KUR OF GOR
(Volume twenty-eight in the Chronicles of Counter-Earth)
by John Norman
Prolegomena to the Tale
The thing was a monster, of course.
There could be no doubt about that.
Some of you, naturally enough, might suppose that the Kurii themselves were monsters, but that is distinctly unfair. That would be similar to regarding, say, leopards, or lions, as monsters. They are merely another life form. There is no symmetry involved here, incidentally. Kurii, for example, do not, at least on the whole, regard human beings, in their varieties and configurations, as monsters, no more than human beings would regard sheep, rabbits, squirrels, goats, and such, as monsters. The human being regards such life forms as simply inferior forms of life. And so, too, do the Kurii, on the whole, regard human beings, such small, fragile, weak, vulnerable, slow, fangless, clawless, hairless life forms, as merely an inferior form of life. And, one must admit, a case might be made along those lines, though it might pain one somewhat to recognize or acknowledge it. In some respects, attempting to assume a posture of objectivity in the matter, however briefly, this typical Kur view has much to be said for it. It is doubtless substantially justified, if not in all respects correct. The Kur does recognize, of course, that the human being has certain features worth noting, for example its two prehensile appendages, its upright stature, increasing scanning range, its binocular vision, its occasionally exercised cunning, and such, but these features are not unprecedented, and, indeed, characterize a number of rational and semirational species. The Kur itself, for example, possesses similar features, though perhaps with a keenness and ferocity which constitutes a dimension less of degree than of kind. The human being does possess languages, and cultures and traditions, the latter often alien and inimical to one another, and numerous devices and tools, and even technologies, of an incipient type. These are, however, the latter in particular, inferior to those available to the Kur, when it chooses to make use of such things. The Kur, in many respects, retains, celebrates and cultivates, as a matter of tradition and choice, a number of rituals, habits, responses, and practices which one might, if one did not understand them as the Kur does, be regarded as excessively cruel and barbaric, such as the contests of the rings, and such. But the Kur, which is often eight to ten feet in height, if it should straighten its body, which it seldom does, and several hundred pounds in weight, and is clawed, and fanged, and long armed, and agile, and swift, often moving on all fours when it wishes to move most rapidly, and that is far faster than a man can run, prizes such things as its strength, and its speed, and its sensitivity, that is, in this case, its capacity to be easily aroused to rage. It does not apologize for its strength, its speed, its formidableness, such things. Nor does it attempt to conceal them. The Kurii, as humans, have produced several civilizations, some of which, as those of humans, have survived. But they have taken care to see that what we might tendentiously call their bestiality, or animality, or such, should not have been lost in these civilizations, at least in the surviving ones, to the frictions and abrasions of socialization. If there were Kur civilizations of a passive or benign nature, their historical records have not survived. Whereas the human being is commonly trained to suspect, regret, denounce, and officially repudiate his animal nature, sometimes even to the point of pretending it does not exist, and that he is a mere societal artifact, of whatever sort is currently recommended, the Kur has not cared to avail himself of such extreme and dubious stratagems. To be sure, the animal nature of the human being, driven underground, despising the facades of an acculturated hypocrisy, continues to prowl within, and, by means of a thousand twistings and subterfuges, will have its say. Surely it would be difficult to explain human history without some attention devoted to slaughter, envy, passion, greed, deceit, hypocrisy, ambition, lies, theft, corruption, assassination, murder, contempt, hatred, betrayal, and a large number of such attributes.
The Kur, in a variety of ways, you see, for better or for worse, openly acknowledges and expresses, and fulfills, his animal nature.
I report this. I neither denounce it nor commend it.
I suppose this would count as a difference between the Kur and the average human being. To be sure, if one lacks fangs and claws it is seldom to one's advantage to grapple with those who possess them. The average Kur on the other hand could best, unaided with weaponry, a typical forest sleen, and might seriously tear and bloody even a larl, though the larl would doubtless be the last to feed.
The human being is not really a tame animal, but it pretends to be. Indeed, in its effort to appear tame it may even poison and destroy itself, or, alternatively, and more usually, it may lend its animal nature to others, who will direct it in their own interests. Under the aegis and anonymity of an ideology, for example, what crimes might not be perpetrated with a conscience as clear as distilled venom?
Life exists largely, one notes, of predators and prey, though sometimes these relationships are politely, if not modestly, veiled. Perhaps you have noticed this. Certainly the Kurii are well aware of this and do not feign to ignore it. Nature poisoned, they understand, does not cease to exist, but will thenceforth exist in a deranged and malevolent manner. One of civilization's problems, you see, is to give nature its due and still survive.
The Kurii, in their ugly ways, manage this.
The Kur, in its surviving civilizations, then, gives nature its due, willingly, eagerly. That is why, perhaps, the Kur is what he is, as quick, as formidable, as dangerous as he is. Those who were not did not survive.
The Kur, then, is not a tame animal. It prides itself on its nature, its strength, its agility, its terribleness. It understands itself as a predator and would have it no other way. Daintiness of sensibility does not bring a species to the summit of a food chain.
Like many aggressive, dangerous animals, the Kur, interestingly, has its sense of propriety, and even honor. To be sure these things are normally limited to intraspecific relations. Men, for example, seldom include insects, vermin, cattle, and such, within the community of, say, honor. And the Kur seldom includes the human being within its community of honor. It would be absurd for it to do so.
For generations human beings slew their foes. Later, a great advance in civilization took place, and its name was slavery. For example, women of the enemy, particularly if young and beautiful, might now be kept about, rather as domestic animals, for the pleasure of new masters. Women, throughout human history, have counted as prizes, acquisitions, loot, spoils, and such. And one would be naive not to recognize that this pleases their vanity, even as they might writhe helplessly in their bonds. And things are not really so different now, one supposes, on some worlds, though the rituals of their pursuit and claimancy are subject to considerable variation. The Kurii, on the other hand, do not commonly practice slavery. Most often they eat their foes.
It is alleged, and we suppose with good reason, certainly we have no reason to doubt it, that the Kurii once had a world, a planet. We do not know what world that was, nor what might have been its star. But apparently that world no longer exists, at least as a viable habitat. The ambition, territoriality, aggression, and greed of Kurii groups, coupled with a remarkable technology, apparently resulted in its desolation or destruction. One can imagine the axis of such a world being explosively shifted, disastrously, perhaps even accidentally, producing lethal, global tumults of storms and climates. One might speculate on mines capable of blasting continents into orbit, and, then, consequent upon diminutions of mass, oceans being sucked away into space. Perhaps, too, the world as a whole was literally fragmented, broken into hundreds, perhaps thousands, of irregular, tumbling planetoids incapable of holding an atmosphere. Or perhaps its orbit was explosively affected, merely hurling it too close or too far from its primary, exiling it from a habitable zone. Or perhaps there was a braking of its rotation, perhaps suicidally intended, designed to produce two hemispheres, one a world of unrelieved light and heat, a scalding, furnacelike world, the other a world of perpetual darkness, a silent, polar waste. Perhaps, on the other hand, there was merely a radiological sterilization of the world, perhaps one rendering it progressively incapable of supporting life.
Whatever the particular stimulus or etiology of their migration, the Kurii long ago left their world. They may have voyaged for generations. But it is possible, too, they did not have so far to go. They currently inhabit a set of steel worlds, perhaps hundreds of them, mingled within, shielded within, what we, or you, I suppose, call the asteroid belt. The asteroid belt is perhaps the debris of what was once a planet. It is not impossible, though I do not think it likely, that it is the debris of what was once the planet of the Kurii.
Though it might once have been the world of a similar species, an animal capable of, say, destroying its habitat, of rendering itself extinct.
Such species doubtless exist. Perhaps you are aware of one.
Even the fiercest of enemies may upon occasion unite in a common project, willing to suspend their inveterate hostilities in order to achieve a common goal, say, that of discovering and acquiring a world suitable for the purposes of their life form. Should they acquire such a world they may then, as they wish, and as they probably would, return to their ancient ways, and contest it amongst themselves. It seems a plausible supposition that whatever world the Kurii might claim and conquer they will eventually allot its acres according to the measure of the sword. It would not be the first time a planet was turned into a battlefield, and its continents became fields of blood. But one must first have a world, a mat, a terrain, an arena. One needs a coliseum in which to so entertain oneself, in which to so fervently practice such enviable skills, and sports.
And so, despite their many internal divisions, their ancient prejudices and hatreds, Kurii are quite capable of uniting in a temporary, dark brotherhood, in a brotherhood with a particular object in view, that of obtaining a world.
This world should be small enough to lose hydrogen and large enough to retain oxygen; it should be neither too close to its primary nor too far; it should have a star of suitable longevity; it should rotate and have an inclined axis, these things to assure a periodicity of seasons; and it should have large amounts of water, accessible water, water in a liquid state. In short, it should be rather like Earth.
And so the Kurii, their provisional habitats nestled within, lurking within, the asteroid belt, wait.
And they are not a patient species.
Too, it offends their sense of propriety, or natural justice, that an inferior life form, such as the human, should have, much to itself, so precious a habitat. Surely they have done nothing to deserve so splendid a house within which to conduct their trivial, nasty affairs, their prosaic slaughterings unredeemed by poetry and glory. They did not earn their world. They did not build ships and beach on alien shores, and carry their flags and standards into new sunlights. They found themselves no more than born into a plenty, amongst treasures so circumambient and familiar to them they were unaware of their value. They did not realize the rarity, the excellence, of such a world. They were indigenous to the place, an accident, like bacteria and rodents, their location and their precedence no more than an undeserved fortuity. They did not measure themselves against a foe capable of resisting them. Too, it seems incomprehensible to the Kurii, as well as infuriating, that the human has seemingly so little respect for his world, which they see as so precious, that he has so little respect for that world that he could dirty it, and foul it, and place it in jeopardy.
It would be a fair question, then, though one founded upon a mistaken assumption, as we shall see, to ask why the Kurii, with their inclinations and capacities, and their sense of natural rightfulness, have not undertaken an action seemingly so obvious and one for which they are so eminently qualified.
The seizure of a world.
Surely the will is there.
Have they not come far for such a world? And perhaps, if so, is their search not now ended? Have they not now found the long-desiderated prize? Indeed, are they not now feasibly in its locality, lurking in the darkness, concealed amongst boulders, amidst drifting, floating forests of metal and stone, scrutinizing its unsuspecting lights from afar, through the porous ellipse of its borders? Are the reports of their scouts not cataloged and studied? Are they not, even now, at the gates, so to speak?
Certainly the wells and circles of space and time can be conveniently bridged.
There is no scarcity of technological expertise.
There is no shortage of power, nor of materiel, for the debris within which they conceal themselves is rich with chemicals, metals, and trapped gases. It could supply thousands of steel worlds for thousands of years, and be scarcely diminished.
Why, then, has the hand of the Kur not yet reached forth to seize so charming and vulnerable a prize, such a world, so coveted a treasure? Why have the words not yet been spoken, the orders not yet signed? Why have the ports and locks of the steel worlds not opened long ago, freeing the ships, that they might emerge like dragons, as silent as moonlight, from their caves? To what enchantment have they been subject? What incantation could hold such beasts bound? What spells might have forged their chains?
The answer to these questions is clear to the Kurii, and they have little to do with magic, except in the sense that a cigarette lighter, a hand grenade, a flashlight, would serve to an aborigine as evidence of sorcery.
The mistaken assumption of the question is that the Kurii have never undertaken such a venture. A better question would be, why do they not do so now.
Consulting the annals of the steel worlds, it seems that the paw of the Kurii, four times, did stretch forth to bury its claws in the pelt of a world, but, too, four times, it was drawn back, lacerated and bloody.
Something, you see, stands between the Kurii and their coveted world, a power, a form of life as far advanced beyond the Kur, as the Kurii are beyond those of Earth, as far as those of Earth would be beyond primitives beginning to learn pottery and weaving. The nature of this power is not clear to me, but it is seemingly quite real. It has its own world, I am told, a world not wholly unlike Earth. It is, in a sense, a sister world of Earth, though I gather it is not an offspring of the sun, as we suppose Earth to be, but rather entered its system long ago, following a search for a suitable star, much as nomads might have searched for lush grazing or fertile fields. It is spoken of in ancient records as the Antichthon, or Counter-Earth. Its name amongst some, amongst one or more of the rational species which inhabit it, is a strange one, one that is unclear to me—It is “Home Stone.” But this mysterious word, so unintelligible and obscure, is perhaps best left undeciphered. So, we will, as occasion arises, obviate any distractive, attendant difficulties of exegesis by using, untranslated, its most common native name, which is Gor. The world will then be spoken of as Gor. The most common name for its primary, in the same most common native tongue, is Tor-tu-Gor, or “Light-Upon-the-Home-Stone.” It would be doubtless fruitless to digress upon these semantic anomalies.
The utter masters of that world, which we will call Gor, are alleged to be the Sardar, an expression commonly translated as Priest-Kings, a word, we suppose, which tells us less of their nature than of the awe they inspire. Certainly it is a word suggesting power, perhaps of an unusually potent and unnatural sort, and mystery. One gathers the Priest-Kings are worshipped as gods, which flattery, if they have taken note of it, they apparently tolerate, and perhaps, for their own purposes, even indulge, and encourage. Priest-Kings, it is alleged, have mastered gravity, a force they can use for purposes as mighty as the forming, moving, and destroying of worlds, and purposes as trivial and convenient as visual and gravitational concealment, transportation, flight, work, and weaponry.
The nature of the Priest-Kings seems to be obscure. It is said by some that they are without form. This seems unlikely. Others claim they are invisible, and others, yet, that to see them is to die. Contradictions abound. It seems humans cannot get on without them. I see no reason to suppose that they are invisible. To be sure, it seems they are seldom seen, but this feature they share with many forms of life. Further, I see no reason to suppose that to see them is to die, though one might conjecture that they might be concerned to protect their privacy, with perhaps some severity. On Gor a caste exists, which we may refer to as that of the Initiates. The Initiates, in virtue of the study of mathematics, the adoption of various abstinences, such as the eschewing of beans, and a variety of spiritual exercises, and such, claim to be on intimate terms with the Priest-Kings and to be potent in their influence on them, for example interceding with them on behalf of generous clients, and such, say, calling down blessings, averting poor crops, prospering businesses, calming stormy seas, assuring success in warfare, and so on. They are also skilled in deciphering the secret messages encoded in the entrails of sacrificial beasts, prognosticating the meanings of the flights of birds, seen over one shoulder or another, interpreting the bellows and rumblings of flatulent tharlarion, and so on, all feats beyond the average layman. Their offices and efforts are invariably successful, and their predictions and prophecies are infallible, save when unforeseen factors intervene, which occurs not infrequently. My own suspicions in these matters is that the Initiates know as little of the Priest-Kings as anyone else, but they have hit upon an economic niche which may be profitably exploited. There are many ways to make a living and superstition affords a vein easily mined. It has much to commend it over honest labor. To be sure, one supposes the simpler of the Initiates take their nonsense seriously. Let us hope so. Too, doubtless they fulfill a need, if one which might seem to be something of a source of embarrassment for a putatively rational creature. Too, the average human might feel deprived, if not actually lost and lonely, if deprived of his superstitions. He is, after all, well aware of his vulnerability and the hazards of fortune. He is likely to appreciate any help he can get, or thinks he can get, or hopes he can get. And, too, who can prove that there are no secret messages lurking in the warm, bloody livers of slaughtered verr? And if the Priest-Kings choose to invest their intentions or reveal their will in the flights of birds or the emanations of discomfited tharlarion who is to gainsay them?
Human beings tend to assume that the Priest-Kings are rather like themselves, that they are human, or, at least, humanoid. Perhaps their vanity prompts such a speculation. Kurii, too, incidentally, assume that the Priest-Kings must be somehow akin to them. Surely the terror of their ships and the accuracy of their weaponry suggests that. But let us not waste fruitless speculation on this matter. Whatever may be the nature of the Priest-Kings, it is clear, as does not seem to be the case with many gods, that they exist.
The Flame Death, with which they commonly enforce their laws, if nothing else, mitigates against agnosticism in this matter.
One thing about the Priest-Kings puzzles the Kurii, and that is why this mysterious life form seldom behaves otherwise than defensively. They will react sharply if not inevitably to border crossings, but they will not pursue the rebuffed invaders; they will not seek them out, and destroy them in their lairs.
Indeed, Priest-Kings are tolerant of the presence of Kurii on Gor itself, provided they respect their technology and weapon laws.
One supposes the Priest-Kings have a different sense of civilization than, say, humans, or Kurii, who will commonly pursue and exterminate an enemy.
Perhaps the Priest-Kings recognize the Kurii as a life form, rather as the human, and, as such, as something of interest, perhaps of value, if only scientifically.
But let us proceed. Our account, after all, has little to do with Priest-Kings, whoever or whatever they might be. It has more to do with Kurii and humans.
Indeed, our story, in particular, as you may recall, has to do with the monster. It begins, in its way, on a moon of Gor, one of its three moons, and its smallest, that called the “Prison Moon."
And, interestingly, our story begins not with the monster, but with a human being.
Yes, one of those, a human being.
And a rather unusual human being, as it turned out.
Before we begin, however, as it will prove informative, we might briefly reference the common Kur attitude toward the human, other than understanding it as an inferior life form. In some steel worlds humans are kept rather as cattle, fattened, crowded, and used for feed. Kurii are fond of meat, particularly freshly killed meat. Some Kurii however keep humans as pets, and even grow fond of them. Certain other humans, selected humans, are raised to be work animals, or prey animals. The human makes an excellent prey animal, from the Kur point of view, as it can be bred for agility, elusiveness, and cunning. It can also be dangerous, and thus, consequently, is the sport of the hunt improved.
But now to the “Prison Moon,” where our story has its beginning.
Chapter, the First:
THE TALE BEGINS
The Containment Device
He thrust violently against the close, curving, transparent walls, howling with rage.
We can understand such emotions.
They are not strange to us.
In his own language his name was said to be Tarl Cabot.
Such things do not really much matter, with such creatures. Nonetheless, to themselves, and to some of their kind, they seem of much importance. I do not know, of course, whether it was important to him, or not. Perhaps some microorganisms arrange their cilia in some bizarre fashion, and then understand themselves as being somehow thereby exalted. Are names so important? Perhaps. But is that which is named not more important? One does not know with such creatures. I think they are strange.
They cannot tell themselves from their names, nor do they care to do so. They name themselves, and things, and think thereby to acquire them. They do not do so.
They have names; reality does not.
How is it, in any event, that they so invest themselves with such importance? What a piteously naive arrogance is therein displayed.
Are they truly so unaware of their small place in the yard of existence, so ignorant of the length of space and the breadth of time, of the flight of galaxies, of the journeys of streaming light, perhaps touching nothing for a hundred thousand years; are they unaware even of the patience of stone, cogitating its memories of a molten youth? It is hard to accept that they are the offspring of stars, a freshened reconfiguration of antique components long ago expelled into the darkness, but are we not all such?
They are so tiny, and so generally useless, an active rash on quietude, a small noise, perhaps brave in its way, in the night.
But are we not, in our way, as well?
When the Nameless One stirred the cauldron of stars did it intend them? Are they not a lapse of sorts? Might it have been distracted at the time? But in what workshop or cauldron was formed the Nameless One itself? From what unseen seas was it itself cast forth, beached on shores burnt by drifting, incandescent tides, and from whence came these, the tides, the continents, these, too, children of the mystery?
Before the Nameless One, you see, is the Mystery.
It is that which was, and that which is, and that which will be. And none have lifted its veil.
I suppose it is offensive to conceive that we are brothers to that woeful life form, the human, one so disgusting and treacherous in its diverse paths, one so despicable in its intolerable vanity. How absurd, how repulsive, one supposes, that we are siblings in virtue of the parentage of stars.
But then we may console ourselves that we are siblings, too, to the diatom, to the smallest living thing, to the worm in the sea, the mote in the air.
But how small, how trivial, is the human.
How easily might he be struck by some astral debris, not noticing him. Or fall prey to a prolific, invasive mite, a thousand mutations from an eye or claw, a mite not even visible to his eye.
And how despicable, how contemptible, is the human!
A spawn of greed, an embracer of comfort, a seeker of ease, a blemish on the world, a wart of vanity, a stranger to honor.
One who guards his mind, fearing it will awaken.
One who guards his mind, as one might guard a prisoner.
One who so treasures his mind that he dares not use it.
His bulwark is stupidity.
And what labor is not expended in its preservation!
How mighty is the sweet shield of ignorance!
How fearfully and carefully he burnishes it!
He is a herd animal. He is unworthy of the stars.
Yet there is in that life form a spark of awareness, for all its frivolity and frailty, for all its egregious contumely and its hideous ineptitude, a flicker of mind, however reluctant, in a largely oblivious, somnolent world. It is one of the rare places the universe has stirred, and awakened, and opened its eye, and looked upon itself, startled to learn that it exists.
Does it recoil, seeing itself in the human?
Surely it rejoices, seeing itself in us, we who are worthy of it.
It is conscious in countless minds, of course, in that of the mouse, and cat, in that of the urt and verr, in that of the barracuda, in that of the viper and leopard, in that of the hith and larl.
But we are most worthy of it.
In us is its nature most fully manifested. Are we not the outward form of its inward horror, or essence? Are we not the choice fruits of its inward terrors, the splendid robes of its dark, shrieking soul? In us, it finds its fangs, and talons, its hunger, its indifference, its terribleness, its sublimity, its rage, its glory.
And it is through our eyes that it sees the stars.
One day, perhaps, the human will disband his herds and be free. One day, perhaps even the human will lift his head, and see the stars.
They are there.
I am personally, you see, not ill disposed to the human.
If I were I should not tell this story, which deals primarily with some humans, and something not human, with the monster.
And, of course, with the Kurii.
I wonder if you know of them.
They know of you.
You could not understand our name for the human with whom we will begin. In fact, you would not even know it was uttered. One might use our name for the human, of course, but you could not pronounce it. For example, if a leopard or a lion, or a larl or a sleen, had a name for you you would doubtless not recognize it as a name, let alone as your name. We will, accordingly, refer to that individual with whom we shall begin by that name by which other humans might know him, namely, as Tarl Cabot, or, as some will have it, Bosk, of Port Kar.
He pounded again, and again, at the transparent walls, until his hands bled.
Bruised, and bewildered, he sank down then, naked, inside the bottlelike container. Such containers taper toward the bottom, that wastes may drain from them. They taper, too, toward the top. Near the top a tube descends periodically, automatically, through which liquid, if the occupant chooses to live, may be drawn by the mouth into his body. The entire facility is automated, though one supposes some supervisory personnel may be in attendance, if only by means of olfactory devices, listening devices, cameras, or such. Certainly one seldom sees them. The tube's descent is indicated by an odor. The corridors are commonly empty and silent. One may conjecture, occasionally, from the outside, that within the containers there is sound, this being surmised from the expressions of the occupant, the motions and configurations of his mouth, the gestures of his limbs, such things. The container is rather oval, or ovoid, rounded, ascending rather vertically, but narrowing, rounded, toward the top and bottom. The diameter, in measurements likely to be familiar to the reader, would be something like four feet, whereas the container, as a whole, is something like eight feet in height, though much of this space is not conveniently utilizable, given the tapering at the top and bottom. In such a container one sleeps as one can. Indeed a soporific gas may be entered into the container remotely, which suggests there is some actual surveillance of the containers. Too, the air in the container may be drawn from the container, should one wish, say, to terminate an occupant, clear the space for a new occupant, and so on. Too, it might be noted that the corridor itself, as most of the structure, is airless. This contributes to the incarcerational efficiency of the facility.
Various life forms may be kept in such containers.
From where he was contained, the human in question, Tarl Cabot, could see several tiers of similar containers, several of them occupied. He did not realize at the time the absence of air outside the container, as the container itself contained a regulated, breathable atmosphere. And probably some of the other life forms did not understand that either. One supposes, incidentally, that there were diversities in the container atmospheres, as, upon inspection, there appeared to be substantial dissimilarities amongst their occupants.
In the human species, aside from some unusual specimens, there are two sexes. Commonly both collaborate in replication. Interestingly, the biological functions of conception, gestation, and nurturance in the human species are all centered in a single sex, that of the female. Among the Kurii, on the other hand, the procedures of replication are conveniently divided amongst three, or, if you like, four sexes. There is the dominant, the submissive, and the nurturant, who gestates and nurtures, until the child is mature enough to chew and claw its way free. At that point it is ready for meat. It is not clear if the nurturant was a naturally evolved entity or if it was the result of biological engineering long ago, in the Kurii's original world, or one of its worlds, for it may have destroyed more than one. Indeed, the technology of the nurturant might have been obtained from another species. It is not known. These thing are lost in the prehistory of a species, so to speak, or at least in the time from which no histories remain. The fourth sex, if one may so speak, is the nondominant. Under certain unusual circumstances the nondominant becomes a dominant. It is very dangerous at such times, even to dominants.
The individual, Tarl Cabot, doubtless called out a number of times, angrily, requesting an explanation or justification for the predicament in which he had so unexpectedly found himself. That would be only natural. From outside the container, of course, given the container and the near vacuum of the corridor, he could not be heard, nor, it seemed, was there anyone there to listen. He may not have recognized this, or, if he suspected it, he might have supposed that somehow sounds from within the container might be conveyed, doubtless by means of some listening device, to some point at which they might be audited, or recorded, for future audition. On the other hand, given the emptiness of the corridor, and the absence of intelligible communication from an outside source, he had no assurance that his demands, protests, or such, were anywhere registered, or even that they might be of the least interest to anyone or anything.
Needless to say this can be unsettling.
Indeed, it can derange certain sorts of minds. The instincts of many caged animals, on the other hand, are more healthy. Understanding themselves trapped, they are patient, and wait. Beyond a certain interval they do not exhaust their resources, but conserve them, almost lethargically, for a given moment, for the sudden movement, for the lunge, the movement to the throat. So, after a time, Tarl Cabot, who was not particularly disanalogous to such beasts, became quiescent, at least as far as external observation might detect. This was in conformance, incidentally, with certain recommendations of his caste codes. One can learn much, even from the codes of humans. He was, as we learned, of what on Gor amongst humans is referred to as the scarlet caste. This is a high caste, doubtless because it is armed. Individuals of this caste are of great value to their cities, their employers, their princes, so to speak. Indeed, they are indispensable in their way; have they not, however unintentionally, secured the foundation of law; have they not, however unbeknownst to themselves, raised from the mire of brutishness, insecurity, and terror the towers of civilization? Surely it is they who must man the walls and defend the bridges, who must police the streets and guard the roads, and who will in sunlight, or in darkness and storms, carry forth the standards. They are unusual men and seldom understand their own nature, nor need they. Perhaps it is better that they do not. Let them laugh and fight, and drink and quarrel, and seek their slaves in conquered cities and taverns, and chain them and put them to their feet, and not inquire into the dark and mighty processes which have bred them, which have made them so real, and necessary. And so they are encouraged to emulate the stealth and savagery of the larl, the cunning and tenacity of the sleen, the vigilance and swiftness, the alertness, of the mighty tarn. They are companions to discipline; they are hardened to short rations, long watches, and the march; they are inured to the exigencies of camp and field; and trained to fight, and kill, preferably swiftly and cleanly. They do not know how they came to be, but they would not be other than they are. They are more beast than man, and more man than beast. They are, so to speak, dangerous beasts with minds. And such have their utilities. We may laud them or despise them. They are called Warriors.
Life is very real where they live it, at the edge of a sword.
The reader may be interested in obtaining an account, however superficial, of certain events antecedent to the incarceration of the individual, Tarl Cabot.
It is rumored that within recent years certain tumults or transitions have taken place in the realm of Priest-Kings. I do not know whether that is true or not. Who is to say what thrones may have been toppled, what crowns seized? Surely such things, coups, insurrections, fatalities, suppressions, and such, are not unknown even within the benign civilizations of the habitats. And are they not useful in subverting stagnation, and improving bloodlines? And if such things occurred, it is not impossible that they may have had a role in this business. Again, one does not know. On the other hand, such things, such conjectured events, bloody or otherwise, are not strictly germane to this history.
The individual, Tarl Cabot, had, it seems, upon occasion proved to be of some value to Priest-Kings. In some eyes, though not in his, we may conjecture, he was even taken as an agent of Priest-Kings. And certainly, whether this be so or not, one may well suppose that any behavior of his which might have been deemed counter to the interests or policies of those mysterious beings would not have been likely to be generously countenanced.
We can understand these things.
In this respect I do not think we are so unlike the Priest-Kings, whoever, or whatever, they may be.
In the north of Gor, in its polar regions, inhabited sparsely by tribes of humans known as the Red Hunters, recognizable by the small blue spot at the base of their spine, it is said that he, this Tarl Cabot, once encountered a great war general of the Kurii, Zarendargar, whose name, for convenience, we have transliterated into phonemes hopefully accessible to at least some readers of this tale, certainly in this translation. Colloquially, doubtless with a certain crudity, he, Zarendargar, was spoken of as “Half-Ear.” And, of course, few of the Kurii who ascend high in the rings will be without certain blemishes. A certain area of the polar region was at that time being used as staging area, under the command of the aforementioned Zarendargar, a staging area with munitions and such, for an attack on the Sardar enclave, destined to suddenly, decisively, and irremediably terminate the rule of Priest-Kings, destroying them in their own most-favored haunts or lairs. It had taken better than a century for this materiel, bit by bit, to be secretly assembled. One can well understand then its preciousness and importance to the Steel Worlds, its relevance to their projects, and such. The staging area, however, was destroyed, and somehow, in some way, Tarl Cabot seems to have been involved in its destruction. It was supposed at the time that Zarendargar was destroyed in the explosion, or conflagration, or such. But this turned out to be mistaken. When it became clear that Zarendargar had survived the destruction of the staging area, a death squad was dispatched from the Steel Worlds to hunt him down and kill him, for he had, after all, failed the people. The policies and decisions connected with the transmission of the death squad were controversial, incidentally, in the councils of the Steel Worlds, and the decree of termination, some months later, would be rescinded. This, of course, could not have been anticipated by the personnel of the Death Squad. Representatives of the Death Squad contacted Samos of Port Kar, clearly an agent of Priest-Kings, and Tarl Cabot, for assistance in hunting down and executing Zarendargar. It was assumed naturally that this assistance would be readily tendered for Zarendargar was well understood to be significant amongst the Kurii and a relentless, dedicated, and dangerous foe of Priest-Kings. The putative location of the at-that-time-fugitive Zarendargar was the vast prairies of the Gorean Barrens. Tarl Cabot, however, instead of lending his assistance to the Death Squad, himself entered the dangerous Barrens to warn Zarendargar and, if possible, protect him. This effort, of course, was not only contrary to the desires of the Death Squad, but, too, seemed clearly to be an act not in the best interests of Priest-Kings. On whose side, so to speak, was this mysterious, unpredictable, ungoverned Tarl Cabot? Was he an agent of Priest-Kings? Was he an agent of Kurii? If he was an agent, it seems he was his own agent, or an agent of honor, for, long ago, it seems, he and Zarendargar had shared paga.
In any event Tarl Cabot, having returned from the Barrens, and having learned later of his putative outlawry, resolved to leave the maritime city of Port Kar, only to return when it might be safe to do so, this intelligence to be gathered from agreed-upon secret signals to be displayed on the holding of his friend, Samos, of Port Kar.
Tarl Cabot remained at large, so to speak, for some time.
The surveillance of Priest-Kings is rather efficient, as we have reason to know, but it is also, as we have reason to know, far from perfect, particularly so in recent years. Perhaps this has to do with transitions or dislocations in the Sardar, such as have been occasionally rumored. But perhaps not. It is hard to know. Surely small ships, at least, manned by humans, have frequently enough, of late, penetrated the atmosphere of Gor. Many, apparently detected, have been ignored. Others, pursued, have eluded their pursuers. I personally suspect that this lapse of attentiveness or this seemingly tolerant permissiveness, or this seeming lack of zeal, on the part of Priest-Kings, and their ships, presumably mostly automated and remotely controlled, has less to do with technological limitations than with some reordering of priorities in the Sardar, perhaps even with an acceptance of the general harmlessness of the ships involved, and a disinterest in their common cargoes. It may be a simple matter of balancing costs. It is hard to know. Our information is clearly incomplete, and conjectural. On the whole, Priest-Kings seem tolerant of other life forms, their activities, partialities, and such. Indeed, they may even look with approbation, given the apparent current infrequency of their voyages of acquisition, or collection, on the introduction of additional human life forms to the world. To be sure, the chains of human females brought to Gor might conceivably, eventually, in some centuries, depress certain relevant markets. At that point presumably only carefully selected, high-quality merchandise would be brought to her shores. But one knows little about such things.
Eventually, however, we may conjecture that the presence of Tarl Cabot was detected. This may have been a matter of chance. On the other hand, he may have been sought for ardently, perhaps because of the heinousness of his offense, his treasonous concern for the welfare of an enemy. Perhaps he was to be used as an example. It is not known.
We now find him, at any rate, naked, in his container, in perfect custody.
He is completely helpless, and fully at the mercy of his captors, or keepers. In this respect he is not much unlike the human females whom men of his sort, on Gor, are wont to keep for their work and pleasure. They, of course, are not at the mercy of captors or keepers, but of owners, and masters. They are owned, you see. They are properties, possessions. Also, they are legally, and in the eyes of all, animals. And as such, as any other form of such an animal, an owned animal, for example pigs or verr, they are subject to barter, exchange, gifting, sale, and such. They are spoken of as slaves.
Whereas Kurii may own humans, and several do, they do not think of them as “slaves,” no more than men of Gor would think of their verr and kaiila as slaves, or those of, say, Earth, would think of their pigs and horses, or cattle, as slaves. They are simply domestic animals. The slave, then, from the Gorean view, is a domestic animal, but a particular type of domestic animal, one different, obviously, from other types, such as the verr or kaiila. Thus, not all domestic animals are slaves, but all slaves are domestic animals. Too, many Gorean men seem to be as fond, or even more fond, of their slaves than of, say, their sleen or kaiila, animals commonly much more expensive. To be sure, they master them with firmness, and do not let them forget that they are only slaves. That is seemingly the Gorean way.
Tarl Cabot was not certain how long he had been incarcerated in the heavy, narrow, glassine container. Nor are we. It was perhaps some days, or weeks. Given the absence of clocks, the unknown periodicity of feedings, if they were periodized, the nature of the soporific gas, and such, it would be hard to say.
The gravity in the venue, the Prison Moon, was currently indexed to that of its mother world, Gor, to which it was a satellite. We are not clear, given the small size of the moon, a mere several pasangs in diameter, how this was managed. It is done differently, certainly, and perhaps more primitively, in the cylinders and spheres, in the Steel Worlds. The capabilities of the Priest-Kings, whoever or whatever they may be, are not well understood. Certainly it would not do to underestimate either their power, resolve or sagacity. Four times the Kurii erred in this regard, and their mistakes were costly. That such, the Priest-Kings, have form, and can interact with matter, however, seems obvious. The Prison Moon, for example, seems to make that clear, as it is obviously an artificial moon, with its architectural steel, its absorbing cells, its focusing and power mirrors, its shielding, and such, one perhaps once used for purposes of extra atmospheric observation, perhaps low-gravity experiments, and such. It seems unlikely that it was originally designed as a facility for the retention and storage of life forms, or, if you like, as a maximum-security prison for, say, particular prisoners.
Shortly before the unexpected disruption, one which seems to have taken even Priest-Kings unawares, this seemingly adding indisputable and welcome evidence as to their limitations and vulnerability, two human females were entered into the container in question.
It is clear they were females, as the human species is characterized by an obvious and radical sexual dimorphism.
It is seldom difficult to tell a human female from a human male.
Their sexes are quite different.
Too, as is common in the human species, these two females were considerably smaller than the average male, and considerably weaker.
That tends to be a characteristic of the human female.
Size and strength are common features of the human male, and accordingly the human female, smaller and weaker, often seeks to secure and protect herself within the shelter of these features.
These two females were in some respects similar, and in other respects quite different. Both were, as we understand it, of the sort which would be attractive, even excruciatingly so, to a human male. One was darkly pelted, with brown eyes, and the other was lightly pelted, or blondishly pelted, with blue eyes. Both were young, the darkly pelted one perhaps a bit older than the other. Each was, as tests later demonstrated, healthy and fertile. Each, too, was characterized by delicate, even exquisite, features, of a sort so clearly different from the coarse type found commonly in the human male. This has perhaps to do with several millennia of sexual selection. Too, both were, as humans understand such things, deliciously figured, this, too, doubtless having to do with generations of sexual selection. Indeed, the figures of both were nearly, if not quite, at what merchants in these matters refer to as the optimum block measurements for their size and weight. Block measurements, taken presale, are commonly, and in some cities this is required by law, included in a female's sales information. They are often available, as well, before the female is put on the block, hence the name ‘block measurements'. Needless to say, too, given the female's subjection to severe regimens of rest, diet, and exercise, it is almost assured, as is desired, by attention to these “block measurements,” that she will come to the block in excellent condition, healthy, vital, and well-curved. That is the way she is to be sold. She is, after all, merchandise, and, hopefully, good merchandise. Too, we may suppose, being healthy, each had the needs and desires of a healthy female, and, considering their selection, may have had these drives, and such, in an acute fashion, even uncomfortably so, which would render them particularly sexually vulnerable. Gorean slavers, for example, often pay close attention to such things. After all, most men buy women for pleasure.
Both of these females were of the sort, then, which, on Gor, would be of interest to buyers. They were typical of the females found in Gorean markets, and were perhaps, we suspect, given their insertion into the container, somewhat above average. Presumably both would have gone for a good price, and certainly so if they had been brought within suitable block measurements, to which, as noted, they were already in close approximation.
At the time that these females were entered into the small compass of the container Tarl Cabot was sedated, and thus unaware of their insertion into his small world.
They, too, at the time, must have been sedated.
The corridor was doubtless pressurized prior to their insertion into the container, and then returned to its near-vacuum condition.
This was done shortly prior to the disruption, as well.
That was seen to.
I have mentioned that the females were quite different, and you must understand that these differences pertained to far more than their pelting, eye color, and such. Before I discourse, however briefly, on certain of these differences, I mention something you, or some of you, may find of interest. That is that the human female, and the male, as well, for that matter, is relatively hairless. This may be an adaptation to facilitate heat loss in long-distance pursuit and pack hunting, or, again, it may have to do merely with preferences involved in sexual selection, or both. It is hard to know about such things. A consequence of this lack of hair, or fur, is that the species, in its wanderings and migrations, certainly into colder areas, must clothe itself. This seems to have been done first by taking the skins and fur of other animals, with which the Nameless One, if it was concerned at all with such matters, had refused to provide them, and later particularly by the utilization of plant fibers, and such. Clothing also, it seems, interestingly, is often worn by the species even when it is not climatologically indicated, and, indeed, sometimes when it is even uncomfortable. It can serve, of course, as a decoration, a symbol of status, a concealment of provocative or vulnerable areas, and so on. The harnesses and accouterments of the Kurii are presumably not dissimilar, at least in some of these respects. Female slaves may or may not be clothed, of course, as the master pleases. This increases their sense of vulnerability, and dependence. The female slave is seldom unaware of her condition but, too, interestingly, seldom does she wish to be. Her bondage may be her terror, but more often it is her meaning and joy. This apparently has to do with a variety of genetic antecedents and endowments, dispositions and complementarities, selected for in the long and interesting course of human evolution. One does not note with surprise that such complementarities should occur in a species so sexually dimorphic. Indeed, one would expect them. When they are clothed, the female slaves, it is often minimally, and provocatively. This reminds them, too, of their bondage, and is sexually stimulatory not only to the masters but to the chattels, as well. The pelting of the Kur female, of course, on the other hand, is thick, abundant, rich, and glossy, and, in season, heavy. How could a human female even begin to compare with a Kur female in beauty, let alone in power or ferocity? Her fangs for example, are negligible. The human female could not, for example, in three or four Ihn, tear loose a limb from a terrified, struggling tabuk.
But now to the more important aspects which characterized the new additions to Tarl Cabot's container.
Neither, in effect, at least as yet, was Gorean.
One, the darkly pelted female, was from an area on Earth not unfamiliar to Tarl Cabot himself. It is called an England, of which there are apparently more than one. He himself, we have learned, was from a seaport in that country or world, called Bristol. He attended an institution or institutions in this England, institutions of what they think of as “higher learning.” But one suspects they are, as yet, as a species, scarcely capable of what one might call “lower learning.” This supposed learning, as it is spoken of, took place, it seems, in a place where cattle were once wont to ford. That seems a strange place to build. At least they have a world. The female, who is intelligent and quite articulate, at least until she was taught silence and the appropriateness of petitioning for an opportunity to speak, was also a supposed learner, or student, in that very same place, though not exactly in the same place. These things are hard to understand. Her background was rich and her family had standing in that world. She would have counted as having been of the high classes. But I do not think her family earned its class or wealth honestly or honorably, for example through the rings, but then that is not unusual amongst humans. She was a student of “anthropology.” Here the translator is less than helpful. It is presumably a sort of history or literature, perhaps having to do with chants and songs. Perhaps it has to do with knowing the traditions, but the traditions are different in diverse worlds. How could one know them all? Too, they may guard their traditions. Is it appropriate to inquire into such things? If dogs or pigs had such studies, their anthropologies, or such, who could find them of interest? Perhaps a biologist? Perhaps a dog or pig? But such things are now behind the female. Her life has changed. It is interesting to note that her background is in some respects similar to that of Tarl Cabot. That may be important. She was apparently obtained by Priest-Kings for some purpose or another. I suspect the reason. We may learn later. In any event, she was not acquired by our human confederates, though it is also clear, from their assessments, that she was quite capable of satisfying their usual criteria. Indeed, I have been informed that had they been aware of her she would have been entered on their acquisition lists. In such a case she would have eventually found herself on a Gorean slave block, being auctioned to the highest bidder.
Accordingly one gathers she is a most excellent example of human female, highly intelligent, healthy, nicely curved, and quite beautiful, at least for the species, and acutely sexually needful. Too, she is tormented by the restless, uneasily sensed suspicions and yearnings, so alien to her acculturation, which afflict so many such women, longings which frighten her, and into which she fears to inquire. These longings have to do with her nature, and her identity, with what she is, most profoundly, and what she should be, absolutely. They are the longings of an acutely needful but as-yet unmastered slave.
The blondishly pelted female, certainly culturally, is quite different.
She was hitherto from one of the Steel Worlds, one of the animals kept there, she for the purpose of grooming her master. The tiny fingers and nibbling teeth of such females are well fitted for this task.
It was not perfectly clear at the time how she came into the possession of Priest-Kings. One supposed it might have been a matter of bartering at an exchange point, between our humans and those of Priest-Kings, for such interactions occasionally occur, however illegitimately; or she may have been taken to the surface by our human allies as, so to speak, negotiable currency, to be there exchanged unobtrusively for local coin. That is sometimes done. Too, there might have been a crashed or downed ship. Perhaps then she had been retrieved from her cage, perhaps drawn from fiery or smoking debris. Her master or keeper in the meantime might have made good his escape, or perhaps failed to do so, was apprehended by Priest-Kings, and routinely destroyed.
You might suppose that we could have easily solved this problem, how she came into the keeping of Priest-Kings, by simply asking her, but that would be incorrect, for she, as a typical Kur human, had never been taught to speak. Would you, for example, teach a dog, or pig, to speak?
That they can be trained for simple tasks is more than enough.
It is interesting to consider how easily the continuities of tradition or civilization may be broken.
Absent a species for a single generation from socialization and we have not even barbarians, only animals.
Clever animals, but animals.
This done, let us return our attention to the slight, but shapely, occupants of the container in question.
Both of the females, of course, were naked.
It is thus that Priest-Kings commonly keep their prisoners.
It was not originally clear for what reason the females were introduced into the container. Perhaps, one supposed, they were merely gifts for him, rather as might have been food, for another of his appetites. Certainly it seemed clear, at least at first, they were not used for purposes of torture, for then they would have been placed, presumably, in an adjacent container, where they might have been deliciously exposed, but inaccessible, rather as hot, savory food might have been placed just beyond the reach of a chained, starving man. One supposes, too, they were not placed with him in the container for purposes of breeding, for that would make little sense under the circumstances. Presumably Priest-Kings, if interested in such matters, would select appropriate seed and eggs, fertilize them, and then tend the consequent embryos, at least for a time, in a secure laboratory environment. They might then be raised for a time in containers, several months, say, or implanted in the bodies of various host mothers, of various suitable species, human or otherwise, for a natural birth later. Some Goreans breed slaves, of course. This is commonly done by agreement amongst masters. There are, too, of course, the slave farms. Some members of the caste of physicians, incidentally, concern themselves with such matters, for example, by implanting fertilized eggs in host mothers. In this way, a prize slave may be used to produce numerous offspring. The same thing is done routinely with other domestic animals. On the whole, however, this is rare with Gorean humans, who tend to be traditional in such matters and accordingly are inclined to refrain from such practices. In this respect, they are much like the Kurii, who are also reluctant to avail themselves of such devices, and who, indeed, interestingly, profess to find them unnatural and distasteful. The Kurii, for example, when they wish to breed humans, commonly chain them, left wrist to right wrist, right wrist to left wrist, left ankle to right ankle, right ankle to left ankle. After a time, this works rather well. I mention this in passing. One does not know the views of the Priest-Kings on these matters. In these respects, the Sardar is silent.
We supposed, originally, then, that they were placed in the container for his pleasure, for human males commonly derive great pleasure from the females of their species, a pleasure of which they avail themselves avidly and frequently, a pleasure not limited to certain hours or seasons, but one sought, it seems, at any hour, and in all seasons. On the other hand, as it turned out, and as we should have surmised, as the male was a prisoner, this was not the case. Rather a most insidious form of torture was intended, at least for a male of his particular type.
In order to understand the nature of this torture, one might note that the two females involved had not been selected for their role in this matter at random. They had been selected with great care. Both had, of course, been selected for their unusual desirability as human females. They were both of the sort which could drive a human male mad with desire. The girl from the Steel Worlds, of course, was no more than an animal, but she was doubtless familiar with, if contemptuous of, human males, whom she knew, of course, too, as animals, speechless animals like herself. She had been, after all, the grooming pet of a Kur master, and held herself, accordingly, superior to others of her species. Certainly she had not been bred, nor did she wish to be. She was special, in her way. She knew her name in Kur and could respond to certain commands in Kur. She could not speak it, of course, as her vocal apparatus was unsuited to the formation of its phonemes. As the pet of a Kur she had an unusual status amongst the few humans in the Steel Worlds. Doubtless she was somewhat aware of her effect on males, and was not disinclined to take pleasure in their discomfiture. She was a vain little thing, not unaware of her charms, and the pleasures of utilizing them to taunt and frustrate weak and helpless males, from whom she had nothing to fear. On the Steel Worlds she would have had the protection of her collar, which was wide and locked on her neck. It identified her master in Kur, and gave her much standing amongst those of her species. It was not a slave collar, of course, as she was not a slave, but merely an animal. It served much the same purpose as might a collar on, say, a dog on Earth. She was an animal, of course, but a very clever animal, a sly, cunning, vain, shapely, little animal. It is supposed she was included with Tarl Cabot and the other female not simply for her attractiveness, which was considerable, but for at least two other reasons. First, there was her basic raw animality, and, in its way, its associated simplicity and innocence. She would be unfamiliar with the touch of men. In this she had something of the charm of a virgin and the fascination of an unacculturated, primeval, shapely beast. Such, it is supposed, would present a normal male with an interesting, unusual, and naive object of desire, one which could be interestingly exploited, and conveniently and ruthlessly ravaged, doubtless to her bewilderment, and consternation, rather like the young female slaves who are raised in isolation from men and do not even know men exist, until, after being drugged, they are rudely awakened, to shouts and music, to find themselves in a collar, and being seized at feasts of victory, to be well ravished, afterwards to be distributed to favored officers. The second reason she was included in the container was doubtless to complicate the social interactions, so to speak, even to the point of hatred and anguish, in the small environment she shared with her fellow prisoners. This would have little to do, of course, with any initial indecision which might perplex or trouble the male, however briefly, confronted with such riches, for he might eventually, surely, enjoy either as he might please, and in any order or frequency he might find interesting or convenient.
For example, it is not unknown for a Gorean man to have more than one slave, that they may desperately compete with one another, each striving zealously to please him more than the other, that she may become his favorite. To be sure, this is a situation commonly productive of misery, jealously, and hatred amongst the slaves. Which female wishes to found inferior to another? Even a female not yet broken to her collar will strive to be found not less pleasing than another. Her own womanhood insists on this, as does her pride, her self-image, her concern for her own desirability, her sense of her own worth and value as a female. How intolerable to be found less a female than another! But then perhaps, at a moment, one even unexpected, kneeling, she looks up, into his eyes, and sees suddenly that he is her master, in a sense a thousand times more profound than the indisputable and perfected legalities in which she is irretrievably enmeshed, and wholly helpless to alter or qualify. Then perhaps the other woman is marketed, who may hope then to find a private master, as well. She who has been kept is now the single slave of a private master. She is humble and grateful. She is zealous to be such a slave to him that he will not desire another. She lives to love and serve. She fears only that he may find her in some way insufficiently pleasing. She rejoices. She has been found worthy of a man's collar. What a dignity, to wear a man's collar! What a badge of selection and excellence is that insignia, proving that she is lovely enough and desirable enough to be a slave! How free women, pretending to despise her, and her radiance, and happiness, envy her that distinction!
The anguish, the tumult, the distress, the rage, the conflict, the jealousy, in the container, as disturbing and irritating as it might be to the male, would be largely, doubtless calculatedly, consequent upon the interactions of the two females. Which female might be chosen, so to speak, or favored, and what would be the consequences of that choice with respect to the other female, and the male? Females, of course, compete for the attention of males, as would be biologically anticipated. They dress for them, they concern themselves with their appearance, their posture, their speech, and behavior. They wish to be found attractive to males.
Men, of course, compete for females, sometimes with the sword. But females, too, in their way, compete for men. Who has not seen the difference in the behavior of even veiled free women when in the presence of men, how they stand, how they hold their heads, how they speak, with such pretended, insouciant indifference? And, too, who has not seen the even more obvious competitions amongst the girls on a slave shelf when a handsome fellow is in the vicinity, their languorous poses, as though unaware of his presence, or, say, their smiles, their vivacity, or perhaps even, with the rustling of chains, the lifting of their small shackled limbs to him, begging that a bid may be made upon them?
The female from the Steel Worlds may have seldom seen another human female, unless perhaps to drive her away from the vicinity of her master, with hissing, and teeth and nails, lest she should attempt to groom him. But she would certainly in any case be acutely aware that the lovely stranger in the enclosure with her was another female, and thus an enemy, or competitor. And the English girl, aside from her confusion and consternation at finding herself as she was, unclothed, not even a thread upon her body, inexplicably confined in the small, narrow, glassine, ovoid container, within an arm's reach of a similarly confined male, would be only too aware not only of the presence of the male but of the other female, as well, who was startlingly young, beautiful, and desirable. Too, there was something about the other female that seemed somehow incomprehensibly different from the women with which she was familiar. There was something somehow animallike about her. She seemed untutoredly, rawly, primitively, radically female. Never had she encountered such a female. How could she, as a civilized creature, even stripped, compare with such a sensuous little beast? In her presence, she was acutely sensitive of her own deficiencies, her deficiencies as a female animal, one reduced to its biological essentials. A hundred transparent, inhibitory wrappings swathed her about, constricting her; a culture's tendrils and trammels had been tightened about her; she had been shaped by frowns, images, propounded exemplars, small remarks, sneers, customs, and scoldings for years, subtly taught, by a multitude of cultural stratagems of which she was scarcely aware, to belittle and discount, if not despise, the very substance of herself, the very core of her being. She had been taught that her femaleness was a matter of historical idiosyncrasy, a societal convention, a social construction, and one perhaps somewhat regrettable. It was to be understood as a fabrication peculiar to a locality, a particular place and period, something of no more than transitory significance. At best it was an unimportant contingency, irrelevant to important matters such as advancements, politics, and promotions, a contingency to be ignored, if not deplored, as much as possible, saving perhaps as it might be politically utilized to obtain unearned advantages.
And now she was naked in a container.
What a simple refutation of absurdity is nudity.
The girl from the Steel Worlds, and the girl from England, as indicated, had not been selected at random.
In particular, however, we should note that the English girl had been selected by her captors, the Priest-Kings, with particularly great care, and with all the expertise and wisdom of their advanced science, to be a match with the male in question. Each would be intensely, irresistibly attractive and desirable to the other. She would be exactly the sort of woman he would relentlessly bid upon to bring into his collar, and he would be exactly the sort of man into whose collar she would long to be locked. This matching, of course, was scarcely accidental, or gratuitous. It had its role to play in what would prove to be an interesting and remarkable, if duplicitous and guileful, gambit of Priest-Kings. Each would seem to be a gift to the other, in the most profound modalities of male/female relations, but a gift, as it turned out, which had its ulterior purposes, one intended to further the designs of Priest-Kings.
The blondishly pelted female from the Steel Worlds was the first to recover consciousness. It seems probable that she was the most lightly sedated of the three, doubtless that this might occur.
She awakened something like an Ahn before the disruption.
As she was essentially an animal she, as most animals, accepted her surroundings rather as a given, as no more or less explicable than a great number of other possible givens. A dog, on Earth, for example, accepts electric lighting without amazement, or inquiry into its nature. It is just the way his world is, in that time and place. He will, of course, as would a sleen, take cognizance of his surroundings, familiarize himself with this new territory, and such. He does not, however, wax hysterical, doubt his sanity, or such.
The first thing the little beast did was flare her nostrils, perhaps trying to catch the scent of her master. Then, gingerly, slipping, putting her hands out, she examined the peculiar barrier through which she could see, but could not pass. She examined, and took the scent of, the male confined with her. He was much larger, and somehow much different, it seemed, from the few males of her species with which she was familiar. He was quite different, of course, from her master. In her blood there were stirrings with which she was unfamiliar. Her lip wrinkled, and a canine was visible, as she inspected the other female in the container. A slight, tiny hiss of displeasure escaped from betwixt her well-formed lips. There was no pan of food or water in the container, she noted, nor could there have easily been, given its curvature. These things did not please her. There was a hoselike tube near the top of the container, but it would be difficult for her to reach it. Too, she did not understand its purpose. She put her hands to her throat, feeling for her collar, but it was not there. This puzzled her, for her master had always kept it on her. It had had a ring on it, to which he sometimes attached a leash, when he walked her. She was very proud to be walked by her master, and she did not wish to be confused with others of her species, inferior sorts, whom she despised, strays, scavengers, and such. In particular she would not wish to be confused with the cattle, crowded and fattened in their pens, for she knew they were eaten. It made her uneasy to be without the collar. Indeed, she was afraid. Sometimes catchers, small Kurii, badly pelted, only four or five hundred pounds in weight, prowled the habitat, searching for loose humans, escaped or strayed, usually to be hamstrung and put back in the barred pens, then unable to walk, unable then to do much more than feed at the troughs, fatten, and wait, usually ignorantly, for the butchers. But she was not ignorant. She was apprised of the usual fate of such. It would not do, at all, to be mistaken for one of them. It would be one thing to lead them to the knife, they following unsuspectingly, docilely, and quite another to be confused with one of them. That would not do at all. Where was her master? She wanted her collar. She felt understandably uneasy without it. Her master had had only one pet, her. Hopefully she still belonged to him. Certainly, too, she would not wish to share her importance and status with another pet. She looked angrily at the other female. She, too, of course, must be a pet. What else, as she was, could she be? She did know there were other pets. That must be one of them. She resented the other female, and feared her, and what she might mean. She snarled, softly. Her fingers crooked. Her master had had her nails clipped and filed, but even so, even had they not been, they were poor weapons, certainly compared to the claws and fangs of the masters. There could be no doubt as to the relationships involved, nor as to the rankings of species, nor as to her own nature, and the appropriateness of it, that of a harmless, caressable pet. But surely not harmless to such as herself. She could scratch and bite, and hiss, and she had, more than once, to the amusement of her master, driven other females, bloodied and shrieking, from his vicinity.
But the master was not here?
Where was he?
She did sense the maleness of the larger human in the container, and this maleness intrigued her, and fascinated her. She also had strange feelings in his presence, feelings which she had not experienced in the vicinity of the few males she had encountered in the habitat. It never occurred to her that he might have speech, for only the masters, the Kurii, had language. Animals, such as she, and others, were incapable of such things, just as they were incapable of building pens, making rooms light and dark, burning objects at a distance, and such.
They could not even make the chains and shackles in which they were sometimes so helplessly placed.
She, at least, had not yet been chained to a man.
But clearly the male in the container was the nearest thing to her master, and thus she, as any smaller animal would, had a lively sense as to where lay the power in this small world, and, accordingly, in which direction lay her best interests. It would be with the larger animal. She was unfamiliar with larger animals who had been turned against themselves, who were hampered, crippled, neutralized and vitiated by the knives of social engineering. She would not have understood them. She was certain then she must ingratiate herself with him, and appease him, and certainly so with the other female in the container. She could not drive her off, of course, given the peculiar enclosure in which she found herself, but she could certainly warn her off, and, hopefully, so terrify or intimidate her that she would not dare to offer the least challenge to her priority. The male was to be hers; the other must not be permitted to intrude; accordingly, she must, in one way or another, be eliminated, physically or psychologically, or both, as a possible competitor or rival. The female from the Steel Worlds regarded the other female. She did not think it would be hard to teach her terror, and her place. If the male were a Kur, she would groom him, smoothing and licking his fur, and searching for insects. Sometimes her master permitted her to wipe and dry his teeth with her hair, in which activity she could scavenge for meat particles. Too, not unoften he permitted her to clean his nails and claws with her tongue. These were largely hygienic pursuits. Little of a symbolic nature was involved here. She was simply a docile pet serving her master. It was quite unlike the practices of the Red Savages of the Gorean Barrens who not unoften put their white female slaves naked on their bellies before their lofty, silken mounts, the kaiila, in helpless, servile prostration to the mere beasts of their masters, whose paws and nails they must then clean with their lips and tongue. This is because of what, in their traditions, is called the Memory. Few white men are allowed in the Barrens. Commonly they are ridden down and killed. Lovely white women, on the other hand, are accepted as slaves, and are sometimes, at trading points, bartered for, usually with the skins of the Pte, or Kailiauk. Occasionally, too, they are raided for, and then carried deep within the Barrens. Sometimes they are kept in herds, guarded by boys, but normally, in their colorful, beaded leather collars, they serve in the lodges. The native women, unless prevented, treat them with great cruelty. The slaves perform much work in the Barrens and give their masters much pleasure in the lodges. Some white women flee to the Barrens, that they may become the slaves of such men.
The girl from the Steel Worlds studied the sleeping male, puzzling over her sensations.
She had never yet been chained to a man.
She wondered what it would be like, to be chained to a man.
She had seen the relevant devices, of course, on posts and hanging in sheds, dark, stern, heavy, close-fitting shackles, breeding shackles.
She wondered what it would be like to be put in them, to be locked in them, to feel them on her body, their weight, and that of their short chains, and to be aware of their close, unslippable clasp on her small wrists and ankles, then so helplessly confined in their designed encirclements, and then to be led before a male and fastened by their means to him, himself their prisoner, as well.
She would be helpless, of course, so near to him, so close as to feel his breath, the heat of his body.
The methods of the Kurii are traditional, and perhaps primitive, but, too, they are clever and efficient.
She looked again at the male.
She did not think she would mind being chained to him.
Suddenly the girl from the Steel Worlds made a tiny, angry sound, for the other female had whimpered, and stirred, and put out her hands, as though feeling for some familiar surroundings, the edge of a bed, a pillow, a layer of covers. The other female's hand slipped on the descendent, glassine surface of the container. Her shapely legs moved, sought purchase. She squirmed. A foot moved, slipping, toward the bottom of the container. Suddenly her eyes opened, wildly, and she tried to stand, abruptly, and slipped down, toward the bottom of the container. Her belly was to the outside of the container, and, struggling to stand, but slipping, she, confused, astonished, disoriented, bewildered, shocked, pressed her hands against its thick, enclosing, transparent surface. Then suddenly, half kneeling in the container, unable to stand, she uttered a wild, incoherent scream, a cry of utter incomprehension and dismay, and shook her head, as though to awaken herself. She even struck herself on the cheek, sharply, and tore at her forearm with her nails, even to bring blood. This sudden hysterical activity and outcry on the part of her lovely container mate startled the girl from the Steel Worlds, who drew quickly back, alarmed, then perplexed, then resentful. She could not understand the distress, the consternation, the bewilderment, of the other girl. She was not behaving as would one of her species, as the Steel Worlds’ girl understood such things. This was not the way a pet would be expected to behave. Presumably a master would not care to have a pet behave in such a fashion, and would punish it. She was perhaps a poor pet. Surely she was an unusual pet. She did not even snarl at the Steel Worlds’ girl or attempt to challenge her. She seemed unaware of her surroundings save in so far as her occupancy in the container was concerned. She struck against the sides of the container, and pounded on them, sobbing, with her small fists, and cried out, as though in protest, or disbelief, or to attract someone's attention. But the corridor, of course, was empty, and silent.
Whereas the surprise of the Steel Worlds’ girl at this seemingly unmotivated and unaccountable behavior on the part of the other female is understandable, given her background and experiences, I think that it will be in general comprehensible for most of us, and presumably for the majority of our readers, particularly those in the habitats. It was not unusual, at any rate, for a civilized female, to the extent that such are civilized, suddenly confronted with a seemingly inexplicable transformation in her circumstances and condition, to behave in a manner which suggests bewilderment and alarm. Although we are not certain just how the Priest-Kings manage these things, we may presume they are not altogether unlike the practices of our human confederates. Whereas they enjoy utilizing a number of securing devices, ropings, thongings, traps, and such, and a variety of interesting psychological techniques, in acquiring and orienting their wares, some of which are extremely enjoyable and sophisticated, their most common procedure is a simple one, merely to sedate the unsuspecting female while sleeping, and then to strip and bind her, and then transport her to the collection point, for shipment in her waiting capsule. She is not revived, commonly, unless they wish to enjoy her on the voyage, until she is on Gor, commonly in the house of a slaver. In short, she retires, unsuspecting, in the midst of her familiar surroundings, and awakens in a quite unfamiliar reality, both ambient and personal. This pertains not only to the women of Earth, of course, but may pertain as well to the women of Gor.
There is much to be said, I am told, for both varieties. Gorean men enjoy both. Originally, Earth females on Gor tended to have about them something of an aspect of luscious exotica. Barbarians, the stupid sluts could not even speak Gorean, the language. To many Gorean males this seemed almost incomprehensible, but, we note, many languages are spoken on Gor, though obviously, because of the standardizations agreed upon by the caste of Scribes, meeting at the great fairs, Gorean is the most common. Also, it is thought that the Priest-Kings wish to have a single language at their disposal by means of which they can address themselves to almost any human likely to be encountered on their world. Now, however, with the relative commonness of Earth females in the Gorean markets, they have lost much of their erstwhile exotic flavor. Often they are now regarded, and particularly by slaves of native Gorean origin, as merely an inferior sort of slave. But men like them. That is doubtless the reason they are not as rare on Gor as formerly. They sell well. Too, it seems they make superb slaves, grateful, devoted, sexually helpless, passionate chattels. On Earth it seems their sexual needs were suppressed in favor of various neuterisms and political expediencies, and sacrificed to a variety of peculiar societal imperatives. They were, in short, for whatever reasons, taught to suspect and deny their sexuality, and see it, if at all, in terms of guilt and fear. They were taught, too, to see men as weaklings and inept adversaries, not surprising given the crippling social engineering to which most Earth males were subjected almost from the cradle, and not as their natural masters. They sensed, of course, the meaninglessness and emptiness of their existence, the tragic, profound lacunae in their lives, that a female can obtain the wholeness of her nature and being only in relation to a dominant male, and that she can find her ultimate sexual fulfillment only in the earthquakes and blasts of a helpless, surrendered slave, one writhing in the arms of her master. On Earth women were starved; on Gor they are fed, be it only on scraps of food thrown to a slave. It is the paradox of the collar; in it, a helpless slave, she is most free. To be sure, the lot of an Earth slave on Gor, as that of any slave, is not an easy one. Too, it might be noted that some Gorean men, apprised of what is termed the “Second Knowledge,” have some understanding of what is done to men on Earth and how they are commonly treated. Accordingly, their treatment of Earth females is likely to be excessively severe, requiring of them, however irrationally, an atonement for the faults and crimes of their sex on their former, sorry world. Such girls are swiftly apprised of the nature of their collars. They soon learn they are no longer on Earth, dealing with the men of Earth, but are on Gor, at the mercy of Gorean men. They are now no longer a woman of Earth but merely a female on Gor and a man's helpless, perfect, and complete slave.
Different techniques are used to introduce women to their new life, and these often depend on the house. Sometimes they are revived in slave wagons en route to one destination or another, that they may have time to adjust; or the tiered cages might be used; or a simple chaining, with others, in a keeping room. Some are awakened to the lash. Others are given time to adjust, even days, in a darkened cell, chained by the neck, with water and gruel. It should be remarked that few women are promptly sold. Most are given some training first. That helps them to survive. Many Earth women, for example, do not even know how to lace a man's sandals or bathe him. It would seem absurd to lash them for such ignorances as their culture has not prepared them to perform such tasks. To be sure, such deficiencies must be quickly rectified, and the whip will be utilized to encourage diligence.
Sometimes, however, our human confederates, for their amusement, alert the quarry, sometimes months in advance, and perhaps hint by hint, of her ineluctable fate. Most commonly this is done with a quarry which is unpleasant, smug, nasty, insolent and vain, and who has, too, say, an overweening sense of her own qualities, importance, and superiority. To be sure, she must be intelligent, beautiful, healthy, and so on, or she will be ignored. Too, as would be expected, she must also be the sort who can be easily made the writhing, helpless victim of her profound, if initially suppressed, sexual needs. Such a quarry, at first, usually, misinterprets the clues she is given, however obvious they may be, with respect to the network of plans within which she is already enmeshed. Perhaps a set of measurements, her own, is slipped beneath her door, interestingly pertaining in particular to her wrists, ankles, and throat, or perhaps, even more obviously, she is sent a tunic in the mail, a slave tunic. To be sure, at that time she understands it only as a brief, revealing garment. Perhaps she dares to don it secretly, and then, startled at how she appears in it, and flushing with embarrassing, unaccustomed heat, she hides it away. To be sure, it may later be thrown against her body. In time, however, as the net tightens, things will become ever more obvious. She will receive messages, and calls, which are quite clear, but will be interpreted, naturally enough, as impostures, jests, and hoaxes, or even insults. Examples would be such things as “Simple custodial hardware consists of ankle and wrist rings, and, of course, a collar. We have your measurements for such,” “The tunic you received in the mail was a slave tunic. You may find yourself in one, if your master permits it,” or even things as obvious as, “You may begin, even now, to think of yourself as a Gorean slave,” or “Be careful in your diet and see that you exercise well, that you may be more likely to obtain an affluent master when you are sold, from a slave block on the planet Gor.” To be sure, she believes that there is no such place as Gor. It is embarrassing to bring these things to the attention of the police, but she eventually does. But they are more bemused than helpful. She does, of course, inquire into the nature of Gor, and begins to have a sense of the nature of the fate which might await her there, a young, beautiful female of Earth. Her beauty she had always until now bartered to her own advantage, utilizing it, with its smiles, and gestures, and turnings, to obtain the perquisites of Earth. Now she begins to suspect that its value might substantially accrue to the benefit of others, that others, and not she, might have their profit upon it. It would seem to have little value to herself now, save as it might procure her a better master or a lighter bondage. But she has learned in her reading, to her consternation, that Gorean men are not lenient with such as she would be, an embonded Earth female. Might her charms then, and her tricks and wheedling, so irresistible on Earth, be unavailing on Gor? Might they even bring her an impatient stroke of the switch or lash? Finally, one morning, she awakens, discreetly attired in her lovely night gown, just as when she retired, though it is now thrust up to her thighs, to discover that her ankles have been tied widely apart, with leather thongs, to the bottom bedposts. She frees herself, though with tears of frustration and difficulty, and rises, and rushes about, frantically, but she finds that she is alone in the apartment, and the doors and windows are locked. There is a note on the dresser. With a trembling hand she opens and reads it. It is written in a powerful, cursive masculine script, suggesting severity and the nonexistence of compromise:
Rejoice. In spite of your many deficiencies and your unworthiness, it has been decided that you will be taken to Gor, there to be sold as a slave.
We trust that you enjoyed having your legs tied apart. You will grow used to such things on Gor.
You belong in a collar. Therefore, you will be put in one.
Flee, if you wish.
You cannot escape.
In the field, in the early morning, you will remove your clothing and kneel, and lift your wrists to us, to be braceleted.
Hasdron, of Gor.
In such a case the female often does, as was so in this case, flee. Then began a nightmare of fear and pursuit, when time and time again she thought herself secure, and having escaped, only to be confronted with a new evidence of the proximity, seemingly ever more closely, of those who followed her. At last, early one morning, in an open field, trembling, shaking, chilled, exhausted, unable to run further, she sees them about her, discernible in the half light and fog of the early morning. Defeated, she numbly removes her clothing and kneels in the cold grass, frightened, lifting her wrists to them. It is the first time she has worn slave bracelets. A collar and leash is then put on her and she is drawn to her feet and led to a waiting van. In this vehicle her leash is attached to a sturdy wall ring, only a few inches from the floor, and she is put to her side, to be given the injection which will render her unconscious, an unconsciousness which will be ended only with her awakening on Gor.
But let us return now to the container of Tarl Cabot.
The English girl continued, for a time, to pound on the obdurate side of the container. Too, she tried to call out, for a time, but, being highly intelligent, soon realized that her cries might not be heard outside the thick glassine barrier within which she found herself enclosed.
Shortly thereafter, she seemed to understand, perhaps in part from her distraught reflection in the barrier, with a sudden, poignant and alarmed fullness of realization, her complete lack of covering, and she became, too, then, perhaps for the first time, more acutely aware that she was not alone in the container. She turned about and looked wildly at the unconscious male, who had just begun to stir, perhaps aroused by her actions and cries, which might have seemed far off to him, and at the blonde female. She tried to put her legs together and cover herself with her hands, frenziedly, an activity which puzzled the blonde. Perhaps she was trying to protect herself from blows, not yet delivered? The blonde could understand that. She began to speak to the blonde but the blonde, of course, had no language, and her noises would have been unintelligible to her. Doubtless, trying to cover herself, she must have been demanding at the same time some sort of explanation from the blonde, an account of their common predicament. The blonde however, to the brunette's dismay, and trepidation, wrinkled her lip and snarled at her, much as might have an animal, a displeased, threatening animal. She shrank back, and this pleased the blonde, who raised her hand, menacingly, clawlike. The brunette shrank back then even further, frightened, until her back was against the glassine wall. Clearly the blonde was in some way less than human, or mad. The blonde made a rumbling noise in her throat, reminiscent of a Kur's warning growl, and the brunette, alarmed, pressed back even more tightly against the wall. There was something inhuman about the blonde, something feral, and dangerous. She tried to smile at her, but this brought forth only a more intense warning noise. She began then to speak soothingly to the blonde, as one might attempt to pacify a beast, perhaps an ocelot or small leopard, but this merely elicited an angry hiss. The brunette then remained very still, watching the blonde, fearfully. The blonde, for her part, was pleased that the other creature was intimidated. Indeed, she had expected a counterdisplay of hostility, and an exchange of hissings, and spittings, as with others, until they were beaten and torn, and fled away, bitten and bleeding. The other pet then, from the point of view of the blonde, was an unbelievably poor thing, spiritless, and without fight. Was she not confined in the container the blonde would have fully expected, with another snarl, that she would have fainted, or backed away, and then suddenly turned about, and fled. That pet, she was sure, would not be worth a collar. Better to put her in with the cattle, in the pens. She could imagine her, looking out through the bars. To be sure, she might count as a tender morsel for her master.
The blonde had not even understood that the brunette had tried to communicate with her in a language. Only the Kurii, as far as she knew, had a language. The other pet just made strange noises. Did she not even know how to whimper, for food, or a caress, or for mercy?
The blonde thought she would show her mercy, if she would stay out of her way, and have nothing to do with the male.
Otherwise she might lose her eyes.
The blonde was not the sort of pet who would happily share a food pan, or a master.
The brunette was confused, disoriented, frightened, and sick with misery.
Also, she was terrified of the blonde, who did not seem human, but something different, something wild and feral in a human form.
Too, she had never encountered anything so innocently, and rawly, so naively, and so primitively female before. The creature exuded a sexuality which she could scarcely comprehend. The brunette was, of course, too, a female, but, aside from her dreams, in which she was often well and callously handled, and as a female, and in some of which she even wore a slave collar, she chose, on the whole, save for certain gratifying, manipulative ambivalences, some of which may be noted later, to see herself, and to behave as, and strive to be, a witty, clever, urbane, discriminating, tasteful, lofty, superior, refined, educated, largely, it must be admitted, sexless entity, a person to whom sex then was meaningless, or, at least, irrelevant and unimportant. She was an individual, then, of staid culture, tedious civility, tiresome refinement, and an insufferable, snobbish gentility. She refused the attentions of men, or boys, when they were offered, unless they were of an acceptable, suitable background and class. One must be careful about such things. On her rare dates she would remain aloof and remind her companions, when necessary, in quite clear terms, to their chagrin, of her dignities and their correspondent duties. Sometimes, however, she wondered what it would be to be in their arms. But such thoughts were soon thrust away, indignantly, or almost indignantly. She was quite pleased with her social station and irritatingly vain concerning what she took to be, mistakenly, as it turned out, the excellence of her breeding. To be sure, in some respects, her breeding was indeed excellent, for it had been selected out by the Priest-Kings, for, in particular, certain of its dispositions and helplessnesses. For their purposes, then, at least, it was an excellent breeding. Too, of course, it was an excellent breeding for general human purposes, as well, as suggested, for she was highly intelligent, beautiful, and such. Too, she would prove to have sexual latencies of a sort which, once ignited, once commanded forth, would put her helplessly, beggingly, needfully, ungovernably, uncontrollably, at the sexual mercy of men. She would need their touch and attentions. But that is not uncommon with a certain sort of woman. Goreans are familiar with them. They are called slaves. I think I mentioned that had our human confederates known of her she would have been selected for their purposes, and would eventually have found herself suitably auctioned, as would be appropriate for her. Her diction was precise, but distant and aloof. One had the sense that they were being talked down to. She would later learn to speak softly, modestly, and humbly, when she was given permission to speak. She commonly dressed with a seemingly understated but yet all too obvious elegance. She was cool, prim, priggish, and formal. Yet, beneath her clothing, if one looked closely, it could be discerned that she might be attractive. And when she was stripped, this became clear.
The brunette, shuddering, put her face in her hands, tears streaming through her fingers, and wondered if she had gone insane.
At this point, only several minutes before the disruption, the male in the container, the prisoner, Tarl Cabot, opened his eyes.
We do not know how long he had been awake, but presumably it had not been long. Yet we are sure he was awake somewhat before he permitted this to be understood.
He was, after all, of the Warriors.
He had an active mind, and was, of course, by now quite familiar with the nature of his confinement. Therefore he would not have been startled or dismayed at finding himself as he was, in the container, but would have doubtless been more surprised had he not found himself so. His concerns, therefore, had more to do with trying to fathom the designs of his captors. For what reason was he now not alone in the container, and why with these two particular creatures?
He had not been informed, of course, by Priest-Kings of his inadvertence, error or crime. This is not unusual. Would you inform, say, an insect, or small animal, found annoying, of the reasons for your displeasure? You would, presumably, simply deal with it, and as you pleased. Surely the Flame Death does not explain itself, but simply strikes. But in certain cases, with rational creatures, this lack of communication is deliberate, and calculated to unravel, so to speak, its victim, who, perplexed and frightened, is denied an accounting of his alleged faults or charges. He is plunged then into confusion, dismay, and, not unoften, is overcome by a sense of unlocalized, nebulous guilt. Such techniques, incidentally, are not unknown on Earth, or in some of the Steel Worlds. But Tarl Cabot had, it seemed, surmised, and correctly, that his predicament was occasioned by his intervention in the strife between the Steel Worlds and the world of the Priest-Kings, Gor, an intervention in which he had sought to warn and succor a Kur, Zarendargar, or “Half-Ear.” Too, largely on account of this intervention, it was supposed, and certainly with some plausibility, that he was an agent of Kurii. And such things are not condoned by Priest-Kings, nor, indeed, would their like be condoned by Kurii, who have a variety of interesting techniques for dealing with supposed traitors, techniques which we shall omit to delineate, on the grounds that they might be found disturbing by readers with whom they might be unfamiliar. Doubtless the Priest-Kings have their techniques, as well. And we suspect they could hardly be inferior in effectiveness to those of the Kurii. To be sure, given his codes, Tarl Cabot would be less encouraged to indulge in fruitless speculation and laborious self-searching than biding his time, attempting to obtain a weapon, plotting an escape, and such. The codes encourage attention to the future and action, rather than to the past and speculation. The exceptions commonly have to do with matters of honor and vengeance.
Largely, certainly after the few first days, or was it hours, in the container, Tarl Cabot had been curious as to why he was being kept alive. He had not yet been slain. Why? Indeed, had they wished to slay him, they might have done so long ago, doubtless within moments of his discovery. Certainly he was totally at the mercy of his captors. He might have been denied the liquid food dispensed now and then through the tube, a poisonous gas might have been introduced into the container, rather than the sedating gas, the air might have been simply drawn from the container, and so on. Indeed, a number of things might have been done to him. Who knows, say, what might have been introduced into the container while he slept, which might have satisfied the sense of vengeance of outraged Priest-Kings, perhaps a coil of squirming osts, a live sleen, successions of urts each time he slept, which he might try to kill, and on which might feed, until eventually, from pain and loss of blood, days later, unable to resist, he became the feed. Perhaps, even, the container might have been slowly filled with mud or sand, or with fast-growing poisonous molds, or with dark water, in which swam the tiny, razor-teethed eels kept in large pools at the palatial villas of some Gorean oligarchs, both as a delicacy, and as a standing admonition to slaves, to which swift, snakelike, voracious creatures they may be thrown. He was being kept alive for some reason, but for what reason?
The Priest-Kings, it seemed, were not yet done with him.
Perhaps he was being saved for some holiday, some celebration, in which he might be used as a spectacle.
Certainly they had not forgotten about him, as is sometimes the case with prisoners in Gorean dungeons.
They were Priest-Kings.
Too, he was now not alone in the container.
Clearly he was recollected.
For what purposes were the females introduced into his tiny world, and why these particular females?
The blonde whimpered, and licked at his shoulder.
The brunette, trying desperately to keep herself covered, as she could, gasped. She had witnessed this simple act in utter disbelief. Her inadvertent exhalation had been one of astonishment and shock, of indignation and disapproval, one of protest, even outrage. And yet the act frightened her, because she felt its reality, and physicality. It seemed one of the most real things she had ever witnessed in her life. It spoke not of ideas and theories, or verbalisms, or of the fencings and cant in which she had sought to perfect herself, of the skills which brought status in her world, but of a different world, one of which she knew but little, one in which she had little part, one in which she did not belong, one in which she would be neglected and ignored, a world of rain and wind, and grass, and beasts, and sunlight, one of life, not of its contrived substitutes.
Whereas she was doubtless shocked at what she had seen she was also, in a sense, moved. Perhaps she thought of herself, as in one of her dreams, so licking a male's shoulder, perhaps commanded to do so, in precisely that subservient manner. Several times she had awakened in her bed, from such dreams, twisted in the covers, heated and thrashing, tormented by sensations that seemed to enliven and enfire every cubic inch of her, and turn her skin into a mottled sheet of living flame. At such times the smallest touch of a male, or even a smile, would have brought her begging to his feet. Sometimes she had fearfully, so awakening, felt her wrists and ankles, and her throat, making certain that her small, fair limbs were not thonged, and her lovely neck not encircled by a man's claiming collar.
The slut clearly had promise.
The Priest-Kings had done their job well.
The male seemed not to notice her, not truly then, but turned to the blonde, and apparently spoke to her. Doubtless he did so in Gorean. She seemed startled that such seemingly articulate sounds should emanate from a human. She tried to imitate them, but managed, one supposes, to do little more than replicate a handful of disjointed phonemes. He seemed puzzled at her response. He did not understand, of course, at that time, that she, whatever might be her native intelligence, which was surely considerable, lacked speech, and for a very obvious reason. It had never been taught to her. Presumably he first thought her simply differently spoken, and that they had no language in common. But he soon discounted this speculation as she did not seem to speak to him in a different language, hers, but seemed rather to be trying to make his own sort of sounds. He did not think she was retarded because she had a lively, seemingly perceptive sense about her, and she repeated a number of his sounds with an alacrity and accuracy that suggested, rather, an agile, quick mind. Too, she could not be deaf, or a mute. Clearly she was not mute for she could utter sound, and she could not have been deaf, for she produced many of his sounds, though not all, with surprising fidelity. He then supposed, as we later learned, that she must be a Gorean exotic, in this case a slave who has been raised without a language. It did not occur to him at the time that she was from the Steel Worlds.
He then turned his attention to the brunette who, frightened, not meeting his eyes, flushing scarlet, every inch of her, turned frantically away from him, her side to the glassine barrier, covering as she could the sweetness of her bosom with her small hands.
She was well-curved.
He assumed she must be a slave, as she was enclosed with him. Certainly her curves were worthy of an auction block, at least in a minor city. He did not understand why she strove so mightily, essentially so futilely, to conceal herself from him. That was not like a slave. No slave, aware of the lash, would dare such a thing. Yet here, surely, the pretty thing, the nicely curved little slut, must be a slave.
He had looked, of course, upon many slaves. But this one seemed unusual, in many respects. Her demeanor was odd. She was trying to shield herself, however ineffectively, from his scrutiny. She could be punished for that. And she had not performed an obeisance, nor had she addressed him in Gorean. As she was in the container, it had not occurred to him that she might be a free woman. It had not even occurred to him to see her as a free woman, robed in dignities, a citizeness, entitled to respect and deference. He saw her instantly, doubtless as the Priest-Kings had intended, in terms of the brand and collar, in terms of shackles and the whip, in terms of the auction block and cage. She was the sort of woman a man would put joyously, triumphantly, to his feet. She was far too beautiful and desirable to be free. Freedom was not for such as she. She was the sort of woman a man would not accept, except upon the terms of absolute and complete ownership.
You could look upon her, and see she was a natural slave.
The man who does not see natural slaves as slaves is a fool. They are slaves, and are whole only at a man's feet.
She decided she would turn her head to him, pleadingly. Surely he must understand her distress, her fear, her confusion, her consternation, her predicament!
The blond uttered a menacing, soft growl.
The brunette shuddered, frightened of the other female.
But, too, suddenly, instinctively, she understood where might lie her one hope, her single protection, from the hostility of the other girl.
It would lie with this taciturn, supple, naked, powerful man.
Never before had she depended on a male for anything.
She was acutely conscious of her nudity.
Perhaps she could smile at him.
She was in no way unaware of her effect on males, and had often, shamelessly, pleasurably, made use of her sex to tease, torment, and exploit them, even while pretending to a sexless neutrality, putting forth then a charade of impartial personhood which was only too obviously, to an astute observer, belied by the subliminal signals she was at pains to project, and the tumults and furies they inevitably kindled, to which she would then, were they manifested, react with surprise and indignation.
We earlier alluded, as I recall, to such aspects of her persona.
The males with which she was familiar were easily manipulated. A clever woman, particularly if lovely, could do with them rather as she pleased.
They were, of course, not Goreans.
Suddenly their eyes met.
She did not smile, as she had intended. She could not. Her lower lip trembled. She was profoundly startled.
She had not expected this.
What manner of eyes were these?
She trembled, and if she had tried to speak, she would have stammered, helplessly.
But she could not speak.
And she felt that if he had spoken to her in some settings, the rug in a Tuareg tent, the tiles of a Roman villa, she would have instantly knelt before him, and pressed her lips fervently, placatingly, to his feet.
She found herself looking into the eyes of a dominant male, for the first time in her life, into the eyes of a man who was by nature the master of such as she, a woman.
This could not be, she thought, a man of Earth.
These surely did not seem the eyes of a man of Earth. In them reposed resolution, and power.
Before them she felt small, helpless, vulnerable, female, and weak.
Never before had she felt like this before a man, so graspable, so weak, so female.
She felt him a thousand times her superior.
And what only could such as she be to such as he?
She suspected she knew.
Where had she seen such eyes before?
Could it have been in her dreams?
Then she sensed herself surveyed.
But certainly more was involved here than merely the eyes of a dominant male, regarding a female.
To be sure, that in itself might have been shocking to her, to find herself looked upon as one might look upon a property, something desirable that one might own, and would be appropriately owned, but a great deal more was involved. We recall that she had been selected as a match for the particular male in question, and that, thus, they would find themselves irresistibly and excruciatingly attractive to one another. She was, in effect, a slut he might pursue in dreams, and he was to her, too, in her dreams, one to whose feet such as she would hasten, to kneel, and press her warm, moist lips upon them, hoping to be found pleasing. She seemed to him one for whose throat was made his collar, and he to her as one for whose collar her throat was made.
She found these moments, these sudden sensations and feelings, unprecedented and inexplicable, suffusive, shocking, overwhelming.
She had the sudden sense she belonged in a collar, a slave collar, and that such as she was the rightful property of such as he.
And he, too, though this was much concealed, looked upon this frightened, shapely, stripped beast with remarkable intentness.
There was little doubt as to her suitability.
Such women are made for the slave block.
It is wholly right for them.
They belong upon it, to be taken from it by masters.
What would it be to have her at his feet?
How startling, he thought, that so extraordinarily attractive and luscious a slut should be before him.
And how unique and special she somehow seemed!
He was pleased with the look of her.
She had promise.
The limbs of such women call for chains, their throats for collars. They are whole only at the feet of a man.
And here, as she was, she must be a slave!
He must have her, he thought.
On the outside he would doubtless have brought her quickly to his chains.
But then, suddenly, he grew suspicious.
How unlikely that this female should be in the container! Many were beautiful slaves, and it would not be hard to find them on Gor. He had been a man of wealth and power, even a captain, with many ships, in Port Kar, and had lusted for and possessed many branded beauties, acquiring them and discarding them in the markets as he pleased. But this female was surely amongst the small number of those he had found most tormentingly desirable. She was one of the most exciting sluts he had ever seen. Everything about her seemed to beg to be possessed, to be mastered. The Priest-Kings could have placed any of thousands of collar sluts in the container. But this one seemed special to him, as though tailored from his dreams. Perhaps, he thought, she had been! Might not the Priest-Kings, with their wizardry, have inquired into such things, and perhaps, in the female's case, too, might they not have accessed her own needs, fantasies, and dreams?
This match, he suddenly suspected, is too close, too well done.
In this, he speculated angrily, is seen the hand of Priest-Kings.
I must be on my guard!
The girl, meanwhile, was struggling to regain her former sense of self, somehow lost before this man. But it seemed dashed, and irrecoverable.
She thought of herself in his arms and had the sudden sense she would oil and leap within his arms as no more than a helpless, manipulated toy, as not other than a meaningless slave.
Then she strove to discard such radical and disturbing thoughts.
All the shallow, torrential, withering blasts of her former life rose up before her, outraged and denunciatory.
She had always had power as a female. She would now exert it. Men were weaklings.
She smiled at the brute in the container.
Clearly he might protect her from the other female, whom she feared.
He did not smile back.
This disconcerted her.
Her smiles had always proved a successful coin on her old world, easily purchasing accommodations and favors.
But he seemed to see through its falseness.
He spoke to her, it seemed not pleasantly, and doubtless in Gorean, for she shook her head, negatively, indicating her lack of comprehension. Then she spoke to him, hoping doubtless that she might somehow be understood. She doubtless spoke to him in an English, that of one of the Englands aforementioned. For the first time she detected a distinct reaction in her reticent, supple interlocutor. He had clearly not expected her to be conversant in that language, which is seldom heard on Gor. It was in his own native language, as it turned out, much to his astonishment, that he was addressed. This instantly exacerbated his suspicions. Tarl Cabot is not, we note, natively Gorean. I am told he speaks Gorean with an accent, but such subtleties seem to me neither here nor there. There are many accents, I am told, too, even amongst native Goreans. In any event, the fact that the female spoke his native tongue, as well as the hitherto noted excellencies of her face and figure, which seemed customized, so to speak, to his own tastes, informed him, as he had suspected, that her presence, and doubtless, too, that of the blonde, in the container, was not a matter of mere happenstance, but had some role to play in the designs of Priest-Kings. Certainly he did not think, as we had originally supposed, that they were some sort of gift to him, or even a mere concession to one of his appetites.
The woman meanwhile, finding herself understood, shook with emotion, and, sobbing with unspeakable relief, eagerly, gratefully, neglecting to request permission, began to speak, enunciating what must have been a torrent of solicitations, questions, inquiries, demands, protests, and such, which was surely understandable. She was doubtless trying to explain, too, that some terrible mistake had been made, that there must be someone to whom to appeal, and so on. The fact that she had not requested permission to speak, at least at such length, doubtless seemed anomalous to Tarl Cabot. It was almost as though she might be a free woman, and not a slave. But he was tolerant, at least for a time, of her effusive excesses, doubtless taking into consideration her confusion and dismay, given her presumably recent entrapment and her present circumstances. There is a time, of course, to show a woman kindliness, compassion, and understanding, and then a time to put her to her knees and remind her that she is only a slave. Tarl Cabot, as he could, tried to answer the woman's questions, and apprise her to the best of his ability of the nature of her location, the identity of her captors, and such. There was much, to be sure, that was unknown to him, as well. At one point, she shook her head wildly, and then, a few moments later, apprising herself of the gravity, and more clearly of the nature of her surroundings, she threw back her head and apparently screamed in misery and terror, though one could not hear her outside the container. It had been made clear to her, it seems, that she was no longer on Earth, but was a captive of beings alien to her, in an artificial satellite of a planet she had not even known existed, the Prison Moon. She then began to sob hysterically, trying to keep herself covered, as before. Tarl Cabot could not only see her, but, now and then, given the lighting, could see her reflection, as well, in the barrier behind her. Gradually, despite the improbability of the matter, he began to suspect that she might not be a slave. To her horror he pulled her hands apart and placed them, fingers locked, behind the back of her head. She immediately removed them from this location but when he lifted his hand, irritably, and was obviously prepared to cuff her, sharply, as though she might be naught but a recalcitrant little brute, she quickly replaced them, putting them into the position he had prescribed. Her eyes were wide. It was doubtless the first time she had ever been subjected to discipline. She had strange feelings, being under a man's will.
She was then handled, and turned about, for he was looking for slave brands. The most common site for such, recommended in Merchant Law, is high on the left thigh, under the hip. But there are other sites, as well. As the polities of Gor are largely scattered and independent there is, as would be expected, some variation in brands. The most common types are the staff and fronds, and the Dina, resembling a small and common flower of that world. Various cities, too, have their brands, such as Treve, and Ar, and some populations, as well, such as those of the nomadic Wagon Peoples. The white female slaves of the Red Savages of the Barrens are not branded. Being white in that area, it is understood they are slaves. Their colorful, beaded collars, however, identify their masters.
The brunette was not accustomed to being handled so, as might be a slave. But she did not object, perhaps for fear of being struck, or perhaps for another reason, having to do with surprising and unexpected sensations. He did not test her slave reflexes, though, had he done so, he might have found them such as would considerably raise her price in a market. To her misery and chagrin she found herself waiting and hoping that he, this unusual man, would touch her intimately, but he did not do so. Had he done so, she feared she might have cried out, softly, gratefully, and squirmed with pleasure, and was this so different from a slave?
The blonde, while all this was proceeding, had been profoundly puzzled. It seemed that these two humans, members of her own species, actually communicated with one another, rather as did the Kurii. That such creatures should be able to do this, that they should have a language, had been hitherto beyond her ken. Now, enflamed with curiosity, and sensing amazing and unforeseen horizons, she longed to speak, as well. When Tarl Cabot had positioned the brunette the blonde, instantly, to please him, had straightened her body and placed her own hands, fingers interlocked, behind the back of her head. Too, when he turned toward her, she did her best, of her own accord, to turn about for him, that he examine her as he had the other.
Tarl Cabot indicated that the blonde might lower her hands, and she did so. She tried to press herself against him, but he gently pushed her back. She uttered a small protestive whimper, but drew back.
The brunette, too, lowered her hands, but, at the male's frown, returned them to the position behind her head.
He was not too pleased with her.
It annoyed him that she would attempt to cover herself. It was too much like a free woman.
The brunette blushed, wholly, but kept her hands, fingers interlocked, behind the back of her head.
It is a common examination position. It lifts the bosom nicely, and keeps the hands from interfering with the examination, in both its visual and tactile dimensions. If she had been standing on an examination platform it would be usual for her legs to be placed widely apart.
He regarded her, and she looked away.
She tried to look away, as though indifferently, but we fear she failed to do so. She recalled his hands on her body, handling her as though she might have been an animal. Never had she had an experience of that sort. And she had dared not protest. She had the sense that he would do with her as he wanted. He had handled her as though she might be the least, the most worthless, the most unimportant, the most contemptible, the most meaningless, and the most desirable, of human females, the female slave. Too, she was well aware of how she might appear to him, in her present position. The thought crossed her mind that the men she had known on earth, and had so despised, would have been delighted to see her so. She thought of herself placed so before them, helpless, completely subject to a masculine will. Would they have rushed to afford her succor? No. How amused rather, and pleased, they would have been! What a pleasant vengeance on her they would have found in this! And she was aware, displayed, too, that she was now suffused with unfamiliar feelings and sensations. She found them disturbing and, in their way, frightening. She feared to speculate on their nature.
Tarl Cabot crouched in the container, and reflected. It had seemed clear to him that the two females, given their attractiveness and their placement in the container, must be slaves.
Yet, clearly, they were not collared, nor, as far as he could discern, were they branded.
Commonly a slave is both branded and collared. The brand identifies its wearer as a slave; the collar also identifies its wearer as a slave but it, too, commonly, bears a legend, or identifies the master, or such. A typical legend might be something like “I am Margaret, the slave of Rutilius, of Venna."
Not all slaves, of course, are branded and collared.
Tarl Cabot supposed that the blonde might be an exotic, in this case a slave raised without a language.
He was more puzzled, and a great deal more uneasy, in the case of the brunette.
Surely she must be a slave!
But there were so many anomalies in her behavior, her attempts to cover herself, the absence of lovely symbolisms of servitude, such as obeisances, her failure to request permission to speak, her general lack of deference, and so on.
Slaves may lie, of course, but it is extremely dangerous for them to do so. It is expected that they will speak the truth. They do not have the liberty of the free woman to deceive and dissimulate, to conceal the truth, or twist it and deny it, as they please.
It then occurred to him, in fury, what must be the plan of Priest-Kings.
Neither woman, he then suspected, was a slave!
He had been placed in the container with two beautiful free females, and his codes, his honor.
It seemed likely to him, you see, at that point, that the blonde, too, must be free, perhaps a freed slave.
The Priest-Kings doubtless counted on this natural surmise.
He was to be torn then between his nature and his codes, between his passion and his honor.
Sooner or later, rather as a starving man put in with food, he would feed, and would then in this way betray his codes.
Then, humiliated, lost to honor, broken as a warrior and man, shamed and degraded, mocked, they might do with him as they pleased, perhaps doing away with him in some grisly, amusing fashion on some holiday, or even turning him loose, if they wished, naked in some wilderness, to live as he could with himself and his dishonor, a dishonor doubtless to be broadcast, from city to city, amongst those of the warrior caste.
He then, in anger, addressed his question to the brunette, who, for a time, scarcely understood its import. The question seemed to her incomprehensible. Her world had not prepared her to even understand such a question. On her world, as far as she knew, slavery did not even exist, or certainly not, at least, in areas with which she was familiar, and certainly not with such as she. Had she not made clear to him her wealth, her standing, her position, her class, her breeding? Too, could he not see that she was fair? She was not such as would be enslaved! She was not such as could be enslaved! Her, in a collar, never! She was not a brown or dusky lass!
He then let her lower her arms, and she covered her lovely breasts, and turned away from him. She was furious and shamed, but, too, she then thought of herself as a slave, and what it might be to be a slave. Had she not, in her dreams, in thongs and chains, often enough, lifted her body fearfully, beseechingly, to strong, silent men bearing whips?
So, she was not, and presumably neither was the other, the blonde, a slave.
The brunette's denials of her collaring, and her insistence on her status as a free woman, once she even understood what he was asking, had been violent and intense, even hysterical. The very thought that she might be a slave, such an abjectly debased and degraded thing, had seemingly been found insulting, demeaning, and outrageously offensive.
Tarl Cabot leaned back in the container.
He had not expected the intensity of her response to his question. It had been surprisingly emotional, the tearful hysteria of her denials of bondage, the agitation and near frenzy with which she enunciated her claims to be a free woman.
He found such things of interest.
Clearly a nerve had been touched. Some sensitivity, seemingly, had here been somehow engaged.
But he thought no more of it at the time. It was the sort of thing which might well be left to an inward dialogue, say, that between a girl and her pillow, or her secret self.
It was not that he accepted uncritically the brunette's denials of bondage, of course, so much as that the supposition of her freedom seemed to best explain, and best cohere with, a hundred small details of her temperament and behavior. And even more to the point, if she, and the other, were free, this suddenly illuminated why they should have been inserted into his small, glassine world. They were neither gifts nor commonplace sexual provender, but torture devices, wherewith to despoil him of his honor, and perhaps his sanity.
Slave girls may be used as men please. It is what they are for. But these were free women.
There were the codes.
Female slavery is quite common on Gor, for men enjoy owning women, as they might other domestic animals, but not every woman at every time stands for every man within the rights of the capture loop.
A female, for example, who is within the rights of the capture loop for one man may well not be within such rights for another.
For example, whereas I am not clear on the nature of “Home Stones,” or their meaning, if any, it would be unusual, as I understand it, for a woman to be enslaved by a man with whom she shares a Home Stone. She might, of course, be enslaved for vagrancy, misdemeanors, or crimes. Too, it is generally accepted that a man may enslave a woman who has insulted him or in some way treated him badly, but this option is seldom acted upon, it seems, if a Home Stone is shared. Interestingly, Gorean free women are commonly proud, haughty, insolent, arrogant and outspoken. They often treat males with contempt and ridicule. One supposes then that they are relying on the assumed protection of a common Home Stone. Or perhaps it is their way of, as it is said, “courting the collar.” In any event there are considerable differences between the Gorean free woman and the Gorean slave girl, for example, in attitude, speech, garmenture, and behavior. For example, Gorean slave girls must be pleasing to their masters. If they are not, they will be punished.
Warfare among polities, not always declared, is common on Gor, and the women of one polity in such a case are regarded by those of the other as objects eminently suitable for apprehension, as prizes, as loot, they, as well as rugs, jewels, coin, art works, fine cloths, draperies, saddles, harnesses, kaiila, and such. When a city falls her women, stripped and chained, are herded to the conquering city, to be sold, or, if kept, to serve and please the victors. Such depredations pertain, of course, to the seas, and to the roads, as well. Sometimes wars are fought to obtain slaves, for men desire them. It is supposedly delicious to capture a woman of the enemy, and enslave her, and publicly display and humiliate her, leashing her and marching her about, and such, this making clear that even the high-caste women of the enemy are worthy of no more than being abject slaves to the victor.
Gorean women are always at risk of the collar. It is strange that more Gorean free women do not seem to understand this. Doubtless it becomes clearer to them when they are stripped and chained.
They are relatively safe, usually, only within the walls of their city, and amongst those with whom they share a Home Stone, but not always, as suggested, even then.
To make this matter more clear, and to be fairer to the customs of Gor, it should be noted that any woman, any woman whatsoever with whom one does not share a Home Stone, is understood to be fair game for the capture loop. This does not entail, of course, that one is under any obligation to bring them within one's chain, but only that one is entitled to do so. The cities need not be at war. They need only be different. To be sure, some deference is usually accorded to allied cities, which, however, are few, as Gorean polities tend to be mutually suspicious of, and often hostile to, one another. Accordingly, slave raids are a common pastime amongst young men, raids in which not only slaves, but free women, as well, may be taken as booty.
A common Gorean saying has it that all women are slaves. It is only that some are in collars and others are not.
Free women hear such sayings with trepidation.
And there are, of course, slavers, who specialize in these matters, and brigands, and bands of brigands, who frequently engage in these activities.
Travel between cities is usually accomplished in caravans, which affords some protection, both to goods, and females.
Goreans, as Kurii, have their senses of propriety, and what is to be permitted and what is not to be permitted. For example, it is understood that free women are not permitted in paga taverns. Some, however, curious, or bold, or such, disguise themselves as boys, or even as slaves, and dare to enter such forbidden precincts. If they are discovered, they are not unoften enslaved. If they would be in such a tavern, let them be so appropriately, bringing paga to the tables and serving in the alcoves, in their own collars, locked on their necks, slaves. Similarly, should a free woman impersonate a slave, which is frowned upon, it is thought suitable that she be made a slave. If she would appear a slave, let her be a slave. It is, in most cities, incidentally, a capital offense for a slave to impersonate a free woman. It is understood that there is a vast and unbridgeable chasm between the priceless free woman and the worthless slave. To be sure, some slaves are quite expensive, and some free women, displayed, would not be likely to receive a bid.
As a last remark, it might be noted that it is generally understood that any woman who becomes a slave should be kept a slave.
As an extreme example, let us suppose that the daughter of a household is captured, carried away, and enslaved. Then, let us suppose that she, say, through exchanges, buyings and sellings, and such, is recovered by her family. They will not free her, but, disowning her, will keep her as a slave, as any other slave in the house. She will serve as any other slave, and, as any other slave, if her work is not satisfactory, will be lashed. Eventually, once she has fully understood how she has shamed and humiliated her family, she will sold out of the house, as might be any other slave. Cast her into the markets. She is now only goods. It is the Gorean way. Similarly, let us suppose a woman of a given city falls slave and eventually finds herself once more in her native city. There she will remain a slave, and may well be kept in a slavery more grievous than what was hers outside the city. Her bondage, that she has served others, rendered obeisance to them, cried out and leapt, collared, in their arms, and such, has shamed her city. Too, for such despicable activities, she is an insult to free women. To them she is an abomination. She has been a slave. Thus, she will remain a slave. Sometimes a fellow, who was once a spurned suitor, discovers a woman whom he had earlier courted in vain is now a slave, and buys her. He will see to it that she serves him splendidly.
Let us consider again, briefly, the “daughter of the household.” As we recall, as we left her, she had been cast into the markets, and was only goods. To be sure, interestingly, the girl, herself, is not displeased. Perhaps it would not do to tell her family, but she loves her collar. She is, of course, acutely aware of how she had shamed and humiliated her family, and perhaps, to some extent, regrets this, but, too, she felt a certain rightness in kneeling before her brothers and sisters, in her rag and collar, and serving them, and such. Similarly she dares not meet the eyes of her offended, scornful parents. How could she, once their daughter, now a slave, do so? In the kitchen and halls, where she scrubs and cleans, she accepts as her due, as any other slave, her reprimands and switchings. Sometimes, at night, after humbly, head down, assisting in serving dinner, she is sent upstairs, and is chained to the slave ring at the foot of a visitor's couch, as might be any other slave, for his pleasure. This is fitting. She is now no different from any of the other house girls. But usually at night she clutches her threadbare blanket about her, and lies curled in her kennel, awaiting dawn, when she will be summoned forth to new labors. But she is pleased, surely, when, her lessons learned, her family's reproach suffered and accepted, its displeasure ventilated upon her, with abuse and switch, to its satisfaction, she is hooded, and taken to a slaver's house, where she is sold for a pittance, that her worthlessness may be made clear to her. There, in the slaver's house, in the pens, she will await her vending. If convenient, it will doubtless take place on the next sale day. Interestingly, she is not disconsolate, but happy. She knows she is excellent female meat. She has been found worthy of a collar. How beautiful and exciting then she must be! She looks forward to her sale. She hopes some of her scornful brothers and vengeful sisters might come to see her sold. She will then have her vengeance on them! She will pose, writhe, and dance as the slave she is, and knows herself now to be. Let them flee from the auction house, in rage and shame, as she is taken from the block with a fine bid. It is her hope, now, to find a kind, strong master, who will be strict with her, and well command her, and well fulfill her womanhood, one whom she may then, in gratitude, selflessly love and serve.
One thing that is apparently difficult for free Goreans to understand, and perhaps for others who are free, or enjoy the semblance of freedom, is the reveling of the slave in what they conceive of as her degradation. Does she not know she is a debased, worthless creature, unworthy to lace a man's sandals? Does she not know she is a rightless, domestic animal, subject to buying and selling, her thigh branded, her throat encircled with its locked, debasing insignia of bondage? How is it that she can sing at her work, or step so lightly, toss her head as she does, and smile, and kneel and belly as the subservient creature she is, so contentedly, so happily? Does she not know she may not even place a thread of cloth upon her body without the permission of her master, and that she is subject to the very whip she licks and kisses so gratefully? How is it that she can lovingly kiss the chain that fastens her to her master's couch?
Civilization has its imperatives and priorities and surely high amongst these are the pretensions and indoctrinations which prescribe and evaluate the perceptions of its occupants. These pretensions and indoctrinations often have in mind, so to speak, primarily the persistence of the civilization, and not the happiness of its occupants, or inmates. The inmates are taught to commend some things, and emulate certain exemplars, and so on. There is not always an easy congruence between what a civilization insists on as true, and what is, in fact, true. Consider, as an example, the view that a woman is essentially similar to a man, and thus what is appropriate for a man is appropriate for a woman. It is not obvious that this is true. It may be taught, and insisted upon, and such, perhaps even hysterically, but that, I think you will see, does not make it true. Consider, for example, matters pervasive within higher, or more complex, species, such as the ratios of dominance and submission, and then consider, too, in particular, the human species, which is clearly and radically sexually dimorphic, and in a thousand ways. Would it really seem so surprising if amongst sexes so different there might not be diverse rightnesses? What if, say, in a given species, for example, the human, nature had chosen to breed not neuters, but, say, dominants and submissives, or, to speak more clearly, masters and slaves. What a falsification of nature it would be then to teach natural masters and natural slaves that they were, or, at least, must pretend to be, neuters, or identicals, or such. They are not. The human male is best fulfilled in the mastery. And the human female does not come home to herself until she is on her chain. She relishes being conquered and subdued, being given no choice but to obey. In the ancient genes of her she lives for, hopes for, and craves male dominance. In her heart she has been bred for the pleasure and service of the male. She wants to be herself; she wants to be mastered. At the feet of a male who will have from her what he wishes, she understanding this and knowing herself choiceless in the matter, as she wishes to be, she finds her fulfillment. In the collar, she is, then, most free. The female who knows herself as a natural slave, and longs to be a slave, will not be fully happy until she has found her master, or he her. She belongs on her knees before a man. She kisses his feet.
Civilizations differ. The Gorean civilization is a complex, high civilization, comparable to various others, and its height is not a little associated with the fact that it is on the whole compatible with nature, rather than incompatible with her; it constitutes less of a contradiction to her, than an acceptance, and, indeed, in its way, an enhancement, of her.
Once collared, you see, a woman is never the same. How radiant are the slaves, and how fulfilled, and how envied they are by the bitter free women!
But now let us return to Tarl Cabot.
Presumably to many men the alleged dilemma in which he found himself would have been nonexistent, or, at least, ignored.
Why should one not feed when hungry? Why should one not drink when thirsty?
Many men, doubtless, and not the worst, might simply have rejoiced in their good fortune and, so to speak, enjoyed the repast with which they had been unexpectedly provided. Indeed, many Warriors might have done so. And one does not doubt but what a member of that other, though rarer, Gorean martial caste, though not held a high caste, the Assassins, might have done so. If one, anyone, were squeamish concerning the legalities, or etiquette, of the situation, he might have simply enslaved the women, and then put them to his pleasure.
Too, one supposes many men might, if only as an assertive effrontery to Priest-Kings, a way of mocking their subtleties, of refusing to suffer, might have made prompt use of the goods placed at their disposal.
Cabot, of course, unwisely or not, was not such a man.
The codes do, you see, recommend respect for the status of the free female, if not for the female herself. To be sure, the codes make it abundantly clear that this pertains only to females with whom one shares a Home Stone. Cabot, however, as some Warriors, tended to generalize this recommendation to free women more generally, saving, of course, those who might be insolent or abusive, or of an enemy city. Whereas there are clear cases in which the codes apply or do not apply, they, as most recommendations, rules, principles, and such, perhaps unavoidably, were occasionally afflicted with a regrettable penumbra of obscurity. More acutely, a personal sense of honor, one which seems to me misplaced and overly sensitive, seems to have been involved, one clearly exceeding the parameters of the codes. One suspects this might have been the consequence of a personal idiosyncrasy, or even a residue lingering from an unnatural and ridiculous acculturation, one to which he had been subjected in the innocence of his childhood or adolescence.
In any event both females were helpless and at his mercy.
And yet he refrained, perhaps unconscionably, at least for the time, of making use of one, or both.
If the Priest-Kings thought that his fellows in the caste of Warriors would scorn him for dealing with the goods in the container as one might expect, it seems to me they were incorrect. Too, if Cabot was of this opinion, he, too, in my view, was mistaken. On the other hand, if they did not know humans that well it seems they did know this particular human, Tarl Cabot.
Whereas it is true that Warriors might scorn a fellow of their caste who had lost his honor, it is not at all clear that they would have regarded the usage of two females, neither of whom had a Home Stone, as it turned out, as in any way involving a loss of honor. Indeed, not making use of them would doubtless have been viewed as an inexplicable peculiarity, calling for some justification or, at least, an explanation.
Tarl Cabot was surely not eager to be shamed in the eyes of other men. On the other hand, he was most concerned not to be shamed in his own eyes.
There are such men.
As there are such Kurii.
In any event, the Priest-Kings surely knew how to torture this particular individual, Tarl Cabot.
He was confined with two lovely specimens of the human female animal, one of which was acquiescent, sinuous, eager, and rawly sexual, and the other, educated, articulate, and urbane, stripped, was one of the most excruciatingly desirable women he had ever seen, one who seemed made for his collar, one matched to him as slave to master.
And, as we have noted, this was no coincidence, no accident.
It had been seen to by Priest-Kings.
Yes, they clearly knew how to torture this particular individual, our friend, Tarl Cabot.
The English girl, despite the strange, unfamiliar feelings in his presence, feelings which frightened, warmed and delighted her, did not understand, of course, that she had been selected out for him, that she had been chosen for him with great care, that she had been matched to him most exquisitely, as slave to master.
And, indeed, so naive was she that she was not even fully aware that she was such as, in general, aside from the specifics of a given situation, are rightfully put to the feet of men, as properties.
To the practiced, discriminating eye of the professional slaver, who is skilled in reading women, their beauty and their needs, it was clear she belonged in a slave collar.
There are many such.
Despise them if you wish.
But they belong on their knees before men, and their necks belong in collars.
The English girl was one such.
Indeed, had our human confederates known of her, as earlier indicated, she would have been long ago acquired and disposed of, suitably, in the Gorean markets.
The English girl, shrinking back against the confining, glassine barrier, and continuing to cover herself, as she could, regarded Tarl Cabot reproachfully.
She would expect, and would demand, that he behave toward her as what, in her world, and his former world, was known as a “perfect gentleman.” Surely the other men she had known had done so. She had seen to it that they had not dared not do so.
Cabot was well aware of her expectations in these matters and he, a male, found them irritating. Was she unaware that she was beautiful and naked? Was she unaware she was a woman and he was a man? Did she not know he was of the Warriors, and that she, with all her loftiness and pretensions, luscious and unclothed, easily within his grasp, did not even possess a Home Stone?
But he growled, and did not touch her.
The sinuous little blonde beast looked up at him, and licked at his thigh, but he pressed her gently, firmly, back.
She whimpered, reproachfully.
For the first time in her life she was afflicted with imperative, unaccountable sensations.
She was in heat.
He did not touch her. She looked balefully at the brunette, who, still covering herself as she could, looked away, frightened.
Tarl Cabot rested back, against the wall of the container, and looked out, into the empty hallway.
The container was transparent, and had there been wardens or guards, visitors or bystanders, the container's occupants would have been in public view.
Tarl Cabot had no doubt that the Priest-Kings, or others, properly situated, could see and hear all that might occur within the container. That would be important for them. The hallway might be empty, and silent, but there were doubtless, somewhere, surveillance devices, cameras, microphones, or such, to them undetectable, perhaps no more than a few microns in width.
Tarl Cabot lifted his head, for he had detected the feeding signal, the odor connected with the liquid food dispensed through the tube at the height of the cylinder.
Given its consistency and its tension within the tube, it must be drawn into the mouth, as one wishes, until one is satisfied, or until the quantity allotted is consumed. Any residue not imbibed is retracted.
Cabot was hungry.
Were the two females encased with him slaves, he would of course feed first. Even in a normal household the master takes the first bite from the bowl proffered to him by the slave. She must clearly understand, as his property, that she is dependent upon him for food, as for other things. Often then they eat together. Sometimes he feeds her by hand. Sometimes, he takes what he wishes, and then, later, puts the bowl on the floor for her and she then feeds, head down, on all fours. She may or may not be clothed for meals, just as, within the household, she may or may not be clothed. She is commonly clothed outside the household, usually in a brief tunic.
In no way is she to be confused with her glorious superior, the free woman. She is merely a degraded, worthless beast, a domestic animal, a property. Still, it must be admitted, she is attractive, chained to a slave ring.
He wondered if the interval between feedings had been longer than usual.
His hunger suggested that it had been.
Surely his warders, or guards, knew of the additional occupants in the container. Would there then be additional food? He supposed so. Neither female could get her mouth to the tube. It had apparently been adjusted to his height, if he stretched somewhat.
He wondered if they were hungry.
He supposed so.
As they were free women, he should feed them first.
He wished they were slave girls. Slave girls may be forced to beg, and perform, and well, for their food. Slave girls may be used as men please. It is what they are for.
But these were not slave girls.
He did not think so. He was sure they were not.
And they were not.
The blonde was looking about, alert, quizzical. She, an exquisite little animal, was very sensitive to a variety of odors, a variety of sounds, and such. She was unfamiliar with this odor, but it suggested food. She looked about, and whimpered. She is hungry, thought Cabot.
He lifted himself to the tube and drew some feed into his mouth. He did not swallow it, but took the blonde by the hair and gently pulled her toward him. He then, holding her head back, placed his mouth over hers. She sensed the food almost immediately, squirmed a little, and, excitedly, took it from him. He repeated this action twice, and then he thought that she had had enough. Too, he was not sure how much feed would be available. While he was engaged in feeding the blonde the brunette had watched, at first in horror, and then almost pathetically. She is hungry, thought Cabot, very hungry.
He took more of the liquid food into his mouth and looked at her, but she shook her head, wildly, negatively. But there were tears in her eyes. She is very hungry, thought Cabot. Had she been a slave he would have left her hungry. Had he been rather as many other men, he might have seized her, lifted her, and held her to him, helplessly, her head held back by the hair, and then, placing his mouth over hers, permitted her to feed. In such a case, the girl would have been left in no doubt that she was a female.
The thought crossed Cabot's mind that she would much profit from a taste of the lash.
The lash is efficient in humanizing a female.
But he expelled the gelatinous provender into his cupped hands, and held them to the brunette.
Gratefully, she put down her head and, still covering herself, as she could, fed. Something within her realized that her head was bowed before him. Too, as she moved her hands, she must have been aware, given his stance and her posture, he so close, that he was nicely positioned to assess the sweetness of her figure. Surely, despite her efforts, the softness and fullness of her bosom could be but ill concealed. But surely he was a gentleman, and would not do so. He must avert his eyes. But she looked up, and saw his eyes full upon her, and she put down her head again, quickly feeling a flush of heat.
Never before, she was sure, had she been so looked upon.
What sort of man could look so upon a woman?
And what sort of woman might be so looked upon by a man?
She was not a slave! She was not a slave!
But was it not as a slave might be looked upon?
Again then she shuddered, but this time with a strange pleasure.
She was sure he was pleased with what he saw.
This both disturbed her, and pleased her.
And so might a slave have been pleased, understanding that her beauty was such that it might meet with a man's favor.
Too, she thought then to herself, perhaps I can make use of this. I am a female, and he is only a man.
Then she continued to feed.
He liked the way her hair now fell to the sides of her neck. He could see the base of her bowed neck, with the short, fine hairs there. He considered what it would look like in a slave collar. It is there, at the back of the neck, incidentally, that the collar commonly closes and locks. If the collar is to be changed, the male does so from behind the girl. This helps her to keep in mind that she is a slave. If a new collar is to be placed on the girl this is commonly done before the old one is removed. If a girl is between collars, or is being fitted, or such, she is commonly bound hand and foot. Her limbs may be freed, of course, once she is again in a collar. Aesthetic and psychological features are commonly involved, as well, in these matters. With the lock in the back, as the girl, and others, might be most commonly expected to see the collar, the enclosing, encircling aspect of the band is most prominent, this suggesting an uncompromising security and irremovability. The common Gorean slave band, incidentally, even in its simplicity, flat, narrow, and close-fitting, is quite beautiful on a woman. In certain cultures one supposes women might pay a great deal of money to obtain such a device, though perhaps one more akin to those one might expect to find on high slaves, say, colored, enameled, ringed, bejeweled, of precious metals, and such. On Gor, of course, these collars, at least the simple ones, sell for a pittance, and even common slaves are routinely fastened in them. Indeed, this is required by Merchant Law. Clearly, all in all, the collar is an attractive device which much enhances the beauty of a woman. But doubtless its most significant aspect is its meaning, that its occupant is a property, that she is owned.
He again gave her food.
Her hair was not short, but it was not of a common slave length either. But, he thought, it will grow out.
Then, he fed her again. Then he desisted, despite her plea for more. In his view she had fed sufficiently. The diet of slave girls is closely supervised, as that of any other animal one wishes to keep in prime condition. She was not a slave girl, of course, but it pleased him to decide when she had had enough. Also the blonde had had only three helpings, too, so to speak. Indeed when the blonde had understood that the brunette was asking for a fourth helping she became quite agitated, bared her small canines, and hissed menacingly. Tarl Cabot growled softly at the blonde, who then subsided. She understood the purport of such noises. The brunette, pleased at this, requested more food, again, but was denied her wish. Seldom one supposes had she failed before to obtain her way. But this was not her familiar world. Things here were quite different. She did, however, rejoice that the male, at least as of now, stood between her and the frightening little thing with which they were sharing the container.
She watched the male then, as he fed.
It did not seem there was much left. He wiped his mouth with his right forearm. She wondered if, the next time, were there a next time, the food might be rationed differently.
How lean and strong seemed the male to her.
She would have muchly preferred that the blonde had not been there, of course, for she feared her, but there may have been another reason, as well, one that she might have been more reluctant to acknowledge.
Too, she would not have cared to have discovered herself alone in the container. Bewildered, confused, she might have literally lost her mind. In her present situation there was in her proximity at least another human, for the male clearly was human, who was similarly incarcerated, and, moreover, one who could speak her language, who would try to comfort her, assuage her fears, and such.
Too, in his presence she felt strange sensations.
He seemed to her stronger, and more powerful, than any male she had hitherto met.
He is crude, and rugged, but not unattractive, she mused.
Indeed, in some moments, she felt herself absolutely weak before him, and had sensed that she would be helpless in his arms.
Indeed, had she not had dreams in which she was helpless, eager, and begging in the arms of men less than he, strange dreams in which she had found that the throat of her heated, mottled, thrashing body had been confined, however inexplicably, within a close-fitting, irremovable metal circlet?
She regarded the blonde.
She would certainly fear to be alone with the feral little savage, but, happily, she was not alone with her. Had she been alone with her, and unable to flee, she would have made herself small, groveled, whimpered, and begged for mercy. She would have done her best to assure her, cringing, terrified and pleading, not only that she constituted no threat to her but that she would try to avoid her to the best of her ability and, in any disputed matters, would instantly retire and yield her first place. Such behaviors, though the brunette might not have cared to recall the point, given her class, her social background, the excellence of her education, the quality of her diction, and such, were common in the animal kingdom. But she had little fear of the blonde now, for the male, she was sure, would protect her. She needed only to ingratiate herself with him, and that should not be difficult. She had always had her way with men, and, too, had she not sensed, though to her indignation, how he had viewed her while feeding her? She knew she was a female of high intelligence, and she was quite well aware that she was also one of unusual attractiveness. Yes, he would protect her. Any male, she was sure, with a bit of attention on her part, and perhaps a little thought, and a smile, or two, could be entangled helplessly within the net of her wiles. She had always had whatever she wanted of men, and he was a man. He would be no different.
Perhaps she might even permit him to kiss her.
She might find that interesting.
She wondered what it might be to be kissed by him.
She had been kissed before, of course, once or twice, by men of Earth, as much as an experiment as anything else. In both cases she had pretended shock and indignation.
That had disconcerted them, and taken them off guard. Both had stammered, and apologized.
Secretly she had been much amused.
What inane twits they were!
She could have had both well in hand after that, but neither had any longer been of interest to her.
Their subsequent invitations were declined.
She had found the men of Earth weak and boring.
She was certain that he with whom she was incarcerated was not physically weak, but then, too, some men of Earth were physically strong, irritatingly so. But even the strongest men of Earth, she had discovered, were psychologically weak, presumably as a consequence of their conditioning programs, designed to thwart and tame them, or, with some effort, she was sure, could be made so, even pathetically so. She wondered if her fellow prisoner was psychologically weak. If not, she was sure she could soon make him so, by turning his own strength against him, by dividing him emotionally, and by arranging self-conflicts which would bring him, his own confused enemy, to an uncertain and anxious balance, where she might, by as little as a breath, so to speak, move him to her will.
Were men not made to be wrapped about the smallest finger of a beautiful woman?
And was she not beautiful?
At that time she was not familiar with how common beauty is on Gor, and how it may be easily purchased in the markets.
She smiled to herself. She had always had whatever she wanted of men, even as a pretty little girl, even before her face and body, advancing through its teens, had become, as now, disturbingly, tormentingly, desirable, suitable for fastening in a slave coffle.
Always she had been able to manipulate and control men, by a word, a tone of voice, a smile, a frown, a tear.
It would be no different with this male, he with whom she shared this inexplicable, eccentric, bizarre confinement.
Her sex, and her beauty, had always proved reliable instruments, and weapons.
They would so now.
The male in the container was a man, and he would be no different from the others.
She did not understand, of course, that he, despite his familiarity, as she had discovered, with her language, was unlike the men with whom she had hitherto been acquainted.
He was of the Warriors; he knew battle; he knew the sea; he knew the great bow, and the blade.
Too, she was quite unfamiliar with Gorean males, and how they viewed women, in particular those with whom they do not share Home Stones.
Their acculturation had not been that of Earth, but one quite different, one far more consistent and healthy, one far more natural.
Nothing had prepared her, you see, for the men of Gor.
And this large, strong man was no longer of Earth. He was now of Gor.
How could it even occur to her that Gorean men would look upon such as she and see her not in terms of her breeding, education, position, and background but in terms of the slave tunic and chain, in terms of the whip and collar?
Did she not know that such as she were put barefoot and naked on the sawdust of the slave block and routinely auctioned to the highest bidder?
Comfortable with her assumed power, and confident that she would be protected by the male in the container, she cast a glance of lofty disdain at the blonde. Did the blonde not even know enough to cover herself, as did the brunette, at least to the extent possible?
Many facial expressions and bodily words, so to speak, in the human species are presumably genetically coded, at least with respect to their templates, as they are amongst other Earth primates, for they seem, for the most part, to be easily interpreted amongst diverse linguistic and cultural groups, for example, expressions of contentment, of jealousy, of pride, of pleasure, of satisfaction, of suspicion, of anger, and so on. In any event, whether in virtue of these species characteristics, or in virtue of her experiences in her Steel World, the blonde took instant umbrage at the brunette's expression, and bared her canines and hissed viciously at the brunette, who drew back, frightened.
The male put out his hand and pressed the blonde back who, hands raised, and fingers crooked, was clearly on the verge of attacking the brunette.
The male apparently made soothing sounds to the blonde, as she had no language, who then crouched down beside him, docilely, looking up at him.
He shook her head, good-naturedly, and she put her head gently against him. She had done this often with her master.
Then, looking at him, timidly, she licked his knee.
The brunette looked upon this display of tenderness with severe disapproval, but the male did not deter or punish the little animal.
Rather he smiled at the brunette, who gasped in indignation. Apparently the brute had no intention of prohibiting the blonde from engaging in such disgusting exhibitions of ingratiation.
What sort of man could he be?
Was he even a man, as she had known men?
Perhaps he was something far more masculine, more virile and dangerous, more dominant?
What then might be the relation of such a man to a woman?
Perhaps he was the sort of man who would simply master a woman?
She thought of herself as mastered, and shuddered, with pleasure.
Then she cast such thoughts from herself, indignantly.
Surely she was not such that she could be mastered! She was educated, and civilized, and such!
But what if it was done to her?
Her dreams had left her in no doubt that it could be done to her, and with perfection.
Surely she would fear the whip.
She would be choiceless.
Never before had she encountered such a man.
Could she be longing for a master?
Was that what it was to be a woman, to be a slave?
Then she, a civilized beauty of station, position, and class, the young, spoiled, pampered, proud, self-righteous scion of a pathological acculturation, put aside such thoughts as offensive and absurd, and considered her present predicament and vulnerability.
She was imprisoned, helplessly, perfectly, why or how she had no idea. She had no evidence, even, of the number or nature of her captors, or owners.
She looked at the heavy, glassine walls, closely curving about her, within whose compass she and the others were confined.
She was a member of a miniscule social group, in a tiny, inescapable environment, subject to a technological ecology she was incapable of altering. What might be the social relations in such a world, in such a small, stout, encircling, transparent world?
And what might be the consequences to herself of these social relations?
She became extremely frightened. What if she were marginalized, or neglected? What if the little animal should become, so to speak, his favorite? How would this affect her plans, her role, in this tiny space? There was a single male, and two females.
Must she not somehow compete for his favor?
At this point, she seemed to speak to him, but in response she received only his smile, which disconcerted her.
She then drew back, miserably, against the wall of the thick, glassine barrier, and, for some time, watched the little blonde, with her soft, pink tongue, licking at the male's knee.
She became more and more agitated.
She seems then to have said something to Tarl Cabot, which displeased him, for he seems to have spoken back to her, sharply.
She then, upset, drew back, again.
Perhaps no man had spoken to her in that fashion before.
She began to cry.
He paid her no attention.
Later, she seems to have said something to him again, but he only shrugged, noncommittally.
She tried to plead with him, it seemed, but he looked away.
Tears stained her cheeks.
Had she been found displeasing?
Never had that happened before.
Clearly then she understood, perhaps as never before, save in her dreams, her femaleness in relation to a male's maleness, that she was a female, and that she, if she would please, or even survive, had best relate to the male as a female.
She was startled.
He was dominant.
Never before had she sensed a male dominant over her, but she sensed it now.
He controlled the container, or could, if he wished.
It must have been clear to her then that she might be isolated, excluded, that her standing in this tiny world might be in jeopardy.
What if she were not fed?
Then, after a time, the brunette, covering her breasts, as she could, with one arm, put out her hand and took one of the hands of Tarl Cabot.
Looking at him, she drew it timidly to her mouth, and, putting her head down, began to lick at its palm, perhaps to obtain any residue of the gelatinous provender which it had hitherto held.
Then she looked up at him, frightened, and then, again, submissively, put her head down and licked his palm.
Could she at one time have even conceived of herself doing this?
Could it be she, behaving so?
Oddly, she felt sexually enflamed.
She was trying to please a male.
How would the males she had hitherto known react to this, those she had treated with such coolness, with such contempt and condescension, whom she had routinely disdained, belittled, and spurned, whom she had treated as so much beneath her, to whom she had postured herself as their lofty, haughty superior, seeing her naked, fearful, degraded, attempting to please a male? Would they not have cried out with pleasure, and perhaps removed their belts, that they might have served as whips?
Tarl Cabot did not withdraw his hand, but he looked at her, closely. Slaves sometimes try to call themselves so to the attention of their master. It was a slave's gesture, a slave's act. Cabot wondered if she knew what she was doing. It is erotic, of course, to feel that soft tongue in the palm of one's hand. It, too, this gesture or act, is often used not simply as a device of placation, but as a way of petitioning to be caressed.
The blonde, half asleep, contented, did not even object to the brunette's solicitation, her apology, and begging for forgiveness.
The brunette was then, in her view, no more than another pet. And she was not concerned at the moment, in her own contentment, with driving her away.
The male put his left hand on the brunette's forehead and, holding it in place, gently drew his right hand away.
The brunette looked up, timidly.
He smiled at her, and she put her head down, quickly, beside his leg. He then gently drew her hands apart that she, kneeling now beside him, need no longer prolong her pretense of modesty, so out of place in their tiny world, that she need no longer struggle so absurdly to hide her beauty from him.
She did not then grasp herself as before, in that preposterous fashion, trying to conceal herself from him, for he had seemed to discountenance it, but she did press herself against his leg, putting her head down, so that he could not see the full slave of her.
This amused him.
Did she not know that he could seize her, and hold her, and turn her, and examine her, minutely, and then, his assessment done, discard her, casting her to the side of the container as one might a slave?
But he recalled she was a free woman.
She looked up at him, timidly, tears in her eyes. And then put her head down and softly licked the side of his leg. She then put up her head again, timidly, to see his reaction.
It was the sort of thing a slave might do.
Would her solicitation be accepted, or might he be annoyed, and cuff her from his leg?
He put his hand gently on her hair, and then she felt, in a moment, his hand close within her hair, holding it, tightly.
She was helpless.
He seemed to struggle with himself. He wants me, she thought, trying to hold her head very still, quite aware that if she made any sudden movement or made the least attempt to escape, it would hurt even more, and that he, if he wished, with a mere tightening or twist, could subject her to the torment of hundreds of tiny scalding knives of pain, to avoid which she would do anything. Then he released her hair. She was, after all, a free woman.
She crouched as she could in the container, against his leg.
She was startled, confused.
He could have done with her what he wanted, but he had not.
She put down her head.
She kissed his leg, again.
She had strange, unaccountable sensations.
This is what it is, she thought, to be a female.
Then she thought, I want him to claim me. I want to wear his collar. Lash me, she thought, prove to me you own me.
But he did not touch her.
She was free.
She grappled with her feelings. Had women felt this way, in a thousand years, she wondered, or two thousand, perhaps in Baghdad, Damascus or Byzantium, in Athens or Rome, in Thebes or Corinth, in Gaul or Britain, or in the German forests, or in Persia or Egypt, or in Nineveh or Babylon, or in the great muddy river valleys, or in horse-haunted grasslands, the dominion of bowmen, or in clustered huts where metal was new or in fire-illuminated caves where flint was patiently shaped?
What would it be, she wondered, to struggle in the thongs of a prehistoric lover.
Where have the gods gone, she asked herself.
We no longer hear them call to one another.
What has become of us? What have we done to the world?
She felt herself touched then, you see, however softly, by the fingers of a world alien to her, a natural world of meadows and moisture, of damp rocks and blades of moist grass, a world rather like her own might once have been, unspoiled, a world quite different from the world she had known, an artificial world, a sly world, one of lies and pretense, of hypocrisy, and artifices, of convention and deception.
Am I a slave, she asked herself. Is this my master?
She looked up at him, and he smiled.
He is reading my body, my expressions, she thought. He knows, he must know, what I am thinking!
So he reads women, does he? Well, he is mistaken in the case of such as I! Perhaps there are low women who would grovel and place a man's foot upon their head, but I am not one such! My knees do not seek the tiles! My tongue is not for the feet of masters! My limbs are not for the chains of owners, my throat is not for their collars!
I am not such, she thought. I am not such.
I am not a slave, she thought. No, no, I am not a slave, not a slave!
Then suddenly, angrily, she thrust away from him, and thrust herself back against the obdurate transparent barrier which so closely confined them.
He smiled at her, and she lunged forth to strike him but he grasped her wrists and he held her helplessly before him, her struggles as futile as might have been those of a child, until tears of frustration streamed down her cheeks.
He then released her.
She regarded him angrily.
I hate you, she thought. I hate you! Then she subsided, frightened, for he had frowned.
I have displeased him, she thought.
Why does he not discipline me? Because I am a free woman, of course. She shuddered, as he looked away. If I were a slave, she thought, he would punish me. Why does he not make me his slave?
But I fear that I am not worthy to be his slave!
But clearly he desires me!
I think he would not mind having me at his feet!
Then why might he not make me his slave?
Where is Earth? Where is my old world! Where is the world where I understand myself? What is this place, or world, where I cannot understand myself, but where I am other than I was, and am hopelessly, needfully so?
I must never understand myself as I truly am, she thought, for that is forbidden!
But why, she asked herself, is it forbidden?
Teach me who I am, she thought, teach me myself! Release me! Free me, to be myself, and yours—Master!
She then cried out at him, angrily.
It was at that point that the disruption occurred.
Chapter, the Second:
THE DISRUPTION, AND WHAT OCCURRED SHORTLY THEREAFTER
For whatever reason, she had cried out angrily at him.
Then, suddenly, each of the tiered containers in the long hallway shook, and several broke from their stems, and tumbled, rolling from the tiers which, themselves, were twisting from the walls. Had there been air in the hallway there might have been much screeching of metal, and the ringing of ovoid containments striking the floor, rolling, crashing into one another.
The container with which we have been concerned tilted eccentrically, as had several others, this container toward the center of the hallway. Doubtless there was much consternation within its confines. Air began to hiss from it, and Tarl Cabot thrust his hand against the aperture through which this complex gas was escaping, rushing outside. Within the container its occupants began to suffer, almost immediately, from the diminution of its atmosphere. The human life form, as many others, requires oxygen, in one form or another to survive. Commonly, this is imbibed from an atmosphere, in an exchange of gases. One life form, for example, will exude a waste product, its poison, into the atmosphere which is, interestingly, necessary for the life of a different life form, and that life form, in turn, expels into the atmosphere another waste product, poisonous to itself, yet benign, even necessary, to, say, the first life form. It is thus by means of an exchange of poisons that the gift of life flowers. The wheels turn. The ways of the Nameless One are obscure. Kurii, incidentally, require oxygen for life, as well, as does the cobra and ost, the leopard and larl. This may, too, be the case with Priest-Kings, but one knows little about them.
The blonde, gasping, scratched at the inside of the container, wildly, as though she would scratch through it and obtain air outside, but there was, at that time, no air outside. The brunette had her hands pressed against the inside of the container. Her face, viewed from the outside, was distraught. So might be that of a small animal contained in a jar from which the air was being removed. Tarl Cabot removed his hand from the aperture through which the atmosphere was escaping, and lunged against the transparent barrier, three times, but his efforts, as he should have realized, would be ineffectual. Within the container they could probably hear the air hissing out. Outside a ripple might have been noted, but little else. He again tried to block the aperture, but with indifferent success. Too, as they breathed, the atmosphere within the container, now tenuous, became ever more toxic.
The cause of this disruption was, of course, at the time unknown to them, nor, at the time, would it have been of great interest to them. Their concern was with its effects.
The brunette was the first to lose consciousness, and, a bit later, sinking toward the tilted bottom of the container, the blonde was the second. Both were in their way small animals, small, lovely animals.
Tarl Cabot shook his head, and tried to keep his hand against the aperture, but, in a bit, his hand fell to the side. There was no longer the hiss of escaping gas, for, if any remained in the container, it was not enough to call attention to its exit. His knees buckled, and he tried to brace himself against the slanting wall of the damaged vessel. It seems likely he would have shortly lost consciousness when he became aware, dimly, that one of the loose containers was suddenly moving about, and it seemed a wind of tiny particles, like a dry blizzard of dust and scraps, invaded the corridor. He thrust his face to the small rupture in the container which he had tried to seal with his hand. There was surely there, at that small, opened gate, a welcome entrant, a whisper of air, an indisputable, salubrious freshening, within the tiny world. He saw the particles outside subsiding. He heard the sound of one of the cylinders shifting its position. Outside there was air.
At the same time he saw at the end of the corridor a red line, like a knife, slowly describing a large circle, bubbling and hissing, as it moved, in the steel. Then, as the circle was nearly completed, there was a sound as of a single blow, abrupt and impatient, on the other side, perhaps a small explosion, and the steel protruded into the hallway, as though it had been struck by a fist, and then there was another such blow, or explosion, and there was a screeching of metal, and then a large clanging sound, as the large circle of steel, with its diameter of ten feet or more, collapsed, rocking and shimmering with sound, into the hallway.
In this opening there suddenly appeared, harnessed and alert, enweaponed, ears erected, eyes blazing, head turning from side to side, a gigantic form.
Behind it, visible in the opening, some half crouched, were similarly accoutered forms.
Air was moving into the capsule rapidly; in moments the atmosphere in the capsule was in equilibrium with the circumambient atmosphere.
The blonde stirred and lifted her head, and then, pressing her hands against the glassine barrier, began to squirm and utter excited sounds.
Into the hallway now emerged ten or more of these large forms, in the hands of some were rifles, in the hands of others heat knives and double-bladed power axes. They were large-eyed, these creatures, now with verticalized pupils, in the light, pupils which could, as those of the sleen and larl, swiftly adapt themselves to anything short of total darkness. Their ears, large, pointed ears, several inches in width at the base, were erected, ears which could rotate nearly 180 degrees without the head moving, ears so keen that they could detect the movement of an urt in the grass at a hundred and fifty feet. Their nostrils in the large, flattish faces were wide and flared. In some of the faces, as the beasts, some of them hesitating briefly, entered the hallway, the nostrils contracted and distended, scanning for scents, rather as one might look, or one might listen. Their sense of scent was well developed, and useful in the hunt, and war. Their jaws were large and powerful. Those of a male could wrench the head from a tabuk in a single motion. Had they stood fully erect those of this group, carefully selected, would have averaged some ten to eleven feet in height. They were large specimens, even for their breed, having a width of three to four feet, and a weight, I conjecture, of some sixteen hundred pounds. The fur of two were erected, increasing an aspect of size and fearsomeness. And four had earned their way to the second ring.
The brunette had awakened, and, lifting her head, groggily, looked outside the container, and then, suddenly, she flung her hand before her face, and, eyes wide with horror, uttered a long, shrill scream, and fainted.
Tarl Cabot, angrily, with his foot, thrust her out of his way, to the bottom of the container.
She was useless, and a woman.
And no better, he thought, though free, than a slave, but, assuredly, one nicely curved, who should bring a good price. She would look well curled at a slave ring, he thought, where she belonged.
Let them hide behind men, he thought, whose they are, and to whom they owe their lives.
Do they not understand that, really?
They are slaves, he thought. Let them learn that, and strive to be pleasing. Free, they are without identity; free, they are meaningless and worthless; free, they are egotistical bothers, haughty nuisances, arrogant annoyances, self-alienated creatures removed from both biology and themselves, unhappy, pathetic, miserable, casting-about, frustrated creatures who do not even understand the meaning of their own malaise. But collared, marketed, and such, they are quite nice. Subject to buying and selling, and the lash, they are pleasant to have about the house. They work well, and from their thrashing, squirming bodies one may derive inordinate pleasures, pleasures not even within the ken of free women.
And is it not pleasant to have them coming to one's feet, helplessly, needfully, piteously, their slave fires ignited, to beg yet another caress?
We must not think too harshly of the brunette. We must remember that she was from Earth, and the environment in which she found herself was now quite different from that to which her upbringing, her education, and such, had accustomed her. Too, we must understand that she was weak, and a female. Too, she had never before seen Kurii.
The blonde, agitated, excited, was pounding on the glassine wall.
Had I only a weapon, thought Tarl Cabot. But, too, he was astonished at the appearance here, in the Prison Moon, of Kurii.
Why were they here?
What did they want?
Would the glassine walls not dispermit their access to the container, as effectively as it imprisoned its occupants?
Surely the Kurii had no keys, or signals, to open these sturdy cells.
But they had weaponry, surely, and if it could burn through walls, and blast steel apart, make doors where there were no doors, why should it not, cared they to do so, melt or cleave away the glassine walls which confined them?
But were they of interest?
And might they not perish in the destruction of the cell, blasted into ashes or deliquesced into boiling fluid?
One of the gigantic, shaggy creatures came to the edge of the container and peered within.
The blonde pounded on the wall, uttering eager sounds.
The jaws of the beast opened, revealing fangs.
He means to kill and eat, thought Cabot. To its sort we are food.
The blonde continued to utter eager sounds.
To Cabot, at that time, the expression of the beast seemed naught but a hideous grimace, but it was not. He would later learn that that movement of the mouth, the exposure of the fangs in that fashion, without the laying back of the ears, without the warning rumbling, was not a sign of hostility, at all. It was rather, in its way, an expression of recognition, of pleasure. I suppose one might speak of it, if it is not too absurd to do so, as a smile. And is the human smile not, in its way, similar? Is it not a baring of the teeth, a way of saying, I could bite you, and tear you, but I will not, because I like you? Is it not in its way a threat behavior revoked, withdrawn, as a sign of good will, perhaps even affection?
The long, dark tongue of the beast moved about its left fang, and then slid back into the cavernous jaw.
He will eat her, thought Cabot.
Did the blonde not understand the danger in which she stood?
The beast examined the container.
Cabot moved back within it, trying to shield the women.
The beast then slung its rifle behind its left shoulder, to a harness hook, and seized the container with its long arms, but could not fully encircle it. Its grip slipped. It then went behind the container and, bracing its back against the wall, pressed its feet against the container. Cabot heard its claws scratch on the container, outside. Then it had a better leverage. Then it exerted itself against the container, and, after a moment, broke it fully from its stem, and tubing, and wiring. Cabot and the others were thrown to the side of the container as it struck the floor, and rolled momentarily. Then it was still, on the floor.
This movement and shock awakened the brunette, who now lay immobile, terrorized, on what had been the vertical side of the container, but was now its flooring, lying as it did on the floor of the corridor.
Again she lost consciousness.
The beast then, others gathered about, unhooked his rifle, a stubby, cylindrical fire tube, and directed it toward what had been the top of the container. Cabot pushed further back, to what had been the bottom of the container, forcing the blonde behind him, she squirming and protesting, back to where the unconscious brunette lay.
A blast of force rocked the container.
Cabot, shaken, could feel the residue of the heat. There were numerous glassine droplets scattered about.
The container was open.
The blonde tried to squirm past him, but Cabot held her back.
The brunette, probably from the concussion of the blast, the movement of the container, had again recovered consciousness.
She was now on her knees, wide-eyed, trembling, behind the blonde, whose advance Cabot had arrested.
The Kur who had opened the container, as though his work was now done, returned his weapon to its hook, behind the left shoulder, and turned aside, to one of his fellows.
It was as though he need do no more.
Things, it seemed, might now take their course.
Another Kur motioned that the occupants of the container, who were back within the container, should come forth.
"Stay back!” said Cabot to the women, though only one could understand his import.
The blonde struggled.
"What are they?” begged the brunette.
"Kurii,” said Cabot. “They feed on humans."
The brunette moaned.
"I am afraid,” she said.
"Be afraid,” he said, angrily.
"Do not be angry with me,” she begged.
"You do not deserve patience,” he said. The thought crossed his mind that she should be lashed. No, he thought, she is free.
"Where are the men?” she asked.
"These are a rational life form,” he said.
"They have no masters?"
"If so, only of their own species,” he said.
"There are no men?"
"No,” he said, angrily. “If there were men, you would be in little danger."
The blonde continued to squirm.
"I do not understand,” said the brunette.
"If there were men,” he said, “you would be collared and sold."
"Collared?” she gasped. “Sold?"
"Certainly,” he said. “It is all you are good for, if that."
The blonde suddenly squirmed loose and darted from the container. “Come back!” cried Cabot.
He scrambled from the container, to recover her, but he was seized by a Kur, and held up short.
He struggled, futilely. The strength of a human is small, compared to that of a superior species, such as that of the Kur.
The Kur who had opened the container, once the container was open, had turned aside to a fellow, and then, after a moment, as though he had finished whatever work was to have been done, had moved down the hall, toward the still-warm wound, that improvised, burnt gate, at the end of the hallway, through which the Kurii had effected their ingress.
There, before that opening, he stopped.
His back was to the length of the hallway.
The blonde, once she was free of the container, stopped, and stood in the center of the hallway. The Kurii stood about her, but did not attempt either to deter her, or apprehend her.
They did not seize her and begin to feed.
This surprised Cabot, for the species enjoys living meat.
It is not unusual for Kurii, incidentally, to quarrel over prey, fighting for it, tearing it apart, each withdrawing then with its secured portion, to crouch down and feed, alert, watching the others.
But, to Cabot's astonishment, she stood unharmed amongst them.
The large Kur who had opened the container then turned about.
He uttered a Kur sound, and the blonde stood absolutely still, as if frozen in place. She whimpered, and tears ran down her cheeks. But she did not move.
She understands him, thought Cabot. She is under discipline!
The Kur then uttered another sound, and she fled to him, and, to Cabot's amazement, leaped into his arms. She then crawled happily to his shoulder and began to nibble and bite at his fur. He stroked her with a paw, gently.
That is why she cannot speak, thought Cabot. She is not an exotic, denied speech. She has never learned to speak. She is not of Gor. She is of the Steel Worlds! She belongs to the beast! She is his pet! Had he come to the Prison Moon, with all the attendant risk, merely to recover a pet? Cabot found this hard to believe. She may believe it, thought Cabot, but I do not.
He regarded her, she contented, elated, on the shoulder of the beast, her master. She, with all her beauty, he thought, is a Kur pet! She would sell well on Gor, he thought. But here she is only the curvaceous, sleek little pet of a Kur! And then he realized even more the insidious cleverness of the Priest-Kings. Of course, he would assume she was a freed exotic. It would never have occurred to him that she might be a Kur pet. He had not even known that such as she existed. He regarded her, on the shoulder of her master. What a loss, he thought, to the sales platform.
Cabot awaited the tearing of his body.
There are a variety of ways in which this might be done, and much depends on the individual beast. Sometimes the head is bitten free and the spurting neck is covered with the predator's mouth, which is then drenched with the imbibed, flighted blood; another way is shared by certain other forms of predator, such as the larl or forest panther, in which the prey is seized, say, at the shoulder, and then, as in a frenzy, disemboweled with the hind legs; sometimes the victim is merely held and, after a few moments, as it struggles, the throat is torn open; a clean fashion is simply to bite through the base of the neck; perhaps the least attractive Kur feeding is to torment the quarry, biting and licking here and there, perhaps a finger, a hand, a foot, and so on. The victim's pain is supposed to improve the taste of the meat. When the victim is dead, some of its choice parts, the organ meat, usually, is eaten first by some of the Kurii, particularly if others are about, but others of the Kurii, usually when alone, will save it for the last, finishing their meal with the most savory morsels. Lest we be led to think the less of the Kurii in these matters, it is only fair to point out that most of the meat eaten in the Steel Worlds is not human. It takes a long time to raise a human for meat, even a child. Even to produce a human, we note, takes most of a year. Accordingly, most of the meat raised in the Steel Worlds is verr, tarsk, vulos, and such. It might also be mentioned that many Kurii do not even enjoy human meat. It is, it seems, a matter of taste. Too, it should be noted that much of the meat available in the Steel Worlds is not obtained in the hunt or live kill, but is processed from slaughtered animals, the meat of which is then dried, salted, or frozen, for future consumption. Too, although the Kurii are well thought of, in your presumed vocabulary, as carnivores, there are a number of processed food stuffs which have been engineered to be compatible with their digestion and fit for their nourishment. This will not be surprising to anyone familiar with the same sort of thing elsewhere, say, on Earth, where, for example, natural predators, and carnivores, such as the dog and the cat are often supplied with such alternative forms of nourishment.
What are the Kurii doing here, Cabot wondered.
One of the Kurii looked into the container, to its back, to where the brunette, kneeling, bent over, trying to make herself small, as though this would somehow make her presence in the container less conspicuous, was trembling, uncontrollably. He said something, in his tongue, peering within.
Cabot had heard that noise, or one much like it, but a moment ago, a noise which had been uttered by the large Kur who had opened the container, that noise to which the blonde had responded by rushing to him.
He is calling her, thought Cabot. She was a female, naked in the container, like the blonde. He is supposing she is a Kur pet, he thought. Such females, being highly intelligent, he supposed, doubtless make excellent Kur pets. Highly intelligent, they would doubtless train quickly.
The Kur seemed puzzled that she did not emerge from the container, and repeated the noise.
He was then spoken to by one of his fellows.
He then motioned that the brunette, kneeling in the back of the container, should emerge. There was no mistaking the sweep of that mighty paw. Not surprisingly, however, this invitation was declined by the brunette, who shook her head negatively, wildly, a gesture which may have been surprising to the Kur but was clearly not an act of compliance.
The beast uttered a displeased growl.
It went to the floor, and reached its long arm within the container, but it could not reach the brunette, who whimpered and drew back even further.
The opening in the container was wide enough for the beast to enter it, but Kurii are cautious beasts and it did not understand the container, or the wiring and tubing about. Many animals are reluctant to enter small confines with which they are unfamiliar, confines which do not have a clear second exit, confines in which unseen dangers might lurk, confines in which they might be trapped. The container was transparent, and a human would have thought little of entering it, but the beast was not human; and perhaps, more importantly, it was acutely aware, as a normal human might not be, of the subtlety and power of Priest-Kings. In any event it was reluctant to crawl into it. What if there should be some sort of field which might be activated by anything of its size, or genetic constituency?
It backed away from the container, and stood up, again, as such beasts commonly stand.
Two or three of the beasts looked about, uneasily.
They cannot stay here long, thought Cabot. This breach of the Prison World must be detectable in the Sardar. They must, after sealing themselves to it, or by means of protective gear of some sort, doubtless to be reassumed later, have burned through a lock, or even the shielding of the satellite. In any event Cabot had little doubt but what Priest-Kings would even now be apprised of the presence of unauthorized Kurii in the Prison Moon.
Perhaps even now investigatory ships were rising swiftly, silently, from the Sardar.
The Kur who had reached into the container now spoke to two of his fellows, who went to the container and began to lift it, between them, tilting it toward the floor.
The brunette shrieked piteously, and tried to brace herself within the container, to keep from slipping forward, and downward.
They know she is not a pet, thought Cabot. Pets obey instantly. If they do not, they are doubtless punished, or done away with.
She will be eaten, thought Cabot.
The container was tilted further, and shaken, and the brunette, screaming piteously, was tumbled out onto the metal flooring of the hallway.
She rolled to her back and lay there, looking up at the beasts gathered about her. “Please, please,” she screamed, “do not hurt me! Do not hurt me! Please, Sirs, do not hurt me!"
How she addressed the Kurii as “Sirs"!
She had perhaps never even used that expression of the males of her world, but now it came from her in her terror, addressed not to men but to these fanged, clustered beasts looking down upon her.
Did she think they would understand what she said?
Doubtless not, but surely her terror, her plaintive mien might be intelligible, perhaps even to a lion or larl! But did she think her pleas might move such beasts, prepared to feed?
Cabot struggled, but could not free himself.
He thought she looked well on her back, in what is referred to as the “capture position.” In this position, the captive locked in the arms of the captor, the captor can assess and enjoy the least nuance of expression in the captive's countenance. This position, too, is enjoyed by many masters with their slaves. The gasping, begging, countenance of a slave, wholly surrendered, helpless, sobbing herself his, is often not displeasing to a master. Too, as a male, he could not help but suppose she would also look well on her belly, either looking up to him for mercy, or facing away, that she may the more clearly understand that she is his domestic animal.
Should he have noticed these things?
Certainly, for he was a male.
It is natural and healthy to do so.
And he was now Gorean, and Goreans see the females of their species as, literally, the females of their species.
Too, we recall that she had been selected by Priest-Kings to be excruciatingly desirable to him.
In conversations within the container, not reported in this narrative, she had learned that his name was Tarl Cabot, which name, of course, meant nothing to her, nor was she even aware that Tarl, a name which seemed strange to her, was a not uncommon name on Gor, and one, we may suppose, originally, of Torvaldslandian origin.
Her name, for at that time she had a name, was Virginia Cecily Jean Pym. She was, I think we mentioned, English, sophisticated, educated, and such. Due to family position and wealth, we would have had to account her of the English upper classes, though her origins, in actuality, as nearly as we can determine, were not to be traced through traditional aristocratic lines, at least as far as legitimacy is concerned. A female ancestor, it seems, had caught the eye of a duke of York, though well before certain wars associated with that house and another. In Tarl Cabot's view, whose origins, being mercantile, were perhaps less imposing, she was an insufferably spoiled, snobbish brat. To be fair to Cabot, however, rumors had it, at least, that he might have had some connection with that Venetian John Cabot, or Giovanni Caboto, a Fifteenth-Century (Earth Chronology) mercenary sea captain who sailed for England, in the time of Henry VII, and was the first European after several Viking explorers, mariners, pirates, or such, to make landfall on the coast of North America, which is a portion of Earth's northern hemisphere. But this connection appears dubious, for a number of reasons, primarily having to do with the lack of evidence. There were, however, Cabots in Bristol at the time of Caboto's sailing on May 2, 1497 (Earth Chronology) and that doubtless, human vanity being what it is, sufficed to embellish family lore.
It will help to make certain subsequent developments in our narrative more clear if we add in a further remark, or two, pertaining to the brunette, at that time Miss Virginia Cecily Jean Pym. She had, largely through her upbringing, primarily by servants, occasionally abetted by a distant father and a supercilious, frigid, unhappy mother, and a desire to be faultlessly au courant, quite ambivalent attitudes toward the male sex of her species. They did trouble her, for she was raised to suspect and detest them, but, too, to her unease, she found them troubling. She found them both attractive and repellant, such large, crude creatures. Fortunately, they were weak, easily led about, instrumentalized, and so on. In her dreams she wondered if there were other sorts of males, and, at least in her dreams, somewhat to the embarrassment of her waking hours, she discovered them. It is important to understand that her natural needs, drives, and desires were extremely strong, unusually strong, even, dare we suggest it, slave strong. Had she been a scion of a simpler time, with a more natural upbringing and environment, we hazard a conjecture she might well, herself, have captured the eye of a nobleman, as allegedly did an ancestress, a nobleman who, in those days, in one way or another, might pretty much have whatever women, or wenches, he wished. She would surely have run happily to his stirrup. The blood of a needful, yielding female ran deeply in her veins. Genetics had formed her thigh for the kiss of the iron, her throat for the encircling clasp of the collar. Lastly, recall that the Priest-Kings had selected her out, perhaps from thousands, for their purposes, and that our own esteemed confederates, who are specialists in such matters, would have, had they discovered her, unhesitantly entered her on their acquisition lists. She was the sort of woman who belonged in a cage on Gor, from which she might be extracted, to be sold. She was then, in short, a natural slave, who had not yet encountered masters. And recall, as well, that not only had she been selected out to be excruciatingly desirable to Cabot, as a slave, but that he would be to her, in virtue of the same matchings, excruciatingly desirable to her, as a master. He would see her in terms of blood-stirring, virile claimancies, and she would find herself weak and helpless before him, as no more than a begging, pathetic slave.
Would he see fit to satisfy her?
Lastly we might note that Miss Pym, despite ambivalences with respect to the male sex, enjoyed being attractive to them, as she knew she was. She was quite different from those beautiful women who, for some incomprehensible reason, do not think that they are beautiful, perhaps through a failure to fulfill some transitory stereotype of female beauty, one idiosyncratic to a particular time and place. Some of them, nicely curved and naturally bodied, do not understand that they are beautiful until they find themselves in Gorean slave chains. But Miss Pym, whether from vanity or not, was under no delusion with respect to her attractiveness. She might have been a bit shorter or more slender than some slaves but Cabot effected nothing critical on that score, nor, I think, would have many men. To be sure, in a pleasure garden, in virtue of this lack of height and weight, as trifling as it might have been, she would have been subject to several of the other, larger girls, who might have beaten her when they wished, subject, of course, to the intervention of the attendants. Such women long desperately for a private master, but this is not unusual, for any slave. A well-stocked pleasure garden is doubtless pleasant for the master but it is likely to be less pleasant for its inmates, given the boredom, the intrigues, the competitions, the tense, shifting alliances, and such. Too, such gardens are often little more than a vanity amongst rich Goreans, as might be, say, the well-kept gardens surrounding a villa or estate. Wealthy Goreans not unoften strive to rival one another in such matters, as they might in dwellings, stables, walks, parks, and colonnades, in hunting sleen, racing tharlarion, aviaries, art collections, pools, and such. Fashions, too, can change, for example, in the color of grasses favored in pleasure gardens, the hair and eye color of its slaves, and so on. In any event, Miss Pym was under no delusion as to her own attractiveness. Indeed, she probably overestimated it, somewhat, as she had never had any experience of the relevant markets, nor any understanding of how her beauty might rank with that of others, many of them doubtless her superiors. The markets, of course, sort out the beauty of women, on a monetary scale, according to what men are willing to pay for it. But, as of now, perhaps in her vanity, and surely quite complacently, Miss Pym regarded herself not only as an extraordinarily beautiful woman, but, indeed, quite possibly, as the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. And we must admit, certainly given the women she had seen, who were numerous, of course, there was some justification for this view. Certainly she had found it confirmed in her mirror. In any event, she was pleased with her attractiveness, which was of considerable quality, and enjoyed noting its effect on men. It pleased her to trouble and torment them. That is, we suppose, a pleasure natural to beautiful women, to which it would be boorish to object. It is, of course, a pleasure more safely indulged in by free women than slaves, for, in the case of slaves, men, rather than spending their time being troubled and tormented, may simply buy the slave and bring her home, collared and braceleted.
The brunette squirmed on the metal flooring. “Please do not hurt me, please, Sirs!” she cried.
She put her small hands before her face, wildly. Cabot thought they would look nicely in slave cuffs. Were not such small, lovely wrists made for a master's steel?
"Please, Sirs!” she cried. “Do not hurt me! Do not hurt me!"
What are they waiting for, Cabot wondered. Will they not feed now, perhaps even fighting for scraps?
Where are the Priest-Kings, Cabot wondered, wildly.
They must know the security of the Prison Moon has been breached. How long does it take to bring ships to this orbit, with their technology, the closest of the three moons?
"Do not hurt me, Sirs!” she wept.
Did she think the shambling brutes could understand her, other than her fear, her distress? Perhaps they could sense she was begging for mercy. That should be clear enough.
Cabot saw no translators. He knew such devices existed. Indeed, he had had the experience of one in the northern polar regions of Gor, when he had been entertained by Zarendargar, war general of the Kurii. Too, Kurii, most at any rate, would need such devices, surely so, for communicating with their human confederates. Too, there might be different languages spoken in the Steel Worlds. Some humans, incidentally, can make out carefully spoken Kur, but they are unable to reproduce the sounds. Some Kurii, on the other hand, can not only follow carefully spoken Gorean, but are able, in a rough, guttural, rather frightening fashion, to produce a facsimile of, or a form of, Gorean. To be sure it is seldom easy to make this out. With respect to translators more generally, one supposes that the Priest-Kings themselves, whoever or whatever they are, must have such devices in order to communicate with humans, and perhaps, too, with Kurii. But of such things I have no personal experience. Mysterious, one supposes, are the ways of Priest-Kings.
"Please do not hurt me, Sirs!” cried the brunette.
One of the Kurii lowered his head to her body.
It begins, thought Cabot, first the girl, who is small, soft, and tender, and then me, tougher, more sinewy.
"Don't eat me!” she wept. “I will be good. Keep me! I will be very good! I will be obedient! I will serve you! I will do whatever you want!"
You are less prissy and proud now, aren't you, Cabot thought. Would that the males whom you belittled and abused on your world, whom you treated with such disdain and insolence, whom you teased and tormented, could see you now, naked, groveling and begging, before beasts!
Why have the Kurii come to the Prison Moon, Cabot asked himself.
Surely not to rescue a pet.
Why then? For what? To probe the defenses of Priest-Kings, to test equipment, to train and season pilots and task squads, to enact a trial of courage, to fling before Priest-Kings some sort of an act of defiance, what?
Where are the Priest-Kings, Cabot asked himself.
"Masters!” cried the brunette, suddenly, squirming in terror, on the metal floor, and drawing up her legs, the breath of the beast hot on her body, “Masters!"
Cabot was startled.
Had he heard what was said?
Had she said that—what he had thought he had heard?
"Please, Masters!” she screamed, “do not eat me! I will be your slave! Keep me as a slave! Make me your slave! I will be a slave! No, no, I am a slave! I am a slave! Keep me for yourselves, or sell me to men! Do not eat me! Keep me, or sell me! I beg to be your slave, to be kept or sold, as it might please you!"
These words came from her as though from her dreams, wild, tearful, and unutterably heartfelt, but they were cried out in full consciousness, in full waking reality, as she writhed, terrified, on the metal flooring of the hallway, at the clawed feet of fanged Kurii.
She is a slave, thought Cabot. The beautiful, curved, petty, snobbish thing is a slave! Excellent! Does she not know those words cannot be unspoken? She has bespoken herself slave. In all legality the little slut is now a slave. Does she understand that? The words have done it. She is now subject to claimancy. She is now no more than an unclaimed slave!
The closest beast to her, who had put down his head, probably merely to smell her sweat and terror, and the lingering, offensive odors of the container, for most Kurii are less fastidious in such matters than many humans, extended his long, dark tongue and ran it over the side of her body on the left, and she shrieked in terror.
He put his large paw over her face, to silence her, and one could see her eyes, wild, over that hairy appendage which covered most of her face.
She seemed paralyzed with fear.
It then removed its paw from the mouth of the former Miss Virginia Cecily Jean Pym, now, unbeknownst to herself, no longer a free woman, but now only a nameless slave, subject to claimancy.
It stood up.
It wanted salt, thought Cabot.
The Kurii looked about, uneasily.
One of them said something to his fellows, and several of them turned toward the burned, torn metal at the end of the hallway.
They are leaving, thought Cabot.
He remained motionless in the clutch of the Kur who held him, not struggling, passive, seemingly docile, seemingly resigned to his fate, whatever it might be.
One of the Kurii reached down and seized the brunette by the right ankle, lifted it, and, by its means, turned her to her belly. Her eyes were frantic, her ankle lifted and held behind her, and she stretched out her hands to Tarl Cabot, piteously.
He remained inert.
"Mr. Cabot!” she cried. “Mr. Cabot!"
How dared she, a slave, so speak a man's name?
She was half lifted from the floor, facing him.
He did not move, nor gave he any indication he was concerned with her plight.
"Mr. Cabot!” she wept. “Mr. Cabot!"
Again she had dared to use his name!
A girl once collared would fear to do so. A slave addresses free men as Master, free women as Mistress. She would use their name, normally, only when kneeling, and in response to interrogation.
"What is your name?"
"Who is your master?"
"Rutilius, Rutilius of Venna, Master."
The Kur who held her ankle turned about and, the ankle retained in his grasp, began to follow those who had already departed the hallway.
"Help me!” screamed the brunette, being dragged away, backwards, on her belly, by the grasped ankle, over the metal flooring, down the hallway, toward the opening. “Help me!” she cried. “What are they going to do with me? What are they going to do with me?"
"They must leave,” said Cabot. That seemed obvious to him, given their unease, their behavior.
"What are they going to do with me?” she shrieked.
"You are being saved for later,” he said.
"What are they going to do with me!” she cried.
"Presumably you will be eaten,” he said.
She shrieked, wildly.
At this point Cabot, who had hitherto for some time remained inert, seemingly crushed and defeated, reconciled to whatever might lie in store for him, in the grasp of his captor, suddenly lashed back with his elbow, striking sharply, heavily, as an ax, into the ribs of the Kur who held him, who, startled, grunting in pain, released him.
A common principle of warfare is surprise, others being such things as concealment, deception, and so on.
In a moment Cabot, perhaps foolishly, had raced after the Kur who was drawing the sobbing, hapless brunette toward the opening at the end of the corridor. It turned suddenly, aware of the sound on the flooring, and threw up its arm before Cabot's thumbs could gouge through its eyes. Such slaves as the brunette belong more properly, after all, to human males, not to Kurii.
Cabot was smote back, and sank groggily to the flooring.
He was aware of the beast reaching for a heat knife, and saw it glow white, almost instantaneously. At the same time he heard the rapid scrape of claws on the flooring behind him, and an enraged bellowing, as of fury and pain, as the Kur he had eluded rushed forward.
Too, he became aware of a large shape, like a boulder of fur, in the doorway, behind the Kur he had attacked.
The brunette screamed in misery, crawling to the side.
He could feel the blistering heat of the knife, and his vision was blinded with its light, which was wildly reflected about, leaping on the walls of the corridor.
One is not to look at the blade of a heat knife, for that is one of its features, and advantages, that it may temporarily blind its target.
Cabot tried to leap up, blindly, but, at that moment, before he could regain his feet, the Kur behind him seized him, lifting him, and holding his arms helplessly to his sides.
Scarcely could Cabot see through the whirlpool and chaos of light which seemed to blaze before him.
He did see the arm with the knife approach.
It will be the heart, he thought, sought within the cavern of exploded ribs, severed from its vessels, and extracted with a paw, to be crammed into a fanged mouth.
But a large paw rested gently on the arm that held the knife, and the knife suddenly turned red, and then gray.
Cabot struggled, weakly, unable to escape the grip of his captor.
He shook his head, trying to restore his vision, trying to resist the saberlike afterimages which seemed to slide and glow, and emerge again and again, on the walls and surfaces of the world before him.
He became aware that a Kur had taken the brunette by the hair and pulled her to her feet, and that she then, bent over, her hair grasped tightly, cruelly, in a paw, was being conducted rapidly, she running beside him, sobbing, from the hallway.
It is a common slave leading position, thought Cabot. A slave's hair is not only beautiful, and may be used for a number of erotic purposes, and, if long enough, for custodial purposes, as well, but it also makes it easy to control her, punish her, and such. When a girl is put into such a leading position, in which she is humiliated, mortified, and helpless, and knows her least recalcitrance may bring her excruciating pain, she is well reminded that she is not a free woman, but a slave.
It was doubtless the first time that the brunette had been put in slave leading position.
It would not be the last.
Cabot struggled to free himself, to pursue the beast in whose keeping was the former Miss Pym.
One really wonders about the rationality of the human species. What could he, alone, weaponless, have done in her behalf, or in his own?
Perhaps there are genetic predispositions to madness in the human species. To be sure, Kurii, too, can be guilty of such indiscretions. Are we not dark brothers?
Cabot shook his head, to clear his vision.
From somewhere he heard a sirenlike whine. It was a signal, doubtless, perhaps of warning, of alarm, perhaps a sign of urgency, perhaps a signal for recall, for regrouping or retreat.
Cabot became aware of a large, shaggy head peering at him, but inches from his face.
The massive, fanged jaws before him seemed twisted into some contorted configuration. Was it meaningless, or did it betoken menace, or was it a smile?
"Half-Ear!” exclaimed Cabot.
He was then cuffed into unconsciousness.
Chapter, the Third:
"Why am I on a chain?” she asked.
Cabot shook his head, and tried to bundle his thoughts together, trying to piece a number of diverse shreds and particles into a coherent picture of reality.
He sat up in the straw.
The gravity, he sensed, was much like that of Gor, and much the same as on the Prison Moon. But he did not think he was on Gor, or on the Prison Moon.
He found himself in an open, but low, some four feet in height were the walls, three-sided, boxlike enclosure. It had a wooden floor, which was covered with a heavy layer of straw. It was an enclosure such as might have been used for the bedding of animals, and perhaps, in its way, it was. Following one of the selections of our translator, we shall refer to it as a stall.
A dim light was provided by lamps. They are akin to the energy lamps of Gor, he thought.
Cabot looked across the stall at the brunette, who was kneeling, her knees and thighs obscured by the straw, to his right.
On her neck, closed, was a sturdy metal collar. On this collar there was a heavy collar ring, and to this collar ring there was attached a heavy, black chain, which presumably was fastened to a ring or mount under the straw.
She held the chain near the collar ring and jerked it twice, angrily, against the collar ring. “Explain this!” she demanded. “What is the meaning of this?"
"It is a collar, and chain,” said Cabot.
"I am well aware of that,” she said. “What is its purpose?"
"To keep you where you are,” said Cabot.
She pulled at the chain, angrily. “I am well aware of that!” she snapped.
"Why then did you ask?” said Cabot.
She made an angry noise.
"Perhaps to keep you safe,” he suggested.
"I do not know,” he said.
"You attempted to rescue me,” she said.
"But failed to do so,” said Cabot.
"Obviously,” she said.
"At least you have not been eaten, at least as yet,” said Cabot.
She turned white.
"Do you think—?” she asked.
"Possibly,” he said.
"But not yet?"
"No,” he said. “I think they have other purposes in mind for us, at least as of now.
"I do not know."
"Why are you clothed?” she asked.
"I do not know,” he said. He wore a brief, gray tunic, a Gorean man's tunic. He had no weapons.
He regarded her.
Women look well on a chain.
She reddened. She covered her breasts. “Do not look at me!” she said.
"I will do as I please,” he said.
"You are not a gentleman!” she said.
He looked away.
"Thank you,” she said, coldly.
He looked back at her. It was pleasant to look upon her, particularly as she was on a chain.
"Please!” she protested.
Cabot shrugged. He supposed he might not be a gentleman. It was not of great concern to him. Too, what had gentlemanliness to do with this? She was a slave. She was a domestic animal; she might be chained in a public market, for the inspection of all and sundry.
She had bespoke herself slave.
She was slave.
"What do you suppose your beauty is for?” he asked.
Angrily, she tightened her arms and hands against her body. She does not know she is a slave, he thought. That is all right. She can always learn later. A slave may not conceal her body from a master, of course, without his permission. Her beauty is not hers; it is owned by the master.
Cabot went to the foot of the chain, as she drew back, and ascertained that it was fastened to a heavy ring bolt, anchored in the floor.
"Yes,” she said, irritably, “it is fastened quite securely."
Did she not know she could be lashed for speaking in that tone of voice to a free man? Did she think she was a free woman. Yes, thought Cabot, of course, she thinks she is a free woman.
"I am not clothed, and you are,” she said.
"Yes?” he said.
Did she not know that she was beautiful, and he was not? And she was, of course, a slave, a chained slave.
"I will see,” he said, “if I can arrange some clothing for you."
"Thank you,” she said, acidly. “I would be extremely grateful."
He smiled. Did she not know the clothing he would arrange? He thought she would look quite well in a brief slave tunic. Certainly the fellows she had known on Earth would think so.
A slave tunic can be quite fetching on a woman. To be sure, they are designed for that purpose. They display the legs, usually generously, and often the thighs, and do little to conceal the bosom, and her soft, fair shoulders. They leave little to the imagination, and what little they leave calls attention to what is concealed in so delightful and provocative a fashion that the tunic is almost an invitation to its own removal. Some feel that a slave tunic can make a woman look even more naked and vulnerable than when she is stripped. Such tunics, too, despite their brevity, lack a nether closure. In this way, the slave is reminded in yet another little way that she is to be always at the convenience of the master.
"You are not chained,” she said.
"No,” he said.
"I do not know."
"Please stop looking at me!” she said.
"'Why'!” she exclaimed.
"Yes,” he said.
She gasped, and drew back, clenching her arms yet more tightly about her. After a time, she said, petulantly, sullenly, “You are no gentleman."
"No,” he said.
"What are you?” she asked, angrily.
"Gorean,” he said.
"What is that?"
"If you live long enough,” he said, “you will be taught."
She looked at him, for a moment, quizzically, but did not pursue her question. She knelt back, on her heels.
Excellent, thought Cabot, excellent.
She did not remove her arms and hands from her body, but she straightened her body, and lifted her head, and shook her head a little, to throw her hair behind her.
Good, thought Cabot, good.
She smiled a little smile, at him. He supposed it was to be taken as a shy, rueful, resigned smile. Surely it was artful.
He found her tormentingly attractive to him, but had she not been selected to be so?
She is playing her little game, he thought. She is sensing her power. Doubtless such things in her past well served her purposes. They are less likely to be effective now.
He considered how she would look in a collar, and was pleased. In it her beauty would be much improved. But does not the collar enhance the beauty of any woman, the contrast with her softness, its irremovability, and its meaning?
It is little wonder, he thought, that Merchant Law prescribes that the fair throats of female slaves will know the collar, that their fair throats be clasped within such lovely, indicatory, uncompromising, irremovable, possessive encirclements.
"I suppose,” she said, lightly, “you are looking at me because I am beautiful."
"You will do,” he said.
"'Do'!” she cried.
"Yes,” he said.
"Am I not the most beautiful woman you have ever seen?” she demanded.
"No,” he said.
"I have been told by many men,” she said, angrily, “that I was the most beautiful woman they had ever seen!"
"They had not seen the women of Gor,” he said. To be sure, beauty is more than a mere combination of external relationships, the eyes to the hair, the thigh to the forearm, and such. Beyond such things, of course, it is difficult to define but then, so, too, is almost anything of importance. It is perhaps more analogous to an illumination, or a whisper, or a kiss, than a measurement. Slavery, incidentally, often brings a woman to beauty, for a variety of reasons. Most trivially, within it she is seldom permitted the straining, disfiguring uglinesses common to the free woman, nastiness, arrogance, brassiness, and so on. Such unpleasantries can be lashed out of her, for they are not pleasing to the master. More importantly, more profoundly, in slavery she finds herself in her place in nature, at her master's feet; in slavery she finds herself returned to her womanhood, to her mastered femininity. Perhaps such things explain the common contentment of the slave, so incomprehensible to many free women, her devotion to the master, her instant obedience, her zealous service, her happiness, her love, and so on, and, doubtless, too, her helpless, spasmodic yieldings to his peremptory possession of his property. The slave, perhaps even roped or chained down, may be used in many ways, as the master might please, perhaps tantalized for writhing hours, until she begs for release, or perhaps, if he wishes, merely put to his purposes briefly, perhaps, her tunic torn away, simply flung to the floor, there to be subordinated as the property she is to his authority. Free women sense, perhaps to their rage, but cannot fully comprehend, the pervasive and profound sexuality of the slave, which irradiates and suffuses her entire existence, even in such small things as the touching of a collar, the feel of a tunic, the touch of tiles on her knees or belly, the leathery taste on her tongue as she slowly, humbly, softly, gratefully licks the whip, the sense of fulfillment in kneeling, and bowing her head before her master. It is beyond their ken, unless they should one day find themselves in the collar.
"Gor?” she asked.
"Yes,” he said, “a world, one quite different from that with which you have hitherto been familiar."
"This is not Earth,” she said.
"No,” said Cabot.
"Is this—Gor?” she asked.
"I do not know,” he said.
"I demand to be returned to Earth!” she said.
"If they wanted you on Earth,” he said, “they would have left you there."
"Perhaps I am being held for ransom?” she said.
"They could have kept you on Earth for that, were it their purpose,” he said.
"I want to go back to Earth,” she said.
"Earth is behind you,” he said.
"Then I am now—of Gor?” she said.
"Yes,” he said, and then added, thoughtfully, “or elsewhere."
"But what is to become of me—on Gor?” she asked. “What could I do on Gor? What could I be on Gor?"
"I do not care for that smile,” she said.
How easy it would be, thought Cabot, to simply cuff her, and position her, and begin her training!
He thought it might be pleasant to train her, the haughty little bitch, the supercilious, smug slut.
"Do they speak English on Gor?” she asked.
"No,” he said.
"But you speak English."
"I am from England,” he said, “Bristol."
"I am from Mayfair,” she said.
"Do you wish to live?” he asked.
"Certainly,” she said, uneasily.
"Gorean,” he said, “from the name of the world, is the most commonly spoken language on Gor. At least that is so in those areas with which I am most familiar, and certainly it is so in the high cities."
"Ar,” said he, “Turia, Ko-ro-ba, Thentis, Treve, Venna, and such."
"Those are cities?"
"Yes,” he said. “Most are tower cities, but less so Turia and Venna."
"What are tower cities?"
"The name is presumably because of the architecture of the primary defensive structures, keeps, usually reached by means of unrailed, narrow bridges."
"Why did you ask if I wished to live?” she asked,
"Because,” said he, “if you do wish to live, it will be in your interest to learn to speak Gorean, as quickly and as fluently as you can."
"I see,” she said.
"Even if this is not Gor,” he said, “and I am not sure it is, if there are humans here, humans who have speech, it is probably the language they would speak. Too, if there are translators here, translation devices, many would presumably be devised to deal with Gorean."
"And if I do not care to learn some unusual, strange, and barbarous language?” she asked.
"Gorean,” he said, “is a complex, subtle, beautiful language, with a large and sophisticated lexicon."
"Even so,” she said, irritably.
"Then, I suppose,” said Cabot, “you will be destroyed."
She moved, and the chain dangling from the heavy collar made a tiny sound, against the collar ring.
"You speak Gorean?"
"Yes,” he said.
"Teach me,” she said, “teach me Gorean."
"You must learn,” he said, “five hundred words a day."
"I do not know how much time we have."
"Very well,” she said. “Begin."
"You are prepared to say your first words in Gorean?"
"Very well,” he said. “Say ‘La kajira'."
"La kajira,” she repeated.
"Excellent,” he said.
"I am good at languages,” she said.
"Excellent,” he said.
"La kajira,” she said. “What a lovely sound."
"Yes,” he said, “the word ‘kajira’ is a lovely word, with a beautiful sound."
"I like it,” she said.
"You are, incidentally,” he said, “kajira."
She laughed. “I'm happy,” she said, “that such a lovely word applies to me."
"It does,” he assured her. “It applies to you in fact, and with great aptness."
"Does it mean ‘beautiful'?” she asked.
"Not exactly,” he said, “but it often suggests female beauty."
"Good,” she said.
See her straighten that beautiful body, thought Cabot. Men have bred such as she for generations, for their collars.
"It means ‘a beauty’ then,” she smiled.
"Not exactly,” he said, “but many kajirae, that is the plural, are beautiful."
"And I am beautiful,” she said.
"You will do,” he said.
"So, I am kajira,” she said. “Lovely! What does it mean?"
"You will learn later,” he said.
"I suppose,” she said, “that we may have to spend some time together."
"Perhaps,” he said. “I do not know."
"We have not been properly introduced,” she said.
"Did we not do that in the container?” he asked.
"There was no third party,” she said, “at least no appropriate third party."
"There was little help for that,” he said. “There still isn't."
"No matter,” she said. “We must make do, somehow. I am Miss Virginia Cecily Jean Pym, of Mayfair, London."
She no longer had a name. Masters had not yet given her one.
"And you are,” she said, “Mr. Tarl Cabot, of Bristol."
"Once so,” he said.
"Yes,” he said. “But, too, I have been known as Tarl of Bristol, and Bosk, captain, of Port Kar."
"Considering how we have been so inexplicably and lamentably thrown together,” she said, “I think we may as well dispense with certain formalities. I shall refer to you, if I may, as Mr. Cabot."
"And how would you have me refer to you?” he asked.
"Miss Pym will do,” she said.
Cabot thought she might make a better Tula, or Tuka, or Lita. Those are common slave names on Gor.
"Miss Pym,” he said, “seems somewhat inappropriate, perhaps a bit prim, perhaps even pompous, does it not, for someone in your current circumstances, one who is kneeling in straw, one whose entire ensemble consists of a collar and chain?"
"Very well,” she said. “I shall call you Tarl, as though we were better acquainted, and even of the same social class. I shall concede such things. And you may call me ‘Virginia.’”
"I will call you ‘Cecily,'” he said.
"I prefer ‘Virginia,'” she said, coldly.
"I will call you ‘Cecily,'” he said.
"Why?” she asked.
"Because I wish to do so,” he said.
"I do not care for ‘Cecily,'” she said. “I never have. In my view, it is too ordinary a name, too common a name. It is a name less fitting for me than for a shopgirl. It is insufficiently refined."
Whether a name is ordinary or not seems to depend on time and place. For example, ‘Cecily’ might have been an ordinary name in one of the Englands, hers, at the time, at least in her opinion, but it might have been far less common in, say, another of the Englands. Too, in her own England, at one time, it might have counted as indisputably aristocratic, enough so even for her to have found it acceptable. And once again, who knows, it may again, if it is not already there, ascend the stairs of specialness and regard. Fashion seems to exercise its whimsical rule in such matters. Too, a name which is regarded by one person as ordinary may, by another person, be regarded as quite unordinary. Consider a name such as ‘Jane'. That name, as I understand it, surely a beautiful name, is commonly regarded on Earth as an ordinary name. On Gor, on the other hand, it is an unordinary name. It is not unknown, for example, for that name to be given to Gorean slave girls, and not simply because of its convenient brevity and beauty, properties suitable for a slave name, but also because, on Gor, it has an attractive exotic flavor, suggesting foreign places and goods. Earth feminine names, in general, are commonly regarded on Gor as slave names. This is not surprising as Earth females are regarded as slave stock, suitable for the collars of Gorean masters.
"I will call you ‘Cecily,'” he said.
Cabot had seen more than one girl from England chained in a Gorean market whose name had been Cecily. It was a not unprecedented name for Gorean slave girls from that part of the Earth. So, too, I am told, are names such as Jane, as suggested, and others, Jean, Joan, Margaret, Helen, Elizabeth, Marjorie, Allison, Corinne, Constance, and such. Those may not have been their original names, of course. Masters name their girls as they please. To be sure, such names are also not unknown, as I am informed, in the colonies, or former colonies, of that place, too, one of the Englands. Perhaps in her present predicament, naked and chained, she reminded Cabot of one or more of the girls he had seen in the markets. Or perhaps he just thought it would be a name acceptable for her, at least temporarily.
"What if I do not choose to respond to that name,” she said.
"Then I will beat you,” he said.
"I am Virginia Cecily Jean Pym!” she said. “—Beat me?"
"You would not dare!"
"You are mistaken."
"You are, of course, larger and stronger than I."
"You would beat me?"
"You may call me ‘Cecily,'” she said.
"It is what I will call you,” he said.
"Very well,” she said. She drew back, abashed, uncertain of her feelings.
She put her hands on the chain, and pulled it a little against the collar ring. She was well fastened in place.
She would be addressed as men pleased. This, thought Cabot, is a good lesson for her. She is not having her own way. She is unaccustomed to being under male discipline. To be sure, she had been positioned in the container, when he had been examining her for slave marks. And later, for a time. She is trying to understand her feelings, he thought. She is sexually aroused, and she does not clearly understand how it has come about. Women respond well to male domination. They are, after all, females. She would make an excellent slave, thought Cabot. And Cabot, of course, at that time, did not well understand that the female had not only the profound sexual needs and drives of a lovely, helpless, vulnerable slave, and remarkably so, but that she had been chosen for him, and for him in particular, with exactly such things in mind.
How helplessly she would find herself his!
Are the Priest-Kings not cruel?
"May I call you ‘Tarl'?” she inquired.
"For now,” he said.
It would be time enough later, to let her know what she had done on the Prison Moon, that she had bespoken herself slave, and in so doing had renounced her freedom, irrecoverably, that it had been an act which it was now wholly beyond her power to revoke, amend or qualify in any way. It would be time enough later to let her know that she was now property, merely unclaimed property.
He did not think the fellows she had known on Earth would have objected to this.
Would they not have liked to have her kneeling naked at their feet, collared, fearing the lash, if she were found in the least displeasing?
Tarl Cabot rose to his feet, and looked about himself.
"What do you see?” she asked.
Curiosity, he thought, is not becoming in a kajira. Yet they tend to be persistently, delightfully, sometimes annoyingly, incorrigibly, curious.
"More stalls,” he said. “A passageway, wooden, between them. This is, I think, a stable."
"Surely, does it not seem so?"
"I, in a stable!"
"It would seem so,” he said.
He then turned about.
"Where are you going!” she called. She stood up, frantically, clumsily, and found herself partly bent over, for the length of the chain did not permit her to stand erect. She must have felt she looked absurd, for she quickly knelt, again.
She clutched her arms about herself.
So might a lovely tabuk doe be tethered in the straw, thought Cabot, though for such, lacking hands, a light strand on the neck might do.
To be sure, a much lighter chain would have held her. She was a female.
How lovely they are, he thought. They are so different from us. They are made by nature to be our slaves.
To be sure, they can be nuisances, until they are collared.
"Do not leave me!” she cried.
"Are you afraid?” he asked.
"Of course not!” she said.
"Then you are stupid,” he said.
"Are you afraid?” she asked.
"Yes,” he said.
"I am afraid,” she said.
"Good,” he said.
He turned about, again.
"Do not leave me alone!” she cried.
He moved toward the opening of the stall.
"Don't go!” she cried. “If you leave me I shall scream!” she said.
He turned back, toward her.
He had at his disposal no convenient means with which to bind her, hand and foot, and gag her.
He read her body.
Binding and gagging a woman, and leaving her alone, for an Ahn or so, can be instructive to her.
He had little doubt but what the former Miss Pym would find it so. She was clearly highly intelligent.
But he had no convenient means for such at his disposal.
He regarded her, closely.
She knelt before him, looking up at him.
Again he read her body, her slave body.
She does not know it, he thought, but she is ready, nearly ready, for the mastering.
"I would not scream,” he said. “You do not know who or what might hear."
"I am prepared to accept that risk,” she said.
"I am not,” he said.
"Do not leave me!” she said. “What are you going to do!” she cried, drawing back, alarmed, as he approached her.
He took a large handful of dry, bristling straw and placed it, crosswise, in her mouth. He then stood up, and looked down at her, she looking up at him, disbelievingly, her eyes wide, her mouth filled with the stallage. “Do not expel that,” he said, “until given permission. Do you understand?"
He then left the stall and began to make his way down the passageway between stalls, for there were several in the structure.
After a time he returned.
He knelt beside the brunette and drew the damp, partly crushed straw from her mouth. Then she put her head to the side, and, fingering within her mouth, and spitting, she ridded herself of the residue of the straw.
Then she looked at him reproachfully. “What you did to me!” she said.
"We had little but straw to work with,” he said. “I regret that."
"I am not prepared to accept your apology,” she said.
"I do not apologize, nor should I,” said he. “It is only that I regret that proper materials were not at hand. I think you would have looked quite nice, bound, hand and foot, and gagged, lying in the straw on your chain."
"What manner of man are you?” she asked, angrily.
"Gorean,” he said. “And you are a female."
"What did you learn?” she asked.
"I looked about,” he said. “There is no escape. There are bars. The stable is of wood, but it is within what seems to be a housing of iron or steel. I could see very little outside the stable."
"Are we—on Gor?” she asked.
"I do not think so,” he said.
"Are we to starve here?” she asked.
"I would not think so,” he said.
"What is to be done with us?"
"I do not know."
"Must you look at me so?"
"You have nice curves,” he said.
She looked away, angrily.
"Do you know what such curves are called, on Gor?"
"No,” she said.
"Slave curves,” he said.
"How vulgar, how horrid!” she exclaimed.
"Not at all,” he said. “You have a lovely body, lovely enough to be that of a slave.” He continued to scrutinize her. “Yes,” he said, “you have an excellent body, a slave body."
"Beast!” she exclaimed.
"You would probably bring a good price in a market."
"A slave market, of course."
"Never!” she cried. “Never!"
He saw that she was sexually stimulated, muchly aroused. Clearly, and not only in her dreams, she had often thought herself a slave, and had perhaps foolishly suffered and struggled against her body and its needs, her heart and its needs, against the primitive depth and helpless wholeness of her slave needs.
Doubtless often, in her dreams and otherwise, she had stood upon the slave block, in sawdust, in the light of torches and lamps, exhibited, and had been auctioned to the highest bidder. Doubtless, often, she had been led from the market, back-braceleted, and leashed, perhaps hooded, led as might be any other newly purchased animal, to her new home. Doubtless, too, she had often knelt before masters, or kissed their feet, in gratitude and love, in reverence or supplication. Perhaps she had sometimes been bound to an overhead whipping ring and had been switched, or lashed, for some miniscule fault or shortcoming. Perhaps, often, she had striven in chains, desperately, fearfully, to give her master inordinate pleasures.
"I wonder if you have had your slave wine, or some similar substance, something with the same consequences or effects,” he said.
"What is slave wine?” she asked.
"Never mind,” said he.
Slaves, as domestic animals, are normally bred only as the masters please.
"Are you a virgin?” he asked.
"That is my business!” she snapped.
"A determination might be made,” he said.
"Yes,” she said, angrily. “I am a virgin!"
Strange that she, a virgin, he thought, should be so soon on the verge of begging for sex. Already thought Cabot she feels the warmth of slave fires in her belly. He did not think it would take long before she became their piteous, begging prisoner.
Perhaps it is the chain, he thought, the chain, binding fiber, such things, which hasten such things, which bring a female so rapidly, so pathetically, so needfully, so openly and honestly, to her knees.
"What are we to do now?” she asked, uneasily.
"We shall continue with your lessons in Gorean,” he said.
She put down her head, her small hands on the chain dangling from her collar. “Very well,” she said.
"But,” said he, “we will try to do a thousand words a day."
"I think I cannot do so much,” she said.
"We will do the best we can,” he said.
"Why so many?"
"I do not know how much time we have,” he said.
"No,” she said. “This has to do with something you saw, something you saw outside the stable."
"Perhaps,” he said.
"What was it?” she asked.
"Doubtless in time you will learn,” he said.
"I want to live,” she said.
"We will do the best we can,” he said.
"La kajira!” she said.
"Excellent,” he said.
"You see,” she said. “I remembered!"
"Excellent,” he said.
"Those are my first words in Gorean!” she said.
"And appropriately so,” he said.
"It does not matter now,” he said.
"They mean I am a beautiful female!” she said.
"Something like that,” he said, “or usually."
"I did not forget them,” she said.
"Good,” he said.
Chapter, the Fourth:
"What are you?” asked Cabot.
"The result of an experiment,” he said.
I think I have made clear the difficulties of replicating in a human tongue the phonemes of Kur, as we shall refer to the language of this particular habitat, one, actually, of several in the worlds, and, correspondingly, naturally, the difficulty of reproducing in Kur the phonemes of typical human languages. These difficulties index almost entirely to anatomical dissimilarities. To be sure, it is somewhat easier for a Kur to utter noises which, allowing for considerable distortions, or, shall we say, accent, better approximate human phonemes than the reverse. It is possible, of course, for a Kur to recognize certain sounds in, say, Gorean, and for a human to recognize certain sounds in Kur. I think I mentioned, for example, that the blonde pet from the container could recognize her name in Kur, certain commands, and such. It is one thing, naturally, to recognize a sound and another to replicate it. Consequently, most communication between humans and Kurii is accomplished by means of translators. This note is largely to remind any reader unfamiliar with Kur that in the interests of intelligibility we must either devise names for individual Kurii, or have recourse to descriptions, or such. It would be difficult or impossible to replicate the actual phonemes. The reader is familiar with this already in the case of Zarendargar. Accordingly, various Kurii will be herein referred to in terms hopefully intelligible to, or at least pronounceable by, readers unfamiliar with Kur. I think we have no practical alternative to this procedure, and, accordingly, we beg the reader's indulgence with respect to this liberty, accompanied as it must be by its concomitant distortions.
"You are not Kur,” said Cabot.
"I am Kur,” he said.
Cabot's interlocutor surely wore Kur harness, though he was not armed, not even with the small throwing ax, or night ax, commonly used in approaching isolated sentries, and such.
"No,” said Cabot.
This conversation was at the time being conducted by means of the interlocutor's translator, clipped to the harness. The device may then be carried or not, as one desires, and, when carried, does not impede movement. This particular model was disklike, and with a diameter of less than two hort. It would fit easily into the palm of even a human.
"Why do you say that?” inquired the interlocutor.
"I think,” said Cabot, “you could speak Gorean."
"I am not to blame for my defects,” he said.
You see the interlocutor's voice was somewhat other than that of the Kur, though surely Kurlike.
But that had been part of the experiment.
The first time the brunette had seen the interlocutor she had screamed and scrambled back, to the end of her chain, as close as she could to the rear wall of the stall.
Cabot had stood, to greet him, lifting his hand, and saying, “Tal."
The interlocutor had then, in its shambling way, put down the bowl of food and the bota of water. Later he had brought a wastes bucket. Neither time did he speak, either verbally or through the translator.
"It is hideous!” had said the brunette, when their keeper, or keeper's helper, had departed.
"It is different, surely,” had said Cabot.
"It is the sort of thing that brought us here,” said the brunette.
"Similar,” said Cabot, “not the same, not exactly the same."
"Animals! Beasts!” said the brunette.
"They are Kurii,” said Cabot. “One would be spoken of as a Kur."
"It is one of them,” she said. “Can you not see that?"
"I am not sure,” said Cabot.
"It is very much like one,” said Cabot.
"The same!” she exclaimed.
"Much the same,” agreed Cabot.
When the next day he came again with food and water, and to replace the wastes bucket with a cleaner vessel, the brunette crouched down in the straw, but did not scream.
The interlocutor had brought food, and water.
Naturally she wished to eat and drink.
Interestingly he had put the bowl of food and the bota beyond her reach.
Cabot wondered if the Kurii who had been on the Prison Moon had informed him of the brunette's words in the hallway, those words which had in no more than a moment changed her into marketable goods.
"I am hungry,” said the brunette.
Cabot let her feed first.
Let her think, thought he, she is still a free woman. She can learn later she is kajira. Besides, we may soon be eaten. Yet, thought he, I do not think we are to be eaten, certainly not yet, for we have not yet been eaten, and, too, if we were to be eaten, would we not be fattened, or such, not given this gruel, these pellets, and water?
Cabot noticed that she had left him less than half of the food.
He said nothing about this.
It is perhaps an inadvertence, he thought.
Such things should not happen with a slave, of course. She will feed after the master or under the supervision of the master. In any event, the master would be the first to partake of the food, be it only with so little as a finger lifted to his tongue.
She took, in English, to abusing the quiet interlocutor in his attendance, treating him shortly, and with contempt.
She referred to him as “Caliban,” which is apparently a reference to the literature of one of the Englands. From the reaction of Cabot one gathers the reference was not complimentary, nor was it intended to be so.
"He cannot understand me,” she said.
"Much can be gathered from expressions,” said Cabot, “the tone of one's voice, the attitude of one's body, such things."
"He is stupid, a beast,” she said.
"He is much like a Kur,” said Cabot, “and many Kurii are of high intelligence."
"He is a Kur,” she said.
"Perhaps,” said Cabot.
"They are stupid beasts,” she said.
"I would show him more respect,” said Cabot.
"He might take you off your chain and eat you,” said Cabot, “or eat you on your chain."
"Oh,” she said.
"Perhaps you should think of him less as Caliban,” said Cabot, “and more as Grendel."
The translator is of little help here, but one gathers this was a reference accessible to the brunette. One takes it from the context that a Grendel might be less patient, or more menacing, or more dangerous, than a Caliban, whatever such things might be.
Also, interestingly, as clarified later, Cabot conjectured that an entity spoken of as “Grendel” had once existed on the Earth, and might have been Kur. Similarly, it was his speculation that certain other entities alleged to exist on Earth, particularly in remote mountainous or forested areas, might have been Kurii. We make no judgment on this matter, but it is true that occasionally Kurii were abandoned or marooned on Earth, usually for insubordination, or as a consequence of mutiny, or such.
"Why does he put the food by you first,” she asked, “where I cannot reach it?"
"I do not know,” said Cabot.
"He is a weakling,” she said.
"I do not think so,” said Cabot. “Let us continue with your lessons in Gorean."
"Is it male?” she asked.
"I think so,” he said.
"I despise males,” she said, “—present company excepted, of course."
"You need not except the present company,” he said.
"Very well,” she said.
Cabot thought she would look well on her belly, licking and kissing a man's feet, hoping to be found pleasing.
He supposed that she had had little experience of a certain sort of males, namely, men.
He considered the interlocutor. He was sure he was male, but was perhaps a nondominant, a male who was forbidden to express his maleness, who does not practice it, who has not fulfilled it, such things.
He wondered if many of the males of Earth were nondominants.
Little wonder then, he thought, that so many of the women of Earth languish, deprived, in sexuality's polar wastes, that so many suffer seemingly inexplicable chronic ailments, that so many are mired in boredom or depression, that so many are twisted in neurosis, that so many are frustrated, miserable, petty, irritable, and nasty, that so many are unfulfilled and tragically unhappy.
Send the better ones, he thought, to a Gorean slave block.
Consider the former Miss Pym, he thought.
She would much profit from a slave collar and a taste of the lash.
"What are you thinking about?” she asked.
"Let us continue with your lessons,” he said.
"Very well,” she said.
* * * *
"I think,” said Cabot, to the interlocutor, “you do not need the translator."
The interlocutor did not respond, but turned, and left.
"Of course it needs a translator,” said the brunette.
"I am not sure of that,” said Cabot.
"It is a Kur,” she said.
"It is much like one,” said Cabot.
"Kur,” she said.
"The eyes,” said Cabot, “seem different."
"I do not know that much about Kurii,” she said. Certainly they do not look human."
"You are right,” said Cabot.
She sniffed. “When next he comes, use the translator,” she said, “and demand more and better food, richer food, and more of it, and something other than water to drink, and demand proper clothing for me."
"What would you consider proper clothing?” he asked.
"I do not understand,” she said. “Why are you smiling?"
He had perhaps in mind a slave strip, or a slave rag, or perhaps a nice tunic, or part of one, and, doubtless, a close-fitting, suitable collar.
"Something appropriate,” she said, “indeed, a wardrobe, casual wear, street wear, sports wear, perhaps even evening wear, such things, a wardrobe of high quality, one compatible with my social position. Why are you smiling?"
"You are learning Gorean,” he said. “Why do you not insist on these demands yourself."
"My Gorean is not yet that good,” she said.
"I am afraid our friend,” said Cabot, “does not always turn his translator on."
"I am afraid,” she said, “he has little authority."
"I think you are right,” said Cabot.
"But he could surely nonetheless convey my demands, our demands, to his superiors,” she said.
"Doubtless,” said Cabot.
"Speak to him,” she said.
"If you wish,” he said.
The next day Cabot brought the wishes of his stall mate to the attention of the interlocutor, making quite certain, in a civil and polite manner, of course, but not in an obsequious manner, that he understood that these were the insistencies, or demands, of the brunette, and he was acting as a mere intermediary.
Cabot, you see, was well aware that he and his lovely stall mate were in no position to make demands.
He was grateful that to this point, at least, they had their lives.
The brunette did not follow the conversation well, given the current status of her Gorean.
At one point the interlocutor turned to the brunette and looked at her, as though for the first time, and looked at her rather intently. The brunette, disconcerted, drew back on the chain, and covered herself, as well as she could.
"She is pretty, is she not?” inquired the interlocutor.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"I know one that is much prettier,” said the interlocutor.
"Oh?” said Cabot.
"They are so smooth,” said the interlocutor.
"Yes,” agreed Cabot. Too, that smoothness felt well within one's arms, warm, soft, alive, squirming, vulnerable.
"There are others, some others,” said the interlocutor, “some with the men."
"There are men here?” asked Cabot.
"Some,” said the interlocutor, “and not those in the pens, but the allies, those who have the small ships."
"Confederates of your people?” said Cabot.
"Yes,” said the interlocutor, looking at him, closely, “of my people."
He looked back at the brunette, who regarded him, angrily.
"She is kajira, is she not?” asked the interlocutor.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
The brunette, hearing this word, straightened her body a little.
How vain she is, thought Cabot.
The interlocutor then turned about, and left.
"What did he say, about our demands?” asked the brunette. “Is he going to convey them to his superiors?"
"Your demands,” said Cabot. “And he did not say anything about it, one way or the other."
"What a stupid beast!” she said.
"I do not think so,” said Cabot.
"Next time,” she said, “you must be more firm, more insistent."
"You may speak yourself, next time, if there is a next time,” he said.
"My Gorean!” she protested.
"Speak in English,” he said.
"He would not understand,” she said.
"No, he would not."
"Then what would be the point of it?"
"There is no point to it,” he smiled.
"My demands are meaningless?"
"Yes,” said Cabot. “Now kneel there on your chain and think about that."
"I did hear the word ‘kajira',” she said, pleased.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"He thinks I am beautiful,” she announced.
"Pretty, at least,” said Cabot.
"'Pretty'!” she said. “Beautiful!"
"You at least,” she said, “can see that I am beautiful, extraordinarily, remarkably beautiful!"
"You will do,” he said.
"I told you, did I not, that I thought you would bring a good price—in a market, a slave market."
"Beast! Beast!” she said.
But Cabot could see that she was pleased. What woman has not wondered what she might be worth, what men would pay for her?
If a female wishes to understand what she is, let her consult her fantasies, her dreams.
"He thought that I was pretty?” she asked.
"I think so,” said Cabot.
"But what would a beast, such a beast, know about female beauty?” she asked.
"—You don't think?” she said. She jerked at the chain, frightened.
"I do not know,” he said.
"How long have we been here?” she asked.
"I think five days,” he said.
"The light here is dim, but constant,” she said.
"I have frequently gone to the barred portal, through the passages, sometimes while you slept, and there have been there five lights and five darknesses."
"Day and night!” she exclaimed. “Then we are on a world!"
"We are on a world,” he said. “I am sure of it."
"Then it is a natural world, a planet, for there is day and night!” she said.
"In a way, I suppose,” he said.
"I do not understand,” she said, “the rotation of a planet in its orbit, about its star."
"Things, I think, might be managed differently,” he said.
"I do not understand,” she said.
"I noted something of interest,” he said, “about our friend, something I should have noticed before."
"What? The eyes, the voice?"
"The hand,” said Cabot, “certainly you saw the powerful digits."
"It is clearly the match for a Kur hand,” he said.
"It is a Kur hand,” she said irritably.
"Certainly not a typical Kur hand,” he said.
"Why not?” she asked.
"The Kur hand, or paw,” he said, “has six digits. The hand, or paw, of our friend has five digits."
Chapter, the Fifth:
THE STEEL WORLD
"Ai!” cried Cabot, who was startled, for he was not accustomed to such things.
In the cylinder it seemed there were four long valleys, in one of which they stood; some yards outside the stable, and on the left and right, far off, on each horizon, as though in the sky, there was another valley, and another, dim, far off, lay directly overhead. Between these valleys there were mountains and forests. And Cabot, too, could see, here and there, like a silver thread, a meandering stream.
"There,” said his guide, whom we shall call Arcesilaus, pointing to the left, into the distance, and sky, “is Lake Fear. There is good fishing there, as there is in the streams, and pools."
"Why is it called Lake Fear?” asked Cabot.
He was aware that Kurii were not fond of water.
"Because of the saurians there,” responded Arcesilaus, “descendents of saurians from the Home World."
"And you fear them?"
"Where is the Home World?” asked Cabot.
"It is gone,” said the second Kur, whom we shall call Pyrrhus.
"But we shall have another,” said Arcesilaus.
"It is called Gor,” said Pyrrhus.
"What is above us does not fall upon us,” observed Cabot. It seemed strange to him to see above him, so distant, what he took to be trees, and dwellings, viewed as though from overhead, and yet he was clearly below them, or, perhaps, equivalently, above them.
"This habitat, as many, is a cylinder,” said Arcesilaus, “but many, too, are spherical."
"The gravity surrogate,” said Pyrrhus, “is achieved by rotation."
"It seems much like that of Gor,” said Cabot.
"Intentionally,” said Pyrrhus.
"One can arrange a variety of gravities,” said Arcesilaus, “depending on the speed of the rotation."
"I did not understand such worlds to be so large,” said Cabot.
"This is far from the largest,” said Arcesilaus.
"How large is it?” asked Cabot.
"In measures with which you are familiar,” said Arcesilaus, “some sixteen hundred square pasangs."
"The territory of Venna,” said Cabot, “is not so great."
"I do not know,” said Arcesilaus.
"It is very large,” said Cabot.
"Far from the largest,” said Arcesilaus.
"It is the size of a small country,” said Cabot.
"I suppose so,” said Arcesilaus.
"There is day and night here,” said Cabot. He had ascertained this while still in the stable. The brunette had been left behind, on her chain. With the group, other than Cabot, Arcesilaus, and Pyrrhus, were the interlocutor, whom we shall call, following an earlier conversation between Cabot and the brunette, Grendel, and one or perhaps two others, depending on how one wishes to count. We must certainly count at least one, for he was a male human, a Gorean, a confederate of the Kurii, whose name was Peisistratus, who was of Cosian origin. He was not armed, for humans are not permitted arms in the habitat, save in the areas reserved for them. He did, however, carry a switch. It was some two feet in length. It was clipped on his belt. It was of slender, black, supple leather. It was felt that his presence might be useful if difficulties arose in communication with the human, Tarl Cabot. Also, as we know now he was a spy for the Eleventh Face of the Nameless One, who was Theocrat of the Steel World in question. When necessary, we shall refer to the Eleventh Face of the Nameless One, not inappropriately we trust, by the name of a powerful war leader and king, Agamemnon. The Agamemnon of whose name we have availed ourselves may, as we understand it, have been mythical. I suspect not. The Eleventh face of the Nameless One, however, is not mythical. Its presence we are told is everywhere. I do not know if that is true or not. I doubt it, however, for if it were true, why would it make use of spies? It does, however, upon occasion, assume bodies. I have seen more than one.
The other entity in our small group, which may or may not be counted, as one wishes, was the leashed pet of Arcesilaus, an unspeeched blonde human female, indeed, she whom we encountered earlier in the container. She was very pleased to have been allowed to accompany her master, even into the stable, where he, Pyrrhus, the interlocutor, and Peisistratus, the human, had come to fetch Tarl Cabot, who had, upon their arrival, risen to his feet, and saluted them, with an uplifted hand, and the word “Tal,” to which greeting Peisistratus had responded, similarly. “Tal” had come, too, from the translators of Arcesilaus and Pyrrhus. The blonde had snarled at the brunette, for she remembered her with hostility from the container, and the brunette, on all fours, had drawn back, pulling to the length of her chain.
Her discomfiture amused the human, Peisistratus. “She is kajira?” he inquired of Cabot.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"Why is she not in position?” inquired Peisistratus.
"She does not know she is kajira,” said Cabot.
"Position her,” said Peisistratus.
"She is still learning the language,” said Cabot. Among Goreans when one speaks of “the language,” it is always Gorean, as though no others existed.
"She is not speechless?” asked Peisistratus.
"No,” said Cabot.
"She is a barbarian,” he said.
"Yes,” said Cabot. Goreans often think of those who do not speak their language as barbarians. Indeed, that is the usual definition of a barbarian in Gorean, “one who does not speak the language."
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"I have gathered fruit on Earth,” said Peisistratus.
"You are a slaver?” said Cabot.
"Yes,” he said. “What is her language?"
"English,” said Cabot.
Peisistratus turned to the brunette.
He spoke to her in English.
"Girl!” he said.
"I beg your pardon,” she said, startled.
"Slut!” he snapped.
"Sir!” she protested.
"Are you a female?"
"I do not understand,” she said.
"Are you a female?” he inquired, again, patiently.
"Obviously!” she said.
"And how should a female be before men?” he asked.
"I do not understand you,” she said, frightened.
"Are you kajira?” he asked, harshly.
She looked wildly at Cabot, who nodded.
"Yes,” she said, nodding, “I am kajira."
Peisistratus looked to Cabot. “I thought you said she did not know herself kajira."
"She does not know the meaning of the word,” he said. “She thinks it means she is beautiful, or a beauty, such things."
Peisistratus then turned again to the girl.
He removed the switch from his belt.
She regarded the implement disbelievingly.
"Kneel,” said Peisistratus to the girl, “now, instantly! Back on your heels. Spread your knees!"
"My knees!” she cried.
"Yes,” he said, “widely. More widely! Straighten your back, place your hands, palms down, on your thighs, lift your head, look straight ahead!"
"Never!” she cried.
And then the switch fell savagely upon her, twice.
She screamed in misery.
She looked at Cabot, startled, disbelievingly, in pain. She had felt the switch. Cabot supposed it might have been the first blow she had ever received. This was true, as she had been, for most practical purposes, reared by nurses, maids, and governesses, none of whom would have dared risk their positions by more than a suggestion or a gently reproving word, easily ignored. “Help me!” she cried. There were two marks on her body. Doubtless the blows stung. He had struck her only twice. He had shown her indulgence, doubtless because he sensed her ignorance. A more aware kajira would have doubtless been punished seriously for her lack of instant obedience. But then a more aware kajira would not be likely to have been punished at all, for she would have obeyed instantly. Aware kajirae are seldom punished, for there is no reason to punish them. They know, of course, that they may be punished for the least failure to be fully pleasing. Indeed, they know, as well, the master needs no reason to punish them. They may be punished at any time, at his pleasure, with or without a reason. He is master.
"No,” he said.
"Up, slut, position, position!” said Peisistratus.
Wildly, frantically, sobbing, tears streaming from her eyes, in pain, the brunette knelt before Peisistratus, in position, as required.
"Keep your hands on your thighs!” snapped Peisistratus, for she had dared to move to cover herself.
She complied instantly.
Cabot was pleased to note this alacrity.
Too, he was pleased to see her in position.
She looked well in position, in the position of a Gorean female slave, indeed, rather, in the position of a Gorean female slave of a particular sort, the Gorean female pleasure slave.
Indeed, Cabot thought, she might make a nice pleasure slave.
He supposed that her former male acquaintances would have enjoyed having her kneeling so, before them.
"Do you speak Gorean?” Peisistratus inquired of the girl.
"A little,” she stammered. “A few words, some simple sentences!"
"What were your first words in Gorean?” he asked.
"La kajira!” she said.
Peisistratus then turned to Cabot, and he spoke in Gorean. “You did well,” he said.
"She bespoke herself kajira on a satellite of Priest-Kings, the Prison Moon,” said Cabot.
"I had heard this,” said Peisistratus, who glanced at Arcesilaus, who nodded.
The two men then returned their attention to the girl on the chain, kneeling before them, in the straw.
Yes, Cabot thought, the former male acquaintances of the former Miss Virginia Cecily Jean Pym would have doubtless enjoyed seeing her as she was now, frightened, and obedient, in the position of a Gorean pleasure slave, subject to masculine discipline and direction.
"You are a professional slaver, are you not?” said Cabot.
"Yes,” said Peisistratus.
"What do you think of her?” asked Cabot.
"Less than a half tarsk,” he said.
"So little?” said Cabot.
"She is a barbarian,” he said. “She knows little Gorean. She is new to her condition. She is ignorant, untutored, untrained. She does not yet know how to drive a man out of his mind with pleasure."
"But we are thinking in terms of silver, I trust."
"Then you think she has promise?"
"They all have promise,” he said. “The collar brings out their beauty. Her slave curves could be worse."
Cabot nodded. To him, of course, somehow, she was maddeningly attractive. Had not the Priest-Kings seen to that? But, too, he did not doubt that she was, objectively, an incredibly beautiful young woman, who would be of interest to almost any connoisseur of her form of merchandise. And he did not doubt that several of the men she had known on Earth might very well have considered her, as she had claimed, the most beautiful woman they had ever seen. And she, in her unweening vanity, may well have held this view herself. Her mirror, surely, had not lied. On the other hand, her mirror, too, had not been familiar with, other than its owner, women of an excellence sufficient to be brought to the marking irons and the clasping collars of Gor.
"What do you think, with training, and such,” asked Cabot.
"Perhaps as much as three silver tarsks,” he said, “perhaps as much as four, or five."
"Excellent,” said Cabot.
In a market where beauty was commonly cheap that was an excellent price. But had he not assured her that he thought she would sell well, that she would bring a good price in market of the right sort, a slave market?
"Do you have any objection,” inquired Peisistratus, “to enlightening this stupid little vulo, this ignorant little tasta, as to what she is?"
Cabot shrugged. “No,” he said, “she must learn sometime."
"I think it will be much to her advantage to come to a realization of this as soon as possible, particularly if she should be outside the stable."
Cabot regarded the former Miss Pym, who had wisely retained position.
"I think so,” said Cabot.
Women well understand the switch, the whip, the rope, the chain, such things, often from the very first sight of them.
Outside the stable, a slave, not knowing herself a slave, she might inadvertently behave improperly, and find herself subjected to reprimands which might place her very life in jeopardy. Too, in many milieus it is far safer for a woman to be a slave than to be free. The free person might be simply slain; the slave, as a valued domestic animal, would be far more likely to be spared. Similarly, one would not slay valued kaiila but would add them to one's herds.
Peisistratus then spoke to the brunette in English.
"Repeat,” he said, “firmly, and clearly, the first words you learned in Gorean."
"La kajira!” she said.
"Again!” he snapped.
"Keep your knees apart!"
She complied, frightened.
How soft, and inviting, were her thighs, and how sweet the secret gate to which they led.
"La kajira!” she cried.
"It is true,” he said.
"What do they mean?” he said.
"I do not know,” she sobbed. “That I am a beauty, that I am beautiful, I do not know!"
"You are vain, are you not?"
"I do not know!” she wept.
"You are,” he said.
"Yes, Sir,” she sobbed.
"But that is quite all right, for one such as you,” he said.
"For one such as I?"
"Yes,” he said, “for one who is kajira."
"It does mean then that I am beautiful?"
"No,” he said, “but it is seldom that one who is not beautiful is kajira."
She regarded him, frightened.
"You suspect, do you not?” he asked.
"No,” she said. “No! No!"
"Yes,” said he. “It means ‘I am a slave girl.’”
"No!” she cried. “No! No! No!"
"Do not break position,” warned Peisistratus.
"You bespoke yourself slave on the Prison Moon,” said Cabot. “The words were spoken. The thing was done."
"I was frightened!” she said. “I didn't think! I didn't know what I was saying!"
"Slaves may not lie,” said Cabot. “Do not lie. You knew well what you were saying. Do not lie. You are not a free woman. They may lie, you may not. Do not lie. You are now subject to discipline, and may be whipped."
"Yes,” said Cabot. “The words were spoken. That is sufficient. It was done. Clearly, too, you meant what you said. It was obvious. But that is not important. It does not matter whether you meant what you said or not. The words were spoken. The thing was done."
"I was then a slave?"
"I am a slave?"
"You knew this all the time!” she said to Cabot.
"Yes,” he said.
"But you did not tell me!"
"Of course not,” said Cabot. “I was amused by your arrogance, and such, how you carried on as though you might be free."
"You were playing with me!"
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"Beast!” she wept, but feared to break position.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"Free me!” she cried.
"Free yourself,” he said.
"How, how?” she asked.
"There is no way,” he said. “You are slave. There is no way you can free yourself."
"I despise men!” she cried.
"I do not think so,” he said.
"I do, I do despise them!” she wept.
"You now belong to them,” he said.
"I do not want to be a slave!” she cried.
"You will commonly kneel in the presence of free persons,” said Cabot. “You will address free men as “Master,” free women as “Mistress.” Instant and unquestioning obedience is expected of you. Commonly, you are not to speak unless you have been given permission to do so. When you speak you will speak with softness and deference. You can own nothing. It is you who are owned. You are a property, an animal, subject to buying and selling, trading, and such. You are completely at the disposal and pleasure of your master, in all ways."
"In all ways?"
"Yes,” he said, “and particularly so."
"I do not want to be a slave!” she cried.
Peisistratus lifted his switch, but Cabot placed his hand gently on his arm, and stayed his hand.
She had not requested permission to speak.
"You do want to be a slave,” Cabot informed her.
"No, no!” she said.
"But it does not matter one way or another,” he said. “You are a slave."
"No,” she wept. “No, no!"
Arcesilaus, who was large, even for a Kur, had witnessed the preceding exchanges with a certain degree of tolerance. Kurii, as I may have mentioned before, do not make slaves of humans, no more than, say, humans make slaves of dogs or cats. They tend to regard humans, on the whole, as food. Indeed, in Kur there is a generic word for “food,” and it is understood that it covers a wide variety of edible organisms, for example, verr, tarsk, vulo, human, and so on. Similarly, in many of the Earth languages I am informed there is a similar generic word which refers to a wide variety of edibles, vegetables, fruit, nuts, meat, and so on. Kurii do, of course, recognize that humans may serve several purposes beyond those commonly associated with food, that they may, for example, have uses as workers, pets, confederates, and so on.
Arcesilaus then gave a slight shake to the blonde's leash, and she, who had been curled on the wood at his feet, quickly stood up.
"Would you like to see our world?” inquired Arcesilaus of Cabot, through the translator.
"Very much so,” said Cabot.
Pyrrhus, much smaller than Arcesilaus, no more than four or five hundred pounds, who was in the ring hierarchy subordinate to Arcesilaus, was looking at the brunette, who was still in position. That movement of the features which Cabot was learning was a Kur smile, appeared about his jaws.
Peisistratus replaced his switch on his belt.
"Follow us, if you would,” said Arcesilaus.
The group then prepared to leave.
Cabot turned to the brunette.
"Cecily,” he said. Then he repeated the name, firmly, not unkindly. “Cecily."
He wondered if she would understand what was required.
"—Master?” she whispered.
He saw she was highly intelligent.
"When we leave,” he said, “you may break position.” Then he continued to look at her, obviously awaiting a response.
"Yes, Master,” she said.
He continued to regard her.
"—Thank you, Master,” she whispered.
Yes, he thought, she is quite intelligent. Doubtless with some training much might be expected of her in the furs, at the foot of one's couch.
He then turned to leave, and followed the others, who had preceded him a bit down the passageway.
As he left he heard her sobbing behind him, and wildly pulling at the chain, trying to free it from its fastening.
She would not, of course, be successful in this endeavor.
* * * *
"I have noted, from the stable,” said Cabot to his guides, “there seems to be an alternation of day and night."
"It agrees,” said Arcesilaus, “with that of Gor, adjusted seasonally, to the middle latitudes of that world."
"Intentionally,” said Cabot.
"Surely,” said Arcesilaus.
"I would have thought,” said Cabot, “it would have been adjusted to that of your Home World."
"Much has been lost,” said Pyrrhus, “pertaining to the Home World."
"It is important to index these things to Gor,” said Arcesilaus.
"Of course,” said Cabot.
"It is similar in several of the other worlds,” said Arcesilaus. “We wish to ease as much as possible the transition to Gor for our people."
"An invasion?” said Cabot.
"An immigration.” said Pyrrhus. Cabot noted that grimacelike smile that betokened Kur pleasure, or wit.
"There are those spoken of as Priest-Kings,” noted Cabot.
"Tell us about them,” said Arcesilaus.
"They are powerful, and considered mysterious,” said Cabot, carefully.
"They imprisoned you, for you are their enemy,” said Arcesilaus.
"We are your friend,” said Pyrrhus.
"They imprisoned me,” said Cabot, “but I am not their enemy."
"But you are our friend,” said Pyrrhus.
"Perhaps,” said Cabot. “But how can a mere human, no more than a simple beast, be a friend to those as mighty and noble as Kurii?"
"Do you think you are speaking ironically?” asked Arcesilaus.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"You are not,” said Pyrrhus.
"Where is Zarendargar?” asked Cabot. It was, after all, he who had doubtless planned and brought to fruition the raid on the Prison Moon.
"He is your friend?” inquired Arcesilaus.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"Interesting,” said Pyrrhus.
"We shared paga,” said Cabot.
"A great honor,” said Arcesilaus. The translator pronounced these words precisely, clearly, unemotionally, in accents of Ar, but Cabot could tell that Arcesilaus deemed this an intelligence of some moment.
"Where is Zarendargar?” asked Cabot.
"Doubtless safe and well,” said Arcesilaus. “And perhaps you will see him soon."
Cabot was not reassured by this communication, as benign as it seemed. He was sure that his rescue had been brought about through the resourcefulness and daring of Zarendargar. Why then had he not seen him?
"Tell us of Priest-Kings,” said Arcesilaus.
"How do you arrange day and night here?” asked Cabot. He looked up, at the valley overhead.
"It is done,” said Arcesilaus, “by an arrangement of mirrors outside the habitat and automated shutters within the habitat, utilizing the light, of course, of this system's primary."
"That light is constant,” said Pyrrhus, “and it supplies us with not only light but, by means of large absorbers and transformers, enormous energy, constant energy, almost unvarying energy, which may be utilized in a variety of forms, directly and indirectly."
"The habitat,” said Cabot, “would lack an atmosphere."
"An external atmosphere,” said Arcesilaus. “Obviously there is no difficulty with our internal atmosphere, which, too, incidentally, is much like that of Gor."
"What could protect you from radiation,” asked Cabot, “or from debris, of the sort which might be destroyed and scattered in a normal atmosphere?"
"The habitats are shielded, of course,” said Arcesilaus, “with several yards of slag, steel, stone, and such."
"Objects of sufficient menace,” said Pyrrhus, “such as those approximating the mass of the habitat itself, can be detected, years in advance, and no more than a small energy, at that distance, is required to move them from their course."
"Is there no danger from smaller debris?” asked Cabot.
"Very little,” said Pyrrhus. “You must understand that the light and energy is introduced into the habitat indirectly, by means of mirrors and reflective devices. Occasionally a particle, weighing no more than man or tarsk, rebounding, or such, punctures the habitat, in the vicinity of the shutters. This rupture is soon detected and repaired. Even were it not, it would take several days for the atmosphere to be reduced to levels of discomfort."
"Have you factories, farms?” asked Cabot, who, from his vantage point, could see little that suggested such things.
"Certainly,” said Arcesilaus, “but we would not wish to clutter the habitat with such miscellaneous utilities. Accordingly, they are isolated, usually only a few Ehn journey from the habitat. We have two agricultural satellites, or cylinders, and one devoted to industry."
"In the agricultural satellites,” said Pyrrhus, “a number of crops are grown, not blood food, but crops from which, suitably processed, nourishment may be obtained. We may arrange growing seasons, temperature, soil nutriments, light and darkness, and such, as we please. Thus we may have crops all year around in any fashion desired. There are no noxious insects, or such, either, to compete for the food, as we have not allowed their entry into the areas. Only such bacteria as are beneficial are admitted."
"The farms are largely automated,” said Arcesilaus, “though conditions must be monitored. Our people who work in the farm areas often wear protective clothing, for the heat, the humidity, and such, of some of the areas, particularly those of a tropical nature, would be uncomfortable."
"Out industrial cylinder,” said Pyrrhus, “has several divisions in which work may be efficiently accomplished, some of it, when appropriate, under degravitized conditions."
"Where,” asked Cabot, “do you get the raw materials for these things, the shielding, the chemicals, and such?"
"The habitat swims in the midst of plenty,” said Pyrrhus.
"But oxygen?” said Cabot.
"Oxygen is abundant in the silicate of our neighbors,” said Arcesilaus. “It is one of the commonest elements in the universe. So, too, with carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, and such. Ferrous metals, phosphates, water, sulfur, and so on, abound. All of these materials are obtained and processed."
"You have all you need for life here,” said Cabot, “food, water, raw materials, comfort, territory, abundant energy, all such things."
Arcesilaus shrugged, a movement of large muscles moving like living rope beneath the skin, moving the shimmering fur in turn like wind in the water.
"You have little to fear,” said Cabot, “other than the demise of the star."
"We would then seek another,” said Pyrrhus.
"You can move the habitats?"
"Of course,” said Arcesilaus.
"Of course,” said Cabot, “that is how you came here."
"We are not sure, now, from how far,” said Arcesilaus.
"Records are lost, and some remaining are inconsistent."
"Wars,” explained Arcesilaus.
"With all due respect,” said Pyrrhus, glancing at the blonde, who lay at the feet of Arcesilaus, “the universe belongs by right to the Kurii. We are the highest and noblest life form in the universe, its noblest and supreme accomplishment. Has it not been designed to produce us and abet our projects? It is accordingly our duty to seed the universe with our kind and to spread the light of our civilization throughout the cosmos."
"Have you already begun to do so?” inquired Cabot.
"Yes,” said Pyrrhus. “Some of the worlds are already aflight."
"You shudder?” inquired Arcesilaus.
"I felt cold,” said Cabot.
"You have seen enough for one day,” said Arcesilaus. “Let us return you to the stable."
"There are some other cylinders, as well,” said Pyrrhus. “There is a hunting cylinder, muchly forested, where we may go for the pleasures of hunting, and we maintain, for our human confederates, a pleasure cylinder, such things."
"It seems you have everything you need here,” said Cabot.
"Yes,” said Arcesilaus.
"But you are not satisfied?"
"This is not a natural world,” said Arcesilaus.
"It is not Gor,” said Pyrrhus.
"What of Priest-Kings?” asked Cabot.
"Yes,” said Arcesilaus. “What of Priest-Kings?"
"Perhaps you will tell us about them some day,” said Pyrrhus.
"Perhaps,” said Cabot.
Arcesilaus then gave a tiny shake to the blonde's leash, and she stood, happily.
She was very pleased to be back in her collar.
You may recall her unease in the container, when she had awakened uncollared, her touching her neck, and such, her fear. You may not have understood her anxiety at the time, or fully, but would have, had you known more of the Steel Worlds. We tried to explain her concern at the time, at least to some extent. For example, apprehended by the patrollers, with their catchpoles and ropes, as a stray, she might have been remanded, perhaps hamstrung, to the cattle pens, later to be dragged to the butchering table.
In any event, it is not surprising that she was pleased to be back in her collar, with all the security it afforded her, but, more importantly, now, she was forward and even arrogant in wearing it. It indicated, after all, her particular and enviable specialness, her status, amongst humans in the habitat. She was a Kur pet.
Had she not, just now, in effect, posed before Cabot, touching the collar with both hands, pointing to it with both hands, looking up at him, indicating it, displaying it?
The collar itself was attractive on her, of course, as collars are on women. Surely she was becomingly collared, and it well set off her sleek, raw nudity, as a collar will. It was a typical pet collar, for such as she, high, to keep her head up, leather, closely fitting, locked in the back, with a ring in front, to which a leash might be attached, a chain, or such.
Cabot did not doubt but what her owner's name was on the collar. That is typical, at any rate, of Gorean slave collars. The slave's name, too, is often included, as in, say, “I am Susan. I belong to Michael of Treve,” “I am Linda, the property of Emmerich of Harfax,” “This slave is Phyllis. She belongs to Rufus, of Ar,” and so on.
Cabot smiled at her.
She moved her face in such a way that suggested she was trying to smile. Babies smile, thought Cabot, but perhaps they learn to smile.
At this point the interlocutor, Grendel, as we have chosen to speak of him, who had silently accompanied the group until now, uttered a low, menacing growl.
Arcesilaus then said something which was not picked up by the translator, and the blonde immediately went to all fours, the leash dangling up to her master's hand, or paw. Women look well on all fours, thought Cabot. I wonder if her master knows how this sight might affect male humans, seeing lovely human females so, particularly slaves, not that the blonde was a slave. She was a pet. Cabot would have preferred that she was a slave. There is something special about slaves. He had not unoften had his own slaves approach him so, sometimes bringing him the switch, or a whip, in their teeth.
The blonde looked up at him, happily.
Again the interlocutor growled, but a word from Arcesilaus, not transmitted, rebuffed him, and he put his shaggy head down, angrily, sullenly, on his chest. But two paws remained clenched.
"Our compatriot,” said Arcesilaus, indicating Grendel, “will see you to the stable."
"Why was I brought here?” asked Cabot.
"It is getting late,” said Arcesilaus.
Grendel surlily indicated that Cabot should precede him to the stable, which was not far. When they arrived there, Cabot entered the stable, and Grendel closed and locked the gate behind him. Cabot turned and said “Tal.” In this way he greeted Grendel. Grendel appeared surprised, but, after a moment, said, “Tal.” He had not used the translator.
Cabot then returned to the stall.
The brunette was gone.
Chapter, the Sixth:
A CONVERSATION WITH GRENDEL
"It is here,” said Grendel, “in this vestibule, that you are to await the summons of the Eleventh Face of the Nameless One, Theocrat of the World."
"Of this world,” said Cabot.
"Is there another?” asked Grendel.
"It is not necessary to pretend to be stupid with me,” said Cabot.
"But I am stupid,” said Grendel, “a mere beast."
"Switch off your translator,” said Cabot. “You can speak Gorean."
Grendel shook his head, and did not move to touch the translator.
"I have a thousand questions,” said Cabot, angrily. “I would know their answers."
"I shared a stall, days ago, with a dark-haired slave,” he said. “She is gone. Where is she? I have been brought here, to this world. Why? Where is Zarendargar? Who is Agamemnon? What is a Nameless One? What is the Eleventh Face of a Nameless One? How are there humans here? What do you do with them? Who are your confederates? How many have you? How do they figure in your plans? There is purpose in all this, I am sure. You do little or nothing without purpose. Why am I here? What do you want of me?"
Grendel turned off his translator, and turned away.
"You know the pet of Arcesilaus!” called Cabot.
Suddenly Grendel stopped, but did not turn to face him.
Cabot had well recalled the menace in the beast's attitude, its growls, several days earlier, when he had smiled at the pet of Arcesilaus.
Cabot was not stupid. He was not certain, but there seemed something there he might be able to exploit.
"She is a pretty thing,” said Cabot. “And clever. We were in the container together, on the Prison Moon. Perhaps you know of that."
Grendel turned about and crouched down. His hind legs were bent, tensed. The knuckles of his hands were on the tiles. There was moisture at his fangs.
If he charges, thought Cabot, he may slip on the tiles. They are smooth. But if he is clever he will approach more carefully, but swiftly.
He is furious.
I think he will lunge.
But he is clever.
Then Grendel retracted his claws.
He does not have permission to kill me, thought Cabot.
"She is a lovely pet, and very clever,” said Cabot. “In the container she was trying to learn to speak. She could repeat sounds well. I thought I would mention this, for you might teach her to speak. That might be pleasant, and think how interesting a pet she would be, if she could speak. Would not Arcesilaus be pleased? You could use the translator."
"I am teaching her to speak,” said Grendel.
Cabot was startled.
"For days, since you came to us,” he said.
"Does Arcesilaus know?” asked Cabot. He was reasonably sure that Arcesilaus, despite what he had suggested, would not wish his pet to learn to speak. Presumably Kurii would not wish their humans, save, say, their confederates, to be able to speak. Surely they would prefer for their humans, their pets, their cattle, and such, to remain without speech, to remain simple speechless animals. That is the way they would want them.
"Yes,” said Grendel. “And it is by his command that I am teaching her."
"I speculate that she is an apt pupil,” said Cabot.
"She is apt, and zealous,” said Grendel.
"Then you are much together?"
"You like her?"
"She is only a human,” said Grendel, “an animal."
"You like her?"
"She is a lovely pet,” said Grendel.
"But you like her?” said Cabot.
Grendel turned away.
"Wait,” called Cabot. “Why is she being taught?"
"To be more pleasing to you,” said Grendel, without turning about. “She is to be a gift for you."
"I do not want her,” said Cabot.
Grendel turned slowly to face Cabot. He was like a rounded boulder of fur. He lifted his head. “You do not want her?” he said.
"No,” said Cabot.
"But she is human,” he said.
"So, too,” said Cabot, “are you."
"No!” cried Grendel.
"Look at your hands!” cried Cabot.
Grendel, in dismay, lifted a paw before his face. Its digits were massive, but of them there were only five.
"Your voice,” said Cabot, “is not full Kur, nor your eyes!"
Grendel suddenly rolled on the tiles howling in pain, and scratched at them, and then was still, crouched down, head moving from side to side, moaning.
"You told me you were the result of an experiment,” said Cabot.
"It turned out badly,” said Grendel.
"No,” said Cabot, “it was outstandingly successful."
Grendel regarded him, puzzled.
"Who was your father, your mother?” demanded Cabot.
"My fathers were Kur,” he said, “how many I do not know, perhaps a dozen, nor do I know their properties, whose hereditary coils were meshed with the matrix."
"The matrix was the egg of a human female,” said Cabot.
"I was not placed in the adhering wombs,” said Grendel. “Nor did I feed on the womb and tear it, and drink its blood, nor did I bite and claw my way free when it was time."
"You were carried within a human female,” said Cabot, “and brought to term."
"Yes,” said Grendel, “and it was her own egg with which the hereditary coils were enmeshed, the egg then replaced in her body."
"The biological mother and the birth mother were then the same,” said Cabot.
"Many interventions of a subtle nature were required to bring this about,” said Grendel.
Cabot then understood better the standing of Kur science.
"What was the point of the experiment?” asked Cabot. “Was it merely to advance a science, an effort to ascertain its possibilities, its limits?"
"They wished to produce something,” said Grendel, “which might mediate between Kur and human, something that might speak easily with them, understand them, relate to them, be less feared by them, and by means of which they might be the better enlisted in the projects of the worlds."
"They wish humans as allies?"
"Certainly, to abet our projects, to advance against Priest-Kings, to help us, properly armed, to win Gor."
"To fight your battles?"
"Certainly,” said Grendel. “Is it not better to use humans, a lesser life form, to probe for us, to do war for us, than to risk Kurii?"
"Doubtless,” said Cabot.
"It is clearly so,” said Grendel. “It is indisputable."
"If this project were to be successful,” said Cabot, “then the territories and resources of Gor would be shared equally by humans and Kurii, as victorious allies?"
"Humans are a lesser life form,” said Grendel.
"I see,” said Cabot.
"They would then be no longer necessary,” said Grendel.
"But they might retain uses,” speculated Cabot, “as food animals, and such?"
"One supposes so,” said Grendel.
"But you are here, on the Steel World, this Steel World,” said Cabot.
"I have been tested with humans,” said Grendel. “I am too different. They fear me. They dread me. They do not trust me. They see me as Kur, which I am. So the project was abandoned. I am thus the useless consequence of a misguided experiment. I am the only one of my kind. I am left over. I am a mistake. I am worthless."
"You are not worthless,” said Cabot.
"True,” said Grendel. “I am swift, I am strong, even for Kurii. And I can kill."
"You are fond of the pet of Arcesilaus,” said Cabot.
"She is pretty, is she not?” he asked.
"Yes,” said Cabot, “very pretty, even beautiful."
"She is to be given to you,” he said.
"Why?” asked Cabot.
"Many things may be given to you,” said Grendel.
"Perhaps you might succeed where I have failed,” he said.
"How is that?"
"You are human,” he said.
"I do not want her,” said Cabot.
"You would be wise to accept the gifts which are offered to you,” said Grendel.
"Where is your mother?” asked Cabot.
"She is dead,” said Grendel.
"I am sorry,” said Cabot. “How did she die?"
"She saw me,” he said. “I was brought to her. She killed herself."
Chapter, the Seventh:
CABOT LEARNS SOMETHING OF AGAMEMNON,
THE ELEVENTH FACE OF THE NAMELESS ONE
"If you would accompany me, Warrior,” said Peisistratus, “I will conduct you to the audience chamber of Agamemnon, who is the Eleventh Face of the Nameless One."
"You know that I am of the Warriors,” said Cabot.
"Yes,” he said.
"How would you know that?"
"You carry yourself as one of the scarlet caste,” he said.
Grendel had left the vestibule.
"Where is the brunette slave?” asked Cabot.
"The pathetic, ignorant slut of the stable?"
"I do not know."
"How is it that you, a human, are here?"
"I am well paid,” he said.
"The Kurii pay well?"
"Very well,” he said.
"In what tender?"
"Power,” said he, “and precious metals, and jewels, and slaves. To those who serve them well the Kurii are generous."
"And to those who do not serve them well?"
"To them,” said Peisistratus, “they are less generous."
"What is your role here, in this moment, now?” inquired Cabot.
"It is supposed that I may be of assistance in your meeting with the noble and exalted Agamemnon, the Eleventh Face of the Nameless One. Amongst Kurii and humans communication is often difficult, even with translators."
"Agamemnon is Kur?"
"I am not sure,” said Peisistratus.
"How is that?"
"I have seen only his bodies,” said Peisistratus.
"I do not understand."
"He does not care to be kept waiting,” said Peisistratus.
"Let him wait,” said Cabot.
"That is not wise,” said Peisistratus, uneasily.
"Who is the Nameless One?” asked Cabot.
"A principle, a force, something inexplicable, something beyond human comprehension,” said Peisistratus. “It is eternal, neither coming into being nor passing out of being. It scatters worlds like the petals of flowers, it shapes dimensions and brews stars."
Cabot listened, uncertain of what he heard.
"You do not understand?"
"No,” said Cabot.
"Nor do I,” said Peisistratus, “but the words flicker in the darkness, affording to some an illusion of understanding, a measure of comfort."
"Do they not, rather, in their futility, make the darkness yet more obscure?"
"And behind the Nameless One,” smiled Peisistratus, “lies the Mystery."
"I prefer a sword,” said Cabot, “and something before it, friend or foe."
"And perhaps hot paga,” said Peisistratus, “and ships, and tarns, and a wallet of gold, and at your feet, in your collar, beautiful women?"
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"Let us be on our way,” urged Peisistratus.
"How is this Agamemnon the Eleventh Face of the Nameless One?” asked Cabot. “What does that mean?"
"The Nameless One,” said Peisistratus, “is beyond human comprehension, but it speaks through many masks, conceals itself behind many veils, and manifests itself through a thousand faces. It moves in the wind, in the churning sea, in the sheetings of rain, in the cry of lightning, in the tremors of the earth; it whispers in lava scalding the affrighted air; it prowls with the panther; it soars with the tarn; it bounds with the startled tabuk."
"Is one of the faces of the Nameless One,” said Peisistratus.
"Surely you do not believe all this,” said Cabot.
"It does not matter what I believe, or what you believe,” said Peisistratus. “Many Kurii believe such things, and, I fear, so, too, does Agamemnon."
"Then he is insane,” said Cabot.
"The singleness and indivisible will of the insane, coupled with great intellect and ambition,” said Peisistratus, “have not unoften been the route to unusual power."
"He thinks, as I understand it,” said Cabot, “he is a face of the Nameless One."
"Then he is insane,” said Cabot.
"Unless, of course,” said Peisistratus, “he is correct."
"Yes,” said Cabot, “unless he is correct."
"To the audience chamber?” said Peisistratus.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
Chapter, the Eighth:
AN INTERVIEW WITH AGAMEMNON,
THE ELEVENTH FACE OF THE NAMELESS ONE
"Where is he?” asked Cabot.
The audience chamber, reached by a long passage leading from the vestibule, was quite large. It was rounded and domed, and, high in its walls were narrow windows, through which the interior was dimly lit. The floor was smooth, and red, and formed of large, fitted tiles. The encircling walls were of yellow stone. At one end of the room, opposite the portal through which Cabot and Peisistratus had entered, was a low, stone dais. On it was no chair. Behind this dais was a curtained opening.
"This might be the audience chamber of a Ubar,” said Cabot.
"I think not,” said Peisistratus. “Such a chamber would surely be more ornate, better lit, crowded with servitors and guards, furnished ostentatiously with precious vessels, statuary, display slaves, a sampling of nude chained beauties, preferably of high caste, ideally the daughters of Ubars, taken from conquered cities, and such."
"Still, it is similar,” said Cabot.
"Doubtless it is intended to resemble a Ubar's audience chamber,” said Peisistratus.
"The common housing, and domiciling, of Kurii, as I understand it,” said Cabot, “is far darker, and more cavelike."
"Yes,” said Peisistratus, “they have excellent dark vision, and often feel more secure, more comfortable, in such surroundings."
Cabot supposed that the Kurii might originally have been a species which sought out lairs, dark places, caves, and such.
"This is then to impress humans?"
"Perhaps,” said Peisistratus, “but, too, perhaps it is intended to make them feel less closed in, more at ease."
"So where is our host?” inquired Cabot.
"It seems,” said Peisistratus, “he is letting you wait."
Shortly thereafter the curtains at the end of the room, behind the dais, were drawn open by two Kurii.
From down the hall, beyond the curtain, Cabot heard a sound as of metal, a step, and then a scraping, and another step, and a scraping. It was very slow, and very methodical, as though something were accustoming itself to an unfamiliar housing of some sort.
Peisistratus said nothing.
Cabot stepped back, for he saw in the parting of the curtain a wide face, a broad form, a long form, the end of which he did not discern.
"It is a tharlarion, a river tharlarion,” said Cabot.
It was a creature of metal, but it did muchly resemble a large river tharlarion of the sort which might terrorize the Ua, and such rivers, predominantly those of tropical Gor.
It crawled slowly onto the dais, on which it crouched. Its mouth, which it opened, as though yawning, was spiked with rows of thick, nail-like metallic teeth, some inches in length. Cabot could see no face within the opening. It is a machine, thought Cabot, but where is its operator? Is it remotely controlled? The metal beast had, like the river tharlarion, a long tail, in this machine of diminishing, overlapping plates. It also had hornlike projections aligned on its metal spinal column. Cabot conjectured the jaws could shake and cut a normal river tharlarion in two, that the tail, with a swift blow, might shatter stone or fell trees.
The two Kurii who had parted the curtains for the entrance of the metal beast now crouched near it, on the dais, one on each side.
"Behold,” came from a translator, presumably that of one of the beasts flanking the object on the dais, “Agamemnon, The Eleventh Face of the Nameless One, Theocrat of the World."
This was followed by a silence.
"Are we expected to prostrate ourselves?” asked Cabot. He had, incidentally, no intention of doing so.
"Certainly not,” said Peisistratus. “We are not women or slaves. We are free men, of caste."
"Tal,” said Cabot, to the object on the dais.
"Tal,” it said, through a translator, seemingly within the metallic body. “We welcome the noble Tarl Cabot, human, and Warrior, to our world."
With an inclination of his head, Cabot acknowledged this greeting.
"We have long been eager to make your acquaintance,” came from the device. “We have waited long to have you here, as an honored, and valued, guest."
"Sir,” said Cabot, noncommittally.
"Doubtless you have many questions,” came from the device. “Many, I trust, have already been answered by our unfortunate Grendel, whose repellant appearance we trust did not overly disgust you, and others by our dear colleague and friend, Peisistratus, of the lovely island of Cos, in Thassa. We shall shortly do our best to satisfy any residue of curiosity which might remain. First, however, allow me to thank you, on behalf of our world, for your efforts, long ago, on behalf of our beloved officer, Zarendargar, efforts which obviously brought you into disrepute with your masters, the Priest-Kings of Gor."
"They are not my masters,” said Cabot.
"Surely no longer,” came from the device.
"Never,” said Cabot.
"Excellent,” said the device. “You recognize, of course, that they are your enemies."
"It seems so,” said Cabot.
"It is surely so,” came from the device. “You were put on the Prison Moon, though a free man, and a Warrior, naked, in full view, in shameful, close confinement, and in circumstances clearly designed to strain your honor, after the loss of which you would presumably be disposed of, and doubtless in a lengthy, unpleasant fashion."
"How did you come to know of such things?” asked Cabot.
"We have the benefit of informants,” came from the device.
"Spies,” said Cabot.
"If you like,” came from the device.
"Within the Sardar?"
"Unfortunately not, but Priest-Kings deal with humans and humans may deal with us."
"Perhaps you may tell us of the interior precincts of the Sardar one day,” came from the device, “of the nature of Priest-Kings, and such."
"They are the gods of Gor,” said Cabot. “Who knows the nature of gods?"
"True,” came from the device, after a moment.
"Two females were enclosed with me,” said Cabot, “and both were free."
"Yes, free, how unfortunate,” said Agamemnon, either from within the device, or somehow, in communication with it.
"One,” said Cabot, “was a nasty, spoiled brat from England, though nicely faced and well-curved, who would make a nice slab of collar meat, suitably to be bid from the block, and the other was a pet, of Arcesilaus, whom I gather is an officer of yours, she, too, nicely faced and nicely curved."
"And would she not look well in a collar, as well?” inquired Agamemnon.
"Certainly,” said Cabot, “and she would bring a good price on Gor."
"With training,” said Peisistratus.
Blondes were rarer on Gor than brunettes, save in the northern latitudes, and tended to bring somewhat better prices, due to this rarity. Cabot himself preferred brunettes. The most desiderated hair coloring for a female slave on Gor, incidentally, is auburn.
"As we understand it,” said Agamemnon, “both of those females were of a sort likely to be sexually stimulating to a human male."
"Extremely so,” said Cabot.
"How cruel are the Priest-Kings,” said Agamemnon.
"I used neither,” said Cabot.
"Up to the point of your release,” said Agamemnon.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"But let us suppose you had been held longer in captivity."
"Then, doubtless,” said Cabot, “I would have put both of them to my pleasure, variously and extensively so."
"Even though they were free?"
"As though they were of no more moment than slaves?"
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"I see,” said Agamemnon.
"I am, of course, grateful for my rescue,” said Tarl Cabot.
"It was our hope that you would be pleased,” said Agamemnon.
"I am, indeed,” said Cabot.
"I understand,” said Agamemnon, “you have been inadequately housed."
"Better quarters will soon be arranged,” said Agamemnon.
Cabot nodded. “My thanks,” he said.
"And my dear Peisistratus,” said Agamemnon, “you could, if need be, could you not, arrange for some feminine companionship for our friend, Tarl Cabot?"
"Certainly,” said Peisistratus. “By evening, I can send him a whip and a chain of ten beauties from the pleasure cylinder.” He turned to Cabot. “Do you want them stripped or clothed?"
"Clothed?” said Cabot.
"As slaves, of course,” said Peisistratus.
"Good,” said Cabot.
Female slaves on Gor, if garmented, are distinctively garmented, usually briefly and revealingly. That is the way men prefer it and, too, of course, they must under no circumstances be confused with free women, who are of course infinitely beyond them in dignity and worth. The slave is worth less than the dirt beneath the sandals of a free woman. Cabot supposed similar customs would obtain in the Steel Worlds. In this he was, of course, correct.
"But I am not yet ready to accept gifts,” said Tarl Cabot.
"How wise you are,” said Agamemnon. “Let us speak plainly."
"Please do,” said Cabot.
"You are perhaps aware of the experiment, whom you refer to, and we have followed your initiative in the matter, Grendel."
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"To us,” said Agamemnon, “he is hideous. Consider the nature of the pelt, the shape of the eyes, the tonalities of its utterance, the monstrosity of a five-digited hand."
"I have a five-digited hand,” said Cabot.
"Yes, but you are human,” said Agamemnon, “and what is appropriate for you is not appropriate for a different life form."
"It seems a small thing,” said Cabot.
"Not to Kurii,” said Agamemnon.
"I understand,” said Cabot.
"Some humans find the appearance of Kurii frightening,” said Agamemnon.
"That is true,” said Cabot.
"We hoped that Grendel might be acceptable to your species, being taken, in effect, as human, and might well serve us in our relationships with humans, as an intermediary."
Cabot said nothing.
"But, unfortunately,” said Agamemnon, “that seems not the case."
"No,” said Cabot.
"But he does seem human, does he not?"
"Not really,” said Cabot. “And certainly not in size, shape, and appearance."
"Doubtless he seems far more human to us than he does to you."
"That is quite possible,” said Cabot.
"In any event,” said Agamemnon, “human males tend to be uneasy in his presence, and human females cry out and withdraw, often screaming and sobbing, to the length of their chains."
"So our experiment proved unsuccessful,” said Agamemnon, “and we realized we must rethink matters."
"You have human allies,” said Cabot.
"Some, surely,” said Agamemnon, “but not thousands, not armies."
"You wish armies?"
"Divisions, regiments,” said Agamemnon.
"To destroy Priest-Kings and seize Gor?"
"To free Gor,” said Agamemnon.
"And to labor on behalf of humans, our oppressed brothers,” said Agamemnon, “to liberate them from the tyranny of Priest-Kings."
"It seems a noble endeavor,” said Cabot.
"Too,” said Agamemnon, “our human allies would not be forgotten in the morning of our victory, but would be well repaid for their efforts, efforts which, in large part, were exerted on their own behalf."
"You would assist humans in winning Gor?"
"Arms, direction, such things."
"Kurii can be generous,” said Agamemnon.
"Gold, land, power, tharlarion, kaiila, women?” asked Cabot.
"Certainly,” said Agamemnon.
"Perhaps two,” said Agamemnon. “Once the Priest-Kings are destroyed, we would have two worlds at our disposal, one desirable, the other less so."
"Gor, I take it,” said Cabot, “would be shared equally, its land, its riches, and such, all, equally, between Kurii and humans."
"Certainly,” said Agamemnon.
"How might I figure in these plans?” inquired Cabot.
"I see that you are interested,” said Agamemnon.
"Who would not be?"
"Kurii must be involved subtly in these campaigns, at least at first,” said Agamemnon. “The assistance, guidance, wisdom, direction, and counsel they provide must be veiled, at least at first. Humans must believe it is their battle, a battle waged to win their own freedom, a struggle to claim what has been denied to them, and is rightfully theirs, Gor."
"Such things have often taken place on Earth,” said Cabot, “though the collusion, the veiling, and such, has not been between species."
"On the Steel Worlds, as well,” said Agamemnon.
"Doubtless exploitation is common amongst rational beings,” said Cabot.
"Let us speak not of exploitation but of common interests, and brotherhood."
"And what would take place on this morning of victory?"
"Gor would belong not to Priest-Kings,” said Agamemnon, “but to humans."
"We would expect some land to be set aside for us, to be reserved for our use,” said Agamemnon.
"I thought Gor was to be divided equally."
"We can do with harder countries than humans,” said Agamemnon, “with less arable soils, with wastelands, with mountainous areas, with desolate latitudes, arid and rocky, latitudes unfriendly to humans, with deserts, and such, areas of less interest to humans."
"The division then, even were it equal in extent, would seem much in the interests of humans,” said Cabot.
"Yes,” said Agamemnon.
"And what would be the relation betwixt Kurii and human on this freshly achieved world?"
"One of brotherhood, of universal peace, one of eternal harmony, of endless amity and good will."
"You need human leaders?"
"Precisely, such as yourself."
"And what, precisely, am I to gain in this?” asked Cabot.
"An excellent question,” said Agamemnon, “one I can well understand and appreciate, and one which reflects well on your caution and astuteness."
"I am grateful, of course,” said Cabot, “for my extrication from the power of Priest-Kings."
"We had hoped you would be."
"And what might I, personally, achieve in all this?"
"What would you say to being enthroned as the Ubar of all Gor?"
Cabot was startled.
"I see you are taken aback,” said Agamemnon.
"That is largess,” said Cabot, “difficult to ignore."
"We anticipated it would be so,” said Agamemnon.
"You wish to return me to Gor, with arms and power, with riches, to raise a revolution against Priest-Kings."
"I would speak of this with my friend, Zarendargar."
The metal tharlarion was silent.
"It was he, I gather,” said Cabot, “who engineered my rescue from the Prison Moon."
"Yes,” said Agamemnon.
"I would like to speak with him."
"Doubtless in time,” said Agamemnon. “I fear he is currently muchly occupied."
"I shared a stall, days ago, with a dark-haired slave,” said Cabot. “I returned to the stall and found her gone. Where is she?"
One of the Kurii flanking the metal object on the dais spoke softly to Agamemnon, or the machine through which he spoke.
The head of the metal object, heavy and broad, with a small sound, lifted itself a little, and the apertures behind which Cabot could detect no eyes, focused on him.
"She is well,” said Agamemnon.
"Has she been claimed?” asked Cabot.
"No,” said Peisistratus.
"I would see her,” said Cabot.
"Do you want her?” asked Peisistratus.
"I would see her."
"I can send you better women from the Pleasure Cylinder,” said Peisistratus, “naked, in sirik, with switches tied about their necks."
"I would see her,” said Tarl Cabot.
"By all means,” said Agamemnon. “And let her be a token of the goods and pleasures which might await you."
"What is your decision, Tarl Cabot?” inquired Agamemnon. “Are you with us, or not?"
"I would like some time to consider the matter,” said Tarl Cabot.
"Of course,” said Agamemnon. “Such a decision should not be made lightly."
At this point the ponderous machine, with the small sound of rippling, overlapping plates, and the scratch of metallic claws on the dais, turned about, and left the room. Cabot saw the metal tail twisting slowly as it disappeared into the darkness.
The two Kurii then left the dais, and redrew the curtains behind them.
"Follow me,” said Peisistratus, turning about.
Chapter, the Ninth:
CABOT RENEWS HIS ACQUAINTANCE WITH A BLONDE
"The light is dim,” said Cabot.
"Your eyes will soon grow accustomed to it,” said Peisistratus.
They had been winding their way through dark passageways, for several Ehn. Here and there in the passageways there were openings, commonly low, and broad, to accommodate the movements of Kurii. These led, severally, to other passageways and, in some instances, to apartments, some with several rooms. Much of the food in the various valleys was prepared centrally, so to speak, and eaten at common tables. There were, however, pantries with supplies, and cooking gear, in many of these apartments, which might be utilized when desired.
"Doubtless,” said Peisistratus, “you prefer the outside."
"Yes,” said Cabot. For example, the small, villa-like dwelling which had been set aside for him, of some four rooms, on the side of a hill, with a veranda, was open, light, and airy. It was, of course, the sort of place that would better suit a human than at least most Kurii, who might have felt it too open, too insecure, too exposed to attack.
"You would like the Pleasure Cylinder,” said Peisistratus. “Too, there are few Kurii there."
"You find Kurii disturbing?"
"Yes,” said Peisistratus. “And so, too, might a verr if it found larls in its vicinity."
"Ai!” said Cabot, shielding his eyes.
"Forgive me,” said Peisistratus, his hands on a portal, half swung open, “I should have warned you, the passageways occasionally lead to open ledges, tiers of caves, and such."
Cabot and his guide emerged on a path, to their left a descent, rather steep, of some fifty feet or so, and on their right a set of caves, and above them, another set, and above that several more sets.
"We will soon be again in the passages,” said Peisistratus.
"Human, human, human!” they heard, an excited feminine voice, from above.
Cabot shaded his eyes and looked upward.
"I am making noises!” called the voice. “I am speaking. If you can understand me, say, ‘Yes!’”
On a small ledge, before one of the caves, looking down, on all fours, Cabot saw the blonde.
"Yes,” he called to her.
Behind her, emerging from the cave, large, half-standing, he saw Grendel.
The blonde scurried down the slope and reached out, to pinch at his tunic.
"That is grooming,” said Peisistratus.
"Female,” said the blonde, happily, pointing to herself. “Female!"
"Yes,” said Cabot, smiling, “female.” He was in little doubt about that. The pet collar, high and leather, set her off nicely.
Her handling of the sounds may not have been perfect, but it was comprehensible. Even in the container Cabot recalled she had managed to repeat several phonemes flawlessly.
She looked up at him, happily. The collar was, as noted, high, and she could not well lower her head without a movement of her entire body, though she could, of course, keep her eyes cast down. Some masters do not permit their slaves to look directly into their eyes, but that is unusual. Indeed, some masters use the refusal to let the slave look into their eyes directly as a discipline or punishment. In this way the slave often becomes decidedly uneasy, for it is harder then for her to read the will and mood of the master. Many masters prefer to look directly into the slave's eyes. They well understand then who is their master. Too, it makes the girl in turn easier to read. The collar had a large ring on it, now to the front, to which a leash may be attached. For common leading the ring is in front, but if the slave is to precede the master, the collar is turned, and the ring is then at the back.
"Do not become too friendly,” said Peisistratus, pointing upward.
Cabot looked up and saw Grendel peering over the ledge.
"He likes her,” said Peisistratus, “and he could tear your throat out with one blow of his paw."
"I do not want her,” said Cabot.
"You know, of course,” said Peisistratus, “why she is being taught Gorean."
Cabot did not respond.
"That she be more pleasing to you,” he said. “Agamemnon is planning on giving her to you."
"What of Arcesilaus?” asked Cabot.
"She is only a beast, and he is of the rings,” said Peisistratus. “Beware of Grendel."
"I do not want her,” said Cabot.
Grendel, above, uttered a vocalization, in Kur, and the blonde suddenly turned white, and, turning, scratched her way quickly up the slope, to his side.
"He called her,” said Peisistratus.
"I see,” said Cabot.
"Beware of Grendel,” said Peisistratus. “Here,” he said, then, “is a portal which will return us to the passageways."
Chapter, the Tenth:
CABOT RENEWS HIS ACQUAINTANCE WITH THE FORMER MISS PYM
"This,” said Peisistratus, “is the portal to the apartment of Pyrrhus, subordinate to Arcesilaus, officer to Agamemnon."
"I know him,” said Cabot.
"Enter quietly,” said Peisistratus. “I wish to show you something."
Within the portal, and at the end of a short hallway, they stopped, and peered within, into a large, dim room.
It took a moment for Cabot's eyes to make out the contents of the room. It was sparsely furnished, save for some chests at the walls. There was also, to the left, a low, flat box, some four feet square. It contained some cloths, some rags, or such. Near it, too, were some pans, and a bucket. At the far end of the room, there was a large assemblage of furs, constituting a divan of sorts.
On the divan was the Kur, Pyrrhus. In his arms there was a small, white figure, which was picking and nibbling at his fur.
"She is grooming him,” whispered Peisistratus. “When she encounters lice, she must eat them."
A long, light chain, some thirty to thirty five feet in length, ran from a ring on the floor, near the box, to a ring on a high leather collar, which was closed closely about the neck of the small white figure, a pet collar.
Cabot watched for a time the efforts of the small figure in the arms of the beast to whom she was attending.
"She is a Kur pet,” said Cabot.
The girl must have heard the sound, for she turned about, suddenly, and cried out, “Tarl! Tarl Cabot!"
She was cast to the floor, suddenly, violently, with a clatter of the light, long chain on the tiles, and she scrambled up, to her knees, and knelt there, suddenly, clearly terrified, and regarded Pyrrhus, and then Cabot, wildly, fearfully, and pressed both her hands, frantically, tightly, over her mouth.
"She is a pet,” said Peisistratus. “She is not permitted speech."
Pyrrhus said something to the brunette in Kur, a half enraged, snorting exclamation.
With a sweeping scrape of the light chain fastened to her collar, the girl fled to the low, flat box, some four feet square, that with cloths, and rags, and such, in it, terrified, and, trembling, crouched down within it.
"Pyrrhus is not pleased with her,” said Peisistratus. “She has been sent to her bed. She may be killed."
"In her flight,” said Cabot, “the chain overturned a pan, apparently one for water.” There was certainly liquid spilled upon the tiles.
She was looking at the Kur, and at the water, and, frantic with misery, was trembling uncontrollably.
"She is clumsy,” said Peisistratus. “Clumsiness is not permitted in Kur pets."
"Surely she would not be killed for crying out, for spilling water,” said Cabot.
"She could be,” said Peisistratus.
"Surely not,” said Cabot. “Would not a mere switching, or lashing, or even a scolding word, backed by the whip, be sufficient to encourage her to be less awkward, less careless? Do not females understand such things?” The deportment of slaves is to be seemly, of course, for they are in collars. It is expected that the slave will be inconspicuous, that she will serve humbly and unobtrusively, that she will be demure, refined, reticent, attentive, deferent, and graceful. She is not a free woman. She is collared. She is slave.
"Surely so,” said Peisistratus, “and many have been slain or put in the cattle pens for less."
"They would then be deprived of a pet,” said Cabot.
"Not really,” said Peisistratus. “One pet may easily be replaced with another, for example, with a slave from the Pleasure Cylinder."
"I see,” said Cabot.
"And this knowledge,” said Peisistratus, “encourages our girls in the pleasure cylinder to be muchly concerned to be found pleasing to the masters."
"I would suppose so,” said Cabot.
"Certainly,” said Peisistratus.
"But it would be a different pet,” said Cabot.
"Of course,” said Peisistratus. “But it would not matter to a Kur. To them one human female is little different from another."
"I understand,” said Cabot. But he wondered if this were true.
"Many times they cannot even tell one from another."
"You noted, of course,” said Peisistratus, “that she cried out your name, the name of a free man."
"It was an inadvertence,” said Cabot.
"Pets, and slaves, are not permitted such inadvertences,” said Peisistratus.
Commonly slaves are not permitted to call free men and free women by their names. It is regarded as insolence. Some Goreans feel, too, that the name of a free person is a fine and noble thing, and thus one should not permit it to be touched by the lips and tongue of a mere slave. This prohibition, too, of course, serves to remind the slave, and keenly, that she is a mere slave.
Pyrrhus left the divan of furs, angrily, and moved toward the brunette's box, or bed.
She screamed, and put her head down in the rags and blankets.
"Do not kill her!” called Cabot to the Kur, who was poised over the pet's simple bed, in which the pet cowered, the chain running to her collar.
Pyrrhus turned, and looked at Cabot.
He was hunched down, and tense, which in the Kur is commonly a sign of hostility.
Pyrrhus looked then to Peisistratus, whom he knew.
"Our friend, Tarl Cabot,” said Peisistratus, “could not help himself. He is new to our world. He knows not our ways. He fears you might in a moment of indiscretion deprive yourself of a valuable pet, an indiscretion perhaps to be later regretted."
"I know you,” said Pyrrhus, to Cabot. “You are the one from the Prison Moon."
"Yes, Lord Pyrrhus,” said Cabot. “You were a member of the party of Lord Arcesilaus, when I was removed from the stable, and introduced to your beautiful world."
"It is an artificial world,” said Pyrrhus.
"But one which is beautiful,” said Cabot. “I returned to the stable, and found the slave gone."
"I arranged to have her brought to me,” said Pyrrhus. “Do you object?"
"How could one object?” asked Cabot. “She is only a slave."
At the word kajira, the brunette looked up, fearfully.
Pyrrhus crouched back on his haunches. He demeanor became less threatening.
"You have seen Agamemnon?” he asked.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"You are then with us?"
"I have not yet given him my answer,” said Cabot.
"Why have you come here?” asked Pyrrhus.
"He wished to see the dark-haired pet,” said Peisistratus.
Pyrrhus then snarled something to the brunette and she, terrified, left the box on all fours, and, at the feet of Pyrrhus, went to her belly.
"She is training nicely,” said Peisistratus. “She is quite bright."
She bellies well, thought Cabot.
Another noise emanated from Pyrrhus, and the brunette began, desperately, fearfully, piteously, to press her lips upon his clawed feet.
She is lovely, thought Cabot, and a slave. She should be so at the feet of one of her own species, at the feet of a man, her master. What a pity, he thought, to waste such loveliness, doubtless not even understood, on a Kur.
Pyrrhus then, picking up a length of the chain, indicated that his pet should go to all fours, and then he led her, on the leash, head down, before Cabot.
Another command and she knelt up, looking ahead. The collar, like that of the blonde, was high, and she could not well lower her head. She did keep her eyes lowered, frightened.
Another growling rumble in the throat of Pyrrhus, and she lowered her body until her head was nearly at the floor. In this way, one in such a collar could lower her head before a master, an owner, such things.
"Nicely done,” said Peisistratus.
"Oh?” said Cabot.
"She is training nicely,” said Peisistratus. “See? She is showing you deference."
Another noise from Pyrrhus, and the brunette resumed her kneeling position, back straight, looking ahead. For a moment Cabot had caught a look of fleeting terror in her countenance, of mute appeal, and then she was again in the required posture.
Cabot, a human male, could not but be struck by the loveliness of the pet of Pyrrhus. Her head was held up by the collar. The chain dangled nicely between her breasts, and then looped up, to the paw of Pyrrhus.
Yes, thought Cabot, she would doubtless bring a good price. Surely men not unoften paid well for goods such as she.
I wonder if she understands, thought Cabot, that she is now goods.
On Gor slaves come soon to understand that, that they are goods, only that.
"You wished to see her,” said Pyrrhus to Cabot.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"Now you have seen her,” said Pyrrhus. “Now you may go."
"Perhaps,” said Cabot, “I would see her for a bit longer."
"She is clumsy,” said Pyrrhus.
"She is pretty on her chain,” said Peisistratus, as though by way of explaining Cabot's interest. “You may not speak to her,” said Peisistratus to Cabot.
"I understand,” said Cabot.
"Did Agamemnon, Eleventh Face of the Nameless One, Theocrat of the world, give him permission to come here?” came from Pyrrhus’ translator.
Cabot wondered if this elaboration of Agamemnon's title was intended to be ironic. It was difficult to tell from the translator, or the movements of the body of Pyrrhus.
"I did not think you would object,” said Peisistratus.
"We do not require the use of humans to forward our projects,” said Pyrrhus.
"Perhaps they may occasionally be useful,” said Peisistratus.
"One was produced, and was useless,” said Pyrrhus.
Cabot took this to be a reference to a failed experiment, the outcome of which was Grendel.
"You are of course unquestionably loyal to the Theocrat of the world,” said Peisistratus.
"Of course,” came from the translator.
Pyrrhus dropped the chain of his pet, but she remained perfectly immobile.
"Nice,” commented Peisistratus.
"Look at my pet,” said Pyrrhus to Cabot. “You wished to see her? Now you see her."
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"She is now no more than a pet, only a pet."
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"You like her?"
"She is only a female,” said Cabot.
"Is she pretty?"
"She will do,” said Cabot.
Pyrrhus then, with a scraping of his claws on the tiles, went to one of the chests at the side of the room, and opened it, and withdrew a small dangling pair of objects. He returned to the girl and thrust her head down to the floor, and, as she whimpered in a tiny, futile protest, he rudely jerked her wrists behind her, and, in a moment, with two small clicks, she was braceleted.
"Gorean slave bracelets,” commented Cabot.
The girl's eyes were wild, and she pulled a little, helplessly, at the bracelets.
How helpless women are in such bracelets!
"Has she been braceleted before?” asked Peisistratus.
"No,” said Pyrrhus.
Cabot could see how fearfully vulnerable she felt, her small wrists pinioned behind her.
Pyrrhus then, with a movement of his clawed foot, slid a shallow pan, containing some pellets, before the girl.
"You have come to see her?” he asked Cabot.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
Pyrrhus then uttered something in Kur to the girl, and she bent to the pan.
"Then see her,” said Pyrrhus.
Cabot observed the former Miss Virginia Cecily Jean Pym, kneeling, bent over, her hands braceleted behind her, picking the pellets delicately, fearfully, from the pan.
"It is thus that our pets feed,” said Pyrrhus. “They may not use their hands."
"I see,” said Cabot.
Such feeding would commonly be done on all fours, of course.
Pyrrhus looked at him, closely.
"It is commonly done with new slaves,” said Cabot, “with girls who are still learning their collars, and, occasionally, as a punishment, or as a mere reminder that they are slaves."
The girl, having retrieved the last pellet, of which number there had been few, as Kurii do not overfeed their human pets, lifted her head, frightened.
"You are not displeased,” said Pyrrhus, “to see her, a female of your own species, and one seemingly so important to you that you have sought her out here, so reduced, now chained and collared, now no more than a Kur pet?"
"Not at all,” said Cabot. Indeed, he was not displeased to see the former Miss Pym in this way, for he thought she might profit from such things. Indeed, had he owned her, he would doubtless have put her through similar paces, enforced upon occasion with a sharp blow of the switch.
She was, after all, not a free woman.
"Is she not important to you?” inquired Pyrrhus.
"Is that why you took her?” inquired Cabot.
"I think you like her,” said Pyrrhus.
"Her curves are of some interest,” said Cabot, “as those of a slave."
"You like her?"
"She has promise, however minimal,” said Cabot, “as a piece of collar meat."
"I think you like her,” said Pyrrhus.
"On Gor there are doubtless hundreds of thousands who are her superior."
"Why then have you come here?” asked Pyrrhus.
"I was curious to see her as a Kur pet, which seems an excellent disposition for her."
"Would you not prefer to see her as a slave?"
"Perhaps,” said Cabot, “if she were more beautiful."
"Is she not beautiful?"
"She will do,” said Cabot.
Pyrrhus turned to Peisistratus.
"She was clumsy, was she not?” inquired Pyrrhus.
"Indisputably,” said Peisistratus.
Pyrrhus then dragged the girl by the hair to where the pan of water had been overturned, and put her kneeling, bent over, head down, before the spill.
He looked at Peisistratus.
"Tell her to right the pan,” he said.
The pan was large, and shallow. It had two handles, one on each side, for ease of carrying.
"She is braceleted,” said Peisistratus.
"Tell her,” said Pyrrhus.
Peisistratus, in English, conveyed this message, and the girl, with a small sound of her collar chain on the tiles, bent her head to the pan. She managed to grasp one of its two handles in her teeth, and lift, with a tiny sound of the chain, and right the pan. Her knees were in water, that lost in the pan's overturning.
"Tell her,” he said, “to clean the floor."
"She is braceleted,” said Peisistratus.
"Tell her,” said Pyrrhus.
"You have been clumsy,” Peisistratus said to the girl, in English. “Clean the floor."
She turned, on her knees, bent over, to regard him.
"Now,” said Peisistratus.
She then began to lap the water from the floor.
"Do you like my pet?” Pyrrhus asked Cabot.
"She will do,” said Cabot.
Cabot considered her lines. They were excellent. Slaves are not unoften used in such a position.
In a few Ehn the girl timidly lifted her head from the floor.
"The floor is still damp,” observed Pyrrhus.
"Girl,” said Peisistratus, in English, “the floor is still damp."
She put down her head and, using her hair, dried the floor, as she could.
"Behold the human, my pet,” came from Pyrrhus’ translator.
"She is beheld,” said Peisistratus.
Were her hair longer, slave long, thought Cabot, it would be a more effective instrument. Her dark hair was rich, glossy, and nicely shaped, but it came only to her nape. It would grow out, of course, if she survived. Long hair improves a woman's price. Much can be done with it, aesthetically. Too, she can be bound with it, and she can be taught to use it in the furs to enhance a man's pleasure.
"Are you angry?” Peisistratus asked Cabot, softly, in English.
"No,” said Cabot. “Why should I be?"
"The girl,” said Peisistratus.
"What of her?"
"Pyrrhus is trying to provoke you,” said Peisistratus.
"With the girl?"
"Perhaps he does not realize she is only a slave,” said Cabot.
"You are not angry?"
"No,” said Cabot. “She is only a slave. Too, are not Kur pets often so treated?"
"Certainly Kur pets are often so treated,” said Peisistratus, “but I am certain, in this case, that Pyrrhus hopes you will be provoked, perhaps to an uncivil word, a protest, an insult, perhaps even a blow."
"Why?” asked Cabot.
"He wishes to have a pretext to do away with you,” said Peisistratus.
"Why?” asked Cabot.
"I think,” said Peisistratus, “it has to do with Agamemnon."
Pyrrhus then drew the girl stumbling on her chain to the foot of the divan-like assemblage of furs, and retrieved, from its surface, a switch.
"Would you like to punish the clumsy pet?” he asked Cabot.
"No,” said Cabot. “She has not offended against me."
"But, if she had, you would punish her, would you not?” asked Pyrrhus.
"If she were mine,” said Cabot, “it would not be necessary for her to offend against me to be punished. She would be punished if her service was in any way, in even the least way, less than fully pleasing."
Pyrrhus lifted the switch and the girl cowered beneath it.
He struck her three times, but, as she cringed and cried out, he was observing not the girl so much but Cabot. Cabot remained expressionless.
"Well done,” whispered Peisistratus to Cabot, in English.
"She is only a pet,” said Cabot, noncommittally, in English.
"True,” said Peisistratus, “but a nicely curved one."
"She will do,” said Cabot.
"I would like to see her in a collar,” said Peisistratus.
"She belongs in one,” said Cabot.
"Should I not kill her?” asked Pyrrhus of Peisistratus.
"I think,” said Peisistratus, “she is trying to be a good pet."
"She called out, she spilled water,” said Pyrrhus.
"It is doubtless my fault,” said Peisistratus, “for I introduced our friend, Tarl Cabot, into your domicile with insufficient warning. If you do not wish to keep her, give her to me, and I will take her to the Pleasure Cylinder, where she may be whip-trained and, silked, taught to serve paga properly, taught to squirm in the alcove, and such."
"You are muchly favored of Agamemnon,” said Pyrrhus.
"It is my hope to serve him well,” said Peisistratus.
"My hope, as well,” said Pyrrhus.
"Of course,” said Peisistratus.
"Perhaps I will give her another chance,” came from the translator.
"If you wish, Lord Pyrrhus,” said Cabot, “I will take the pathetic creature off your hands."
"I will give her another chance,” came from the translator.
Pyrrhus then uttered a command in Kur and the girl hurried to the furs and leapt into his arms. Cabot, on the Prison Moon, had seen the blonde leap similarly into the arms of the Kur he had come to recognize as Arcesilaus. The blonde, however, had leapt happily into the brute's grasp, and obviously the girl before him, though she had done so with fearful alacrity, had also done so with terror. How frightening it must have been for her, thought Cabot, to put herself within the grasp of those mighty appendages, within reach of those massive jaws.
She is trying to be a good pet, thought Cabot.
"We must be on our way,” said Peisistratus.
Cabot looked back at the brunette, her wrists braceleted behind her, cuddled in those massive arms, her body pressed closely, obediently, pathetically against that mighty, hirsute frame.
"Let us go,” said Peisistratus.
Pyrrhus, however, gestured with his left paw, that Cabot should approach. He gestured him even closer, and then moved the fur on his right shoulder, in which movement it rippled, wavelike, and uttered a soft sound to the girl. Cabot noted within the fur tiny movements, the stirring of startled, disturbed, miniscule, crawling bodies.
The girl, in her collar and chain, weeping, pulling a little at her hands, confined behind her in the bracelets, with her small, fine, white teeth, addressed herself to her task, that of freshening and cleansing the fur of her master.
"Let us go,” said Peisistratus.
About the jaws of Pyrrhus Cabot noted the grimace he had come to recognize as a Kur smile.
"Let us go,” urged Peisistratus.
He and Cabot then left the apartment of Pyrrhus.
"I suppose,” said Cabot, in English, “I must kill him."
"Or he, you,” said Peisistratus.
They continued down the passageway.
"Why would you kill him?” asked Peisistratus.
"Because he would kill me,” said Cabot.
"Not for the girl?"
"No,” said Cabot, “she is only a slave."
"But an attractive one."
"She will do,” said Cabot.
"I do not think you need worry about Pyrrhus,” said Peisistratus.
"Why not?” asked Cabot. He wished he had his weapons, the mighty Gorean spear, the great bow, even the swift short blade, like part of his own hand, which could strike like the ost.
"Because,” said Peisistratus, “Pyrrhus is not in favor with Agamemnon."
Chapter, the Eleventh:
IT IS LIKE A TAVERN
"They dance well,” said Cabot.
"There is not one,” said Peisistratus, “who would not bring three silver tarsks, even in Turia or Ar."
"I am sure of it,” said Cabot. Rarely had he seen women who presented themselves so well before masters.
"You may, of course,” said Peisistratus, “have your pick."
"The musicians,” said Cabot, “might grace the feast of a Ubar."
"Many have,” said Peisistratus.
"What is the meat?” had asked Cabot.
"Have no fear,” had said Peisistratus. “It is bosk, tarsk, and verr."
"The paga is splendid,” said Cabot.
"It is the paga of Temus of Ar,” said Peisistratus.
"It is my favorite,” said Cabot.
"We know,” said Peisistratus. “That is why it is being served."
"I am muchly pleased,” said Cabot.
"Good,” said Peisistratus. “Agamemnon, too, will then be pleased."
"It seems you know much about me,” said Cabot.
"Inquiries were made,” said Peisistratus. “It is our desire that you find your stay with us comfortable and pleasant."
Cabot looked about himself. “This might be a tavern in a high city,” he said, “the counter, the vats of paga, the square of sand for the dancers, the polished wooden floors, the low ceiling, the hangings, the cozy dimness, the small lamps, the curtained alcoves, such things."
"That is our intention,” said Peisistratus, “that it should seem so."
"The men about,” said Cabot, looking about the tables, “seem in good spirits."
"Most are drunk,” said Peisistratus. “They would rather be on Gor."
The Pleasure Cylinder, as other subsidiary cylinders to the Steel World in question, those for sport, industry, and agriculture, is reached by an automated shuttle, which departs from and docks at predesignated portals. Entrance to the shuttle and departure from it is by means of a system of locks. In this fashion the occupants, or passengers, never exposed to the rigors and perils of a near vacuum, need not concern themselves with complex suiting, reaction devices, safety lines, and such. If one could conceive of swimming without water, so to speak, that gives a sense of movement within the shuttle, while it is in flight. Handles within the shuttle, which may be held, or grasped, provide leverage for staying in position, or, if one wishes, moving about within the shuttle.
"Who are the two Kurii?” asked Cabot.
"They are strangers,” said Peisistratus. “Those commonly in attendance, to monitor the cylinder, are not present."
"Officers of Agamemnon,” said Peisistratus.
"Why are they here?"
"Because you are here,” said Peisistratus. “Doubtless they would not wish any harm to come to you."
"They are spies."
"As are you?"
The two in question, large and fearsome, crouched almost at the shoulder of Cabot. He could occasionally feel the breath of one on his neck.
"Do you not recognize them?” said Peisistratus.
"No,” said Cabot.
"You encountered them in the audience hall of Agamemnon,” said Peisistratus.
As the names of these two individuals are in Kur we shall refer to them, as is our wont, by choosing, almost at random, names whose phonemic nature will be accessible to readers who may be supposed unfamiliar with Kur. We shall refer to them, in this case, by names which are not unfamiliar in Ar, indeed, names somewhat common in Ar, Lucullus and Crassus.
"Doubtless,” said Peisistratus, “Kurii look much alike to you."
"I fear so, many of them,” said Cabot.
"Some Kurii have difficulty distinguishing amongst humans,” said Peisistratus.
"Interesting,” said Cabot.
"Particularly in the case of human cattle."
"I understand,” said Cabot.
"We and they, however,” said Peisistratus, “with more familiarity with one another have little difficulty in distinguishing amongst individuals. Indeed, Kur young must learn to distinguish amongst different members of their own species."
"Perhaps it is so, too, with humans,” said Cabot.
"Perhaps,” said Peisistratus.
"Perhaps one learns to see,” said Cabot.
"Possibly,” said Peisistratus.
"Our friends,” said Cabot, indicating with a slight gesture of his head the two crouching, hulking forms behind them, “do not seem much interested in the entertainment."
"They are Kurii,” said Peisistratus. “They see us primarily as food, I fear."
"Do they hear the music as we do?” asked Cabot.
"I do not know,” said Peisistratus.
"They seem uncomfortable,” said Cabot.
"It is too loud for them,” said Peisistratus. “Have you ever heard Kur music?"
"No,” said Cabot.
"It is commonly inaudible to the human ear,” said Peisistratus. “Sometimes when they seem to move strangely, or meaninglessly, they are listening to their music."
"Why then are they so close?” asked Cabot.
"They are trying to overhear our conversation,” said Peisistratus, “but I fear you have frustrated them, as you persist in speaking English. Their translators then are ineffectual."
"You may of course later convey to them the gist of our converse."
"True,” said Peisistratus.
With a swirl from the czehar and kalikas, and a pounding of the tabors, the dancers prostrated themselves in the sand, as slaves, and then, as Peisistratus struck his hands sharply together, they leapt up, and fled from the room, exiting through a portal, it curtained with dangling strands of blue and yellow beads, the caste colors of the slavers.
Another dancer, a single dancer, then entered the sand. Like the others, she was barefoot, and bangled.
She wore bells on her left ankle.
It is not unusual for a slave to be belled.
Bells help the female keep in mind that she is a slave.
"What will she dance?” asked Cabot.
The dancer was now kneeling in the sand, her head bowed, waiting for the first strumming of the kalika. She was nicely silked, in the diaphanous dancing silks of Gor. Her hair, long and dark, fell to the sand.
"I do not mean to be importunate,” said Peisistratus, “but Agamemnon is curious to know if you have reached a decision with respect to his proposal."
"I am still considering the matter,” said Cabot.
"I would not consider it too long,” said Peisistratus, “as Kurii are not noted for their patience."
"He may be informed,” said Cabot, “that his offer is under the most earnest scrutiny."
"Doubtless he will be relieved to hear that,” said Peisistratus. “If it will speed your deliberations, you might consider that a similar offer might be made to others, whose deliberations might be less prolonged."
"Not to one of my caste, surely,” said Peisistratus.
A whispering sentence of notes emanated from the kalika, and the dancer rose gracefully to her feet, her knees flexed, her head still bowed, her hands at her thighs.
"If you accept the offer,” said Peisistratus, “the medallion of a world's Ubar might be yours, power, hundreds of cities, rivers of wealth, innumerable pleasure gardens, exquisitely stocked with game and slaves."
"Who but a fool could refuse such an offer?” said Cabot.
"Indeed,” agreed Peisistratus.
"But suppose one did refuse such an offer?"
"I would not care to be he,” said Peisistratus.
"I see,” said Cabot.
"Paga, Master?” inquired a soft, feminine voice.
She knelt beside the table, suitably as a pleasure slave. She was red-headed, and naked, save for the collar on her neck.
Women look well so, and slaves in particular.
"Yes,” said Cabot, handing her his goblet. She then rose to her feet and backed away, and then turned, and hurried to the counter, to replenish the contents of the goblet.
"Ho, the whip dance,” said Cabot, returning his attention to the dancing sand.
"You like it?"
"She is lovely,” said Cabot.
"She is Corinna,” said Peisistratus. “She writhes well."
At certain points in this dance the whip snaps and the dancer reacts as though she was struck with the whip. If she does not do well, of course, she will feel the whip.
"You are tempted, are you not?"
"Who would not be?” asked Cabot. “But I think I shall soon return to my lodgings."
"The evening is young,” said Peisistratus.
The red-haired paga slave then returned with the goblet, brimming, and knelt beside the low table, at which Cabot and Peisistratus sat, cross-legged. It is common for Gorean men to sit cross-legged, and for Gorean women to kneel. Chairs on Gor are commonly reserved for individuals of rank. Gorean society is muchly based on status and hierarchy. There is little attempt on Gor to pretend that obvious differentiations in such matters do not exist. On Gor that would be regarded as dishonorable hypocrisy. The slave's eyes met Cabot's and in her glance, pathetic and pleading, he read her need. And then, looking down, she pressed the metal of the goblet to her belly, and then to her breasts, and then lifted the large cup to her lips, and, looking at Cabot over the rim, kissed the cup, lingeringly. She then lowered her head between her extended arms and proffered him the goblet, which he accepted.
"May I speak, Master?” she asked.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
There were tears in her eyes. Her lip trembled. “I desire to be found pleasing,” she said.
"I see,” said Cabot.
"Take me to an alcove, Master,” she whispered, tensely, “I beg it!"
"She is needful,” explained Peisistratus.
"Take me to an alcove, Master,” she said. “Chain me! Make me helpless! Whip me, if you wish! But use me! I beg to be used!"
"I gather she has been deprived,” said Cabot.
"Yes,” said Peisistratus.
"She and some others,” said Peisistratus, “in order to be readied for your entertainment."
"I see,” said Cabot.
Slave fires, as the expression is, are cruelly and mercilessly lit within the bellies of female slaves. It is often a part of their training. It is interesting to see a slaver take a free female, complacent in her sexual inertness, even one arrogantly proud of her frigidity, and transform her into a needful, helpless, vulnerable, begging slave, zealous to serve, that she may be rewarded with even the least touch of a male. Once the slave fires flame in the belly of a woman her freedom is behind her. She is then spoiled for freedom, is beyond it, and lives instead for the attention, love, and touch of her master. Indeed, it is not unusual that one who is familiar only with free women, with their reservations, suspicions, calculations, and inhibitions, their inertnesses and frigidities, is often astonished to encounter a female slave, one whose needs have now put her vulnerably, helplessly, at the mercy of men. Sometimes a fellow encounters in an alcove a woman earlier courted in vain, now a collared slave. It is then as though there were two women, and, in a sense, this is true, for where there was once a free woman there is now a slave. Perhaps he buys her, and takes her home. Perhaps she begs him, kissing piteously at his feet, to do so.
"Go ahead,” said Peisistratus. “Take her to an alcove."
"What is your name?” asked Cabot.
"Lehna, if it pleases Master."
"Tell me of your collar,” said Cabot. “What does it say?"
She touched the collar. Cabot had been curious about the collars of the slaves in the cylinder. They were of a common type, a flat, light, closely fitting band, locked at the back of the neck.
"It is a standard collar, Master,” she said, “but one similar to a public collar, as that of a state slave."
"What does it say?” asked Cabot.
"It says, Master,” said the girl, “that I am a slave of the Pleasure Cylinder."
"Kurii are not to eat women found in such collars,” said Peisistratus.
"Would you not rather, Lehna,” asked Cabot, “wear a collar on Gor, and have a private master?"
She put down her head, fearing to respond.
"You need not reply,” said Cabot.
"Thank you, Master,” she whispered.
"Kurii prefer that we not have private slaves here,” said Peisistratus. “That gives the Kurii greater control over the slaves."
"And the men?"
"Perhaps,” said Peisistratus.
"There is then less bother, too, is there not,” asked Cabot, “should the Kurii desire to select some out for redistribution?"
"Yes, or food,” said Peisistratus.
"Lehna,” said Cabot, sharply.
"Yes, Master!” she said.
"Serve another,” said Cabot.
She looked at him, wildly.
"He,” said Cabot, pointing across the room, toward a fellow who had only too obviously, and perhaps disgruntledly, been inspecting the flanks of Cabot's waitress.
The girl, weeping, sprang to her feet, and hurried to the fellow indicated, who cried out with pleasure, waved good-naturedly, drunkenly, at Cabot, in appreciation doubtless for the unexpected gift, and, in a moment, the girl was being dragged, bent over, by the hair to a nearby alcove.
Cabot then returned his attention to the dancing sand.
There was a final, loud snap of the whip, and the dancer threw herself, half kneeling, half sitting, to the sand, and lifted one hand, piteously, to the fellow who had conducted his part of the whip dance.
"What do you think?” asked Peisistratus.
"Of the dance?” said Cabot.
"If you wish,” said Peisistratus.
"It was nicely done,” said Cabot. The whip dance is a not unfamiliar component in a tavern's entertainment, which often includes slave dance.
"You are a connoisseur of slave dance?” inquired Peisistratus.
"Not really,” said Cabot. “I know little of its subtleties."
"I feel that those who judge too exactly, too critically, of such matters,” said Peisistratus, “the position of the hands, the perfect framing of the head and body with the arms, the angle of the head, the lightness or moderation of a stamping foot, such things, miss much of the pleasure of the dance."
"I would suppose so,” said Cabot.
"Too, it is not always the most technically flawless dancer whom men wish to conduct to an alcove,” said Peisistratus.
"Perhaps a dancer who is too concerned with the assemblage of minute perfections,” said Cabot, “forgets the point of the dance, which is to dance her slave before masters."
"True,” said Peisistratus.
"Slave dance well displays a woman,” said Cabot.
"As a slave,” said Peisistratus.
"Of course,” agreed Cabot.
The dancer was now kneeling, and a chain was being put on her neck, some five feet in length, rather as a leash.
"And what do you think of our Corinna?” asked Peisistratus.
"A lovely slave,” said Cabot.
"I am told,” said Peisistratus, “she is an excellent dancer."
"One must agree,” said Cabot.
"Interesting,” said Cabot. “But I suspect few men would be capable of forming a judicious opinion on that matter, and that even fewer would find it of the least interest."
"True,” smiled Peisistratus.
"In any event,” said Cabot, “putting aside her skills as a dancer, which are doubtless considerable, she is obviously a luscious piece of collar meat."
Some Goreans claim that it is the existence of beautiful women that is the justification of the slave collar. Other Goreans claim that it is the existence of women which is the justification of the slave collar.
"Behold,” said Peisistratus, “she approaches."
The dancer knelt before Cabot, and, with both hands, lifted the chain to him. “I offer you my chain, Master,” she said.
Cabot took the chain and jerked it against the back of her neck, and she gasped. “I take it, if I wish,” he said.
"Yes, Master,” she whispered, frightened.
"You like her?"
"She is lovely."
"You may take her home with you, to the hillside villa in the Steel World,” said Peisistratus, “and keep her as long as you wish."
"You are generous,” said Cabot.
"The Kurii are generous,” said Peisistratus.
Ah, thought Cabot, Peisistratus is interested in this slave.
"She is muchly concerned to please a man,” said Peisistratus.
"Does she fear the whip?"
"Very much,” said Peisistratus.
"Good,” said Cabot. It is useful to the master that the slave girl is terrified of the whip. Thus it seldom needs to be used. She knows, of course, that it will be used on her if she is in the least bit displeasing. Accordingly, she does her best to be found pleasing, and fully so.
Cabot noted that the slave cast a look of misery at Peisistratus, and that the hands on her thighs lifted slightly, as though she would expose her palms to him, but then she quickly returned them to her thighs, palms down.
"She has been deprived?” inquired Cabot.
"Yes,” said Peisistratus, “to prepare her for you."
"Girl,” said Cabot to the dancer, “return to your cage, or kennel."
She leapt up, gratefully, cast another look at Peisistratus, and hurried from the room, departing through the beaded curtain. It shook behind her.
One of the Kurii growled menacingly. It was obviously displeased.
Cabot thought that Peisistratus leaned back, a bit.
"You did not send her to another, as with Lehna?” said Peisistratus.
"Let her rest, from the dance,” said Cabot.
"I see,” said Peisistratus.
One of the Kurii, Cabot noticed, was looking toward the beaded curtain.
"You did not find her attractive?” asked Peisistratus.
"She is very attractive,” said Cabot.
"There are others, of course,” said Peisistratus. “Would you like to inspect them?"
"No,” said Cabot.
"Nature has designed them all, and well, for the collar,” said Peisistratus.
"I am pleased to hear it,” said Cabot.
"All would sell well."
"I am sure of it."
"And all have been readied for you."
"As the paga of Temus?"
"Yes,” said Peisistratus.
"I am grateful,” said Cabot.
"Perhaps you are interested in the brunette from the stall, the pet of Pyrrhus?” asked Peisistratus.
"The one whose hair is too short?"
"Why would one be interested in her?” asked Cabot.
"Agamemnon could easily arrange for her to be brought to you,” said Peisistratus.
"She is the pet of Lord Pyrrhus,” said Cabot.
"He does not want her,” said Peisistratus. “He only took her to anger you. Indeed, he might kill her."
"That would be a waste of slave,” said Cabot.
"There are others,” said Peisistratus, “from the cylinder, even from the cattle pens. Humans are cheap."
"Where is Zarendargar?” asked Cabot.
The bluntness, the suddenness, of this question, startled Peisistratus. He looked uneasily back at the two Kurii behind them.
"I do not know,” he said.
"Tell me,” said Cabot.
"He is not in the Steel World,” said Peisistratus. “He was removed from the domain of Agamemnon, under custody, seven days ago."
"He was merely used to bring me to the Steel World?” said Cabot.
"I fear so,” said Peisistratus. “He was intent to rescue a friend, with whom it is told he had once shared paga, to save him from death or dishonor at the hands of Priest-Kings, a noble endeavor, but instead he brought him unwittingly into the grasp of Agamemnon."
"I see,” said Cabot. This did not come to him as any great surprise, for he had supposed as much, having neither heard nor seen aught of Zarendargar after his extrication from the Prison Moon.
"Agamemnon will want his answer soon,” said Peisistratus.
"I understand,” said Cabot.
"Tomorrow,” said Peisistratus, “you are to go hunting."
"On the game world,” said Peisistratus, “with Lord Pyrrhus."
"Are there weapons here, in the Pleasure Cylinder?” asked Cabot.
"We are not to speak of such things."
"In the ships,” said Peisistratus.
"Are the ships accessible, and free?"
"They require authorization to depart, to dock, and so on,” said Peisistratus. “And they are not a match for the speed or armament of Kur ships."
"They are slavers’ ships?"
"What does one hunt on the game world?” inquired Cabot.
"Animals of various sorts,” said Peisistratus.
"This is a test of sorts, I suppose,” said Cabot.
"I suppose so,” said Peisistratus. “They probably wish to see if you will kill humans."
"But, too,” he said, “these are unusual humans, and our hirsute friends may be interested to see if they kill you."
"They have been bred to be elusive, dangerous prey animals. Some have slain Kurii."
"And if these unusual humans kill me, I would thus be proven a poor choice to abet the schemes of Kurii?"
"Yes, and then they could turn to others."
"Tomorrow then I shall go hunting."
"Cabot,” said Peisistratus.
"Beware of Lord Pyrrhus."
As Cabot made ready to access the shuttle and return to his hillside villa on the Steel World, he heard the blows of a lash and the screams of a whipped slave.
"It is Corinna,” said Peisistratus. “She is being punished."
"Why?” asked Cabot.
"Our friends will have it so,” said Peisistratus.
"But, why?” asked Cabot.
"She failed to seduce you,” said Peisistratus.
Chapter, the Twelfth:
THE GAME WORLD
"I think there is nothing here,” said Cabot.
"No,” said Pyrrhus. “You are here."
There are five subsidiary cylinders easily reachable from the Steel World by means of shuttles. The largest of these are the agricultural cylinders, of which there are two; the next largest is the forest world, or game world; the next is the industrial cylinder; and the pleasure cylinder is by far the smallest.
The forest world, or game world, is essentially a sport world for Kurii, who are fond of the hunt. The forest world associated with the Steel World under the governance of Agamemnon is something in the neighborhood of one hundred square pasangs.
Cabot could see trees, as though from above, far over his head. Similarly forested areas sloped up to the curved horizons until they reached the green sky. He could see, far above him, amidst the trees, what appeared to be a lake.
"It is lovely, is it not?” came from the translator of Pyrrhus.
"Yes,” said Cabot. “Where are the others, the hunting party?"
"We have come early,” said Pyrrhus.
"You carry only a net, a spear, a knife,” said Cabot.
"We do not use power weapons in the hunt,” said Pyrrhus.
"It would not be sporting?"
"No, and if we did so, the range would soon be overhunted."
"I would have thought your claws and teeth would be sufficient,” said Cabot.
"There are beasts in the forests other than humans,” said Pyrrhus.
"And they prey on humans?"
"Some,” said Pyrrhus, “larls, sleen."
"It was not necessary to have shown me the cattle pens before we boarded the shuttle,” said Cabot.
"They would make poor game animals,” said Pyrrhus.
"Doubtless,” said Cabot.
Cabot had not been pleased to see the extensive pens in which the cattle were crowded, scarcely able to move about, feeding and watering at side troughs, milling about, grunting, pressing against the bars.
"I am sorry if you were distressed,” said Pyrrhus, “but you must understand that your species is a food species. I did spare you the squealing at the slaughter bench."
"They are not speeched,” said Cabot.
"For the most part, not,” said Pyrrhus. “Occasionally we put a speeched one amongst them, who understands what will be done, but he is unable to communicate with the others."
"I see,” said Cabot.
"Do not be concerned for them,” said Pyrrhus. “It is the only life they know. They fear only that their food troughs will not be filled on time, that the water troughs may be dry."
"I see,” said Cabot.
"Have you ever tasted human?” asked Pyrrhus.
"No,” said Cabot.
"Would you like to do so?"
"No,” said Cabot.
"Yet,” said Pyrrhus, “humans have often eaten human."
"I suppose that is true,” said Cabot.
"But you do not care to do so?"
"I do not blame you,” said Pyrrhus. “I do not care much for human myself. Do you recall my pet?"
"I think so,” said Cabot.
"I do not think I would care to eat her myself,” said Pyrrhus, “as I do not care that much for human, but I am thinking of selling her to another who might find her tasty."
"Doubtless you will do as you wish,” said Cabot.
"I thought you might be interested."
"Why?” asked Cabot.
"I see,” said Pyrrhus. “I had thought you might wish to own her."
"Her hair is short,” said Cabot.
"But is she not a well-shaped female of your species, of the sort that men enjoy owning?"
"She will do,” said Cabot.
"I thought so,” said Pyrrhus.
"You do not approve of the plan of Agamemnon, I gather,” said Cabot, “to utilize humans in the conquest of Gor."
"Why should you say that?” inquired Pyrrhus.
"Because we are here, alone, at the edge of the forest, in advance of the hunting party."
"For a human, you are clever,” said Pyrrhus.
"Agamemnon, I gather,” said Cabot, “does not know I am here."
"Some things, it seems,” said Pyrrhus, “elude even the awareness of the Eleventh Face of the Nameless One."
"An accident of some sort will occur?"
"You were curious,” said Pyrrhus. “You wandered off."
"That was unwise of me,” said Cabot.
"There is little point in eying my dagger,” said Pyrrhus, “for the sheath is locked, and you do not know the releasing touch."
"You would challenge the will of Agamemnon?"
"Agamemnon is astute,” said Pyrrhus, “but he knows little of honor. He would expend humans, swarming them into the Sardar to exterminate Priest-Kings, thus robbing Kurii of the glory of victory."
"Surely this might save many Kurii."
"But at the cost of glory,” said Pyrrhus. “One might as well utilize bacilli to achieve one's ends."
"A victory ill bought is an ill-gained victory,” said Cabot.
"Precisely,” said Pyrrhus.
"But it is a victory."
"One unworthy of Kurii,” said Pyrrhus.
"Too,” said Cabot, “after such a victory you would have to share Gor with your allies."
"Surely you do not believe that,” said Pyrrhus.
"No,” said Cabot, “I do not."
"That deception, too, defiles honor,” said Pyrrhus.
"But it evidences the astuteness of Agamemnon."
"The pledge of a Kur is sacred,” said Pyrrhus.
"Perhaps it should be,” said Cabot.
"The world must not be surrendered to the Agamemnons,” said Pyrrhus.
"More than one world would seem to be theirs,” said Cabot.
"I must not be found here,” said Pyrrhus.
"I suppose not,” said Cabot.
"Remove your tunic,” said Pyrrhus.
Cabot slipped from the simple garment and placed it in Pyrrhus’ broad, extended paw.
"Am I to be killed now?” inquired Cabot.
"Do you think I want to return to the world with your blood on my claws and teeth?” said Pyrrhus. “Or particles of your flesh on my fingers?"
"The hunting party is due to arrive soon?"
"Yes,” said Pyrrhus.
"I am to escape into the forest?” said Cabot.
"If you wish,” said Pyrrhus.
"I may remain here, and address the hunters,” said Cabot.
"If you wish,” said Pyrrhus, “but the hunting party is in league with me."
"You have left little to chance,” said Cabot.
"The hunting party will not be blamed for killing and eating you,” said Pyrrhus.
"A natural mistake, as humans look much alike to Kurii?"
"Yes, and no one would expect to find you here."
"And thus the plans of Agamemnon will be frustrated?"
"For now,” said Pyrrhus.
"Who knows what may occur later?” came from Pyrrhus’ translator.
"Treachery, treason, poison, assassination?"
"I depart,” said Pyrrhus.
"Perhaps I may elude the hunting party,” said Cabot.
"I do not think so,” said Pyrrhus, lifting the tunic which Cabot had surrendered to him, “for they will have sleen."
"Little, indeed, has been left to chance,” said Cabot.
"The hunters may not be your greatest danger,” said Pyrrhus.
"Larls, wild sleen?” said Cabot.
"Certainly,” said Pyrrhus. “They do not know you."
"They are dangerous?"
"Some have killed Kurii,” said Pyrrhus.
"I will speak to them,” said Cabot.
"They are not speeched,” said Pyrrhus.
Lord Pyrrhus then returned to the shuttle lock, accessed the automated vessel, and left the sport world.
And Cabot entered the forest.
Chapter, the Thirteenth:
WHAT OCCURRED IN THE FOREST
"Tal,” said Cabot, lifting his hand in greeting.
He had not proceeded far into the forest when he became aware that they were about him, amongst the trees.
He was not surprised that his presence had been soon detected, as he supposed that a watch was maintained from the forest on the shuttle lock, whence would emerge Kur hunting parties.
To be sure, there were doubtless a number of shuttle locks, giving access to the sport world at different points.
Human denizens of the forest, however, would doubtless maintain a watch on each of these.
The forest had been rather silent as he had entered it, save for certain cries, as of the calls of birds.
Cabot looked about himself.
His greeting had not been returned.
Signs, however, had been exchanged. Signs can be useful, if one is within a line of sight. Thus messages can be exchanged in silence.
Cabot was reassured that these signs had been exchanged. These denizens of the forest were far from human cattle. Indeed, they had been bred for cunning, elusiveness, and, he supposed, ruthlessness.
From the Kur point of view they were ideal game animals, highly intelligent and extremely dangerous.
They wore skins, which reassured Cabot he was not dealing with simple prey animals but animals which were, in their turn, fully capable of predation. They carried pointed sticks, some sharpened as spears, others as shorter, stabbing weapons.
"Tal,” said Cabot, again.
His overture was again ignored, or misunderstood.
There seemed to be some twenty or thirty of them which were now encircling him, none closer than thirty or forty feet.
How do they think of me, wondered Cabot. They may well wonder at my presence here. Too, it is quite possible they saw me with Lord Pyrrhus, in the vicinity of the lock. Do they think I have been put here to be killed, by them or others, or do they think I am here as bait, or to betray them? Presumably, if I were killed, they would have little to fear.
Too, they may eat human, other than those of their own group. That is not so uncommon amongst humans.
One of these creatures came forward a little. Instead of skins, he wore the remains of a Kur harness. At his hip was a knife, a Kur knife. It was the only metal weapon Cabot could detect in the group.
He has killed a Kur, Cabot thought.
Behind the men, in the trees, Cabot could detect several female figures, also clad in skins. They were bare-legged, and supple.
The fellow in the remains of the Kur harness, he who had approached Cabot the most closely, made several abrupt, rapid gestures to him, which were incomprehensible to Cabot. He then turned about, and signed similarly to the others.
"Are you speeched?” inquired Cabot, in Gorean. He was sure they were capable of uttering sound. Presumably when they felt secure they would do so. They would presumably have some system of verbal signals, if not a language. Cabot did not expect them to understand Gorean, but he had hoped that they would respond with something which would indicate at least that they were speeched.
Perhaps they do not wish to utter sound too near the edge of the forest, thought Cabot.
Some of the females had now come a little closer.
Their furs did not much conceal them. Doubtless they had been attired in accordance with the will of men. None were armed. About their necks, wrapped several times, three or four times, were leather strips, about an inch wide. These were knotted in front, with a variety of ties.
These are slaves, thought Cabot. They are collared. The different knots probably identify the master. It is like Gorean slave strings, or slave laces, fastened about a girl's neck, indicating her bondage and her owner. Cabot was reminded of the leather collars, beaded, in which the Red Savages of the Barrens commonly kept their white female slaves.
They keep their women as slaves, thought Cabot. Thus there is no division within the community, which might produce confusion, hesitancy, dissension, and conflict, and jeopardize the survival of the group. Too, what true man does not desire absolute power over a woman, and what true woman does not seek a man at whose feet to kneel?
Cabot smiled, and spread his hands, making very clear, ritualistically, that he was unweaponed.
The women are coming closer, he thought. They want to watch. He is going to attack.
The fellow in the remains of the Kur harness smiled, as had Cabot.
They can smile, thought Cabot.
The fellow in the remains of the Kur harness then spread his hands, as had Cabot.
It was clearly a gesture of peace, of acceptance, of friendship.
He then attacked.
Cabot had expected the attack, but not its swiftness, its agility. He broke his assailant's hands from his neck by going between the arms and forcing them apart. He then spun his startled, squirming assailant about and brought his hands under the other's arms, locked his fingers together behind the other's neck, and began to press forward. In this way the neck may be broken. Cabot spun about, not releasing his hold, to fend other blows, the jabbing of the sharpened sticks, but none of the others approached.
Cabot exerted further pressure, but did not snap the spinal cord.
His foe uttered angry noises, but there was nothing that suggested a call for quarter, a plea of mercy, even an emanation of fear.
One of the skin-clad animals approached Cabot, unarmed, and put his hand gently on Cabot's arm.
They can kill me, thought Cabot. What does it matter? He then released his hold and his foe, dazed, shaking his head, sank to his knees amongst the leaves.
Cabot saw the women exchanging wild glances, and three or four edged yet more closely forward.
Cabot thought they would sell well.
The one who had attacked Cabot crawled away a few feet, and climbed to his feet.
He reached to the sheathed dagger he wore at his hip, and Cabot prepared to defend himself, a second time.
Why had he not drawn the dagger first, Cabot wondered.
Cabot assumed a defensive stance, knees flexed, hands ready.
But the leader, as he was that, and we shall call him Archon, to utilize a Gorean title for a variety of civic officials, removed the sheath and dagger from the remains of the Kur harness he wore and handed it to Cabot.
There were grunts of approbation from the men about, and a shaking of their simple weapons.
Cabot took the sheath and dagger from Archon and tried to draw the blade. It was frozen in the sheath. Of course, thought Cabot, it is locked in place. There is a releasing touch. The touch would have to be simple, to be quickly applied, and it would doubtless be indexed to a six-digited paw.
Cabot then gestured to Archon to approach, and he held the hilt in his right hand, placing his five fingers in five of the six depressions in the hilt, and took Archon's hand and placed one of his fingers on the sixth depression. The touch, thought Cabot, cannot be a simple grasp, but it must be nearly so, to be such as could be applied with a moment's notice. He then pressed his own fingers and the finger of Archon into the depressions swiftly, twice. The dagger sprang free from the sheath and there was a cry of wonder from Archon, and the others. Cabot then held aloft the Kur blade, nice inches in length, tapered, grooved to allow slippage and a path for blood, and wickedly sharp.
Cabot looked about himself.
The men about put their weapons to the ground, the weapons facing away from him, as though he might be ringed with points arranged to defend him, or to be directed by him.
I am first, thought Cabot.
No, he thought, I shall not be first.
To Archon's astonishment he returned the blade to him, now freed from the sheath, now no more a mere symbol of authority, a scepter of sorts, but a weapon, one capable of piercing to the heart of even a Kur.
Archon lifted the blade in wonder and jubilation.
The men ringed him, and laid their weapons about him, ringing him.
He then turned to face Cabot, the knife in his hand.
Now I die, thought Cabot.
But Archon thrust the knife through a broad leather band of the Kur harness, unwilling to trust it again to its strange, recalcitrant sheath, and approached Cabot, and, putting out his arms, embraced him.
Cabot was then surrounded by the others, who clapped him on the arms and back, and uttered soft noises, seemingly indicative of acceptance and approval.
Two females were then gestured forth. Both had long, dark hair. Archon untied the leather strips at their necks, and pointed to Cabot's feet. Instantly both knelt before him, and, putting down their heads, kissed his feet. At a gesture from Archon they both then stood before Cabot. The leather strips untied from their necks were then placed in Cabot's hands. He wrapped one about the neck of each, three or four times, and then fastened it, jerking it tight with a warrior's knot. At another gesture from Archon, they both knelt again before Cabot, and again kissed his feet.
Both looked up at him, then, and then each bowed her head before him.
The leader is generous thought Cabot. He has given me two women. They are doubtless a currency of sorts in this place.
Too, they clearly understand their relationship to men, and their place.
Slaves are, of course, in any event, a form of currency. They are exchangeable, bartarable, vendible, as any other form of goods, cloth, leather, metal, kaiila, tarsk, verr, such things.
Their furs did not muchly conceal them, and it was tantalizing to consider them washed, and brushed and combed, and in rep-cloth tunics or slave silk.
Might not both serve well in a high city?
Perhaps even as lesser slaves at the feast of a Ubar?
Yes, thought Cabot, they would sell well.
The leader is generous.
Many men would be pleased to have them chained to the slave ring at the foot of his couch.
At this point a cry, as of a bird, came through the trees.
The forest people were instantly apprehensive, and alert.
Archon gestured to Cabot, and the others, and then turned about, and disappeared amongst the trees.
The group then left the clearing, as did Cabot, as well, the two women hurrying behind him.
Chapter, the Fourteenth:
THE FOREST SEEMS QUIET
For several Ehn the forest group, one of several in the sport cylinder, though these avoided one another as roving groups are accustomed to do, moved swiftly from the clearing where they had encountered Cabot, he now with them, accompanied by the two gifts which had been given to him.
They came after a time to a hilly area, where there were rocky outcroppings, and the leader, Archon, and Cabot, and some others, climbed to a point of vantage, whence they might consider the terrain behind them.
They saw nothing.
Cabot was pleased to have survived his encounter with the group, but he placed little confidence in their sharpened sticks against the spears, the nets, and the edged weapons of Kurii. Too, he knew himself to be a marked man, who would be sleen hunted by the colleagues of Pyrrhus, and he had no wish to jeopardize his newly found fellows.
The cry, as of the call of a bird, had surely been a warning, that a hunting party had entered the cylinder.
Cabot tried to bid farewell to the group, but a fellow held his arm, and Archon moved his hand, as though wiping out marks in sand.
The signification of that Cabot surmised was negation, or denial.
Cabot then tried to suggest the sound of a growling sleen and pointed to the forested terrain below them.
Archon smiled and again performed the gesture, as though wiping out marks in sand. So, too, thought Cabot, might traces of a trail or camps be removed.
Could it be that hunting sleen were not yet come through the shuttle port?
Cabot tried to convey his apprehensions to Archon, but the leader of the group again made the gesture of denial, and led the way down from the high place.
They do not understand their danger, thought Cabot, nor the risk of being in my vicinity.
That night, near a concealed cache of food and furs, one of several Cabot supposed, the group made its camp.
He was brought furs from which he fabricated a loose tunic, and was given a sharpened stick, some seven feet in length. The strips of meat he was given were from wild tarsk, and had been dried, being hung from branches. The forest people did not cook their meat, even when freshly taken. They lacked the mastery of fire, its making and control. But even had they not, they would have been sparing in its use, for its light or smoke might have betrayed their position. His gifts, the two long-haired slaves, softened the meat by chewing it for him. One, too, dug him tubers, wild suls, and the other brought him tree fruit, kernelled pods which dangle from the Bar tree, native, as we understand it, neither to Earth or Gor. After having taken a bite of the provenders afforded him, Cabot indicated, with gestures, that the slaves might feed, as well, and they did so, gratefully. Their new master had found them pleasing, and this was evident in his permitting them to feed. When those of the group not posted to their watches began to retire, Cabot's gifts lay at his thigh, making tiny noises. Archon approached Cabot, and Cabot sat up, to welcome him. Archon pressed two roots into his hands, and Cabot held them to his face, and took their scent. They were sip root. He was familiar with sip root for it is the active ingredient in slave wine. It is taken raw in the Barrens by the white female slaves of the Red Savages, unless it is decided that they are to be bred. In its raw, unconcentrated state the effects of the root last some months, but gradually dissipate. In the high cities the Caste of Physicians has produced a slave wine whose effects are terminated only by a counter substance, called the Releaser. Sip root is bitter to the taste, and slave wine is not sweetened either. The Releaser, however, is not only palatable, but aromatic and delicious. When it is given to the girl she may, to her dismay and misery, and perhaps shrieking for mercy, expect to be soon sent to the breeding sheds, to be chained and hooded, and crossed with a male slave, who is similarly hooded. Slaves, as other domestic animals, are bred according to the will of the masters. Cabot knelt his gifts, and gave them each a root, which they then, head down, shuddering, slowly, distastefully, chewed and swallowed. In his usage of them he gave them the names Tula and Lana, both common Gorean slave names.
After the contenting of the slaves Cabot remained awake.
He was sure there must be a hunting party of Kurii in the forest, perhaps not far away.
If he had understood Archon correctly, they did not have sleen with them. It must be then, Cabot thought, another party, not the colleagues of Pyrrhus, intent upon his destruction, to be construed as an inadvertence, an unfortunate misunderstanding. Too, it seemed possible that Pyrrhus would not wish his group to enter the forest too soon after his return to the Steel World. Too, he might have hoped that after a suitable interval his colleagues’ work might prove unnecessary, for Cabot might in the meantime have succumbed to other terrors of the forest, presumably wild beasts of one sort or another, perhaps even to those dangerous prey animals of his own species.
The watch was changed twice before Cabot fell asleep.
When he awakened, Tula and Lana were gone.
Chapter, the Fifteenth:
HOW KAISSA CAME TO THE FOREST
There is no mistaking the sound of slave bells.
But these were not the proportioned janglings of such bells, measured to the step of a slave who well knows their effect on men, and uses them to present the slave of her. Just as women of one world may use attire, perfume, cosmetics, and such, or another robes, and sandals, and veils, to call attention, while haughtily pretending not to do so, to the flesh she is offering to a man, or the slave she is dangling before him, so a slave, who is owned, may use her bells variously, perhaps their sudden flash and sparkle to announce her presence in a room, perhaps their provocative and subtle whispering to accompany her labors, see me, Master, I am yours, perhaps that insolent jangle on the street which is unmistakably a brazen and proud proclamation of her bondage, that she has been found suitable for belling, perhaps that tiny sound, and moan, at the foot of her master's couch, which calls attention to her need. She hopes she will not be cuffed.
Cabot leaped to his feet.
Into the camp area, half running, came Tula and Lana, each carrying a supple switch, formed of a narrow, green branch, dragging between them a double leashed, pathetic, gasping, stumbling figure. The figure was in a slave tunic, probably that it be made clear to Kurii that she was not to be eaten, before or after the bells were affixed. About her wrists and ankles, and neck, which wore no collar, were several strings of bells. Their sound could be easily picked up by Kurii at several hundred yards. Her small wrists had been bound tightly behind her back. There were bruises on her face where she had been struck, and one eye was half closed, and there were many stripes and welts on her body where the switches of Tula and Lana had done their work, expressing their displeasure with the prisoner, and hastening her to the camp. Her calves and thighs, too, had been scratched and cut by the brush through which she had been dragged. Tula and Lana threw their prisoner to her knees before Archon, on whom, her head held back by the hair, she looked with undisguised terror.
"Ai!” thought Cabot!
It was the first time he had seen the blonde in a slave tunic.
Strange, he thought, how covering up a bit of a woman's body, particularly in a garment clearly that of a slave, can so startle and stimulate a man, can so astonishingly call attention to and enhance the attractiveness of a woman. Does it not beg to be torn away?
It is no wonder that slave raids in the high cities commonly target slaves. One can see at least what piteously thrashes within the inescapable tightness of one's capture loop. Too, of course, this mode of garmenting the slave tends to make her the likely prey of the raider, and thus diverts attention from the free woman.
They must understand, thought Cabot, that she is bait for Kurii. She is released into the forest, and her path may be followed. When humans come to investigate her, or claim her, for she is an exquisite female, the Kurii, the hunters, may close in and perhaps annihilate an entire group, or take what they wish, and perhaps ear notch the others, especially the younger ones, and leave them for a later hunt.
Archon is not a fool, surely.
Already, with swift signs, he was clearly giving orders pertaining to the breaking of the camp.
For some reason it seemed that Tula and Lana had been sent out to apprehend the girl and bring her here. Why should that be? Had men scouted the blonde and decided she would look well in the wrapping of a leather collar? If not, why would they not have killed her in the forest? Had Tula and Lana somehow discovered her, and did not know what to do with her? Did they not realize the danger of bringing her to the camp?
The answer to these questions soon became clear to Cabot, for a sharpened stick, some two feet in length, was brought forth, and a rock. The blonde's head was held back and the point of the stick was placed in her mouth. As her head was held, by the hair, she could not pull back, away from the stick. She was then thrown on her back and held down, the stick's point still in her mouth. A hand raised the rock, to use it, hammerlike, to drive the stick downward, through the back of her neck, pinning her by means of it to the ground. The blonde's eyes were wide, terrified.
It is a signal to the Kurii, thought Cabot, a clear indication, far more clear than killing her in the forest, that they understand the Kur ruse, and that they may expect such stratagems to be not only ineffective, but to result in the savage demise of a perhaps valued pet, or slave.
Cabot held the arm of the man with the rock, and made the gesture he had learned from Archon, that for negation.
Archon looked at him, puzzled. Then Archon gestured that Cabot should approach him. Archon then pointed to the blonde and pointed to the group about him with a sweeping gesture. He then drew a circle in the dirt, pointed to the blonde, and then, again, to the people about him, and then, growling, like a Kur, he pointed to the edges of the circle, moving his fingers toward the center.
Then Cabot pointed to the blonde, and drew a circle, and made a growling noise, pointing to the interior of the circle. He then pointed to the group about them, and slashed toward the center of the circle with his finger, several times.
Archon smiled. He turned to one of his men and signed, questioningly. The man held up ten fingers.
Only ten, thought Cabot, only ten.
But even that, he supposed, would be large for a Kur hunting party.
Archon stood up, grinning. There must have been here, here in the camp, some forty males.
The Kurii will expect the humans to run, thought Cabot. They always run. But this time they are not running.
The blonde squirmed a little, in misery, with a tiny sound of the many bells. The pointed stick was still held in her mouth. It kept her in place. Cabot took it from the fellow who held it and tossed it aside. The blonde struggled to sit up, but Cabot, with his foot, pressed her back.
"Human, human!” said the blonde, on her back, looking up at him.
"Kur pet,” said Cabot.
He pointed to the blonde, and tried to make it clear that he wanted some fur and leather, and Archon smiled, and guessed his intention. She would not warn Kurii.
Cabot crouched over her and wound the two leashes together, to constitute a single tether.
"Free me,” she said to Cabot. “They do not understand us.” She spoke in Gorean.
"You are pretty in a slave tunic,” said Cabot. “It seems your Gorean is coming along nicely. Your bells are nice, too. There are a great many of them. They are slave bells. I suppose you know that."
"Free me!” she urged.
Cabot put out his hand and some fur and straps were placed in it.
"What are you going to do with me?” she said, frightened.
"We are going for a walk,” said Cabot.
"You are clever!” she said. “When we are alone, free me! Return me to Arcesilaus, my master!"
"Perhaps, eventually,” he said.
"What are you doing!"
Cabot fixed the wadding and straps. She looked at him, wildly.
"Is a Kur pet not supposed to be silent?” asked Cabot.
She squirmed in her bonds, and uttered frightened, muffled sounds.
Archon then lifted her to her knees and, angrily, taking her by the hair, forced her gagged mouth to Cabot's feet, where he held it for some moments, and then he, by the hair, rudely, painfully, pulled her back up, so that she knelt, as she had before.
Cabot then lifted her to her feet.
"We are going for a walk,” he informed her.
Archon gestured that he would lead the way.
He knows, thought Cabot, a good place. He then followed Archon, and the blonde, unable to speak, for the straps and fur, her hands tied behind her, with a jangling of bells, followed Cabot, on her leash.
Chapter, the Sixteenth:
Yes, Cabot thought, this is a good place.
He slipped down the side of the defile to where he had left the blonde, sitting, her ankles crossed before her, tied together with the twice-braided leash, in such a way that her head, by the leash, was drawn forward and downward, and fastened to her crossed ankles.
From the slippage on the descent, and the rattle of pebbles, she knew he, or someone, had descended to her level.
There was a small sound of the bells.
She could not well look up at him, fastened as she was.
Her wrists were still fastened behind her, as they had been since her capture by Tula and Lana.
Cabot looked to the height of the defile, to his right, and waved to Archon, who lifted his hand, and then slipped back, amongst the rocks, out of sight. The rocks rose to a height of some fifty feet or so on three sides. A shallow descent, on one side, open, led to the pitlike depression amidst the rocks.
There was another sound of the bells, angry, futile, from the prisoner.
Cabot glanced at her.
He heard tiny, angry, demanding, muffled sounds.
It seemed she had not yet learned docility and terror in the presence of a man. Such characteristics would doubtless have been elicited in the presence of a form of life with which she was more familiar. As a complacent and arrogant pet of Kurii, and priding herself as such, a species so superior on the Steel World, she was inclined on the whole to be contemptuous of her own species, which she understood, perhaps appropriately, as an inferior life form. Certainly she held the human animals of the forest, prey animals, as worthy of little respect, saving how they might constitute for her a dreadful imperilment. Surely she remembered the pointed stick, and how she might have been fixed by it to the earth of a primitive camp.
Cabot had tied her in a way acceptable for a free woman.
He had not tied her as she might have been tied, had she been a slave. In such a case she might have been knelt, and her head held down, even to the dirt, by the leash, shortened, drawn back and fastened to her crossed, bound ankles.
The thought of the former Miss Pym, now the pet of Lord Pyrrhus, crossed Cabot's mind. She was a slave. And he thought she might look well, tied as might have been a slave, bent, leash-knelt, her small hands, too, as the blonde's, fastened behind her, though, in her case, as she would have been knelt, high.
On Gor, there are many differences between the free woman and the slave, of which this difference was merely another token. When a free woman is bound as a slave, she may assume that her intended disposition is bondage. Let her then grow accustomed to what is in store for her.
It was not surprising that Cabot thought often, even irritably, of the former Miss Pym. Surely it had not been a coincidence, a simple random happening, that she had been enclosed with him in the container. Had not the selections, the machinations and subtleties, of Priest-Kings been involved in that remarkable, astonishing juxtaposition? And, too, he wondered if he might have been chosen to stand to her rather as she to him. Could there have been calculated polarities involved? Might Priest-Kings have been so cruel? Surely not.
He recalled her insistence that she despised men. Cabot doubted that this was true, but he did not doubt that she wished to convince herself of that. Perhaps she despised men as she had known them, but perhaps she did not despise men as she suspected they might be, men before whom she could be only a woman, and a slave.
There was a jangle of bells as the prisoner tried to free her hands and feet. She was not unattractive. She was clearly a sleek, sensuous, and, as of now, as she was partly speeched, a half-human creature.
Cabot thought of Grendel.
He was as strong, as swift, and possibly as ruthless, as a Kur. The heritage, and the hereditary coils, of Kurii were like cables in his blood, like steel in every corpuscle of his massive body.
And Peisistratus had made it clear that Grendel wanted the prisoner.
Cabot heard a cry, as of a bird. The hunting party must now be within the purview of those concealed amongst the rocks.
Suddenly the blonde was absolutely quiet.
She understands, thought Cabot. She now understands! Now let her be afraid. How will Kurii regard her, after this evening?
Will she be torn to pieces?
Will she be dragged to the shuttle port and eaten alive?
Will they remand her to the cattle pens, she fully aware, awaiting perhaps for weeks her turn on the slaughter bench?
Perhaps they will give her to Peisistratus, for his men in the pleasure cylinder?
To be sure, thought Cabot, this is only one party, hunting, and it is not that of Lord Pyrrhus’ cohorts, for it lacks sleen. I cannot hope to elude sleen. I must distance myself from the humans. But I have tried to do something for them. If they learn to deal with Kurii, with concerted action, then perhaps isolated groups, enemies over territory, may join together, if only temporarily, for purposes of defense, or, if appropriate, aggression.
He heard again the cry, as of a bird.
It will be soon, thought Cabot.
The prisoner turned about, trying to lift her head, and regard him.
Women look well, tied, he thought, even as free women.
His thoughts strayed to the former Miss Pym.
The former Miss Pym was now a slave. It was done. The matter was concluded. It had been proclaimed openly and irreversibly. It was a consequence of her own act. It had been self-confessed, self-acknowledged, self-proclaimed. As a result of such an act a slaver might put her up, instantly, for sale. Yet he was sure that she did not understand the factual, legal actuality of her condition. Her background had not prepared her to understand, he supposed, at least fully, and consciously, the nature of her own act. He had little doubt that she was still terrified of the slave of her, the actual, natural slave of her, and would struggle to conceal her, and deny her, even frantically.
The blonde now began to make piteous noises, no longer angry, or defiant. She is trying to plead, thought Cabot, such pathetic, tiny, futile noises. See, too, how she holds her body absolutely still.
She would like to warn the Kurii, of course.
Archon would have seen to it that something of a trail, a dislodged pebble, a crushed leaf, a snapped twig, a bit of fur seemingly snagged on a branch, would draw the party in this direction. Excellent. We need now only the bells, signaling the locus of the prey, perhaps clustered about the bait. She wishes to warn the Kurii? Good. Let her do so.
Cabot bent to the tied ankles of the blonde and freed them of the leash's tether. She looked up at him, gratefully, relievedly. She awkwardly scrambled to her feet and lifted her face to him, uttering tiny, pleading sounds, that he might free her of the heavy, obdurate packing and straps which so effectively denied her speech. Cabot, instead, wound the leash several times about her throat, and tucked in one end, that it might remain in place. She turned about, lifting her tied wrists to him, but he took her by the arms, she facing away from him, and shook her, creating a jangling of bells.
She was horrified.
She tried then to stand still, absolutely still.
"You are pretty,” Cabot whispered in her ear. “And you look well in a slave tunic. I wonder if you know how attractive you are in such a garment. I do not doubt but what you would sell well."
She tried to remain perfectly still.
He then gave her another vigorous shake, and there was another jangle of bells, which must have carried well into the forest.
He then hurled her from him, several feet, rolling, jangling, to the dirt, away from the opening in the defile.
She scrambled to her feet and looked wildly about.
Cabot was between her and the opening.
She turned about and tried to scramble up the steep sides of the defile, once, twice, three times, and each time, her hands tied behind her, she lost her footing, and slid, or rolled, to the pitlike depression in the bottom of the defile.
Then, on a fourth try, she managed, sliding and slipping, to attain the surface, but was there seized by one of the humans, who then thrust her back, rolling down the incline, to its bottom.
Certainly the intensity of the noise, the jangling of the bells, might suggest rapidity, and urgency, perhaps associated with fleeing prey animals.
The purpose of the bait is to cluster the prey, and keep it together, but the frenzy of the jangling must surely now suggest the need for speed in the pursuit, the noise perhaps signaling the escape and scattering of startled prey.
Cabot gestured that the blonde should approach him, and she did, in misery, terrified. He then unwound the twice-braided leash from her throat, took it in hand, and knelt her beside him, a bit behind him, on the left, where slaves commonly kneel when accompanying a master.
She uttered piteous noises.
Cabot hoped that Kurii would infer that she was guiltless in this trap, and was no more than a hapless, blameless tool in an unexpected stratagem. This, of course, too, was true. But Cabot did not suppose that her masters would necessarily see things in precisely this light.
At that point, roaring, and running, half bent over, several Kurii rushed into the defile.
Chapter, the Seventeenth:
HOW THE HUNT TURNED OUT
There were ten of them, as expected.
One, he was sure, was Arcesilaus, the blonde's owner.
Seeing only Cabot and the blonde before them, the Kurii, startled, stopped. They looked about for humans. Surely they had expected to find humans, doubtless fleeing, to be rapidly pursued. They had not understood that the defile was closed beyond the opening, that there was no exit opposite the opening. Had there been humans they would have been trapped in the defile. This doubtless puzzled the Kurii, for it was uncharacteristic of cunning prey animals to allow themselves to be trapped in such a manner. It did not even occur to them that it might be they who stood in some jeopardy.
Cabot lifted his hand to them in Gorean greeting. “Tal,” he said.
At that point the first large stone, hurled from above, struck one of the Kurii on the shoulder, and he spun about, howling, holding his arm, which now seemed to dangle uselessly from his shoulder. Kurii looked up, wildly, astonished, and met a rain of stones, large and small. Two were struck about the head, and one fell to the ground. They tried to fend away the stones and more than one limb was shattered. Then several boulders, rolled to the edge of the height by more than one man, were tumbled down the steep sides of the defile, and bounded into the defile. Two Kurii were struck by these objects, one squarely in the chest, and he staggered back and lost his footing, and fell against the wall, and then, scratching at the wall, and turning, he regained his feet, and, in fury, raised his arms and sought to roar, but the sound was odd, half choked, air and blood rushing from the fanged jaws. Then he seemed dazed, and disoriented, and staggered again, and then fell, and then spat blood into the dirt. And about the top of the defile were now better than two dozen humans again hurling stones downward, stones easily the size of a man's head. The Kurii were disconcerted, and surely taken unawares. Then, in the confusion, several humans, screaming, and carrying their pointed sticks, slid into the defile, and others rushed forward, through the opening. The Kurii had not encountered humans in this manner before, for humans had always fled from them. But the humans were not now fleeing, but attacking, and relentlessly, and viciously, and, moreover, the Kurii were considerably outnumbered. When one tried to defend itself from a sharpened stick three or four other humans, like sleen hanging on the flanks of a larl, drove their points deep into hairy bodies. In moments, four Kurii were dead, and there was not one other that was not bloodied, and the six remaining Kurii, snarling, and tearing and biting, and sweeping about them with their spears, broke through the opening, and the massed humans, to the forest beyond. Cabot signaled that the humans should follow them and continue to attack them. They must not be allowed an opportunity to regroup, or even, clearly, to grasp what had occurred.
It is not unusual that the hunted may become the hunter. The larl, for example, will commonly circle, or double back, and stalk its hunters.
But this was the first time that this had occurred with humans.
That night humans fed on Kur. Cabot did not join them, for he was reluctant to feed on rational animals.
He did return two slaves, Tula and Lana, to Archon, and take his leave of the humans.
He took with him the blonde, leashed and bound, and gagged, but now relieved of her bells.
Chapter, the Eighteenth:
One supposes that it was foolish of Cabot to return the blonde to the vicinity of the shuttle port, that she not be left to the beasts and humans of the forest, but such activities are not unprecedented amongst humans. Presumably, too, it ill behooves a member of one species to comment on peculiarities in the behavior of another. She was, of course, in Cabot's view, a free woman. Perhaps that made a difference. On the other hand it seems likely that he would have behaved similarly had she been no more than a slave. Humans are strange. They like to own, and master, their women, and fully, and even to the whip, but, too, they will commonly go to great lengths to care for them, to nurture them, and defend them. Many are willing to die for them. What men want of women is a slave; what women want of men is a master.
At the shuttle port the blonde had put down her head and rubbed it against the chest of Cabot, half in fear, half in gratitude. It was a gesture not unlike one which a Kur pet might accord her master.
Cabot then put her from him, and turned to enter the forest, but turned suddenly, angrily, back, half snarling in frustration, went to her, and, in a stride or two, seized her by the arms, and lifted her before him. He held her so for some moments, regarding her closely. She was, as I understand it, a comely female of his species. Certainly the Priest-Kings must have selected her with care, having placed her for their purposes in his container on the Prison Moon. And one suspects that there was little that Cabot could not discern of her attractions, as she was in a slave tunic. There was doubtless a call of blood to blood. Had she been a slave, or, perhaps, even fully human, Cabot might have taken her in hand, and provided himself with the joy of her. She was, of course, a free woman. Perhaps that made a difference. He did not, in short, in the end, put her to his pleasure, either abruptly or violently, or with patience and leisure, as is sometimes done with a slave, as she writhes and gasps, and begs piteously in her ropes or chains that he not desist in his attentions. To be sure, she would be at his mercy, and he would do as he pleases, for she is only a slave. But he did draw her to him, as he was human, and, holding her head so she could not move or escape, he placed his lips upon hers. And then more forcibly. He drew back a little, and she looked up at him, with something like wonder. This act, which seems to be a cultural act, was not fully understood by her.
It is an act not uncommon amongst humans, or, indeed, certain other species, but it is not universal even amongst humans. Universal, of course, are sexual advances, provocations, and such, of one sort or another, uncustomary nearnesses, touchings, caressings, rubbings, postures, dances, and so on. Amongst Kurii nibblings and bitings are common, not to injure, but rather to signal that harm, which might be done, is not done. The male, for example, may close his teeth on the female, possessively, but not tear her, and the female, in response, if acquiescent, may similarly bite at the male, as though defensively, but not to the point of blood. If she is not acquiescent she can inflict serious injury. Kur courtship, so to speak, is analogous to circling, and leaping, and feigned biting, which sometimes becomes dangerous. Indeed, observers unaware of these things sometimes think two Kurii are fighting, and not courting. The Kur male, like the human male, tends to be larger and stronger than the female of the species, which may well account for the survival of the species, as the female must be impregnated with or without her consent if the species is to survive. The Kur female is large and dangerous, but the Kur male is even larger and more dangerous, and, in the final accounting, he may hold her in place, and do with her as he wishes. To be sure, much depends on the nature of the species.
The general pervasiveness of the conjunction of the lips amongst humans suggests that something more than simple cultural idiosyncrasy may be involved, presumably on a level not immediately accessible to consciousness, a level in which the act is understood as symbolic, and analogous to, and suggestive of, and preliminary to, more intimate conjunctions. This is perhaps why certain human cultures object to the meeting of the lips in the fashion in question. For example, Gorean free women are commonly veiled in public, at least in part, presumably, that their provocative lips not be publicly exposed. Indeed, one of the things most dreaded by a Gorean free woman, particularly of high caste, is that they will be face-stripped and their lips exposed to public view, as though they might be those of a slave. That slaves are not permitted veiling, and that their lips must be exposed to all, even in public, is regarded as one of the shames imposed on a slave.
One of the reasons many Goreans consider women of the world Earth as fit for slaves is because many bare their lips publicly. This initial lack of concern with facial nudity commonly arouses contempt in not only Gorean free women for Earth-origin female slaves, but the contempt of Gorean female slaves, as well. Indeed, often the Earth-origin female slave, as she grows more familiar with Gor, becomes acutely conscious of the baring of her face, that she is denied veiling, that males may look upon her as they wish, and so on. It is the same, is it not, with kaiila, pet sleen, and such? Animals are not veiled. Later, however, as she learns her collar, and realizes its proclamation of her desirability, attractiveness, and beauty, and learns the joy of bondage, and her role in, and importance in, Gorean society, she is likely to walk proudly, head high, shoulders back, and brazenly display her master's property. No longer does it concern her that free women will hate her and that other Gorean female slaves will now regard her as a serious rival. She has now learned that such as she is likely to sell as well from the auction block as they. To be sure, she will be wise to humble herself before free women, and kneel, and cringe and grovel, as any other Gorean female slave. It is not pleasant to be switched.
But to return to the meeting of lips, or the pressing or touching of lips, by one or both parties, and such, which the translator, upon inquiry, suggests may be spoken of as a kiss, we note that the slave may be kissed and must kiss whenever the master pleases, and however he pleases, for she is owned. Similarly, the master commands not only the lips of the slave, but her tongue, teeth, hair, hands, and body. All of her, you see, belongs to him. She exists for his service and pleasure. She usually cooks, cleans and launders for him, and, in general, cares for his clothing, his belongings, including herself, and his quarters. She welcomes him to his domicile, kneeling. She is no stranger to petitionings, placations, prostrations, and obeisances. She is familiar with helplessness and subordination, for she is a slave. She is not unfamiliar with chains and ropes, or hoods, blindfolds and gags. Such things liberate her sexually and remind her, and clearly, that she is not a free woman. She is likely to be trained in duties both domestic and erotic. Once the slave fires have been lit in her belly, her freedom is behind her. Henceforth, she belongs to men. Thus one should not be surprised to find her on her knees before a man, her head down, kissing his feet, in piteous supplication for his touch.
She is slave.
And so Cabot had pressed his lips, and forcibly, upon those of the grasped, startled pet of Arcesilaus.
Doubtless she found the experience to which she had been subjected puzzling, but, too, it seems, not distasteful.
Doubtless, too, it produced an unfamiliar unease within her lovely body, presumably associated with suddenly effectuated receptivities. The act may have spoken to her below the daylight of consciousness, like a whispering in the secret night of her belly, but, too, perhaps there was involved no more than a calling of blood to blood, so to speak.
It may help to understand this if we make it clear that Arcesilaus, despite several invitations, some coined, had never put her out to use, even after the reddening of her soft thighs. She had never been locked in the breeding shackles. She had, of course, given her age and health, been often stirred and troubled by scarcely understood sexual curiosities and promptings. But she could make little of these disturbing hormonal afflictions. Many she had not even understood as sexual in nature. Her master had not had her spayed. She did find herself upon occasion uneasy in the presence of human males, but there were few it seemed in the Steel World, other than in the cattle pens, who were bred largely amongst themselves, for meat and stupidity, and of those elsewhere encountered, many were pets, and of little interest, being indolent, and passive, and neutered.
Cabot angrily thrust the blonde from him, and turned to face the forest.
He could hear, more clearly now, the sounds of sleen. He had been aware for Ahn of their entrance, two beasts, with a hunting party of eight, as he counted, through the shuttle port. But he had set a trail which was lengthy and circuitous to gain time, and permit him to return, after circling about, to bring the blonde to the entrance of the shuttle port. Before engaging in this endeavor he had, within the forest, placed his prisoner, still leashed and gagged, on her belly in the leaves before a lofty Tur tree, and knelt across her body. He had then freed her hands and turned her about, and retied them before her body. He had then, turning her again to her belly, with one strand of the double-braided leash, fastened her hands, already bound, closely against her belly, and knotted the holding strap behind the small of her back. With the second strand of the leash he improvised a sling and, with one loop under her arms and the other behind the back of her knees, and she behind him, he began to climb the tree. On a high branch, some seventy or eighty feet above the ground, he sat her back against the trunk of the tree, and, with the second strand of the leash, fastened her in place, by the feet, belly, and neck. The height, he hoped, and her silence, would protect her from predators, of various sorts. The branches would be likely to break beneath a larl and the sleen, a ground animal, is reluctant to climb. She might hope that hunting humans might not look upward. She regarded Cabot piteously, and squirmed a little, helplessly. She could not free herself, as she had been tied by a Gorean warrior. Such are taught the binding of prisoners. Indeed, even Gorean boys are taught the binding of women, given slaves on which to practice, of course. She whimpered, a tiny sound, muffled within the fur and straps of her gag. She looked at Cabot. In his eyes there was no mercy. She would remain as she was. She whimpered and squirmed, futilely. She looked well, bound. The brief tunic, too, left few of her charms to conjecture. Had she realized her status as a free woman, and the nature of men, she might have striven to hold her body exquisitely still. Slaves on the other hand are often inventive, and even cunning, in the use of movement and bonds, and will often strive by such means to incite the master. What slave does not know that even the slightest sound of her chain, seemingly inadvertent, may stir a master to distraction. How innocent they are! And sometimes it is a narrow margin which separates them from a ravishing and a lashing, from an affectionate, indulgent caress and the impatient, punitive sting of a switch. Cabot then descended the tree and set about creating a trail that would take even sleen some Ahn to negotiate. He would return later for the Kur pet. In the meantime she would wait for the business of men and Kurii to be worked out, appropriately helpless to interfere with or affect the outcome. This treatment of the female, incidentally, even should she be free, is not unusual for Goreans. She will await the issue of events, wait to discover whether she will be freed, to be returned in honor to, say, her city, or learn to whom she will now belong. The female from the Gorean point of view is often viewed as goods, and a prize, to be allotted, or disposed of, as men please.
* * * *
Cabot left the blond at the shuttle port, to which he had returned her, listened for a bit, and then sped into the forest.
He remembered the taste of her lips.
It seemed a shame to waste her as a Kur pet. Might she not be better in a cage, preferably a tiny one, instructive for her, awaiting her sale?
He had no hope of eluding sleen indefinitely, and he did not wish to bring humans of the forest into additional jeopardy.
He had as weapon only the long, sharpened stick, some seven feet in length, a common length for a Gorean spear, which had been given to him by Archon, and retrieved at the edge of the forest, near the shuttle port.
Sleen, when wild, or released, commonly trail silently. When leashed, however, and used as controlled hunting animals, they often drag against their leashes, and harnesses, attempt to hurry the hunters, growl in frustration, and sometimes utter an angry squealing sound, as though protesting the supposed dalliance of the leash masters, the seemingly unnecessary length of the hunt, which they, released, might have terminated long ago, and perhaps even the possible further flight and possible unexpected elusiveness of a prey whose trail they have already located and are readily pursuing.
* * * *
Cabot understood that he would be unable to distance either sleen or Kurii, for the sleen is a swift, tireless tracker and the Kur, particularly when descending to all fours, its accouterments fastened to its body, can easily outrun a man, either in a short race, for speed, or in one ranging over pasangs, for both speed and endurance. One notes in this, in passing, the superiority of the sleen and Kur life forms to the human. But then these superiorities are obvious to all neutral observers. And one need not, one supposes, remark further on the greater strength of the Kur, nor the massiveness of its jaws, the penetrability of its fangs, the capacity of its claws, particularly on the hind feet, to disembowel prey, and so on.
Accordingly, Cabot was not disposed to flee until, desperate and exhausted, perhaps after some Ahn, his muscles aching, his body shuddering, his lungs gasping for air, he would lie vulnerable and helpless in the path of his pursuers.
He would prefer to deal with them, or be dealt with by them, while he was in a state of strength and acuity.
Had his pursuers been unwary and unsuspecting men, or such beasts of another sort, he might have circled about and attempted, undetected, from the rear, to eliminate them one by one, certainly were they in single file and suitably separated. This is a common strategy with an unwary and unsuspecting line, but it is unlikely of success with, say, Warriors, or Assassins, as they are alert to, and familiar with, such procedures, often resorting to them themselves. And Cabot supposed, correctly or not, that the colleagues of Lord Pyrrhus would be well aware that their quarry was of the Warriors, and, accordingly, would not, thus, even though it was human, underestimate it. Too, Cabot supposed, correctly I believe, that the sense of both hearing and smell on the part of Kurii would militate against his making more than a first kill. Too, he had no metal blade with which to cut a throat, nor an ax, with which to sever a spinal cord, nor a true spear whose blade might cleave easily, even through inches of hide, hair, and flesh to a heart. In short, he supposed he might, at best, rid himself of one enemy before seven others, and excited sleen, turned about and raced toward him. He elected, thus, to climb a small escarpment, some thirty feet from the ground, which would slow sleen in their ascent, and, with good fortune, allow him to defend himself for a time with the sharpened stick or pole, were the sleen loosed. He was supposing it would be immaterial to the hunters whether he was brought down by sleen, which might have been wild sleen of the forest, one might speculate, or slain, supposedly by accident, with a cast of the mighty Kur spear.
He waited on a ledge, between rocks, on the small escarpment, and considered it was an odd place to die, but an interesting one. He could see forest over his head in the cylinder, as well as about him. Sunlight, gathered and focused, was brought into the cylinder, as into at least the main habitat, by mirrors, from Tor-tu-Gor, or Sol, as these are the same star. He was interested, too, to note, as he waited, that a film of water, a dense humidity, emerged from various concealed conduits, about him, and doubtless above him, as well, high overhead in the ceiling forest. These emanations of moisture were doubtless controlled by automatic devices, and the moisture, in turn, would evaporate to be recycled, indefinitely, rather as in a natural planetary environment. He watched with some fascination as beads of water formed on the leaves of rock-climbing Turpah, a parasitic but edible growth commonly adhering to the bark of the Tur tree. His skins, from the humans of Archon, dampened, and clung to him. The bath of moisture much accentuated the freshness and fragrance of the forest. Then, after some ten Ehn, the discharge of moisture ceased, as suddenly as it had begun. In the greenery below, as the heat became more sensible, the softened, refreshed air began to tremble and steam.
It was a quarter of an Ahn afterward when Cabot again heard sleen.
He could tell they were excited, their eagerness and agitation much increased, with the freshness of the trail.
In a moment, breaking through the greenery, he saw the lead sleen, its viperlike head to the ground.
Cabot stood up, and struck the butt of the stick on the rocks at his feet. “Up here!” he called. “Here, up here, gray friend!"
The sleen lifted its head.
Behind it was a Kur, holding its leash, who pointed eagerly toward Cabot and alerted his fellows with a bellowing roar, as of jubilation, as of triumph.
The sleen threw itself against the harness and the Kur struggled to hold it in place. In a moment the second sleen appeared. Both were more intent on the trail and its freshness than the fact that the prey was actually in view. The trail, like a trickle of scent, still obsessed them. Cabot then saw the other Kurii emerge from the trees. Two Kurii had been rather in front of the group, each with a sleen. The other six had traveled in pairs, each pair in tandem fashion behind the preceding pair. Thus Cabot realized he would indeed have been able to make only one kill, if that, as the other member of the pair would have been instantly alerted as to the attack on its fellow. Yes, thought Cabot, they were trailing a warrior. He was gratified that they had chosen in this way to show respect for his caste.
The eight Kurii were now emerged from the forest and were rather at the bottom of the small escarpment.
Six were quite large, the other two were considerably smaller, surely no more than three to five hundred pounds.
Translators were flicked on.
"Greetings,” came from a translator.
"Greetings,” responded Cabot.
"We thought to follow you further,” said one of the Kurii.
"I trust you are not disappointed,” said Cabot.
"You understand why we have come?” asked one of the Kurii.
"I think so,” said Cabot.
"You led us a strange trail,” said another.
"You could not escape through the shuttle port,” said another. “There are codes."
"So I understand,” said Cabot.
"On our return to the shuttle port, following your eccentric trail, we discovered a bait beast,” said one of the Kurii.
"A female bait beast,” said another.
"Interesting,” said Cabot.
Where men are concerned, females make the best bait beasts. The application of the “lure girl” is familiar in many locales. One of the few times a female slave is permitted to don the garments of a free woman without being slain is when she is used in such a role. Sometimes they are put on the bridges late at night, in the light of the moons, and when a marauding tarnsman makes his strike, the city's tarnsmen may take flight and close in upon him. A common stratagem is for a group of seeming maidens to be noted sporting outside a city's walls, perhaps tossing a ball about, or such, and laughing, and chatting, with one another. When foreign tarnsmen, intent on plying chain luck, descend to acquire this seemingly vulnerable trove of loveliness, they are surprised, for numerous guardsmen emerge suddenly from concealed pits and encircle them. Free women, incidentally, are almost never used in such a role. If one were she might be likely to be soon stripped and found in her own collar, that is, in her master's collar.
"We did not eat her,” said another, “as she was garmented."
"Not yet,” said another.
"How do you know she was a bait beast?” asked Cabot.
"What else could she be, here?” asked another.
"True,” said Cabot.
"But where is her hunting party?” asked one.
"Why did you not ask her?” said Cabot.
"You know little of us, human,” said one. “Such creatures are pets, at best. They are not speeched."
"I see,” said Cabot. How quick, thought Cabot, was the mind of the blonde. She would have understood Cabot was hunted. Had she not, as well as he, heard sleen? Taken as an unspeeched pet, at best, she could not be intelligibly interrogated as to his whereabouts. Too, as unspeeched, they would not fear she might inform upon them. As little might be feared on the world, Earth, from a stray dog.
The greatest danger to her, thought Cabot, would presumably be from the surviving members of the decimated hunting party, or from others who knew of it, for she, the bait girl, had not been used by Kurii to entrap humans, but by humans to entrap Kurii. Cabot had done his best, having her bound and helpless beside him in the pitlike depression, to make it clear she had not willingly betrayed her masters. To be sure, she had been used against them, willingly or not, and Kurii do not tend to be a benevolently disposed, understanding or forgiving species. If she had been used in such a fashion once, might she not be used in such a fashion again? Too, perhaps she had collaborated with humans, with intent. As she was speeched, or partly speeched, this might seem all the more possible. And certainly Arcesilaus knew she was at least to some extent speeched, as he had arranged for this, her tutoring being supplied largely by Grendel.
"We are thinking of removing her garment and eating her on the way back,” said one of the Kurii.
This remark startled Cabot, for he was unused to thinking as Kurii, to whom humans are little different from verr or tabuk.
"Perhaps she has escaped,” said Cabot.
"No,” said another. “We braceleted her hands behind her back, about a tree, and hung the key about her neck."
"In that way the meat will stay fresh,” said another.
"She is perhaps a pet,” said Cabot, “and her master would not wish her eaten."
"He would not know."
"Her master,” said Cabot, “is Lord Arcesilaus."
The Kurii looked about, one to the other.
"How would you know that?” asked one.
"She was not in his collar,” said another.
"She was not even in a collar,” said another.
"She may be a stray, who was used as a bait beast,” said another.
"She may have stolen a tunic, in order to avoid being eaten,” said another.
"Sometimes they will kill one another for a tunic,” said another.
"I have seen her on his leash,” said Cabot.
"We will be hungry, after the hunt,” said another Kur.
"I am here,” said Cabot. “What difference does it make, which human you feed upon?"
"The sleen will have you,” said another.
"They have come this far,” said another. “They have been successful in their hunt. They will want food."
The sleen, indeed, were now scratching at the earth, and had their heads raised, regarding him.
A sleen is a dangerous animal, and a hungry sleen is additionally dangerous, and one who expects to be rewarded for a successful hunt, and is not so rewarded, is extremely dangerous. Such a beast may turn upon its leash-holder. When sleen are used in hunting slaves, if the slave is to be recaptured, and not slain, the hunters usually carry meat with them, to reward the beast once the prey is in custody.
"Lord Arcesilaus will not be pleased if you eat the girl,” said Cabot. To be sure, Cabot was not certain of this, and Arcesilaus might have been, for all Cabot knew, contemplating the same act.
"He will never know,” said one of the Kurii.
"Shall we release the sleen now?” inquired one of the Kurii, of Cabot, one somewhat in advance of the others, one Cabot took to be the leader of the group.
"That decision,” said Cabot, “would seem to be yours, rather than mine."
"We expected you to run, until you could run no further,” said one of the Kurii.
"Humans do not always run,” said Cabot.
"It seems you are too stupid to do so,” said one of the Kurii.
"Would you run?” asked Cabot.
"No,” said the Kur, “but I am Kur."
"Perhaps he is Kur,” said another of the group of hunters. Being Kur, you see, is not always a simple, descriptive term denoting a particular species. The question, “Are you Kur?” can be asked even of a Kur. There is a meaning here which transcends biological classification.
"No,” said Cabot. “I am human."
One of the Kurii below him snarled viciously. The translator, however, provided the translation without passion. “You are meat,” it said.
"Do you think the pointed stick in your grasp is a weapon?” inquired one of the Kurii.
"Lend me your spear, if you wish me better armed,” said Cabot.
"You could not cast it,” said a Kur.
"Then I must make do with my pointed stick,” said Cabot.
"He is brave,” came from one of the translators.
"You must understand,” said one of the Kurii, he who seemed most prominent amongst them, “this does not have to do with you."
"In this there is nothing personal,” said another.
"I understand,” said Cabot. “You hunt on behalf of Lord Pyrrhus, who is foe to Agamemnon."
"Release the sleen,” said he who seemed to be their leader.
The sleen doubtless recognized this command in Kur, and not in Gorean, for which the translators were set. In any event, they reacted instantly, even before Cabot heard the translator. They began to tremble and scratch at the ground, and they then lurched forward, and were held back, and then, again, they strained forward, eagerly, against the harness, which made it more difficult to release the catches. They both looked upward at Cabot, their eyes alight with anticipation. The two catches, and then the safety catches, were freed, with four snaps, and the two sleen sprang forward and began to scratch their way frenziedly up the short, steep slope.
One sleen fell backwards, twisted wildly in midair, snarling, and fell to the ground at the foot of the small escarpment, and turned to climb again. The other sleen was at Cabot's feet, snapping, when Cabot thrust the homely spear through its spread jaws, the point tearing through the left cheek of the beast. It slipped back, but seemed impervious to pain. The first beast leaped upward, gained a purchase on the slope, and joined Cabot on his narrow ledge, until it was thrust back, over the edge, bloodied, with the stick, to slide to the foot of the slope again. The second sleen was thrust back again, its chest blooded. When the first sleen again attacked, Cabot struck it back with the butt of the primitive weapon. Both sleen were then at the foot of the small escarpment, turning about, tails lashing, each again then looking upward.
The ledge is defensible, thought Cabot, wildly.
There was suddenly a flash of darkness to Cabot's left, and a sharp, sliding, grating sound, as one of the great spears struck against a projecting outcropping, and was then arrested, snapped in two, by the wall behind him. Cabot lunged to the side, to his right, as another spear struck into the stone behind him, marking it as though struck with a hammer. One of the Kurii was now ascending the slope. Cabot thrust at him with the pointed stick but the Kur grasped it and drew on it, and Cabot released it, lest he be dragged from the ledge. At the same time he was conscious of something like an enveloping cloud of rope which descended about him, and he tried to throw it off, to fight it, but it was cunningly whipped about him, with no more than three or four motions, and he was thrown from his feet, enmeshed in its toils. Cabot tried to roll free but one hairy foot held the net closed, and Cabot, his fingers in the strands, each better than an inch thick, was helpless. Cabot realized the net had been well cast and well handled. Begrudgingly he admired the skill with which it had been employed. This hunter, he supposed, had netted humans before. Surely it had been done skillfully and Cabot knew himself helpless. Cabot himself was not unskilled with nets, and certain arena fighters, called fishermen, used net and trident on the sand. Cabot himself had used nets upon occasion to capture slaves, and women to be made slaves. When a city falls, it is common for the slaves of the city to submit themselves to the conquerors, kneeling, head down, arms extended, wrists crossed, for binding. Some, of course, and sometimes free women who have disguised themselves as slaves, that they not be peremptorily slain, flee. Sometimes, too, house slaves, tower slaves, palace slaves, and such, unaccustomed to more demanding slaveries, will flee, hoping to avoid sharing the chains of more common slaves. In any event, Cabot was not a stranger to the netting of women. Some he would keep, who pleased him. Others he would distribute as he pleased, amongst his men, and of others he would profit from their sales.
And now Cabot himself was netted, though not in the light toils of a weighted slave net, which he might have torn open and shredded, a net unsuitable for a man but inescapable for a female, but in a mighty net, stoutly woven, thickly stranded, cast by a Kur, a net that might have held a larl.
Another Kur ascended to the ledge on which Cabot lay, enmeshed, trapped, in the toils of the net.
This second Kur carried a spear, which he handed to the net holder, who then, grasping it some four feet behind the blade, lifted it, his hands high over his head, and pointed it downward, toward the heart of Cabot, who lay in the toils of the net, on his back, looking upward.
Chapter, the Nineteenth:
THE INTERVENTION OF THE STEEL LARL
There was suddenly above Cabot a rushing sound and a torrent of fire and Cabot turned his head away, half blinded, and was barely aware of the gigantic, headless trunk above him, the parts of arms, striking about him, and the charred particles of parts of a blackened spear, the metal head of which, half melted, struck softly onto the ledge. The trunk did not bleed as the flame had seared shut the avenues of blood within that large body, and the head, or the parts of it which remained, slid slowly downward, descending from the rock wall behind him.
At the same time he heard the hiss of power weapons below the escarpment. But such weapons were not permitted in the sport world!
There were howls of surprise and fury, some abrogated instantly, as if a machine might have been switched off. He heard Kur sounds, most discordant, some articulate, others half uttered, or blurred. The translators, several of which must have been still on, transmitted sounds in Gorean but the emanations were so disordered as to be largely unintelligible.
Cabot, struggling in the net, rolled to his side, about the large, headless trunk encumbering the ledge, to peer through the strands, down into the clearing at the foot of the small escarpment.
There was another blast of fire below him, which was reflected upward, as though a small sun had exploded, casting an ignited chemical shower against the escarpment, and he saw the residue of one of the sleen smoking below him. In the clearing below there were, too, five steaming bodies, the flesh burned away to darkened bones, and three of the hunters had flung down their weapons, in token of surrender. They were then cut down with streams of fire where they stood. The eight who had hunted Cabot had all been destroyed. About the clearing, armed with weapons outlawed within the sport world, were at least fifty Kurii. Two Kurii, other than the hunters, had been penetrated by spears, with which the hunters had been armed. A heat knife lay on the ground, still blistering and flaming, which one of the Kurii snapped off. The other sleen had its back to the escarpment, snarling, and then it sprang at one of the Kurii, clinging with its jaws to its arm. The arm was torn off, and the sleen shook it angrily. Power weapons were aimed at the beast.
A Kur roar, abrupt, definitive, emanated from the forest, and the power weapons were lowered. On several of the translators of the hunters, almost simultaneously, Cabot heard, “No!"
Through the trees into the clearing emerged a machine, slowly, menacingly, in the form of a gigantic larl.
The larl is known on Gor. It is not known if it was native to Gor or, as many other forms of life, including humans, it was brought to that world by the mysterious Priest-Kings, whoever or whatever they might be. The ecological niche on the planet Earth, which is usually filled with large predators of a feline nature, such as the lion, the tiger, and such, is filled, or mostly, on Gor by the larl, and a diversity of smaller predators, primarily pantherine in form. The adult Gorean larl is usually in the range of seven feet at the shoulder and over a thousand pounds in weight. It is lithe, sinuous, agile, aggressive, ferocious, carnivorous, and, unlike the sleen, quadrupedalian. It has a broad skull, rather triangular in shape, and is fanged, and clawed. But the machine which now emerged, stalking, from the forest, must have been ten to twelve feet at the shoulder. Its weight would be difficult to ascertain without a better sense of its construction, but it was doubtless considerably heavier than a natural larl.
The living Kurii in the clearing, their weapons lowered, stepped aside, to allow the advance of the device.
The sleen, the Kur arm dangling from its jaws, lifted its head and regarded the strange new arrival.
It did not regard it as a living thing, of course, for the signals of sound, and odor, were incorrect. But it did regard it as a foreign object, inexplicable perhaps, but surely not welcome.
The machine, almost catlike, picked its way delicately amongst the bodies of Kurii, both of the hunters and the others.
The sleen crouched down, and began to gnaw at the arm, this appendage held in place by its forefeet.
The Kur who had been attacked by the sleen lay to one side, bleeding. Kurii seldom tender aid to one another in such a situation. This is a cultural matter. The common thought is that if he is Kur he will need no assistance. Rendering assistance is sometimes, as well, thought demeaning to the injured or wounded. It is, so to speak, calling attention to his need, or weakness, which can be regarded as shaming or insulting him. Pity is regarded as belittling both he who is pitied and he who pities. It is not strength. Too, there is commonly another to take the place of such a one.
"Larl,” Cabot heard. He thought this sound came from the interior of the machine.
Immediately the living Kurii raised their power weapons, looking about, alertly.
"No,” Cabot heard, again.
Yes, the sound emanated from within the machine.
Cabot knew that larls could be found in the sport world, as well as sleen. These beasts were hunted by Kurii with primitive weapons, as well as men. Indeed, he had reason to believe that humans not only defended themselves from such beasts, as they could, but occasionally hunted them, as well. Too, occasionally they must have slain a Kur. Archon had worn remnants of a Kur harness.
A larl, thought Cabot, might have been brought to the clearing by the smell of blood.
He then saw it, as must have the Kurii, as well, tawny and sinuous, amongst the trees, half crouching.
It was waiting, thought Cabot. Why is it waiting?
"Sleen,” Cabot heard.
At first he understood this to be a reference to the beast feeding below, but this conjecture was instantly belied by the feeding beast, for it raised its head suddenly and snarled, menacingly, possessively.
On its six legs, belly to the ground, tail lashing, a wild sleen approached the hunting sleen.
It is not only the larl which can smell blood, thought Cabot.
The hunting sleen was a much larger animal, and had been bred through generations not only for its hunting skills, but for size, ferocity, and aggressiveness. Such animals are sometimes used in sleen fights, on which bets are made. There is amongst some species, including Kurii, a common belief that the wild animal is somehow superior to the domestic animal, but this is usually false. The domestic animal has been bred from the wild animal to be its superior. Wild animals are on the whole smaller, lack stamina, are malnourished, infested with parasites, and short-lived. The domestic animal is usually larger, better fed, longer-lived, healthier, and trainable, with respect to virtues ranging from stamina to patience, to restraint, to techniques of stalking, attacking, and killing. For example, the wolf hound of Earth was originally bred to kill wolves.
The hunting sleen growled at the wild sleen.
This growl was returned by the wild sleen, whose ribs could be seen within its snarled, matted fur.
It is starving, thought Cabot.
It will not be warned away.
The hunting sleen then rushed upon its wild fellow, and, in moments, after a brief, squealing, exploding, rolling, tangled bunching of fur, the wild sleen lay, eyes glazed, limp in the dirt, its throat still throbbing, discharging blood into the dirt.
It was at this point that the larl advanced.
It was waiting, I see it now, thought Cabot, for there to be but a single foe, and one perhaps exhausted, or weakened, from an earlier contest.
The meat will now be all his.
The larl did not understand of course the menace of the power weapons, and their scope, so unlike single arrows, weapons which might have transformed him in a moment into a little more than a mound of burned meat, like a small mountain, smoking and bubbling, beneath a descending, gentle scattering of drifting, burning hair.
But the machine stood between the winnings of the sleen and he who would lay claim upon them.
The sleen was now burrowing his muzzle into the body of the wild sleen, chewing out the organ meat, delicacies most prized amongst carnivores.
The larl, no more than the sleen, reacted to the machine as a living thing, no more than it might have to a rock or tree.
But the mouth of the machine, and its fangs, raked the flank of the larl as it tried to brush past.
The larl snarled with rage, and turned, and licked at its bloodied flank, and then tried to pass, again.
Again, it was torn.
The larl tried to strike the object from its path with its paw, and there was a raking, scraping sound, but it might as well have struck against a wall of iron, and there was, as a consequence of the blow, which might have struck a man yards from its path, almost no movement in the machine.
The larl, irritated, puzzled, put its muzzle closer to the machine, trying to fathom its nature, and the mouth of the machine, very gently, opened, and took the throat of the larl in its metal jaws. The larl did not understand this, for it sensed nothing alive, but then its eyes widened, and it tried to pull its neck free, but the jaws very gently, continued to close, as might have an electronic vice. Then the larl pulled and snarled, and then blood spurted from its nostrils, and then, as it twisted, ever more weakly, its head was bitten away.
Cabot noted that the Kur who had been attacked by the sleen now lay quietly to the side. The body would be left for the beasts of the forest. This, in such situations, is regarded as cultural. In this way, in Kur belief, one is reconciled with, and returned to, that nature which has spawned one. The gift of life is a loan, as the Kur commonly sees it, a loan for which one is grateful, a loan which, when due, is to be willingly repaid with the coin of death.
The machine seemed to lift its head, and turn it in one direction, and then its head, on the mechanical neck, rotated to another direction, opposite.
"There were only eight, and two sleen,” said one of the Kurii.
"One sleen remains,” said another.
Then the machine lifted its head, further, and Cabot knew himself discerned.
"You know me?” inquired the machine.
"I think so,” said Cabot.
"Are you well?” inquired the machine.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
Something was said to one of the Kurii, and it clambered upward, reached Cabot, and then lifted the net, with its prisoner, Cabot, and carried it down the slope to the level. It placed the net and Cabot at the paws of the machine, which towered above him.
"Close your eyes,” said the machine, and Cabot obeyed. Even through his closed lids Cabot could sense the blast of light and heat, moving about him. Then it was shut off and Cabot opened his eyes, and stood up, unsteadily, free, the severed, burned shreds of the net about his feet.
Cabot looked up. The head of the machine, as it sat, like a larl, was several feet above his head.
"It was doubtless with this that the sleen were set upon him,” said a Kur, lifting Cabot's tunic, taken from a pouch attached to the harness of one of the fallen hunters.
"Let us see,” said the machine.
The Kur who held the wadded tunic threw it before the feeding sleen, who looked upon it, and then crawled toward it, and then, suddenly, as though recovering from some distraction, perhaps its experiences at the ledge, its attack on the Kur, its fight with its wild fellow, the satisfying of its hunger, looked at Cabot, and snarled. Cabot crouched down. He did not have even his pointed stick with which to defend himself. The tail of the sleen began to lash. It gathered its four hind feet beneath it. It growled.
"It is going to attack,” came from one of the translators.
"I will attack,” came dispassionately from the machine.
There was a flash of metal plating and joints as the device leapt past Cabot, pouncing on the startled, suddenly rearing sleen, its weight striking against it, then half crushing it, and then the machine, rising up slowly, pinned the sleen in place with its left forefoot and the right forefoot of the device began to descend, slowly, a timing reminiscent of the closure of its jaws on the throat of the larl, the sleen squirming beneath it, and Cabot heard a shriek of the animal, the splintering crack of its backbone, like the snapping of a stick, and then the rupture of ribs, one after the other, and then witnessed the flattening of the body, organs and lungs half protruded, as though disgorged, through the jaws.
The machine then, as Cabot backed away, went to the bodies of each of the hunters, and, taking the head of each in the massive metal jaws, bit it away. It went lastly to the largest of the hunters, he who had commanded the others, and he who had assured Cabot as to the lack of animosity resident in his dark mission, and bit off his head, as well.
The machine then, standing over the headless body of the large Kur, regarded Cabot.
"This,” it said, stirring the body with its broad, metal-clawed foot, “was Kalonicus, cousin to Pyrrhus."
"Pyrrhus, enemy of the world,” said the machine.
"I would know little of that,” said Cabot.
The machine then took up the huge body of the Kur in its jaws, held it dangling for a moment, while looking about itself, and then it shook it as though it might have been no more than a handful of rags, shook it viciously, and then flung it away, until it struck against trees, and fell to their feet, better than a hundred paces far.
The machine then turned to the Kurii about, and sat back on its metal haunches, catlike, blood on the steel of its jaws, its head up.
"Hail Agamemnon, Eleventh Face of the Nameless One, Theocrat of the World,” came from a translator, and the Kurii knelt, each on a single knee.
Cabot did not kneel.
One of the Kurii noticed this and growled.
Cabot did not kneel.
The Kur raised his power weapon.
"How is Tarl Cabot, my friend?” came from the machine.
The Kur lowered his power weapon. He then, and the others, at a nod from the great machine, rose to their hind feet.
"I am well, Lord Agamemnon,” said Cabot.
"How is it,” inquired the machine, “that you came to the sport world?"
"May I ask,” said Cabot, “how is it that you came hence?"
The machine was silent.
One of the Kurii growled, softly.
"It is to your timely intervention that I doubtless owe my life,” said Cabot. “I am grateful. It seems I was mistook as a prey human by noble hunters."
"That would have been tragic,” said the machine.
"A lamentable misunderstanding,” said Cabot.
"We came to the forest,” said the machine, “upon being apprised of your possible danger by Peisistratus, human."
"Then I must be grateful to him, as well."
"Lord Pyrrhus, it seems,” said the machine, “erred in taking a human into his confidence."
"I fear I fail to understand,” said Cabot.
"Do you think it is wise to trust a human?” asked the machine.
"It is hard to tell,” said Cabot. “Much might depend upon the human."
"He was betrayed by Peisistratus,” said the machine. “He thought Peisistratus was his human."
"I see,” said Cabot.
"But he is my human."
"I see,” said Cabot.
"So how came you here, my friend?” asked the machine.
"I was curious,” said Cabot. “I wandered off. It was unwise of me."
"I see,” said the machine.
"How is Lord Pyrrhus?” asked Cabot.
"He has been deprived of his rank, his goods, and chattels,” said the machine. “He is in chains. You need no longer fear him."
"I know little of these matters,” said Cabot.
"We will expect you to be present, and testify, at his trial, his trail for high treason."
"He will receive a trial?” said Cabot.
"Certainly,” said the machine. “Do you think we are barbarians?"
Cabot looked about, at the sleen, the larl, the blood-soaked ground, the headless bodies. “Certainly not,” he said.
"Lord Pyrrhus is not above the law,” said the machine.
"No one is above the law,” speculated Cabot.
"No,” said the machine. “One is above the law."
"And who might that one be?” asked Cabot.
"I am he,” said the machine.
"I understand,” said Cabot.
Chapter, the Twentieth:
Cabot was well bedecked, in purple robes, sashed with gold. About this neck were strings of rubies.
He refused a diadem of gold, as he felt himself no ruler, no king, no baron, no Ubar, no Administrator, or such.
Peisistratus, too in splendid robes, stood near him, on a step below the surface of the platform of the witness. This platform was twelve feet high, and railed, and stout enough to support more than one Kur. The jury was a thousand Kurii, ranged on tiers. Lord Pyrrhus, chained by limbs and neck, and fastened in a cement pit, had spoken in his own defense, but his defense, articulate and bellicose, did little more than confirm his guilt. He did protest his innocence of treason, and his insistence that he had never acted otherwise than in the best interests of the species and the world.
The testimony of Peisistratus, taken through translators, had made it clear that Lord Pyrrhus had intended to take the human, Tarl Cabot, hunting in the sport cylinder, which seemed upon the surface, if tasteless considering some of the game available, at least sufficiently innocent. Other testimony had made it clear that Lord Pyrrhus had returned from the sport cylinder without Tarl Cabot, and that, later, a hunting party of eight Kurii, three of whom were womb brothers, and two of whom were egg brothers, to Lord Pyrrhus had entered the sport world with sleen, and had been arrested in the midst of an attempt upon the life of Tarl Cabot, esteemed ally of Agamemnon.
"You are the human, Tarl Cabot?” inquired the translator of the chief prosecutor.
"I am,” said Cabot.
"One supposes it is possible,” said the prosecutor, “that a terrible mistake is involved in all this, for the defendant is Kur."
"Certainly,” said Cabot.
"Yet it seems clear, and overwhelmingly so, that Lord Pyrrhus had designs upon your life."
"What reason could he possibly have for such designs?” asked Cabot.
"That question is to be ignored,” said the judge, who was not visible, but whose presence was made known by a sound system, and whose words were picked up by the platform translator, set in the railing before Cabot. The body of Agamemnon, in this instance, Cabot supposed, was in effect the courtroom itself. He had little doubt that Agamemnon, wherever he might be ensconced, could see as well as hear the proceedings.
"We need not inquire into such matters,” said the chief prosecutor, “as facts are at issue, and not motivations."
"Very well,” said Cabot.
"One fact is clear, at least,” said the prosecutor, “that a tunic, bestowed upon you in accordance with the largesse of Lord Agamemnon, Eleventh Face of the Nameless One, Theocrat of the World, was in the possession of the hunting party by which you were endangered, a tunic used to set sleen upon you."
"Certainly to find me,” said Cabot.
"I do not understand,” said the prosecutor.
"Perhaps the party was sent by Lord Pyrrhus, or someone, to locate me in the sport world, and thereby effect my rescue."
"We have ample testimony,” said the prosecutor, whose movements suggested anger, though the translator spoke without passion, “that in the time of your location your life was in great jeopardy."
"That is true,” said Cabot. “I fear the hunters mistook me for a game human."
"How could that be?” inquired the prosecutor.
"I fear I was clad in skins, suggesting a human game animal,” said Cabot.
Several of the encircling jurors exchanged glances.
"Lord Pyrrhus took you to the sport cylinder and abandoned you there, to be hunted down and killed by his cohorts,” said the prosecutor.
"Is that not speculation?” asked Cabot.
"It is fact,” said the prosecutor.
"One supposes the jury must decide on that,” said Cabot.
"Are you intent on trying to protect one who would have had you slain?"
"Is that not for the jury to ponder?” inquired Cabot.
"You could not have reached the sport cylinder alone,” said the prosecutor. “You could not know the shuttle codes."
"I was to go hunting with Lord Pyrrhus,” said Cabot. “I had codes from him, though I do not now recall them. I was to wait for him, but I went ahead. Perhaps he came later to the shuttle port, and deemed that I had declined the hunt, and thus returned to his quarters."
"What are you telling us?” asked the prosecutor.
"I was curious,” said Cabot. “I wandered off. It was unwise of me."
"You would hold Lord Pyrrhus innocent in all this?” said the prosecutor.
"Certainly,” said Cabot.
Pyrrhus, clothed in chains, in the pit, regarded Cabot, puzzled.
"What are you doing?” whispered Peisistratus to Cabot.
"Kaissa,” said Cabot.
Peisistratus seemed content with this answer.
The prosecutor turned about, and, high in the tiers, above the jurors, a small light glowed briefly, twice. It would be noted, presumably, only by those facing it, and perhaps looking for it. Cabot, given his vantage on the platform, did see it.
"The witness may step down,” said the prosecutor.
Cabot descended from the platform, and Peisistratus, who had been near to him, waiting on a step, accompanied him.
"The jury will note,” sounded the voice of the judge, which seemed to come from everywhere in the room, the platform translator producing this in Gorean almost immediately, “that the guilt of Lord Pyrrhus is overwhelmingly clear, albeit largely circumstantial. The aberration of a witness, or the obscurity of its testimony, must not be permitted to distract your attention from either the charges or the indisputable and incontrovertible evidence on which they are based. The jury may now deliberate."
"Do they not withdraw?” asked Cabot.
"Certainly not,” said Peisistratus. “The judge would then not know how each voted."
"The verdict need not be unanimous?” asked Cabot.
"Certainly not,” said Peisistratus. “If that were the case a single madman or fool, a simpleton, a partisan or malcontent, might nullify or vitiate an entire trial."
"Is a simple majority required?” asked Cabot.
"No,” said Peisistratus, “innocence or guilt must be clear, so a clear, significant majority is required, and in a trial such as this, involving charges of high treason, guilt must be exceedingly clear, this requiring that nine out of every ten jurors draw the knife."
"If more than one out of ten do not unsheathe their blades?"
"Then the defendant is acquitted,” said Peisistratus.
Already in the tiers many six-digited paws were clasped about the handles of their knives, but, Cabot noted, many jurors were crouched down, knuckles on the tiers, their knives untouched.
"Hold!” called the voice of the unseen judge.
The jurors looked about themselves, but the location of the judge, as the voice emanated from a diversity of locations, was not clear.
"Pyrrhus,” called the voice.
"Lord Pyrrhus,” bellowed a voice from the pit, with a fierce shaking of chains.
"Did you or did you not seek the death of the human, Tarl Cabot?"
"I did,” said Pyrrhus.
"So his honor destroys him,” said Cabot to Peisistratus, at the foot of the witness platform.
"Perhaps not,” said Peisistratus.
"You have spoken in all honesty, as Kur,” said the judge.
"Certainly,” said Pyrrhus.
"Let it be so recorded,” said the judge.
"And let this, too, be so recorded, and I speak as Kur,” called Pyrrhus, his voice rising from the cement pit, in which, to rings, he was chained, “I am guilty of no treason against the species or the world!"
This caused a considerable stir on the tiers, for it was clear Lord Pyrrhus had spoken as Kur.
"If I am guilty of treason,” he continued, “it is not treason against the species and the world, but against one who would betray the honor of the species and the world, a dissembler and deceiver, an opportunist and thief, a liar and seeker of power, a true traitor to worth, nobility, and valor."
"So name such a foe,” said the judge.
"He cannot,” said Peisistratus to Cabot, “for it is forbidden, sacrilegious, blasphemous, to speak ill of the Nameless One, or of any mask through which he speaks."
"Let the jury draw their daggers or not,” challenged Pyrrhus.
"Agamemnon may not have his majority,” said Peisistratus, looking about the tiers.
"He confessed to seeking my death,” Cabot reminded Peisistratus.
"You are an animal,” said Peisistratus. “We can be killed here with more impunity than might a wild sleen in a Gorean forest. We are not even pets. We are not even owned. No restitution, even, would be expected for slaying us."
"Then it matters little?"
"It matters nothing, save for your interest to Agamemnon,” said Peisistratus. “Your testimony clouded matters for Agamemnon. He expected to convict on its basis. You betrayed him. The jury was confused."
"That was my intention,” said Cabot.
"You are interested in abetting revolution, in spreading division in the Steel World?"
"I suppose my life now,” said Cabot, “will be worth little, if Lord Pyrrhus goes free."
"He will not go free,” said Peisistratus. “But his party will doubtless remember your testimony."
"Is Pyrrhus not to be now acquitted?” asked Cabot.
"Acquitted, perhaps, but not spared,” said Peisistratus.
"See the knives,” said Cabot.
Many were unsheathed, and by far the most, and each of those daggers pointed downward, threateningly, toward the pit in which Lord Pyrrhus awaited the verdict.
"I do not think,” said Peisistratus, scanning the tiers, “that Lord Agamemnon will have his needful numbers."
"Hold!” came the booming voice of the judge.
"No,” whispered Peisistratus, “he would not have his needful numbers."
"Desist!” came from the speakers about the courtroom. “This matter will be decided otherwise."
"It will be the arena,” whispered Peisistratus.
Daggers were sheathed, and the Kurii stirred restlessly, eagerly, on the tiers.
"Kur to Kur!” cried Lord Pyrrhus, shackled, but mighty, looking upward, fangs bared.
"Yes,” said the judge, the voice seeming to ring about the gigantic chamber. “Kur to Kur!"
The Kurii on the tiers leaped up and down, howling with pleasure. Muchly were they satisfied with this outcome.
The passion for truth, and the seeking of justice, in the Kur heart, is linked more closely with victory than deliberation, with triumph than balloting, with blood than mind. The hereditary coils have cast their countless lots, and nature has made her innumerable decisions amongst them, according to her mysterious wills and ways, denominating her fortunes of extinction and prosperity, of defeat and victory, of death and life. To the Kur it is the highest court, and her judgments are nonrepudiable.
Guards even now were loosening the holding chains of Pyrrhus and preparing to lead him from the cement pit in which he had been held below the jurors, below the witnesses, below the judge.
"Will he be fed?” asked Cabot.
"Probably not,” said Peisistratus.
The jurors were filing from the great chamber.
The chief prosecutor looked up toward the ceiling, but the light there did not glow. He then left the chamber.
In a few moments Cabot and Peisistratus were alone.
"It is done, is it not?” asked Cabot.
"Part of it,” said Peisistratus.
"Are we to see the denouement of this matter in the arena?” asked Cabot.
"It will be required of us,” said Peisistratus.
"What is the fate,” asked Cabot of Peisistratus, “of the pet of Arcesilaus?"
"Are you not more interested in the fate of another?” asked Peisistratus.
"The blonde human,” said Cabot, “the pet of Arcesilaus. From hunters who pursued me I learned they were contemplating feasting on her, and had left her secured, that her meat be fresh, fastened to a tree near the shuttle port, her arms braceleted behind her, the key to the bracelets on a string about her neck."
"You know Grendel?"
"He sought her in the forest world, and soon found her, near the port, and freed her."
"To return her to Arcesilaus, of course."
"He may have risked much,” said Cabot, “for those who pursued me had secured her, as meat, I fear, to be feasted upon following the completion of their task."
Amongst Kurii meat, as amongst sleen and larls, may be fiercely contested. One does not lightly take another's food.
"True,” said Peisistratus, “he did risk much, and cannot have known that the hunters might not have soon returned, or, even if later returned, would have demanded their meal."
"Interesting that he would so jeopardize himself for a mere human, put his life at risk against Kur custom,” said Cabot, “and for one not even an ally, but for one the mere pet of another."
"Doubtless,” smiled Peisistratus.
"One can but speculate on the motivation,” said Cabot.
"But the pet is well-curved, is she not?” asked Peisistratus.
"Surely,” said Cabot. “But he is Kur."
"Part Kur,” said Peisistratus.
"I see,” said Cabot.
"Once freed, she tried to flee from him, even into the forest, but he easily overtook her."
"Nature has seen to it that such cannot outrun either men or Kurii."
"He was forced to bracelet her in the very bonds from which he had freed her, her wrists now before her, clasp her in his arms, and carry her, by force, to the Steel World."
"Surely she understood she was to be returned to Arcesilaus."
"But not, she would wish, by he,” said Peisistratus. “By anyone but he."
"Why not?” asked Cabot.
"She abhors him,” said Peisistratus.
"He may have risked his life for her."
"She abhors him,” said Peisistratus.
"Would she not be in danger from Arcesilaus,” asked Cabot, “for she was used to bait a trap, one in which Kurii were slain?"
"Arcesilaus does not bear her ill will,” said Peisistratus, “but, too, it is not now practical for him to keep her. She was used against Kurii. That is not to be forgotten. Might it not happen again? She is human. Where do her true loyalties lie? Too, she is now partly speeched, and that weighs muchly against her. Indeed, perhaps she connived against Kurii. In any event, if not he, his fellows, and others, call for her blood."
"I gather she was an excellent pet."
"Yes,” said Peisistratus. “And Arcesilaus was doubtless fond of her."
"That was my understanding."
"He can obtain another,” said Peisistratus.
"So she is to be slain, or sent to the cattle pens?"
"When she was brought before Arcesilaus, she flung herself on her belly before him, and, her small wrists braceleted before her, she clasped his foot, and kissed and licked, weeping, piteously, at his claws, but he remained adamant."
"And so she is to be slain, or sent to the cattle pens?"
"Arcesilaus, I think, remains fond of her, and was pleased to learn she still lived, and that she had been brought safe to the Steel World."
"But Arcesilaus will not keep her."
"What, then, is to be done with her?” asked Cabot.
"Grendel himself provided the solution,” said Peisistratus.
"And what was the nature of this solution?” inquired Cabot.
"He purchased her, for a pittance,” said Peisistratus. “She is now on his leash."
"And what was her view of this?” asked Cabot.
"She was beside herself with disbelief, with horror, and humiliation, and fury, and misery,” said Peisistratus.
"But she is still on his leash."
"Excellent,” said Cabot.
"He is not wholly Kur,” said Peisistratus. “She has always hated him, loathed him, as do most of the Kurii, as a misbred monster and freak, and now she belongs to him, and the collar on her neck is his."
"He risked his life for her."
"She despises him,” said Peisistratus.
"Doubtless he will keep her under an excellent discipline,” said Cabot.
"No,” said Peisistratus. “She puts on airs and has no fear of him."
"Though she is a mere pet?"
"I see,” said Cabot.
"She wishes to demean and rule him,” said Peisistratus. “She is haughty and petty. She treats him in ways that no Kur would tolerate. Even in public she insults him, and shows him disrespect. She does not serve him, she does not groom him."
"Perhaps she should be disciplined,” said Cabot. “Women understand such things."
"He will not lay a hand on her,” said Peisistratus.
"She will then grow ever more insolent, more tiresome, and troublesome,” said Cabot. “She will understand his gentleness, his kindness, his forbearance, or whatever it may be, as weakness."
"Doubtless,” said Peisistratus, “but, in any event, she is still on his leash."
"I see,” said Cabot.
"And what of her Gorean?” asked Cabot.
"She demands that her lessons continue,” said Peisistratus.
"I suppose that is to the good,” said Cabot.
"She is small, petty, and thankless,” said Peisistratus.
"I am sorry to hear that,” said Cabot.
"But she is still on his leash,” said Peisistratus.
"I wonder if she understands what that means,” said Cabot.
"Probably not,” said Peisistratus. “Do you want her?"
"No,” said Cabot.
"You need only say the word and Agamemnon would give her to you, or any other who might please you."
"Lord Agamemnon is generous,” said Cabot.
"Have you pondered the offer of Agamemnon, proposed to you in the palace?” inquired Peisistratus. “He grows impatient."
"I expect to give him my answer soon,” said Cabot.
"I trust it will be the right answer,” said Peisistratus.
"It will be,” said Cabot.
"Good,” said Peisistratus.
"I would not dally overlong,” said Peisistratus.
"No,” said Cabot.
"I shall accompany you to your lodgings,” said Peisistratus.
"That is perhaps wise, considering my testimony,” said Cabot.
They then left the courtroom.
"It is interesting to me,” said Peisistratus, “that you have expressed no interest in the fate of another."
"What other?” asked Cabot.
"The brunette, she with whom you shared a stall,” said Peisistratus.
"I remember her,” said Cabot. “She was the pet of Lord Pyrrhus, as I recall. But, as I understand it, he was deprived of his rank, his goods, his chattels, and such, even before the trial."
"The outcome of the trial was not in doubt,” said Peisistratus, “until the unexpected vacillations and vagaries of a particular witness."
"But the trial was inconclusive?"
"The trial, perhaps, but not justice,” said Peisistratus. “Justice will have its way, by one road or another."
"I see,” said Cabot.
"Kur justice,” said Peisistratus, “is nothing if not efficient and expeditious."
"So what happened to the goods of Lord Pyrrhus?” asked Cabot.
"I see you are interested."
"Surely,” said Cabot.
"Goods and chattels were confiscated, thus becoming the properties of the state."
"Of Lord Agamemnon?"
"Yes. But one chattel was given away before the fall of Lord Pyrrhus."
"The brunette,” said Peisistratus. “When Pyrrhus expected you to die or be slain in the sport cylinder, he was no longer interested in a simple slut, a mere human, one whom he had acquired primarily to provoke you."
"To whom was she given?” asked Cabot.
"To me,” said Peisistratus.
"And you accepted her?"
"Certainly,” said Peisistratus. “It would have been churlish to refuse, do you not think so, and, besides, what fellow would not be pleased to accept the gift of so lovely a pet?"
"She was given to you as a pet, and not as a slave?"
"Yes,” said Peisistratus.
"But she is a slave."
"Every inch of her, every hair on her head, every cell in her body, every bit of her,” said Peisistratus.
"Then she has not yet been claimed as a slave?” said Cabot.
"No,” said Peisistratus.
"Interesting,” said Cabot.
"I thought you would be interested,” said Peisistratus.
"What has been done with her?"
"She has been taken to the Pleasure Cylinder,” said Peisistratus.
"Then she will be safe from Kurii."
"Unless from those who monitor the cylinder,” said Peisistratus.
"I trust she is worked well,” said Cabot.
"She is worked excellently,” said Peisistratus, “and she is becoming well apprised she is a slave."
Cabot was pleased with this intelligence pertaining to the former Miss Pym. The sooner she understood she was a slave, and no more than a slave, the better. He supposed several of the young men who had known her on Earth would not be displeased to own her.
"Few in the cylinder speak English,” said Cabot.
"She is being taught Gorean, by the girls,” said Peisistratus. “And she is learning quickly."
"Good,” said Cabot.
It is important for a girl to learn quickly the language of her masters.
"She is highly intelligent,” said Peisistratus.
"Good,” said Cabot.
Goreans do not wish for the lips of a stupid woman to be pressed to their feet.
"Too, of course,” said Peisistratus, “as she is a female slave, she is being taught the pleasing of men, by a switch."
"Of course,” said Cabot.
To be sure, the switch is largely an encouragement to diligence and a corrective for mistakes, or clumsiness. Its applicability may also be noted where errors in Gorean grammar, phrasing, or such, might take place.
"I am surprised,” said Cabot, “that she has not been claimed."
"None will claim her,” said Peisistratus.
"But she is surely comely, would look well in ropes, would be nicely curved at one's feet, would bring a good price off the block, and such."
"Nonetheless,” said Peisistratus, “none claim her."
"Surely the cylinder could do so, publicly,” said Cabot.
"It has not done so,” said Peisistratus.
"On Gor there are many slaves owned by the state, by institutions, businesses, and such."
"This is not Gor,” said Peisistratus.
"There are difficulties?"
"Several,” said Peisistratus. “Food, oxygen, space, the quotas, the allotments, the requirements of Kurii, and such."
"Interesting,” said Cabot.
"She should be soon claimed, or destroyed,” said Peisistratus.
"Why is that?” inquired Cabot.
"There is no place here for unclaimed slaves,” said Peisistratus.
"I know a world,” said Cabot, “where there are untold thousands of unclaimed slaves."
"I know that world, as well,” said Peisistratus, “but I would say untold hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of unclaimed slaves."
Cabot was silent.
"But when we bring them to Gor,” said Peisistratus, “they find themselves claimed, and owned, and clearly the properties of masters."
"True,” said Cabot.
It is a joy for the slave to find at last her master, and for the master to have at his feet at last his slave.
"It seems she should be claimed,” said Cabot.
"When sleeping in her chains, uneasy, sobbing, twisting and rolling about, she calls your name,” said Peisistratus.
"Interesting,” said Cabot.
"Was she not placed in the container on the Prison World with you, by Priest-Kings?” asked Peisistratus.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"Doubtless to be exquisitely attractive to you, to be even irresistibly attractive to you, one to be a perfect slave for you, one who would be a veritable slave of your dreams, one perhaps designed for your collar, one perhaps even bred for your collar?"
"Perhaps,” said Cabot.
"It seems then that the Priest-Kings have miscalculated,” said Peisistratus.
"It would seem so,” said Cabot.
Certainly he could see little point in her being placed in the container other than to torment him, tearing him apart, betwixt his honor and his desire. But then he asked himself, how could one desire such a female, one so haughty and contemptuous, one so obsessed with her own contrived, eccentric self-image, one so naively and pretentiously, so uncritically, imbued with her vanity, and the encumbrances of an unnatural, pretentious, forlorn civilization? But certainly she had been well turned on nature's lathe, to taunt and torment men, at least until she had become their vulnerable, helpless possession.
"But she is clearly a slave,” said Peisistratus.
"Of that there is no doubt,” said Cabot.
"Do you think she knows she is a slave?"
"In one sense,” said Cabot. “The chain on her leaves her in no doubt of it."
"But do you think she knows the chain is rightfully and appropriately on her, that it belongs on her?"
"Probably not,” said Cabot.
"Do you think she will fight the understanding of herself as rightfully a slave?” asked Peisistratus.
"Probably,” said Cabot.
"You are not interested in claiming her?"
"No,” said Cabot.
"Here is your lodging,” said Peisistratus, pausing on a step, leading up to the small villa set aside for Cabot's use, nestled in the side of a hill.
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"Agamemnon awaits your answer,” said Peisistratus, looking upward, after Cabot.
"He will have it soon,” said Cabot, ascending the stairs.
"Cabot!” called Peisistratus.
Cabot turned, and looked down. “Yes?"
"I shall call for you at the fifth Ahn,” said Peisistratus.
"The arena?” asked Cabot.
"Our presence is required,” said Peisistratus.
"I understand,” said Cabot.
"It will not be pretty,” said Peisistratus.
"I understand,” said Cabot.
Chapter, the Twenty-First:
WHAT OCCURRED IN THE ARENA
Cabot and Peisistratus were ushered into a cage, mounted on a middle tier of the encircling seats.
"We can see well from here,” said Peisistratus.
The cage door was locked behind them.
Cabot was in a simple tunic and sandals. He had left the robes, the strings of rubies, behind, in the villa assigned to him.
"Why are we caged?” inquired Cabot.
"Perhaps because we are animals,” said Peisistratus, “and our hosts feel it is fitting. Perhaps to prevent you, should you be so inclined, from interfering in the festivities. Perhaps to protect you, lest some here be displeased with your testimony at the trial."
"But you, too, are caged,” said Cabot.
"I, too, am an animal,” said Peisistratus, “from the Kur view. And would it not be demeaning to you, beloved of Agamemnon, to be caged alone, and I left free?"
"I learned from Agamemnon, in the forest, he the metal larl, or within it, somehow, or controlling it, somehow, that you are his human."
"Shall we speak in English?” inquired Peisistratus.
"Certainly,” said Cabot, in English.
"I am my own human,” said Peisistratus.
"Does Agamemnon know that?"
"No,” said Peisistratus. Then he pointed to an entryway, high in the tiers, across the arena, with its sand. “That is Lord Arcesilaus,” he said.
There were flags and banners about, and the tiers were muchly filled.
"There are venders about,” said Cabot, “seemingly selling treats."
"Do not ask their nature,” advised Peisistratus.
"Very well,” said Cabot.
"Can you hear the music?” asked Peisistratus.
Several of the Kurii in the tiers were moving oddly, some swaying.
"I think so,” said Cabot, straining. “But it sounds not like music, but rather like throbbings, like the wind in the forest, like rushing streams, subtle, distant, sometimes cries, as of seized, frightened animals, such things."
"And much is indecipherable, resembling nothing comprehensible to you?"
"Yes,” said Cabot.
"The throbbings, the beatings,” said Peisistratus, “suggest the beating of the Kur heart, and then the movements of wind and water suggest the suddenness of vision, and the circulation of hastened blood, and the squeals, the lamentations, the shrieks, the moans, may recall war, and the hunt. But much of it, I fear, is simply unintelligible to a human, and much literally offensive to our hearing. The rhythms are only partially shared with us. Perhaps it is configured to a nervous system, or diverse hereditary coils. How much is cultural, and how much is indexed to a different physiology, to a different hearing, a different speech, even a different sense of touch, is difficult to tell."
"It has stopped, hasn't it?” asked Cabot.
Peisistratus lifted his head. “Yes,” he said. “They are ready to begin."
There was suddenly a pounding of drums, mighty drums.
"Ai!” cried Cabot, startled.
"That is not difficult to hear, is it?” smiled Peisistratus.
There were twelve such drums, each with two drummers, in the first tier of the arena.
"No,” said Cabot.
"There are twelve drums,” said Peisistratus. “And there are twelve digits on the two forepaws of the Kur."
"Each has two drummers,” said Cabot.
"The Kur has two eyes,” said Peisistratus. “Hands and eyes."
"I thought Kur music was silent, or almost so."
"Certainly not silent to the hearing of the Kur,” said Peisistratus. “But the drums may not even be understood as music. Those are arena drums, but there are also drums of war, of signaling, of formation, and so on."
Cabot's blood began to race.
Peisistratus, too, was effected by the beating.
"It seems humans and Kurii share drums,” said Cabot.
"Drums,” said Peisistratus, “speak to the blood, to the heart. They speak of the beat and insistence of life."
"They are used on Gor to marshal and control tarn cavalries, and set the cadence of the wing beat, of the flight,” said Cabot.
"Certainly,” said Peisistratus.
"Is the sound not too loud for Kurii?” asked Cabot.
"Apparently not,” said Peisistratus. “Nor is the crash of thunder, the rolling of waves, the breaking of ice in a frozen river, the tumbling of the avalanche, the eruption of the volcano."
"One gathers its loudness is stimulating."
"Yes, and the rhythms,” said Peisistratus.
"They speak of blood, and life, and excitement,” said Cabot.
"They have their drums,” said Peisistratus, “and we have ours, as well."
"Yes,” said Cabot, “of war, and the march, sometimes to measure the stroke of oars, occasionally to signal the opening and closing of markets, of gates, and such."
"There are subtle drums, too, demanding, insistent, maddening, exciting, sensuous drums, of course,” said Peisistratus.
"True,” said Cabot.
This was presumably an allusion to the use of drums, together with other instruments, we may suppose, in slave dance, a form of dance in which a type of human female, the female slave, helpless and vulnerable, as all female slaves, ornamented, and beautifully if scarcely clothed, dances her beauty, hoping to be found pleasing by masters. If she is not, she knows she may be whipped, perhaps slain.
The drums were suddenly silent.
One could now hear Kurii, moving in the tiers, eager, expectant.
"It begins?” asked Cabot.
"Yes,” said Peisistratus.
"It is here that Lord Pyrrhus will attest his innocence against Agamemnon, Kur to Kur."
"Lord Pyrrhus is large and powerful,” said Cabot. “Agamemnon must be courageous indeed to face such a foe."
"Doubtless,” said Peisistratus. “Would you like me to purchase you a treat?"
"No,” said Cabot.
"Look,” said Peisistratus, pointing to the sand, several feet below.
There a Kur was bent under a large piece of meat, which he deposited in the center of the arena. He then exited, and the meat lay there, a mound, in the sun.
Cabot grasped the bars, angrily.
"It is tarsk,” said Peisistratus.
Cabot released the bars.
At that moment, on opposite sides of the arena, from gates at the level of the sand, there emerged two large sleen.
"They are starving,” said Peisistratus.
Both animals seemed to rush toward the meat. One reached it first, and thrust his muzzle into it, tearing it, ripping out gluts of meat, and gorging them, but then the other sleen was upon it, and the two animals rolled in the sand, in a frenzy of snapping, and clawing, and in moments the jaws of each were bloody, and gouts of fur had been torn from the pelt of each, and then, suddenly, one had the throat of the other, and tore it open, and then, as the torn animal crouched down bleeding, and subsided, and rolled to its side, the victor busied himself with the meat.
Cabot saw necklaces of strung coins being exchanged in the tiers.
"Ramar has taken the meat six times,” said Peisistratus. “He permits the other sleen to reach the meat first, and find distraction in it, and then he attacks."
"I see,” said Cabot.
A Kur, with a long pole, with a hook on its end, sunk it into the meat, and drew the meat, the sleen, Ramar, feeding and following, through one of the gates at the level of the sand.
A large Kur then entered the arena, carrying a length of rope, and crouched down, waiting.
Shortly thereafter two other Kurii, from opposite sides of the arena, entered upon the sand, and approached the large Kur, and stood some ten feet before him, and apart from one another, by some ten feet, as well.
"They are not armed,” said Cabot.
"They do not need to be,” said Peisistratus. “Note the larger beast. See the rings on the left wrist."
"He stands high in the rings,” said Peisistratus. “His seed is avidly sought."
"I do not understand,” said Cabot.
"Surely you see the two before him are female,” said Peisistratus.
"No,” said Cabot. “It is hard to tell."
"They are smaller, the pelting is smoother, glossier, less shaggy."
"I see they are differently harnessed,” said Cabot.
"That, too,” said Peisistratus, amused.
One might note that in the human species the sexes are radically dimorphic, anatomically, emotionally, psychologically, and so on. They are very different, and are interestingly complementary. Even a Kur can instantly see the difference between a human male and a human female. It is sometimes annoying to a Kur that some humans cannot immediately, similarly, distinguish between a Kur male and a Kur female. It is less annoying that they sometimes fail to distinguish between a typical Kur male and a Kur nondominant. To be sure, the differences there are mostly behavioral. Most humans, incidentally, have never seen a Kur womb, either of the shelf or wall type, as they tend to be hidden, and guarded. The female's egg, once fertilized, is deposited in the womb, and develops within it, the infant later to chew and claw its way free, that in something between a half year and a year. Some wombs perish after one child; some hardy wombs have produced as many as forty or fifty infants. The womb itself makes no contribution to the genetic endowments of the offspring. The womb, in historical times, at least, replicates itself, parthenogenetically, by budding, so to speak. As indicated earlier in the text, certain obscurities obtain with respect to the origin of the earlier wombs.
With a sudden screech of rage the two females flung themselves upon one another.
Kurii in the stands leaped about and called out encouragement to their favorite in what seemed doubtless to Cabot a surprising and unusual contest. The crouching male, with the length of rope grasped in one paw, scarcely moved.
The two females tore at one another, until at last one lay in the sand, bloodied, trembling, and lifted one paw, pathetically, for mercy.
"The male Kur does not beg for mercy,” commented Peisistratus. “That is another difference."
"Surely that is cultural,” said Cabot.
"Doubtless,” said Peisistratus.
"She is going to kill her!” said Cabot.
The victor had crouched down and savagely pulled back the head of the vanquished, and set her fangs at the throat of the vanquished.
A roar of approbation coursed through the crowd. Perhaps the vanquished had not fought well enough.
Again a paw was lifted pathetically, begging for mercy.
The victor, encouraged, licensed, so to speak, widened her jaws, and thrust forward.
But a roar of prohibition emanated from the throat of the male, and the victor stopped, and then thrust the vanquished from her, contemptuously, and leaped in the sand, shrieking in triumph.
The vanquished Kur female crawled some feet away, bloodying the sand.
The victor then approached the male.
He cuffed her, half spinning her about. She was already bloodied from the fray from which she had emerged victorious.
"It seems,” said Cabot, “he is not pleased with the outcome of the battle."
"No,” said Peisistratus. “It would be the same with either. He is merely asserting his dominance."
"She has accepted his blow,” said Cabot.
"Of course,” said Peisistratus. “Were he not dominant she would despise him. She wishes his dominance. She would be insulted to submit to any other sort of male. What Kur female would? What do you think this is all about?"
"What if she had not accepted his blow?"
"I do not understand."
"What if she had retaliated, attacked him? She is surely a fearsome creature, as we have seen."
"Then he would beaten her, if not maimed or killed her,” said Peisistratus. “Did you not see the rings on his wrist. He has killed male Kurii to obtain those rings."
"Look,” said Peisistratus.
"I see,” said Cabot.
The female now stood before the male, her head down, and her arms at her sides. The male then encircled her body several times with the length of rope he carried, fastening her arms to her sides, and then, with the length of rope left, he fashioned a leash for her, and led her toward an exit gate. She half danced in his wake, and howled to the stands.
"It is a noise of pleasure, of triumph,” said Peisistratus. “She has conquered her rival, and she has been acquired, at least for some days, by the male of her desires."
"I think I prefer our human ways,” said Cabot.
"Perhaps they are not so different,” said Peisistratus.
"Look!” said Cabot, pointing to the sand.
The vanquished Kur female had struggled to her feet, and begun to hobble from the sand. Several Kurii would have assisted her, but she bared her fangs, and warned them away, viciously.
They regarded one another, frightened, and then looked piteously upon the torn, bleeding female.
Again they tried to approach, solicitously, but, again, with a baring of fangs and a snarl, she warned them back.
They fled back, and then, as she regarded them, one after another, they moved back further, and bent down, to make themselves smaller in her presence.
"They are cringing,” said Cabot. “Are they her hand maidens?"
"They are males,” said Peisistratus. “They are her attendants, assigned to serve her."
The female then hobbled toward an exit gate, before the others, alone, blood in her footprints.
The others then followed her.
"They are males?” asked Cabot.
"In a sense,” said Peisistratus. “They are nondominants."
"I see,” said Cabot.
The drums then beat again.
"What is that?” asked Cabot, in disgust. “What are those things?"
From several of the lower gates a number of unusual creatures, crowded together, clumsy, heavy, confused, bleating and whining, were driven by cries and whips into the arena.
"Surely you know,” said Peisistratus.
"They are large, sluggish, surely well-fed,” said Cabot, peering downward.
"They have been fattened,” said Peisistratus.
"What are they?"
"Cattle humans,” said Peisistratus.
"They cannot be human,” said Cabot.
"Perhaps not,” said Peisistratus. “But it is a matter of breeding. Great changes may be so wrought. Consider Earth. How many of your dogs recall in appearance and demeanor their remote, swift, hungry, far-ranging ancestor, the gray wolf?"
"We would not breed even dogs so,” said Cabot, in fury.
"Because you do not raise them for meat,” said Peisistratus.
"Those are small Kurii!” said Cabot, observing the entry unto the sand of a swarm of eager, shaggy forms.
"Actually Kur children,” said Peisistratus. “Many have not lost their womb teeth."
The cattle creatures were whipped to the center of the arena, where they stood crowded together, bleating.
"They are frightened, and disoriented,” said Peisistratus. “This is very different from the security of the pens."
The small shaggy forms, many no more than five feet in height, and perhaps no more than a hundred to a hundred and fifty pounds in weight, encircled the huddled, confused cattle creatures.
"This is how Kurii want their young to view humans, to understand humans, to think of humans,” said Peisistratus.
"They would think otherwise of humans did they meet them in the field of battle,” said Cabot.
"Doubtless,” said Peisistratus.
"What are they going to do?” asked Cabot.
"It is a form of play,” said Peisistratus. “Children are fond of games. They are pleased to frolic."
"What are they going to do?” asked Cabot.
"See the ribbons?” asked Peisistratus.