool of light, at the foot of a shaft of light, falling from a high, barred window.

I stood there, and the men stood back, looking at me.

“She is very pretty,” said Publius. “‘Lita’ would be a good name for her.”

“I think so,” said Drusus Rencius.

I stood there, being inspected. I had been afraid that Publius, when he had been conducting me to the pool of light, and placed me here, might have touched me. I could not have prevented it, in such a brief garment, with no nether closure, my hands braceleted helplessly behind my back, but he had not done so. Had he done so, of course, my condition of arousal would have been made humiliatingly and embarrassingly evident to him. I hoped that my need was not somehow evident, subtly so, in my appearance and behavior, Perhaps through body cues. I hoped, too, they could not smell it.

“Kneel down here, Lady Lita, in the light,” said Publius.

I knelt down, in the pool of light. I kept my knees closely together. I was confused, and frightened. I was kneeling before men.

“Are you sure she is free?” asked Publius.

“Yes,” said Drusus Rencius.

“Interesting,” said Publius. He then walked slowly about me, looking at me, and, then, again, stood a few feet before me, looking down at me.

“Look at her,” he said.

“Yes?” said Drusus.

“Closely,” said Publius.

“Yes?” inquired Drusus.

“Do you not see?” asked Publius.

“What?” asked Drusus.

“She has the softness, the femininity, the look of a slave about her,” he said.

“I assure you,” smiled Drusus, “she is far from a slave.”

“I do not think so,” said Publius. “I think she is a natural slave, and would train superbly to the collar.”

Drusus threw back his head and laughed at the absurdity of this thought. I myself did not find it so amusing.

“Does anyone know she is here?” asked Publius.

“No,” said Drusus.

“Why do we not then enslave her?” asked Publius. “No, Lady Lita,” he said, “do not rise to your feet.” I had almost leapt up. My wrists wildly, suddenly, had jerked against the bracelets. They had not yielded, of course. They were not made to yield. I knelt back then, in the light, on my heels.

“It would not be difficult,” said, Publius. “We could transport her from the city. Then, elsewhere, when she is suitably branded, and her neck is locked in a proper collar, when she is fully and inescapably a slave, absolutely rightness, and in your power, we might make test of the matter.”

“This woman is not a slave,” said Drusus Rencius.

“A silver tarsk says she is,” laughed Publius.

“How are things in Ar?” asked Drusus Rencius. “I have I not been there for a long time.”

“I will get the paga,” said Publius.

The men then drank, and spoke of small things while I knelt in the light, braceleted, and was seldom, I think in their mind or attention. Once I noticed that my knees had opened somewhat, without my really thinking about it. I quickly closed them. I hoped no one had noticed. I wondered if I was a slave. Publius thought so, and he was a slaver. He had been willing to put a silver tarsk on the matter. I looked at Drusus. Something in me seemed to say, “You lose your tarsk, Drusus Rencius. She is a slave.”

Then I hastily thrust such a horrifying thought from my mind.

***

“Please, Drusus,” I had said. “My hands have been braceleted long enough. I am beginning to feel too helpless, too much like a slave. Please release me.”

“I will release you in the room,” he had said.

I had then continued to follow him, still braceleted, through the alleys, toward the inn of Lysias.

Why did her not release me now? Why did be still keep me braceleted, like a slave? Could he not see that I was almost overcome with emotion? Could he not see my misery, my distress? Could be not see how overwrought I was? Could he not see the difficulty I was having, fighting myself?

We were approaching closer and closer to the inn of Lysias. This excited and thrilled me, but, too, it frightened and terrified me. There I would be alone with Drusus Rencius, a Gorean male, in the room. What would I do? How would I act?

I moaned to myself.

I wished to run to the room, and I wished to hang back, almost as though against a leash.

Emotions raged within me, furies and resentments lingering from my Earth conditionings, residues of masculine values which I had been encouraged to espouse and exemplify, and, released on Gor, welling up from deeply within me, from what sources I could scarcely dare conjecture, alarming me, disconcerting me, almost overpowering feelings of helplessness, vulnerability and femininity.

I did not know what to do. I did not know how to act.

“I am free,” I cried to myself, “I am free! Free!”

But I was half naked and my hands were braceleted behind me. Each step, too, was taking me closer to the room!

I wished that I had never seen slaves, and the house of Kliomenes. I wished I had never known how beautiful they were, and how they were dominated by men, and must obey!

I wished that I had never felt these powerful emotions, in all their irresistibility, profundity and depth! But then I knew that this was false. It is better to feel than not to feel. I was overwhelmingly moved by having seen slaves, and thrilled to have been permitted, even on a license, to see the house of Kliomenes. Even though I myself was surely not a slave my life, I knew, was a thousand times richer for having realized that such things existed, for having seen such basic, deep, human and real things.

“How do you know that you are not a slave, Tiffany?” I asked myself. “How do you know that you are different from those other girls? How do you know that you are not, as Publius suggested, a natural slave? How do you know the collar would not be quite appropriate for you? How do you know it does not, in fact, rightfully belong on you?”

“No,” I said to myself, almost poutingly, “I am free!”

Then something within me, frightening me, seemed to laugh, derisively. “You are a slave, Tiffany,” it said. “You know you are a slave. You have known it, in one way or another, in your heart, for years.”

“No!” I said to myself. “No!”

“But, yes, Slave,” said the voice within me, insistently, derisively, mocking me. “No!” I said. “Yes,” it whispered. “Yes, yes.”

I wondered if I was a slave. The thought thrilled me, and terrified me.

Why had Drusus Rencius not freed me from the bracelets!

We were not now in the house of Kliomenes!

“I will release you in the room,” he had said.

Why would he not release me now? Why could he not be of help to me? Could he not see how I was fighting myself!

I wondered if she who was helpless in his bracelets was a slave.

Oddly enough I had felt most a slave, most dominated, in the house of Kliomenes when, in the office of Publius, the men had talked, and I had knelt alone and to one side, my head down, in the light, neglected, braceleted, waiting for the men, the masters, to finish.

I hurried along in the alley behind Drusus Rencius.

I tried to fight the emotions rising in me, welling up, irresistibly, from my very depths. I was confused and torn. In me conditioning warred with nature. Men were the masters. Did they not know that? Why did they not enforce their power, their will on us? Could they not see what we wanted, what we needed? Were they so inattentive and insensitive? Were they so stupid, so blind? Could they not see that I, in order to attain my perfection, needed the weight of a chain, the taste of a whip? Could they not see that I could not be perfect until my will was taken from me, and I must serve willlessly!

Could they not see that this was what I wanted? I was not man. I was a woman! I wanted to surrender to nature, but feared, mightily, to do so. I sensed what a woman might become if she surrendered to nature. I scarcely dared think it, let alone speak it. How categorical, how fearful, how absolute and such a thing would be! Yet I longed for it. I wished a man would throw me to my belly and lock a collar on my throat.

I wished to lie trembling at his feet, in the shadow of his whip, knowing that thenceforth, whether I wished it or not, I existed for love, passion and service.

“Leading position,” said Drusus Rencius. I swiftly put my head down and felt his fingers lock themselves deeply in my hair. I turned my head and pressed my lips suddenly, helplessly, to his thigh, kissing him. He twisted my head cruelly to the side, holding it there, turned, so that my lips could not touch him. My eyes brimmed with tears, not only from the pain, but more so, from the fact that I had been rejected.

We had then passed the stranger, approaching, in the alley.

Drusus Rencius released my hair, and I straightened up, continuing to follow him.

We were almost at the back entrance of the inn of Lysia.

I had been rejected!

How furious I was at the girl who had so helplessly kissed the leg of Drusus Rencius. How she had humiliated and embarrassed me, the shameless tart! I hated and despised her. Where had she come from? Who was she? Surely she could not have been I!

We were then at the back entrance of the inn of Lysias.

“Kneel here,” said Drusus Rencius, indicating a place near back entrance, near some garbage cans.

I knelt, immediately, obediently.

He entered the inn. He would see if anyone was about, or we might, unobserved, make our way up the back stairs to room.

I moaned softly, with need.

I knelt near tile back entrance of the inn, near the garbage bins. I pulled weakly against the bracelets.

I looked up, suddenly, startled. A man was standing there, looking at me. He had come, apparently, from down the alley. I put down my head, swiftly, so swiftly that it almost startled me, showing submission. I had seen his eyes. I was terribly frightened.

Then back door of the inn opened and Drusus, to my relief, emerged.

“She is not out for use?” asked the man.

“No,” said Drusus. “Sorry.” He then snapped his fingers and I leaped up and, at a gesture, preceded him into the inn, up the rear stairs.

I was trembling. I was sure that in another moment or two I, utterly helpless, might have been seized and penetrated in the alley.

In a moment, then, we were again in the room, and Drusus had locked the door behind us.

I leaned back against the door, my head back, breathing deeply. “He thought you had been put out for raping,” said Drusus, chuckling to himself.

I looked at him.

“Did you enjoy the house of Kliomenes?” asked Drusus.

How absurd to me seemed the lightness, the casual cast, of his question. The experience had been an incredibly meaningful one for me. Scarcely never before, I think, had I been so in touch with my femaleness. It was hard to conceive of how one could be more in touch with one’s femaleness, unless, of course, one were oneself a slave.

Drusus Rencius looked at me. Then I went to where he stood, and knelt down before him.

He looked down at me, angrily, startled. “What are you doing?” he asked.

“Kneeling down before you,” I said, “helpless, braceleted, as a woman before a man.”

His fists were clenched.

“If you want me,” I said, “have me.”

“Get up!” he cried. Then he seized me by the upper arms and pulled me to my feet. He held me before him.

“Taste the slave in me,” I begged.

He looked down into my eyes, fiercely. His grip on my arms, holding me absolutely helplessly, was like iron.

“Oh, would that you were a slave,” he whispered, intensely. “Would that you were a slave!”

He then, lifting me from my feet as though I might have been no more than a doll, suddenly, violently, with a cry of rage, flung me from him, yards from him, to the surface of the bed. On the bed I scrambled to my knees. The wall was at my back.

There were sounds from outside the window, cries in the street.

Drusus Rencius went to the window, listening. “Corcyrus,” he said, “has seized the mines of Argentum. It has begun.”

“What has begun?” I asked, frightened.

“War,” said Drusus Rencius.

“I will return you to the palace, immediately,” he said. He indicated that I should lie on my belly on the bed before him. I did so and, lying on the bed, my head turned to the side, sunk partly in its softness, felt the bracelets removed from me.

I rose from the bed, pulling down the edges of the brief, one-piece garment I wore. Drusus Rencius returned the slave bracelets to his pouch. “My garments, please,” I said. I would have him serve me. He handed me my garments. I retired behind the screen and, in a few moments, re-emerged.

“Lady Sheila will require a new guard,” he said.

“No,” I said. “I will not.”

He looked at me, surprised.

“You are not relieved of your duties,” I said. “You are still my guard, and will continue to serve me as such.”

“Lady Sheila well knows how to torture a man,” he said.

“Yes,” I said. “I do.”

He regarded me, bitterly.

“Return me now to the palace,” I said.

“Yes, Tatrix,” he said.

Chapter 9 - I DETERMINE TO TAKE COGNIZANCE IN THE CITY

I stood by the barred window in my quarters, looking out. I could see portions of the courtyard below, sections of the inner walls and the first of the two gates leading to the outside. I could also see, back from the walls, a portion of the square outside the gates. Most of the crowd outside the gates I could not see. I could see some men and women moving across the square, presumably to join it. It was the second such crowd in the past week. I saw some men, across the square, perhaps seeing someone in my window, stop, and shake their fists. I moved away from the window.

“Mistress!” cried Susan, entering with a tray, stopping suddenly, spilling wine. She looked at me, with the sudden terror of a slave who had been clumsy. “Forgive me, Mistress!” she cried. “I will clean it up immediately!”

I watched her while she put down the tray, picked up the goblet, and hurried to fetch cloths and water. In a moment she was on her hands and knees, frightened, cleaning the floor. I myself, of course, a woman of wealth and position, a Tatrix even, was above such tasks. They were properly to be performed by lesser women. Ideally, of course, they fell to those women for whom they were perfectly suited, slaves.

“Susan,” I said.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said, looking up from her hands and knees, frightened.

“Why did you spill the wine?” I asked.

“I am sorry, Mistress!” she said.

“Why did you spill it?” I asked. She had seemed surprised.

“I was startled, Mistress,” she said. “I had not expected to find you here. I had thought that I had seen you in an anteroom off the great hall, only some Ehn earlier.”

“You were mistaken,” I said.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“There is another crowd outside the gate this evening,” I said.

“Yes, Mistress,” said the girl.

“It is an angry crowd again, is it not?” I asked.

“I fear so, Mistress,” said the girl.

I went to the barred window, and looked out. I could hear the crowd but, because of the walls and gates, could see very little of it.

“I think guardsmen will soon issue forth to disperse it,” said Susan.

“Can you make out what they are shouting, what they want?” I asked, lightly.

“No, Mistress,” said Susan, putting down her head.

“I can make it out quite clearly, from the window,” I said irritably.

“Forgive me, Mistress,” said Susan.

“Speak,” I said.

“They call for the blood of the Tatrix of Corcyrus,” she said, “whom they call tyranness and villainess of Corcyrus.”

“But, why?” I asked. “Why?”

“I do not know, Mistress,” said Susan. “There are scarcities in the city. They may be angry about the progress of the War!”

“But the war goes well,” I said.

“Yes, Mistress,” said Susan, putting her head down.

There was then a heavy knock at the door. “Ligurious, first minister of Corcyrus,” announced a voice, that of a guard.

“Enter,” I said.

The door opened and Ligurious, with his imposing stature, yet leonine grace, entered. He bowed to me, and I inclined my head to him.

At his entrance Susan put the palms of her hands on the floor and lowered her head to the tiles, assuming a position of slave obeisance common with her in the presence of her master. I wondered if Ligurious’s slave master required this position of all of his women. I supposed so.

Ligurious looked down at her, irritably. It was clear what she had been doing.

“Was it she who spilled the wine?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“If you do not wish to exert yourself,” he said, “I can have her whipped for you.”

“It is all right,” I said. “She is only a stupid, meaningless slave.

“Run along, Susan,” I said. “You can finish later.”

“Yes, Mistress,” said Susan, leaping up, darting away.

“Tonight,” said Ligurious, “I will give her to guardsmen. She will dance the whip dance, naked.” There are many whip dances on Gor, of various sorts. In a context of this sort, presumably not in a tavern, and without music, the girl is expected to move, writhe and twist seductively before strong men. If she does not do well enough, if she is insufficiently maddeningly sensuous, the whips fall not about her, but on her. When one of the men can stand it no longer be orders her to his mat where, of course, she must be fully pleasing. If he is not, then she is whipped until she is. Then, when one man is satisfied, the dance begins again, and continues in this fashion until all are satisfied, or tire of the sport.

“How goes the war?” I said.

“I have come to report another glorious victory,” said Ligurious. “This one has occurred on the Plains of Eteocles.”

“The enemy, then,” I said, “is east of the Hills of Eteocles, it is through the Pass of Theseus.”

“You have been examining maps?” inquired Ligurious.

“I made inquiries,” I said. He knew I could not read. I was illiterate in Gorean.

“I see,” he said.

I heard men shouting, and the rattle of weaponry outside, down in the courtyard.

I hurried to the barred window.

“Those will be guardsmen,” said Ligurious, “issuing forth to disperse the rabble.”

“Yes,” I said. I could see a double line of guardsmen, with shields and spears, exiting through the gates. In a moment, too, I could see men and woman fleeing across the square.

“Those are small groups of dissidents,” said Ligurious. “Pay them no mind. You are loved in Corcyrus.”

“Each of our victories,” I said, “seems to occur closer to Corcyrus.”

“Surely you saw the silver brought in from Argentum?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “It was prominently displayed in the victory parade several weeks ago, that over which we presided.”

“Over which you presided, my Tatrix,” said he, modestly.

“Yes,” I said.

I recalled this parade well. Ligurious had been in the palanquin with me. He had been, in his force and presence, both visible and prominent. I, as earlier, apparently in accord with the public customs of Corcyrus, had been unveiled. My features, it seemed, would be well known to thousands.

“It seems little more silver has been forthcoming,” I said.

Ligurious was silent.

“Did your troops enter Argentum?” I asked.

“Our generals did not feel it was necessary,” said Ligurious.

“It seems that our first victory, after the seizure of the mines, occurred on the Fields of Hesius,” I said.

“Yes,” said Ligurious.

“Our second occurred on the shores of Lake Ias,” I said, “and our third east of the Issus.” This was a northwestward flowing river, tributary to the Vosk, far to the north.

“Yes, my Tatrix,” said Ligurious.

“Now we have been victorious once more,” I said, “this time on the Plains of Eteocles.”

“Yes, my Tatrix,” said Ligurious.

“They lie within a hundred pasangs of Corcyrus,” I said.

“It is part of a plan, my Tatrix,” said Ligurious. “We are stretching their supply lines. Then, when we wish, soon, now, we will strike like a tarn, cutting them. We will then subject a starving, demoralized enemy to devastating attacks. Have no fear, Lady. They will soon be helpless. We will soon have them beneath our swords.”

“Are there scarcities in the city?” I asked.

“There are none in the palace,” said Ligurious. “Did Lady Sheila enjoy her spiced vulo this evening?”

“In the city?” I said.

“In a time of conflict,” said Ligurious, “there are always some privations.”

“Are they minor?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “With your permission,” he said. He then bowed, and withdrew.

I watched him withdraw. I wondered what it would be like to have to do obeisance to such a man, and what it would be like to be in his arms.

I then turned again to the barred window. From where I stood, sometimes, I could see tarn wire, as the light struck it, in its swaying movements. It was strung about, over the courtyard, between the palace and the walls. Too, it had been strung elsewhere, I had heard, in the city.

The door opened and Susan entered, and knelt down and lowered her head. It is common for slaves to kneel when entering the presence of free persons. It is common, too, of course, more generally, for them to kneel whenever they find themselves in the presence of a free person, for example, if they are in a room and a free person enters.

“You may finish your work,” I informed the slave, from Cincinnati, Ohio.

“Yes, Mistress. Thank you, Mistress,” said the girl. In a moment, then, she was again, on her hands and knees, with water and cloths, her head down, rinsing and cleaning the tiles, thoroughly and carefully removing the residue of sticky, half-dried wine from them.

“Susan,” I said.

“Mistress?” she asked, raising her head.

“Did Ligurious speak to you?” I asked.

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“You know that tonight you are to - to dance?

“Yes, Mistress,” she said. “Before selected guardsmen. The whip dance.”

“It was not my idea, Susan,” I said. “I did not ask Ligurious to have you punished. It was his idea. I want you to know that. I am sorry.”

“It had not even occurred to me that it might have been your idea, Mistress,” smiled Susan. “You did not even want me punished. Mistress has always shown me incredible lenience. Mistress has always shown me incredible kindness. It is almost as if—”

“Yes?” I said.

“—almost as if Mistress has some idea of the helplessness and vulnerability of the slave.”

“And how,” I asked angrily, “would I, a free woman, have any idea of that?”

“Forgive me, Mistress,” said Susan. “Of course you, as a free woman, could not!” I was angry. I considered whipping the little, collared slut. She put her head down, quickly, and continued her work, menial work, work suitable for such as she, a slave.

“Susan,” I said.

“Yes, Mistress?” she asked.

“Is it hard to learn the whip dance?” I asked.

“I am not a dancer, Mistress,” said Susan, “nor are most who perform the dance. It is not even, really, a dance. One simply has one’s clothes taken away, and then one moves before strong, powerful men as such men would have a woman move before them. Then when one is sufficiently pleased, he indicates this and you serve his pleasure.”

“How do you know what to do?” I asked.

“Sometimes one tries different things,” she said, “for example, about or on the furniture, on the floor, about their bodies, at their feet, on your back, on your belly, hoping to find something that they will respond to. Sometimes they give you explicit instructions or commands, as when a woman is put through slave paces. Sometimes they guide you, or help you, sometimes by the whip, sometimes by expressions or cries. At other times the girl listens, so to speak, to the slave fires in her belly, and seems to become one with them and the dance, and then, soon, must beg the brutes, in her dance, and by her piteous expressions and gestures, to relieve the merciless tensions in her body, allowing her to complete the cruel cycle of arousal, allowing her to receive them and submit to them, the masters, in the spasmodic surrender of the helpless slave.”

“But the whip,” I said. “Do you not fear it?”

“I fear it,” she said. “But I do not think I will feel it.”

“Why?” I asked.

Susan suddenly looked me directly in the eye. “I dance well,” she said.

I turned away from her. When I looked at her again, she had finished her work.

“Will Mistress be needing me further for this evening?” she asked.

I looked at Susan.

How chaste, how modest, how demure she seemed in her brief tunic, and collar, with her lovely face and beautiful little figure, How dainty, how exquisite! How deferential, how shy! Surely she was a woman’s slave, and only that, attentive, knowledgeable, efficient, respectful and self effacing.

But a man such as Ligurious had bought her naked off a slave block in Cos.

What a sweet, bashful girl she was.

But tonight she would dance naked for guardsmen.

“Mistress?” asked Susan.

“You do not seem distressed that tonight you will dance,” I observed. Indeed, it seemed she might be looking forward to it.

“No, Mistress,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Must I speak?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“I love men, and wish to serve them, fully,” she said.

“Lewd and shameless slut!” I cried.

“I am a slave,” she said. “Forgive me, Mistress. Too, I have not been given to a man in eleven days. My fingernails are bloody from scratching at the tiles in my kennel.”

I shuddered. I had not thought much about where slave girls might be kept at night. To be sure, I knew that they were not wandering freely about the palace. Now, it seemed, that some, at least, might be locked in kennels. This made sense, of course, considering that, like the shameless, little slut, Susan, they were animals.

“It does not seem that the whip dance, truly, would be much of a punishment for you,” I said.

“Ligurious has several women,” she said. “He does not know me that well. He has had me only a few times, and I have improved my skills, considerably, since then.”

“He thinks, then, that it will be a terrible punishment for you?” I asked.

“I would suppose so,” she said. “Doubtless he expects that I will be muchly lashed.”

“What is it like to be in the arms of a man such as Ligurious?” I asked, as though not much interested, really.

“He devastates a woman,” she said, “turning her into a tormented, whimpering animal, and then he makes her yield to him, fully, and as a slave.”

“Did you spill the wine on purpose?” I asked.

“No, Mistress,” she laughed. “I did not know that Ligurious was coming to your quarters. It occurred before his arrival. Too, I know you would not be so cruel as to assign me to the whip dance. Too, the common punishment for such a clumsiness is not the uncompromising, degrading severity of the whip dance but disciplines more prosaic in their nature, such as a restriction or change in rations, close chains or, most often, a switching or whipping.”

“I see,” I said.

I wondered what Susan would look like, her body glistening with a sheen of sweat, twisting and writhing before men, pleasing them as a naked slave, theirs then to be exploited and used however they might wish. She seemed such an ideal woman’s slave, such an efficient, bashful, modest girl, it was hard to imagine her in such a context. But she had told me that her fingernails were bloody from scratching at the tiles in her kennel. It seemed then that quiet, sweet, withdrawn, retiring Susan actually had sexual needs and powerful ones. These needs, too, presumably, given her appearance and curvatures, bespeaking a richness in female hormones, would be deeply feminine ones. I wondered in how many girls like Susan there might lie a pleasure slave, waiting to be uncaged and commanded.

“I dance well,” she had told me.

How startled I had been when she had said that. I had turned away.

She had looked into my eyes, in that instant, not as a slave into the eyes of a free woman, but as one woman into the eyes of another. I had felt then, in that instant, that we were both, ultimately, only women, that we were identical in our femaleness, that we were united in the bonds of a common sisterhood and what, in relationship to men, it entailed. We were both, ultimately, only women; we were both, ultimately, though I was free and she was a slave, representatives of the slave sex.

I wondered if I, too, could dance well. I knew that if I did not, I would be lashed.

“I will have no further need for you tonight, Susan,” I said. “I think that you should soon report to your masters of the evening.”

“Yes, Mistress,” she said. “Thank you, Mistress.”

“Susan,” I said.

“Yes, Mistress?” she said.

“Is there unrest in the city?”

“I do not know, Mistress,” she said. “I am seldom outside the grounds of the palace.”

I had resolved upon a bold plan.

“Before you report to your temporary masters,” I said, “inform Drusus Rencius that I wish to see him. He is to report to my quarters within the Ahn.”

“Yes, Mistress,” she said.

“It will not be necessary to inform Ligurious of this action on your part,” I said.

“As Mistress wishes,” she said.

“It is my recommendation, ” I said, “that in reporting to your temporary masters you are a little late, but just late enough to increase their eagerness, not late enough that you are lashed for tardiness.”

“Yes, Mistress,” smiled Susan. “Thank you, Mistress!” She then sped from the room.

I then went again to the barred window, and looked out, over the city.

I myself had been outside of the palace grounds only infrequently in weeks, since my visit to the house of Kliomenes. I had been out, of course, in the grand victory parade, staged shortly after the seizure of the mines.

I then turned away from the window. I would now await the arrival of Drusus Rencius. I had seen him privately scarcely at all since the house of Kliomenes and the inn of Lysias. Our relationship was totally professional. Twice he had requested to be relieved of his duties, to be assigned to a new post, but I had refused to grant this request. That he might be restless, tortured or bitter in my presence meant nothing to me. I was a Tatrix. He was a soldier. He would obey me. I considered his apparent discomfort in my presence. I smiled. It pleased me. Let him suffer.

Chapter 10 - I HAVE TAKEN COGNIZANCE IN CORCYRUS; WE ARE RETURNING TO THE PALACE

Through the darkened street, along the crooked way, Drusus Rencius and I were making our way back to the palace. He carried a torch. The smaller streets of Gorean cities are often dark at night. The pedestrians carry their own light.

“I would prefer,” said Drusus Rencius, “that we had kept to the main thoroughfares.”

“I wished to speak to citizens in lesser known districts, as well,” I said.

“Is Lady Sheila satisfied?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, “on the whole, though the people often seemed reticent, or frightened.”

“Times are troubled,” said Drusus Rencius.

I had stopped many passersby, particularly in the larger streets, making inquiries. I had even stopped in some of the more respectable taverns, those in which free women, without difficulty, might enter. The people seemed enthusiastically appreciative of the governance of the Tatrix and made light of shortages. They discounted and belittled rumors of discontentment or unrest in Corcyrus. Things in Corcyrus, it seemed, were much as Ligurious had assured me. The people were supportive of the policies of the palace, loyal to the state and personally devoted to their beloved Tatrix.

“Many of the shops,” I said, “are boarded up.”

“Many merchants have left the city,” said Drusus Rencius, “taking their goods with them.”

“Why?” I asked.

“They are afraid,” he said. “The Street of Coins is almost closed.”

This was actually a set of streets, or district, where money changing and banking were done. There are other types of establishments in the area, too, of course.

“Private citizens, too, many of them,” said Drusus Rencius, “their goods on their back, have taken their leave of the city.”

“Craven rabble,” I said. “Why can they not be brave like the others?”

“Wait!” said Drusus Rencius, stopping. He lifted the torch, which he carried in his left hand, increasing the range of its illumination, and put out his right hand, holding me back, a barrier to my advance.

“What is it?” I asked.

“I heard something,” he said. “Stay back.”

I stepped back. The sword of Drusus Rencius left its sheath. I now understood why he, though right-handed, had been carrying the torch in his left hand. It facilitated an immediate draw.

“I do not hear anything,” I said.

“Be quiet,” he said.

I suddenly saw, emerging from the darkness, three shapes. “Tal, Soldier,” said one of them.

“Tal,” said Drusus Rencius. He backed against a wall. I stood very near him, frightened.

“We are lost,” said one of the shapes, ingratiatingly. He drew a sheet of paper from within his tunic. “I have directions here, on a sheet of paper. You have a torch.”

“Do not approach,” said Drusus Rencius.

The fellow smiled and, slowly, in his fingers, wadded up the sheet of paper, and dropped it to the street.

Three swords then left their sheaths.

“Give us the woman,” said the man.

“No,” said Drusus Rencius.

I suddenly cried out, seized from the side, and I saw Drusus Rencius, the torch flung to the side, lunge toward the man who had been in the center of the first two. One man, one of two who had been approaching us from the side, threw me back against a wall. I could not move because of his presence. My veil, not even unpinned, was wadded and thrust back, deeply in my mouth. I heard swords clashing.

I was turned to the side and my robes of concealment were pulled forward and down, over my head. A narrow strap was then slung about my head and pulled back, deeply between my teeth, and tied tightly behind the back of my neck. This secured the entire arrangement. I then, in my own garments, had been effectively gagged and hooded. I was then turned to the wall and my hands were jerked behind my back. In a moment, with two or three loops of cord, they were fastened in place. I then felt myself lifted to the shoulder of a man. I was utterly helpless. I heard another sword, quite near me, sliding from its sheath. “Run!” I heard a man cry. I was flung then from his shoulder, striking my own shoulder against a wall, and sliding down to the street. I heard feet running away.

“They are gone,” I heard Drusus Rencius say.

I whimpered as loudly as I could. Only such tiny, piteous noises were permitted me by the gag.

I felt a hand on my shoulder. “There you are,” said Drusus Rencius.

I heard a sword laid on the stones behind me. Then, feeling about my head, Drusus Rencius undid the strap that held my gag and hood in place. The fresh air felt good on my face. I could hardly see him, but inches from me. The torch had gone out. He, in the darkness, adjusted my veil.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Who were they?”

“Probably slavers,” he said. “I do not know. They are gone now.”

“Slavers?” I whispered, in horror.

“Probably,” he said. “It was you they were interested in. They did not appear to be young ruffians out for an evening’s sport. Too, they seem to have handled you with an efficiency that comes with training and practice.”

I was then silent, trembling.

“They are gone now,” said Drusus Rencius.

“My hands are tied,” I whimpered.

“Forgive me,” he said. He then, after a moment, had freed my wrists. He then picked up his blade. He then rose to his feet. I was on my knees, then, before him. I held him about the legs, and put my face against his leg. I was terrified from what had occurred. I was still trembling.

“Get up,” he said, angrily. “Your behavior seems too much like that of a woman.”

“I am a woman,” I said.

“No,” he said. “You are a Tatrix.”

I sobbed.

“Get up,” he said.

“I could have been carried into slavery,” I said, frightened, holding him.

“You torturing slut,” he snarled, suddenly, “I am tempted to put chains on you myself.”

“Are you so attracted to me, Drusus?” I said, startled. “So attracted to me that you would be satisfied with nothing less than my total submission?”

“Torturing slut!” he said. “Get up!”

“You do desire me!” I said. “You desire me with the most powerful desire with which a man can desire a woman, that he own her completely, that she be his total slave!”

“I hate you, and despise you!” he said.

“And want me!” I said.

“Let us return to the palace,” he said, “before I leave you here in the darkness, a prey to those who, more than I, would see to it that you get what you deserve.”

“And what is it that I deserve, Drusus?” I asked, at his feet.

“A marked thigh,” he said, angrily, “and a collar-encircled neck.”

“Do you think that I am a slave?” I cried.

“You would make an ideal slave,” he said.

“Insolence!” I cried.

“Truth,” he said.

I cried out in rage.

“But you are not a slave,” he said. “Get up.”

“It is fortunate for me that I am not a slave, isn’t it,” I asked, “at the feet of a man such as you?”

“Yes,” he said, “it is very fortunate for you.”

“And what would you do with me,” I asked, “if you did own me?”

“That,” he said, “own you, and as a woman is owned, fully.”

“Give me your hands,” I said.

He then helped me up.

I smoothed my robes. “It is interesting to know that you desire me,” I said.

He was silent.

“Indeed,” I said, “it is quite amusing. Perhaps I should have you whipped for insolence. Do not aspire above your station, Drusus. I am a Tatrix. You are nothing, only a guard.”

“Yes, Tatrix,” he said.

“I hold you in contempt,” I said. “I scorn you. I am worlds above you.”

“Yes, Tatrix,” he said.

“And do not forget it,” I said.

“No, Tatrix,” he said.

“What are you doing?” I asked. I had seen his arm move, with the blade.

“I am cleaning the blade, wiping it on my tunic,” he said.

“Cleaning it?” I asked.

“In driving the men off, I wounded two of them,” he said.

“Are you all right?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. I resisted an impulse to kneel before him, begging to lick the blood from the blade, begging him then to dry it in my hair.

“Is it clean?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“Do not sheathe it until we reach the palace,” I said. “The streets are dark.”

“I have no intention of doing so,” he said.

“At least,” I said, “I have satisfied myself as to the condition of the citizenry and the status of the city.”

“How is that?” he asked.

“You heard, surely,” I said. “The people make light of privations. They are loyal. They are devoted to their Tatrix.”

“Such are the answers to be given to such questions in Corcyrus,” he said.

“I do not understand,” I said.

“The people are afraid,” he said. “You have inspired terror. Your rule is one of iron.”

“I do not understand,” I said.

“Too, your spies are everywhere,” he said. “The people to whom you spoke probably mistook you, ironically enough, for one of your own spies.”

“I have no spies,” I said.

“I can name seven,” said Drusus Rencius. “How many you have, of course, I do not know.”

I shuddered, confused. These spies, if, indeed, there were any, must be reporting to someone else, perhaps to Ligurious.

“Will we light the torch on the way home?” I asked.

“I think it will be safer to move silently in the darkness,” said Drusus Rencius.

“Perhaps you are right,” I said, shuddering.

“Please follow me, a bit behind,” said Drusus Rencius. “I mean this as no insult to you.”

“I understand,” I said. I certainly had no objections, under the circumstance, to heeling him like a slave.

“Are you coming?” he asked. He turned about.

“It is so dark,” I said.

“I do not think it will be safe to remain here,” he said. “Try to follow me.”

“I am afraid,” I said. I could not see my footing.

“Do you wish for me to carry you?” he asked.

“And how would you do that?” I asked, apprehensively.

“In my arms, with honor,” he said. “Did you think I would throw you over my shoulder like a bound slave?”

I was silent. How did I know how Drusus Rencius would carry a woman, particularly a woman such as I sensed I might be. I did know how the other fellow had carried me, over his shoulder, bound, absolutely helpless, perhaps, indeed, like a slave.

“It would be better for you to walk,” said Drusus Rencius. “In that fashion my sword arm would be unencumbered.”

“Are these streets not supposed to be patrolled by guardsmen?” I asked.

“Most of the guardsmen,” said Drusus Rencius, “have been sent to the west, to the front.”

I was silent.

“The forces of Ar will be difficult to hold,” said Drusus Rencius.

“Of Ar!” I said.

“Yes,” said Drusus Rencius. “Forces of Ar entered the fray after the seizure of the mines. Argentum, as you know, is an ally of Ar.”

I had not known this, basic though it might be. Many things, it seemed, had not been made clear to me. I did know that we were supposed to have strong ties of one sort or another with the island ubarate of Cos. Susan, I knew, had been bought in Cos. I knew almost nothing of Ar. I did know that Drusus Rencius had once been of that city. Too, I knew it was one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, city on Gor. In known Gor, it was rivaled only by Turia, in Gor’s southern hemisphere.

“Our forces will be victorious,” I assured Drusus Rencius.

“The enemy is already within twenty pasangs of Corcyrus,” he said.

“Take me back to the palace,” I said, “swiftly, please.”

“Yes, Lady Sheila,” he said.

He then turned about, and started off, through the darkness. I hurried along behind him, heeling him like a slave.

I felt miserable, and terrified and sick.

In the palace I would be safe.

Chapter 11 - SUSAN HAS BEEN BEATEN; LIGURIOUS SPEAKS WITH ME; THERE IS NOTHING TO FEAR; I AM SAFE IN THE PALACE

I was thrust into my quarters by a guard, and the door was shut behind me.

A lamp was lit in the room. I heard whimpering.

“Susan!” I cried.

The girl lay on her belly, naked on the tiles. Even the silken collar sheath, of one color or another, which was usually worn, selected to match a tunic, was gone. Her neck was encircled by the bared, unadorned steel alone. She had been terribly whipped. I knelt beside the girl. “The brutes!” I cried, softly. I touched her hair, gently. Tonight I knew she had danced the whip dance.

“This was not done to me by guardsmen, Mistress,” she said. Then she began to sob.

“By whom, then?” I demanded.

“It was done to me by the slave master of Ligurious, on the orders of Ligurious,” she said.

“But, why?” I asked.

“Because I did not inform Ligurious that you had had Drusus Rencius summoned tonight to your quarters.”

“How did he learn of this?” I asked.

“Doubtless from a guard, and, too, that you had left the palace,” she said.

“I am sorry, Susan,” I said. It had been I, I recalled, in the prosecution of my own plans, and in my desire for secrecy, who had suggested to Susan that the summoning of Drusus Rencius to my quarters need not be made known to Ligurious.

“Why have you been put here?” I asked.

“That you may see me, Mistress,” she sobbed.

“It is all my fault,” I said.

“No, Mistress,” she said. “It is my fault. I was not pleasing to my master.”

Ligurious apparently had been disturbed, particularly that I had left the palace. He, with guardsmen, with lanterns, had met Drusus Rencius and I at the small postern gate in the east wall of the palace grounds, that through which we had returned. Drusus Rencius had been detained there, and I had been hurried to my quarters.

There were suddenly two blows on the door, loud knocks. “Ligurious, first minister of Corcyrus,” announced a guard, from the other side of the door.

I stood up, and went to the center of the room. I tried to stand very straight, very regally.

“Enter,” I said.

Ligurious entered.

Susan, frightened, with an effort that must have been painful for her striped body, knelt, with her head down to the tiles, the palms of her hands on the floor, in that form of obeisance apparently required by Ligurious of his women.

“To your kennel, Slave,” said Ligurious.

Susan lifted her head. “Yes, Master!” she said.

“Get out, Slut!” he said.

“Yes, Master!” she cried, and, springing to her feet, fled from the room.

“You are up late,” observed Ligurious.

“I was in the city,” I said, defiantly.

“It can be dangerous in the city,” he said, “especially in these times, and at night.”

I tossed my head. He need not know what had happened on the darkened street.

“You must understand,” he said, “that I have a responsibility for your safety.”

“It was not necessary that you treated Susan as you did,” I said.

“Do not attempt to interfere in the relationship between a man and his slave,” he said. “That relationship is absolute.”

“I see,” I said. I stepped back, frightened.

“In the future,” he said, “you are not to leave the palace without my permission. In the meantime, you will remain here, confined to your quarters.”

“No!” I cried.

“Remove your veil,” he said, “and your outer robes, and slippers.”

Frightened, I did so. I then stood before him in a long, off-the-shoulder, yellow, silken slip-like garment.

“You now stand before a man, Lady Sheila,” he said, “as barefoot as a slave.”

“I shall call the guards!” I cried.

“And whom do you think they will obey?” he asked.

“I will call Drusus Rencius!” I cried.

“He has been relieved of his duties,” said Ligurious. “He is no longer your guard.”

“Oh,” I said.

“And he seems pleased to be done with you.”

“Oh,” I said. Now I could no longer torture Drusus, with my nearness and inaccessibility.

“And I cannot say that I blame him,” said Ligurious. “for you seem to be a frigid little slut.”

“Slut!” I cried.

“Do not form an over-exalted opinion of yourself,” he said. “You are only a slut from Earth and no better than a female slave.”

I looked at him with horror. He stepped toward me, and shrank back. Then I whimpered as I felt his strong hands grasp me by the upper arms. He looked down into my eyes.

“Displease me in the least,” he said, “and I will put a brand in your hide and a collar on your neck. Do you understand?”

I could not begin to free myself of his grasp. “Yes,” I said. “Yes!” I was terrified.

He did not release me. He continued to look down into my eyes. He seemed to me terribly strong and large.

“I wonder if I should subject you to rape discipline,” he mused.

“No,” I said. “Please, no.” But I felt heat between my legs, and weakness and helplessness. I knew that my body was lubricating itself, preparing to receive him, if he should choose to have me.

“You are so much like her,” he said, looking down into my eyes.

“Who?” I asked.

“One who makes me weak,” he smiled, “one with whom I am smitten.”

“I am only a barbarian,” I said.

“She, too, is a barbarian,” he said, “like yourself a barbarian beauty.”

“Who is she?” I asked.

“You do not know her,” he said. Then he removed his hands from me. “In character, of course, you are quite different. She is superior, lofty, noble, regal and fine. Girls like you, on the other hand, can be found in any market. Too, I think she is probably even more beautiful than you, though the resemblance is truly striking. And in intellect, in brilliance and decisiveness, of course, there is no comparison.”

“Perhaps she should be Tatrix of Corcyrus, and not I,” I said, angrily.

“Perhaps,” he smiled.

I turned away from him. “I am the Tatrix of Corcyrus, am I not?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“You know that I am from Earth,” I said. “How is it that I was brought here, to be Tatrix?”

“We wished to go outside the city,” he said, “to find one from the outside, free of all connections and factions, to rule over us with wisdom and objectivity.”

“I see,” I said. “Then I am truly the Tatrix of Corcyrus.”

“Of course,” he said.

“How is it, then,” I asked, “that I have been treated with rudeness, that even now I am barefoot in your presence?” I did not, of course, make an effort to put my slippers back on. I did not know if he would permit it. He had, of course, ordered me to remove them.

“You are useful,” he said, “and you have your purposes. You are not, however, indispensable. It would be well for you to remember that. It might encourage you to be more cooperative.”

“I suppose,” I said, “I should be pleased that you did not order me to strip completely and kneel before you.”

“You are, of course,” he said, “a free woman.”

“Yet it seems,” I said, “if only implicitly, you have threatened me.”

“Suitable disciplines and punishments may be arranged for a free woman,” he said, “suitable to her status and dignity.”

“I am sure of it,” I said, ironically.

He then approached me, and stood quite close to me. I was facing away from him.

“And yet,” he said, “I sense that such disciplines and punishments, those suitable for free women, would not be suitable for you.”

“And what sorts of disciplines and punishments would be suitable for me?” I asked.

He held me from behind, by the arms. I was helpless. “Such that would be appropriate for slaves,” he said.

I stiffened, but I could not free myself.

“You are so different from her,” he said. I felt his breath on the left side of my neck. “Your dispositions, your responses, the way you carry yourself, the way you move, how you speak.” I felt weak. “I sense,” he said, “wherein your deepest fulfillments would lie. I sense what it is that you need and want, what it is that without it you will never achieve your most perfect and complete self.”

“What?” I asked.

“The collar,” he said.

“No!” I cried.

“Fight it and deny it, if you will,” he said. “Have your sport. But it is true.”

“No,” I wept.

“Consider your incredible femininity,” he said. “You have the curves, the softness, the instincts, the helplessness of the slave.”

“No!” I said. “I will try to be less feminine, and thus more of a woman!”

“Words from the insane asylums on Earth,” he laughed. “This is Gor. It is fortunate you are not a slave, or your true womanhood, the marvelous softness and depth of your femininity, revealed and manifested, would in all its fullness be required of you, and without compromise, even to the whip, by masters.”

He then put his right hand in my hair and held my left wrist in his left hand. He drew my head back, painfully, until even my back was bent backwards.

“It is interesting,” he said, “how different she is from you. Yet, too, you seem in many ways so similar.” I whimpered, helplessly held. “Do you know that women such as you are born to the chain?” he asked.

“No,” I said, strained. “No.”

“Yes,” he said, “and you will not be complete until it is on you.”

I whimpered helplessly. Why did he not drag me to the bed and take me?

I understood then what true womanhood was. It was not the denial and frustration of femininity but the full surrender to it, being true to, and honest to, my deepest nature and needs. Femininity was not incompatible with womanhood. It was its expression.

What insanities, what perversions, what sickness, I had been taught on Earth!

“Ah, forgive me, Lady Sheila,” said Ligurious, as though concerned. “I almost forget, holding you in this fashion, that you are a free woman.”

He then released me.

I straightened up, and, turning about, pulled away from him, as though I had managed to free myself.

Ligurious bowed to me, from the waist, as though in deep apology. But he was smiling.

I was horrified. I realized then that I must fight my femininity. I had learned, of course, that in doing this, far from expressing womanhood, I was frustrating and denying it, but that, in my terror, was what I then wished to do. I then, terribly, feared my womanhood, and that to which it might lead.

I thus, then, decided that my femininity, and thereby my womanhood, must be denied and fought. I could no longer be so simple as to pretend to myself that my womanhood was best served by its own frustration, suppression and denial. I was no longer victimized by that propagandistic stupidity.

The danger, I now understood clearly, was womanhood itself.

Openly, honestly, must it be repudiated and denied. That was what was most to be feared, that was the great danger to women, their own womanhood, that which was what they were, in their deepest heart and belly. I was afraid to look deeply into myself. I was afraid of what I might find there.

“I am a free woman,” I said. “I am free! I am free!”

“Of course you are,” he said.

“I am now going to put on my slippers,” I said.

“Have you received permission to do so?” he asked.

I looked at him, frightened.

“You may do so,” he said.

I slipped into the slippers. I then felt more secure. There is something about being barefoot before a man who is shod that tends to make a woman feel more like a slave before him. These sorts of feelings are intensified, of course, if the woman is naked, or partially clothed, as I was, according to his dictates, before him. Slaves, of course, are often commanded to nudity before their master and their clothing, any, is always subject to his approval.

In the slippers, interestingly, I felt again the Tatrix of Corcyrus.

“Are there spies in the city?” I asked.

“Doubtless Argentum has spies in the city,” he said.

“Our spies,” I said. “Ones who spy on our own people.”

“Of course,” he said. “That is a realistic precaution in any city.

“And to whom do these spies report?” I asked.

“To the proper authorities,” he said.

“I am not aware of receiving the reports of these spies,” I said.

“You are still being trained in the governance of Corcyrus,” he said.

“How goes the war?” I asked.

“As I reported earlier,” he said, “well.”

“The enemy,” I said, suddenly, almost faltering, “is within twenty pasangs of Corcyrus.”

“That information is, I believe,” he said, “approximately correct.”

“That is too close!” I said.

“Such matters need not concern the Tatrix,” he said. “They need concern, rather, our generals.”

“That is too close!” I said.

“We shall soon cut their supply lines,” he said. “Do not fear, Lady Sheila. Our forces will be victorious.”

“Ar is in the war!” I said.

“That is true,” he said. “But momentarily we are expecting reinforcements from Cos.”

“I am afraid, Ligurious,” I said.

“There is nothing to fear,” he said. “The city is secure. The palace is impregnable.”

“I do not want the war,” I said. “I want the fighting stopped. I am afraid. I want a truce!”

“Such matters,” he said, “need not concern you. Leave them to others.”

“Surely the enemy will consider a truce!” I said.

Ligurious looked at me and, suddenly, laughed. His laughter unsettled me. I felt that perhaps I had said something inutterably naive or stupid.

“That is out of the question?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Ligurious. Was the enemy so bitter, so determined? What had driven them to these passions of war?

What was it that they desired in Corcyrus?

“Sue for peace!” I said.

“Everything is planned for,” said Ligurious. “We have anticipated all contingencies.”

“I want us to sue for peace,” I said.

“That decision is not yours,” said Ligurious.

“Am I not the Tatrix of Corcyrus?” I demanded.

“Of course,” smiled Ligurious.

“Do I not rule in Corcyrus?” I asked.

“Of course,” said Ligurious.

“I rule in Corcyrus,” I said.

“Yes,” said Ligurious.

“And who rules me?” I asked.

“I do,” said Ligurious.

I shuddered.

“Did Lady Sheila enjoy her spiced vulo this evening?” he asked.

“Yes,” I whispered.

He then left.

I went to the barred window, looking out. I was confined to my quarters. Out there, somewhere, in the darkness, beyond the walls, was the enemy.

Apparently they were such that they would not even consider a truce.

I wondered what it was that they wanted, so keenly, so determinedly, in Corcyrus.

I was frightened. Perhaps the troops of Cos would come to our rescue. I was pleased that I was safe in the palace.

Chapter 12 - I SIT UPON THE THRONE; I WAIT IN THE HALL

“Dress her in her most regal robes,” commanded Ligurious.

“Yes, Master,” said Susan, fumbling with the garments.

I stood before the mirror in my quarters. I watched the glorious robes of state being placed about my shoulders.

Earlier I had stood frightened behind the door, now kept locked, my ear to the wood.

“They are within the city!” I had heard cry.

“Impossible!” had cried a guard.

“How was it done?” inquired another, insistently, bewilderedly.

“It seems a Sa-Tarna wagon was fleeing before the approaching enemy, seeking to reach the city before being overtaken,” said a man.

“There was time, happily, it seemed, though the matter would be close, for the wagon to win its race, and sorely, as you know, did we need the grain. The gate was opened to admit the wagon. Surely there would then be time, and time enough, given the distances involved, to close the gate. One wagon seemed to be drawn by two strings of male slaves, twenty in each string, as is common. These men, however, were not slaves. The wagon within the portal, they threw off their harnesses and from beneath the grain drew forth swords. They prevented the closing of the gate. In moments the vanguard of the enemy had arrived.”

I had hurried then to the barred window. I could see smoke rising from the city.

Shortly thereafter Ligurious and Susan had arrived at my quarters.

Ligurious wore soldierly garb, but of a sort with which I was not familiar. I did not know the insignia, the markings.

“Put her in the veil of state,” said Ligurious. Susan brought forth a long, lovely veil, intricately embroidered. She adjusted my robes about me, concealing, in the fashion of the robes of concealment, now not thrown back, but drawn up, my hair and much of my head. She then pinned the veil in place. It was very beautiful. It was opaque.

Little could now be seen of me but my eyes and a bit of the bridge of my nose. I had not even known such a veil existed. Hitherto I had generally worn veils only when intending to travel incognito in the city, and I had never worn them on official occasions of state.

“Come along,” said Ligurious. He took my arm and, half dragging me, conducted me from my quarters.

In moments we were hurrying through the halls. Falling in behind Ligurious were some five or six men, not my guards, who were dressed much as he was.

The halls seemed, for the most part, oddly deserted. Occasionally a man ran past. At one point, crouching down, then kneeling, as we passed, by hangings at the side of the corridor, was a slave girl. She was terrified. She wore some twists of silk about her. She wore a collar of a sort, rather high and ornate, which is often jeweled. No jewels, however, caught the light as we passed. They had been, I gathered, pried from their settings.

Susan was not with us. I did not know where she was. Apparently she had been left behind.

I was thrust into an anteroom, one off the great hall. In this room there were some four or five men and a woman. The woman wore a robe, hooding her, and was turned away from me. She was about my height. Interestingly, she was barefoot and the robe she wore came only a bit below the knees. I thought she had nice calves and ankles. Mine, I thought, might be better, A man, dressed rather in the fashion of Ligurious and the others, was lifting a sheet about her. She clutched this sheet about her, drawing it even about her head, and holding it together, before her face, effectively veiling herself with it. She turned to face me. Then she turned away. Her eye color, I noted, was not dissimilar to mine.

Ligurious turned me, so that I faced the door to the great hall, where, on the lofty dais, reposed the throne of Corcyrus.

“Is all ready?” asked Ligurious.

“Yes,” responded a man.

“The tarns?” asked Ligurious.

“Yes,” said the man. “Everything is ready.”

I turned. I saw that the sheet, now, had been drawn completely over the woman, as though thrown over her. As it hung about her, its hem fell midway between her ankles and knees. I was startled. It was almost as though, under the sheet, she might be naked. I gasped. Something was being fastened about her throat, over the sheet, under her chin. It was round. There was a long strap connected with it. It was a slave collar and leash!

Ligurious took me by the arm and turned me about, again, facing me toward the door to the great hall.

I did not know who the woman was, but I suspected that she might be she with whom Ligurious had confessed himself to be so smitten, she to whom I apparently bore some resemblance. It seemed odd to me, almost incomprehensible, that Ligurious, a man such as he, who must have had some fifty women at his feet, women such as Susan, women kneeling in terror and awe about him, for he was their total master, should be so much like a callow youth, should be so weak, with this woman. Did he not know, I asked myself, scornfully, that she, too, ultimately, was only a woman, that she, too, ultimately, needed only the whip and a master?

I was then conducted into the great hall by Ligurious. It was empty. The two great entrance doors, at the far end, were locked from the inside, with the great beams in their brackets. It took ten guardsmen to move those beams. I could not begin to budge them.

“Is there any sign of the men of Cos?” I heard a man ask behind us, from the anteroom.

“They are not fools,” said another man. “They will not meet Ar on the land.”

“Do the people resist the enemy?” I heard another man ask.

“No,” said another man. “They abet them.”

I ascended the steps of the dais, conducted by Ligurious.

At his indication I took my place on the throne.

“The doors of the anteroom will be locked behind us,” said Ligurious. “You will not be able to open them.”

“What is going on?” I asked.

“You will soon serve your purpose,” said Ligurious.

“What purpose?” I said.

“That purpose which we feared might one day have to be served, that purpose, or major purpose, why you were brought to Gor.”

“I do not understand,” I said. I did recall that last night I had been assured that everything had been planned for, that all contingencies, according to Ligurious, had been anticipated.

I wondered if I still had a role to play in these contingencies.

“You still need me, then?” I said. “I still figure in your plans?”

“Of course,” he said.

I was relieved to hear this. I was afraid as to what might prove to be my fate if a man such as Ligurious no longer had any particular or special use for me. I was pretty. I could conjecture what fates might lie in store for me.

“Listen,” said he. “Do you hear it?”

“Yes,” I said. It was a dull, striking sound, coming as though from a great distance. It had a rhythm to it.

“It is a ram,” said he, “doubtless slung from a cradle, drawn by ropes, doubtless with a will by citizens of Corcyrus.”

“It sounds far away,” I said.

“It is at the outer gate,” he said.

“The citizens of Corcyrus love me,” I said.

“Do not doubt it,” he said. “I must now take my leave. I fear there is little time.”

“But what of me?” I said. “I am afraid. Will you come back for me?”

“Have no fear, Lady Sheila,” he said. “You will be come for.”

“Soon?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. He then backed down the stairs. He bowed deeply.

“Farewell, Lady Sheila, Tatrix of Corcyrus,” he said.

He then withdrew.

I heard a splintering in the distance, and then, in a moment, a new striking, doubtless on the interior gate.

I heard the closing of the anteroom door behind Ligurious, and then the dropping in place of beams, the sliding of bolts. It had been locked from within, from the other side.

I sat on the throne, clutching its arms, alone in the great hall.

Chapter 13 - THE GOLDEN CAGE; MILES OF ARGENTUM SPEAKS WITH ME

I clutched the arms of the throne in terror.

Before this I had heard the screams of the crowd outside the doors, their shouting and pounding, then the striking of a heavy beam against the door.

Men and women, many in rags, brandishing knives and implements, mixed with soldiers, poured into the great hall. The doors were open, and one hung awry on its hinges. The mob, with the soldiers, swirling about the heavy beam, now dropped, which had been used to breach the doors, flooded toward the dais. At the foot of the dais, shaking fists, shouting angrily, some restrained by soldiers, the crowd stopped.

“Cut her to pieces!” I heard. “Tear her to pieces!”

“She is Sheila, Tatrix of Corcyrus!” cried men in the crowd. “It is Sheila, Tatrix of Corcyrus!”

“It is she!”

“It is Sheila!”

“It is Sheila, the Tatrix of Corcyrus!”

I moaned. I was terrified that they should know that.

Miles of Argentum sheathed his sword. He handed his helmet to one of the men with him.

He approached the throne.

“Please, don’t,” I said.

Then he jerked away the veil of state from my features. I, though a free woman, had been face-stripped before free men. My face was as bare to them as though I might be a slave. Face-stripping a free woman, against her will, can be a serious crime on Gor. On the other hand, Corcyrus had now fallen. Her women, thusly, now at the feet of her conquerors, would be little better than slaves. Any fate could now be inflicted on them that the conquerors might wish, including making them actual slaves. The hand of Miles of Argentum then brushed back my robes, that my whole head and features, to the throat, might be revealed to the crowd.

“This is the way in which I am more accustomed to seeing you,” he said. “Greetings, Lady Sheila, Tatrix of Corcyrus.”

“I am Tiffany Collins,” I said, weakly. “I am from Earth.”

“Your features,” said Miles of Argentum, “are surely well known to hundreds, if not thousands.”

“Cut her to pieces!” cried men in the crowd. “Tear her to pieces!” cried women in the crowd.

“I am from Earth!” I cried. “I am Tiffany Collins!”

“Bring forth the palace slave called Susan,” said Miles of Argentum.

Susan, from somewhere in the back, was thrust forward. I gasped.

She was absolutely naked, save that she still wore the collar of Ligurious. Her hands were bound behind her back.

In her nose there was a small, circular, wire apparatus which had apparently been held open, thrust through her septum, and then permitted to spring shut. Attached to this apparatus, tied through it, dangling, was a looped thong, about two feet in length. It was clearly a device by means of which a slave, or perhaps any female, might be led.

“You are Susan, are you not,” inquired Miles of Argentum, “who was as personal serving slave to Sheila, the Tatrix of Corcyrus?”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

He indicated that she might kneel before the throne.

“Is this she who was to you as Mistress?” inquired Miles of Argentum, addressing himself to the terrified slave from Cincinnati at his feet.

“Tell them I am Tiffany Collins, from Earth!” I told Susan.

“She is truly from Earth, I think, Master,” wept Susan, “and that is what, I recall, she told me her name was.”

I almost cried out with relief.

“And putting aside such former names and worlds,” said Miles, “as whom do you know her here?”

Susan began to tremble.

“You know the penalties for a slave who lies,” said Miles. “Think carefully and well, my small, nose-ringed beauty.”

“She is she who was to me as Mistress,” said Susan, sobbing, “she whom I served, Sheila, Tatrix of Corcyrus.”

There was a cry of elation from the crowd.

“Forgive me, Mistress!” cried Susan. She then, at a sign from Miles, led by the thong, in the grip of a soldier, hurrying, almost running, that she did not place the least stress on the device in her nose, was being conducted rapidly from the room. I supposed she would be placed with other women, perhaps wearing similar devices. They can be tied about slave ring fastened to other such thongs, and so on.

Just before the soldier had grasped the thong I had seen her wildly look at Miles of Argentum. Doubtless she remembered him well from the audience, so long ago. Too, I thought it quite likely that be remembered her. In that audience he had looked upon her as though she might not be likely to quickly slip his mind. Too, he had had her summoned to the dais by her palace name. She had tried to read in his countenance, in that brief, wild instant, before she was removed from the dais, her fate, but she had been unable to do so. He was not, perhaps by intention, even looking at her. She did not know then if, when the collar of Ligurious was removed from her, she would be sent to his headquarters or not. There, of course, if she were found sufficiently pleasing, after perhaps a closer examination and trial, another collar might be put on her. She would, in any case, wear one collar or another, somewhere. She was a slave.

“Call the captain from Ar,” said Miles of Argentum.

A tall, lean figure entered the hall, and approached now down the long aisle. Then he stood on the dais, almost with Miles of Argentum.

“No,” I whispered, “No.”

“Drusus Rencius, Captain of Ar, on detached service to the forces of Argentum,” said Miles of Argentum. “I believe you two have met.”

I shook my head, disbelievingly. I had been told he was a renegade from Ar. Twice, I knew, suddenly realizing it now, he could have stolen me from Corcyrus, delivering me to Argentum, once when we were on the walls near the tarn perches and once, later, when, my whereabouts unknown to Ligurious and others, I had been in the house of Kliomenes, braceleted, half naked and helpless. But he had not abducted me, nor attempted to do so. It seemed rather he had, for whatever reason or reasons, preferred, as he had once remarked on the walls of Corcyrus, to let the game take its course.

“Do you know this woman, Captain?” asked Miles, general of Argentum.

Drusus Rencius handed his helmet to a soldier and climbed then to the height of the throne.

He put out his hands and lifted me to my feet before the throne. He then held me by the upper arms and looked down, deeply, into my eyes.

I shuddered. This was not a matter in which he wished to risk any mistake.

“Yes,” he said.

“How do you know her?” asked Miles of Argentum.

“I was, for several weeks,” he said, “her personal bodyguard.”

“You know her then quite well?” asked Miles.

“Yes,” said Drusus Rencius.

“Can you identify her?” asked Miles.

“Yes,” said Drusus Rencius.

“Who is she?” asked Miles of Argentum.

“She is Sheila, Tatrix of Corcyrus,” said Drusus Rencius.

There was a sudden cry of pleasure and victory from the crowd. Drusus Rencius released me, and turned about, and, descending from the dais and making his way through the crowd, left.

I watched him leave.

“Strip her,” said Miles of Argentum, “and put her in golden chains, and put her in the golden cage.”

I felt the hands of soldiers at my clothing. It was torn from me, before the very throne. Then, when I was absolutely naked, a golden collar, to which a chain was attached, with wrist rings and ankle rings, was brought. It was a chaining system of that sort called a sirik.

My chin was thrust up, and I felt the golden collar locked on my throat. Almost at the same time my wrists, held closely together before me, were locked helplessly in the wrist rings. In another instant my ankles, held, were helpless in the ankle rings. A chain then ran from my collar to the chain on my wrist rings and from thence, the same chain, to the chain on my ankle rings.

My ankle-ring chain was about twelve inches in length, and my wrist-ring chain was about six inches in length. The central chain, where it dangled down from the wrist rings, lay on the floor before the throne, before it looped up to where it was closed about a central link of the ankle-ring chain. This permits the prisoner, usually a slave, to lift her arms. She is thus in a position to feed herself or better exhibit her beauty to masters in a wider variety of postures and attitudes than would otherwise be the case. The point of the sirik is not merely to confine a woman, but to confine her beautifully.

Two guards then held me, one by each arm, before the throne. I was naked. I was chained. I wore the sirik.

They lifted me up, then, at a sign from Miles of Argentum. I was absolutely helpless. My feet must have been some six or seven inches from the floor before the throne. Even by pointing my toes I could not couch the carpeting. I was held there, being exhibited to the crowd, chained in the sirik.

“Behold the Tatrix of Corcyrus,” called Miles of Argentum, indicating me with a sweeping gesture, “helpless, and in chains!”

There was a wild cheer from the crowd, almost a shriek, as though for blood.

“Will you come back for me?” I had asked Ligurious.

“Have no fear, Lady Sheila,” he had said. “You will be come for.”

“Soon?” I had asked.

“Yes,” he had said. Then he had bade me farewell, and left.

I looked down on the crowd, into the wild eyes, the upraised fists. I saw, too, the soldiers. I moved helplessly in the chains, held before the crowd. Ligurious and the woman, and the others, had doubtless, by now, on tarns, made good their escape. The uniforms the men had worn were not unlike that in which I had just seen Drusus Rencius, and not unlike those of certain others about the dais, soldiers. They were, I took it, habiliments of Ar. The woman in the slave collar and on the leash, covered by the sheet, her bare feet and ankles visible beneath it, would presumably be assumed to be merely a naked captive.

I struggled in the chains. The words of Ligurious, that I would be come for, now took on a new and frightful meaning for me.

I looked down into the crowd.

Now it seemed, truly, I had been come for.

“Make way! Clear the way!” called Miles of Argentum. Soldiers began to clear the aisle of men and women, that we might have a clear exit from the great hall. I was lowered to my feet.

“What are you going to do with me?” I asked Miles of Argentum.

“We are going to take you into the courtyard,” he said, “and put you in the golden cage. You may recall that I told you once that you belonged in a cage, a golden cage.”

Tears sprang into my eyes. I did not want to be put into a cage. I was not a slave, or another type of animal. Too, I did not understand the meaning of a golden cage.

At a sign from Miles of Argentum a soldier picked me up, lightly, in his arms. He held me as easily as though I might have been a child.

Then, in his arms, I was carried rapidly down the steps of the dais and down the aisle, between the halves of the parted crowd.

In a matter of but moments I was blinking against the sunlight in the courtyard. Too, I felt the heat and the sun on my bared skin. I was put on my feet near a tall, narrow, cylindrical cage with a conical top. The height of this cage was about seven feet; its rounded floor was perhaps a yard in diameter. In the top of the cage, at the top of the cone, on the outside, there was a heavy ring.

I was thrust into the cage and the door was locked shut behind me.

It had two locks, one about a third up from the door and the other about a third down from the top.

“In this cage, Lady Sheila,” said Miles of Argentum, “you will be paraded through the streets of Corcyrus, exhibited in our triumph. Doubtless you will enjoy receiving the love and devotion of your people. You will, thereafter, be transported in this same cage to Argentum. I might mention to you that the bars of this cage, like the chains you wear, are not of pure gold, but of a sturdy golden alloy. Similarly, portions of the cage, like the floor and the interior of the top, and the gilded cone ring, are of iron. You will find that the holding power of these various devices is more than adequate, by several factors, to hold ten strong men. Incidentally, allow me to commend you on how well you look in chains. You wear them beautifully enough to be a slave.”

I clutched the golden bars, in order not to fall.

“Your body, also,” he said, “is beautiful enough to be that of a slave.”

I moaned. I could see men approaching, with rope. Too, behind them, drawn by two tharlarion, came a flat-topped wagon. At the back of this wagon was an arrangement of beams, with a projecting, supported, perpendicularly mounted beam that extended forward, some fifteen feet in the air, toward the front of the wagon. At the forward portion of this projecting beam there was a ring, not unlike the one on the top of the cage.

Miles of Argentum surveyed me, and the chains, and the cage.

“Yes,” he said, “these arrangements all seem suitable and efficient. I think we may count on your arriving in Argentum in good order.”

A rope was being passed through the ring at the top of my cage.

The flat-topped wagon was being drawn near. I gathered that the cage would be suspended from the ring on the projecting beam on the wagon, that it would hang suspended over the surface of the wagon, some feet from the flat bed of the wagon. From within the cage, it suspended thusly, I would not even be able to touch anything outside of the cage.

I was totally in their power.

I was inutterably helpless.

“What are you taking me to Argentum for?” I asked.

“For impalement,” he said.

Chapter 14 - THE CAMP OF MILES OF ARGENTUM; TWO MEN

“No,” I whimpered. “No!” I awakened, my legs drawn up, cramped, in the tiny cage. I lay on my side. I heard the chains move on the small, circular floor of the cage. I twisted to my back, my knee raised. I could feel the chain from the collar lying on my body. My manacled hands were at my belly. The chain joining them I could feel, too, on my belly. I could feel the extension of the central chain, below the manacles, too, on my body, and then it passed between my legs, lying on the iron floor, then making its rendezvous with my shackled ankles.

I had been dreaming that I was again being carried in the cage through the streets of Corcyrus. Because of the width of the wagon bed and the height of the cage, some five feet or so above the surface of the wagon bed, I had been reasonably well protected from the blows of whips, the jabbings of sticks. Soldiers, too, patrolled the perimeters of the moving wagon. More than one man, pressing between the soldiers and clambering onto the wagon, sometimes unarmed, sometimes with a whip or stick, sometimes even with a knife, was seized and thrown back into the crowd by soldiers.

The crowds cheered Miles of Argentum and his men. And, as my wagon passed them, they seemed to go mad with hatred and pleasure, crying out and jeering me, and shrieking with triumph to see me so helplessly a captive. The people of Corcyrus, it was clear, had welcomed the men of from Ar as liberators. The colors of Argentum and of Ar, on ribbons and strips of cloth, angled from windows and festooned, even being stretched between windows and rooftops overhead, the triumphal way such colors, too, were prominent in the crowd, on garments being waved, fluttering, by citizens and sometimes even children, perched on the shoulders of adults.

I had stood in the cage, frightened, bewildered and confused. I had not been able to even begin to understand the hatred of the people. I had stood in the cage that I might be better seen. If I did not do so, Miles of Argentum had informed me, simply, I would be beaten like a slave.

I had now awakened in the cage, frightened. I had dreamed I was being again carried through the streets of Corcyrus. I had recoiled, fearfully, from the sting of a fruit rind hurled at me. Often in that miserable journey, suspended in the cage, carried between jeering crowds, I had been pelted with small stones, garbage and dung.

I whimpered, chained in my tiny prison. At least I was alone now, and it was quiet. The cage creaked a little, moving in the wind. I crawled to my knees and, with my fingers, parted the opaque cloth which had been wrapped about the cage for the night, before it had been raised to its present position. I looked out through the tiny crack. I could see fires of the camp, and several tents. I heard music from the distance, from somewhere among the tents, where perhaps girls danced to please masters. We were one day out of Corcyrus, on the march to Argentum. I looked down to the ground. It was some forty feet below. The cage was slung now not from the ring on the wagon beam but from a rope which had been thrown over a high stout branch of a large tree. The cage had then been hoisted to this height and the rope secured.

“Villainess of Corcyrus! Tyranness of Corcyrus!” the people had cried.

I lay back down then in my chains, on the small iron floor of the cage, my knees pulled up high, and looked upward at the hollow, cone-like ceiling of the cage. It seemed I had no more tears to cry.

I did not want to die.

I heard the music in the distance.

I wished that I were a slave, that I might have a chance for life, that I might have an opportunity to convince a master somehow, in any way possible, that I might be worth sparing.

But I was a free woman and would be subjected only to the cold and inhuman mercies of the law.

I was being transported to Argentum for impalement.

I could not cry any more.

Then, suddenly, I felt the cage drop an inch, and then another inch.

I scrambled to my knees, looking out, as I could. But, because of the opaque covering of the cage, its fastenings and the difficulty of moving it, I could see very little.

Then the cage was still. Then, after a time, it dropped another inch, and then another. I knelt in the cage, holding my chains, to keep them from making noise.

Slowly the cage was lowered. Then it rested on the ground.

My heart was beating wildly. I now seemed very much alive. The stealth, and the gradualness, which seemed to characterize what was going on, did not suggest the activities of authorized representatives of Miles of Argentum. It did not even occur to me to scream. From whom would I summon help, and to what purpose? If these nocturnal visitors wished to steal me, perhaps to make me a slave or sell me, I would go only too willingly into whatever bondage they chose to inflict upon me. I would enter it joyfully. I would revel in it. I would, in my gratitude, see to it that I proved to be to them a slave beyond their wildest dreams.

Then suddenly I was terrified. What if these visitors were not opportunists or slavers? What if they were men of Corcyrus who wished to return me to the city, there to subject me to secret and horrifying tortures which might shame the agonies of an impaling spear on the walls of Argentum?

I did not know whether to cry out or not.

The cover on the cage was unlaced, and thrust back, around the cage. Two men were there. They were dressed entirely in black. They wore masks. One of them held an unshuttered dark lantern and the other opened a leather wrapper containing keys and tools on the ground. He, then, with a variety of keys and picks, and small tools, swiftly, expertly, trying one thing and then another, addressed himself to the upper lock. He was skillful, and apparently a smith in such matters, perhaps a skilled specialist within his caste. In fifteen Ehn both locks had yielded. The cage door was opened and I was pulled out.

I was put on my back and the man, swiftly, with numerous small keys, and some of the other tools, addressed himself to my collar lock. I felt the collar pulled away. Then, in a few Ehn, I had been freed, too, of the manacles, and then the shackles. I was turned to my stomach. My right wrist was tied to my left ankle.

I struggled about, turning my head. I saw the golden sirik put back in he cage; it was not the sort of thing, I gathered, which these fellows would care to have found in their possession; I then saw the cage closed and the cover readjusted about it, then, together, the two men, with the rope, drew it slowly upward; in a few moments it hung quietly where it had before, when it had been occupied. If its lowering and raising had not been noticed, I did not think that now anyone would be likely to find anything amiss until morning, when it would be lowered and found empty.

The cord which had fastened my wrist to my ankle was then removed and I was drawn to my feet. I was startled that I was put in no bonds. A cloak was handed to me. I drew it swiftly about my body and over my head, grasping it closed with my fists beneath my chin. Over my head as it was, and it being a short cloak, too, it fell midway, as I held it about me, on my calves. I was grateful not only for the disguise it afforded me, but, too, because it gave me some way to conceal my nakedness. I felt a hand at my back and I was conducted from the area of the tree and the suspended cage.

As we removed ourselves from that area we passed the slumped figures of two guards, an overturned flagon near them.

“Hold!” called a drunken voice, as we passed between tents.

We stopped. My left upper arm, now that we had left the area of the tree and cage, under the cloak, was in the custody of the man on my left. He had taken it in charge almost immediately upon leaving the cage area. He did not wish to accept the risk, it seemed, that I might attempt to escape, perhaps impulsively attempting to dart away into the darkness. There was little danger of that now. His grip was like iron. I still held the cloak together, and about my face, with my right hand. I attempted to pull the cloak forward more, and averted my face, that my features might not be seen.

“Masks, eh?” said the newcomer. “So she is a free woman, is she? But perhaps not for long!”

He laughed drunkenly, and staggered about, in front of us. He tried to reach for the cloak I held clutched about my face. I turned my face away, clutching the cloak about it.

“A modest pudding,” he said, surprised. “Forgive me, Lady,” he said, bowing low. Then he staggered about, behind us, again.

Then I suddenly felt the cloak being lifted behind me. “She has legs good enough to be those of a slave,” he said. We then proceeded on our way. I was shaking. Too, I now had some idea of the publicness of a slave’s body.

I was pulled back into the shadows between some tents. Two guardsmen, with a lantern, passed. Then, again, we threaded our way amongst the canvas-lined lanes of the camp of the men of Argentum.

Most of the tents were dark. Within some were small fires. When men passed between the fires and the canvas wall of the tent we could see their shadows on the canvas. In one tent a girl danced slowly, sensuously, before a seated male. Her skills suggested that she might be a camp slave, a girl from one of the strings of camp slaves, strings of girls owned by authorized merchants, holding contracts for certain season or campaigns, kept within the camp, and traveling with it, for renting out to soldiers at fees stipulated in the contracts.

Too, of course, she might be a girl even from Corcyrus, or another community, perhaps a paga girl. Such as these are sometimes brought to the camps on speculation. The fees for their use are not contractually controlled, as are those of the regular camp slaves, but the fees of the camp slaves, of course, being fixed and almost nominal, tend to exert a considerable, informal influence on the market; they set competitive standards, ensure realistic pricings and reduce the risk of excessive local profiteering. On Earth it is not unusual for a free woman to attempt to take a profit on her own beauty, using it, for example, if only in mate competitions, to advance herself economically. On Gor, however, if that same woman should be enslaved, she will soon discover that the profits accruing from her beauty belong now not to her, but to her master. This is quite appropriate. It, like she herself, is his.

As we passed another tent, a darkened one, I heard the sounds of chains from within. “Oh, more, Master, I beg you, please, more,” I heard, “more, more, please, oh, my Master, more, please more, please more, my Master, I beg you!” How scandalized I was! What was it within, a harlot, a whore! But I feared it was far worse, something a thousand times lower, something a thousand times more despicable and helpless, a slave.

In a few moments we stopped, between some darkened tents. I was then lifted from my feet and placed, sitting, on he ground.

“Why are we stopping here?” I whispered. “Who are you? What are you doing!”

My last question was prompted by the fact that one of the men, the larger of the two, he who had held my left arm, had now crossed my ankles. He was now wrapping a long piece of binding fiber about them, sometimes looping them both, sometimes taking it about only one ankle, sometimes snaking it about both ankles and securing it between both with tightly drawn loops. He even, occasionally, threaded an end through other, already secured loops. He then pulled the entire tie tight. What he had done was far more elaborate and complex than was required to hold a girl’s ankles. A loop or two, properly knotted, I did not doubt, would be adequate for the perfect accomplishment of such a task. Then, to my surprise, he placed the two loose ends of the binding fiber in my hands. I held them, puzzled. He had not knotted the tie. Similarly no move had been made to secure my hands.

“Wait!” I whispered. “No!” I then understood what they intended.

The smaller of the two men, he who had been so expert with the locks and chains, placed his fingers across my lips.

“No!” I whispered. “Don’t leave me! Who are you? Why have you done what you have done?”

He increased the pressure of his fingers on my lips, and I was silent.

He leaned close to me and whispered. I did not recognize the voice.

“We have brought you here,” he said. “It is a half of a pasang from the cage.”

I nodded, miserably.

“The camp will be awake in three Ahn,” he said.

I nodded.

He withdrew his fingers from my lips.

“Do not leave me!” I begged.

“The camp will be awake in three Ahn,” he said.

“Who are you?” I begged.

He was silent.

“Why have you done what you have done?” I asked.

“Once you did me a kindness,” he said. “I have never forgotten.”

“What kindness?” I asked.

“Our accounts are now squared,” he said. “It is done. The matter is finished.”

“And what, then, is his motivation?” I asked, indicating the, larger man.

“It is other than mine,” said the smaller man.

The larger man then drew his cloak away from me. I was then sitting in the dirt, naked, with my ankles fastened together, the two ends of the fiber clutched in my hands.

“Do not leave me,” I begged. “Keep me. I am prepared even to be your slave!”

The larger man suddenly, angrily, reached for my throat. I felt those large hands close about it. For an instant things went black. I know he could crush the life from me at his whim.

“Do not kill her,” said the other.

The hands left my throat.

I gasped. I swallowed painfully. The larger man retrieved his cloak.

The two men stood, preparing to take their leave.

“Do not leave me here, I beg you!” I whispered.

“Already, in this,” said the smaller man, “you have been granted more than a hundred times the lenience and favor that you deserve.”

“Are you not my friends?” I asked.

“No,” said he. “We are your enemies.”

I looked up at him, in misery.

“Farewell,” said he, “Lady Sheila, villainess and tyranness of Corcyrus.”

“Wait!” I whispered.

But they were gone, and gone in different directions. I thought of crying out, but doubtless they would be away by the time men would come, and with their masks doffed, who would know them? I would succeed in doing little more than calling attention to myself.

“Wait,” I whispered softly, piteously. But they had vanished.

“The camp will be awake in three Ahn,” the smaller man had said.

Feverishly I began to unwind and unthread the binding fiber on my ankles. It took me better than an Ehn to do so.

I saw a lantern approaching, held by one of two guardsmen. I cast aside the binding fiber, and then crept to the side, to lie on my belly in the shadows behind a tent. I felt one of the tent ropes on my shoulder.

I heard someone inside the tent stirring in sleep. The lantern of the guardsmen had then passed.

Chapter 15 - ALARM BARS

“Hold! Who goes there?” called a voice. I heard the snarling of the patrol sleen, its jerking at its chain.

Weeping, I fled back among the tents. The guardsman did not release the sleen. He would probably not want it loose among the tents.

I crouched behind a tent, in the darkness. This was the third time I had tried to leave the camp. Once there had been stakes and wire; another time there had been a deep ditch; each time there had been guardsmen with sleen. The sleen, I had little doubt, had been able to detect my approach, and had led the guardsmen to my vicinity. The perimeter of the camp seemed ringed with guards and sleen. The camp was heavily guarded. This was perhaps because it was still within the range of Corcyrus, and perhaps, too, because of a special captive, a Tatrix, thought to be chained in a suspended cage.

I looked up. I moaned. In the moonlight, not more than a hundred yards away, I could see the cage slung from its branch. In my running, and fear, disoriented, and once pursued by drunken soldiers, I had inadvertently returned to its vicinity. If I were caught I did not doubt but what I would soon again find myself the prisoner of those cramped quarters, though doubtless in fresher, sturdier bonds, probably of iron, and not locked, but hammered closed about my neck and limbs. The cage, too, then would probably be closed with plates and rivets, and the guards doubled or tripled about it. I crouched down, my head in my hands. In a little more than an Ahn, I feared, the camp would be awakened. Already it seemed to me that there were more people about than before, more men to avoid.

I shrank back into the shadows. Two men, cooks, I think, from their conversation, were passing.

I heard wings overhead. Looking up I saw a tarn. It was flying northwest. Behind it, on long ropes, dangled a tarn basket. Sleen were no problem for it, I thought bitterly. It was not the first such departure, or, indeed, arrival, I had noted in the camp.

I had hitherto avoided the more lit, busy portions of the camp, generally about the areas for tradesmen, suppliers and sutlers, and the storage, delivery and mess areas.

There were too many men there, and it would be, surely, too easy to be detected.

I, then, stealthily, my heart pounding, began to follow, keeping in the shadows, the two men who had just passed. I was terribly frightened.

They were moving toward the center of the camp.

“What are you doing there, Slut, skulking about?” called a man. I had not seen him, between the tents. He had some gear slung over his shoulder. He was apparently waiting there. I backed away from him.

“Let her go,” said another man, emerging from a tent. He, too, carried some gear. “You can see she is a slave, returning to her master.” I then hurried away. In the darkness they had not detected that I lacked a brand. Too, they had not noticed that my neck was not encircled by a slave collar.

I was now in consternation. I did not see how I could proceed.

People seemed to be getting up now about the camp.

“Ena!” called a girl, hurrying to catch up with another.

I stepped back into the shadows.

A tall, slim girl, naked, turned about. A bit of slave silk dangled languidly from her left hand.

The new girl was short and lusciously bodied. She wore a brief, silken slave tunic, fastened with a single tie at her bosom. A single tug frees the tie and allows the garment to be parted for the view and pleasures of a master. Both women wore collars.

“And how did the night go?” asked the new girl. “Were you well used?”

“Yes,” responded the taller girl, dreamily. “And you?”

“Superbly,” said the shorter girl.

The two girls then began to walk down the lane between the tents. I, my head down, my hair about my neck and shoulders, hopefully tending to conceal the bareness of my neck, the absence there of a steel circlet, fell into step behind them, seemingly, I hoped, only another slave on her way back to her master.

I soon became aware that this must be a lane leading to the chains.

Other girls, soon, here and there, entered it, before and behind me, and between me and those who had been directly before me.

“And what of the resistance you intended to offer?” one girl was asking another.

“It was crushed,” said the other. “He did not choose to accept it. Then he made me serve him well.”

“It is the fifth time you have served in his tent since we left Argentum,” said the first girl.

“Yes,” said the second.

“I think he likes you,” said the first girl.

“Perhaps,” said the other.

“Do you think he will buy you?” asked the first girl.

“It matters not to me,” said the other. “I do not care, one way or the other.”

“There are stains on your face as though you had been crying,” said the girl. “And it does not seem to me that you have been beaten.”

“Oh?” asked the other.

“You pretentious tarsk sow,” laughed the first girl, “you were begging him to buy you!”

“What if I was!” said the other, tossing her head.

“And when did you beg this?” asked the girl.

“After my resistance had been crushed, and he made me serve him without compromise as a slave,” said the other, “and again this morning, before we parted.”

“You seem pleased enough now,” observed the girl.

“Tassy,” said the other, “he is going to make an offer for me!”

“That is marvelous, Yitza!” said the first girl.

“But will Myron let me go?” asked the second girl.

“I do not know,” said the first. “Such matters are between the men.”

The second girl moaned.

“Look at it this way,” said the first girl. “If we did not wear collars we would not even know the touch of such men as Rutilius. Too, if we were not slaves and sent to their tents, we would not even know what to do. We would be only ignorant free women.”

“How I sometimes pity free women!” laughed the second girl. “They are so stupid!”

“But fear them, Yitza,” said the first girl, “for they are free and you are enslaved.”

“Of course,” said the second girl, shuddering.

“And remember that they hate you,” said the first.

“I know,” said the second.

A man stepped out, into the center of the lane. I stopped, frightened. But his attention was on another.

“Yeela,” said he.

A girl, addressed by a free man, fell to her knees before him.

“I have paid fee for you,” he said.

“It is early, Master,” she laughed. “Would you lie to a poor slave?”

“Perhaps,” he said.

“If you have not, know that you will be charged,” she laughed. “I am not for free!”

But then he had crouched down and taken her in his arms. She was thrown beneath him, grasping at him, to the dirt. Frightened, I took my way about them. I tried to hide among other girls. I hoped that no man would decide to pull me out from among them.

“What is for breakfast?” I heard one girl asking another.

“I have heard,” said the other girl, who was a shorter one, “that each of us will have five berries put in our gruel this morning.”

“Good,” said the first.

“If no bad reports are received on any of us,” added the second.

“I was pleasing,” said the first.

“So, too, was I,” averred the second.

“If Jasmine is not fully pleasing again,” said the first girl, “I think I will pull her hair out.”

“And so, too, will the rest of the chain!” laughed the second girl, the shorter one.

Jasmine, I suspected, would soon learn to be pleasing. Certainly it would be in her best interests to be so. She would probably have to spend at least a portion of every day within the reach of her chain sisters. Doubtless soon she would be begging them for counsels in sensuality, for tricks and techniques, that she might improve herself and become less inadequate as a slave.

“He took away my clothes,” one girl was telling another, “but then he did not so much as touch me. He made me serve him, rather, in small and menial ways. I must cook sullage for him. Then I must launder and iron a tunic. Then I must dust his goods and clean and tidy his tent. Then I was made to sew, and then clean and polish his leather.”

“And how did you feel,” asked the girl to whom she was speaking, “performing these small tasks for him, suitable for a slave?”

“Gradually, serving him helplessly, then lovingly in these fashions, I became more and more aroused,” she said. “Then, finally, after the polishing of the leather, I could stand it no longer. I threw myself to my belly before him, juicing like a larma.”

“Did he then content you?” asked the other girl.

“Yes,” said the girl, “though the brute made me squirm a little first.”

How well that master had understood sex, and the sexuality of the female, I thought. He apparently understood something of the pervasiveness and totality of female sexuality. They had been, in their way, having sex together for hours, before he even touched her. Well had he understood the woman, and her needs and desires to be pleasing, and to submit and serve in many ways. It was the total woman, in her wholeness, which he, to her joy, had chosen to dominate.

How terrible, I thought, to be a slave!

“Would you like to be sent again to his tent?” asked the other girl.

“Yes,” said the girl. “Yes! Oh, yes!”

What a meaningless slut she was! How pleased I was that I was not a slave!

“You, Slave!” called a voice.

I stopped in my tracks. I put my fists before my mouth, in terror, but, too, to hide my neck.

“Not you, you!” said the voice.

I quickly hurried on, trembling. It seemed that any moment I must be discovered.

“I must see him again,” the girl in front of me was saying.

“Why?” asked the other.

“I think he is my love master,” she breathed.

“It is more likely that you are his love slave,” laughed the other.

“He must call for me again!” said the girl.

“You are, of course, entitled to hope that,” said the other, “when you lie alone, chained in your place.”

“He must!” she wept.

“Perhaps he will have you summoned again to his tent,” said the second girl.

“I must see him again!” she said.

“That will be decided by masters,” said the second girl. How horrifying to be a slave, I thought. How pleased I was that I was not a slave.

Swiftly, then, seeing more men waiting further down the lane, some with loops of chain in their hands, I slipped to the side between the tents. I could see women lining up down there, too, being put in wrist or throat coffle, each one doubtless reporting in, and in the proper position, to the appropriate slave master.

I skirted a large cooking area. I could smell freshly baked bread, and the cooking of eggs and meat.

I made my way among tents, every sense alert, sometimes crawling on my hands and knees.

It was still quite dark. Here and there, there were morning fires. The moons were down.

I cried out in misery. A sleen, snarling, leapt toward me, but was stopped by its chain.

I continued on my way, treading narrow valleys between mountains of sacks, narrow aisles separating cliffs of boxes.

“Where are you going, little lady?” called a fellow from above me.

He was standing on boxes, carrying a box. I had not even seen him.

“The chains,” he said, “are behind you and to your right.”

Swiftly I sped away, in the general direction he had indicated. Then, when I was confident I was out of his sight, I resumed, as nearly as I could, given the bundles, the boxes and crates, my original direction.

Then I found myself in a blind alley, a place where the passage was closed by a sheer wall of boxes, several feet over my head. I hurried back and tried another passage. It, too, to my misery, was blocked. Then I suddenly realized I had lost my direction. Between the boxes, at places, darknesses in the darkness, there were narrow cracks. I did not know which were passages and which were mere places where several boxes had been removed. I struck with my fists at the wall of boxes.

Then, suddenly, I heard a tarn scream, and not more than two or three hundred yards away.

Too, I saw a lantern approaching behind me.

I darted through an opening, came to a wall, and crouched between two boxes.

I saw the light of the lantern on the boxes ahead of me, as it was lifted at the passage I had entered.

“She came this way,” said a voice.

I heard the two men entering the passage.

“There she is!” said one of them. I gasped, in terror.

Then I heard a sudden scrambling. “I’ve got you, you little she-sleen!” he said.

I heard a small body flung to the dirt. Then I heard the snapping on of slave bracelets.

“Turn her over,” said a voice.

I heard a body moved.

“She’s a pretty one,” said a voice. “Read her collar.”

“Our little thief is Tula, of the chain of Ephialtes,” said the other voice.

“I stole nothing, Master!” cried the girl.

“Thrust up her tunic,” said the first voice. “Now split your legs, Tula. Good girl. Now, what were you saying?”

“It was only one pastry, Master,” said the girl. “Forgive Tula! Do not beat her!”

“Keep those legs wide, Tula,” said the first voice.

“Yes, Master,” whimpered the girl.

I then listened, with misery, while the two men, one after the other, in the narrow passageway between the boxes, used the slave.

Worse, I felt heat between my own thighs. Their casual, brutal, forceful use of her almost overwhelmed me psychologically. How helpless, how dominated are slaves! I touched then myself. To my horror, I, too, was wet. I gritted my teeth. I hoped they could not smell me.

I trembled. I tried not to feel. It was almost as though they, in inflicting themselves on that pathetic slave, were subjecting me, as well, to those insolent, debasing, masterly thrusts. Yet, of course, they were not, and in this, to my scandal, I felt keen frustration. I found myself envying her. I wondered what it would be like to be held in the arms of such brutes, a cringing vessel for their pleasure, choiceless but to rhapsodically succumb. Then I forced such thoughts from my mind. Surely I must not think such thoughts. Surely they were appropriate only for a slave!

I looked up, miserably. The sky was becoming gray now. In a few minutes, perhaps, the cage would be lowered. Then my absence would be noted.

The entire camp, then, and its vicinity, I did not doubt, would be subjected to an inch-by-inch search, one that it would be impossible to elude.

I had failed to escape.

“On your feet, Tula,” said one of the men.

“Tula has served you well, has she not?” begged the girl. I heard her pull at the slave bracelets.

“Put down her tunic,” said the first man.

“There,” said the second.

“When we called to you to stop, Tula,” said the first man, “you ran. Have You ever run away before?”

“I was not really running away,” said the girl. “I just did want you to catch me.”

“Must a question be repeated?” asked the first man.

“No, Master,” she said, quickly. “I have never run away before!”

“That is fortunate for you,” said the man.

I shuddered, crouching between the boxes. The first time a girl runs away she is commonly only beaten. Many girls, when they first go into a collar, do not realize that escape, for all practical purposes, is impossible for them, or how easily, commonly, they can be picked up and caught.

The practical impossibility of escape is a function of several factors. Perhaps one of the most important among them is the closely nature of Gorean society. In such a society it is difficult to establish false identities. Other factors which might be noted are the support of the society for slavery, the absence of a place to run, so to speak, and the relentlessness with such slaves are commonly sought. Other factors are such as the distinctive garb of the slave, the encirclement of neck with a collar and the fact that her body is marked with a brand.

The best that a slave can commonly hope for is she might fall into the power of a new master. The usual punishment for a girl’s second attempt at escape is hamstringing, the severing of the tendons behind the knees. This does not completely immobilize the girl, for she may still, for example, drag herself about by her hands. Such girls are sometimes used as beggars, distributed about a city by wagon in morning, and then picked up again at night, with what earnings they may have managed to obtain during the day.

“You will not beat me though, will you?” wheedled the girl.

“No,” said the first man.

“Thank you, Masters!” said the girl.

“You have, however,” said the man, “stolen a pastry, lied to me about it to us, and run away.”

“You said you would not beat me!” protested the girl.

“We shall not,” said the man. “Ephialtes might.”

“Do not tell him, I beg you!” she cried.

“Do you really think that you can do the things you have done with impunity, you, a slave?” asked the man.

“No, Master,” she wept.

“We have discovered you have a taste for sweets,” said the second man. “Ephialtes will discover if you have a taste for leather.”

“Have pity on me, Masters,” she wept. “I am only a helpless, braceleted slave!”

“Turn about, Tula,” said the man. “You are on your way back to your master.”

As I heard them leaving, I looked about the corner of my hiding place. I saw two large men. Preceding them, her hands locked behind her in slave bracelets, was a beautifully shaped little slave. She had dark hair. Her slave tunic, which was extremely short, was red.

I followed the men down the passageway. I stopped once, when they stopped, to extinguish the lantern.

Following them I came to an opening between the boxes, through which they had taken their way.

They had led me out of the maze.

I then saw many wagons and could smell tharlarion, and straw. I made my way swiftly through this area.

I then stopped, startled. The great cry of a tarn smote the air.

I fell to my hands and knees as two men passed, on the other side of a wagon.

I rose up and sped as furtively and swiftly as I could toward the area from which I had heard the bird’s scream. I stopped, seeing a bird take to the air, a tarn basket, on long ropes, trailing behind it.

I put out my hands. There seemed to be a platform in front of me. It must have been fifty yards long. On it there seemed to be two broad, leather skids. On these skids, some twenty yards or so in front of me, there were four or five tarn baskets.

I heard the snapping of wings. I crouched down beside the platform. A tarn, with its rider, alighted on the platform. There were men there, one fellow with a board and papers, and two others, who seemed to be aides.

I saw ropes being fastened between the tarn and the basket now first in the line. I crawled forward and, as the men were concerned with the tarn, it moving about and occasionally stretching and snapping its wings, crawled into the last basket. Within that basket was a blanket, one which had probably been used to cover some cargo brought to the camp. I drew the blanket over me and lay quietly in the bottom of basket.

It was becoming lighter now, and I was becoming more

and more afraid.

I gave myself little chance to escape, but I could do nothing more. I had done all that I could.

It seemed I lay there for an Ahn. The heavy fiber of the

basket cut into my skin. I did not, however, so much as move.

Then other tarns were brought, one by one, to the

platform. The other baskets were lofted away. Mine only, it seemed, remained.

“So where is Venaticus?” said a man.

“Sleeping one off,” said another fellow.

“Tangled up in the chains of some slave,” suggested another.

“I think it will be another warm day,” said a fellow.

“Good,” said one of the men. “Then they may have the covers down on the slave wagons.”

“When we dismantle,” said a man, “you could always drift back in the march and see Lady Sheila. She is a pretty little vulo in her cage.”

“They are all pretty in chains and behind bars,” said another man.

“I hate to think of them shoving an impaling spear up her ass,” said a man.

“I know an impaling spear I’d like to shove up her ass,” said another man.

There was laughter.

Men may do with us what they wish, I thought. Our only chance is to turn them against themselves, and use them for our purposes. But in this we frustrate nature, that of men and of ourselves. How can we win, then? Perhaps, I thought, only by losing.

But these thoughts were more appropriate to Earth than Gor. It did not seem possible to turn the men of Gor against themselves. Perhaps they were less simple than the men of Earth, or more simple, more basic and natural. They had, at any rate, never permitted themselves to be tricked out of their natural rights and powers. The conniving woman on Gor, she who would seek to control and manipulate men, is likely to soon find herself at the feet of her would-be victim naked, kissing them, locked in his collar.

There seemed suddenly a storm of wings in the air, and I heard the striking of tarn talons on the platform. Men, almost immediately, began to work about the basket. I felt the basket move as ropes were fastened on it and jerked tight. There was a tiny space between two folds of the blanket, through which I could see, looking then through an opening in the weaving of the basket. With two fingers I drew the blank more together.

“Your face is smeared with lipstick,” said a man, “and you stink of slaves and paga.”

“I cannot explain that,” said a fellow, as though puzzled, “for all night I have rested comfortably in the tent of cargo riders.”

“The company will not be pleased,” said a fellow. “If you slept a wink last night I am a purple urt.”

“It is lucky for you then,” said the newcomer, concernedly, “that indeed I neglected to slumber.”

“Are you in a condition to fly?” asked a man.

“I shall sleep in the saddle,” said the man.

“You have a long flight, of several stages,” said a man.

“I shall be well rested then by the time of my arrival Ar,” said the newcomer.

“I am sure the paga slaves will be pleased,” said a man. “all several hundred of them.”

“Do not neglect to fasten your safety strap,” said a man.

“I shall do so, unless perhaps I chance to fall asleep first,” the newcomer assured the fellow.

“What is that sound?” asked a man.

“It sounds like an alarm bar, back in the south part of the camp,” said a man.

“I wonder what is wrong,” said another.

“Will I see Bemus in Ar, or Torquatus?” asked the new comer.

“No, luckily for the paga slaves,” said a man. “You are the only rider this morning bound for Ar. Bemus has a pickup to make in Lydius, and Torquatus in Bazi.”

“It is an alarm bar,” said a man, “clearly.”

“I hear another, too, now,” said a man.

“I wonder what is going on,” said the newcomer.

“You will rendezvous with us in ten days, on the south bank of the Issus,” said a man. “You will be bringing another shipment of Ka-la-na for the officers.”

“I wonder what is going on,” said the newcomer.

“You are late,” said a man, with a rustle of papers.

“I am never late,” said the newcomer. “It is only that sometimes it takes me longer to be on time than others.”

“I hear other alarm bars, too, now,” said a man.

“Do you think the camp is under attack?” asked a man.

“No,” said a man.

“It is probably a fire,” said a man.

“I do not see any smoke,” said a man.

“Perhaps Lady Sheila has escaped,” suggested a fellow, lightly.

This suggestion was greeted with raucous laughter. The little vulo, doubtless, was still safe in her cage.

“It is probably a fight between companies or platoons,” said a man, “probably over gambling or a slave.”

“I think I will go see,” said the newcomer.

“Into the saddle!” said a man.

“But a fight!” said the newcomer.

“Venaticus,” cautioned the man.

“Very well,” he said.

“It must be important,” said a man. “Hear the alarm bars now.”

“If it were only a fight, there would not be that many alarm bars, said a man. “Indeed, there probably would not be any. It would not be necessary to alarm the whole camp over an incident of that sort.”

“It is probably a drill,” said a man.

“That is it,” said another. “It must be a drill.”

Suddenly there was a storm of wings and the basket, a moment later, was jerked forward, slipping along the leather skids and then, in another instant, taking my breath away for an instant, it was lofted like the others high into the air.

Through tiny cracks between the woven fibers of the deep, sturdy basket I could see the ground slipping away beneath us. Wind seemed to tear through the fibers of the basket. I clutched the blanket, it being torn in the wind, more closely about me. The ropes and the basket creaked.

The rider took the tarn once about the camp, doubtless to satisfy his curiosity. He could make out little, however, I suspected, from the air. I could see men below moving about in the camp, emerging from tents and such, but there seemed to be no clear pattern to their activity. Certainly the camp was not under attack, nor did there seem to be any fire. The absence of a clear pattern to the activity, too, suggested that a drill, or at least a general drill, was not in progress. Perhaps it was merely a testing of the crews of the alarm bars.

He then turned the tarn about and began to take his way toward the northwest. I lay in the bottom of the basket. I pulled my legs up, and pulled the blanket about me. I was cold. I hoped that I would not freeze. I was frightened. I saw the camp disappearing in the distance. Only faintly now could I hear the ringing of the alarm bars. The fiber of the basket would be temporarily imprinting its pattern on my skin. I hoped that the ropes would hold.

Chapter 16 - I AM ON THE VIKTEL ARIA, IN THE VICINITY OF VENNA

I felt a hand on my shoulder. It shook me, gently. I could also feel the warm sun on my back. There was grass under my belly. I had been awakened on an incline. There was muddy water about my feet.

I had been three days the unsuspected guest of the tarnsman from the camp of Miles of Argentum. On the first two nights he had camped in the open. On the first night I had crept forth and, from his pack, after he was asleep, stole some meat and Sa-tarna bread. I also took a drink from his canteen. I partook sparingly in these things for fear of being discovered. If he detected any tiny shortages in his supplies perhaps he put them to the accounts of straying vagrants.

On the second day I noticed, to my uneasiness, more dwellings below us. Too, I noted more tended fields. On the second night I stole fruit from an orchard and drank from a pool. I decided to risk a third day in the basket, to put even more hundreds of pasangs between me and Argentum and Corcyrus. On this third day, however, to my dismay, I could see roads below, and many dwellings and fields. We passed over, even, two towns. On the third night, frightening me, he landed within the palisade of a fortified inn. The tarn basket was left within the palings of a special enclosure within this general palisade. Now it was time, I knew, to take my leave. Surely I was not interested in being delivered to Ar, the very ally of Argentum, where, presumably, it would be impossible to escape detection.

I could not, however, to my consternation, climb the palings of the enclosure or find a space between them to squeeze through. I hid among the tarn baskets, of which there were several there. When a new basket, that of a late arrival, unhitched from its tarn, was being dragged within the palings from the landing area outside, within the larger palisade, while it was being put in its numbered space, I slipped out. I hid among garbage boxes behind the inn. No sleen patrolled the inner yard, probably because of the danger to guests. I fed from the garbage, ravenously. It had rained recently and there was water in various discarded containers and lids. I drank greedily.

Muchly did I envy the people in the inn, with their viands and beverages, their clean rooms, their clothing and warm beds. I envied even the slaves that might be within. They, at least, were secure and well fed. What had they to worry about, other than being pleasing to their masters? I cried out, suddenly, softly, as the fur of a scurrying urt brushed my leg. I crawled about the inn, keeping to the brush at its side.

I moved leaves out of the way with my hand. Leaves brushed my back.

Then I could see the main gate of the palisade. A wagon, drawn by a tharlarion, was entering. It tipped to the left, its wheels sinking into the ruts, on the left almost to the hubs, in the soft ground, from the rains.

The driver cracked the whip and called out to the tharlarion. “Do not make so much noise,” he was cautioned by the porter. “People are sleeping.” The porter then went to the tharlarion and pushing at it and striking it, urged it forward. The great beast grunted and threw itself forward, against the harness. The wagon was drawn through the gate, water from the ruts dripping from its wheels. To my dismay I then saw the porter close the gates and thrust the great beam across, through its brackets, behind them. This he secured in place with a lock and key.

He then accompanied the teamster to the stables. I hurried forward and ran to the gate. I felt under the palings of the gate. I began to dig there in the softness of the ground, and in the muddy water pooled in the ruts. I tried to thrust my body down, under the gate. There was not enough room. I heard the creaking of another wagon, this one coming about the inn. I hid back in bushes to the side. In moments the porter had returned to the gate.

I was in misery. I could not slip under the gate, or dig out under it, if the porter was there. He was a man and would simply stop me, and capture me. I did not know when, or if, another wagon would arrive before daylight, one that might take the porter again from his post, giving me time to dig out under the gate. Risking much I slipped back to the enclosure where the tarn baskets were. As I feared, it was now once more locked. I hurried back about the inn. The porter was engaged in a discussion, and not a particularly amiable one, with the driver. The driver had apparently criticized the porter for not being at the gate, and the porter, in response, was being officiously careful about checking the driver’s ostrakon of payment. “I am not sure that is the mark of Leucippus,” said the porter. “It does not look much like his mark.”

“Awaken him, then,” said the driver “and certify that it is so.”

“I do not care to awaken him at this Ahn.”

“I am to be on the road by dawn.”

“You will have to wait.”

“I do not have time to wait!” In the end the porter opened the gate and let the man proceed. By that time I was in the back of the wagon. An Ahn or so later, when it was nearly dawn, I eased myself silently from the back of the wagon and crouched down on the road. It continued on its way. I then left the road and ran across the fields.

***

“Are you awake?” asked a voice.

The hand on my shoulder shook me again, again gently.

My body stiffened. “Yes,” I whispered.

I lay on the slope of a ditch, as it ascended to a road.

There was a trickle of water at my feet. The grass was very green here, because of the water.

When I had left the wagon, by means of which I had accomplished my escape from the inn, I had fled across the fields. I had run and walked until perhaps noon, and had then, fearful of discovery, hidden near a small pool in a brake of ferns until nightfall. I had washed in the pool and drunk from it. I had set out again in the moonlight.

I had eaten almost nothing and I was terribly hungry. I had been afield for only an Ahn or so when the winds had risen and clouds had obscured the moons. Rain had begun to fall, as it apparently had the night before. I stumbled on through the darkness, my legs lashed to the thighs by the knives of the wind-whipped grass. I soon grew weak and exhausted. I sought a dwelling, or a road, which I might follow to a dwelling, that I might there, like an urt, skulk about and, as at the inn, piteously seek some sustenance from their refuse. Twice I fainted, probably from hunger. The second time I recovered consciousness the storm had worsened and the sky was bursting with lightning and thunder.

As I crouched in the grass I saw, in a valley below me, in a flash of lightning, like a wet stone ribbon, a road. I crawled toward it. At its edge there was a deep ditch. Had I not been crawling, I might, in the darkness, between flashes of lightning, have come on the ditch unawares and fallen into it. As it was I lowered myself down its slope with the intention of then climbing the other side and attaining the surface of the road. In the bottom of the ditch there was, at that time, a flow of water some six inches deep, from the storm. I knelt in this, the cold fluid rushing about my legs, and, cupping my hands, drank from it.

I then started to climb toward the road. I was suddenly frightened. The incline was steeper than I had anticipated. I slipped back, into the water. I tried again, inching myself upward. Grass pulled out of the slope, clutched in my hands. I slipped back. I was weak and miserable. I waded at the bottom of the ditch and, in two or three places, again tried to climb out of it. I was not successful.

The storm, meanwhile, had subsided. I could now see the moons. In the moonlight I found an ascent which I, though with difficulty, could manage. Gasping, holding at the grass, inching my way upward, I drew my body from the grass to the road. I looked at the road, from my belly. I felt out with my hands. It seemed constructed of large, square stones. It was not an ordinary road, I thought. Like most Gorean roads, however, a single pair of ruts marked its center. Gorean vehicles, commonly slow moving, tend to keep to the center of a road, except in passing.

In the distance I heard the sound of bells, harness bells. It might be a wagon, or a set of wagons, which had pulled to the side of the road during the storm and now, with the passing of the storm, had resumed its journey. It must be near morning, I thought, that they are on the road. Gorean roads are seldom traveled at night. The bells were coming closer. I moaned and slid back from the road, again into the ditch. I slipped back a yard or so down the grassy slope, and then, clinging to grass, held my position. I could not see the surface of the road. I would wait here until the wagons had passed. They would not, I was sure, at night, in the moonlight and shadows, detect my presence. I clung there until the first wagon had passed. I could hear others approaching, too. I let myself slip down further in the ditch. I must not be discovered. I put my cheek against the wet grass. I was very tired.

It was a good hiding place, the ditch. In the darkness, in the moonlight and shadows, I would not be detected. I was safe.

I dreaded the climb again to the surface of the road. The ditch was so steep. I did not understand the need for such a ditch at the side of the road. But I was safe now. There were other wagons, too, coming. There must be many wagons. I must wait. I would rest, just a little bit. It would not hurt to close my eyes, only for a moment. I was so hungry. I was so tired. I was so miserable. I would rest, just for a little bit. I would close my eyes, only for a moment.

***

“What are you doing here?” asked a voice.

“I am a free woman,” I said.

I lay on the incline, the grass under my belly. It was warm now. The sun felt hot on my back. Muddy water was about my feet. A man was behind me. At least one other, I could hear him moving about, was above and in front of me, up on the surface of the road.

“I was attacked by bandits,” I said. “They took my clothes.”

“Hold still,” said the voice behind me.

I heard the clink of a chain.

My body stiffened, my fingers clutched at the grass.

A chain was looped twice about my neck and padlocked shut.

“What are you doing?” I whispered.

“Hold still,” said the voice.

The chain was then taken under my body and down to my ankles. My ankles were crossed and the chain was looped thrice about them, holding them closely together. Another padlock then, its tongue passing through links of the chain, was snapped shut. My ankles were now chained tightly together. I could not even uncross them.

It is common to run a neck chain to the ankles in front of a woman’s body, rather than behind it. In this fashion any stress on the chain is borne by the back of her neck rather than her throat. It is also regarded as a more aesthetic chaining arrangement than its opposite, the neck chain, for example, with its linearity, and its sturdy, inflexible links, affording a striking contrast with the softnesses, the beauties, of her lovely bosom. This arrangement is also favored for its psychological effect on the woman. As she feels the chain more often on her body in this arrangement, brushing her, for example, or lying upon her, she is less likely to forget that she is wearing it. It helps her to keep clearly in mind that she is chained. It reminds her, dramatically and frequently, of that fact.

“What are you doing?” I asked. “I am a free woman!”

“How is it, did you say,” asked the man behind me, “that you are unclothed?”

“Bandits took my clothes!” I said.

“And left you?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“If it had been up to me,” said the fellow behind me, “I think I would have taken you along and left the clothes.”

I was silent.

“I suppose,” he said, pleasantly enough, “they might have had poor of eyesight, or perhaps it was just very dark.”

I did not speak.

“What is your Home Stone?” he asked.

I thought quickly. I did not want to identify myself with Corcyrus, of course, or any cities or towns in that area, even Argentum. Too, I knew we had flown northwest. I then took, almost out of the air, a city far to the north, one I had heard of but one, unfortunately, that I knew little about. The name had been mentioned, I did recall, on the tarn platform, in the camp of Miles of Argentum. Perhaps that is what suggested it to my mind.

“That of Lydius,” I said.

“What is the location of Lydius?” he asked.

“North,” I said. “North.”

“And where in the north?” he asked.

I was silent.

“On what lake does Lydius lie?” he asked.

“I do not know,” I said.

“It does not lie on a lake,” he said.

“Of course not,” I said.

“On what river does it lie?” he asked.

“It doesn’t lie on a river,” I said.

“It is on the Laurius,” he said.

I was silent.

“What is the first major town east of Lydius?” he asked.

“I don’t remember,” I said.

“Vonda,” he said.

“Yes,” I said.

“No,” he said. “Vonda is on the Olvi. It is Laura.”

“Yes,” I said, sick and hungry, chained.

“You are certain that you are a free woman?” asked the man.

“Yes,” I said.

“Where is your escort, your guards?” he asked.

“I was traveling alone,” I said.

“That is unusual for a free woman,” he said.

I was silent.

“What were you doing on this road?” he asked.

“Traveling,” I said. “Visiting.”

“And where did you think you were going?” asked the man.

“I don’t know,” I sobbed. I did not even know what towns lay along this road. I did not even know where I was.

“Look here,” said the fellow. He turned me about. I saw he was a brawny, blond youth. He did not seem angry or cruel. He crouched down and, with one finger, near the bottom of the ditch, made a precise marking, or drawing, in the mud.

“What letter is that?” he asked.

“I do not know,” I said.

“Al-ka,” he said.

“I cannot read,” I said.

“Most free women can read,” he said.

“I was not taught,” I said.

“You have a luscious body,” he said.

“Please unchain me,” I said.

“It has delicious slave curves,” he said.

“Unchain me, please,” I begged.

“Your body does not suggest that it is the body of a free woman,” he said. “It suggests, rather, that it is the body of a natural slave.”

“I beg to be unchained,” I said. “You can see that I am a free woman. My body is unbranded. I do not wear a collar!”

“Some masters,” said he, “are so foolish as not to brand and collar their women.”

“That would be stupid,” I said.

“I think so,” he said.

“So you can see, then,” I said, “that I, uncollared, unbranded, must be free.”

“Not necessarily,” he smiled.

“Unchain me,” I begged.

“What is your name?” he asked.

“Lita,” I said. I remembered this name from the time that Drusus Rencius had taken me to the house of Kliomenes in Corcyrus. It was the name he had chosen for me there, Lady Lita, of Corcyrus. It had sprung into my mind probably because of that trip. Too, I recalled that both Publius and Drusus Rencius had thought that it would be a good name for me.

Both of the men then laughed, he standing now before me as I sat on the bank, and he, who was apparently alone, on the surface of the road.

“What is wrong?” I asked.

“That is a slave name,” he said.

“No!” I said.

“It is a common slave name,” he said. “Indeed, it is one of the names popular with the masters for unusually juicy and helpless slaves.”

“It is also the name of some free women,” I said.

“It is possible, I suppose,” said the man.

“Please unchain me,” I begged.

“Lita,” said the man.

“Lady Lita,” I said.

“Lita,” said he.

I looked at him in misery.

“It seems clear you are a slave, Lita,” he said. “You are naked. You apparently have no Home Stone. You do not know where you are. You cannot even read. Your name is even that of a slave.”

“No!” I said.

“But it is,” he said. “Therefore, since it seems clear that you are a runaway slave, you will henceforth address us as ‘Master’.”

“Please, no,” I said.

“If you are actually a free woman, as you claim,” he said, “no great harm will be done.” On the other hand, if you should prove to be a slave, as you doubtless will, this will save you some whippings for disrespect.”

I stared at him in misery.

“Do you understand?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

He continued to look at me.

“Yes—Masters,” I said.

“The word sounds very natural on your lips, Lita,” he said.

“Yes, Masters,” I said.

“You may thank us,” he said.

“Thank you, Masters,” I said.

He then scooped me up and, standing on the slope, threw me over his left shoulder. My head faced behind. In this fashion a girl cannot see where she is being carried. In this fashion, too, it is her bottom which is first being presented for the view of those whom her carrier approaches. It is thought useful for her to understand this. It is, of course, a common way of carrying female slaves. He then, slipping, crouching down, putting out his hand, scrambled up the slope.

In a moment they had put me on a blanket in the wagon bed of an open tharlarion wagon. They were not ungentle with me.

“I am very hungry, Masters,” I said. “May I have something to eat?”

“Surely,” said the fellow who had carried me up the slope. Then, while the other fellow took his place on the wagon box and started the ponderous draft beast into motion, he gave me two generous pieces of bread, two full wedges of Sa-Tarna bread, a fourth of a loaf. Such bread is usually baked in round, flat loaves, with eight divisions in a loaf. Some smaller loaves are divided into four divisions. These divisions are a function, presumably, of their simplicity, the ease with which they may be made, the ease with which, even without explicit measurement, equalities may be produced. He also gave me a slice of dried larma, some raisins and a plum. Twice he poured me water from a bag into a cup. He indicated the side of the cup from which I might drink. When a cup is shared masters and slaves do not drink from the same side of the cup.

“Do not eat so quickly,” he cautioned me, as I tore piteously at the bread. “How long is it since you have eaten?” he asked.

“Since last night,” I said, “before the bandits attacked.”

He laughed. I continued to bite and tear at the bread. I had hardly eaten in four days. At the inn I had eaten even garbage.

“Eat more slowly, little Lita,” he said, “or you will make yourself ill.”

“Yes, Master,” I said.

In a time, my repast was finished. He put aside the cup from which I had drunk.

“You look much better now,” he said, “now that you have been fed and watered.”

“Thank you, Master,” I said. “May I speak?”

“Yes,” he said.

“Where am I?” I asked.

“You are on the Viktel Aria,” he said, “north of Venna, moving south.”

I realized, then, I had stayed longer with the tarnsman than perhaps I should have. I was closer to Ar than I cared to be. On the other hand he, obviously, had not gone directly to Ar. I was grateful for that. He was the sort of fellow who tended to be rather casual about his commercial obligations, I gathered. He had come well north of Ar, it seemed.

It probably had to do with the inn at which he had stopped. Doubtless he had stopped there for a reason, probably one of the inn slaves, girls who, for an additional fee, are supplied to the guests, to see to their needs and comforts. His cronies, Bemus and Torquatus, as I recalled, were not in Ar to meet him, having been dispatched, respectively, as I recalled, to Lydius and Bazi. Thus he might well have looped north for a rendezvous with some favorite slave. I did not think he would be bothered mightily if he arrived late in Ar, or if, as he might put it, it took him a little longer, once again, to be on time.

Venna, I recalled, was some two hundred pasangs or so north of Ar. The expression “Viktel Aria” means “Ar’s Triumph” or “The Triumph of Ar.” In its more northern lengths this road is commonly thought of as the Vosk Road.

“Why are there such deep ditches at the sides of the road?” I asked.

“It is that way for more than a hundred pasangs in this area,” he said, “except for crossroads and turn-offs. It makes it difficult, then, to bring supply wagons across the road, either from the east or west, the road acting then rather as a wall.”

“Its purpose is defensive, then,” I said, “military.”

“Yes,” he said.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“Venna,” he said.

“When will you arrive?” I asked.

“Tomorrow morning,” he said.

“Tonight,” I said, “when you sleep, you do not need to keep my legs chained. I will not run away.”

“On your belly, pretty Lita,” he said, “and put your hands, wrists crossed, behind you.”

I did this. He tied my wrists together.

“Not only will your ankles be chained tonight,” he said, “and your wrists bound, as they are, but, too, you will be chained by the neck to a wagon wheel.”

“What are you going to do with me?” I asked.

“Turn you over to the office of the Archon, in Venna,” he said.

Chapter 17 - THE CEMENT PLATFORM

My chin was thrust up, rudely, with a thumb. “No,” said a voice. “It is not my Tutina.”

The man, then, with the Archon’s man, stepped down from the circular cement platform, and rejoined the crowds coming and going in the busy street. The street was apparently an important one in Venna, and led down to a market square. My platform was on the left side of the street, looking down toward the square, and at the forward corner, nearest the street, of a public slave market, some fifty feet in length, along the street, and some fifty feet in depth. Behind this area, at the back of the display area, was a gloomy building with barred windows. It was in this building that the slaves were kept at night. The Archon’s man also had his office in this building.

From where I was I could see some of the girls, reclining, or sitting about, on their chains. When someone came to examine them, usually only to look at them more closely, they would kneel. The Archon’s man would then, sometimes at least, come about and join the prospective customer, praising the girl, and seeing if he could elicit a bid. They were for sale. I was not, or at least not yet.

I had been given to understand that if I were not claimed within ten days, I, too, would be put up for sale, even if I might be a free woman, if only to cover the cost of my keep. It had been determined that my Home Stone, if I had one, was not that of Venna, or Ar, or of one of their allies. I was then, in any case, it seemed, without money, without credentials, fair game for the slaver’s block.

It was hot standing on the cement platform, my wrists in loose, but unslippable shackles, chained over my head. My shackle chain went through a ring, itself suspended from another chain and ring, fixed in an outjutting beam, extending forth at a right angle from the sturdy upright. There was a supporting beam, too, braced at its lower end against the upright and at its upper end against the outjutting beam. The entire structure was quite strong and solid. It would have held, I was sure, a dozen men. At the front of the outjutting beam, a piece of paper containing a legend, or advertisement, was nailed. I had seen it before it had been put up but I, being illiterate, could not read it. I was very curious to know what it said.

I saw a man pause in the crowd, to look upon me. I feared for a moment he might recognize me as Sheila, the Tatrix of Corcyrus. But then I saw that he was only looking upon me, idly, casually, as a man might examine a female slave. I wished that I had been given clothing. I trembled in the shackles. I was not used to being looked upon in that fashion, so straightforwardly, so candidly, so obviously.

I looked away. When I looked back, he was gone. I did not know if he had been wondering what I might look like, licking and squirming for him, or if his interest had been more speculative, more theoretical or academic, wondering what I might bring, if I were sold.

“Lady, kind lady!” I called to a gentlewoman passing by, in her robes and veil. I would try to get her to read the legend for me. “Please, kind lady!”

The woman, who had been keeping her eyes straight ahead, as though not wishing to see any of the girls in the market, suddenly, angrily, stopped. I saw her eyes, over the veil. They were not pleasant.

“Forgive me, kind lady,” I said.

“You spoke to me,” she said.

“Yes,” I said. “Forgive me, kind lady. No one has read me the legend posted over my head. I beg you to do so.”

She lifted her robes and climbed to the cement platform.

She was about two inches taller than I. She stood then before me.

“You spoke to me,” she said. “Yes, kind lady,” I said.

“Where you come from,” she said, “do slaves not address free women as ‘Mistress’?”

“I am a free woman, too,” I said. “I am not a slave.”

“Naked, lying slave!” hissed the woman.

“I beg you for kindness,” I said. “Even if I were a slave, which I am not, we share the same sex. We are both women.”

“I am a woman,” she said. “You are an animal.”

“Take pity on me,” I said. “We have in common at least that we are females.”

“Do not dare to see me in terms of such a denominator,” she said. “It is not my fault that I share a sex with she-sleen and she-tarsks, and, lower than either, with she-slaves.”

“I am not a slave,” I said. “I am free. I am not collared. I am not branded!”

“If I owned you,” she snapped, “you would soon be collared and branded, and then you would be sent to the stables or scullery, where you belong!”

“Forgive me,” I said.

“Forgive you, what?” she said in fury.

“Mistress!” I said.

“I know your type,” she said, in fury. “You are the sort for whom my companion forsakes me! You are the sort he runs panting after in the taverns, the sort whose bodies their masters sell for the price of a drink!”

“No,” I said. “No!”

“You are the sort of woman who likes men, aren’t you?” she said.

“No, Mistress,” I cried. “No! No!”

“Why aren’t you kneeling, Slut?” she asked.

“I’m chained,” I cried. “I can’t!”

“Kneel,” ordered the free woman, coldly.

“I can’t, Mistress!” I wept. I let myself hang from the shackles, my knees bent, piteously.

“You should not have accosted a free woman,” she said. She then removed her gloves and, with them, struck me across the face. Tears sprang to my eyes.

“You must also address her as ‘Mistress,’” she said. I was then struck again.

“You have denied your slavery,” she said. “You have dared to compare yourself with me, insulting me by calling to my attention that we are both females. You have denied that you are of the category of the sensuous slut! You have denied, lyingly, that you are eager to serve men!” She then struck me four times.

“Do you think I cannot see what you are?” she asked. “Do you think it is unclear to anyone who looks upon you? Do you think I am stupid? Anyone could see that you are a slave! It is obvious!” Then she lashed me across the face and mouth with her gloves, several times. It did not really hurt so much, but it did sting, and, of course, it was terribly humiliating. I began to cry. “And you did not kneel!” she cried. She struck me twice again. I hung in the shackles, sobbing. I was most afraid that she might call the Archon’s man. He might, if requested, I feared, use a whip on me. She then, angrily, withdrew from the platform and resumed her journey down the street.

“What was that all about?” asked the Archon’s man.

“I spoke to her, Master,” I said. I called him “Master” for he, like the young men who had caught me at the edge of the Viktel Aria, had made it clear to me that I was to address, whether I was free or not, with a slave’s respect.

“But she is a free woman,” he observed.

“Yes, Master,” I said. With a rustle of chain I again got my feet under me.

“It was foolish of you,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” I sobbed.

“Your face is red,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” I said.

Later in the afternoon, after I had been fed and watered, standing in the shackles, I decided to once again essay the decipherment of the legend on the post. This time, having earned my lesson, I would not trouble a free woman in the matter. I knew that I was pretty and I had little doubt, even though I was tired and my arms were now sore, that, chained as I was, displayed as I was, my attractions might be of interest to passing males. Men of Earth, I knew, would often strive to please even a scantily clad woman, for example, one wearing a sun suit or a bathing suit. I, for example, had had this experience on summer weekends and at the beach.

“Sir, Master!” I called to a man. He seemed a friendly enough looking fellow.

He approached me, climbing to the platform. “Yes?” he inquired.

“I am a free woman,” I said, “but nonetheless I will call you ‘Master’.”

“I hoped that this would flatter him.

“Whatever you wish,” he said.

“And you are surely a very handsome Master,” I said. He was, as a matter of fact, very handsome. On the other hand, I was out to get my way. Men, incidentally, will believe anything they are told.

“Why, thank you,” he said.

“There is a legend over my head,” I said.

“Yes, there is,” he agreed.

“Can you read it?” I wheedled.

“Why, yes,” he said. “I can.”

“Please, please,” I wheedled. “Please read it for little Lita.” I referred to myself by this name. It was the name I had given to the two young men on the road, and also, if only to be consistent, to the Archon’s man. On the other hand I did not mind the name. I rather liked it. It excited me.

“It says,” said the man, “‘Whip me, if I speak without permission.’”

I turned white.

He smiled.

“It does not really say that, does it?” I asked, frightened.

“No,” he said.

“Please tell me what it says,” I said.

“We shall assume, for purposes of this discussion, that you are a slave,” he said.

“Very well, Master,” I said, puzzled.

“Do you believe that slaves should serve free persons,” he asked, “or that free persons should serve slaves.”

“I believe it is the slaves who should serve the free persons,” I said, hastily, “not the other way around.” I certainly did not want to have the flesh whipped off my bones.

“And if I read that legend for you,” he said, “I would be serving you, wouldn’t I?”

“Yes, Master,” I said.

“And you would not want that, would you?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

“Then,” he said, “you do not want me to read the legend for you.”

“No, Master,” I said, miserably.

“Very well,” He said and, chuckling, left.

I shook the chains in frustration. He seemed to be a very kind man. If I had not tried to be so clever, if I had not tried to trick him, he probably would have read the legend for me.

I watched him walking off.

He had not seemed eager, even desperate to please me, in spite of the fact that I was naked. I then realized, with a strange feeling deep within me, something akin to fear and excitement, that on this world it was the naked women, or scantily clad women, women who would be slaves, or would be presumed to be slaves, women such as I, who must serve and please the men. This was not Earth; it was Gor.

“Oh, Lady!” I called. “Please, Lady!”

The slave, alone, in the brief, sleeveless red tunic, with sides split to the waist, turned, to see whom I might be addressing.

“Lady!” I called to her.

“I am not a lady,” she said. “I am a slave.”

“Please,” I said. “Can you read the legend posted over my head?”

“Cannot you read?” she asked.

“No,” I said. I looked at her. She was nicely curved, with brown hair and eyes. She wore a close-fitting steel collar.

“I am sorry,” she said. “I cannot either. I was never taught.” She then sped on her way.

“What is going on?” asked the Archon’s man.

“Nothing, Master,” I said.

“If you delay slaves in their errands, and they are late,” he said, “they might be whipped.”

“I am sorry, Master,” I said.

“Why did you delay her?” he asked.

“I wanted her to read the sign posted over my head,” I said.

“Why didn’t you ask me?” he asked.

“I was afraid,” I said. “You did not read it to me. I thought then perhaps you did not want me to know what it said.”

“And, without determining whether that was true or not,” he said, “you nonetheless sought, perhaps thereby circumventing my will, to determine its contents?”

“Yes, Master,” I said. “Forgive me, Master!”

“You should be whipped,” he said. He unclipped the coiled slave whip from his belt.

“I am a free woman!” I told him.

“You have a slave’s body,” he said.

“Even so, I am a free woman,” I said.

“Perhaps you are a free woman,” he said. “It is hard to imagine a slave being so stupid.”

“Do not whip me,” I begged.

I saw him recoiling the blades of the whip. I viewed this action with unspeakable relief.

He then thrust it before my face. “Lick it, and kiss it,” he said.

“Please,” I begged.

“You will do so now,” he said, “or after you have been beaten with it.”

I then reached my head forward and, delicately, licked and kissed the whip. He then replaced the stern, supple disciplinary device on his belt.

“Master,” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

“Why did you not tell me what the sign said?” I asked.

“I showed it to you,” he said. “It did not occur to me that you could not read.”

“But I cannot,” I said. “Please tell me what it says!”

“Not now, pretty Lita,” he said. “Not now.” He then walked away. I stomped with my right foot. I shook the chains, angrily. Tears came to my eyes. I was being frustrated, as though I might be a slave.

The afternoon wore on.

My body and arms began to ache miserably.

From time to time one man or another in the crowd would pause to gaze on me. I usually looked away from them but, even so, it seemed I could sometimes sense their eyes on me, roving me with impunity. I chained as I was, was exposed to their gaze as any stripped slave.

Sometimes they would come up to the platform, to examine me more closely. The Archon’s man, however, would not permit them to touch my body or test my slave reflexes. Similarly, I was not required to respond to certain sorts of commands, for example, to make “slave lips,” pursing my lips for kissing, or to writhe slowly before my viewers. It was still regarded as a theoretical possibility, I gathered, that I might be free. “She is not for sale,” the Archon’s man told one fellow. “Too bad,” had said the fellow. “Not now,” had added the Archon’s man. “Perhaps later,” said the fellow. “Perhaps,” had agreed the Archon’s man.

It was late in the afternoon when, suddenly, my body stiffened in terror. I put my head down, swiftly, trembling. I wanted to hide but, Of course, I was held perfectly where I was, exposed, helpless in the shackles.

He must not have seen me! He must not have seen me!

I turned away a little, in the chains, as though merely to change my position.

My heart was pounding in terror.

He, of all people!

Surely he had not noticed me. Surely he had not seen me. He must not have seen me!

“Let the churl be stripped,” I had said, imperiously, “and a sign be put about his neck, proclaiming him a fraud. Then let him be marched naked, before the spears of guards, through the great gate of Corcyrus, not to be permitted to return before the second passage hand!”

But I could not run now. I, helpless, naked, chained in place, was being publicly displayed.

A Corcyran merchant had brought charges against him, a matter having to do with a bowl, purportedly silver, but only plated, and one bearing a forged mark, misrepresenting it as the work of the silversmiths of Ar.

Surely he must now have passed by.

Further inquiries had been made and it was found that he had among his goods a set of false weights.

He must now have gone. He must!

Too, it had been discovered that he had sold slave hair to the public, representing it as that of free women.

I was safe. He must have gone by now.

How pleased I was to have sentenced him to his humiliation, pronouncing the judgment of the Tatrix against him! How pleased I was to have seen him dragged by guards from my august presence.

How splendid, too, to have men serving one, obeying one, in this fashion! He had been an itinerant peddler, an obsequious, cringing, ugly, small, vile man with a twisted body. Surely he was one of the most detestable human beings I had ever seen.

I stiffened, again, in terror. Someone had joined me on the cement platform. I kept my head down. Then, as had happened two or three times before, I felt a thumb under my chin. My head was pushed up.

I found myself looking into the eyes of the peddler, Speusippus of Turia.

Chapter 18 - THE LEASH

Speusippus stepped back and regarded me. I kept my head up, looking at him.

He glanced up at the sign over my head. He could doubtless read it.

He then looked me over possessively, and slowly and with pleasure. He began to rub his hands together.

“Sir?” I asked.

“Sir!” he laughed. “It is now ‘Sir’ is it? ‘Sir’ for Speusippus. Excellent!”

I moved in the shackles. I felt so helpless!

“It seems our fortunes have changed somewhat,” he said. “Excellent.”

“I do not understand,” I said.

“How did you get here, so far away?” he asked. “How did this delightful shift in your circumstances come about?”

“I do not know what you are talking about,” I said. “I do not know you. I have never seen you before in my life.”

“Now it is you who are naked and helpless,” he said. “Splendid!”

“I think you have me confused with someone else, Sir,” I said. “I have never seen you before in my life.”

I then shrank back. He stood quite close to me. I felt his breath on my cheek.

“I am not stupid,” he whispered. “do not play games with me.”

“Sir?” I asked.

“I know who you are,” he said.

“Who?” I asked.

“Sheila,” said he, whispering in my ear. “You are Sheila, Tatrix of Corcyrus!”

“No,” I whispered. “No!”

“The office of the Archon will doubtless be pleased to learn the identity of its lovely prisoner,” he said.

“They will not believe it,” I said.

“They will conduct inquiries,” he said, “with rather clear consequences, I think, for yourself.”

“Do not tell them, I beg you,” I said. “They will take me to Argentum for impalement!”

He smiled.

“Please, do not tell them, Speusippus,” I begged.

“Sir?” he asked.

“Please, do not tell them, Sir,” I begged.

“It is pleasant for one such as I to be called ‘Sir’ by the Tatrix of Corcyrus,” he said.

“Please do not tell them,” I begged, “—Sir!”

“Who are you supposed to be?” he asked.

“The Lady Lita, of Lydius,” I said.

“‘Lita’?” he grinned. “That is a splendid name for you. Excellent.”

I trembled. That name, especially when not prefixed by Lady, I felt, somehow, did seem to have a certain rightness for me; I wondered if, in some sense, I was a “Lita,” or, say, a “Tuka,” or a “Lana,” other common names for slaves on Gor. Earth-girl names, too, incidentally, are commonly used as slave names on Gor, such as Jean, Joan, Priscilla, Sally, Deborah, Lois, Sandra and Stacy. At any rate the name did make me feel slightly uneasy, and excited, and rather like a slave. This was perhaps a function of its simplicity, loveliness and femininity. I hardly dared speculate what I might feel like if it were actually put upon me and I were then to discover that, by a master’s will, I had become “Lita.” The name was originally given to me, I recalled, by Drusus Rencius, put upon me as a part of my disguise, and for the purposes of my licensing, in the house of Kliomenes. I felt momentarily angry. The beast must have known that it was a common slave name.

“Where were you caught?” he asked.

“North of Venna,” I said, “on the Viktel Aria.”

“Well,” said Speusippus, “I think I will now call the Archon’s man and tell him who you are.”

“Please, do not, Sir,” I begged.

“And if I do not,” asked Speusippus, “what will you do?”

“Anything,” I whispered.

“Anything?” he asked, smiling.

“Anything!” I whispered.

“You may now begin to call me ‘Master,’ ” he said.

“‘Master’?” I asked, in horror.

“Yes,” he said. “It will be useful in your disguise.”

“I do not understand,” I said.

“You will be a free woman,” he said. “I would have it no other way. But your disguise will be quite thorough.”

“I do not understand,” I said.

“It will be delicious,” he said, “having the Tatrix of Corcyrus, a free woman, serve me as though she might be a mere slave, and with the full offices and services of the slave.”

“Do not so shame me,” I said. “If you must, simply enslave me.”

“No,” he said. “It is as a free woman that you will so serve me.”

“Never as a free woman!” I said.

“Very well,” he said. “I shall now call the Archon’s man.”

“No,” I said. “No.”

“Does Lady Sheila accept my terms?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Yes, what?” he asked.

“Yes—Master,” I sobbed.

“I see you have caught her,” Speusippus called to the Archon’s man. “Good work!”

“Do you know her?” asked the man, coming over to the platform.

“Yes,” said Speusippus. “She ran away a few days ago.”

“Who owns her?” asked the Archon’s man.

“I do,” said Speusippus. “She is mine.”

“What is her name?” asked the Archon’s man.

“Lita,” said Speusippus.

“It is not improbable that that is her name,” said the Archon’s man. “She was using it.”

“That was foolish, wasn’t it, Lita?” asked Speusippus.

“Yes, Master,” I said.

“Where did you lose her?” asked the Archon’s man.

“North, on the great road,” said Speusippus.

“That is where she was caught,” said the Archon’s man. “She is apparently yours. Do you have papers on her?”

“No,” said Speusippus.

“Do you have friends who can vouch for you, that she is yours?”

“I am from Turia,” said Speusippus. “I am a stranger in this beautiful city.”

“Things, then, are not so simple,” said the Archon’s man. “As you can see she is not even collared or branded. She is claiming to be a free woman.”

“No, Master,” I said.

“Perhaps I could hold her for ten days,” said the Archon’s man, “and then, if there are no other claimants, turn her over to you.” He looked at me. “What did you say?” he asked.

“I am not a free woman, Master,” I said. “I am a slave.”

“There are still problems,” said the Archon’s man. “She will deny that she is your slave.”

“No, Master,” I said. “I am his.” I almost choked on the words. Too, the words themselves frightened me, terribly. I knew that I was lying, of course, but still they frightened me. How fearful it would be, I thought, to say such words and know that they were true, that one did belong, fully, to a man.

“Do you admit that you are his slave?” the Archon’s man asked me. “Do you acknowledge that, and freely, and not under torture?”

“Yes, Master,” I said. “I am his slave.”

“Then you were lying to us before,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” I said.

He unclipped the whip from his belt.

“No, no,” smiled Speusippus. “That will not be necessary. I am sure that little Lita has learned her lesson. Haven’t you, Lita?”

“Yes, Master,” I said. I twisted in the chains, making sure that the Archon’s man had returned the whip to his belt. He had done so, I noted with relief.

“You have not even had her branded and collared,” said the Archon’s man. “If I were you I would see to these details promptly. If she escapes from you again, you might not recover her so easily. Someone else, having her properly marked and collared, might decide to keep her.”

“I shall take all of these matters under the most serious consideration,” said Speusippus, nodding soberly.

I smiled to myself. I saw that Speusippus had no intention of doing anything so cruel as putting a brand on me or anything as degrading as putting my neck in a collar. Too, he had not let the Archon’s man whip me. I saw that Speusippus would treat me with lenience, kindness and deference. I saw that I had nothing to fear from Speusippus. After all, I was a free woman, and the Tatrix of Corcyrus.

“Thank you, Master,” I said, in relief, to the Archon’s man, as he released my wrists from the shackles. It felt so good to put my arms down. I almost fell on the platform.

“Poor little Lita,” said Speusippus, sympathetically. He patted me, tenderly, on the shoulder. “This has been such a terrible experience for you. But do not worry now, little Lita, It is over. I will take you away with me now.”