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

Players of Gor

John Norman

During the holidays revels of Port Kar, an attempt is made on the life of Tarl Cabot. And Tarl discovers that the Priest-Kings have turned against him! To clear himself of their charge of treason, he must follow the assassins's trail. The way to achieve that was to join, in disguise, a troupe of traveling Players, a sort of Gorean carnival, which would give him entry to enemy cities and hostile territories. But live in such a carnival is always a risk in itself. There are monsters in form and monsters in mind among them-and there may be spies of the alien Kurs and the omnipotent Priest-Kings. Players of Gor is a rich and full adventure on that wondrous world where free men must fight and slave girls must yield, where life and liberty may depend on the chance moves of a game-board or the edged passions of the dueling ground. And where Tarl's destiny must bring him face to face with a conspiracy of superhuman powers.

PLAYERS OF GOR

(Volume twenty in the Chronicles of Counter-Earth)

by John Norman

1 Samos

I looked up from the board, idly, as the woman, struggling, in the grasp of two guards, was thrust into the vicinity of our table.

"It is your move," said Samos.

I regarded the board. I moved my Ubar's Tarnsman to Ubara's Tarnsman Five. It was a positioning move. The Tarnsman can move only one space on the positioning move. It attacks only on a flight move.

The woman struggled fiercely in the grasp of the two guards. She could not, of course, free herself.

Samos studied the board. He positioned his Home Stone. It was, looking at the tiny counter at the edge of the board, his tenth move. Most Kaissa boards do not have this counter. It consisted of ten small, cylindrical wooden beads strung on a wire. The Home Stone must be placed by the tenth move. He had placed it at his now-vacated Ubar's Initiate One. In this position, as at the Ubara's Initiate One, it is subject to only three lines of attack. Other legitimate placements subject it to five lines of attack. He was also fond of placing the Home Stone late, usually on the ninth or tenth move. In this way, his decision could take into consideration his opponent's early play, his opening, or response to an opening, or development.

I myself, who's Home Stone was already placed, preferred a much earlier and more central placement of the Home Stone. I did not wish to be forced to sacrifice a move for Home-Stone placement in a situation that might, for all I knew, not turn out to be to my liking, a situation in which the obligatory placement might even cost me a tempo. Similarly, although a somewhat more central location of the Home Stone exposes it to more lines of attack, it also increases its mobility, and thereby its capacities to evade attack. These considerations are controversial in the theory of Kaissa. Much depends on the psychology of the individual player.

Incidentally, there are many versions of Kaissa played on Gor. In some of these versions, the names of the pieces differ, and, in some, even more alarmingly, their nature and power. The caste of Players, to its credit, has been attempting to standardize Kaissa for years.

A major victory in this matter was secured a few years ago when the caste of Merchants, which organizes and manages the Sardar Fairs, agreed to a standardized version, proposed by, and provisionally approved by, the high council of the caste of Players, for the Sardar tournaments, one of the attractions of the Sardar Fairs. This for of Kaissa, now utilized in the tournaments is generally referred to, like the other variations, simply as Kaissa. Sometimes, however, to distinguish it from differing forms of the game, it is spoken of as Merchant Kaissa, from the role of the Merchants in making it the official form of Kaissa for the fairs, Player Kaissa, from the role of the Players in its codification, or the Kaissa of En'Kara, for it was officially promulgated for the first time at one of the fairs of En'Kara, that which occurred in 10,124 C.A., Contasta Ar, from the Founding of Ar, or in year 5 of the Sovereignty of the Council of Captains, in Port Kar.

The fair of En'Kara occurs in the spring. It is the first fair in the annual cycle of the Sardar Fairs, gigantic fairs which take place on the plains lying below the western slopes of the Sardar Mountains. These fairs, and others like them, play an important role in the Gorean culture and economy. They are an important clearing house for ideas and goods, among them female slaves.

The woman stifled a cry and stamped her foot.

Samos, his Home Stone positioned, looked up.

It was now two days before the Twelfth Passage Hand, in the year 10,129 C.A. Soon it would be Year Eleven in the Sovereignty of the Council of Captains, in Port Kar. It seemed, somehow, only recently that the five Ubars, who had divided Port Kar between them, had been deposed. Squat, brilliant Chung and tall, long-haired Nigel, like a warlord from Torvaldsland, had fought with us against the fleets of Cos and Tyros, participating with us in the victory of the Twenty-Fifth of Se'Kara, in Year One of the Council of Captains; remained in Port Kar as high captains, admirals in our fleet. Sullius Maximus was now a despised and minor courtier at the court of Chenbar of Kasra, Ubar of Tyros, the Sea Sleen. Henrius Sevarius, freed, now a young man, had his own ship and holding in Port Kar. He owned a luscious young slave, Vina, whom he well mastered. She, now a love slave, had once been the ward of Chenbar, Ubar of Tyros, and once had been intended to be the free companion of gross Lurius of Jad, the Ubar of Cos, thence to be proclaimed Ubara of Cos, which union would have even further strengthened the ties between those two great island ubarates. She had been captured at sea and had fallen slave. Once marked and collared, of course, her political interest had vanished. A new life had then been hers, that of the mere slave. I did not know the whereabouts of the fifth Ubar, Eteocles.

We were in the great hall in the holding of Samos, in Port Kar. The room was lit by torches. Many of his men, sitting cross-legged at low tables, as we were, were about. They were eating and drinking, being served by slaves. We sat a bit apart from them. Some musicians were present. They were not now playing.

I heard a slave girl laughing, somewhere across the room.

Outside, in the canal traffic, I heard a drum, cymbals and trumpets, and a man shouting. He was proclaiming the excellencies of some theatrical troupe, such as the cleverness of its clowns and the beauty of its actresses, probably slaves. They had performed, it seems, in the high cities and before Ubars. Such itinerant troupes, theatrical troupes, carnival groupings, and such, are not uncommon on Gor. They consist usually of rogues and outcasts. With their wagons and tents, often little more than a skip and a jump ahead of creditors and magistrates, they roam from place to place, rigging their simple stages in piazzas and squares, in yards and markets, wherever an audience may be found, even at the dusty intersections of country crossroads. With a few boards and masks, and a bit of audacity, they create the mystery of performance, the magic of theater. They are bizarre, incomparable vagabonds. They are denied the dignity of the funeral pyre and other forms of honorable burial.

The group outside, doubtless on a rented barge, was not the first to pass beneath the narrow windows of the house of Samos this evening. There were now several such groups in the city. Their hand-printed handbills and hand-painted posters, the latter pasted on the sides of buildings and on the news boards, were much in evidence. All this had to do with the approach of the Twelfth Passage Hand, which preceded the Waiting Hand.

The Waiting Hand, the five-day period preceding the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, is a very solemn time for most Goreans. During this time few ventures are embarked upon, and little or no business is conducted. During this time most Goreans remain within their houses. It is in this time that the doors of many homes are sealed with pitch and have nailed to them branches of the brak bush, the leaves of which have a purgative effect. These precautions, and others like them, are intended to discourage the entry of ill luck into the houses.

In the houses there is little conversation and no song. It is a time, in general, of mourning, meditation and fasting. All this changes, of course, wit the arrival of the vernal equinox, which, in most Gorean cities, marks the New Year.

At dawn on the day of the vernal equinox a ceremonial greeting of the sun takes place, conducted usually by the Ubar or administrator of the city. This, in effect, welcomes the New Year to the city. In Port Kar this honor fell to Samos, first captain in the Council of Captains, and the council's executive officers. The completion of this greeting is signified by, and celebrated by, a ringing of the great bars suspended about the city. The people then, rejoicing, issue forth from their houses. The brak bushes are burned on the threshold and the pitch is washed away. There are processions and various events, such as contests and games. It is a time of festival. The day is one of celebration.

These festivities, of course, are in marked contrast to the solemnities and abstinences of the Waiting Hand. The Waiting Hand is a time, in general, of misery, silence and fasting. It is also, for many Goreans, particularly those of the lower castes, a time of uneasiness, a time of trepidation and apprehension. Who knows what things, visible or invisible, might be abroad during that terrible time? In many Gorean cities, accordingly, the Twelfth Passage Hand, the five days preceding the Waiting Hand, that time to which few Goreans look forward with eagerness, is carnival. The fact that it was now only two days to the Twelfth Passage Hand, explained the presence of the unusual number of theatrical and carnival troupes now in the city.

Such troupes, incidentally, must petition for the right to perform within a city. Usually a sample performance, or a part of a performance, is required, staged before the high council, or a committee delegated by such a council. Sometimes the actresses are expected to perform privately, being «tested», so to speak, for selected officials. It the troupe is approved it may, for a fee, be licensed.

No troupe is permitted to perform within city unless it has a license. These licenses usually run for the five days of a Gorean week. Sometimes they are for a specific night or a specific performance. Licenses are commonly renewable, within a given season, for a nominal fee. In connection with the fees for such matters, it is not uncommon that bribes are also involved. This is particularly the case when small committees are involved in the approvals or given individuals, such as a city's Entertainment Master or Master of Revels. There is little secret, incidentally, about the briberies involved. There are even fairly well understood bribery scales, indexed to the type of troupe, its supposed treasury, the number of days requested for the license, and so on. These things are so open, and so well acknowledged, that perhaps one should think of them more as gratuities or service fees than as bribes. More than one Master of Revels regards them as an honest perquisite of his office.

The woman struggled in the grip of the guards. She stamped her foot again. "Tell these boorish ruffians to unhand me!" she demanded.

I, too, now, looked up.

her eyes flashed at Samos, over her veil. Then they looked angrily at me, too. "Now!" she demanded.

Samos nodded to the guards, scarcely moving his head.

"That is better!" she said, jerking angrily away from the guards, as though she might have freed herself, had she chosen to do so. She angrily smoothed down her long, silken, capelike sleeves. I caught a glimpse of her sweetly rounded forearm and small wrist. She wore white gloves.

"This is an outrage!" she said. Se wore tiny, golden slippers. Her robes of concealment, silken and flowing, shimmered in the torchlight. She adjusted the draping of the garment, an almost inadvertent, unconscious movement, a natural vanity.

"What is the meaning of this?" she demanded. "I demand my immediate freedom!"

One of the slave girls, one kneeling a few feet away, before us and to our right, at a table, one of those who was naked, save for her collar, laughed. Then she turned white with fear. She had laughed at a free woman. Samos turned to a guard and pointed at the offending slave. "Fifteen lashes," he said. The girl shook her head in misery. She whimpered with terror. These would be lashes, she knew, with a Gorean slave whip. It is an efficient instrument for disciplining women.

The blows were delivered with suitable force, with authority, but in an evenly spaced, measured fashion. There was nothing personal, or emotional, in the beating. It was almost like a natural force or a clockwork of nature. There was enough time between the strokes to allow her to feel each one individually and fully, and enhance, maximizing, the irradiations of its predecessors, enough time for her, in the fullness of her pain, imagination and terror, to prepare herself for, and anticipate, fearfully and acutely, the next blow. It was not much of a beating, of course. She had erred. She was being punished. Then she was lying on her belly, on the tiles, the beating over. She did not even dare to move her body, for the pain. Samos had been rather merciful with her, I thought. If he had been truly displeased with her, he might have had her fed to sleen.

We now returned our attention to the woman in the silken, shimmering robes of concealment, standing before our table. her eyes were apprehensive, over her veil. I could see that the beating of the female slave had had its effect on her. She was breathing deeply. Her breasts, rising and falling, moved nicely under the silk.

"May I present," inquired Samos, "Lady Rowena, of Lydius?"

I inclined my head. "Lady," said I, acknowledging the introduction. To a free woman considerable deference is due, particularly to one such as the Lady Rowena, one obviously, at lest hitherto, of high station.

She inclined her head to me, and then lifted it, acknowledging my greeting.

Lydius is a bustling, populous trade center located at the estuary of the Laurius River. Many cities maintain warehouses and small communities in Lydius. Many goods, in particular wood, wood products, and hide, make their way westward on the Laurius, eventually landing at Lydius, later to be embarked to the south on the ships of various cities, lines and associations. The population of Lydius, as one might expect, is a mixed one, consisting of individuals of various races and backgrounds.

The woman drew herself up to her full height. She looked at Samos, angrily. "What is the meaning of my presence here?" she demanded.

"Lady Rowena is of the merchants," said Samos to me. "The ship on which she had passage, enroute from Lydius to Cos, was detained by two of my rovers. Her captain kindly consented to a transfer of cargo."

"What is the meaning of my presence here?" repeated the woman, angrily.

"Surely you are aware of the time of year?" inquired Samos.

"I do not understand," she said. "Where are my maidens?"

"In the pens," said Samos.

"The pens?" she gasped.

"Yes," said Samos. "But do not fear for them. They are perfectly safe-in their chains."

Slavers remain active all year on Gor, but the peak seasons for slaving are the spring and early summer. This has to do with such matters as the weather, and the major markets associated with certain feasts and holidays, for example, the Love Feast in Ar, which occurs in the late summer, occupying the full five days of the Fifth Passage Hand. Also, during these seasons, of course, occur the great markets associated with the fairs of En'Kara and En'Var. These are the two major seasonal markets on Gor, exceeding all others in the volume of women processed.

"Chains?" she whispered. She shrank back, her hand at her breast.

"Yes," said Samos.

"I was hooded," she said. "I do not even know where I am."

"You are in Port Kar," he said.

She staggered. I feared she might faint.

"Who are you?" she whispered.

"Samos," said he, "first slaver of Port Kar."

She shuddered with misery. A tiny moan escaped her. I saw she had heard of Samos, of Port Kar. "What hope have I?" she asked.

"None," said Samos. "Remove your veil."

"Make my maidens slaves," she said. "They are good for little else. But I am a free woman!"

"Do you think you are better than they?" asked Samos.

"Yes," she said.

"You are no different from them," he said. "you, too, are only a female."

"No!" she cried.

"Remove your veil," he said.

"I am too beautiful to be a slave," she said.

"Your veil," said Samos, gently. She was, after all, a free woman.

Some of the slave girls, some naked, some scantily clad, looked at one another. Had they so dallied in their compliance, hesitating perhaps even an instant in their immediate and absolute obedience, serious punishments would doubtless have been theirs. They were, of course, only slaves.

"Please, no," said Lady Rowena.

"You are my prisoner," said Samos. "Doubtless you are aware that you could be stripped absolutely naked at my slightest word."

She put her hands to the veil and, delicately, unpinned it, dropping it to the side.

"Brush back your hood," said Samos.

She did so and, putting back her head, drew forth and freed, with both hands, long, golden tresses, which she arranged before her. They were in two plaits, one before each shoulder; they hung almost to her knees.

"Unbind your hair," said Samos.

She unplaited her hair and, with her head down, shook it loose, and smoothed it. She then, again, lifted her head.

"Put your hair behind your back," said Samos.

She did so.

She then stood before us, regarded, as a woman.

"What is to be my fate?" she asked.

Samos and I regarded her admiringly. Several of the men did so as well. Several of them changed their position, to come about, near and behind our table, where they might see better. I heard soft cries from more than one of the slave girls. They, too, were impressed. The woman straightened her body. She could not help but bask in the warmth of our appraisal.

I turned about a bit.

I saw a blond-haired slave girl, in a brief, revealing tunic, sneak on her knees near to Samos. It was Linda, a former Earth girl, one of the preferred slaves of Samos. She was looking at the standing woman with fear and anger. She reached out to touch Samos' sleeve. He shook free, a small gesture, of her touch.

I then returned my attention to the standing woman.

"As you can see," she said to Samos, "I am too beautiful to be a slave."

I had seen thousands of slave girls who were more beautiful than she but, to be sure, there was no doubt about it; she was quite beautiful.

Samos did not speak.

"What is to be my fate?" she asked.

"You are too beautiful not to be a slave," said Samos.

"No!" she cried. "No!"

"Take her below," said Samos to one of the two guards flanking the woman. "Put the iron to her body, left thigh, common Kajira mark, and, I think, for the time, a common house collar will do for her." She looked at him, aghast. Then her two arms were seized by the guards. Samos looked down at the board. "It is your move," he said. I, too, returned my attentions to the board. The guards made as though to conduct the woman from our presence. The business with her, we assumed, was done.

She struggled. "No!" she cried. "No!"

Samos looked up, and the guards held her where she was. "Do you protest?" he asked.

"Certainly," she cried.

"On what grounds?" he asked, puzzled. She was his by legitimate capture, and he could do with her whatever he pleased. Any court on Gor would have upheld this.

"On the grounds that I am a free woman!" she said.

"Oh?" he asked.

"Yes!" she said.

I could see that Samos was annoyed. He wished to return to his game.

"I would rather die than be a slave!" she cried.

"Very well," said Samos. "Strip her."

In moments her clothing was half torn from her, and was down about her hips.

"Why are you taking away my clothes!" she wept.

"In order that the blood not stain them," he said.

"Blood!" she cried, in consternation. "I do not understand!"

Then she was naked and thrown on her knees, her right side facing us. Even her gloves and slippers had been removed. One of the guards held her on her knees, bent over. The other guard took her hair in both hands and, by it, pulled her head down, and forward. The back of her neck, with its tiny, fine, golden hair was bared.

"What are you going to do?" she cried.

Samos signaled to another of his men, who unsheathed his sword.

The fellow laid the edge of the blade gently on the back of her neck, and then he lifted the blade away and upward. He grasped the hilt with both hands, his left hand extending somewhat beyond the butt end of the hilt. In this way considerable leverage can be obtained. Several of the slave girls looked away.

"What are you going to do!" she screamed.

"Behead you," said Samos.

"Why!" she cried.

"There is no place in my holding for a free woman," he said.

"Enslave me!" she cried.

"I cannot believe my ears," he said, skeptically.

"Enslave me!" she cried. "Enslave me!"

The fellow with the blade lowered it a bit, and looked at Samos.

"Is this the proud Lady Rowena of Lydius who speaks?" inquired Samos.

"Yes," she wept, helpless n the grip of the guards, her body bent forward, her head down.

"The proud free woman?" he asked.

"Yes," she wept.

"Let me understand this clearly," said Samos. "In spite of the fact that I am willing to accord you the dignity of a swift and honorable death, one fitting for a free woman, you would choose instead, and prefer, the degradation of slavery?"

"yes," she said.

"Speak clearly," he said.

"I beg slavery," she said.

"You understand, of course," he said, "that the slavery for which you beg is one which is total and absolute?"

"Yes," she said.

I smiled to myself. It would be a Gorean slavery.

"You seemed to think earlier," said Samos, "that such a slavery might be all right for your maidens, but not for yourself."

"I was wrong," she said. "I am no different from them. I, too, am only a female."

The fellow with the blade lowered it. The Lady Rowena, doubtless, saw it, near her neck.

"I am troubled," said Samos.

The Lady Rowena twisted her head to the right, wincing, from the hold of the guard, with two hands, on her hair, to regard Samos. Her face was agonized. her lip trembled. "Grant my petition, I beg you," she said.

"I hesitate," said Samos.

"Do you hesitate," she asked, "because of some lack of certitude as to my nature, for fear of some impropriety or subtle lack f fittingness in such an action?"

Samos shrugged.

"Dismiss such reservations from your mind," she said. Her body suddenly shook with sobs. "My pretense to freedom was always a sham. I am now ready to be a woman. Indeed, in this, I sense a possible fulfillment greater than any I have hitherto dreamed. How marvelous to cast aside the artificiality of roles and become, at last, what one truly is, one's self!"

"Speak more clearly," said Samos.

"It is appropriate that I be enslaved," she said.

"Why?" he asked.

"Because," she said, "in the deepest heart and belly of me I am a slave."

"How do you know?" he asked.

"It has been made clear to me in my needs," she said. "It has been made clear to me in my feelings. For years it has been made manifest to me in hidden thoughts and secret desires, in countless recurrent dreams and fantasies."

"Interesting," said Samos.

"Enslave me," she said.

"No," he said.

She looked at him with horror. The fellow with the sword renewed his two-handed grip on its hilt.

"Pronounce yourself slave," said Samos. The fellow relaxed his grip on the hilt.

"Do not make me do this," she begged. "Pity me! Consider my sensibilities!"

His face was expressionless.

"I am a slave," she said, pronouncing herself slave. Several of the slave girls cried out. There was now a new slave on Gor.

At a gesture from Samos the fellow with the blade resheathed the weapon, and the two guards who had held the girl in position released her, standing up.

She was now on her hands and knees, naked on the tiles, before the table. She looked wildly at Samos. "See the slave!" laughed more than one of the slave girls, pointing at her. They were not reprimanded. The girl, frightened, looked from face to face. The words had been spoken. They could not now be unspoken. She was now rightless, only a nameless animal, incapable of doing anything whatsoever to qualify or alter her status.

"Slave! Slave!" laughed the slave girls.

At a gesture from Samos the two guards pulled the girl to her feet and held her before us.

"Take her away," said Samos, "and throw her to sleen."

"No, Master!" she screamed. "Please, no, Master! Mercy, Master!"

I could see that he was not too pleased with she who had formerly been the Lady Rowena of Lydius.

"Master!" she cried.

She was turned away from us. Her toes barely touched the tiles. She was utterly helpless n the grip of the guards. She looked wildly back, over her shoulder. "Why are you doing this?" she cried. She did not, of course, question his authority, or his right to do with her as he pleased.

The guards hesitated, holding her in place, her back to us, in case Samos might be pleased to respond to her. In a moment, if Samos did not speak, they would proceed on their way, she in helpless custody between them.

"It is one thing to be a slave," said Samos. "It is another to be permitted to live."

"Why would you do this to me?" she sobbed, over her shoulder. "Why would you have me thrown to sleen?"

"I think," said Samos, "there is still too much of the free woman in you."

"No!" she cried. "There is no more free woman left in me! The free woman is gone!"

"Is it true?" he asked.

"Yes," she cried, "yes, Master!"

"What, then, is left in you?" he asked.

"Only the slave!" she cried.

"What do you mean-in you?" he asked.

"I spoke loosely, Master," she wept. "Forgive me. That which I only and totally am is now a slave.!"

"It is one thing to be a slave," said Samos. "It is another to be an adequate slave."

"Master?" she asked, in misery.

"Keeping you would be a waste of collar and gruel," he said.

"No, Master," she said. "I would strive to serve well. I would strive desperately to be found worthy of being kept in my collar, and to be pleasing within it!"

"You do not have what it takes to be a good slave," said Samos. "You are too stupid, cold and self-centered."

"No, Master!" she cried.

"Release her," said Samos.

The girl, released, turned about and threw herself in supplication to her belly before the table. She lifted her head. There were tears in her eyes. "Let me prove to you that I can be acceptable as a slave!" she begged.

"Do you realize what you are asking?" he asked.

"yes, Master," she wept.

"What do you think?" Samos asked me.

I shrugged. The decision, it seemed to me, was his.

"Please, Master," begged the girl, tears in her eyes.

"Do you think you can be pleasing?" Samos asked the slave.

"I will try desperately, Master," she said.

"Stand," he said.

She stood.

"Straighten your back," said Samos. "Suck in your stomach. Thrust out your breasts."

Tears ran from her eyes.

"Remember, my dear," said Samos, not unkindly. "you are no longer a free woman. You have now entered a new life altogether, in which rigidities and inhibitions are no longer permitted you, a form of life in which, in many ways, you are strictly and uncompromisingly controlled, but one in which, in other ways, your deepest desires and needs need no longer be restrained, but may be, and must be, fully liberated, a from of life in which you, though categorically subjected to the perfections of absolute discipline, that of the total slave, are, paradoxically, freed to be yourself."

She looked at Samos, wonderingly.

"These things may now seem hard to understand," said Samos, "but they, and their reality, if you are permitted to live, will soon become clear."

"yes, Master," she said, gratefully. I saw that she, already, now a slave, deeply sensed the truth of his words.

Then his eyes were hard, and she trembled.

"Lift your hands to the level of your shoulders," he said, "and flex your knees, slightly."

She complied.

Samos then signaled to the musicians, who were seated to one side, that they should prepare to play.

"What is it that a man wants from a woman?" asked. Samos.

"Everything, and more," she whispered.

"Precisely," he said.

She trembled.

"I suggest that you do well," said Samos.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"You dance, and perform, for your life," he said.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"Are you ready?" he asked.

"yes, Master," she whispered.

Samos signaled again to the musicians, and they began to play a sensual, slow, adagio melody.

"I have placed my Home Stone," said Samos, turning his attention to the board. "It is your move." That was true. It was my eleventh move. I considered the board and the placement of his Home Stone. An attack, I thought, would be premature. I would continue my development. I would attempt to secure the center, garnering thereby the mobilities and options commonly attendant on the control of these customarily vital routes. He who controls the roads, some say, control the cities. This, of course, is not strictly true, not in a world where most goods can be carried on the back of a man, not in a world where there are tarns.

"It is the sleen for her," I heard a man say.

Samos glanced at the dancer.

I, too, glanced at her. She was not trained. She did not know slave dance. Her movements were those of a virgin, a white-silk girl. She had not yet been taught slave helplessness. No man yet in his arms had taught her the exquisite, transforming degradations of the utilized slave, the wrenching surrender spasms, enforced upon her by his will, of the conquered bondwoman, experiences which, once she has had them, she is never willing to give up, experiences which she comes to need, experiences for which she will do anything, experiences which, whether she wishes it or not, put her at and keep her at, the mercy of men.

"She is clumsy," said Samos. He was irritated. I saw he did not wish, really, to have her killed.

A man laughed at her, as she tried to dance before him. "her throat will be cut within the Ahn," laughed another man. Another man turned away from her, when she approached him, to have his goblet of paga filled by a luscious, half-naked, collared slave.

"Clumsy, clumsy," said Samos. "I thought she might have the makings, somehow, of a pleasure slave."

"She is trying," I said.

"She does not have what it takes," said Samos.

"Her body is richly curved," I said. "That suggests an abundance of female hormones, and that, in turn, suggests the potentialities, the capacities for love, the sensibilities, the dispositions of the pleasure slave."

"She is not acceptable," said Samos. "She is inadequate."

"She is trying desperately to please," I said.

"But she is not succeeding," he said.

"She has a lovely body," I said. "Perhaps someone could buy her for a pittance, for a pot girl."

"She is not adequate," said Samos. "I will have to have her destroyed." He looked back to the board.

I saw several of the slave girls looking fearfully at one another. I to not think that they cared much for their new sister in bondage, the former Lady Rowena of Lydius, who perhaps in some subtle way, perhaps in virtue of her former background, held herself superior to them, but, too, I don nit think they cared to have her thrown alive, screaming, to sleen. She was, after all, now, like the, only a slave. "Dance, you stupid slave," hissed one. "Do you not know you are a slave? Do you not know you are owned?"

A wild look, one of sudden, fearful insight, came over the face of the dancer. She had not thought, specifically, objectively, it seemed, about this aspect of matters. But, of course, she was owned. She was now property. She could now be bought and sold, like a tarsk, at the pleasure of masters.

She belonged to Samos, of course. It had been within the context of his capture rights that she had, as a free woman, of her own free will, pronounced upon herself a formula of enslavement. Automatically then, in virtue of the context, she became his. The law is clear on th is. The matter is more subtle when the woman is not within a context of capture rights. Here the matter differs from city to city. In some cities, a woman may not, with legal recognition, submit herself to a specific man as a slave, for in those cities that is interpreted as placing at least a temporary qualification on the condition of slavery which condition, once entered into, all cities agree, is absolute. In such cities, then, the woman makes herself a slave, unconditionally. It is then up to the man in question whether or not he will accept her as his slave. In this matter he will do as he pleases. In any event, she is by then a slave, and only that.

In other cities, and in most cities, on the other hand, a free woman may, with legal tolerance, submit herself as a slave to a specific man. If he refuses her, she is then still free. If he accepts her, she is then, categorically, a slave, and he may do with her as he pleases, even selling her or giving her away, or slaying her, if he wishes. Here we might note a distinction between laws and codes. In the codes of the warriors, if a warrior accepts a woman as a slave, it is prescribed that, at least for a time, an amount of time up to his discretion, she be spared. If she should be the least bit displeasing, of course, or should prove recalcitrant in even a tiny way, she may be immediately disposed of.

It should be noted that this does not place a legal obligation on the warrior. It has to do, rather, with the proprieties of the codes. If a woman not within a clear context of rights, such as capture rights, house rights, or camp rights, should pronounce herself slave, simpliciter, then she is subject to claim. These claims may be explicit, as in branding, binding and collaring, or as in the uttering of a claimancy formula, such as "I own you," "You are mine," or "You are my slave," or implicit, as in, for example, permitting the slave to feed from your hand or follow you.

"Dance, fool!" cried one of the slave girls to the former Lady Rowena of Lydius.

"See the free woman!" laughed one of the slaves. "It is the sleen for her," said another.

"Please men!" cried another. "What do you think you are for?"

"Like this!" cried a brunette, leaping away from the tables to the tiles, tearing away her silk.

"Do not interfere," warned a man. The brunette, terrified, seized up her silk, and shrank back behind the tables, into the shadows, where, huddled, knelt the other slaves.

She who had been the Lady Rowena fell sobbing to her knees, helpless on the tiles, covering her face with her hands. The music stopped.

"You are cruel, all or you!" cried out Linda, the blond Earth-girl slave of Samos, springing to her feet. All eyes turned towards her. "You put us in collars! You take away our clothes! You make us serve you! You do with us as you please!" She looked beautiful, in her brief tunic, barefoot, her body filled with passion, her small fists clenched, in her collar.

"And you love it!" laughed a man.

"Yes!" she cried. "I love it! You cannot know how I love it! I come from a world where there are almost no true men, a world where manhood is almost educated and conditioned out of existence. I come from a world of love-starved women. I did not know what true men were until I came to Gor, and was put in a collar! Here I am disciplined and trained, here I am owned and fulfilled! Here I am happy! I pity even my free sisters of Gor, who are so far above me, for they cannot know the overwhelming joys and fulfillments which are mine, and I pity a thousand times more my miserable free sisters of Earth, so far away, longing for their collars and masters!"

There was silence. She hurried to the side of the girl kneeling on the tiles. She crouched beside her, putting her arm about her shoulders. She then looked at us. "But this is only a poor slave," she said. "She is ne2 to her condition. She is trying to please. It is just that she does not yet know how. Please be kind to her. Give her some time. Let her learn. Is she not beautiful? Do you not think she could learn to be pleasing? Show her mercy!"

It was then again silent.

Numbly, Linda rose to her feet and walked back about the tables. She knelt behind our table, her head down.

"With your permission," I said to Samos. I rose to my feet and went to the girl, now prone, red-eyed, on the tiles. I crouched down beside her.

"Oh!" she cried.

I turned her over, handling her with authority, as a slave is handled.

She looked up at me.

Never before, doubtless, had she been handled like this. "Her face is beautiful," I said, "her body is curvaceous, her limbs are fair. It seems she should bring a good price."

She gasped, appraised as a female.

"But what is inside a woman is more important," said a man.

"That is true," I said. Some of the most succulent and exciting slaves I had known were, I suppose, at least compared with some of their sisters in bondage, comparatively plain in appearance. Such women constitute marvelous bargains in a slave market. They cost far less than m any of their higher-priced sisters and yet, in the long run, are worth far more. Many men, upon returning home, thinking they have bought an average girl within their means, discover instead, to their delight, that they have purchased a dream. To be sure, the matter is complicated. Slavery, for example, marvelously, subtly, tends to bring out the beauty in a woman. Many women, after a year or two in bondage, become so beautiful that they can double or triple their price.

"Men desire women," I told her.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"And you belong to that sex," I said, "which is maddeningly, exquisitely desirable."

"Yes, Master," she said.

And you are," I said, "I think, objectively, a beautiful member of that sex."

"Thank you, Master," she whispered.

"It therefore seems not inconceivable that men might find you desirable."

"Yes, Master," she whispered.

"Does that please you?" I asked.

"It terrifies me," she said.

"Do you have normal feelings toward men?" I asked.

"I think so, Master," she said.

"Now that you are a slave," I said, "it is not only permissible for you to yield to these feelings, but you must do so."

"Master!" she whispered.

"Yes," I said, "for you are now a slave."

"Yes, Master," she whispered, shuddering.

"That makes quite a difference, doesn't it?" I asked.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"She does not have slave reflexes," said a man.

I pulled her by the hair up to a sitting position, and then, by the hair, bent her head back.

"Oh!" she winced.

"Keep the palms of your hands on the tiles," I said. She did so. Her knees were slightly flexed.

"Oh! Oh!" she cried suddenly.

"Keep your palms on the tiles," I said.

"Yes, Master," she said. "Yes, Master!"

"She does have slave reflexes," I reported.

"Yes," said the man.

"Yes," said another man.

"Are men now of greater interest to you?" I asked.

"yes, Master!" she said.

"We are now going to put these things together," I said. "First, you are an exquisitely desirable woman. You are the sort of woman who could drive a man mad with passion. You are the sort of woman to possess whom men might kill. Furthermore, your beauty and desirability is increased a thousandfold because you are a property girl, a slave."

"Yes, Master," she whispered. "Oh, Master!"

"Men are now of even greater interest to you, are they not?" I asked.

"yes, Master!" she wept.

"Keep the palms of your hands on the floor," I said.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"That handles things from the point of view of the man," I said.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"Now," I said, "second, let us consider things from the point of view of the woman, from your point of view."

"Master!" she cried.

"Keep the palms of your hands on the floor," I said.

"Yes, Master," she whimpered.

"As a slave," I said, "it is not only permissible for you to yield to your deepest, most stirring, most primitive, most overwhelmingly feminine urges but you must do so, shamelessly, unqualifiedly, completely."

"Yes, Master," she cried, and thrust herself suddenly, piteously, against my hand.

I then, by the hair, pulled her about and threw her lengthwise, prone, to the tiles.

She looked up at me, over her shoulder. I saw wildness in her eyes. I saw that she had begun to sense what it might be to be an aroused slave.

"Whip," I said, to a man, the fellow who had earlier disciplined the foolish slave who had permitted herself, without permission, to display merriment over the plight of a free woman.

The whip was placed in my hand.

"Master?" asked the girl, apprehensively.

"I do not believe you were given permission to stop dancing earlier," I said.

"No, Master," she said.

"As you are a stupid girl and new to your condition, your punishment, this time, will be light. Three lashes."

"Three!" she sobbed.

"Do not expect masters to be so lenient with your stupidity in the future," I said.

"No, Master," she wept.

Then, doubtless for the firs time in her life, she who had been the proud free woman, the Lady Rowena of Lydius, naked, and on her belly on the tiles, felt, like the common girl she now was, the slave ship of Gor.

"Stand," I told her. "Back straight, belly in, breasts out. Lift your hands to your shoulders, flex your knees."

"I have been whipped," she said, disbelievingly.

"See the difference?" said a man to another at his table. "How she stands?"

"Yes," said the other.

I touched her here and there, with the whip, deftly, correcting a line, or the tension of a curve.

She shrank back from the touch of the whip. She now knew what it could to do to her. She had felt it. After a girl has once felt the whip the mere sight of it is usually enough to bring her immediately into line. "What hangs upon the wall?" a master might ask. "The slave whip, Master," she responds. "How may I be more pleasing?"

I handed the whip back to the fellow who had had it, and returned to my place at the table of Samos.

He signaled the musicians, and they began, again, to play.

I gave my attention to the board. It was my move. I did not bother, then, to glance at the former Lady Rowena of Lydius. She was a mere slave, dancing for masters. Doubtless, too, as the evening wore on, other girls, too, perhaps Tula, and Susan, and Linda, would be ordered to the floor, to dance before strong men, then perhaps, each in her turn, one by one, to be dragged to the tables.

I moved my Ubara's Rider of the High Tharlarion to Ubara's Scribe Three. This, supporting the center, would also open a file, developing the Ubara's Builder. The Gorean dancer is expected, usually, to satisfy the passions she arouses. "It is your move," I said to Samos. I gathered, from the cries of pleasure, from the clapping of hands, the striking of hands on shoulders, that the new slave might be proving not unacceptable. "How is she doing?" I asked. "I do not think it will be necessary, at least immediately, to throw her to sleen," said Samos. He was regarding the dancer. "It is your move," I said. Samos put his chin on his fists and examined the board. I lifted my head and looked across the room.

I saw that it was a slave who danced before the men. She gyrated but inches from a burly oarsman, then leaped back, eluding his drunken grasp. She moved between the tables, a slave, an owned woman. Then she was kneeling beside a man, kissing and caressing him, and then, as though it were involuntary, as though her hands were tied behind her and she was being pulled back, away from him, by a rope, she retreated from him. In a moment she was showering another man with her hair and kisses. Then she offered a man wine, holding the goblet, pressing it against her belly, swaying sensuously before him. She was then again in the center of the tiles, among the tables. She made as if to speak, and then, suddenly, stopped, as though startled. Then she took a wad of her long, golden hair and, swiftly balling it, thrust it, as though insolently, in her mouth. She then looked at the men reproachfully. It was as though a man, perhaps not desiring to hear her speak, had gagged her with her own hair. There was laughter. She drew the hair from her mouth, drawing some if it, in loosening it, deeply back betw4een her teeth, with her head back, as though she might have been in the constraint of a gag strap, all this to the music, and then her hair was free, and, with a movement of her head and movements of her hands, beautifully, she draped and spread it about her. It seemed then she withdrew modestly, frightened, behind the hair, drawing it like a cloak or sheet about her, as though by means of this piteous device she might hope desperately to conceal at least some minimal particle of her beauty from the rude scrutiny of masters. But it was not to be permitted.

To a swirl of music, taking her hair to the sides, holding it, parting it, with clenched fists thrust behind her, twisting, her body thrust forward, her beauty was suddenly, it seemed as though by command, or by the action of another, brazenly bared. "Good!" said more than one man. There was a striking of shoulders in Gorean applause. Even some of the slave girls cried out with pleasure. The girl had done it well. Then she was again dancing among the tables. her movements gave much pleasure. She entertained well. If Samos had known she would prove this good he might have put her in bells or a chain. I doubted that some of the things she had done, in all their abundance and richness, had been merely thought up on the spur of the moment. I suspected that many times in here dreams and fantasies she had danced thus before men, as a slave. Then, lo, one night in Port Kar she found herself truly a slave, and so dancing, and for her life.

As the music neared its climax she returned before our table, dancing desperately and pleadingly. It was there that was to be found her master.

She lowered herself to the floor and there, on her knees, and her sides, and her belly and back, continued her dance.

Men cried out with pleasure.

Floor movements are among the most stimulatory aspects of slave dance.

I regarded her. She was not bad. She was, of course, not trained. A connoisseur of slave dance, I suppose, might have pointed out errors in the pointing of a toe, the extension of a limb, the use of a hand, not well framing the body, not subtly inviting the viewer's eye inward, and so on, but, on the whole, she was definitely not bad. Given her lack of training, a lack which could, of course, be easily remedied, she was not bad, really. Much of what she did, I suppose, is instinctual in a woman. Too, of course, she was dancing for her life.

She writhed well, an utterly helpless, begging slave.

Then the music was finished and she was before us, kneeling, her head down, in submission to Samos. She lifted her head to regard Samos, her master. She searched his face fearfully, for the least sign of her fate. It was he who would decide whether she would live or die.

"It is my hope, Master," she said, "that in time I might not prove totally unacceptable as a slave."

"You may approach," said Samos.

She did not dare to rise to her feet. She crawled, head down, on her hands and knees, to the edge of the table. There, near the table, she put her head down and kissed the tiles. Then, rising up a little and approaching further, still on her hands and knees, she turned her head, delicately, and kissed the edge of the table, her lips touching partly the surface of the table, partly its side.

"Do you beg to live?" he asked.

"Yes, I beg to live, my Master," she said.

"On what terms?" he asked.

"Your terms, Master," she said, "only as a total slave."

"Kneel," said Samos.

She knelt, back on her heels.

Some of the men of Samos had now gathered about, near the table.

"For the moment, at least," said Samos, "you will not be thrown to sleen."

"Thank you, Master!" she cried. "Thank you, my Master!"

Samos then nodded to one of the men standing about, the burly oarsman from whom earlier, eluding him, she had danced away.

He took her wrists and tied them together, with her own hair, before her body, leaving a length of the hair for a leading tether.

She looked up at the oarsman.

"See that you continue to prove adequate," said Samos.

"yes, Master!" she said.

She was then drawn to her feet by the hair tether and, bound, was led across the tiles to the oarsman's place.

"Tula!" called a man. "Let Tula dance!"

Several men shouted their agreement to this. A long-legged brunette was thrust to the center of the tiles. She had high cheekbones, a tannish skin and a golden collar. Her bit of silk was ripped from her.

"Tula!" cried men, and, sensuously, she lifted her arms, and standing, excitingly posed, awaited the instruction of the music. She would show the men what true dancing could be.

Across the room I saw she who had been Lady Rowena of Lydius, her arms, her wrists still bound with her own hair, about the neck of the oarsman. His hands were one her. Her lips were pressed fervently to his. He lowered her to the tiles beside his table.

The music began and Tula danced. I saw other girls moving closer to the tables, subtly taking more prominent positions, hoping perhaps thereby to be more visible to the men. Tula was Samos' finest dancer. There was much competition among his girls for the second position. My own finest dancer was a wench named Sandra. Some others, for example, Arlene, Janice, Evelyn, Mira and Vella, were also quite good.

She who had been the former Lady Rowena of Lydius suddenly cried out.

"It is your move," I told Samos.

"I know," he said.

He moved his Ubara's Rider of the High Tharlarion to Ubara's Builder Three. This seemed a weak move. It did open the Ubara's Initiate's Diagonal. My Ubar's Rider of the High Tharlarion was amply protected. I utilized the initial three-space option of the Ubar's Scribe's Spearman. I would then, later, bring the Ubar's Builder to Ubar's Scribe One, to bring pressure to bear on the Ubar's Scribe's file. Samos did not seem to be playing his usual game. His opening, in particular, had been erratic. he had prematurely advanced significant pieces, and then had lost time in withdrawing them. It was as though he had desired to take some significant action, or had felt that he should, but had been unwilling to do so.

He moved a spearman, diffidently.

"That seems a weak move," I said.

He shrugged.

I brought the Ubar's Builder to Ubar's Scribe One. To be sure, his opening had caused me to move certain pieces more than once in my own opening.

Tula now swayed lasciviously, insistently, forwardly, before the table. I saw Linda, kneeling somewhat behind Samos, regard her with fury. Slave girls commonly compete shamelessly for the favor of the master. Tula, with those long, tannish legs, the high cheekbones, the wild, black hair, the golden collar, was very beautiful. It is pleasant to own women. But Samos paid her little, or no, attention. With a toss of her head she spun away. She would spend the night in the arms of another.

Samos made another move and so, too, did I.

I heard soft gasps and cries from across the room, the fall of a goblet, and squirming. The former Lady Rowena of Lydius's hands were no longer bound but they were now held above and behind her head, each wrist in the hands of a different man. She was on her back, thrown across one of the low tables.

Tonight, Samos seemed off his game.

I wondered if anything might be wrong.

"Did you want to see me?" I asked. It was unusual for Samos to invite me to his holding simply for a game of kaissa.

He did not respond. He continued to regard the board. Samos played well, but he was not an enthusiast for the game. he had told me once he preferred a different kaissa, one of politics and men.

"I do not think you brought m e here to play kaissa," I said.

He did not respond.

"Guard your Ubar," I said.

He withdrew the piece.

"have you heard aught of Kurii?" I asked.

"Little or nothing," he said.

Our last major source of information on this matter, as far as I knew, had come from a blond slave named Sheila. I recalled her kneeling naked before us, the slave harness cinched on her in such a way as to enhance her beauty. She had spoken obediently, and volubly, but she had been able, all in all, to help us but little. Kurii, doubtless as a security measure, entrust little vital information to their human agents. She had once been the Tatrix of Corcyrus. She now belonged to Hassan of Kasra, often called Hassan, the Slave Hunter. I had once been in Kasra. It is a river port on the Lower Fayeen. It is important in the Tahari salt trade. When Samos had finished with her, she had, at the command of Hassan, still in the harness, served the pleasure of both of us. She was then hooded. The last time I saw her Hassan had put her in the bottom of a longboat at Samos' steps, descending to the canal. He had tied her ankles together and pulled them up behind her body, fastening them there with a strap passed through a ring at the back of the slave harness. I suspected she would not be freed from the hood, except for its lifting to feed and water her, for days, not until she was in Hassan's keep in Kasra. I had little doubt he would see to it that she served him well.

I nodded. From the testimony of Sheila, and other sources which seemed to corroborate it, we gathered that the Kurii might now be turning to the patient stratagems of piecemeal subversion, the control of cities and their eventual linkages in networks of power, to win a world by means theoretically within the laws and decrees of Priest-Kings. Indeed, for such a strategy to eventually prove successful, it seemed not unlikely they would have at least the tolerance of the Sardar itself. I shuddered. It would not bode well for humans, I thought, if some form of liaison, or arrangement, were entered into between Priest-Kings and Kurii.

"Have you heard aught from the Sardar?" I asked.

Samos looked up from the board.

Outside I could hear the sounds of yet another troupe traversing the canal, with its raucous cries, its drums and trumpets. There had been several such troupes, theatrical troupes, carnival troupes, this evening. It was now only two days to carnival, to the Twelfth Passage Hand.

"Late in Se'Var," said Samos, "a Torvaldsland voyageur, Yngvar, the Far-Traveled, bought paga in the Four Chains."

I nodded. I knew the Four Chains. It was owned by Procopius Minor. It was near Pier Sixteen. Procopius Minor is not to be confused with Procopius Major, who is an important merchant in Port Kar, one with interests not only in taverns but in paper, hardware, wool and salt. I had never heard of Yngvar, the Far-Traveled, until recently. I did not know him. The time of which Samos spoke was about two months ago.

"In his drinking, this Yngvar told many stories. One frightens and puzzles me. Some fifty pasangs northeast of Scagnar he claims that he and his crew saw something turning and spinning in the sky, like webbed glass, the light spilling and refracting through it. They then saw a silverish disklike object near it. These two objects, both, seemed to descend, as though to the sea itself. Then a little later, the silverish object departed. Curious, frightened, they rowed to the place where the objects had seemed to descend. There was not even a skerry there. They were about to turn about when one of the men saw something. There, not more than twenty yards from the ship, half submerged, was a large, winged creature. They had never seen anything like this before. It was dead. They poked it with spears. Then, after a time, it slipped beneath the water and disappeared."

"I have heard the story," I said. To be sure, I had heard it only a few days ago. It, like other stories, seemed to circulate through the taverns. Yngvar, with some fellow Torvaldslanders, had signed articles and taken ship northward shortly thereafter. Neither Samos nor myself had been able to question them.

"The dating of this occurrence seems unclear," I said.

"It was apparently not recent," said Samos.

Presumably this had happened after the time I had gone to Torvaldsland, or, I suppose, I would have heard of it while there. Interesting stories move swiftly through the halls, conveyed by merchants and singers. Too, such a story would be widely told, on supposes, at a Thing-Fair. I went to Torvaldsland in the Rune-Year 1,006. Years, in the chronology of Torvaldsland, are counted from the time of Thor's gift of the stream of Torvald to Torvald, the legendary founder and hero of the northern fatherlands. the calendars are kept by Rune-Priests. That would have been 10,122 C.A., or Year 3 of the Sovereignty of the Council of Captains in Port Kar. I suspected, though I did not know, that the events recounted by Yngvar had occurred from four to five years ago.

"It was probably a few years ago," said Samos.

"Probably," I granted him.

"The ship was probably a ship of Priest-Kings," said Samos.

"I would suppose so," I said. It did not seem likely that a Kur ship would move openly in Gorean air space.

"it is an interesting story," said Samos.

"Yes," I said.

"Perhaps it has some significance," said Samos.

"Perhaps," I said.

I recalled, long ago, in the Nest, when I had seen the dying Mother. "I see him, I see him," she had said, "and his wings are like showers of gold." She had then lain quietly on the stone. "The Mother is dead," had said Misk. Her last memory, interestingly, it seemed, had been of her Nuptial Flight. There was now, doubtless, a new Mother in the Nest. Yngvar and his fellows, unwittingly, I was confident, had witnessed the inauguration of a new dynasty among Priest-Kings.

"Have you heard anything from the Sardar?" I asked, again.

Samos looked down at the board. I did not press him. His reticence to respond directly puzzled me. If he had heard something, of course, it was perhaps none of my business. I had no intention of prying into his affairs, or those of Priest-Kings. Also, of course, perhaps he had heard nothing.

"You are not playing your usual game," I told him.

"I am sorry," he said.

A new girl, Susan, was now dancing. She who had been the Lady Rowena of Lydius was o her belly on a table, clutching its sides, her teeth gritted. Tula was being handed from man to man. Some of the other girls, too, were now being used by masters. And others were licking and kissing at them, and whispering in their ears, begging for attention.

We played another pair of moves.

"What is bothering you?" I asked Samos.

"Nothing," he said.

"Is there much news?" I asked.

"Tarnsmen from Treve had raided the outskirts of Ar," said Samos.

"They grow bold," I said.

Cos and Ar are still at odds," he said.

"Of course," I said.

"The building of ships in Tyros continues," he said.

"Chenbar has a long memory," I said. Much of the naval power of Tyros had been destroyed in the battle of the 25th of Se'Kara. This had taken place in Year One of the Sovereignty of the Council of Captains, in 10,12 °C.A.

"On Cos, as our spies have it," said Samos, "there is much training of men, and a recruitment of mercenaries."

"We could strike at the shipyards of Tyros," I said, "ten ramships, a thousand men, a picked force."

"The yards are well fortified," he said.

"Do you think Cos and Tyros will move?" I asked.

"yes," he said.

"When?" I asked.

"I do not know," he said.

"It is interesting," I said. "I cannot see Port Kar as a great threat to them. The power of Ar in the Vosk Basin would seem a much greater threat to their influence, and their sphere of trade."

"One would think so," said Samos.

"Matters are complicated there now, of course," I said, "by the formation of the Vosk League."

"That is true," said Samos.

"What is the nature of the training being given the men on Cos?" I asked.

"Infantry training," he said.

"That is interesting," I said. it did not seem likely to me that infantry, at least in its normal deployments and tactics, would be successful in an assault on Port Kar. This had primarily to do with her situation, in the northwestern portion of the estuary of the Vosk, the waters of the Tamber Guld and Thassa before her, the vast, trackless marshes of the Vosk's delta behind her.

"Can it be," I asked, "that Cos is planning to challenge Ar on the land?"

"That would be madness," said Samos.

I nodded. Ar is the major land force in known Gor. The Cosian infantry, meeting her on land in open battle, in force, would be crushed.

"It seems clear then," said Samos, "that they are planning on using the infantry against Port Kar."

I nodded. Cos would never challenge Ar on the land. That was unthinkable.

"That is what is bothering you?" I asked.

"What?" he asked.

"The possibility that Cos and Tyros may move against Port Kar," I said.

"No," he said.

"What is bothering you?" I asked.

"Nothing," he said.

"Are you disturbed by the proximity of the Waiting Hand?" I asked.

This is a frightening and difficult time for many Goreans.

"No," he said.

"Let us stop playing and adjudicate the game as a draw," I suggested.

"No," he said. "It is all right."

I moved my Ubara's Builder to threaten his Ubar. This movement of the builder produced a discovered attack on his Home Stone by my Ubara's Initiate. He interposed his own Ubar's Builder, which I then took with the Initiate, a less valued piece. The Initiate's attack, of course, continued the threat on the Home Stone. he then took the Initiate with his Ubara's Builder, and I, of course, removed his Ubar from the board with my Ubara's Builder.

Samos turned to Linda. "Dance," he said. She leaped to her feet and hurried to the center of the tiles. Susan, then, was pulled by the hair to the place of a keleustes, on who marks time, usually on a pounding block or a ship's drum, for oarsmen. In some navies, and on ships of some registry, the office of the keleustes is referred to as that of the horator. He reports directly to the oar-master. The oar-master, like the helmsman, of which two are generally on duty at any one time, most Gorean ships being double ruddered, reports to the captain.

We watched Linda dance. It seemed she had eyes only for Samos. Her fingers played teasingly with the disrobing loop at her left shoulder.

"Strip, slave," said Samos.

She drew the disrobing loop. There was Gorean applause. She danced well. There was little left in her now of the Earth female. How happy and fulfilled she was on Gor. To be sure, she was only a slave.

I returned my attention to the board, as did Samos.

"It is capture of Home Stone in four," I said.

He nodded. He removed his Home Stone from the board, resigning.

He lifted his head, regarding Linda. "She is pretty," he said.

"Yes," I said.

"Do you trust me?" he asked.

"Yes," I said.

She writhed well, the Gorean slave.

"Why did you invite me this night to your holding?" I asked. "Surely not to play Kaissa?"

He was now resetting the pieces. He would take Yellow this time.

"Ubar's Spearman to Ubar Five," he said.

This move attacks the center and opens a diagonal for the Ubara. It also makes possible a positioning move, matching him positionally in the center, stopping an advance on that file and securing the same advantages for the Ubara and Ubar's Tarnsman. This is one of the most common opening moves in kaissa.

We played twice more that night. I won both games easily, the first with a battering ram of Spearmen and Riders of the High Tharlarion on the Ubar's side, and the second with a middle-game combination of Ubara's Scribe, Ubara and Ubar's Tarnsman. It was now late. Linda lay curled on the tiles near Samos. She was naked, save for her collar. She was beautiful and curvaceous. She was his.

"Captain," said one of the two guardsmen standing before our table. They were the fellows in whose custody the free woman, the Lady Rowena of Lydius, had earlier been drawn to our attention The woman who had been the Lady Rowena of Lydius was now again in their custody. She was now on her knees between them, facing us, her arms held high and to either side of her, each of her wrists in the grasp of a guard. She was now a slave.

"Is it the sleen for her, Captain?" asked he who was first of the two guardsmen, he who had just spoken.

"Dorto, Krenbar," said Samos.

"Yes, Captain," said the men. Dorto was the oarsman who had opened the former Lady Rowena of Lydius for the uses of men. Krenbar was another oarsman. He had used her twice in the evening, after putting her through intricate slave paces each time.

"Does this slave," asked Samos, "give some indication that she might eventually prove to be at least somewhat adequate in a collar?"

"Yes, Captain," said Dorto. "Yes, Captain," said Krenbar.

"Tonight, as you know, my dear," said Samos, "you danced and performed for your life."

"I beg to have been found pleasing," she said.

"Based on the evidences submitted by Dorto and Krenbar, and my own judgment in the matter, your performances, at least for a new slave, have been found acceptable."

I thought she might almost faint with relief.

"Accordingly, at least for the moment, you will not be thrown to sleen."

"Thank you, Master!" she said.

"You are Rowena," he said.

"Thank you, Master," she said, named. There is some security in a slave having a name. Most masters will not name a slave whom they are planning on having immediately destroyed. It would be a waste of name. To be sure, names may be put on slaves and taken off them on a master's whim.

"Though you have been spared, at least for now, do not grow complacent," said Samos.

"No, Master!" she said.

"You are now, like any other slave, you must understand, under standard, unconditional slave discipline."

"Yes, Master!" she said. She was now a slave like any other, neither more nor less.

"Take her below," said Samos to he who was first of the two guardsmen. "Mark her, left thigh, common Kajira mark. Collar her, common house collar."

"Yes, Captain," he said. In the case of the girl, Rowena, of course, as she was already a self-pronounced slave, the brand and collar were little more than identificatory formalities. Nonetheless she would wear them. They would be fixed visibly and clearly upon her. This is in accord with the prescriptions of merchant law. Too, for all practical purposes, they make escape impossible for the Gorean slave girl.

"Then bring her to my chambers," said Samos.

"Yes, Captain," said he who was first of the two guardsmen.

"Master!" protested Linda.

Samos looked at her, and she lowered her head. "Forgive me, Master," she said.

"I shall try to be pleasing, Master!" Rowena avowed, frightened.

Then the two guardsmen pulled her about and conducted her from our presence.

"She is fat," said Linda. I did not think this remark was fair on Linda's part. The slave, Rowena, was not fat. She was sweetly shapely. To be sure, by a strict regimen of diet and exercise, she would soon be brought, in a manner congenial to her basic structure, within indisputable latitudes of slave perfection.

The Gorean slave girl is not a free woman. Accordingly she must keep herself beautiful.

"Do you not like Linda any more?" she pouted.

"Yes, I like you," he said.

"Linda can please you more than Rowena," she said.

"Perhaps," said Samos.

"I can, I will!" she said.

"Who?" asked Samos.

"Linda can, Linda will!" she said.

"To your kennel," said Samos.

"Yes, Master," she said, taking up her tunic, rising to her feet, tears in her eyes.

"Do not fret," he said. "Tomorrow night it will be you who will be chained at my slave ring."

"Thank you, Master!" she said.

"And tonight, for you have not been fully pleasing," he said, "tell the kennel master to put you in close chains."

"Yes, Master!" she laughed and, happily, dismissed, clutching her tunic, rose to her feet and scurried away. She would not spend a comfortable night, locked in the steel of close chains, but she was radiantly happy. She had been reassured of the interest of her master.

"What are you going to do with the slave Rowena?" I asked.

"She is one of a lot of one hundred," said Samos. "They are to be sold at the fair of En'Kara."

"The slave, Linda," I said, "doubtless would have been pleased to hear that."

"She will doubtless learn of it, in one way or another, sooner or later," said Samos.

"Doubtless," I said.

I rose to my feet. I was stiff from having sat for so long. I suspected Samos cared for the Earth-girl, Linda. It was no secret in Port Kar that the shapely collar-slut was first on his chain.

Samos, too, with a grunt, rose to his feet. "Ah," he said.

We looked about. The men and slaves had left the room. We were alone.

Our eyes met. I saw in his eyes that he wanted to speak to me, but he did not do so.

"Your men and boat are waiting," he said.

He accompanied me from his holding to the small landing, with its steps, leading down to the water, outside.

I stepped down into the longboat and, shaking him by the shoulder, awakened Thurnock, the blond giant, he of the peasants. He awakened the rowers. I took my place at the tiller. One of Samos' men cast the line into the boat.

"I wish you well," said Samos.

"I wish you well," I said.

We then pushed off, thrusting against the steps with the port oars. In a moment, with unhurried strokes, we were making our way down the canal, back toward my holding. The canal was dark now. In two days, however, it would be lit with lanterns, thrust out on jutting poles from the bordering, clifflike house and strung with garlands and flags. It would then be the time of the Twelfth Passage Hand, the time of carnival.

I heard the ringing of the time bar from the arsenal. It was the Twentieth Ahn, the Gorean midnight.

I was very puzzled as to why Samos had invited me to his holding tonight. I was sure that he had wished to speak to me. But he had not, however, done so.

I dismissed these considerations from my mind. If he chose to keep his own counsel, it was not mine to inquire into his motivations.

I thought that I had played kaissa well tonight. To be sure, Samos was not an enthusiast for the game. He preferred, as I recalled, a different kaissa, one of politics and men.

2 Carnival

"Master!" laughed she who seemed to be a naked, collared slave, flinging her arms about my neck, pressing her lips fervently, deliciously, to mine.

"Oh!" she cried, as my hands checked her thighs. She was truly a slave. The brand was on her left thigh, high, just under the hip. Sometimes free women, during the time of carnival, masquerading as slaves, run naked about the streets.

I slid my hands possessively up her body and then, between my thumbs and fingers, held her under the arms, half lifting her, half pressing her to me. I then returned her kiss. "Master!" she purred, delighted. I then turned her about and, with a good-natured, stinging slap, sped her on her way. She disappeared, laughing, among the crowds.

"Paga, mate?" inquired a mariner.

I took a swig of paga from his bota and he one from mine.

I stepped to one side, nearly trampled by a gigantic figure on stilts.

I was jostled by a fellow blowing on a horn.

There might easily have been fifteen thousand people in the great piazza, the largest in Port Kar, that before the hall of the Council of Captains. It was ringed with booths, and platforms, and stages and stalls, and booths, and platforms and stalls, too, with colorful canvas, with their eccentrically carved wood, with their fluttering flags, and signs, like standards, illuminated by lamps and torches, throngs gathered about them, and flowing between them, bedecked and studded the piazza's inner precincts.

Here it seemed there were a thousand things for sale and a hundred shows. Sweating men, stripped to the waist, with wands tipped with cylinders of oil-drenched, flaming wool, appeared to swallow fire. Jugglers performed awesome tricks with rings, balls and sticks. Clowns tumbled; acrobats spun and leapt, and climbed, one upon the other, until, abetted by the gravity of Gor, they swayed thirty feet above the crowd. One man somersaulted on a strand of tarn wire strung between posts. Another fellow had a dancing sleen.

The lovely assistant of a magician, dressed in the robes of a free woman, but unhooded and unveiled, so probably a slave, appeared to put him in manacles. She then helped him into a sack inside a trunk. When he crouched down, lying in the trunk, she seemed to tie shut the sack over his head. She then, with great show, thrusting bolts home, seemed to close and lock the trunk. As a last touch she flung three hasps over three staples and seemed to secure the whole system with three padlocks. A fellow from the audience was invited forward to test the locks. He tried them, stoutly, and then, grudgingly, attested to the placement and solidity. He was requested to retain the keys. The lovely young woman then stepped into a nearby vertical cabinet. The crowd looked at one another. Then a drum roll, furnished by a fellow to one side, suddenly commenced and, steadily, increased in volume and intensity. At its sudden climax, followed by an instant of startling silence, the door of the vertical cabinet burst open and the magician, smiling, to cries of surprise, of awe and wonder, stepped forth, waving, his hands free, greeting the crowd. He wasted not a moment but searched out the startled fellow with the keys and began swiftly, one by one, to unlock the padlocks. In a moment, thrusting back the externally mounted security bolts, the padlocks already removed, he had the trunk open. The crowd was breathless, sensing what might, but could not, be the case. he jerked the sack inside to an upright position. I noticed that it was now secured with a capture knot, a knot of a sort commonly used in securing captives and slaves. He undid the know. Then, to another drum roll, he opened the mouth of the sack. At the climax of this drum roll, after its moment of startling silence, the figure of a beautiful, naked, hooded female, her wrists locked in slave bracelets, sprang up. The magician bowed to the crowd.

It seemed the act was done. But few coins were flung to the platform. "Wait!" cried a man. "Who is it?" asked another. "It is not the same one!" cried a fellow, triumphantly. The magician seemed distraught, in consternation. It seemed he could not wait to gracefully evacuate the stage. "Show her to us! Show her to us!" cried the crowd. Reluctantly, as though yielding most unwillingly, as responding only of necessity to such peremptory duress, he unbuckled the hood. Then he drew if off with a flourish. It was she! The same girl, of course! She smiled, and shook her head, throwing her lovely tresses behind her. Then, as the crowd cheered, and coins fell like rain on the platform, she, helped by the magician, stepped forth from the sack and trunk. She knelt on the platform, smiling. She wore a collar. This was easily detected now that she was neither hooded nor in the robes of a free woman. She still wore the slave bracelets, of course. I had little doubt that they were genuine, and confined her with snug and uncompromising perfection. That would be a typical Gorean touch.

I myself threw a golden tarn disk to the boards. The slave looked at it in wonder. Perhaps she had never seen one before. It would buy several women such as she. "Thank you, Kind Master!" she cried. "Thank you, Kind Sir!" called the magician, snatching it up.

"They are skillful," commented a man, standing near me.

"Yes," I granted him, and then turned away, back into the crowd.

The man who had spoken was not masked, nor was I. On the other hand, masks are common at carnival time. Many in the crowd wore them. Popular, too, at this time, it might be mentioned, are bizarre costumes. Such things, maskings, and disguisings, and dressing up, sometimes in incredible and wild fashions, are all part of the fun of carnival. Indeed, at this time, there are even parades of costumes, and prizes are awarded, in various categories, for most ingenious or best costume. Most of the dressing up, of course, is not done for the sake of winning prizes but just, so to speak, for carnival, just for the fun of it. It is something that is done at carnival time. To be sure, I suppose there are various psychological benefits, too, other than the simple fun and pleasure of it, attendant on the maskings and disguisings. They might, for example, give one an opportunity to try out new identities, to relieve boredom, to break up routines, to release tension, and so on. They also provide one with an opportunity for foolery, jokes, pranks, and horseplay. Who was that fellow, for example, who poured paga on one's head? And who, the free woman might wonder, was that fellow who gave he so sudden, so unexpected, so fierce a pinch? Indeed, perhaps she is fortunate that her very veil was not lifted up and her lips pressed by those of a stranger, or was it a stranger? And who are those fellows in the robes of the caste of physicians, apparently administering medicines to one another, after which they leap and roll about, seemingly in great distress? Are they physicians? It seems more likely they are sawyers or sailmakers from the arsenal. Carnival, too, with its freedom and license, is often used by both men and women as a time for the initiation of affairs, and for arrangements and assignations, the partners often not even being known to one another. In such relationships another advantage of the mask is clearly demonstrated, its provision of anonymity to the wearer, should he or she desire it.

Masks, incidentally, at times other than carnival, are not entirely unknown on Gor. They are often used by individuals traveling incognito or who do not, for one reason or another, wish to be recognized in a certain place or at a certain time. Their use by brigands or highwaymen, of course, is a commonplace. They are also sometimes used by gangs of high-born youths prowling the streets, usually looking to catch a slave girl for an evening's sport. Lower-caste gangs, engaged in similar pursuits, seldom affect masks. They can afford, of course, to be relatively open about their interest, and its indulgence. They are comparatively invulnerable to the nuisances of scandal.

"Paga!" cried a fellow.

We exchanged swigs from our botas. He reeled away into the crowd.

Three fellows walked by supporting swirling carnival figures. These particular constructions had huge, stuffed, bulbous, painted heads, and great flowing robes. They were some nine feet tall. They are supported on a pole and the operator, holding the pole, supporting the figure, is concealed within the robes. He looks out through a narrow, gauze-backed, rectangular opening in the robes. The figures bobbed and nodded to the crowd.

Children fled by, playing tag.

I saw a woman stripped to the waist. She had a brief cloth tied about her hips. She was collared. She looked at me, over her shoulder, and turned away.

In at least a dozen places on the great piazza there must have been groups of musicians.

I saw Tab, a caption once associated with my holding, one with whom I still had occasional dealings. He was with his slave, Midice. She clung to his left arm. It was too crowded here even to heel him properly. I called out to him. But, in the press, and noise, he did not hear. His scabbard was empty. So, too, was mine. We had checked our weapons before entering the piazza.

"I shall have to trouble you for your sword, Sir," said one of the Arsenal Guards, on duty here tonight.

"No," had said another. "Do you not recognize him? That is Bosk, the Admiral, he of the Council of Captains."

"Forgive me, Captain," had said the man. "Enter as you are."

"No," I said. "It is perfectly all right." I surrendered my sword to him, and the knife, too, I commonly carried, a quiva, a Tuchuk saddle knife, balanced for throwing. I myself had voted in the council for the checking of weapons before entering the piazza during carnival. The least I could do, it seemed to me, was to comply with a ruling which I myself had publicly supported.

I remembered now where I had seen the man who had spoken to me near the platform of the magician. He had been waiting near one of the checking points opening onto the piazza, that point through which I had entered. It was there that I had seen him.

The checking of the weapons is accomplished as follows: One surrenders the weapons and the guard, in turn, tears a ticket in two, placing one half with the weapons and giving you the other half. This ticket is numbered on both ends. In reclaiming the weapons one matches the halves, both with respect to division and number. My half of the ticket was now in my wallet. The ticket is of rence paper, which is cheap in Port Kar, owing to its proximity to one of Gor's major habitats for the rence plant, the vast marshes of the Vosk's delta.

"Captain," said a voice.

I turned about. "Captain Henrius?" I asked. He, grinning, thrust up the mask. It was he. I thought I had recognized the voice. The young Captain Henrius was of the lineage of the Sevarii. Once he had been of my house but now held sway in his own house. With him was his lovely slave, Vina, who once had been intended to be the companion of gross Lurius of Jad, then, sharing his throne, to be proclaimed the Ubara of Cos. She was now a slave in Port Kar. I had not recognized her immediately for the gaudy paints which had been applied to her body. She knelt beside Henrius, holding to his thigh, that she not be forced away from him in the crowd.

"Someone is looking for you," said Henrius.

"Who?" I asked.

"I do not know," he said.

"He suggests that you meet him among the purple booths, in Booth Seventeen."

"Thank you," I said.

Henrius, then, with a grin, readjusted his mask, drew Vina to her feet and, with her in tow, by an elbow, vanished in the crowd.

I looked after them. I was fond of them both.

A free woman, in swirling robes of concealment, veiled, appeared before me. "Accept my favor, please!" she laughed. She held forth the scarf, teasingly, coquettishly. "Please, handsome fellow!" she wheedled. "Please, please!" she said. "Please!"

"Very well," I smiled.

She came quite close to me.

"Herewith," she said, "I, though a free women, gladly and willingly, and of my own free will, dare to grant you my favor!"

She then thrust the light scarf though an eyelet on the collar of my robes and drew it halfway though. In this fashion it would not be likely to be dislodged.

"Thank you, kind sir, handsome sir!" she laughed. She then sped away, laughing.

She had had only two favors left at her belt, I had noted. Normally in this game the woman begins with ten. The first to dispense her ten favors and return to the starting point wins. I looked after her, grinning. It would have been churlish, I thought, to have refused the favor. Too, she had begged so prettily. This type of boldness, of course, is one that a woman would be likely to resort to only in the time of carnival. The granting of such favors probably has a complex history. Its origin may even trace back to Earth. This is suggested by the fact that, traditionally, the favor, or the symbolic token of the favor, is a handkerchief or scarf. Sometimes a lady's champion, as I understand it, might have borne such a favor, fastened perhaps to a helmet or thrust in a gauntlet.

It is not difficult, however, aside from such possible historical antecedents, and the popular, superficial interpretations of such a custom, in one time or another, to speculate on the depth meaning of such favors. One must understand, first, that they are given by free women and of their own free will. Secondly, one must think of favors in the sense that one might speak of a free woman granting, or selling, her favors to a male. To be sure, this understanding, as obvious and straightforward as it is, if brought to the clear light of consciousness, is likely to come as a revelatory and somewhat scandalous shock to the female. It is one of those cases in which a thing she has long striven to hide from herself is suddenly, perhaps to her consternation and dismay, made incontrovertibly clear to her. In support of the interpretation are such considerations as the fact that these favors, in these games, are bestowed by females on males, that, generally, at least, strong, handsome males seem to be the preferred recipients of such favors, that there is competition among the females in the distribution of these favors, and that she who first has her «favors» accepted therein accounts herself as somewhat superior to her less successful sisters, at least in this respect, and that the whole game, for these free women, is charged with an exciting, permissive aura of delicious naughtiness, this being indexed undoubtedly to the sexual stimulations involved, stimulations which, generally, are thought to be beneath the dignity of lofty free women.

In short, the game of favors permits free women, in a socially acceptable context, by symbolic transformation, to assuage their sexual needs to at least some extent, and, in some cases, if they wish, to make advances to interesting males. There is no full satisfaction of female sexuality, of course, outside of the context of male dominance. I wondered what the free woman whose favor I wore would look like, stripped and in a collar. How would she look, how would she act, I wondered, if slave fires had been lit in her belly. I did not think she would then be distributing silken scarves to make known her needs to men. She must then do other things, such as putting a bondage knot in her hair, offering them wine or fruit, dancing naked before them, or kneeling before them, whimpering and whining for attention, licking and kissing at their feet and legs.

I saw again the woman in the collar, she who was stripped to the waist, she who had a brief bit of cloth tied about her hips. As our eyes met she looked away, quickly.

I took a step towards her and she turned hastily away, frightened, and began to make her way through the crowd. I followed her, indirectly, circling about. As I had expected, in a few moments she stopped and turned about, to see if I was following. She stood there, uncertainly, scanning the crowd, looking back the way she had come. Had she been pursued? she did not know. Then suddenly I stepped behind her and pulled her back against me. She could not move. She was as helpless, my hands upon her beauty, as one locked in one of the body cages of Tyros.

"Sir!" she said, frightened, stiffening.

"Sir?" I asked.

"Master!" she quickly said, correcting herself.

"You are a slave, aren't you?" I asked.

"Yes, of course!" she said.

"Of course, what?" I asked.

"Of course, Master!" she said.

"You have nice breasts," I said.

"Thank you, Master," she whispered.

I slid my hands down her body, to her waist, and hips, holding her all the while.

"You have a nice body," I said. "I think you would bring a good price on the slave block."

"Do you think so?" she asked, pleased.

"Yes," I said. "But what is this cloth at your hips?" I asked. "Its quality, incidentally, seems a bit too good to be accorded to a mere slave." My hands, reaching about her, fumbled at the strings on her left hip.

"Do not remove it," she begged, "please! "Please!"

My hands paused.

"As you are a mere slave," I said, "what possible difference could it make?"

"Please," she begged.

"Very well," I said. I removed my hands form the string, but held her in place, facing away from me, by the waist.

"May I turn around?" she asked.

"No," I said.

She shuddered with pleasure, commanded, placed under the will of another.

"There are doubtless slavers in the piazza tonight," I said. "If you do not want the collar, you should not court it."

"As I am only a mere slave," she said, "I could not possibly begin to understand the words of Master."

She cried out as I, half spinning her about, tore the cloth from her hips.

"It seems your master forgot to brand you," I said.

She snatched back the cloth and, angrily, tearing it and pulling it, refastened it about her hips.

"Take me to a pleasure rack," she said.

"You are a free woman, " I said. "Go yourself."

"Never, never!" she said. "You know I cannot do that!"

"Master," said a voice. "I am a slave. Take me to a pleasure rack!"

I looked down. Kneeling on the tiles of the piazza at my feet was a naked slave.

"I have not forgotten your kiss," she said. "Take me to a pleasure rack, I beg you!"

I remembered her. She was the naked, collared slave who, a few moments ago, had seized me and kissed me. I had returned her kiss, in the fashion of a master.

"I have sought you in the crowds," she said.

The free woman cried out in fury.

I reached down and drew the slave to her feet and then, holding her by the arm, turned away from the free woman.

The free woman gasped, rejected, scorned, of less interest than a slave.

The slave now held my arm, I permitting it, closely, that she not be pulled away from me in the crowds.

"This is not the way to the pleasure racks," she said.

"You must be patient," I said.

"Yes, Master," she moaned, pressing more closely against me. She would be patient. She had no choice in the matter. she was a slave.

I looked back and saw the free woman, turned away, forlorn, her arms clutched about herself, half crouched over. Her body shook with sobs. She trembled with need. I saw that she had strong drives. I smiled. Such drives would bring her, sooner or later, to a man's feet, the only place they can be satisfied.

I paused to watch a portion of a farce. I would let the girl clinging to me increase in her heat.

The girl playing the part of the Golden Courtesan was not unlike Rowena, whom I remembered from three nights ago in the holding of Samos. She had something of the same beauty, the same figure, the same long, golden tresses. The role of the Golden Courtesan, incidentally, when it occurs in more sophisticated Gorean comedy is usually played, like the other roles in such comedies, and in most forms of serious drama, masked. One possible reason for this, though I think tradition probably has much more to do with it, is the such roles in more sophisticated comedy, like roles in more serious drams, are generally played by men. In the major dramatic forms Goreans generally, mistakenly, in my opinion, keep women off the stage. Some feel this practice is a result of the fact that women's voices carry less well than men's voice in the open-air theaters. Given the superb acoustics of many of these theaters, however, in which a coin dropped on the stage is clearly audible in the upper tiers, I feel the practice is more closely connected with tradition, or jealousy, than acoustics. Too, it might be noted that many dramatic masks have megaphonic devices built into them which tend to amplify the actors' voices. If women are generally precluded from participation in the major dramatic forms, they are, however, more than adequately represented in the great variety of minor forms which exist on Gor, such as low comedy, burlesque, mime, farce and story dance. To be sure, these women are usually slaves. Free women, on the whole, affect to find the professional stage, particularly in its manifestations in the minor forms, unspeakably disgusting and indecent; they feign horror at the very thought of themselves going on the stage; it would be much the same thing, surely, as being displayed publicly on a slave platform or slave block. They usually attend performances incognito.

I have mentioned that masks are commonly worn in serious drama and sophisticated comedy, such as it is; I might also mention that they are not worn in most of the minor forms, such as mime or story dance, unless called for by that plot, as in the case of brigands, and so on; farce, on the other hand, represents an interesting case for in it some characters commonly wear masks and others do not; the Comic Father, the Pendant, usually depicting a member of the Scribes, and the Timid Captain, for example, are usually masked, whereas the young lovers, the Golden Courtesan, the Desirable Heiress, and others, are not. Some roles, those of saucy free maids, comic servants, and such, may or may not be masked, depending on the troupe. As you may have gathered many of the characters in Gorean comedy and in the minor forms are, for the most part, stock characters. Again and again one meets pompous merchants, swaggering soldiers, fortune tellers, parasites, peasants and slaves.

These stock characters are well known to Gorean audiences and welcomed by them. For example, the Pompous Merchant and the Wily Peasant are well known. The audience is already familiar with them, from numerous performances in dozens of plays and farces, many of them largely improvised around certain standard types of situations. They know generally how the characters will act and are fond of them. They are familiar even with mannerisms and dialects. Who would accept the Comic Father if he did not have his Turian accent, or the Desirable Heiress if she did not speak in the soft accents of Venna, north of Ar? What would the Timid Captain be if he did not, beneath his long-nosed half-mask, have those fierce mustaches to twirl, the formidable wooden sword dragging behind him? Even gestures and grimaces are well known, looked for, and eagerly awaited. This type of familiarity, of course, gives the actor a great deal to build on. The character, even before he greets the audience in the initial parade of the actors, is for most practical purposes established, and in rich, complex, detail; furthermore it is anticipated with relish and welcomed with affection. This being the case it is interesting to note that one actor's Merchant is not the same Merchant as that of another actor. Somehow, within the outlines of the role, and the traditional business associated with it, these actors manage to make their versions unique and special onto themselves. I suspect that there are no purely interpretive arts; all arts, I suspect, are ultimately creative.

"Please, Master," whimpered the girl holding my are, pressing herself against me. "Please, Master."

I looked to one side, to the ground at the side of the raised platform. Two girls were there, standing back, waiting. Judging from the brevity of their bell-like skirts, given that shape doubtless by a lining of crinoline, and their bare arms, with puffed, short sleeves, I took them to be Saucy Maidens, probably a Bina and a Brigella. The Brigella, in particular, was lovely. I had little doubt if I should tip those skirts to the side I should encounter slave brands. The skirts, incidentally, are made to tip. This is utilized in various sorts of stage business. For example, one comic servant may pretend to inadvertently drop larmas, one by one, off a platter, which the girl, one by one, bends over to retrieve, another servant behind her. Then, while the girl chides them for their clumsiness, they change places, and, to her feigned exasperation, repeat the trick. The skirt may also be lifted up, for example, by the wily Peasant, reported looking for a lost ox, and so on. The audience, of course, generally has the same preferred coign of vantage as the lucky servant or the Wily Peasant.

With the two girls was a rather paunchy, harassed-looking fellow, with long sideburns and a rimless cap. Another fellow, a sailmaker, I think, was negotiating with him for his Golden Courtesan. The paunchy fellow was shaking his head. he did not wish, surely, to see her off the stage during a performance. The sailmaker was willing to wait. Then it seemed that the paunchy fellow, though sorely tempted, decided to hold on to the girl. Doubtless he needed the money, but what would he do without a Golden Courtesan? She probably also played the role of the Desirable Heiress. The same girl is often used for both roles. I looked back to the stage. The Golden Courtesan was probably unaware that she had nearly changed hands.

"Master," whimpered the girl beside me.

"Kneel," I told her.

"Yes, Master," she moaned, and knelt beside me. I did not wish her to interrupt the performance.

I looked back to the paunchy fellow and saw him, with his swaying belly, looking out into the crowd, somewhat apprehensively. The two girls with him, the Bina and the Brigella, seemed somewhat ill at ease, too.

I returned my attention to the stage.

The Golden Courtesan, facing away, was now feigning indifference to the suits of both the Comic Father and the Pedant. Two servants, Lecchio and Chino, are also in attendance. Chino, usually the servant of the Comic Father or the Merchant, is willowy and mischievous, with a black half-mask, with slanted eye holes, with red-and-yellow diamond-figured tights and pullover. Lecchio, usually the servant of the Pedant, is short and fat, a willing dupe of Chino and a sharer in his fun. He wears a brown tunic with a hood which he sometimes pulls over his head to hide embarrassment. The Comic Father and the Pedant pursue their suits. Chino and Lecchio conspire. Chino kicks the Comic Father and then looks away, studying clouds. In a moment Lecchio kicks the Pedant. This is repeated several times. Soon the Comic Father and the Pedant, each thinking the other is the assailant, are in furious controversy. It seems they will fight. Chino, followed by Lecchio, points out that their rich garments might be soiled, that their wallets might even be lost in such a scuffle. The Comic Father and the Pedant then give their robes and wallets to the servants and begin to berate one another and pull beards. The servants, of course, immediately don the garments and, swinging the wallets on their strings, meaningfully parade in front of the Golden Courtesan, who, of course, taking them for rich suitors, goes away with them. The Comic Father and the Pedant, now without their robes and wallets, soon discover the trick. Crying out they give chase to the servants.

The girl kneeling beside me held my leg and pressed her cheek against my thigh. She kissed me. She looked up at me. "Please take me to a pleasure rack, Master," she said.

"Be patient," I told her.

"Yes, Master," she moaned.

The next performance, following on the heels of the first, was a love-potion farce, a form of farce with many variations. In this one the principal characters were the Golden Courtesan, Chino, the Merchant and the Pedant. The Merchant was played by the harassed, paunchy-looking fellow I had seen earlier. The Pedant, this time, was depicted not as a member of the Scribes but as a member of the Physicians. In brief, the Merchant, intending to visit the Golden Courtesan, sends Chino for a love potion. Chino, of course, obtains not a love potion but a powerful laxative from the Physician. The Merchant takes the potion and visits the Golden Courtesan, with Chino in attendance. Predictably, the Merchant must continually interrupt his initial advances which, of course, are bumbling and clumsy, and not much to the liking of the courtesan, to rush hastily to the side of the stage where, conveniently, amy be found a great pot. Chino, meanwhile, exaggeratedly, in these interstices, is assuring the courtesan of the merchant's prowess as a lover. he is so successful that the courtesan soon begins to pant and call the merchant, who, eagerly, rushes back, only in a moment, unfortunately, to be forced to beat a retreat to the pot. Chino then again begins to reassure the confused, uncertain courtesan. Soon he is demonstrating, even, with caresses and kisses, all in the name of the merchant, just how skillfull the merchant would be. The couresan becomes more and more helpless and excited. Meanwhile the Physician comes by to check up on the efficacy of his potion. His conversation with the merchant provides ample opportunity for 'double-entendres' and talking at cross-purposes. The physician, in departing, puzzled that the potion has not yet taken effect, assures the merchant, sitting on the great pot, that he should allow it more time, that doubtless he will soon feel its effects. The merchant, however, convinced that this is not his day, now hobbles home, clutching the great pot. Chino grins and shrugs. He then leaps upon the Golden Courtesan. The time, after all, has been paid for.

In a moment the actors had returned to the stage, bowing. With them, too, were some of the actors from the earlier farces, usually presented in rounds of four or five. Some tarsk bits rattled to the boards. These were gathered in by the Chino and Lecchio. The Bina and Brigella, too, were now passing through the drowd with copper bowls. They were both very lovely, in particular, the Brigells. Such girls, like the other actresses wiht a small troupe, usually serve also as tent girls. It helps the troupe to meet expenses. I placed a tarsk bit in the towl of the Brigella. "Thank you, Master," she said.

The paunchy fellow, his belly swinging, now out of character as the merchant, was informing the qudience that a new round of farces, all different, would be performed within the Ahn. I saw his eyes momentarily cloud and, glancing back, I think I detected a possible cause for his distress. In the crowd was an officer of the Master of Revels, with two members of the Council Guard.

I drew the girl beside me to her feet. "Oh, yes," she breathed, "now," holding me, pressing her naked, collared beauty piteously against me, "take me to a pleasure rack. Now, please. I am so ready. I am so hot!"

"Not yet," I told her.

I then bought her a pastry from a vendor. "Eat it," I told her, "slowly, very slowly. Make it last a long time."

"Yes, Master," she said.

When a woman is ordered to eat a pastry in this fashion, she knows that she is barely to touch it, and then only once in a while, wit her small teeth. Rather, primarily, almost entirely, she is to address herself to it with her tongue. This puts her under a good discipline, is a good exercise for the tongue and tends to increase sexual heat. N the case of the free woman the tongue is usually something which serves rather conventional purposes, for example it helps her to talk. IN the case of the slave girl, however, it serves other purposes as well.

I moved along the front of the stage, through the crowd, the slave, the pastry clutched in her hands, at my elbow.

I paused only a yard or two from the end of the stage, before a kaissa booth.

I saw a large figure walking by. It might have stalked off one of the long, narrow, roofed stages or Ar, such as serve commonly for serious drama, spectacle and high comedy. It wore the 'cothornoi', a form of high platformlike boots, a long robe padded in such a way as to suggest an incredible breadth of shoulder, a large, painted linen mask, with exaggerated features, which covered the entire hed, and the 'onkos', a towering, imposing headdress. Such costumes are often used by major characters in serious dramas. This exaggeration in size and feature, I take it, is intended to be commensurate with their importance. They are, at any rate, made to seem larger than life. I did not know if the fellow were an actor or simply someone adopting such a costume, all in the fun of carnival. As he walked away I noted that the mask had a different expression on the back. That device, not really very common in such masks, makes possible a change of expression without having recourse to a new mask.

A fellow, a pulley-maker I recognized from the arsenal, and the arsenal kaissa champion, rose to his feet, from where he had been sitting cross-legged before the kaissa board in the kaissa booth. "A marvelous game," he said, rubbing his head, bewildered. "I was humiliated. I was devastated. I do not even know how he did it. In fourteen moves he did it! In fourtenn moves he captured three pieces and it would have been capture of Home Stone on the next! Perhaps there were illegal moves. Perhaps I did not see everything he did!"

"Try another game," encouraged the paunchy fellow, he who had been associated with the stage and who, it seemed, had an interest also in the kaissa booth. "Perhaps your luck will change!"

But the pulley-maker, almost reeling, made his way away, through the crowds.

"Why did you do that?" asked the paunchy fellow of the man sitting behind the board.

"he thought he knew how to play kaissa," said the man behind the board.

"How much have you taken in tonight?" asked the paunchy fellow, angrily, pointing to the copper, lidded pot, with the coin slot cut in its top, chained shut, near the low kaissa table.

The fellow behind the table began to move the pieces about on the board.

The paunchy fellow seized up the pot. He shook it, assessing its contents. "Four, five tarsk bits?" he asked. Judging from the timing and the sounds of the coins bounding about inside the pot there was not much there.

"Three," siad the fellow behind the board.

"You could have carried him for at least twenty moves," siad the paunchy fellow. He replaced the copper coin pot, chained shut, beside the kaissa table.

"I did not care to do so," said the fellow behind the board.

Interestingly the man behind the board wore black robes and a hoodlike mask, alsso black, which covered his entire head. He did not wear the red-and-yellow-checked robes of the caste of players, he was not, thus, I assumed, of that caste. Had he been of the players he would doubtless have worn their robes. They are quite proud of their caste. His skills, howver, I conjectured, must be considerable. Apparently the arsenal champion, one of the best twenty or thirty players in Port Kar, had been not match for him. Perhaps he had engaged in illegal moves. That seemed more likely than the fact that he, a fellow like him, associated with actors and carnival folk, and such, could best the arsenal champion. It ws carnival time, of course. Perhaps the champion had been drdink.

"If the game is not interesting for htem, if they do not htink they are really playing, seriously, they will not want a second or a thrid game," said the paunchy fellow. "We want them to come back! We want the board busy! That is how we are making the money!"

The price for a game is usually something between a tarsk bit and and a copper tarsk. If the challenger wins or draws, the game is free. Someteimes a copper tarsk, or even a silver tarsk, is nailed to one of the poles of the booth. It goes to the challenger if he wins and the game is free, if he draws. This is because a skillful player, primarily by judicious exchanges and careful position play, can often bring about a draw. Less risk is involved in playing for a draw than a win, of course. Conservative players, ahead in tournament play, often adopt this stratagem, usuing it, often to the fury of the crowds and their opponents, to protect and nurse an established lead. A full point is scored for a win; in a draw each player obtains a half point.

"you must manage to lose once in a while," said the paunchy fellow. "That will bring them back! That way, in the the long run, we will make much more money!"

"I play to win," siad the fellow, looking at the board.

"I do not know why I put up with you!" said the paunchy fellow. "You are only a roustabout and vagabond!"

I noted the configuration of the pieces on the board. The hooded fellow had not begun from the opening position, arriving at the configuration after a series of moves. he had simply set the pieces up originally in that position. Something about the position seemed familiar. I suddenly realized, with a start, that I had seen it before. It was the position which would be arrived at on the seventeenth move of the Ubara's Gambit Declined, Yellow Home stone having been placed at Ubara's Builder One, providing red had, on the eleventh move, departed from the main line, transposing into the Turian line. Normally, at this point, one continues with the advancement of the Ubara's Initiate's Spearman, supporting the attack being generated on the adjacent file, that of the Ubara's Builder. he, however, advanced the Ubar's Initiate's Spearman in a two-square-option move, grining it to Ubar's Initiate Five. I wondered if he knew anything about kaissa. Then, suddenly, the move seemed interesting to me. It would, in effect, launch a second attack, and one which might force yellow to bring pieces to the Ubar's side of the board, thereby weakening the position of the Ubara's Builder's File, making it more vulnerable, then, of course, to the major attack. It was an interesting idea, I wondered if it had ever been seriously played.

"You must learn to lose!" said the paunchy fellow.

"I have lost," said the hooded fellow, "I know what it is like."

"You, Sir," siad the paunchy fellow turning to me, "do you play kaissa?"

"A little," I said.

"Hazard a game," he invited. "Only a tarsk bit!" he then glanced meaningfully at the hooded fellow, and then turned and again regarded me. "I can almost guarantee that you will win." he said.

"Why is your player hooded?" I asked. It did not seem the kind of disguising that might be appropriate for carnival.

"It is something from infancy, or almost from infancy," said the paunchy fellow, shuddering, "from flames, a great fire. It left him as he is, beneath the mask. He is a disfigured monster. Free women would swoon at the sight. The stomachs of strong men would be turned. They would cry out with horror and strike at him. Such grotesquerie, such hideousness, is not to be tolerated in public view."

"I see," I said.

"Only a tarsk bit," the paunchy fellow reminded me.

"Do not fear that you will not win," said the hooded fellow, in fury, placing the pieces in position for the opening of play. He then, imperiously, removed his Ubar, Ubara, and his Builders and Physicians, from the board, six major pieces. He looked angrily at me, and then, too, he threw his tarnsmen into the leather bag, with drawstrings, at the side of the table. he spun the board about so that I might have Yellow, and the first move. Thus I would have the initiative. Thus I could, in effect, for most purposes, choose my preferred opening. "Make your first move," he said. "I shall then tip my Ubar and the game will be yours."

"Can you not be somewhat more subtle?" inquired the paunchy fellow of the hooded man.

"I would not consider playing under such conditions," I said.

"Why not?" aske dthe paunchy fellow, pained. "You could then say truthfully that you had won. Others need not know the sort of game it was."

"It is an insult to kaissa," I said.

"He is right," said the hooded fellow.

The slave girl, whimpered, looking up at me. The pastry, which she had been diminishing, bit by miniscule bit, flake by tiny, damp flake, with her tongue, was clutched in both her hands. As she ate thus, the palcement of her arms constituted a provocative modesty, on e terminable, of course, at my will. Similarly, her small, delicate wrists were close together, so close that they might have been linked by slave bracelets.

"Please, Master," she whimpered.

"Hazard a game," suggested the paunchy fellow.

I looked down into the eyes of the slave girl. She looked up at me, and slowly and sensuously, with exquisite care, licked at the sugary, white glazing on the pastry. She might be helpless with need, but I saw she had had training.

"I have another game in mind," I said.

She looked up at me, flakes of the pastry and glazing about her mouth, and kissed me. "I want to love you," she said. I tasted the sugar on her lips.

"I can understand such games," said the paunchy fellow. "It is pleasant to have a naked islave in one's arms."

"Yes," I agreed.

"Put them all in collars," he said. "Teach them what they are for, and about. No woman is worth antying until she is put in a collar. None of them have any worth until they are made worthless."

"What do you think?" I asked the slave.

"It is true, Master," she said.

"Now that fellow," said the paunchy fellow, gesturing to the hooded fellow, "is different from us. He lives only for kaissa. He does not so much as touch a woman. To be sure, it is probably just as well. They would doubtless faint with terror at the very sight of him."

"Do you wish to play, or not?" asked the hooded fellow, looking up at me.

"Under the conditions you propose," I said, "I would not accept a win from you, if you were Centius of Cos." Centius of Cos was perhaps the finest player on Gor. He had been the champion at the En'Kara tournaments three out of the last five years. IN one of those years, 10,127 C.A., he had chosen not to compete, giving the time to study. In that year the champion had been Terence of Turia. In 10,128 C. A., Centius had returned but was defeated by Ajax of Ti, of the Salerian Confederation, who had overcome Terence in the semifinals. In 10,129 C.A., last En'Kara, Centius had decisively bested Ajax and recovered the championship.

At the metnion of the name Centius of Cos, the hooded player had stiffened angrily. "I assure you I am not Centius of Cos," he said. He then, angrily, thrust the pieces intot he leather bag tied to his belt, put the board under his arm, and, limping, withdrew.

"It is still early!" called the paunchy fellow after the hooded man. "Where are you going?"

But the hooded fellow had disappeared between the booths, going somewhere to the rear.

"I am sorry," I said. "I did not mean to upset him."

"Do not worry about it," said the paunchy fellow. "It is always happening. He is a touchy fellow, impetuous, arrogant and reckless. Doubtless the ground should be grateful that he deigns to tread upon it. His kaissa, on the other hand, seems strong. It is probably too good, really, for what we need."

"Perhaps he should apply for membership in the caste of players," I suggested.

"He does not seem interested in that," he said.

"Oh," I said.

"Besides, he is a grotesque monster," he said. "Even the slaves fear him."

"I understand," I said.

"Too, if he were really any good, honestly speaking, between you and me, he would not be with us."

"I see," I smiled. To be sure, there was more moeny to be made in the kaissa clubs and on the high bridges. It was interesting to me that the fellow had limped. I had once known a kaissa player who had done that. To be sure, it was long ago.

"Have you, yourself, ever played him?" I asked.

"No," said the fellow. "I do not play kaissa."

"I see," I said.

"You are Boots Tarsk-Bit?" asked a voice.

The voice came from behind us. The paunchy fellow with me turned white.

I turned about.

"Greetings, Captain," siad the man.

"Greetings," I said to him. It was the officer of the Master of Revels. Behind him were the two members of the Council Guard.

"Hold," said the officer to the paunchy fellow, who, it seemed, had backed away, turned, and was bout to disappear between the stage and the kaissa booth.

"Did you call?" asked the paunchy fellow, pleasantly, turning.A meaningful gesture from the officer, pointing to a spot in front of him, brought the puanchy fellow alertly back into our presence. "Yes," he inquired, pleasantly.

"I believe you are Boots Tarsk-Bit," siad the officer, "of the company of Boots Tarsk-Bit."

"He must be somewehre about," siad the paunchy fellow. "If you like, I shall attempt to search him out for you."

"Hold," said the officer.

The paunchy fellow returned to the spot in front of the officer.

"That is he," siad one of the guards wiht him.

"No offense meant, good sir," siad that paunchy fellow, "A mere jest!"

"You are Boots Tarsk-Bit," said the officer, consulting an inked handbill, clipped wiht other papers. "Actor, Entrepreneur, and Impresario, of the company of Boots Tarsk-Bit?"

"At your service," said the paunchy fellow, bowing low. "What may I do for you?"

The girl was now kneeling beside me, with her head down. She had assumed this position immediately upon the appearance of the officer and ghe guards.

"We are here in connection with the matter of a license," said the officer.

"Yes," said the paunchy fellow, Boots Tarsk-Bit, pleasantly.

"Do you have one?" asked the officer.

"Would you care to come to my quarters?" asked Boots. "We have some lovely larmas there, and perhaps you and your men would like to try my Bina and Brigella."

"In the license," said the officer, "there is the provision that girls associated with companies such as yours, if slaves, may be commanded to the apartments and service of whomsoever the council, or a delegated officer of the council, directs."

"I scarcely ever read all the provisions of the licenses," said Boots. "Such things are so tedious."

"Do you have a license?" asked the officer.

"Of course!" said Boots, indignantly. "They are required, as is well known. No fellow with the least sense of ethics would think of being without one."

"May I see your license?" inquired the officer.

"Certainly," said Boots, fumbling about in his robes. "It is right here-somewhere." He examined his wallet. "Somewhere," he assured the officer. "Alas," he said, after the second ransacking of his robes, and his third examination of the wallet. "it must be in my quarters, perhaps in the wardrobe trunk. I shall return in a nonce. I trust that I shall not discover that I have been robbed!"

"Hold," said the officer.

"Yes?" said Boots, turning back.

"According to our records," said the officer, "you have no license. You did not petition to perform, and you did not obtain a license."

"I remember distinctly obtaining the license!" said Boots.

The officer glared at him.

"Of course, it might have been last year," said Boots. "Or maybe the year before?"

The officer was silent.

"Could I have neglected such a detail?" asked Boots, horrified. "Could such a thing have slipped my mind? It seems impossible!"

"It is not really so hard to believe," observed the officer. "It has happened three years in a row."

"No!" cried Boots, in horror.

"It is folks like you who give scoundrels and rogues a bad name," said the officer.

"What are you writing?" asked Boots anxiously.

"A disposition order," said the officer.

"To what effect, may I inquire?" pressed Boots.

"Your properties," said the officer, "including your actresses, will be confiscated. They will look well in state chains. You yourself will be publically flogged in the piazza, and the, for five years, banished from Port Kar."

"It is carnival time," I said to the officer.

"Captain?" he asked.

"What is owed?" I asked.

"The licensing fee is a silver tarsk," he said.

"Surely," I said to Boots Tarsk-Bit, "your players have taken in a silver tarsk?"

"No," he said. "We have, so far tonight, taken in only ninety-seven tarsk-bits, not even ten copper tarsks." Coinage on Gor baries considerably from city to city. IN Port Kar, and genreally in the Vosk Basin, there are ten tarsk bits to a copper tarsk and one hundred copper tarsks to a silver tarsk.

Surely you have some money saved," I said.

"Not enough," he said. "We live from day to day. Sometimes there is nothing to eat."

"More than a silver tarsk is actually involved, Captain," said the officer. "There is the matter of the last two years, as well, considerations of interest, and the customary emluments."

"I am runed," said Boots Tarsk-Bit.

"Let us not be hasty, officer," I said. "Boots Tarsk-Bit is an old friend of mine, a friend from long ago."

Boots looked at me, startled. Then he nodded, earnestly. We had known one another for quite some time now, at least ten Ehn.

"If you wish, Captain," smiled the officer, "I shall not pursue the matter further." He knew me. He had been with the fleet on the 25th of Se'Kara.

"Boots, of course, as is well known," I said, "is an honest fellow."

Boots looked startled.

"He always pays his debts," I assured the officer.

"I do?" asked Boots. "I do!" he then said quickly, firmly, to the officer.

"So pay the man," I said.

"With what?" inquired Boots, speaking to me in an intense whisper.

"With your earnings," I told him.

"They are not even ten tarsks!" hissed Boots to me, his eyes bulging.

"Check the pots of your Bina and Brigella," I said.

"I have checked them," He said.

"Check them again," I said.

He turned away, and then turned back, to stopp down and pick up the copper pot by the kaissa table.

"Leave it," I said.

He shrugged and then, straightening up, took his leave.

"he will doubtless be back for it," smiled the officer.

"He cannot, in any event, escape from the city," said one of the guards.

I reached down and picked up the pot from beside the kaissa table.

I looked down at the slave kneeling on the tiels of the piazza beside me, naked and in her collar, clutching the pastry. "You may now eat the pastry," I said. "You may now finish it." "Thank you, Master," she said, happily. She had now been under my total command for something like half of an Ahn.

I put three silver tarsks into the pot. "These cover the licesneing fees for three years," I said. It then put another silver tarsk into the pot. "This," I said, "should more than cover any interst due on the debts outstanding."

"More than enough," granted the officer.

"This tarsk," I then said, slipping it into the pot, "is for the Master of Revels."

"You are most generous," Captain," said the officer, impressed. "That is more than is normally expected."

"And this tarsk," I said, "is for you and your men."

"That is not necessary, Captain," protested the officer.

The coin dropped into the pot. "It is carnival," I smiled.

"Thank you, Captain," said the officer.

"Thank you, Captain," said the guards.

I replaced the copper pot beside the kaissa table.

I looked down at the slave. "Have you finished the pastry?" I asked.

"Yes, Master," seh smiled.

"Clean your fingers. Suck and lick them," I said.

"Yes, Master," she said. I was growing hot for her. I must soon get her to a rack.

"It is no use, kind sirs," said Boots Tarsk-Bit, returning, carrying the two empty coin bowls. "They are empty."

"What of that pot?" asked the officer, indicating the one beside the kaissa table. "That contains earnings accruing to your troupe, does it not, from your kaissa booth?"

"Alas, it contains only three tarsk bits," lamented Boots Tarsk-Bit.

"Do your trust him?" asked the officer of one of the guards.

"Not I, Sir," responded the guard.

"Open it," said the officer.

"Very well," shrugged Boots. Then, as he picked up the kettle, a strange looke suddenly came over his face. She shook it. From within it came the unmistakable dlink of several coins.

Feverishly he drew a key out of his wallet. In a moment he had unlocked the padlock on the chain and drawn it, sliding through the handles, rattling, free. He removed the lid from the kettle.

"Sly scamp, rotund rogue," scolded the officer. "You have been holding out on us."

Boots, his euyes wide, sorted through the coins in the pot.

"What is there?" asked the officer.

"Three tarsk bits," said Boots, "-and five silver tarsks."

"Three silver tarsks for licensing fees, present and past, one for interest, and one for the Master of Revels," said the officer.

Boots counted out the coins and handed them to the officer.

"Is there nothing for myself and my men?" asked the officer.

Boots drew out the last silver tarsk out of his sleeve and, sheepishly, handed it to the officer. I had not seen him place it there. He had done it very skillfully.

The girl at my feet now held my leg in her arms and kissed at my leg, whimpering.

"It seems a slave is ready for pleasure," grinned the officer, looking at me.

"Perhaps," I said, as though nonchalantly.

"The rack, Master," she whimpered. "Please take me to a rack!"

"I see that you wear the favor of a free woman," observed the officer. He referred to the rich, light, colorful scarf thrust through he eyelet of my robes.

"Yes," I said. I recalled the richly robed, veiled, wheedling free woman whom I had permitted to place it there. What a churl I would have been, considering how prettily she had begged, and she a free woman, not to have accepted it.

"Take me to the rack, Master, please, I beg it!" said the girl at my feet.

"I see that you, too, have accepted the favor of a free woman," I said.

"Yes," he said, grinning. The favor he wore was different from mine, both in border and color. In the game of Favors, of course, the favors are supposedly unique to the given woman, in pattern, material, texture, color, shape, decoration, and so forth. If they were not unique in this fashion they could not act as practical counters in the game. Similarly, of course, they would be less efficient in manifesting the results of the deeper competitions involved, those competitions in which women desperately strive against one another, each to prove themselves more desirable to men than the others. Each woman desires to be more pleasing to men than the others. This is significant. It is in their nature.

"It is interesting to me that free women play the game of Favors," I said.

"It gives them a way of flirting," he said. "Too it gives them an opportunity to put themselves, in a way, at teh mercy of the male, to engage in petitioning behaviour, suing for his indulgence. In this it is not difficult to see a form of symbolic submission, a making of themselves dependent on his will. Too, of course, it gives them a way of testing their desirability and publicly procliaming, or advertising, it."

"luscious, vain creatures," I observed. I myself had earlier speculated along these lines. To be sure, the game of Favors, like most games, customs and practices, was undoubtedly complex and multiply motivated. Too, sometimes things take on additional meanings and values as they are enriched in a a historical tradition ormore deeply or variously interpreted in different contexts.

"It also, of course, gives them a way of establishing ranking among themselves," said the officer, "which is probably about the best they can do until they find themselves enslaved, put naked on blocks and priced."

"I agree," I said. That certain games, such as that of Favors, provided a mechanism for establishing desirability ranking among females, something in which they seemed much interested, seemed clear.

"What do you think of free women?" asked the officer.

"I didn't know there were any, really," I said. Goreans have a theory that there are only two sorts of women, slaves and slaves.

"You know what I mean," he said.

"I suppose they are all right," I said. They were all right, I supposed.

"Slaves are incomparably superior," he said.

"That is true," I said. There was no comparison.

"Please, Master, take me to a rack," begged the girl at my feet.

Freedom, with its inhibitions, inertnesses and hostilities, tends to produce a blockage to the emergence of the depth female. In bondage this blockage is removed, freeing the woman to find her natural fulfillment, her fulfillment in the order of nature, that of a slave at the feet of her master.

"Please, Master," begged the girl. "I beg to be taken to a rack."

I pulled her by the arm to her feet.

"Happy carnival," I said to the officer.

"Happy carnival," said he.

"Happy carnival," I said to Boots Tarsk-Bit.

"Happy carnival," said he.

I thrust the slave ahead of me, and we pressed through the crowds. In a few Ehn we had crossed the piazza and come to the racks. There were two sorts, refined, adjustable strap racks, with beddings of flat, soft, criss-crossed straps, with sturdy stud-and-eyelet securing straps, and simple net racks, little more than sturdy wooden frames within which was slung a netlike webbing of rope. In these riacks, if one wishes to secure the woman within the webbing, simple cords are used. There were also some trestles. I took the slave to one of the net racks. The strap racks were all in use.

I saw the free woman who had worn the brief cloth about her hips near the racks.

I threw the slave on her belly on the netting and then turned her to her back. I had her place her wrists and ankles through the netting in certain fashions. I did not bother secure her in position. I then joined her on the netting. In moments, gasping, looking at me wildly, gratefully, she was in the throes of slave orgasm. To arouse a free woman to the point of orgasm, even the sort of which she is capable, takes, usually, from a third to a quarter of an Ahn. The reflexes of the slave, on the other hand, for psychological reasons, and because of her training, can be much more easily, profoundly and frequently activated. This is not really surprising. The free woman, after all is a free woman and the slave is a slave.

"Buy me," said the salve, intensely. "You have money. Buy me, please! I will serve you well!"

I kissed her, and withdrew from her; in a moment I stood beside the rack, adjusting my robes.

"May I break position, Master?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.

"She removed her hands and feet from the netting, slipped from the rack and came to kneel before me. She put down her head and kissed my feet. The marks of the rope, where she had lain on the netting, were on her body. She then looked up at me. "I did not meaqn to be forward, before," she said. "Please, forgive me. Beat me, if you wish."

I lifted her to her feet, and kissed her. "It is all right," I said.

She looked at me.

"Go, seek out your own master," I said. "See that you give him even more pleasure than you did me."

"Yes, Master," she smiled, and turned, disappearing into the crowd. A slave's first duty it to her own master.

"Paga?" invitd a fellow, reeling by.

We exchanged swigs from our botas, I from his, he from mine.

I saw the free woman standing, watching, she with the frief bit of cloth about her hips. I looked at her. It was interesting, I thought, that she had now come to the vicinity of the pleasure racks. Our eyes met. I looked imperiously to the rack. She shrank back, in terror. When I looked back again she was half crouched over, her head in her hands, her body shaken with fear and sobs. I then left the area of the racks. It was bout that time that I caught sight, once again, of Henrius and Vina. In a small space, with Henrius and some men about, to the music of some nearby musicians, the men clapping and keeping time, she was dancing. She did well. She might have been a nude, leashed, harnessed street dancer, one of the lowest forms of dancer on Gor. Soon, I suspected, Henrius would take her to a rack, or perhaps back to his holding. she was an incredibly lovely young slave, and loved him from the depths of her heart. Her perspiration had run in trickles through the paint on her body. I watche dher for a moment. How real and alive she was, the slave.

I turned away, troubled by some thought, but I could not, at the moment, determine what it was. It ws now gowing late and I thought perhaps I should consider returning to my holding. It was then that I recalled my earlier conversation with Henrius. He had told me that someone was looking for me. I wondered who thism ight be. Perhaps it had to do with Samos. Surely Samos, the last time I had been in his holding, had been evasive. Someone wished to see me, as I recalled, in Booth Seventeen. I turned my steps, curious as to what might be involved, toward the purple booths. The purples booths are normally maintained by slavers, used as locations in which girls, usually higher-quality slaves, more expensive merchandise, may be inspected and tried by bonafide buyers or their agents. Such booths are usually set up in the courtyards of slaver's houses and at special times, generally in the neighborhood of holidays and festivals. At other times, of course, such girls may be examined and tested in private chambers in the slaver's houses. The purple booths set up now in the piazza, however, had to do with the time of carnival. They were, in effect, good-will and promotional devices, donated to the festivities, for the pleasures of free men, by the houses of various slavers. The house of samos, for example, provided the first five booths, each complete with its furnishings, including a charming occupant. His fifth booth, as I had heard, contained the slave, Rowena. He wished to bring her along quickly. As I recalled, he intended to soon sell her, with several others, at the Fair of En'Kara, near the Sardar. Some men think that the girls in the public purple booths are much the same as those vended from the private purple booths on other occasions. Generally, however, as most men know, this is not the case. For example, Rowena was a new slave. Thus, even though she was very beautiful, she would probably not, in virtue of her inexperience, even be considered for a private-booth showing for several months or a year. It takes time for a girl to develop adequate skills.

I walked along the line of the booths until I came to Booth Seventeen. Most of the booths had the curtains drawn, and the lining of the booths and curtains is usually opaque. In two booths the threshold curtains were partly open. In one I saw a slave, naked, writhing slowly in chains before a man, his hands upon her. In another I saw a slave and her lover-master of the moment in one another's arms half oof the large, soft cushion on which the slave, customarily, kneeling, in obeisance, greeets the booth's entrant. Outside most of the booths two or three men were waiting. Interestingly enough, on Booth Seventeen, there was a sign pinned on the front of the booth, near the entrance curtain. It said, "Closed." The curtain itself was drawn shut, but it did not appear, from the look of it, from its lack of tautness, to be secured from the inside. I looked about. There were men about, some with carnival masks, but none seemed concerned with this booth. I waited outside the booth for a few moments. Noone, however, approached me. To be sure, I was supposed to meet the individual in Booth Severnteen, according to what Henrius had been told. I wondered who had spoken to him. I wondered if this matter had to do with Priest-Kings. To be sure, it seemed mysterious. Any normal business, I supposed, would have been conducted in more normal fashions.

I brushed aside the curtain and entered the booth, permitting the curtain, not much drawn on its rings, to fall shut behind me. A small tharlarion-oil lamp lit the interior of the booth. The booth was the only one furnished by the house of Vart, once Publius Quintus of Ar, a minor slaver in Port Kar. I had not seen him around outside. I wondered why the booth was closed. He had perhaps rented the space to someone for an Ahn or so. Perhaps the whole matter was a mistake. On the large cushion, sofr, and some five feet in diameter, toward the back of the booth, there lay a small, lovely body. It was a tiny, luscious redhead. She lay terribly still, extremely still. I approached her and, crouching down beside her, put my fingertips to the side of her throat, by the collar. She was alive. I puller her to a seated position on the cushion and smelled her mouth and lips, and gently, carefully, delicately, touched her lips with my tongue. I detected nothing. There was a smear of Ka-la-na wine at the left side of her mouth. Tassa powder had doubtless been used on her. It is traceless, and effective. I did not hting she would awaken for hours. The lamp flickered slightly. Her wrists had been thonged behind her; her ankles, too, had been crossed and thonged. The thongs were narrow, dark and tight. I put her back on the cusion.

I jerked my body suddenly to the side, to evade the grasping left arm, seeking to hod the target in place for the short, low right-handed thrust of the knife, or the throat attack, if the assailant was right-handed, and fo the assassins or the warriors. The small tharlarion-oil lamp had been placed in such a way that no shadow would be cast by it of a figure entering through the curtain. Warriors notice such things. Too, in permitting the curtain to fallshut behind me, I had not interfered with the antural closure of the booth. Had it not closed in this fashion I would have adjusted it shut. It is difficult to move such a curtain, heavy and lined as it is, customary in purple booths, without rustle of fabric, or the scraping of one or more of the rings. Too, of course, the air in the booth changes slightly as the curtain is moved, admitting it. The flame of the tiny lamp had flickered, too, in this shifting of air. The knife and arm, howeer, descending, passed over my body. The high stroke has various disadvantages. It begins from farther back and thus makes it difficult to use the left hand or arm to secure the target. It is easier to block. It does not have the same power as the short blow. The blade that has only six inches to move, with a full weight behind it, other things being equal, effects a deeper penetration than a blade wich must move farther and has behind it primarily the weight of a shoulder and arm. Too, of course, the stab from a shorter distance at closer range, point-blank range, so to speak, is likely to be more accurate. The target, after the initiation of the blow, even it if is not held in place, has very little time, given the mathmatics of reflexes, to shift its position. My assailant, I gathered, was neither of the assassins or warriors.

I rolled to the side, my hand going instinctively for the blade in my sheath, but the sheath, the weapon earlier surrendered at the check point through which I had entered the piazza, was empty. The man adjusted quickly, very quickly. he was fast. he wore a half mask. The blade had cut into the cushion. Before I could rise to my feet he was upon me. We grappled. I caught his wrist, turning the blade inward. Suddenly he relaxed. I left the blade in him. I was breathing heavily. I pulled away the half mask. He was the fellow hwom I had seen at the check point. Too, we had spoken together near the magician's stage.

I rifled through his robes. I could find no identification. Probably he had seen me throw the golden tarn disk to the stage. His motivation, doubtless, had been robbery. Yet I had seen him earilier at the check point. That could have been a coincidence, I supposed. I opened his wallet. It was filled with golden staters, from Brundisium, a port on the coast of Thassa, on the mainland, a hundred pasangs or so south of the Vosk's delta, one reported to have alliances with Ar. Robbery, then, did not seem a likely motivation. I knew little about Brundisium. Supposedly it had relations with Ar. I wondered if this were the fellow who had arranged to meet with me in Booth Seventeen. I did not think Vart, the slaver whose booth this was, was likely to be involved. He had probably just rented the booth. If he was involved he would have been stupid to use his own booth. Too, I suspected he had little love for Ar, and perhaps thus for Brundisium. He had once been banished from Ar, and nearly impaled, for the falsification of slave data, misrepresenting merchandise as to its level of training and skill.

I, too, had once been denied salt, bread and fire in Ar, and banished from the city. I did not think, however, that Marlenus, of Ar, her Ubar, he who had banished me, would be likely to send a covert assassin from Brundisium against me, from Brundisium perhaps to make the coneection with Ar seem unlikely or tenuous. If he wished to have it out with me, presumably he would do so, with his own blade. Marlenus was too direct and proud for such deviousness. Too, we were not really enemies. Too, if he had wished to send an assassin against me, presumably he would have done so long ago. Too, the fact that the stateres in the fellow's wallet were from Brundisuim did not mean that he himself was from that city. Anyone might have paid him in the staters of Brundisium. What enemies did I have? Perhaps, after all, robbery was the fellow's motivation.

I shuddered. I did not understand what had happened. I did not like what had happened.

I looked to the slave. I turned her to her belly on the cushion, putting her head to the side. I was disturbed, shaken and tense. I untied her ankles. Too, I had made a kill. I must calm myself. It is one of the things women are for. She whimpered, pounded, her small hands twisting in the tight leather thongs. I then tied her ankles together again, and then, this time, fastened her wrists to her ankles. I then tied the wallet, filled with the golden staters of Brundisium, about her collar. That would give Vart some consolation, I suspected, for the scandal he would find in his booth.

"Tarl," I heard, a voice speaking softly, outside the curtain. It was the voice of Samos.

"Enter," I said.

"I have been looking all over for you," he said. "I saw Henrius. He suggested you might be here." Samos' eyes opened widely. "What is going on here?" he asked. "Who is that?"

"Do you know him?" I asked.

"No," said Samos, examining the body.

"He tried to kill me," I said.

"Why?" he asked. "The slave?"

"No," I said. "I think perhaps robbery."

"His robes seem rich," said Samos.

"In his wallet were several staters, of gold, from Brundisium," I said.

"That is a valuable stater," said Samos. "It has good weight."

"He knew I was carrying gold," I said. "I had given evidence of this in rewarding a magician in the carnival."

"Even so," said Samos, "it would seem, from what you say, that he stood in no need of money."

"I do not think so," I said. "Yet robbery seems the only likely explanation."

"I do not know," said Samos. "Perhaps you are right."

"You sound doubtful," I observed.

"Thieves, my friend," said Samos, "seldom carry gold on their persons."

"Perhaps he had stolen it this evening," I said.

"No soncdierable therft has been reported this evening," said Samos, "as far as I know. It was not in the recent reports of the guards."

"Perhaps he slew the individual from whom he stole the coins and then thrust the body into a canal," I suggested.

"Perhaps," said Samos. "But his mode of garb does not suggest that of the elusive, quick-moving thief."

"It might make it easier to approach a victim," I suggested.

"Perhaps," said Samos.

"Too, robes would make it easier to get a knife through the check points at carnival," I said.

"Perhaps," said Samos.

"You do not seem convinced," I said.

"I am not," said Samos.

"This booth is closed," I said. "I gather that you did not rent it and close it."

"No," said Samos.

"Henrius," I said, "told me that someone wished to see me here."

"Was that before this fellow saw you throw gold to the magician?" asked Samos.

"No," I said. "Afterwards."

"Perhaps that is the explanation, then," said Samos.

"I do not think so," I said. "It was really not very long after I left the magician's platform that I saw Henrius. I do not think it likely that the arrangement could have been made that quickly. Too, Henrius, as I recall, did not speak as though he had just been contacted."

"He did not deny it, either, di he?" asked Samos.

"No," I said. "But if the fellow was a stranger, a common thief, how would he be likley to know my name, or of any connection between myself and Henrius, or others?"

"That is true," said Samos.

"The booth, too, presumably would have to be rented, and the slave drugged," I said.

"I see," said Samos. "It seems likely then, if he is a common thief, that he would have merely followed you here, and is not the fellow who spoke to Henrius, or who would be connected with the booth in some way."

"Yes," I said. "but then who would have rented the booth, who would have wanted to see me here?"

"What have we there?" asked Samos, gesturing to the girl, bound hand and foot on the cushion, the wallet tied at her dollar.

"A drugged slave," I said.

"Was she unconscious when you entered the booth?"

"Yes," I said.

"Then she probably would not be able to give helpful witness," he said.

"She might know who drugged her," I said.

"Presumbably she would only know that it was some fellow in a mast," said Samos. "Too, it may bery well have been done to her by her master, Vart, whose booth this is, he doing this under instructions."

"We could contact Vart," I said.

"The fellow to whom he rented the booth would presumably have been masked," said Samos. "It is, after all, carnival time. I doubt that Vart would be able to help us. Besides he is not noted, anyway, for his excessive concern for scrupulosity in his business dealings."

"What, then, do you think?" I asked.

"The signs, it seems to me," said Samos, "suggest a calculated ambush and one in which your friend here was probably implicated."

"I agree," I said. "You are thinking, then, in terms of a carefully planned robbery?"

"Not really," said Samos. "All things considered, such as the coins in his wallet, robbery sems to me, at least, to be a very unlikely motive for this attack."

"What could have been the possible motivation then?" I asked.

"I do no know," he said. "Who do you know who might wish to hav this done?" he asked.

"I do not know," I said. "What did you wish to see me about?"

His face clouded.

"You wish to speak to me," I said.

"Yes," he said.

"Let us leave the booth," I suggested.

"No," he said. "Not now. I must speak to you privately in any case. This place is as good as any. Then we will leave the booth separately. It would not be good for us to be seen together at this time."

"Why not?" I asked.

"I fear spies," he said.

"The spies of Kurii?" I asked.

"No," he said.

"Of whom, then?" I asked, puzzled.

"Of Priest-Kings," he said.

"I do not understand," I said, puzzled.

"I think there is a new order in the Sardar," he said. "I suspect it."

"That is possible," I granted him. I remembered the tale of Yngvar the Far-Traveled.

"Twice, rather recently, I have heard from the Sardar," he said, "once some ten days ago, and once yesterday."

"What is the import of these messages?" I inquired.

"They pertain to the arrest and detention of one who is reputed to be an enemy of Priest-Kings."

"Who is he?" I inquired. "Perhaps I can be of assistance in his apprehension."

"His name," said Samos, "is Tarl Cabot."

"That is absurd!" I said.

"When the first message arrived, some day ago, I was certain there was some grievous error involved. I sent back to the Sarder for confirmation, if only to buy time."

"It is no wonder you were so uneasy when I ws in your holding," I said.

"I wanted to speak to you," he said, "but did not know if I should do so. I thought it best, finally, not to do so. If the whole thing turned out to be a mistake, as I was sure it would, we could then, at a later date, no harm done, have a fine laugh over the matter."

"But yesterday," I said, "the confirmation arrived."

"Yes," he said, "and the terms of the orders are unmistakable."

"What are you going to do?" I asked. "I am unarmed. Doubtless you have men outside."

"Do not be silly," he said. "We are friends and we have stood together with blades before enemies. I would betray Priest-Kings before I owuld betray you."

"You are a brave man," I said, "to risk the wrath of Priest-Kings."

"The most they can take is my life," he said, "and if I were to lose my honor, even that would be worthless."

"What are you going to do?" I asked.

"I am sure," he said, "that this whole business is founded on some mistake, that it can be rectified, but the orders are clear. But I will need time."

"What are you going to to?" I asked.

"I shall send a report to the Sardar tomorrow," he said, "dated tomorrow. I shall inform the Sardar that I am unable to carry out their orders for I am unable to loacte you, that you have apparently left the city."

"I see," I said.

"In the meantime," he said, "I shall press for further clarifications, and a full inquiry into the matter, detailed explanations, and so on. I shall attempt to get to the bottom of things. Some terrible mistake must surely be involved."

"What are the charges?" I asked.

"That you have betrayed the cause of Priest-Kings," he said.

"How can I have betrayed their cause?" I asked. "I am not really an agent of Priest-Kings. I have never pledged a sword to them, never sworn a fidelity oath in their behalf. I am my own men, a mercenary of sorts, one who has, upon occasion, as it pleased him, labored in their behalf."

"It may be no easier to withdraw from the service of Priest-Kings than from that of Kurii," said Samos.

"In what way have I frustrated or jeopardized their cause?" I asked. "How have I supposedly subjected them to the insidiousness of betrayal?"

"You saved the life of Zarendargar, War General of the Kurii, in the Barrens," said Samos.

"Perhaps," I said. "I am not really sure of it."

"That was your avowedc intention, was it not, in entering the Barrens?" asked Samos.

"Yes," I said. "I wished to warn h im of the Death Squad searching him out. ON the other hand, as it turned out, he anticipated the arrival of such a group. He might have survived anyway. I do not know."

"Also, as I understand it," said Samos, "you had dealings with him in the Barrens, and ample opportunity there to attemp to capture or kill him."

"I suppose so," I admitted.

"But you did not do so," said Samos.

"That is true," I said.

"Why not?" asked Samos.

"Once we shared paga," I said.

"Is that what I am to tell the Sardar?" asked Samos, ironically.

"I see your point," I said.

"The Sarder, by now," said Samos, "probably views you as an agent of one of the parties of Kurii, and as a traitor, and one who probably knows too much."

"Perhaps I should turn myself in," I smiled.

"I do not think I would recommend that," smiled Samos. "Rather I think you should conveniently disappear from Port Kar for a time, until I manage to resolve these confusion and ambiguities."

"Where shall I go?" I asked.

"I do not want to know," said Samos.

"Do you think you will be successful in straightening this matter out?" I asked.

"I hope so," he said.

"I do not think you will be successful," I said. "I think the Sardar has already acted."

"I do not understand," said Samos.

"You received the first message some ten days ago," I said.

"Yes," he said.

"I expect its terminology, and such, was clear," I speculated.

Samos shrugged. "I suppose so," he said.

"You may have endangerd yourself by your delaying," I said.

"How is that?" asked Samos.

"The Sarder transmits a clear message," I said. "Instead of an acknowledgement and compliance report it recieves a request for clarification or confirmation, and that from an agent of high intelligence an dproven efficiency. This informed the Sardar that you were reluctant to carry out the orders. Furthermore, our friendship is not unknown, I am sure, to the Sardar. It is not difficult to conjecture the nature of the response in the Sardar. Presumably it has been decided that oyu are not to be relied upon in this matter. Indeed, you yourself, in virtue of your reswponse, may now be suspect to them."

"I recieved the confirmation yesterday," said Samos, lamely.

"That may have been to conceal from you any apprehensions existing in the Sardar as to your loyalty."

"Perhaps," he whispered.

"In any event the delay between the messages has given independent agents of Priest-Kings time to arrive in Port Kar. It may also have been noted that you did not act immediately upon the receipt of the confirmation."

"What are you saying?" asked Samos, agast.

"I think I have an explanation which makes sense of this little arrair in the booth," I said.

"No!" said Samos.

I looked down at the fellow in the rich robes, the knife protruding from his chest.

"I think I have just killed an agent of Priest-Kings," I said.

"No!" said Samos.

I shrugged. We could hear the sounds of carnival outside.

"If anyone," said Samos, "Kurii must have sent him."

"Perhaps," I said.

"Priest-Kings would not behave in such a way," said Samos.

"Perhaps," I said.

"Leave the city," he said.

"In his wallet were staters of Brundisium," I said. "Do you know anything about Brundisium, anything having to do with either Priest-King or Kurii?"

"No," said Samos.

"Then the Brundisium staters are probably meaningless," I said.

"I would suppose so," said Samos. "They are, of course, a valuable stater. There would be noting incredible about thier use being specified in a given transaction."

"Why not coinage of Ar," I asked, "or that of Port Kar, or of Asperiche, or Tharna, or Tyros, or Schendi, or Turia?"

"I do not know," said Samos.

"How will I know if it is safe to return to Port Kar?" I asked.

"From time to time," said Samos, "presumably you youself, incognito, or an agent acting on your behalf, might be in the city. Do you know the slave chains I have hanging behind the banner on the banner bar to the left of my threshold, where the bar meets the wall, those that have tied there with them a bit of scarlet slave silk?"

"Yes," I said.

"When it is safe for you to again appear publicly in Port Kar, when it is safe for you to again make contact with me, the scarlet slave silk will be replaced with yellow."

"I understand," I said.

"I wish you well," he said. We clapsed hands.

"I wish you well," I said.

Samos then withdrew from the booth. I remained inside for a few Ehn. It would not be well for him to be seen with me at this time. I looked at the man on the rug, that flooring the booth spread over the tiels of the piazza, he in whose heart I had left his own knife. I recalled the tale of Yngvar, the Far-Traveled. There was a new order, I surmised, in the Sardar. I did not regret what I had done in the case of Zarendargar. Once we had shared paga.

"I listened to the merriment of the revelers outside, to the cires, the horns and music.

I must leave Port Kar tonight. I would go to my holding; I would make arrangements; I would obtain weapons, moneys, letters of credit. I could be gone in two Ahn, on tarnback, before Priest-Kings discovered the failure of their plans.

I looked back at the samll, lovely redheaded slave bound hand and foot on the large cushion, the wallet filled with teh staters of Brundisium tied at her collar. Throughout all that had transpired in the booth she had not regained consciousness. Tassa powder is efficient.

I then left the booth. In a moment I was again making my way through the crowds of carnival.

I was bitter.

I would take no men with me. I had no wish to endanger them, nor to involve them in the dark matters of warring worlds. Too, the best guarantee of the safety of Samos, ti seemed to me, was my departure from the city. He was my friend. He had risked much fo rme. I could be gone in two Ahn, on tarnback, before Priest-Kings discovered the failure of their plans.

"Paga?" inquired a fellow.

"Of course," I said. It was carnival.

We exchanged swigs, I from his bota, he from mine. Then he turned aside, to offer paga to another. I stepped back, while one of the gigantic fellows, on stilts, stalked by. I was jostled. I checked my wallet. It was intact.

I then continued on my way, pressing through the throngs.

"Master," said a woman, kneeling before me. She put down her head and kissed my feet, and then looked up at me.

I recognized her. She was the free woman whom I had seen earlier, she masquerading as a slave, with the brief bit of cloth about her hips.

"What do you want?" I asked.

"I have been in agony for two Ahn," she said. "I am now ready, of my own free will, to go to a rack."

Ilooked down at her. Women are very beautiful on thier knees.

"Please," she said, "-Master."

"precede me," I said.

She rose to her feet and, frightened, trrembling, I behind her, made her way through the crowds.

At one point we were literally stopped in the press.

"Paga?" asked a fellow, waiting beside me. We exchanged swigs. Then, in a few moments, the ccrowd loosened and, once again, I followed the female.

She came to the foot of a rack and stopped, regarding it. It was one of the strap racks, not a simple net rack, or rope rack. It was now open. Frightened, she crawled upon it, and then lay on it, on her back, on the broad, soft, flat, smooth, comfortable interlaced straps.

"I have never been on a rack before," she said.

"Not all of them are this comfortable," I assured her.

"I do not doubt it," she smiled. The comfort of the slave may or may not be taken into consideration by the master, as it pleases him. They are only slaves.

"You are a free woman," I said. "You need not go through with this."

"Touch me," she said.

"Paga?" asked a fellow. We exchanged swigs. Then he was on his way. He had not concerned himself with the woman. He had assumed she was a slave. She was, after all, half naked, in a collar and on a pleasure rack.

"I had to wait," she said, wonderingly.

"If you are going to masquerade as a salve," I said, "you should grow accustomed, at least in some respects, to being treated as a slave."

"Yes," she said.

"Suppose it were not a masquerade," I said.

"I understand," she said. Her eyes briefly clouded. I saw that she was frightened. I saw that she had just had some inkling as to what it might be to be truly a slave, to be truly, utterly, at the mercy of masters.

"Leap up," I suggested. "Flee the rack. Hurry home. If the straps are fastened upon you, it will be too late."

"No," she whispered.

"But what of respect and dignity?" I asked. "Surely you desire these, desperately."

"I have had respect and dignity for years," she said, "and they are empty! I have had my fill of respect and dignity! For years I have been betrayed and deluded by those trivializing, vacuous, negative verbalitites! I do not want respect and dignity! Obviously they are not the answer. If they were, I should be happy, but I am not! I do not want respect and dignity! I want fulfillment, and truth!"

I saw that her sexual drives were far too strong to be appropriate for those of a free woman. In her there was an eager, succumbing slave.

"Now I want to be overwhelmed, dominated. Now I want to tatke my place in the order of nature. Now I wasnt to be what I am, and have always been, truly, a woman!"

In every woman, of course, Goreans think, there is a slave. Perhaps, in the end, there is no difference.

She looked at me, pleadingly.

"You are a free woman," I told her.

She moaned.

"It would seem thus," I said, "at least according to some, that you are entitled to respect and dignity."

"I have never encountered a convincing proof to that effect," she said. "Have you?"

"No," I said.

"Oh, would that i were a slave," she smiled. "Then I owuld not have to concern myself with such matters. Then I would only have to mind my manners and make certain that I pleased my masters, totally."

"To be sure," I said, "many of the matters with which the free woman must concern herself are simply irrelevant to the slave."

"Such as dignity and respect," she said.

"Yes," I said.

"Undre those names I have gone for years," she said.

"And yet, now," I said, "you have come, and of your own free will, to a rack."

"There comes a time," she said, "when the slogans no loner suffice, a tiem when the myth is seen to be meaningless."

"And such a time came for you?" I said.

"Yes," she said.

"And then you put on a collar and came to carnival."

"Yes," she said, "and to a rack!"

"Interesting," I said.

"Are you going to touch me?" she asked.

"I do not know," I said.

"You would use me withont a second thought if I were a slave," she said. "You are puttting me through this because I am a free woman. That is why oyu are making me suffer! That is why you are torturing me! Do you want me to beg?"

"Surely that would be unseemly in a free woman," I said.

"If I were a slave," she smiled, "I would beg quickly enough."

"I do not doubt it," I said. I could sense that whe was quite hot, for a free woman. To be sure, as a free woman, she could not even begin to suspect what it might be to tbe in the throes of slave need, to be slave hot, so to speak.

"Are you going to touch me?" she asked.

"I do not know," I siad, musingly.

She twisted her head angrily, in frustration, to dhe side, on the surface of broad, soft, interlaced straps.

"You are free to leave, of course," I said. "You have not yet been fastened in place."

"And what if I were fastened in place?" she asked.

"Then you would not be free to leave," I said.

"I see," she said. She lay back on the straps, and lifted her knees, and put her hands above and behind her, hooking her fingers in the interstices of the broad straps. She looked at me.

"I think there may be a slave in you," I said.

"Very well," she said. "You win. I beg rape."

I regarded her.

"Do you find me attractive?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Do you want me?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Then take me," she said. "I am yours."

"You are a free woman," I said. "Thus, it would doubtless be improper for me to subject you to powerful uses. It is up to me, doubless, to see that you are protected from, indeed, shielded from, powerful sexual insights and experiences. You do not need to know what it is to be under male dominance. It is doubeless best that you never learn. It might change your life. Similarly, it is probably best that you learn nothing of helpless obedience, of submission and total surrender. It is difficult to tell where shuch things might lead. All in all, you had best remain on the superficial levels of sexuality, those appropriate to a free woman, unaware that anything deeper and more profound exists."

She looked a me, angrily.

"It seems thus," I said, "that I must refrain from responding to your needs, real and urgent though they may be."

"Do you think that I wll respect you for falsifying your manhood," she cried, "for denying it, for pretending it does not exist! Ultimately I would only despise you for your self-betrayal! Is honesty too much to ask from men? If you will not be a man, how can I be a woman? If I were a man, I would be a true man, and I would never betray my manhood! It would be precious to me! I would rejoice in it! And I would teach women, which is what we want, what it is to be women! I would be merciless with them! I would be their master!"

"That is what you want?" I asked.

"Yes," she said, "for without it, we cannot be women."

I reached to one of the straps. It was a holding strap. These straps are adjustable. I would take it twice snugly about her wrist and then, angling it, press the cap-topped stud at the end of the strap, from the bottom, up through one of the small, sturdy, suitable eyelets on the same strap. No buckles are used. The occupant of the rack, of course, because of the nature of the cap-topped stud and the eyelet, cannot, from her position, free herself. She is helpless. The arrangement, tus, is not only such that teh girl finds herself, when the straps are on her, held in perfect custody, but this custody, in virtue of the nature of the studs and eyelets, may be easily imposed or removed, a convenience to the handler. "If I fasten these upon you, you will be helpless," I said.

I began with her wrists, and then I secured her ankles.

"Free yourself," I suggested.

She struggled. "I cannot," she said. She looked at me, frightened. "I am as helpless as a slave," she said.

I regarded her. She was extremely attractive.

"What are you doing?" she cried. My hands were at the string holding the cloth about her hips.

"I am going to lay aside your veil," I told her.

"No," she begged.

I undid the string.

"I shall cry out!" she threatened.

"Then it will only be necessary to gag you," I said.

"Please," she begged. "I have changed my mind! RElease me!"

"It is too late for htat," I said.

"Please," she pleaded.

"I am only human," I said.

"Please," she pleaded.

"No," I told her.

Then she lay back on the soft, broad straps, moaning. The cloth at her hips, now freed, ahd been brushed to the sides. No longer now between us lya the least impediment. She was now, as it is sometiems said on Gor, slvae naked.

She looked at me. I put down my head and began to kiss her, and lick her, slowly about the belly.

"Oh!" she said.

And in a few moments, she was trying to move her body beneath my mouth, trying to bring me to other positions on her body. Her movements were mute, helpless pleas.

"Ohhhh!" she said suddenly, softly.

"Now," I said, "you must restrain yourself. You must try not to move."

"I cannot hel myself," she said.

"It would be easy enough for me to desert you now," I said, "leaving you in the straps."

She moaned.

"You will not move now," I said, "until you receive permission."

"I will try," she said.

I then continued to lick and kiss at her, softly. She began to whimper and moan. I looked at her. Her eyes were wild, pleading. I put my hands on her belly. It was tense and hot, throbbing with blood and need. "Do not move," I told her.

"No," she said, "no!"

I then resumed my ministrations to her body. They were such as might be inflicted upon a woman who was no more than a slave.

"Please!" she whimpered, "Please! Please!"

"Very well," I said. "You may move."

She cried out and seemed to explode under me, sobbing with joy and helplessness. Then she looked at me wildly, still held in the straps, disbelief in her eyes. Then I entered her and took her, not gently. "Oh," she cried. "Master! Master!" Then again she lay back on the straps, helpless.

"I have business to attend to," I said. Indeed, I must soon make away from Port Kar.

"Tarry but a moment," she begged. She was in a position to do no more than beg, secured as she was.

I lay beside her and kissed her, and held her, for a moment.

"Thank you," she breathed.

"I think there is a slave in you," I said.

"I know. I know, Master," she whispered.

"Perhaps you should consider the collar," I said.

"Such thoughts are not new to me," she said. "I have had them for years."

"It must be a difficult choice for a woman," I said, "the choice between freedom and love."

I rose from the rack, and drew my robes about me.

"I have business to attend to," I said. I should soon leave the city. I adjusted my wallet.

"Yes, Master," she said.

I freed her from the flexible, efficient restraints, and helped her courteously from the rack.

"Thank you," she said. "You are very kind." I restrained her from kneeling. She was, after all, a free woman. "Was I pleasing?" she asked.

"That question seems more appropriate to a slave than a free woman," I said.

"I ask it," she said.

"Is it important to you?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

"Yes," I said. "You were pleasing."

"Wonderful!" she said.

"For a free woman," I added.

"Oh," she said.

"Certainly you did not think to be able to compete with a slave," I said. "You would not have her experience, her skills, her training. You have not been forced to live with and endure slave heat. You have not been forced to learn submission, obedience, service, passion and love. You have not yet been sensitized to her collar."

"Suppose I became a slave," she said. "Do you think I might become a pleasing slave?"

"You have generated a great deal of heat," I said. "That is an excellent sign."

"Do you think, in time, I might make an adequate slave?" she asked.

"Yes," I said, "and perhaps, in time, even a superb one."

"That is high praise," she smiled.

"You had better wear this," I said, handing her the brief bit of cloth which she had worn about her hips. "If men see you without it, they may be stimulated, and you may be raped several times on the tiles before you manage to leave the piazza. Many men are drunk here tonight and they may be careless. They may not think to chick your body for brands. You might be had before they determined their error."

Smiling, she tied the cloth about her hips.

"Farewell," said I, "Free Woman."

"Will I see you again?" she asked.

"It is not likely," I speculated.

"Do you wish to know my name?" she asked.

"No," I said, "nor is it needful for you to know mine."

"I see," she said.

"It was only a touching at carnival," I said.

"I see," she said.

"Happy carnival," I said.

"Happy carnival," she said. Then she turned about and, sobbing, fled away. I watched her go. Her body was hormonally rich. That was evident in the configuration of her beauty and in her dispositions and reflexes, exhibited on the rack. Too, she was profoundly feminine. She had now disappeared among the revelers. Her body, I though, would make the decision for her.

"I see that you have won the favor of a free woman," said a man.

"What?" I asked. I thought he referred to the free woman, she who had just disappeared among the revelers.

"That," he said, indicating the silken favor in the eyelet of my robes.

"Oh!" I said. "yes, it would seem so." I looked at the favor. I had forgotten it.

"Paga?" said he, extending his bota.

"Surely," I said. We exchanged swigs of paga.

"It must be ice to have won the favor of a free woman," he said.

"I and a few hundred other fellows," I said.

"That particular favor," he said.

"Alas," I said, "even there I fear I am but one of ten."

"One out of fifteen," he said.

"Oh?" I said.

"Yes," he said.

I shrugged. The game of favors can be played with any number of favors and contestants, but the usual number of favors distributed is ten.

"Happy carnival," he said.

"Happy carnival," I said.

I turned to proceed to the check point where I would turn in my numbered receipt and reclaim my weapons. The crowds had thinned now, but the piazza was till, for the most part, crowded.

I stumbled, and then straightened myself. Surely I had not had that much paga.

I took another step or two, and then I slipped to one knee. The piazza seemed to move beneath me. I caught my balance. I was conscious of masks and costumes swirling about.

"What is wrong?" asked a voice.

"He has had too much paga," said another voice.

I wanted to rise to my feet, but I slipped to the tiles.

"It is al right," said a voice.

Things began to grow dark. I fought to retain consciousness. It was difficult to move. I could not speak.

"Put a mask on him," whispered a voice.

I felt a carnival mask fastened on me.

"No," I seemed to say, but no sound escaped my lips.

I felt myself lifted to my feet, each of my arms held about the shoulders of a man.

"What is wrong with him," asked a voice.

"Too much paga," responded a voice.

"Is he all right?" asked a voice.

"Yes," said a voice.

"No!" I wanted to cry, but could not.

"Do you require help?" asked a man.

"No," said a voice, that of one of the two men supporting me.

"Are you sure?" asked the man.

"Yes, citizen," said the other fellow supporting me. "We will manage quite well. Thank you."

I then sensed we were alone.

"Put him in the boat, with the others," said a voice. It was a woman's voice.

I then lost consciousness.

3 Lady Yanina

"That one," she had said. "Have him brought to my tent."

"Go in," said the guard.

I lowered my head and entered the tent. I moved my hands upon my wrists. They were ringed and sore where the manacles, too closely fitted, had clasped them. I straightened my body.

The tent was one of rich cloths, supported by five poles. It was rich with hangings and, about its interior circumference, furnished with suitable appointments, including vessels, cushions, a low inlaid table, cases and trunks. These, with the various materials for the tent, and its poles, had been disembarked from a large, high-wheeled wagon. I, with several others, in harness, some others chained by the neck behind, had drawn this wagon for the past two days.

I, and others, had awakened to the blows of spear butts, three days ago.

"On your knees," we had been told, "head to the dirt! You are in the presence of your Mistress!"

We had struggled to our knees. Our hands were namacled behind our backs. There seemed the stench of fish on us. We were connected by the neck, by collars and chains.

I had been aware of someone stopping before me.

"Lift your head," had said a woman's voice.

I looked up. She was veiled, and clad, too, in robes of concealment, sumptuous robes which seemed incongruous in the open terrain, the grassy field, in which I found myself. I looked about, seeing what guards I could. I saw five. I felt her tharlarion quirt at the side of my face, indicating I should keep my head forward. Then it pressed up, under my chin. I lifted my head higher, obedient to the quirt, looking up at her. "That is better," she said. She looked at me. "It seems I have won the game of favors," she said.

"At least for now," I said.

"In the distribution of my favors in the piazza in Port Kar," she said, "I had two major criteria in mind. Would you like to know what they were?"

"Of course," I said.

"First," she said, "the males must be large and strong. They must be suitable for inclusion in a work chain. They must be capable, with their bestial strength, of sustaining indefinitely so onerous a servitude."

"And what is your second criterion," I asked, "that which they must also meet, what is that?"

"I must find them, personally, of some sexual interest," she said.

"I see," I said.

"We are going to get on splendidly, aren't we?" she asked.

"On whose terms?" I asked.

"On mine," she said.

"I do not know," I said.

"Do you know how to obey?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Then I am sure we will get on splendidly-on my terms," she said.

"Perhaps," I said.

She withdrew the quirt from beneath my chin. "Put your head down," she said, "-to the dirt."

I did so. And, in a moment, she had continued on down the line, pausing her and there to order another fellow to lift his head, to be commanded and interrogated, and then to resume a posture of abject obeisance.

* * *

"Approach," she said.

Within the tent there was an inner sanctum, or private area, formed of diaphanous, white hangings. It was rather like a small tent, or walled room, within the larger tent. It was within this area that I could see her, vaguely. There was a tiny lamp on a stand, near her, to one side. She was sitting on a curule chair.

"approach," she invited me.

I brushed back the hangings and let them fall closed behind me. I then stood before her, a few feet away, within the sanctum.

On the floor there were cushions and silk. I stood straight, my arms folded, surveying her.

I could detect perfume.

"You have my permission to kneel," she said.

I regarded her.

"There are guards, just outside," she said.

I knelt. I put my hands on my thighs.

"You have broad shoulders," she said, "a narrow waist. You have strong thighs. Your hands are large and strong."

I said nothing.

"You are a large, strong, handsome-looking fellow," she said, "very animal-like. If you were not in my total power, I might be uneasy."

"You have me at a disadvantage," I said, "as you are veiled, and fully clothed."

"At least you no longer smell of fish," she said.

"No," I said.

"That is how you and your fellows were smuggled out of Port Kar," she said. "We took you, one by one, drugged, to the boat. There we stripped and chained you. You were each packed in a barrel with salted parsit fish, and over your heads these barrels had a false bottom, which was covered with more parsit fish. Tiny holes in the upper sides of the barrels would permit you to breathe. The barrels were then sealed."

"The captures were smoothly and cleverly effectuated." I observed.

"Thank you," she said.

"Are you a female slaver?" I asked.

"No," she laughed, "though I think I might have been successful in such a profession."

Most female slavers, incidentally, are not involved in field captures. It is, one the whole, too dangerous for them. Too, there is always the danger that they might be added to the catch by their men. Most female slavers, accordingly, are established in cities, where they own or manage houses. There they buy and sell slaves, board or rent them, train, them, and so on. Statistically, there are very few female slavers. Most Gorean women tend to be attractive, and most Gorean men tend to be strong, for example. Accordingly, in a business such as slaving it is not unusual that the female slaver sooner or later, in one way or another finds the collar on her own throat. That, then, she then helplessly under the whip like any other female, is that.

"I am rather," she said, "only the humble mistress of a small work chain."

"Surely it is unusual for an individual in your line of work to procure laborers as you did," I said.

"It is cheaper than buying them," she said.

"That is doubtless true," I admitted. I did not believe this woman was actually the mistress of a work chain. There were many reasons for this. First, there are very few women involved in such things. Secondly, she did not seem skilled in the handling of men. For example, in our present situation, I could reach her and kill her or capture her and make use of her to effect a probable escape. Thirdly, she did not seem to have the hardiness of a woman likely to be efficient in such a post. Fourthly, the tent did not suggest the tastes or appointments of such a woman. Fifthly, her garmentry revealed clearly a vanity and taste for sumptuous luxury, a penchant for self-indulgence and ostentatious elegance, also unlikely to be characteristic in such a woman. The number of guards on hand, too, which was five, was really too small to manage a normal work gang, not because of the ratios involved, but because of the necessity of maintaining night watches.Similarly, she really had no work gang but the fifteen men she had picked up in Port Kar. A work gang usually consists of fifty to one hundred men, and some contain as many as five hundred or a thousand men. If she were really the mistress of a work gang we presumably would not have constituted the work gang but would merely have been added to it. Even more obviously we did not have the equipment of a word gang with us, the implements and tools pertinent to the work of such gangs, such as levers, picks, hammers and shovels.

"What was used to drug us?" I asked.

"Tassa powder," she said. "I put enough of it in the botas of my men to stun a kailiauk."

"How long were we unconscious?" I asked.

"With tube feedings, of broth mixed with tassa, five days," she said.

"Where are we?" I asked. I knew. I wished to see what she would say.

"I think it more amusing to keep you in ignorance," she said.

"As you wish," I said. From between the location of our camp, indeed, from our chain line, between two stakes, we could see the Sardar Mountains in the distance. They were unmistakable. I assumed this woman must be an agent of Priest-Kings. Yet she did not seem to recognize me. Too, I was only one of fifteen men captured. If she was an agent of Priest-Kings, it did not seem, ironically enough, that she realized who it was, so to speak, who was on her chain.

That we were so near the Sardar, incidentally, after a presumed five days of unconsciousness, followed by two days of travel on foot, drawing her wagon, further suggested that she was not likely, really, to be the mistress of a work chain. We could not have come this far from Port Kar in so short a time, presumably, if we had not been brought most of the way by tarn, probably in tarn baskets. Common laborers are seldom transported in this fashion. But then, two days ago, we had been awakened, and had then proceeded on foot. This was presumably to make it appear, at least in the vicinity of the Sardar, that we were truly a work chain. The woman, I assumed, must be working for Priest-Kings. On the other hand, it did not seem that she knew who I was. Perhaps, then, she was not an agent of Priest-Kings. Perhaps she was a slaver, of sorts, after all, and intended to sell us, her catch, at the Fair of En'Kara. But then, if that were so, I wondered why she was having recourse to this elaborate pretense of being merely the mistress of a common work chain. I decided not to seize her, at least not yet.

"What is your name?" she asked.

"I have been called various things," I said, "at different times, in different places."

"Ah, yes," she said, "I know you fellows of Port Kar. You are all rogues, all pirates, thieves and slavers. I think I shall call you-Brinlar."

"And how shall I address you?" I asked.

"As 'Mistress, " she said.

"How is it that you made your strike in Port Kar?" I asked.

"I was in Port Kar on business," she said, "and, with the carnival, matters were convenient."

"I had thought you might be of Tyros or Cos," I said. Those two island ubarates were at war with Port Kar.

"No," she said.

I was now more sure than ever that she was of the party of Priest-Kings.

"To be sure," she said, "my sympathies lie with Cos and Tyros, Thassa's foremost citadels of enlightenment and civilization. A certain amusing fittingness was thus manifested in my choice of a location for my predations, a choice fully vindicated, incidentally, by the catch of lovely males I acquired there." She looked at me. "Would you like a rag for your loins?" she asked.

"Whatever you wish," I said.

She laughed.

"Am I, and my fellows, to be enslaved?" I asked.

"That would certainly seem to be in order, would it not?" she asked.

"Of course," I said.

"Somewhere, sometime, I would suppose," she said, "at my convenience, at a site of my choosing."

"Of course," I said.

She smiled.

"What, then, afterwards, is to be our fate?" I asked.

"Perhaps I will sell you then, somewhere," she said, "perhaps even at the Fair of En'Kara."

"I see," I said. This confirmed my conjecture that we were not truly intended to be kept as members of a work chain. She presumably had a rendezvous to keep at the fair. Her rendezvous kept, and her cover still intact, but then no longer needed, she could dispose of us in the En'Kara markets.

"You and your fellows remain legally free, of course," she said, "though totally in my power, as complete captives, until a sign of bondage is burned into your pretty hides, or you are appropriately collared, or otherwise legally enslaved."

"I understand," I said.

"Do you recall the two major criteria I used in selecting my captures in the piazza?" she asked.

"You wanted strong, large fellows, as I recall," I said, "suitable for inclusion in a work chain."

"Yes," she said. "Do you recall the other criterion?"

I was silent.

"It was," she said, "that I must, personally, find them of some sexual interest."

"Yes," I said.

"Spread your knees," she said.

I did so.

"Excellent, Brinlar," she said, "indeed, excellent."

I did not speak.

"How does it feel to be a free man, but one who is in the total power of a woman?" she asked.

I shrugged. I did not really regard myself as being totally in her power.

"Am I beautiful?" she asked.

"I do not know," I said.

"But surely you men conjecture about such matters," she said.

"I would suppose you might be beautiful," I said. "There seem the suggestions of the lineaments of a beautiful woman, particularly as you have belted and arranged them, beneath your garments."

"I like pretty clothes," she said, "and I wear them well."

"Doubtless you would be even more beautiful in the rag of a slave, or naked in a collar," I said.

"Bold fellow," she said. But I could see she was pleased. All women are curious to know how beautiful they might be as slaves. This is because all of them, in their heart, are slaves.

She regarded me for a time, not speaking. I knelt there, knees spread. She seemed in no hurry to disclose her will with respect to me. Her eyes roved me, glistening.

"Are you not curious to know why you were brought to my tent?" she asked.

"Mistress has not yet explained it to me," I said. My heart began to race. I feared she would now announce to me that she knew my true identity, that she was going to put me to her pleasure, and rape me, and then turn me over, a woman's catch, to the Sardar. It did not seem appropriate to me to attack her and perhaps kill her. She might be an agent of Priest-Kings. So, too, for all I knew, might be her men. I recalled the fellow in the booth, he in whom I had left his own knife, in the piazza at Port Kar.

"But surely you can guess," she said.

"Perhaps," I said.

"Spread your knees more widely," she said, coldly.

I did so.

"No perhaps you can guess," she said.

"Yes," I said.

"You seem relieved," she said, puzzled.

I shrugged. I was indeed relieved. She had again only been toying with me. It seemed clear to me now, as it had before, that she did not know who I was. The man in the booth, I recalled, had tried to kill me. Thus, if she had truly known my identity, she might, by now, have had me killed. That would have been easy enough to have done while I was drugged. Too, the nature of my capture did not suggest anything special about me. I had merely been one of fifteen brought into her chains.

"There is something else," she said.

"Oh?" I asked.

"I am interested in being assessed," she said.

"Assessed?" I asked.

"Yes, objectively," she said. "I have been curious about it for a long time.The richness of your garments in the piazza, the weight of your purse, suggests to me that you might have experience in such matters, that you had the means to be intimately familiar with the doing in markets, and so on."

I was silent.

"Let me remind you," she said, "that it is you who kneel before me, with your knees spread like an imbonded girl!"

"I understand," I said.

Her hand went to the pins at the left side of her veil.

"I think you will find me extraordinarily beautiful," she said, "perhaps even slave beautiful."

"Perhaps," I said.

She unpinned her veil at the left side, and let it fall, and brushed back the silken hood of her tent robe, shaking her head, freeing a cascade of long, dark hair. She looked at me, amused. "I see that you find me beautiful," she said.

"Yes," I said.

She stood. "Are you familiar with the duties of a silk slave?" she asked. As she spoke, she began to casually disrobe.

"I am a free man," I said.

"But you have some conception of their duties, do you not?" she inquired.

"Yes," I said.

"Such duties, and others," she said, "will be yours."

"I understand," I said.

I caught my breath. She stepped from her robes, softly dropped, as though from a pool of silk at her feet.

"Well?" she asked.

She was stunningly beautiful. She would bring a high price. She then reclined, on cushions, and strewn silks. These were near the back of the small inner sanctum, near the white hangings forming its rear wall. She regarded me, amusement in her eyes. She leaned on one elbow.

"Well?" she asked.

"You are quite beautiful," I said.

"Do you think I would sell easily?" she asked.

"No," I said.

"Oh?" she asked.

"Your price would be much too high," I said. "Most men would not be able to afford you."

"But if I were at a reasonable price," she said.

"Then, doubtless," I said, "you would be snapped up immediately."

"You do regard me then," she said, "objectively, as being quite beautiful?"

"Yes," I said.

"Even slave beautiful?" she asked.

"Your beauty," said I, "at least in its external lineaments might well be the envy of many slaves, and if it were to become itself a slave's beauty, with the inward transformations bondage effects in a woman, it might, in time, in my opinion, attain at least the minimum standards of being slave beautiful."

"Then only a slave can be slave beautiful?" she asked.

"I would not wish to make it a matter of meanings," I said, "but, empirically, it does seem to be pretty much a matter of the condition, a function of its fulfillments, and such."

"Free women are more beautiful than slaves," she said.

"That is false," I said. "Furthermore, every woman, in her heart, knows it is false. Any beauty a free woman has, for example, is enhanced a thousandfold when she becomes a slave."

"I hate slaves!" she said.

"That is because you are not one of them," I said. "You envy them."

"Beware," she said. "I am a free woman!"

"I know," I said.

"And you are totally in my power," she said.

"I understand," I said.

"Approach me, on all fours," she said. "Perhaps I will forgive you, if you are skillful."

I approached her.

"You see me more closely now," she said. "Have you assessed free women before?"

"Yes," I said.

"Assess me," she said.

"As a free woman?" I asked.

"Of course," she said. "That is what I am."

"You are an incredibly beautiful free woman," I said.

"Your body obviously agrees with you," she said.

"Indeed," I admitted.

"And free women," she said, "are a thousand times more, above a mere slave."

"Yes," I said. "There is no comparison. A free woman is inordinately precious. She is a thousand times, and more, above a mere slave."

"Your status here," she said, "is that of a servant, a total servant, until I have you enslaved."

"I understand," I said.

"I think it will be amusing to apply a free man to the duties of a silk slave."

"Doubtless," I said.

"Indeed, I may dally somewhat, as it pleases me, or not, in the matter of your enslavement."

I said nothing.

"And perhaps, if I find you quite good, after you are enslaved, with your fellows, I might not even sell you at the Fair of En-Kara. I might keep you-as a silk slave."

I did not speak.

"You will touch me if, and only as, and exactly as, I direct," she said. "I am total Mistress. I shall obtain considerable gratification from you, and you will obtain gratification, if any, only as it pleases me."

"I understand," I said.

"To the silks, my brawny, helpless servant," she said. She then put her small hands in my hair. She drew me to her. "Please me," she said.

I then began to address myself to her pleasures.

I immersed myself in the exciting, intimate, marvelous, powerful odors of the aroused female.

"Oh, Brinlar," she gasped, suddenly, "you are an excellent servant!"

I took her wrists in my hands and pulled them from my hair, and held them to her sides, meanwhile alternately forcibly and aggressively, and delicately and tenderly, continuing my service.

Her wrists were helpless in my grip. She pressed herself piteously against me.

She began to moan and squirm.

Suddenly she said, "I am helpless! I am being held, helplessly!"

"Forgive me, Mistress," I said, unhanding her, as though my grip upon her might have been an inadvertence.

She seized me again by the hair, drawing me closely to her.

"Oh, Brinlar," she whispered. "Yes, Brinlar! It is marvelous, Brinlar! Do not stop! Yes, Brinlar! Yes!"

In such a; manner can one subdue a female, turning her into an object, totally helpless with pleasure.

"Yes, Brinlar," she whispered. "Yes! Yes!"

I did not think it was necessary to remind her that I was not really according to her the polite courtesies and gentle dignities appropriate to the pleasures of the free woman, but was, in effect, of my own will, by my own decision, subjecting her to attentions more commonly reserved for the imbonded female, the woman who has no choice but to submit to a lengthy and authoritative ravishing, one which well teaches her the meaning of her collar, and what it is to be in the hands of a men, and as he wants her.

"Oh, Brinlar!" she whispered.

Her responses were such that it was difficult to conjecture what her experiences might have been had she truly been a slave, and had she known herself helplessly in my power, and had she know that she must yield totally and without reservation in the last fiber of her very being.

"Brinlar!" she cried, surging against me. "Yes, Brinlar!"

"What is your name?" I asked.

"Yanina!" she cried. "Lady Yanina!"

"Of what city?" I asked.

"Brundisium!" she cried. "Brundisium!"

4 Flaminius

"Drink, Mistress?" I asked.

"yes, Brinlar," she said. She lifted the veil delicately, almost flirtatiously, drinking behind it. She looked at the man across from her.

"Drink, Master?" I asked.

"No," he said. I then withdrew a yard or two and knelt in the grass, holding the vessel of light Ka-la-na. I wore a tunic of white silk.

She dabbed at her lips with a napkin, under the veil, and then let the veil fall again into place.

"This is a pleasant spot," she had said earlier. "Spread the cloth here, Brinlar, and lay out the things from the basket."

"Yes, Mistress," I had said.

We could see the Sardar Mountains in the distance. I had been her servant for some three days. After the first night she had not commanded me to her intimate service. I think that first night had terribly unsettled her. She had apparently not understood that she could have such feelings. At times she had seemed almost taken out of herself. At times, clearly, she had responded uncontrollably, reflexively, at my mercy, almost as might have a slave. This sort of behavior was inappropriate in her, inexcusably so, she doubtless deemed, as she was a free woman. Roundly had I been scolded for my part in matters. Yet with mixed feelings, it was, I think, that she chastised me. I pretended, of course, to ignorance and innocence, and a perhaps overzealous desire to please. In any event she clearly now feared her feelings.

She had not dared to again order me to her pleasure. I think she was now afraid of herself in a man's arms, and what she might become. Too, I think she clearly understood that what I had done to her might, as a matter of fact, have been done to her by almost any man.

"He is coming now, Brinlar," she had said earlier.

"Yes, Mistress," I had said, shading my eyes.

A rider, mounted on a high tharlarion, flanked by two footmen, had been approaching.

I had little doubt this had to do with her business in the vicinity of the Sardar.

"I must make my identification," said the fellow to her. "Lower your veil."

She unpinned the veil.

"Lady Yanina," he said.

"Yes," she said. I gathered they knew one another.

"You may replace the veil," he said to her.

"It does not much matter, does it," she asked, "as in the course of our work you have, of necessity, several times, seen me face-stripped?"

"Do as you please," he said.

I saw that she repinned the veil. She was extremely modest. She was not a slave. She was a free woman.

The fellow, clad in dark garments, with a cape spread behind him, sitting cross-legged at the edge of the cloth, she kneeling across from him, turned to look at me. I lowered my head.

"I do not care to speak before him," he said. His two footmen were in the background, a few yards away, where the tharlarion was tethered. Two of Lady Yanina's men, from her camp, were also nearby. They were withdrawn several yards to the rear, behind us, as his men were behind him. They were sitting cross-legged in the grass, playing stones.

"Do not mind him," she said. "He is only a servant."

"What sort of servant?" he asked.

"A common sort of menial," she said. "I use him for various things. He waits upon me, he combs my hair, he tidies up the tent."

"I see," he said.

"Does it bother you that I have such a servant?" she asked.

"No," he said. "Of course not."

"You have girls who tend you hand and foot," she said.

"I would rather not speak before him," he said.

"Several times," she said, "we have spoken openly before your slaves."

"That is different," he said. "They are only slaves."

"Would you feel more comfortable if I put him in a collar?" she asked. "It is my intention to do that."

"I despise such servants," he said.

"I shall withdraw, Mistress," I said, making as though to rise.

"Stay, Brinlar," she said, imperiously, coldly.

"yes, Mistress," I said. I smiled inwardly. My trick had worked. I had been reasonably confident that she would choose to exert her authority in this fashion. She was obviously in some sort of competitive relationship with the male. There was a tautness, a tension, between them. She seemed jealous of him and his power. She was very defensive about her status in his eyes. I conjectured that they were theoretically on the same level, or nearly on the same level, perhaps reporting to the same superior, or superiors, presumably Priest-Kings. If it were acceptable to discuss sensitive matters before his slaves, women like herself, but reduced to a status as negligible as that of furniture or animals, then surely it should be similarly acceptable to discuss such matters before a male, she must have reasoned, one who shared his sex, but was now to her only as total servant. Clearly, of course, she did not understand the differences between men and women. They are not the same. No more fundamental mistake can be made. Too, in making his identification, he had her face-stripped. This is not a small thing from the point of view of a Gorean woman. I saw that it was important to her to pretend to be his equal. From his point of view, of course, she was only a woman. He must have often conjectured, like any strong man, what she would have looked like at his feet, stripped and in chains. If any roughnesses remained in their relationship after that, they could always be smoothed out with the whip.

"You have brought the materials?" he asked. I was relieved. I saw that he did not choose to contest these matters with her. They were beneath his dignity. She was only a female.

"They are in my tent," she said, airily. "I did not bring them to this meeting, of course. I wished to make certain of the contact first."

"Of course," he said. I wondered what the 'materials' were. He seemed to have spoken somewhat guardedly. I assumed that was because of my presence.

"I have them ready for delivery whenever and wherever you wish," she said.

In tidying up her tent, I had taken the opportunity to examine, in so far as I could, its contents. Certain of the trunks were kept locked. In one of those, I supposed, lay the 'materials' in question. I did not know the location of the keys to these trunks. I supposed most were locked in one of the trunks, and the key, say, to that trunk, or trunks, was carried about her person, probably concealed in her robes. I could not investigate these matters in detain at night as at night I was hooded and chained to a stake just within the entrance to her tent. In this way she kept me near her. Also, in this way, I did not have to be put with the other captives. It was feared they might harm me in their resentment or anger, given the nature and lightness of my duties.

"I think it was a mistake to have routed them through Port Kar," he said.

This speculation had to do, I supposed, with possible recent misgivings on the part of Priest-Kings pertaining to the loyalty of Samos.

"Not at all," she said. "Dour Babinius held passage with me. I had to deliver him to Port Kar, that he might there, in accord with his sealed orders, conduct his affairs."

She had told me earlier that she had had business in Port Kar. That, I supposed, had been the business. While there, of course, she had taken advantage of carnival to expeditiously accomplish her captures, among which I like a fool, must be counted.

"Do you know the nature of those orders?" he asked.

"No," she said.

"I do," he said.

"Oh," she said, irritatedly. I gathered he must stand somewhat higher than she in some hierarchy of power.

"He was to have made a strike in Port Kar," he said.

"His target?" she asked.

"An admiral," he said, "one called 'Bosk'."

"I have heard of him," she said.

"He failed," he said.

"Oh," she said, surprised.

"He was found in one of the purple booths, in his heart his own knife."

"This 'Bosk' did that?" she asked.

"Presumably," he said.

"Where is this 'Bosk' now?" she asked.

"His whereabouts are now unknown," he said. "It is even suspected that he has fled from Port Kar."

"So the entire matter came to naught?" she asked, scornfully.

"Yes," he said.

"It would have been better for Belnar to have entrusted the entire matter to me," she said. Belnar, I supposed, might be their common superior.

"You?" he asked, skeptically.

"Yes," she said.

"How might you have succeeded where Babinius failed?" he asked. "With a bludgeon? With a quicker dagger?"

"With no means so crude," she said.

"Then, how?" he asked.

"I am a woman," she said, straightening her body, making clear the indications of considerable beauty concealed beneath her silk. "I could present myself to him. I could allure him. I could win his interest. I could win his confidence. I could make him desperately eager for so much as a touch or kiss. Then, when, in effect, I could twine him about my tiny finger, when I could do with him as I wished, I could drug or poison him."

I wondered what she would look like, naked and in a collar, in the shadow of a whip. When a woman is absolutely powerless it is easy to teach her her sex.

"Doubtless it is Belnar's mistake," said the guest, dryly, "not to entrust you with greater matters."

"In Port Kar," she said, "on my own initiative, and by means of my own plan, I took fifteen men!"

"Doubtless you had some help in this," he said.

"I command my subordinates, as you command yours," she said, angrily.

"You are a woman," he said.

"Serve us, Brinlar!" she said, angrily, lifting and holding her goblet, not looking at me.

"Yes, Mistress," I said, rising and approaching with the vessel of Ka-la-na.

"Is this one of the 'men' you captured?" inquired the guest.

I poured the Ka-la-na for them.

"At least fourteen are true men," she said, angrily. "You may withdraw, Brinlar."

"Yes, Mistress," I said, and returned to where I had knelt before.

"Do you know where lies the old in of Ragnar, on the old west road?" he asked.

"Yes," she said. "It is now2 abandoned, is it not?"

"It is not now in use," he said, "though it is occasionally reopened when there is an overflow of folks from Torvaldsland, come for the fair."

Some two years ago the merchants and builders had opened the road of Cyprianus, named for the engineer in charge of the project, which led to the fairs rather from the southwest. This had considerably reduced the traffic on the road of Clearchus, now to its north, which had approached the fairs in such a way as to favor the traffic from the northwest, with the result that several of the establishments on the road of Clearchus had been abandoned or relocated. One advantage of the more southern route is that it passes through less rough terrain, terrain which provides less cover for highwaymen. In particular, it does not pass, for several pasangs, though the woods of Clearchus.

As rumor has it, Clearchus was a famous brigand of some two centuries ago who decided to legitimize and regularize his brigandage. He proclaimed his area of operations a ubarate, proclaimed himself its ubar, and then proceeded to impose taxes and levy tolls. Interestingly enough, in time, several cities accorded this ubarate diplomatic recognition, generally in return for concessions on the taxes and tolls. Finally a large force of mercenaries, in the hire of the merchant caste, in a campaign that lasted several months, put an end to the spurious reign of Clearchus, driving him from the forest and scattering his men. It is generally conceded, however, that had Clearchus had more men he might have turned out to be the founder of a state.

It is not altogether clear what happened to Clearchus but some historians identify him with Clearchus of Turia, an immigrant, with followers, to Turia, now chiefly remembered as a patron of the arts and philanthropist. The woods of Clearchus, incidentally, to this day, remain a haunt of brigands.

In the old days the road of Clearchus was often referred to as the "west road." This designation became less useful after the recent opening of the road of Cyprianus. It is not unusual, now, to refer to the road of Clearchus as the "old west road" and that of Cyprianus as the "new west road." Neither of these roads, incidentally, are "great roads," in the sense of being mounted in the earth several feet deep, built of stone like a sunken wall, the sort of roads which are often intended to last a thousand years, the sort of roads which, typically, are found in the vicinity of large cities or are intended to be military roads, speeding directly to traditionally disputed territories or linking strategic points. These roads are both secondary roads, so to speak, generally graveled and rutted; occasionally they are paved with such materials as logs and plated stone; they can be almost impassable in rainy weather and in dry, warm weather, they are often dusty. Tertiary roads, so to speak, are often little more than unfrequented twisting trails. There is often talk of improving the secondary roads, and sometimes something is done, but generally little is accomplished. The major consideration, of course, is money. Too, many roads, for great portions of their length are not clearly within the jurisdiction of given states. Power in Gorean cities tends to vary with the power of the Home Stones, which tends to fluctuate with the military and economic fortunes of the city. The notion of the fixed and absolute border is not a typical Gorean notion.

"I understand," she said.

"Meet me there, with the materials, tomorrow evening," he said.

"Very well," she said.

"At the fifteenth Ahn," he said.

She lifted her veil, delicately, and sipped Ka-la-na behind it.

He regarded her.

"That is rather early," she observed.

"The fifteenth Ahn," he said.

"That time does not seem to me convenient," she said. She set down the goblet.

"I do not understand," he said.

"I must prepare myself, I must arrange the materials," she said. "I have a busy schedule."

"What time would be convenient for you?" he asked, with mock solicitude.

"I am certain I do not know as yet," she said. "I am a busy woman."

"You know where I am staying at the fair," he said.

"Yes," she said.

"Perhaps you will then be good enough to transmit word to me, as to when you might find it appropriate to transact this urgent business."

"Of course," she said.

He rose, angrily. He spoke not further then but turned and, cape swirling, strode to his tharlarion. In moments he and his footmen were taking their leave.

"I showed him, did I not, Brinlar?" she asked, on her feet now, looking after them.

"Yes, Mistress," I said.

"I shall make him wait upon my convenience," she said.

"Yes, Mistress," I said.

"I shall make him understand my importance," she said.

"Yes, Mistress," I said. I gathered that she must indeed be somewhat important. For example, he had not stripped her and led her away, chained by the wrists to his stirrup.

"It is s bit chilly here now, Brinlar," she said. "You may put my wrap upon me."

"Yes, Mistress," I said. I lifted her light cloak about her shoulders and she fastened it beneath her chin, under the veil. I did not throw it over her head and then belt it tightly about her waist, effectively hooding her and confining her arms and hands within it.

"We will return to camp shortly," she said. "You may now pick up the things."

"Yes, Mistress," I said, and knelt down, near her feet, replacing things in the basket.

"May I speak, Mistress," I asked.

"Of course, Brinlar," she said.

"I gather from what I have heard," I said, "that those of your party, whatsoever it might be, might have some interest in he called 'Bosk' of Port Kar."

"Perhaps," she said.

"I can recognize him," I said.

"Oh?" she said, suddenly interested.

"Furthermore, I have reason to believe," I said, "that he may be even now at the fair, or in the vicinity of the fair."

"Why should you think so?" she asked.

"I have a feeling in the matter," I said. "Perhaps it is based on something I heard in Port Kar. At any rate, he sometimes attends the fair."

"That is interesting," she said. "Do you think yourself capable of pointing him out to us?"

"I do not think I would have any trouble in doing so," I said.

"Lift your head, Brinlar," she said.

I looked up, into the eyes of the Lady Yanina. I could see that her mind was racing.

"Tomorrow, under guard," she said, "you will go to the fair. If you see this Bosk, inform my men."

"But I know him," I said. "If he were to see me under guard, might he not be suspicious? Too, foul play, if that be your intent, is not to take place on the fairgrounds. They are truce grounds. Besides, what if he is in the presence of retainers?"

"I see," she said, angrily. "It is merely a plan on your part to escape."

"The inn of Ragnar is outside of the fairgrounds," I said. "What if I could get him to come there, alone?"

"How could it be done?" she asked, eagerly.

"I would wish your help," I said.

"Yes?" she said.

"Some think he finds women too excruciatingly desirable," I said.

"Yes," she said, "yes!"

"I could approach him and tell him that I am acting as the agent of a rich, free woman, one who is much attracted to him and desires to serve him, even as a slave."

"I understand," she said.

"Do you think you could disguise yourself as a mere slave?" I asked.

"Not to the collar!" she said.

"Of course not," I said. "Indeed, it is a premise of my plan that Mistress be understood to be a free woman."

"You would then have him come to the inn of Ragnar," she said, "supposedly to a secret rendezvous."

"Mistress penetrates swiftly to the core of my plan," I said.

"The entrapment might best take place in an alcove," she said, musingly, "wherein I might lie as bait."

"An interesting idea," I granted her.

"He enters the alcove, puts aside his weapons," she mused, "and then my men, in the small quarters, he confined on three sides, set upon him."

"I salute the brilliance of Mistress," I said.

She clenched her small fists. "What a triumph!" she cried. "What a victory! Getting Bosk of Port Kar in my chains! Then delivering him, almost in passing, as a casual surprise, to Flaminius."

Flaminius, I gathered, was the name of her recent guest at this picnic and meeting. The name suggested the city of Ar, or one of her allies. I had once known a physician by the name of Flaminius, who was of Ar. They were not the same individual, of course. There are many common names on Gor, as, I suppose, in most civilizations. Tarl, for example, my name, tends to a familiar one on Gor, particularly in the northern areas, such as Torvaldsland and its vicinity. The commonness of names is even more acute with slave names. For example, common slave names on Gor are Tuka, Lana, and Lita. There are probably hundreds of girls on Gor answering to those names, and others, almost as familiar, which are similarly luscious. Earth-girl names, incidentally, as is well known, are often used on Gor as slave names.

"Why should he listen to you?" she asked, suddenly, looking down at me.

"I am sure he trusts me," I said.

"Can you do this?" she asked.

"You must understand," I said, "that he may not even be at the fair."

"That is true," she said, angrily. "Too, he might be there, and you might miss him."

"If he is there, I think I will be able to determine it," I said.

"How so?" she said.

I shrugged. "I know him," I said. "Too, I think I know certain of his favorite places."

"Excellent!" she said. "It might just work!" She regarded me. "If I let you out of my sight," she said, "I think I shall put you in close chains. It should then be easy to recover you."

"In such chaining I could barely move," I said. "It would certainly not facilitate my inquiries at the fair."

"Then two of my men must accompany you, surreptitiously." she said.

"This Bosk, I assure you," I said, "is commonly an observant fellow. I doubt that he would fail to detect the presence of two loiterers in our vicinity."

"Then it is the chains for you, Brinlar!" she said, angrily.

"As you wish," I said, "but it would not seem likely to Bosk, surely, that a well-intentioned compatriot of Port Kar would be likely to approach him in close chains, would it?"

"No," she said, irritably, "it would not."

I shrugged.

"Too, in many of the places Bosk might frequent," I said, "it would even be difficult to gain admittance in chains. I would be dismissed as no more than a slave."

"If I permit this service," she asked, "what would you wish in return?"

"Perhaps Mistress might consider granting me freedom from her captivity," I suggested.

"No," she said. "It is my intention to enslave you, with the others. But if you perform this service for me you might find favor in my eyes. I might even be tempted to treat you with somewhat greater indulgence than you might otherwise deserve. I might even keep you a personal tent slave. I might even give you pretty clothes to wear."

"Mistress is generous," I said.

"What assurance have I," she asked, "that you will, whether successful or not, keep the rendezvous?"

"You have my word on it," I said, "as a free man."

"I think we can do better than that," she said. "If you do not return, your fourteen compatriots, one by one, one each Ahn, will be slain."

"I will return," I said.

"Word of your treachery will reach Port Kar," she added. "men will hunt you. Too, sleen will be put upon your trail. Too, in the vicinity of the fair, your description will be circulated, as that of an escaped slave."

"Mistress has surely given me many reasons to return," I said.

"I think so," she said.

"But surely, she, in her modesty, has overlooked at least one significant motivation," I said.

"What is that?" she asked.

"That I would wish to look once more upon her beauty," I said.

"You flatterer, Brinlar!" she laughed. "But you are not the first man who has been entrapped in the toils of my beauty. I have lured many, as it pleased me, to their downfall."

"Mistress is so beautiful," I said, "that she could almost be a slave."

"It is true," she said.

"In the morning, then," I said, "I shall go to the fair, to see if I may find this Bosk of Port Kar."

"Arrange with him, if you should encounter him," she said, "to be at the inn of Ragnar at the eighteenth Ahn. I shall, in the meantime, send word to Flaminius to meet me there at the nineteenth Ahn. That will give me time to effect the capture, strip and chain the captive, and change into my prettiest clothes, ready to welcome Flaminius as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened."

"And tonight, Mistress?" I asked, anxiously.

"Tonight," she said, imperiously, "you will be hooded and chained, as usual, within the entrance to my tent. I am to be touched only if I please, and exactly as I please."

"Yes, Mistress," I said. I saw that she still feared me, and herself, and, I think, men generally. She had not yet been able to cope with the sensations which I had induced in her. This is not surprising in a free woman. To be sure, such sensations can be terribly frightening to a free woman. They whisper to her of slavery. She is terrified to say «yes» to them, with all she knows this means, but aches and longs to do so, and will not be whole until she does.

"Hurry, Brinlar!" she said. "Hurry! Pick up the things!"

"Yes, Mistress," I said.

"Until tomorrow!" she said. "Until tomorrow!"

"Yes, Mistress," I said, "until tomorrow."

5 What Occurred in the Inn of Ragnar; I Will Return to the Camp of the Lady Yanina

I pounded on the door of the old inn of Ragnar, now closed, on the old west road. It lies in the midst of certain other buildings, mostly now, too, closed and dark. I heard a movement behind one of the boarded-up windows. It was a bit past the seventeenth Ahn. The door opened a crack.

"It is Brinlar," said a voice, that of one of the men of the Lady Yanina. "I did not think you would return," he said to me.

"He is a fool," said another of her men, from just within.

"He fears the sleen," said another.

"Let him in! Let him in!" said the voice of the Lady Yanina.

I was admitted into the dark vestibule of the inn, and the door was closed behind me.

"Were you successful?" asked the Lady Yanina, anxiously.

"Yes," I said.

"Marvelous!" she whispered.

"He is intrigued," I said. "He is eager to meet you. He is particularly impressed that you are so attracted to him that you, though a free woman, will serve him in the modalities of the slave."

"Superb!" she said. "The gullible fool!"

"He will be here at the eighteenth Ahn," I said.

"Marvelous, Brinlar," she said. "Marvelous! It is all going perfectly!" AS my eyes became accustomed to the darkness, I could see that her five men were here. I had thought they would be. I knew they were not at the camp. I had stopped at the camp on the way back from the fair. I had wished to pick up some things. The "work chain," heavily chained, secured between two trees, had not been guarded. They were unimportant to her now, I supposed. She wanted all of her men here. I could see, too, that she wore some form of belted robe. She was not veiled. "What are you carrying?" she asked.

"Some wine, and things," I said. "I took the liberty of stopping by the camp on the way back from the fair. I thought perhaps you might care for some refreshments. The wait until the nineteenth Ahn, and the arrival of your colleague, Master Flaminius, might be long. You might be hungry."

"You are a dream, Brinlar," said the Lady Yanina. "You are a treasure!"

"May I make a suggestion, Mistress?" I inquired.

"Of course," she said.

"I would, if I were you, light a small lamp or two, illuminating the main hall and perhaps the selected alcove. This should suggest an atmosphere of delicate openness to Bosk of Port Kar, encouraging him to believe that he is eagerly awaited. The darkness of a seemingly deserted inn might appear ominous, perhaps suggesting a trap."

"Light two lamps," said the Lady Yanina to one of her men, "one in the main hall and one in the first alcove."

He set about to accomplish her bidding.

"You are very clever, Brinlar," she said.

"I would further suggest," I said, "that you leave the door to the inn ajar, but that you make no particular effort to conceal your men."

She looked at me, puzzled.

"I have informed Bosk," I said, "that you might have men in attendance. After all, a free woman cannot very well be expected to traverse the old west road unattended. She might fall to a slaver's noose and his iron. The men, however, while not attempting to hide themselves, are expected to remain unobtrusive. Thus the door is to be left tactfully ajar. In this fashion we will not have to devise hiding places for them, nor risk the loss of time, and perhaps the noise, perhaps alerting Bosk of Port Kar, of their emergence from concealment."

"Oh, splendid, Brinlar," she said. "Splendid!"

The man was now completing the lighting of the second lamp. In a moment he had emerged from the alcove.

"I would now encourage my men to sit about the table, there," I said, indicating on e of the large rough-hewn tables, with benches, in the main hall. "I would further encourage them," I said, "to sit there as naturally as possible, perhaps even partaking of the refreshments which I have brought."

"Do it," she said.

"Good," said one of the men, taking the sack from me which I had stocked at the camp.

"Does Lady Yanina care to partake?" asked one of the men.

"Not now, not now," she said.

The men sat about the table, reaching into the sack, pulling out the flagon of wine, the goblets, the viands. One of them kicked aside some chains under the table, lying in the vicinity of a stout ring in the floor. The men of Torvaldsland sometimes chain naked bond-maids in such a place.

"I think there is at least one thing more," I said.

"What is that?" she asked.

"May I inspect Lady Yanina?" I asked.

"Inspect me?" she asked.

"Yes," I said. "Bosk is not a fool. He may be dismayed, or become suspicious, if he detects even the least inaccuracy or imperfection in your disguise."

"Turn away," she said to her men.

They did so.

"Look," she said to me, opening her robe. her body, now clad in slave silk, was incredibly lovely. She would doubtless, as I had earlier thought, bring a high price in a slave market.

"It is as I feared," I said.

"What is wrong?" she asked.

"You have a lining beneath the silk," I said.

"Of course!" she said.

"Remove it," I said.

"Brinlar!" she protested.

"Do you think a master would be likely to permit such a thing to a slave?" I asked.

"But I am not a slave," she said. "I am a free woman!"

"But supposedly you are brining bosk here, to serve him as a slave," I said.

She looked at me.

"Do you think he would not note so glaring a discrepancy in your costume?" I asked.

"Look away," she said.

I saw the wine slosh from the flagon I had brought into the goblets of the men.

"You may now look again," she said.

"Ah!" I said.

"I am more naked than naked," she said.

"Mistress is quite beautiful," I said. There was no doubt about that slave market price.

"It must be somewhere near the eighteenth Ahn," I said. "I think it is time for Mistress to go to the alcove." I turned her about and conducted her to the alcove. "Lie down there," I said, pointing to the furs. She did so. She looked well at my feet.

"Doubtless Mistress has arranged a signal wit her men," I said.

"It is quite simple," she said. "I shall merely cry out. They will then rush forward and seize Bosk of Port Kar. In moments, then, he will be stripped and in chains, my helpless prisoner."

"I see," I said.

"Do you think he will come?" she asked.

"Be assured of it." I said. "He will be here."

"But perhaps he will be suspicious," she said.

"Have no fear," I said. "He trusts me. He trusts me like I trust myself."

"What are you doing?" she asked, trying to draw back. I had taken her left ankle in my left hand. It was helpless in my grip.

"Completing your disguise," I said. I took the ankle ring, heavier than was necessary for a female, from the side of the alcove, on its chain, and, with my right hand, clasped it, locking it, about her left ankle.

She jerked at it. "I am chained!" she said.

"Yes," I said.

"Where is the key?" she asked.

"Just outside, on its hook," I said. I had made this determination earlier in the day, in scouting the inn, before she and her men had arrived.

"Can I reach it from where I am?" she asked.

"In no way," I said.

She looked at me, frightened.

"Do not be afraid," I said. "Your men are just outside."

"Yes," she said. "Yes." she examined the ring and the chain, her hands on the chain, frightened, fascinated. She looked up at me. "I'm chained," she said, "truly chained."

"Your men are just outside," I reminded her.

"Yes," she said.

"Is this how you intend to receive Bosk of Port Kar?" I asked.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"The first moments may be crucial," I said. "You will wish to disarm his suspicions. What if he does not immediately put aside his weapons?"

"I do not understand," she said.

"Lie more seductively, Lady Yanina," I said. "Think slave."

"Brinlar!" she said.

"That is better," I said.

"Your hands!" she said.

"Part your lips slightly," I said. "Look at a man as a slave, feel your helplessness, feel burning heat between your thighs."

"you are posing me as a slave!" she said.

"You are not the first woman who has lain chained in this alcove," I said.

"But they were slaves!" she said.

"Most of them, probably," I said, "but perhaps not all."

She looked at me, frightened.

I rose to my feet.

"What time is it?" she asked.

"It must be quite near the eighteenth Ahn," I said.

"What are you going to do now?" she asked.

"I am going to withdraw from the alcove," I said, "I shall draw the curtains behind me."

"Then I must simply wait," she said, "wait for a man!"

"Yes," I said, "it would seem so."

She squirmed angrily.

"Many women have done so, of course," I said, "particularly women in such places, in such a bond."

"Of course," she said, angrily.

"And many of them," I said, "would not have known who it was who would come through the curtains, only that they must serve him, and exactly according to his dictates, and marvelously."

"Yes!" she said, angrily.

"You are very beautiful," I said. "Slave silk and a chain become you."

"Oh!" she said.

"It is difficult to conjecture how beautiful you might be, if you were truly a slave."

"Do you think I would be a beautiful slave?" she asked.

"yes," I said.

"I thought I might be," she said, cuddling down in the furs, "but let men despair, for I shall never be a slave."

I then withdrew from the alcove, closing the curtains behind me. I heard a small sound of the chain, from within, as she moved her ankle.

I conjectured that it must now be about the eighteenth Ahn. Flaminius, probably with his men, would be arriving in the neighborhood of the nineteenth Ahn. This did not give me a great deal of time for all I wished to do. I looked about the inn. The Tassa powder which I had placed in the wine had already, mostly, taken its effect. One of the Lady Yanina's men lifted his head from the table, looking at me groggily, and then tried to rise to his feet. His legs failed him and he sprawled back, over the bench, and then, half catching himself, slipped to the tiles of the inn floor. I had had little difficulty in locating the Tassa powder. It had been contained among the belongings of the lady Yanina. I had discovered it on my first full day as her servant, while tidying her tent. It had been contained in a small chest of capture equipment, such as weighted slave nets, ropes, hoods, gags and manacles. Similarly I had had access to the general stores of the camp, that I might more conveniently wait upon and serve her and her guards. With the aid of the lamp taken from the table, about which the guards now lay sprawled, I soon located, in one of the farther alcoves, what I was looking for.

I then returned to the table about which the guards lay and replaced the small lamp on its surface. The things I had taken from the alcove I put to one side. I then went to the curtained threshold of the alcove wherein lay the Lady Yanina. I jerked apart the curtain.

"Brinlar!" she said, startled, drawing back on the furs, her legs under her, with a movement of chain, against the back wall of the alcove.

I regarded her.

"You startled me," she said.

I did not speak.

"Is he here?" she whispered.

"yes," I said. "He is here."

"Where?" she asked, in a whisper.

"Just outside the alcove," I said. "I suggest you compose yourself. I suggest you prepare yourself for him. I suggest you invite him to your arms."

"Yes," she whispered, frightened. "Yes."

I stepped back a bit, as though to yield the threshold, that it might admit the entrance of another.

The Lady Yanina now lay seductively on her side. She was quite beautiful in the slave silk, and the chain, in the light of the tiny lamp. She gathered together her powers of concentration. Then she extended one hand. "I love you, Bosk of Port Kar," she called, softly. "I have loved you from the first moment I saw you. At the very thought of you I am helpless and weak. Do not be dismayed that someone whom you do not know and whom you have perhaps never even seen is madly in love with you!" I have fought my passion for you! But it has conquered me! I am yours!"

She looked at me. "Very good," I said, nodding.

"Permit me to confess my love for you," she called. "Permit me, too, the dignity, as I am a free woman, of using your name in my doing so, before perhaps, if it pleases you, you impose upon me the discipline of a slave."

I nodded.

"I love you, Bosk of Port Kar," she cried. "I love you!

There was silence.

"What is wrong?" she whispered to me.

I shrugged. "Perhaps he intends to make you wait a moment or two," I said.

She make a small movement of impatience.

I frowned.

She then again composed herself, seductively. Again she extended her hand. "I lie here panting with passion," she called, "as submitted as a slave."

Many of the things which she had said, incidentally, were not different from the genuine, heartfelt declarations of women in love, particularly those so much in love that they find themselves, in effect, the slaves of masters. One the other hand, of course, the Lady Yanina was acting. It is not difficult for a skilled master, incidentally, to discriminate between such declarations which are genuine and those which are not, usually in virtue of incontrovertible body clues. The lying female is then punished. Soon she learns that her passion must be genuine. She then sees to it, with all the consequences, physical, psychological and emotional, attendant upon it, consequences which, at first, are sometimes found horrifying or disturbing but which, ultimately, because of their relation to her depth nature, when she surrenders to this, are found joyfully and gloriously fulfilling. She is then herself, fully.

"Hurry to me, Bosk of Port Kar!" she cried. "I desire your touch! I desire to serve you! I beg to please you! I plead to please you! Take pity on me! Do not torture me so! Do not make me wait longer! Hurry to me, Bosk of Port Kar, my lover, my master!"

"Good," I said.

"Enter my alcove!" she cried. "I am yours!"

I entered the alcove. I did not have a great deal of time.

"Brinlar," she cried, drawing her legs under her, "what are you doing!"

"What do you mean, 'what am I doing!?" I asked.

"Where is Bosk of Port Kar?" she asked.

"He is here," I said.

"Where?" she asked.

"Here," I said, jerking my thumb toward my chest. "I am he."

"Do not be absurd!" she said.

"Kneel," I said.

"Is this some form of mad joke, Brinlar?" she asked. "Have you taken leave of your senses?"

"I believe you received a command," I said.

"Men!" she cried, leaping to her feet. "Men! Men!"

I let her run to the threshold of the alcove, where the shackle on her left ankle held her up short. She looked wildly out into the main hall. From where she stood, at the curtains, in the light, and shadows, of the small lamp on the table, she could see the slumped, fallen, senseless figures of her guards.

"Tassa powder," I explained. "It was your own. I believe you are familiar with its effects."

I then took her by the upper arms and hurled her back into the alcove, with a rattle of chain, onto the furs.

She scrambled about, and looked at me, wildly. "You are not Bosk of Port Kar!" she cried. "You cannot be Bosk of Port Kar!"

"I am Bosk of Port Kar," I assured her.

"You have gone mad, Brinlar!" she cried. "This is an outrage! Release me!"

I smiled.

"Sleen! Sleen!" she wept.

"You are a female," I said, "and you are in slave silk, and chained. I suggest you keep a respectful tongue in your head, unless you wish to have it removed."

She looked at me, frightened.

"Do you recall having received a command earlier?" I asked.

She knelt.

"How does it feel to be kneeling before a man?" I asked.

She clenched her fists.

"You are wearing slave silk," I said.

"Yes," she said.

"Remove it," I said.

"No," she said.

I reached to the wall and took a slave whip from its hook. Such things are common in the alcoves of inns and taverns on Gor. They help a girl be mindful of her duties.

"Now," I said.

` She jerked the silk angrily from her body.

"You are quite beautiful," I said, "for a free woman."

She tossed her head, angrily. "Thank you," she said.

"Kiss the whip," I said.

"Never!" she said.

"You will kiss it now, or after you have felt it," I said. "It does not matter to me."

"I will kiss it," she said angrily.

"More lingeringly," I said, "and lick it, as well."

She complied.

"Now, kiss it again," I said.

She complied.

"Now say, 'I have licked and kissed the whip of a man, " I said.

"I have licked and kiss the whip of a man!" she said. "Now what are you going to do with me?"

I do not have much time," I said.

"I do not understand," she said.

"Turn about," I said, "and lean forward, resting on the sides of your forearms."

"No!" she cried.

"Assume the position, as instructed," I said.

"No!" she protested.

I lifted the whip.

She complied.

A few moments later, having freed her ankle from the shackle, I dragged her by her right arm out of the alcove, to the side of the table about which her men lay sprawled. Her lovely dark hair was down about her face. I forced her down on her knees, under the table. I put her over the ring, in the midst of the chains.I clasped the ankle rings about her ankles, locking them. I thrust the short, attached chain, attached to the ankle-ring chain at one end, and the wrist-ring chain at the other, and the wrist rings, on their short chain, between her legs and through the sturdy floor ring. I then, close to the floor, locked her wrists snugly into the wrist rings. She was now held helplessly in place beneath the table. "In such a fashion," I told her, "the men of Torvaldsland sometimes secure their bond-maids. Thus they have them at hand and may use them, to some extent, to please them under the table. In this fashion, similarly, it is easy to feed them by hand and throw them scraps of meat. It is a useful arrangement in their training and, too, even a skilled, experienced girl, even one who is highly esteemed, is sometimes confined so, when it pleases the master to do so."

Her eyes were glazed. Her hair was down before her face. She pulled at the chains, weakly.

"But perhaps you are not interested in the lore of Torvaldsland," I said.

"What you did to me," she said.

"Perhaps you are hungry," I said.

She looked at me, angrily. She moved her head to the side, trying to free her face of hair. I took her hair and, arranging it, put it back over her shoulders. "You are quite beautiful in chins," I said. Perhaps you should be a slave."

She did not respond.

"You look well chained under a table," I said.

"Thank you," she said, angrily.

I took a piece of meat from the table, one of the viands I had brought from the camp, a small tidbit of roast tarsk.

I held it out to her.

"No," she said.

"Eat," I said.

Her wrists pulled upward, against the wrist rings, but her hands, chained as they were, could lift but a few inches from the floor. "I cannot reach it," she said.

"I am not a patient man," I said.

"I am a free woman!" she said.

"I am well aware of that," I said. "If you were a slave, you would probably have received at least two beatings by now."

She extended her head.

"Excellent, Lady Yanina," I said. "You take food well on your knees, from a man's hand."

Then next few pieces of meat I scattered on the tiles. She must take them without touching them with her hands. While she was doing this I disarmed the guards, slinging their weapons about my shoulder.

I then came back to regard the Lady Yanina.

"Have you finished the meat, Lady Yanina?" I inquired.

"Yes!" she said.

I picked up the things, lying to one side, which I had taken from the farther alcove. Her eyes suddenly widened, and she regarded me with terror.

"This key," I said, "I found concealed in your robes. It is, I assume, the key to one of the chests, which contains, doubtless, the keys to certain other chests, and perhaps other keys, as well, such as those pertinent to the shackles of your work chain. If it does not, of course, I may have to make use of certain tools in your camp."

She began to tremble in the chains.

"Among your belongings," I said, "there are also doubtless other things of interest, such as rings, and moneys, and such, pilfered from your captives. I alone am missing a considerable wallet. Too, I think I may count on your having independent stores of coins and notes, and, given your apparent wealth and elegance, a suitable measure of costly cloths, gems and jewelries. These materials I shall distribute among the members of the work chain, to compensate them somewhat for their inconvenience and loss of time. These weapons I carry, too, save for those I reserve for my own use, I shall give to skillful, worthy fellows. We shall then, still free men, make our way to the fair. At the fair, as you know, fighting, enslavement, foul play, and such, are not permitted. After some days of sport and recreation at the fair, we may then, if we wish, from the fairgrounds themselves, take tarns to Port Kar, an expensive proposition to be sure, but one which your resources will doubtless prove sufficient to fund. If you see a light in the sky later, it may be your camp burning."

"Do what you wish," she pleaded, in her chains. "Free the men, take the gold, burn the camp, but do not touch that packet!"

"Oh, yes, this," I said, lifting the leather packet which I had taken from the farther alcove. "This contains the materials, doubtless, which you were to deliver to your dear friend, Flaminius."

"Leave it!" she said.

"Why?" I asked.

"I am a courier," she said. "I must deliver that to Flaminius!"

"I gather that that will be difficult for you to do," I said, "chained as you are."

"Please," she said. "Do not even think of taking that! Leave it! I beg you!"

"It must be very important," I said.

"No," she said, quickly, moving in the chains, drawing back, "No. No."

"Then its loss will be negligible," I said.

"The materials will be meaningless to you!" she cried. "They will mean nothing to you!"

"Where are they from?" I asked.

"From Brundisium," she said.

"Who are they from?" I asked.

"From Belnar, my Ubar," she said. I assumed that was a lie. Presumably there was no Belnar who was a Ubar in Brundisium. Still, I did recall that she had referred to a «Belnar» at yesterdays rendezvous with Flaminius.

"And you were to deliver them to Flaminius?" I asked.

"Yes," she said. "Yes!"

"And what is he supposed to do with them?" I asked.

"He is to deliver them to the appropriate parties in Ar," she said.

"In Ar?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

That surprised me. I wondered if she knew the true destination of the materials. I assumed they must actually be transmissions to the Sardar. Presumably it was merely her intention to mislead me.

"they are state papers," she said. "They must now fall into the wrong hands!" I assumed they were not state papers, of course. On the other hand, I was prepared to believe that they had their origin in Brundisium, and that there was some fellow named Belnar associated with them. He would be, I supposed, an agent of Priest-Kings. I was curious. I considered waiting for Flaminius and his men. Yet I had no special wish to kill them and particularly if they were agents of Priest-Kings. I had already killed one fellow who, I took it, was an agent of Priest-Kings, the fellow, Babinius, in Port Kar. I had once served Priest-Kings. I did not wish now, whatever might be their current attitudes toward me, to make a practice of dropping their agents. To be sure, I did not know for certain that this Belnar, and Flaminius, the Lady Yanina, and those associated with them were agents of Kurii.

"Do you serve Priest-Kings?" I asked the Lady Yanina.

"I do not understand," she said.

"Do you serve Beasts?" I asked.

"I do not understand," she said.

"Whom do you serve?" I asked.

"Belnar," she said, "my ubar, Ubar of Brundisium."

"Why should this Belnar, whom I do not know, supposedly the Ubar of Brundisium, a city with which I have never had dealings, find me of such interest? Why should he send a killer against me, or desire my apprehension?"

"I do not know," she said.

I smiled.

"I do not!" she said.

It could be, of course, that she, for all her beauty, was only a lowly counter in an intricate, complex game beyond her understanding. She might not even know, ultimately, whether she served Priest-Kings, or Kurii. That was an interesting thought.

"I am going now," I said.

"Don't go!" she cried.

"On the other hand, I recommend that you remain where you are, waiting for Flaminius."

She shook the chains, in helpless frustration.

"He will be along shortly," I assured her.

"Leave the packet!" she begged.

"Do you beg it, naked, on your knees, chained, as might a slave?" I asked.

"Yes!" she cried. "I beg it on my knees, naked, in chains, as might a slave!"

"Interesting," I said.

"Leave it," she begged.

"No," I said.

She looked a me, aghast.

"But you did beg prettily," I said, "and had the matter been otherwise, for example, had you been begging to serve my pleasure, I would truly have been tempted to give you a more favorable response."

"I am a free woman," she said. "How can you, a free man, deny me anything I want?"

"Easily," I said.

She looked at me, angrily.

"Many free women believe they can have anything they want, merely by asking for it, or demanding it," I said, "but now you see that that is not true, at least not in a world where there are true men."

She shook the chains in frustration. "You make me as helpless and dependent on you as a slave!" she cried.

"Yes," I said.

"Wait!" she said.

"Yes," I said, turning.

"What will they do with me?" she asked.

"I do not know," I said.

"Belnar will not be pleased," she said. "In Brundisium we do not look lightly on failure. AT the least I shall be considerably reduced in rank. I will be denied the use of footwear. My pretty clothes will be taken away. I will be permitted only plain robes, and shortened so that my calves may be seen by men. I may even be forced to go publicly face-stripped. I may even be expelled from the palace. It could even mean the collar for me!"

I wondered if she were truly of the household of the palace. If so, perhaps this Belnar might be a resident of the palace. Perhaps he was an official or minister of some sort in the government of Brundisium. It did not seem to me likely that he would be the Ubar of Brundisium. So important a personage as a Ubar would not be likely to have much of an interest in a captain of Port Kar. On the other hand, I supposed it was possible. He might, I supposed, be both a Ubar and an agent of Priest-Kings, or of Kurii. If he were indeed so prominent then it seemed to me more likely that he might serve Kurii than Priest-Kings. The Priest-Kings, at least on the whole, it seemed to me, seldom picked prominent, conspicuous personages for their agents. Samos had been in their service before he had become the first captain in the Council of Captains in Port Kar. Perhaps then Flaminius and the Lady Yanina, and those associated with them, did serve Kurii.

"I see then," I said, "that you will have much to think about while awaiting the arrival of Flaminius."

"Flaminius!" she laughed bitterly. "Dear Flaminius! He will shed few tears, I assure you, over my plight!"

"That would be my impression," I said.

"He will find my downfall amusing, relishing it," she said.

"Perhaps if your punishment is enslavement," I said, "you might aspire to be one of his girls."

"Perhaps," she said, bitterly.

"He seems the sort of man who would know how to make a woman crawl beneath his whip," I said.

"That, too, is my understanding," she said. "Wait! Wait!"

But I had then withdrawn from the inn of Ragnar. Then I was making my way back to her camp.

6 I Renew an Acquaintance; I Am Considering Venturing to Brundisium

"Disgusting! Disgusting!" cried the free woman, one veiled and wearing the robes of the scribes, standing in the audience. "Pull down your skirt, you slave, you brazen hussy!"

"Pray, do withdraw, noble sir, for you surprise me unawares, and of necessity I must improvise some veiling, lest my features be disclosed," cried the girl upon the stage, Boots Tarsk-Bit's current Brigella. I had seen her a few days earlier in Port Kar.

"Pull down your skirt, slut!" cried the free woman in the audience.

"Be quiet," said a free man to the woman. "It is only a play."

"Be silent yourself!" she cried back at him.

"Would that you were a slave," he growled. "You would pay richly for your impertinence."

"I am not a slave," she said.

"Obviously," he said.

"And I shall never be a slave," she said.

"Do not be too sure of that," he said.

"Beast," she said.

"I wonder if you would be any good chained in a tent," he said.

"Monster!" she said.

"Let us observe the drama," suggested another fellow.

"Though I be impoverished and am clad in rags, in naught but the meanness of tatters," said the Brigella to Boots Tarsk-Bit, he on the stage with her, he in the guise of a pompous, puffing, lecherous merchant, "know, and know well, noble sir, that I am a free woman!"

This announcement, predictably, was met with guffaws of laughter from the audience.

"Take the scarf from about her throat!" hooted a;man. "See if there is not a steel collar beneath it!" On Gor, as I have perhaps mentioned, most of the actresses are slaves. In serious drama or more sophisticated comedy, when women are permitted roles within it, the female roles usually being played by men, and the females are salves, their collars are sometimes removed. Before this is done, however, usually a steel bracelet or anklet, locked, which they cannot remove, is placed on them. In this way, they continue, helplessly, to wear some token of bondage. This facilitates, in any possible dispute or uncertainty as to their status or condition, a clear determination in the matter, by anyone, of course, but in particular by guardsmen or magistrates, or otherwise duly authorized authorities.

This custom tends to prevent inconvenience and possible embarrassment, for example, the binding of the woman and the remanding of her to the attention of free females, that she may be stripped and her body examined for the presence of slave marks. In such an event, incidentally, it behooves the girl to swiftly and openly confess her bondage. Free women despise slaves. They tend to treat them with great cruelty and viciousness in general, and, in particular, they are not likely to be pleasant with one who has been so bold as to commit the heinous crime of impersonating one of them. There is no difficulty in locating or recognizing the slave mark in a girl's body. It, though small and tasteful, if prominent in her flesh. It is easily located, perfectly legible and totally unmistakable. It serves its identificatory purposes well. It, in effect, is part of her. It is in her hide.

Normally when a girl plays upon the stage, even if she is nude, the brand is not covered. Usually, if she is playing the role of a free woman it is simply "not see," so to speak, being ignored by the audience, in virtue of a Gorean theatrical convention. If a great deal is being made of the freedom of the woman in the play, as is not unusual in many dramas and farces, the brand is sometimes covered, as with a small, circular adhesive patch. The removal of this patch, conjoined perhaps with a collaring, for example, may then suggest that the female has now been suitably enslaved. The covering of the brand, thereby suggesting that for the purposes of the play and the role it does not exist, or does not yet exist, is another Gorean theatrical convention.

There are many such conventions. Carrying a tarn goad and moving about the stage in a certain manner suggests that one is riding a tarn; a kaiila crop, or kaiila goad, and a change of gait suggests that one is riding a kaiila; a branch on the stage can stand for a forest or a bit of a wall for a city; standing on a box or small table can suggest that the hero is viewing matters from the summit of a mountain or from battlement; some sprinkled confetti can evoke a snow storm; a walk about the stage may indicate a long journey, of thousands of pasangs; some crossed poles and a silken hanging can indicate a throne room or the tent of a general; a banner carried behind a «general» can indicate that he has a thousand men at his back; a black cloak indicates the character is invisible, and so on.

"Are you truly free?" inquired Boots Tarsk-Bit, with exaggerated incredulity, in the guise of the merchant, of his Brigella.

"Yes!" she cried, holding her skirt up about her face, it clenched n her small fists, to veil herself with it. There was laughter then, doubtless not only at the preposterousness of the situation but, too, at the incongruity of so obvious a slave, such a lovely Brigella, enunciating such a line.

"Boots puffed across the stage, as though to obtain a better vantage point.

"Tal, noble sir," she said.

"Tal, noble lady," said he.

"Is anything wrong?" she inquired.

"I would say that there is very little wrong, if anything," he said.

"Have you never seen a free woman before?" she asked.

"This farce is an insult to free women!" cried the free woman in the audience, she in the blue of the scribes.

"Have you never seen a free woman before?" repeated the Brigella.

"Generally I do not see so much of them," Boots admitted, as the merchant.

"I see," said the Brigella.

"Often not half so much," said Boots.

"Insulting!" cried the free woman.

"But I expect I see more of you than most," he said.

"Insulting! Insulting!" cried the free woman.

"Are you dismayed that I do not receive you properly?" asked the Brigella.

"I should be pleased," Boots assured her, "if it were your intention to receive me at all, either properly or improperly."

"What lady could do otherwise?" she inquired.

"Indeed!" Boots cried enthusiastically.

"I mean, of course," she said, "that I apologize for having to veil myself so hastily, making such swift and resourceful use of whatever materials might be at hand."

"I effect nothing critical," he assured her.

"Then you do not think the less of me?" she asked.

"No, I admire you. I admire you!" he said, admiring her.

"And thus," she said, "do we free women show men our modesty."

"And you have a very lovely modesty," affirmed Boots, admiringly.

"Oh!" she cried, suddenly, as though in the most acute embarrassment, and, crouching down, hastily pulled her skirt down about her ankles.

"I thought you were a free woman," exclaimed Boots.

"I am!" she cried. "I am!"

"And you go face-stripped before a strange man?" he inquired.

"Oh!" she cried, miserably, leaping up, once more pulling her skirt up, high about her face, using it once more to conceal her features.

"Ah!" cried Boots, appreciatively.

"Oh!" she cried in misery, thrusting her skirt down as though in great embarrassment.

"Face-stripped!" cried Boots, as though scandalized.

Up went the skirt.

"Ah!" cried Boots. "Ah!"

"What is a poor girl to do!" cried the Brigella. "What is a poor girl to do!"

The skirt's hem, clutched in her small hands, she moaning with misery and frustration, leapt up and down, again and again, in ever-shortening cycles until she held it, frustratedly, between her bosom and throat. In this fashion, of course, to the amusement of most of the crowd, it concealed neither her "modesty," so to speak, nor her features.

It must be understood, of course, to fully appreciate what was going on, that the public exposure of the features of a free woman, particularly on of high caste, or with some pretense to position or status, is a socially serious matter in many Gorean localities. Indeed, in some cities an unveiled free woman is susceptible to being taken into custody by guardsmen, then to be veiled, by force if necessary, and publicly conducted back to her home. Indeed, in some cities she is marched back to her home stripped, except for the face veil which has been put on her. In these cases a crowd usually follows, to see to what home it is that she is to be returned. Repeated offenses in such a city usually result in the enslavement of the female. Such serious measures, of course, are seldom required to protect such familiar Gorean proprieties. Custom, by itself, normally suffices.

Social pressures, too, in various ways, contribute to the same end. An unveiled woman, for example, may find other women turning away from her in a market, perhaps with expressions of disgust. Indeed, she may not even be waited upon, or dealt with, in a market by a free woman unless she first kneels. It would not be unusual for her., in a crowded place, to overhear remarks, perhaps whispers or sneers, of which she is the obvious object, such as "Shameless slut," "Brazen baggage," "As immodest as a slave," "I wonder who her master is," and "Put a collar on her!" And if she should attempt to confront or challenge her assailants, she will merely find such remarks repeated articulately and clearly to her face.

Slaves, incidentally, are commonly forbidden facial veiling. Their features are commonly kept naked, exposed fully to public view. In this way they may be looked upon by men, even casually, whenever and however they might be pleased to do so. That the Earth girl commonly thinks little of this exposure of her features, incidentally, is one of the many reasons that many Goreans think of her as a natural slave. For a Gorean girl that she is now, suddenly, no longer entitled to facial veiling, unless it pleases the master to grant it to her, is one of the most fearful and significant aspects of her transition into bondage. Her features, in all their sensitivity and beauty, so intimate, personal and private to her, so revelatory of her deepest and most secret thoughts, feelings and emotions, are now exposed to public view, to be looked upon, and read, by whomsoever may be pleased to do so.

It is interesting to note that even some Earth girls on Gor, after a short while, tend to become sensitive to this sort of thing. It is usually interpreted by both sorts of girls, then, for a time, as a part of the «shame» of the collar. In a little longer while, of course, neither sort of girl, the Gorean girl or the Earth girl now sensitive to the subtler implications of facial exposure, thinks anything more about it, or at least not normally. Both have now learned that they are now naught but slaves, and that that is all there is to it. No longer do they aspire to the prerogatives of the free woman. Their exposure, their human legibility, so to speak, like their obedience, service, love and discipline, is part of their condition. In a sense they find it liberating. It frees them from the temptations of deceit, pretense and restraint. Seldom now do they think, among themselves, of the «shame» of the collar. Rather now, in their place in the perfection of nature, yielded fully, helplessly, choicelessly, if you like, submitted at the feet of men, their deepest sexuality and needs recognized, attended to and fulfilled, they tend to think of its joy. No longer do they aspire to the privileges and prerogatives of the free woman; let her continue to live in her house of inhibition and convention; let her have her frigidities, jealousies and shams; they have found something a thousand times more precious, their meaning, their significance, their happiness, their joy, their fulfillments, their collars.

"What am I to do?" called the lovely Brigella to the crowd, the hem of her garment clutched up about her neck. her lovely lips pouted. It seemed she was almost in tears. How seemingly distraught she was, how seemingly dismayed she was with her dilemma!

"Kneel down!" called a man jovially.

"Take off your clothes!" called another.

"Lick his feet!" suggested another.

"Slave!" said the free woman, coldly, imperiously, obviously addressing the Brigella, and in no uncertain terms.

"Mistress," responded the girl immediately, frightened, breaking out of character, turning about and kneeling down. She had been addressed by a free woman.

"Head to the boards!" snapped the free woman.

Immediately the girl put her head down to the boards. She trembled. Such women are totally at the mercy of free persons.

"Are you the owner of this slave?" asked the free woman of Boots Tarsk-Bit.

"yes, Lady," he said.

"I suggest that she be beaten," she said.

"Perhaps an excellent suggestion," said Boots Tarsk-Bit. "as she is a lave, but have you any special reason in mind, not that one needs one, of course."

"I do not care for her performance," said the free woman.

"It is difficult to please everyone," Boots admitted. "But I assure you that if I, her master, am not fully satisfied with her performance, I will personally tie her and see that she is well whipped."

"I find her performance disgusting," she said.

"Yes, Lady," said Boots.

"And I find it an insult to free women!" said the free woman.

"Yes, Lady," said Boots, patiently.

"Let's see the rest of the play," said a man.

"So beat her!" said the free woman.

"I see no reason to beat her," said Boots. "She is doing precisely what she is suppos4ed to be doing. She is obeying. She is being obedient. If she were not being obedient, then I would beat her, then I would see to it that she were suitably and lengthily lashed."

"Beat her!" demanded the free woman.

"Shall I beat her?" inquired Boots of the crowd.

"No!" called a man.

"No!" shouted another.

"On with the play!" shouted another.

"Have you a license for this performance?" inquired the free woman.

"Have mercy on me, Lady," said Boots. "I am come on hard times. Only yesterday I had to sell my golden courtesan, just to make ends meet."

It is difficult to run a Gorean company of Boots's sort without a golden courtesan. That is one of the major stock characters in this form of drama. That character occurs probably in fifty to sixty percent of the farces constituting the repertory of such a company. It would be like trying to get along without a comic merchant, a Brigella, a B9ina, a Lecchio or a Chino. I already knew of Boots's difficulty. I had learned of it yesterday evening. Indeed, I had already seen fit, for reasons of my own, to engage in certain actions pertinent to the matter.

"Have you a license?" pressed the free woman.

"Last year I did not have one, admittedly, due to some fearful inadvertence," admitted Boots, "but I would not risk that twice at the Sardar Fair. I have settled my debts here. Indeed, no sooner had I settled one than I seemed that a thousand creditors, guardsmen at their backs, descended upon me, like jards upon an unwatched roast. At the point of their steel I became enamored with the satisfactions attendant upon the pursuit of punctilious honest. And destitution, when all is said and done, is doubtless a negligible price to pay for so glorious a boon as the improvement of one's character."

"You do have a license then?" she asked.

"I had to sell my golden courtesan to purchase one," said Boots.

"You have one then?" she asked.

"Yes, kind lady!" said Boots.

"It is my intention to see that it is revoked," she said.

"Good," said one of the men. "Go off, and see to it."

"Get on with the play!" called another.

"Have mercy, kind lady," begged Boots.

"I do not think that I will see fit to show you mercy in this matter," she said.

"Take the clothes of the scribe female and put her under the whip," said a man.

"Enslave her," growled another.

"Silence, silence, rabble!" she cried, turning about, facing the crowd.

"Rabble?" inquired a fellow. Assuredly the crowd was composed mostly of free men.

"Rabble!" said another fellow, angrily.

"Beasts and scum!" she cried.

"Enslave her!" said a man.

"Get her a collar," said a man. "She will then quickly mend her ways."

"Take off her clothes," said another. "Bracelet her. Put her on a leash."

"I have bracelets and a leash here," said a man.

"Put them on her," said another. "Conduct her to an iron worker."

"I will pay for her branding," said another.

"I will share the cost," said another.

"I am Telitsia, Lady of Asperiche," she said. "I am a free woman. I am not afraid of men!"

I smiled to myself. She was perfectly safe, of course, for she was within the perimeters of the Sardar Fair. How brave women can be within the context of conventions! I wondered if they understood the artificiality, the fragility, the tentativeness, the revokability of those subtle ramparts. Did they truly confuse them with walls of stone and the forces of weaponry? Did they understand the differences between the lines and colors on maps and the realities of a physical terrain? To what extent did they comprehend the fictional or mythical nature of those castles within which they took refuge, from the heights of which they sought to impress their will on worlds? Did they not know that one day men might say to them, "The castle does not exist," and that they might then find themselves once again, the patience of men ended, the folly concluded, the game over, struck to their place in nature, gazing upward at masters? Asperiche, incidentally, is an exchange island, or free island, in Thassa. It is south of Teletus and Tabor. It is administered by merchants.

"Let us continue with the play," suggested a man, irritably.

"yes, yes," said others. "On with the play!" "Continue!" "Get on with the play!"

"I understand that your Brigella is good," said a man. "I want to see her, fully."

The Brigella trembled, but she, still kneeling, could not lift her head from the boards. She had not yet received permission to do so. She did not, accordingly, know who it was who had expressed interest in her. I had little doubt, however, that she would now perform marvelously, that she would not play superbly to the entire crowd, that she would now make a special effort to be a deliciously skillful and juicily appealing in her role as possible. Someone was out there, doubtless with money in his wallet, who might be interested in spending it one her, buying her. This doubtless thrilled her, and pleased her vanity. It is a great compliment to a woman to be willing to buy her. It is then up to the girl to see that the man gets a thousand times his money's worth, and more. I licked my lips in anticipation.

"With your permission, Lady Telitsia?" inquired Boots, addressing himself politely to the haughty, rigid, proud, vain, heavily veiled, blue-clad free female standing in the front row below the stage.

"You may continue," she said.

"But you may find what ensues offensive," Boots warned her.

"Doubtless I will," she said. "And have no fear, I shall include it in my complaint to the proper magistrates."

"You wish to remain?" asked Boots, puzzled.

"Yes," she said, "but do not expect a coin from me."

I smiled. The Lady Telitsia was obviously as interested in seeing the rest of the play as the rest of us. I found this interesting.

"The simply beneficence of your presence, that of a noble free woman, is in itself a reward far beyond our deserving," Boots assured her.

"What is he saying," asked a man.

"He is saying that she is more than we deserve," growled a fellow.

"That is true," laughed a man.

"She could be taught to be pleasing," said a man.

"True," said a man.

"That might be amusing," said a man.

"You may continue," said the Lady Telitsia, loftily, to Boots Tarsk-Bit, ignoring these remarks.

"Thank you, kind lady," he said. He then turned to the Brigella. "Girl!" he snapped. His demeanor toward the Brigella was quite different from that toward the free woman. She, of course, was a slave. She leaped to her feet, clutching her skirt's hem again about her neck.

"Shameless," said the free woman.

The Brigella anxiously surveyed the crowd, trying to guess who it might be who had expressed interest in her. It could, indeed, have been any one of several men. Then she smiled prettily and flexed her knees. It was very well done. I think she probably made every man in the audience want to get his hands on her. She then, pouting and affecting her expression of dainty, ladylike consternation, resumed her character in the interrupted farce.

"Continue," signaled Boots Tarsk-Bit, himself returning to his comedic role.

"If I lift my skirt it seems I must reveal my modesty to a stranger," she wailed to the audience, "whereas should I lower it I must then, it seems, face-strip myself before him as brazenly as might a hussy! Oh, what is a poor girl to do?"

" myself, putatively, lovely lady, have in my pack the answer to your very problem," announced Boots.

"Pray, tell, good sir," she cried, "what might it be?"

"A veil," said he.

"That is just what I need!" she cried.

"But it is no ordinary veil," he said.

"Let me see it," she begged.

"I wonder if you will be able to see it," he said.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"But, of course, you will be3 able to see it," he said, "for you are obviously a free woman!"

"I do not understand," she said.

"It is a veil woven by the magicians of Anango," he said.

"Not them!" she cried.

"The same," he agreed solemnly. Anango, like Asperiche, is an exchange, or free, island in Thassa, administered by members of the caste of merchants. It is, however, unlike Asperiche, very far away. It is far south of the equator, so far south as to almost beyond the ken of most Gorean, except as a place both remote and exotic. The jungles of the Anangoan interior serve as the setting for various fanciful tales, having to do with strange races, mysterious plants and fabulous animals. The "magicians of Anango," for what it is worth, seem to be well known everywhere on Gor except in Anango. In Anango itself it seems folks have never heard of them.

"And it is the special property of this veil," Boots solemnly assured the girl, "that it is visible only to free persons."

"It would not do then to wear it before slaves," she said.

"Perhaps not," said Boots, "but then who cares what slaves think?"

"True," she said. "Let me see it! Let me see it!"

"But I have it here in my hand," said Boots.

"How beautiful it is!" she cried. There was much laughter. The device of the invisible cloth, or invisible object, a stone, a sword, a garment, a house, a boat, supposedly visible only to those with special properties, is a commonplace in Gorean folklore. This type of story has many variations.

Boots h held the supposed cloth up, turning it about, displaying it.

"Have you ever seen anything like it?" asked Boots.

"No!" she said.

"It is so light," he said, "that one can hardly feel it. Indeed, it is said that slaves cannot even feel it at all."

"I must have it!" she cried.

"It is terribly expensive," he warned her.

"Oh, woe!" she cried.

"Perhaps you have ten thousand gold pieces?" he asked.

"Alas, no!" she cried. "I am a poor maid, with not even a tarsk bit to her name."

"Alas, also," said Boots, gloomily, proceeding to apparently fold the cloth. He did this marvelously well in pantomime. He was very skillful. "I had hoped to make a sale," he added.

"Could you not cut me off just a little piece?" she asked.

"A thousand gold pieces worth? he asked.

"Alas," she wept. "I could not afford even that."

"To be sure," he said, "the veil is quite large, containing easily enough cloth to conceal an entire figure."

"I can see that," she said.

"Stinting on their work is not allowed by the magicians of Anango," he said.

"Everyone knows that," she said.

"In any event," said Boots, "surely you would not be so cruel, so heartless, so insensitive, as to suggest that I even consider using the scissors, that cruel engine, those divisive knives, upon so wondrous an object."

"No!" she cried.

"I wish you well, lady," said Boots, sadly, preparing to return the veil to his pack.

"I must have it!" she cried.

"Oh?" asked Boots.

"I will do anything to obtain it!" she cried.

"Anything?" asked Boots, hopefully.

"Anything!" she cried.

"Perhaps," mused Boots, "Perhaps-"

"yes!" she cried. "Yes?"

"No, it is unthinkable!" he said.

"What?" she begged, eagerly.

"Unthinkable!" announced Boots.

"What?" she pressed.

"For you are a free woman," he said.

"What?" she cried.

"It is well known that men have needs," he said, "and that hey are lustful beasts."

"I wonder what he can have in mind?" asked the girl of the crowd.

"And I have been a long time upon the road," he said.

" I grow suspicious," she said.

"And I know that you are a free woman," he said.

"My suspicions deepen with every instant," she informed the crowd.

"And that the beauty of a free woman is a commodity beyond price."

"My mind races," she kept the crowd informed. There was laughter. IN a sense what Boots was saying was correct. The beauty of a free woman was a commodity beyond price. This was not because there was anything special about it, of course, buy only because it was not for sale.

"And so I wonder," said Boots, "if in exchange for the wondrous veil I might be granted the briefest of peeps at your priceless beauty."

"It is far worse than I thought," cried the girl in dismay to the crowd.

"Forgive me, lady!" cried Boots, as though in horror at the enormity of what he had suggested.

"Yet," said the girl to the crowd, "I do desire that object mightily."

"I must be on my way," said Boots, resignedly.

"Stay, good sir. Tarry but a moment," she called.

"Yes?" said Boots.

"Would a glimpse of but an ankle or a wrist do?" she inquired.

"I hesitate to call this to your attention," said Boots, "but as you may not have noticed, as you are not hosed and gloved, such bold glimpses are already mine."

"My beauty, as that of a free woman, is priceless, is it not?" she asked.

"Of course," he said.

"Suppose then," she said, "that for your briefest of peeps you give me the ten thousand gold pieces of which you spoke, as a mere gesture of gratitude, of course, as the values involved are clearly incommensurate, and the veil, as well."

"Your generosity overwhelms me," cried Boots, "and had I ten thousand gold pieces I would doubtless gladly barter them for such a vision, but, alas, alack, I lack that mere ten thousand pieces of gold!" Boots turned to the crowd; "So near," he said, " and yet so far."

There was much laughter.

The free woman in the audience turned to me. "That line," she said, "was well delivered."

"Yes," I agreed.

"Can you see the veil?" one of the men in the audience asked her.

"Of course," she said. I saw that the female had an active wit. She had not fallen into his trap. There was laughter. She seemed highly intelligent. I supposed, then, other things being equal, that she might be capable of attaining at least the minimum standards of slave adequacy. I wondered if she were attractive. It was not easy to tell, robed and veiled as she was. It would have been easier to tell had she been in slave silk, or nude in a collar.

Boots, I saw, had followed this small exchange from the stage.

"Nine thousand pieces of gold, then," called the Brigella to Boots.

He returned his attention to the stage.

"Eight thousand?" she asked, hopefully.

Boots, with a great flourish, shook out the magic veil and displayed it shamelessly, so cruelly tempting her, awing her with its splendors.

"How marvelous it is!" she cried. "Oh! Oh!"

"Well," said Boots, seemingly folding the cloth, "I must be on my way."

"No, no!" she said. "Five thousand? One thousand!"

"Oh, curse my poverty," cried Boots, "that I cannot take advantage of so golden an opportunity!"

"I must have it," she wailed to the audience, "but I do not know what to do!"

Many were the suggestions called out to the bewildered Brigella from the audience, not all of which were of a refined nature. This type of participation, so to speak, on the part of the audience is a very familiar thing in the lower forms of Gorean theater. It is even welcomed and encouraged. The farce is something which, in a sense, the actors and the audience do together. They collaborate, in effect, to produce the theatrical experience. If the play is not going well, the audience, too, is likely to let the actors know about it. Sometimes a play is hooted down and another must be hastily substituted for it. Fights in the audience, between those who approve of what is going on and those who do not, are not uncommon. It is not unknown, either, for the stage to be littered with cores and rinds, and garbage of various sorts, most of which have previously, successfully or unsuccessfully, served as missiles. Occasionally an actor is struck unconscious by a more serious projectile. I do not envy the actor his profession. I prefer my own caste, that of the warriors.

"May I make a suggestion?" inquired Boots.

"Of course, kind sir," she cried, as though welcoming any solution to her dilemma.

"Disrobe in private," he suggested, "and while disrobing consider the matter. Then, if you decide, in your nobility, to deny me even the briefest of peeps, what harm could possibly have been done?"

"A splendid suggestion, kind sir," she said, "but where, in this fair meadow, at the side of a public road, will I find suitably privacy?"

"Here," said Boots, lifting up the veil.

"What?" she asked.

"As you can see," said Boots, "it is as opaque as it is beautiful."

"Of course," she said.

"You can see it, can't you?" he asked, suddenly concerned.

"Of course! Of course!" she said.

"Then?" asked Boots.

"Hold it up high," she said.

"Boots obliged. "Are you disrobing?" he asked. The men in the audience began to cry out with pleasure. Some struck their left shoulders in Gorean applause.

"Yes," called the Brigella.

She was quite beautiful.

"I shall mention this in my complaint to the proper magistrates," said the free woman from her position near the stage.

"Are you absolutely naked now?" asked Boots, as though he could not see her.

"Totally," she said.

"A silver tarsk for her!" called a fellow from the audience. The Brigella smiled. It must have been he, then, who had expressed a interest in her.

"A silver tarsk, five!" called another fellow.

"A sliver tarsk, ten!" called another.

These offers clearly pleased the Br9igella. They attested her value, which was considerable. Many women sell for less than a silver tarsk. Too, the fellows bidding all seemed strong, handsome fellows, all likely masters. There was not one of them who did not seem capable of handling her perfectly, as the slave she was. I suspected that this Brigella was not destined to long remain a member of the troupe of Boots, Tarsk-Bit.

"Do not interrupt the play," scolded the free woman.

"And not a tarsk-bit for you, lady," laughed one of the men.

The Lady Telitsia of Asperiche stiffened angrily and returned her attention to the stage. "You may continue," she informed the players.

"Why thank you, lady," said Boots Tarsk-Bit.

"Are you being insolent?" she asked.

"No, lady!" exclaimed Boots, innocently.

"She should be whipped," said a man.

The Lady Telitsia did not deign to respond to this suggestion. She could afford to ignore it, disdainfully. she was not a slave. She was a free woman, and above whipping. Too, she was perfectly safe. She was on the protected ground, the truce ground, of the Sardar Fair.

"Here I stand by a public road, stripped as naked as a slave," said the Brigella, confidently, to the audience, "but yet am perfectly concealed by this wondrous veil."

"Are you truly naked?" asked Boots.

"See?" she said to the crowd.

"To be sure!" called one of the men, one of the fellows who had bidden on her.

"Yes," she called out to Boots.

"But how can I know if you are truly naked?" inquired Boots, ogling her.

"You may take my word for it," she said, haughtily, "as I am a free woman."

"With all due respect, noble lady," said Boots, "in a transaction of this momentous nature, I believe it is only fair that I be granted assurances of a somewhat greater magnitude."

"What would you wish?" she asked.

"Might I not be granted some evidence of your putative nudity?" he inquired.

"But, sir," she said, "I have not yet decided whether or not to grant you your peep, that moment of inutterable bliss for which you will, willingly, surrender the wondrous veil to me in its entirety."

"Do not mistake me, kind lady," cried Boots, horrified. "I had in mind only evidence of an ilk most indirect."

"But what could that be?" she inquired, dismayed.

"I dare not think on the matter," he lamented.

"I have it!" she cried.

"What?" he asked, winking at the crowd.

"I could show you my clothing!" she cried.

"But of what relevance might that be?" asked Boots, innocently.

"If you detect that I am not within it," she said, "then might you not, boldly, infer me bare?"

"Oh, telling stroke, bold blow!" he cried. "Who might have conjectured that our problem could have succumbed to so deft a solution!"

"I bundle my clothing," se said, "and place it herewith beneath the edge of the veil, that you may see it."

There was much laughter here, at the apparent innocence of this action. This was extremely meaningful, of course, in the Gorean cultural context. When a female places her clothing at the feet of a man she acknowledges that whether or not she may wear it, or other garments, or even if she is to be clothed at all, is dependent on his will, not hers. Boots, in effect, in the context of the play, had tricked her into placing her clothing at his feet. This is tantamount to a declaration of imbondment to the male.

"Hold up the veil," said Boots to the Brigella.

"Why, good sir?" she asked.

"I must count the garments," said Boots, seriously.

"Very well," she said. "Oh, the veil is so light!"

"It is exactly like holding nothing up at all," Boots granted her.

"Exactly," she said. Boots then made a great pretense of counting the garments. The Brigella turned to the audience, as though holding up the cloth between herself and them. "He is so suspicious, and has such a legalistic mind," she complained. Meanwhile Boots thrust the garments into his pack.

"I trust that all is in order," said the Brigella.

"It would seem so," said Boots, "unless perhaps you are now wearing a second set of garments, a secret set, which was cleverly concealed beneath the first set."

"I assure you I am not," she said.

"I suppose even in matters this monumentous," said Boots, "there comes a time when some exchange of trust is in order."

"Precisely," said the Brigella.

"Very well," said Boots.

"I do not see my clothing about," said the Brigella to the crowd, "but doubtless it is hidden behind the veil."

"Then!" cried Boots.

"Yes," she said, "you may now, if you wish, infer, and correctly, sir, that behind this opaque veil I am bare."

"Utterly?" he asked.

"Utterly," she said.

"Oh, intrepid inference!" cried Boots. "I can scarcely control myself!"

"You must struggle to do so, sir," she said.

"Hold the veil higher," said Boots. "Higher, lest I be tempted to peep over its rippling, shimmering horizon, daring to look upon what joys lie beyond. Higher!"

"Is this all right?" she asked.

"Splendid!" said Boots.

She now stood with the veil raised high above her head with her arms spread. This lifted the line of her breasts beautifully. Women are sometimes tied in this posture in a slave market. It is a not uncommon display position.

"Ah!" cried Boots. "Ah!"

"The sounds you utter, sir," she said, "would almost make me believe, could I but see them, which, of course, I cannot, that your facial expressions and bodily attitudes might be those of one who looked relishingly upon me."

"Yes," cried Boots, "it is my active imagination, conjecturing what exposed beauty must lie perfectly concealed behind the impervious barrier of that heartless veil."

"And I am a free woman," said the girl to the crowd, "not even a slave." There was laughter. All that she wore now, in actuality, not in the context of the play, of course, in which she was, by convention, understood to be utterly naked, was her collar, concealed by a light scarf, and a circular adhesive patch on her left thigh, concealing her brand.

"Ah!" cried Boots.

"I had best not permit him more than the briefest of peeps," she said, to the audience, "lest he perhaps in rapture go out of his sense altogether."

Boots pounded his thighs.

"Imagine what it might be if he could truly see me," she said.

"Let me, dear lady," said Boots, "hold the veil. Though it be as light as noting itself, yet, by now, your arms, if only from their position, must grow weary."

"Thank you, kind sir," she said. "Do you have it now?"

"Of course," said Boots, as though astonished at her question.

"Of course," she said, lightly. "I just did not wish you to drop it."

"There is little danger of that," he said. "I mean, of course, I will exercise considerable caution in its handling."

He now held the cloth up between them.

"Have you given some thought to the matter of whether or not you will permit me the peep of which we spoke so intriguingly earlier?" he asked.

"Keep holding the veil up high," she said. "Perhaps I will consider giving some thought to the matter."

Suddenly, with a cry of apprehension, looking down the road, Boots snapped away the cloth and whipped it behind his back, seeming to stuff it in his belt, behind his back. "Oh!" she cried in horror, cringing and half crouching down, trying to cover herself as well as she could, in maidenly distress. "What have you done, sir? Explain yourself, instantly!"

"I fear brigand approach," he said, looking wildly down the road. "Do not look! They must not see the wondrous veil! Surely they would take it from me!"

"But I am naked!" she cried.

"Pretend to be a slave!" he advised.

"I," she gasped, in horror, "pretend to be a slave?"

"Yes!" he cried.

"But I know nothing," said the Brigella, in great innocence, to the audience, "of being a slave."

There was laughter.

"What you know nothing of," said the free woman to her, "is of being a free woman, meaningless slut."

The Brigella at one time or another had doubtless been a free woman. Accordingly she would presumably know a great deal about being a free woman. On the other hand she did not dare respond to the free woman, for she was now a slave.

"Would you rather be apprehended by the brigands?" inquired Boots of the Brigella. "They might be pleased to get their capture cords on a free woman."

"No!" she cried.

"Kneel down," he said, "quickly, with your head to the dirt!"

"Oh, oh!" she moaned, but complied.

"That way," he said, "they make you for a mere slave, perhaps not worth the time it might take to put you in a noose and the time it might take to transport you to a salves point, and me for a poor merchant, perhaps not worth robbing. Here they come. They are fierce looking fellows."

"Oh," she moaned, trembling, "oh, oh."

"Do not look up," he warned her.

"No," she said.

"No, what, Slave?" he said, sternly.

"No, Master!" she cried.

There was laughter. He now had her kneeling naked at his feet, addressing him as «Master». In the Gorean culture, of course, this sort of thing is very significant. Indeed, in some cities such things as kneeling before a man or addressing him as «Master» effects legal imbondment on the female, being interpreted as a gesture of submission.

There was now great laughter for, strolling across the stage, swinging censers, mumbling in what was doubtless supposed to resemble archaic Gorean, in the guise of Initiates, came Tarsk-Bit's Lecchio and Chino. In a moment they had passed.

"Those were not brigands," cried the girl, angrily, looking up. "They were Initiates!"

"I am sorry," said Boots, apologetically. "I mistook them for brigands."

She leaped to her feet, covering herself with her hands, as well as she could. "You may now give me the veil, sir," she said, angrily.

"But you have not yet given me my peep," protested Boots.

"Oh!" she cried angrily.

"Consider how you are standing," said Boots, "half turned away from me, half crouched down, and holding your legs as you are, and with your hands and arms placed as they are, such things seem scarcely fair to me. Surely you must understand that such things constitute obstacles uncongenial, at the least, to the achievement of a peep of the quality in question."

"Oh! Oh!" she cried.

"It is a simple matter of bargaining in good faith," said Boots.

"Sleen!" she cried.

"Perhaps we could get a ruling on the matter from a praetor," suggested Boots.

"Sleen! Sleen!" she cried.

"I see that I must be on my way," said Boots.

"No!" she cried. "I must have that wondrous veil!"

"Not without my peep," said Boots.

"Very well, sir," she said. "How will you have your peep? What must I do?"

"Lie down upon your back," he said, "and lift your right knee, placing your hands at your sides, six inches from y our thighs, the palms of your hands facing upwards." He regarded her. "No," he said, "that is not quite it. Roll over, if you would. Better. Now lift your upper body from the dirt, supporting it on the palms of your hands, and look back over your shoulder. Not bad. But I am not sure that is exactly is. Kneel now, and straighten your body, putting your head back, clasping your hands behind the back of your head. Perhaps that is almost it."

"I hope so!" she cried.

"But not quite," he said.

"Oh!" she cried in frustration.

"Sometimes one must labor, and experiment, to find the proper peep," he informed her.

"Apparently," she said.

Boots, the, it seemed always just minimally short of success, continued dauntlessly to search for a suitable peep. In doing this, of course, the female was well, and lengthily, displayed for the audience.

She was incredibly beautiful. The men cried out with pleasure, some of them slapping their thighs.

"Disgusting!" cried the free woman.

I myself considered bidding on the Brigella. She was incredibly, marvelously beautiful.

"Disgusting!" cried the free woman.

"It is you who are disgusting," said one of the men to the free woman.

"I?" she cried.

"Yes, you," he said.

The free woman did not respond to him. She stiffened in her robes, her small hands clenched in her blue gloves. How antibiological, petty, and self-serving were her value judgments.

"Look," cried Boots to the Brigella, in his guise of a merchant. "Someone is coming!"

"You will not fool me twice, you scoundrel, you cad!" she replied from her knees.

"I think it is a woman," said Boots.

"What?" she cried, turning about, half rising, and then collapsed back in confusion, in misery, to her knees. She looked up at Boots, wildly. "It is Lady Tipa, my rival, from the village," she said. "She cannot be allowed to see me like this. What, oh, what, shall I do? Where can I hide?"

"Quickly," cried Boots, "here, beneath my robes!"

Swiftly, on her knees, wildly, knowing not what else to do, the girl had scrambled to Boots. IN a moment she was concealed beneath his robes, on her knees, only her calves and feet thrust out from beneath their hem.

"I see, sir," said the newcomer, who was understood to be the free woman, the Lady Tipa, but was presumably Boots's Bina, usually the companion and confidant of the Brigella, "that you well know how to pout a slave through her paces."

"Why, thank you, noble lady," said Boots.

"I did not get a good look at her as I approached," said the Bina. "Is she pretty?"

"Some might think her passable," said Boots, "but compared to yourself her beauty is doubtless no more than that of a she-urt compared to that of the preferred slave of a Ubar."

The Brigella churned with rage beneath Boots's robes. She dared not emerge, of course.

"What is wrong with your slave?" asked the Bina.

"She burns with desire," said Boots.

"How weak slaves are," said the Bina.

"Yes," said Boots.

"I am looking for a girl from m y village," said the Bina. "I was told, by two fellows, peddle4s, I think, whom I take to be of the merchants, that she may have come this way."

"Could you describe her?" asked Boots.

"Her name is Phoebe," said the Bina, "and were she not veiled it would be easier to describe her to you, as she is frightfully homely."

The girl under Boots's robes shook with fury.

"Still," said the newcomer, "you might have been able, nonetheless, to recognize her. She is too short, too wide in the hips and has thick ankles."

At this there was more churning beneath Boots's robes.

"Surely there is something wrong with your slave," said the Bina.

"No, no," Boots assured her.

"What is she doing under there?" asked the Bina.

"She begged me piteously to be permitted to give me the kiss of a slave that I, in my weakness, at last yielded to her entreaties."

There was much furious stirring then beneath the robes.

"How kind you are, sir," said the Bina.

"Thank you," said Boots.

There was a muffled cry, as of rage and protest, from beneath the robes.

"Did she say something?" asked the Bina.

"Only that she begs to be permitted to begin," said Boots.

The robes shook with fury.

"Surely there is something wrong with her," said the Bina.

"It is only that she is suffering whit need," said Boots.

"Though she is naught be a meaningless slave," said the Bina, "she is yet, like myself, a female. Please be kind to her, sir. Let her please you."

"How understanding you are," marveled Boots. "You may begin," he said to the concealed girl.

The robes shook violently, negatively.

"What is wrong?" asked the Bina.

"She is shy," said Boots.

"The slave need not be shy on my account," said the Bina. "Let her begin."

"Begin," said Boots.

The robes again shook violently.

"Begin," he said.

Again there seemed a great commotion beneath his robes.

Boots then, with the flat of his hand, with some force, cuffed the girl concealed under his robes. Instantly she knelt quietly. "Lazy girl, naughty girl," chided Boots. The tops of her toes, as she knelt, beat up and down in helpless frustration. "I see that I shall have to draw you forth and beat you," she said.

"Look!" cried the Bina. "She begins!"

"Oh, she does, doesn't she?" said Boots. "Oh, yes!"

"What a slave she is!" cried the Bina. "How exciting! How exciting!"

"To be sure," agreed Boots. "Ah! Yes! Ohhh! To be sure! Eee! Yes! Quite! Oh! Yes! Oh! Oh! To be sure! Eee! Yes! Oh! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Ohhh, yes, yes, yes." Boots then wiped his brow with his sleeve.

"Has she gone?" called out the Brigella, after a time, her voice muffled from beneath his robes.

"Yes," said Boots.

The Brigella, as the Lady Phoebe, extricated herself, on her knees, from the robes of Boots Tarsk-Bit. She turned about, still on her knees. "Tipa!" she cried in horror.

"I thought you had gone," said Boots.

"Phoebe!" cried the Lady Tipa.

"Tipa," moaned Phoebe, in misery.

"Phoebe!" cried the Lady Tipa, in delight.

"Tipa!" pleaded Phoebe.

"Phoebe on her knees, as naked as a slave, on a public road, crawling out of a man's robes!" laughed the Bina, pointing derisively at her. "How shameful, how outrageous, how marvelous, how delicious, how glorious!"

"Please, Tipa," pleaded Phoebe.

"You are the sort of girl who should have been whipped and collared at puberty!" said the Bina.

The free woman in the audience stiffened at these words. These words seemed to have some special meaning for her. She shook her head and clenched her small fists in the blue gloves.

"You have always been a slave," said the Bina.

"I am a free woman," wailed the Brigella.

"Slave, slave, slave!" laughed the Bina. "This story will bear a rich retelling in the village," she said hurrying away.

"I am ruined," wailed the Brigella, rising to her feet, wringing her hands. "I cannot bear now to return to the village and, if I did, they would put a chain on me and sell me."

"Perhaps not," said Boots, soothingly.

"Do you not think so, sir?" she asked.

"It might be a rope," he said.

"Ohhhhh," she wailed. "Where can I go? What can I do?"

"Well," said Boots, "I must be on my way."

"But what shall I do?" she asked.

"Try to avoid being eaten by sleen," said Boots. "It is growing dark."

"Where are my clothes?" she begged.

"I do not see them em about," said Boots. "They must have blown away."

"Take me with you!" she begged.

"Perhaps you would like to kneel and beg my collar?" he asked. "I might then consider whether or not I find you pleasing enough to lock it on your neck."

"Sir," she cried, "I am a free woman!"

"Good luck with the sleen," he said.

"Accept me as a traveling companion," she urged.

"And what would you do, to pay your way on the road?" he asked.

"I could give you a kiss, on the cheek, once a day," she said. "Surely you could not expect more from a free woman."

"Good luck with the sleen." said he.

"Do not go," she begged. "I am willing, even, to enter into the free companionship with you!"

Boots staggered backwards, as though overwhelmed. "I could not dream of accepting a sacrifice of such enormity on your part!" he cried.

"I will. I will!" she cried.

"But I suspect," said Boots, suspiciously, musingly, regarding her, "that there may be that in you which is not really of the free companion."

"Sir?" she asked.

"Perhaps you are, in actuality, more fittingly understood as something else," he mused.

"What can you mean, sir?" she asked.

"Does it not seem strange that you would have fallen madly in love with me at just this moment?"

"Why, no, of course not," she said.

"Perhaps you are merely trying to save yourself from sleen," he mused.

"No, no," she assured him.

"I fear that you are tricking me," he said.

"No!" she said.

"In any event," he said, "you surely cannot expect me to consider you seriously in connection with the free companionship."

"Why not?" she asked, puzzled.

"A naked woman," he asked, skeptically, "encountered beside a public road?"

"Oh!" she cried in misery.

"Do you have a substantial dowry?" he asked. "An extensive wardrobe, wealth, significant family connections, a high place in society?"

"No!" she said. "No! No!"

"And if you return to your village I think you will find little waiting for you there but a rope collar and a trip in a sack to the nearest market."

"Misery!" she wept.

"Besides," he said, "in your heart you are truly a slave."

"No!" she cried.

"Surely you know that?" he asked.

"No!" she cried.

"I do not even think you saw the wondrous veil," he said.

"I saw it," she said. "I saw it!"

"What was its predominant color?" he asked, sharply.

"Yellow," she said.

"No," he said.

"Red!" she said.

"No!" he said.

"Blue, pink, orange, green!" she cried.

"Apparently you are a slave," he said, grimly. "You should not have tried to masquerade as a free woman. There are heavy penalties for that sort of thing."

She put her head in her hands, sobbing.

"I wonder if I should turn you over to magistrates," he said.

"Please, do not!" she wept.

"I will give you another chance," he said, reaching behind his back, to where he had supposedly hidden the veil at the first sight of the supposed brigands. "Now," he said, thrusting forth his hands, "in which hand is it?"

"The right!" she cried.

"No!" he said.

"The left!" she wept.

"No," he said, "it is in neither hand. I left it behind my back!"

"Oh, oh!" she wept.

"On your knees, Slave," he said, sternly.

Swiftly she knelt, in misery.

"Do not fret, girl," said Boots. "Surely you know that you have slave curves."

"I do?" she asked.

"Yes," he said. "In any event, you are far too beautiful to be a mere free companion."

"I am?" she asked.

"Yes," he said. "Your beauty, if you must know, is good enough to be that of a slave."

Here several of the men in the audience shouted their agreement.

"Is it?" she asked, laughing.

"Yes," said Boots, struggling to keep a straight face.

"Good!" laughed the Brigella.

There was more laughter from the audience.

"Mind your characterizations!" called the free woman in the audience.

"Forgive me, Lady," said Boots, trying not to laugh.

"Forgive me, Mistress," said the Brigella.

"Continue," said the free woman.

"Are you in charge of the drama?" inquired a man.

The free woman did not deign to respond to him.

"Will you not then accept me as a free companion, noble sir?" called the Brigella to Boots, in his guise as the merchant.

"It is the collar for you, or nothing," said Boots, grandly.

There was a cheer from the men in the audience.

"Though I may be a slave in my heart," cried the Brigella, leaping to her feet, "I am surely not a legal slave and thus, as yet, am bond to neither you nor any man!"

"Many are the slaves who do not yet wear their collars," said Boots, meditatively, and then suddenly, turned about and, to the amusement of the men in the audience, to sudden bursts of laughter, started directly at the outspoken, troublesome, arrogant free woman standing in the front row, below the stage. He could not resist turning the line in this fashion, it seemed.

"Sleen! Sleen! she cried.

There was much laughter.

"is it true that you are as yet merely an uncollared slave?" asked a man of the free woman.

"He is a sleen, a sleen! cried the free woman.

"I must soon be on my way, " said Boots to the Brigella, chuckling, trying to return to the play. He was well pleased with himself.

"Go!" she said, grandly, with a gesture.

"If you wish," he said, "you may kneel and beg my collar. I might consider granting it to you. I would have to think about it."

"Never!" she said.

"What are you going to do?" he asked.

"I shall return to the village and take my chances," she said.

"Very well," he said, "but watch out for those two fellows approaching. I fear they may be slavers."

"They appear to be peddlers, merchant, to me," she said.

"They do seem so," admitted Boots. "But that may be merely their disguise, to take unwary girls unaware."

"nonsense," she said. "I know a peddler when I see one."

"At any rate," he said, "let us hope that they are no worse than slavers."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"I heard there were two feed hunters in the vicinity," he said.

"What is a feed hunter?" she asked.

"One who hunts for feed, of course," said Boots.

"Feed?" she asked.

"Usually for their sleen," he said, "They are pesky, careless, greedy fellows, little better than scavengers, in my opinion. They will settle for almost anything. They are particularly pleased when they can get their ropes on a juicy girl."

"Surely there are better things to do with a girl than feed her to sleen," she said.

"It probably depends on the girl," said Boots.

"No!" she cried.

"I am inclined to agree with you, though," said Boots, "all things considered, but then, of course, I am not a feed hunter."

"You are trying to frighten me," she said.

"Have it your own way," said Boots.

"You have fooled me already today, perhaps many times," she said. "Do not seek to do it again!"

"Have it your own way," said Boots.

"I wish that my clothes had not blown away," she said.

"Yes," said Boots. "That was too bad."

"I am on my way," she announced.

"Good luck!" he called.

She then, in accordance with a common Gorean theatrical convention, trekked about the stage in a circle, while Boots withdrew to one side. In a moment, of course, she had come into the vicinity of the two aforementioned fellows, they entering from the other side of the stage. So simply was the scene changed. These two fellows, of course, were Boots's Chino and Lecchio, now largely garbed in tatters of yellow and white, the colors of the merchants.

"Greetings, noble merchants," said the girl.

"Hah!" snarled the Chino to his fellow, Lecchio. "Our disguises are perfect! She takes us for merchants!"

"Would you please step aside, good sirs," she said. "I desire to pass."

"It is warm today," said Chino.

"True," she said.

"But even so," he said, "it seems you are somewhat lightly clad."

"My clothes, I fear, blew away," she said.

"That is what they all say," said Chino.

"That is not really what they all say," said Lecchio, scratching his head, through the hood. "Some say other things. One said her clothes were dissolved by magic in the bushes. That must have been frightening for her, to have had her clothes dissolved by magic in the bushes."

"No," protested the girl.

"Doubtless they were torn from your body in a recent hurricane," said Chino.

"No!" she cried.

"Removed from your body by an ardent suitor, then, who neglected to replace them?" asked Chino.

"No!" she cried.

"Eaten in a moment by ravenous insects?"

"No!"

"You were attacked by cloth workers with scissors, who desired to replenish their stores?"

"No!"

"Magic?" asked Lecchio.

"No, no!" she cried. "It is as I told you. They just blew away!"

"Do not lie to us, Girl," said Chino, sternly.

"Girl?" she asked.

"This morning," said Chino, "you were simply sent forth stripped."

"Sent forth?" she asked.

"Yes," said Chino, folding his arms.

"I think that you are under a grave misapprehension, sirs," she said, righteously. "Simply because I might be somewhat lightly clad this evening, do not mistake me for a slave."

"Do I understand you correctly?" asked Chino. "Have we the honor of being in the presence of a free woman?"

"Yes," she said.

"You mean that no one owns you, that you are totally unclaimed?"

"Yes," she said, proudly.

"Excellent!" said Chino.

"Wonderful!" said Lecchio.

"Sirs," she asked, "why is it that you are drawing forth coils of stout ropes from beneath your robes?"

"Why to bind your pretty arms to your sides, and to put a good rope on your neck, my dear," said Chino.

"I do not understand!" she said.

"She will make a juicy morsel for our sleen, will she not, Lecchio, my friend?" inquired Chino.

"That she will," agreed Lecchio.

"You are feed hunters!" cried the girl in horror.

"What is a feed hunter?" asked Lecchio of Chino.

"That is exactly right, my dear," Chino confirmed her darkest suspicions.

"But you cannot feed me to sleen!" she cried.

"You are free to be taken," Chino informed her. "It is all perfectly legal. You are neither claimed nor owned."

"But I am a slave in my heart!" she cried.

"That is not good enough," said Chino. "All free women are merely uncollared slaves."

AT this line more than one man in the audience turned to look at the veiled free woman in the audience, she of the scribes. She, however, of course, her back stiff, pretended not to notice that she was the object of this rather obvious attention.

"Oh, misery, misery!" cried the Brigella.

"You do not have a legal master," said Chino. "Thus you are eminently qualified for sleen feed. Come now. Do not be difficult. Let us get these ropes on you."

"No, no!" she cried, and, turning, sped away. AS she again retraced the circle on the stage, this time hastily, suggesting her journey, Chino and Lecchio watched her depart. "We must soon begin our fierce pursuit," Chino informed the audience.

In a moment or two the Brigella had again reached the vicinity of Boots Tarsk-Bit who turned about, congenially enough, effecting some surprise at the sight of her. "Greetings," he said.

"I kneel before you as a naked slave," cried the girl. "I beg your collar! I beg your collar!"

"Your head is rather high," said Boots.

Immediately the girl put her head to the ground.

"I wonder how you would look on your belly," said Boots.

Immediately she lay on her belly before him.

"My sandals are rather dusty, from the road," said Boots.

Immediately the girl began to lick his feet and sandals, cleaning them.

"You may kiss them, as well," Boots informed her.

Immediately the girl began to add fervent kisses to her ministrations.

"Did you wish to speak to me?" inquired Boots.

"I beg your collar!" she said hoarsely. "I beg your collar!"

"You may kneel before me, with your knees spread," said Boots.

The men in the audience cried out with pleasure. The Brigella was so beautiful! Too, a woman is so marvelously vulnerable and attractive in this position. It is no wonder that it is a portion of a common position of a Gorean pleasure slave.

"Now," said Boots, "what was it that you wanted to speak to me about?"

"I want your collar," she said. "I beg it!"

"I have given some thought to this matter," said Boots, "and I have decided against it."

"No!" she cried.

"Yes," he said. "I have decided that, after all, you are a free woman."

"No, I am not," she said. "I am only a miserable slave, a rightful slave, one pleading for her collar."

"How can I know that you speak the truth?" he asked, thoughtfully.

"I am prepared to offer any evidences that you might suggest," she said.

There was a cheer from the men in the audience.

The Brigella laughed.

"Are you?" asked one of the men in the audience to the free woman in the audience.

"Get her on her knees naked, too," said another man of her.

"With her knees spread, and well," added another.

"Collar her," said another.

"Give her a taste of the whip," said another.

"Teach her quickly to lick and kiss," said another.

"Teach her what being a woman is all about," said another.

"Did you not see?" asked the free woman. "She laughed! She lost her characterization!"

"It is sometimes hard to keep one's characterization in such a play," I said.

"Perhaps," she said.

"Do not be too hard on her," I said. "She is only a slave."

"Slaves are to be shown no mercy," said the free woman, coldly.

"Do I detect that you are critical in some respects of her performance?" I asked. The Brigella seemed to me to be very talented.

"She is undoubtedly quite good," said the free woman, "but many of her lines, I think, could have been better handled, or at least differently handled, particularly in this form of farce, more broadly, both verbally and gesturally."

"Interesting," I said.

"May we have Lady Telitsia's permission to continue," inquired Boots, not too pleased with the interruption.

"You may continue," she said.

"Thank you," he said. "You are very kind." He then returned his attention to the Brigella. "No," he said. "I am sure you are a free woman, not a slave."

"No, no!" she said. "I am a slave! I swear it! I swear it!" She cast a wild glance back over her shoulder. AS yet, supposedly, Chino and Lecchio were not in sight.

"It is true," said Boots, "that at one time I thought you might be a slave."

"Yes!" she said.

"But I think I was wrong," said Boots.

"No, no," she said. "You were right! You were right!"

"You are a slave, really?" asked Boots.

"yes," she said. "I am really a slave! I swear it!" Again she looked over her shoulder.

"You do have slave curves," admitted Boots.

"Yes, yes!" she cried.

"Very well," said Boots. "I acknowledge, unqualifiedly, with no reservations whatsoever, uncompromisingly, that you are a slave."

"Collar me!" she cried.

"I think," said Chino to Lecchio, at the other side of the stage, "that it is nearly time for us to begin our fierce pursuit."

"Surely you must understand," said Boots to the Brigella, "that two quite different matters are under consideration here. One is whether or not you are a slave, a matter which has now been settled in the affirmative, and the other is whether or not I might be interested, in the least, in having you as my own slave."

She looked at him in disbelief.

"Not every man wants to own every slave," he said, "or, at least, it would not be too practical for a fellow to own every slave, for that would be a great many slaves."

"Please," she begged.

"Too, slaves can be expensive. One must feed them and, if one wishes, find them a rag to wear."

"Our fierce pursuit begins," announced Chino to the audience, and Lecchio began to describe a circle about the stage, carefully, bending over, hesitating now and then, apparently tracking the lovely fugitive.

"Disciplinary devices, such as whips and chains, too, can be expensive," said Boots.

"I fear they are coming!" she cried, turning back from looking over her shoulder.

"Who?" asked Boots.

"Oh, no one," she said.

"Oh," said Boots.

"I am at your feet, a naked supplicant," she said. "I entreat you, implore you, to show me mercy! Deign, in your graciousness, to consider my humble petition!"

"What was it again," asked Boots. "I fear it may have slipped my mind."

"Make me your slave!" she cried. "I beg to be made your slave!"

"Oh, yes," said Boots. "That is it. Have you had any experience?"

"That is her, up ahead, I think," called out Chino to Lecchio.

"No!" she wept.

"Then perhaps you should apply to another master," said Boots.

"Train me!" she said. "We must all start somewhere! I will be zealous and obedient!"

"I think you are right," said Lecchio to Chino, looking in the direction of Boots and the Brigella.

"Put your collar on me, please!" cried the Brigella. "There is little time!"

"I will give you my answer in the morning," said Boots.

"No," she cried. "No, please, no!"

"Or next week," he said.

"No!" she cried.

"Yes," said the Chino. "I am sure it is she. Let us hurry. We can have our ropes in her in a moment!" They then, apparently, began to hurry. To be sure, their new haste was largely a matter of marking time in place. Yet one had the distinct impression, in the lovely conventions involved, that they were getting closer and closer.

"Do you think you can be pleasing?" asked Boots. Free companions, after all, can be anything. But slaves must be pleasing.

"Yes," she cried, "yes!"

"Good," said Boots. "I shall let you know in the morning or in a few days."

"No!" she cried.

"Why not?" asked Boots.

"Then you would miss a night's pleasure," she said, desperately, wildly, "or perhaps even my use, at your slightest whim, for a few days!"

"That is true," mused Boots.

"Yes! There she is!" cried Chino to Lecchio. "Let us rush upon her! In an instant we will have her helpless in our bonds!"

"Oh, collar me, Master!" she cried. "Please, please, Master!"

"What did you call me?" asked Boots.

"Master, Master!" she cried.

"Oh, very well," said Boots.

Swiftly she thrust her neck forward, lifting her chin. Boots stood between her and the audience and seemed to reach into his pack. He seemed then to withdraw something from the pack and, in a moment, to fasten it on her neck. In this instant, of course, he had removed the scarf from about her neck, that concealing h er collar. He then stepped back. Lo, there was steel on her neck! There was a cheer from the men in the audience.

"We have you now!" cried Chino, he and Lecchio arriving on the scene, ropes in hand.

"Who are you fellows?" called Boots. "What do you want?"

The Brigella, now collared, trembling, cowered beside Boots, clinging to one of his legs.

"Do not question us," said the Chino. "Our profession is a dark one. I dare not mention it lest you faint in fear."

"Assassins!" cried Boots.

"Far worse," said the Chino.

"Feed hunters!" cried Boots, aghast.

"The same," said Chino.

"The very same," said the Lecchio, grimly.

"I am surprised, actually," said the Chino, "that you have heard of our profession, as it is not well known."

"I, myself," said the Lecchio, "heard of it but moments ago."

"I heard that two such rascals as yourselves were about," said Boots. "What do you want here?"

"Her!" said the Chino, pointing dramatically, menacingly, at the Brigella. She shrank back in fear.

"Her?" inquired Boots.

"Yes!" said the Chino. "Now if you will be so kind as to step aside, we will get our ropes on her."

"Hold, rogues!" said Boots.

"What is wrong, sir?" inquired Chino.

"You cannot have her," said Boots.

"WE have been hunting her for some time," said Chino. "She is our legitimate prey. It is all quite legal. We are honest fellows. We are entitled to her. Now please do not interfere. Come no, little vulo, put your head in this noose."

"Desist!" cried Boots.

"What is wrong now?" asked Chino.

"Apparently," said Boots, "you are under the delusion that this is a free woman, one that my simply be picked up, like a larma in a field, for whatever purposes you might please."

"Of course," said Chino.

"She is not a free woman," said Boots.

"What!" cried Chino.

"Observe her pretty neck," said Boots.

"It is collared!" cried Chino.

"Yes!" said Boots.

"She is a slave!" said Chino.

"Yes," said Boots.

"Ah, well, an unclaimed slave is almost as good as a free woman," said Chino, reaching forth again with the noose.

"Stop!" cried Boots.

"What now?" inquired Chino.

"Yes, what now?" inquired Lecchio.

"This woman is both claimed and collared," said Boots.

"What!" cried Chino.

"What?" asked Lecchio.

"Are you thieves?" asked Boots.

"No!" cried Chino.

"No?" asked Lecchio.

"No!" cried Chino.

"No!" said Lecchio, righteously.

"Then desist, scoundrels," said Boots, "for this woman is my property!"

"Is it true?" asked Chino.

"Yes, Masters," she said, "it is true. I am his property. He is my master. He owns me. I belong to him, legally and completely, in all ways, fully!"

"There are, of course, two of us," said Chino, menacingly.

"I do not fear you!" said Boots. "Be off, you scurvy scamps, lest I feed you to your own sleen!"

"I did not know we had any sleen," said Lecchio to Chino.

"Be gone, scamps, scoundrels, rogues!" cried Boots, with a vast, wild threatening gesture. Immediately Chino and Lecchio, in apparent terror, scampered away.

"You have saved me!" cried the Brigella.

"Yes," said Boots.

"I wear your collar," she said. "I am now yours, truly, you know."

"Why, yes," said Boots, interested. "That is true, isn't it?"

"Yes, Master," she said.

"And then anything may be commanded of you," mused Boots, "absolutely anything, anything whatsoever, and you must obey, instantly and perfectly."

"Yes, Master," she said.

"Assume," said he, "standing, partly crouching, the position of a free woman, zealous to conceal her beauty."

"Yes, Master," she said. There was much laughter as she, the already-so-much-exposed slave, assumed this coy, silly position, one often associated with timid, scandalized, shocked, surprised free women. Indeed, it was the same as that which she had often assumed earlier in the farce, when she had supposedly been such a free female.

"Now, for the merest instant," said Boots, "move your hands away, and then replace them, instantly, immediately, as they were."

She complied. If one had not been watching closely, one might have missed the action.

"Yes, yes!" cried Boots ecstatically. "Oh, bliss! Bliss! That is it! That is it!"

"What?" she asked.

"A peep!" cried Boots. "A marvelous peep!"

"That is all?" she asked.

"Yes!" he cried, joyfully.

"Give me then," she cried, suddenly, "the wondrous magic veil!"

"Alas," cried Boots. "I cannot. It would be incorrect to do so."

"How so?" she asked.

"What I negotiated for, as you may recall," said Boots, "was a peep at the beauty of a free woman, not a peep at the beauty of a mere slave."

"Oh, oh!" she said, in misery.

"If that were all one wished," said Boots, "one could go to the nearest market, to see girls naked in their chains." That was true, I supposed. That is how girls are normally displayed in such markets, incidentally, that and in cages.

"But I am the same woman!" she protested.

"That is not really true," said Boots, "for you are now a slave." That sort of thing, incidentally, in its way, is true. A woman collared is quite different from a woman uncollared. The collar works a wondrous transformation in a woman, psychologically, sexually and humanly. She is then vulnerable; she must then obey. She is no longer the same. She has then no choice but to be a total female. She becomes a thousand times more interesting, exciting and desirable.

"Even though I am a slave, Master," she said, "yet do I strongly desire it. I have been through so much! Please let me have it!"

"My benevolence may perhaps yet prove my undoing," said Boots, reaching into his pack.

"I begin already," said the Brigella to the audience, "to sense that slaves may have ways and wiles wherewith to achieve their ends which are denied to free women."

"I have it here," said Boots, supposedly withdrawing it from his pack, "but you, of course, now that you are a slave, will not be able to see it."

"To be perfectly honest with you, Master," she said, "for I am your slave and no longer dare lie to you, I could not see it before either."

"No!" cried Boots.

"Yes," she said, putting down her head, "it is true."

"It is perfectly fitting then," he said, "Slave, that you are now in your collar."

"Yes, Master," she said.

"Even though you are a slave, yet still do you desire the wondrous veil?" he asked.

"Yes, Master!" she said. "Now," she said to the audience, "I am at last to have my way. You see, in the end, it is I who win. What does it matter that I am a slave? I am to obtain the wondrous veil."

Boots seemed to be folding up the veil, neatly.

"How clever I am," said the Brigella to the audience. "My patience is now to be rewarded. How simple are men! How easy it is to obtain my way with the wiles of a slave! I did not know that before. The wondrous veil is now to be mine! Thus it is that I, with my beauty, can conquer men!"

"Here," said Boots.

She, still on her knees, rising from her heels, reached eagerly for the veil. "Oh!" she cried, in disappointment, for Boots, at the last moment, had jerked it back.

"I forgot," said Boots.

"What is wrong?" she asked.

"I cannot give you the veil," he said.

"Why not?" she wailed.

"You are a slave," said Boots. "You can own nothing. It is you who are owned."

"Oh!" she cried, in misery.

"Back on your heels," he snapped. "Spread your knees! Hands on thighs! Back straight! Chin up!"

"Oh, oh," she moaned, but swiftly complied. "He reminds me well that I am a slave," she said to the audience. "I had thought to conquer men but instead I find that it is I who am h elpless, that it is I who am conquered, and totally."

At this moment Chino and Lecchio reappeared, now with their peddler's packs.

"Beware, Master," cried the girl. "The feed hunters have returned!"

"Greetings, Boys," said Boots.

"Greetings," said Chino and Lecchio to Boots.

"Do you know these men, Master?" asked the girl, not daring to rise from her knees.

"I mistook you for feed hunters earlier," said Boots to the new arrivals. "I see now that you are my old buddies, with whom I have been traveling these roads for weeks."

"The collar is locked on my neck!" said the girl to the audience, struggling with the collar. "It is truly on me. I cannot remove it!"

"A pretty vulo," said Chino, scrutinizing the girl.

"A juicy pudding," said Lecchio.

"I am now only a slave!" cried the girl to the audience.

"I am now going to toss the wondrous veil up into the air," said Boots. "Let it blow away on the winds, traveling to I know not where." He then tossed it up, lightly, into the air.

"Master!" protested the girl.

"There it goes!" said Boots.

"Master!" said the girl.

"It was in such a fashion that I received it," said Boots. "Surely it is only right that I should let it fly away, back into the clouds and winds, perhaps even back to Anango."

"But why would you let it go?" asked the girl, in misery.

"It has served its purpose," said Boots.

"Its purpose?" asked the girl.

"yes," said Boots. "It has served to catch me a pretty, greedy little slave, on who by tomorrow morning will be in no doubt as to the nature of her many utilization."

"Surely you have not tricked me!" she cried.

"Shoulder my pack," said Boots.

"And mine," said Chino.

"And mine," said Lecchio.

The girl then, with great difficulty, struggling, bending under the weight, staggering, shouldered the three packs.

"Hurry, lazy girl!" called Boots, leaving the stage with Chino and Lecchio. "I did not know we had any sleen," Lecchio was saying to Chino. "Where could they be?"

"I wonder if I have been tricked," said the girl to the audience. There was much laughter. "In any event," she said, "I am now in the collar and that is all there is for it!"

"Hurry, hurry, lazy girl!" called Boots from off-stage.

"I must go now," said the girl. "Oh, these packs are heavy. But I must bear them as best I can. I am a slave now, and if I am not pleasing, I will be beaten!"

She then turned about and, staggering under the weight of the packs, left the stage.

In a moment Boots, smiling, reappeared on the stage, with Chino and Lecchio, and the Brigella, too, now freed of her preposterous burden. "Noble free woman, and noble gentlemen, of the audience," said Boots, "the Magic Veil of Anango, presented by the players of Boots Tarsk-Bit, actor, promoter and entrepreneur extraordinary! We thank you for you consideration!" There was much applause. Boots, and the Chino and Lecchio, smiling, bowed, again and again. The Brigella, at a sign from Boots, knelt on the stage. She would take her bows on her knees, of course, for she was a slave.

"Bina!" called Boots, gesturing to the side of the stage. The Bina, then, in her garments of a free woman, she who had played the brief role of Lady Tipa, the fellow villager of the Lady Phoebe, emerged onto the stage. "Off with those absurd impediments to our vision," said Boots, jollily, to her. She removed her veil and threw back her hood, shaking loose her dark hair. She was an exquisite little slave, but not a match for the Brigella in beauty. She would not, at least, I supposed, have brought as much as the Brigella on a slave block. I remembered her, too, from Port Kar.

"Come, come," said Boots, her master. She then pulled down her robes, about her shoulders, and then stripped herself to the waist. She had small, well-formed, exquisite breasts. On her neck was a collar of steel. "Off with them, mow, completely," said Boots, gesturing to the robes she had clutched about her hips. "Kneel." She thrust the robes down about her ankles and knelt then on the boards, beside the Brigella, before the audience. Boots gave her an almost unnoticeable kick with the side of his foot and she spread her knees before the audience. I could see that she was reluctant to do this. Perhaps she had been a slave less long than the Brigella. But now both of them knelt identically before the audience, backs straight, back on their heels, chins up, stark naked in their collars, their knees spread, slaves.

"Our little Bina!" said Boots, showing her off. "thank you, noble free woman and noble gentlemen! Remember poor Boots and his company! Be generous!" Some coins, mostly copper, rattled to the stage. I myself gave a couple of copper tarn disks. I had much more money, my own, and some more I had helped myself to at the camp of the Lady Yanina, before I had freed her prisoners and burned the camp, but I had no wish to advertise the current weight of my purse at the fair. It is one thing to do this in a city where one, and one's financial status, is reasonably well known, and quite another, as you may well imagine, to do it in a strange place before strangers.

"Thank you, noble people, splendid patrons of the arts," called Boots. "Thank you!" The Chino and Lecchio gathered up the coins, handing them to Boots, who took them and deposited them somewhere inside his robes, perhaps into the lining or a hidden pocket. The girls, here at the fair, were not passing through the crowd with copper bowls, perhaps because they had both been in the play. At any rate, even when they had done this in Port Kar, they had not, of course, been handling or touching the coins, only the bowls in which the coins were collected. The only female performers who customarily gather up the coins thrown to them for their masters are dancers, who usually perform alone, except for their musicians. They tuck the coins in a bit of their silk, if they have been permitted any. Given the nature of their silk, which is usually diaphanous, and the general scantiness of their garb, and the publicness of their picking up the coins, there is little danger that they could conceal a coin, even if they dared to do so. A slave girl, you see, is generally forbidden to so much as touch a coin without permission. This does not mean, of course, that they may not be sent to the market, and given coins for errands, and such. For an unaccounted for coin to be found in a slave girl's possession, or among her belongings, can be cause for severe punishment. She might even be fed to sleen.

"Lout!" called the free woman.

"Yes, noble lady?" said Boots, coming forward.

"Your plays are insulting to free women!" she cried. "I have never been so insulted in my life!"

"Have you seen them all?" asked Boots. "There are more than fifty."

"No," she said. "I have not seen them all!"

"We cannot perform them all without a full company, of course," said Boots. "I am short-handed at the moment. I do not even have a golden courtesan. There are frequent changes in the repertory, of course. We make up new ones, and sometimes we feel it best, temporarily or permanently, to drop out old ones, ones that do not then seem as good or which do not seem to play as well any longer. One improvises about given ideas or themes, and then, performance by performance, a play is built. To be sure, much always remains open to invention, to innovation, to constant revision, to impromptu spur-of-the-moment contributions, and so on. One must always be ready, too, to capitalize on such things as local color, current happenings, the current political situation, popular or well-known figures, the prejudices of a district, and so on. Local allusions are always popular. They can occasionally get you in trouble, of course. One must be careful about them. It would not do to be impaled. You seem highly intelligent. Perhaps you could help us."

"Do you think that all free women are no better than slaves!" she cried.

"I would suppose that women are all pretty much of a muchness," said Boots.

'Oh!" she cried in fury.

"Take yourself," he said. "How would you look stripped and in a collar, and under a whip? Do you think you would behave much differently, then, than any other slave? Indeed, have you ever stopped to think about it? Have you ever wondered, secretly perhaps, whether or not you might have what it takes to prove to be even an adequate slave?"

"I am a free woman," she said, icily.

"Forgive me, Lady," said Boots.

"I will, before nightfall, and you may depend upon it," she said, "lodge my complaint with the magistrates. By tomorrow noon, you will be closed, forbidden to perform at the fair."

"Show us mercy, Lady," said Boots, "we are a traveling company, a poor troupe in desperate straits. I have had to sell even my golden courtesan!"

"I do not care," she said, "if you must sell all your sluts!"

"The Fair of En'Kara is the greatest of all the fairs," he said. "It comes but once a year. It is important to us! We need every tarsk-bit we can make here."

"I do not choose to show you mercy," she said, coldly. "Too, I shall see to it that you are fined and publicly whipped. Indeed, if you are not gone from the fairgrounds by tomorrow evening, I shall also see to it that your troupe is disbanded, and that your goods, your wagons, your clothes, your sluts, everything, is confiscated!"

"You wish to see me ruined?" he said.

"Yes!" she said.

"Thank you, gracious lady," he said.

She spun about, and with a movement of her robes, lifting them a bit from the dust, took her leave. She had on golden sandals. Boots Tarsk-Bit and myself, as she left, considered her ankles. I did not findem bad, and I suppose Boots Tarsk-Bit did not either. They would have looked well in shackles.

"It seems I am ruined," said Boots Tarsk-Bit to me.

"Perhaps not," I said.

"How shall I make even enough money to clear my way form the fair?" he asked.

"Sell me, Master," said the Brigella, kneeling on the stage, radiant, flushed and excited. There were several fellows, some five or six of them, standing before the stage, some of them leaning forward with their elbows upon it. Any one of them, I supposed, as I had conjectured earlier, would be capable of handling her superbly. Gorean men do not compromise with their slaves; the girls obey, and perfectly. She knew she was valuable; how straight she knelt; how proud she was, naked and in her collar.

"What am I offered?" asked Boots, resignedly.

"Two silver tarsks," said a man.

"Two?" asked Boots, surprised, pleased. The girl cried out with pleasure. That is a high price for a female on Gor, where they are plentiful and cheap.

In a few moments the Brigella, her small wrists braceleted behind her, had taken her way from the area, eagerly heeling, almost running to keep up with him, her new owner, a stalwart, broad-shouldered, blond-haired fellow. The first thing he had done after making her helpless in his bracelets had been to pull the small, circular adhesive patch from her left thigh. she wore the common Kajira brand, the tiny staff and fronds. She had gone for five silver tarsks.

"A splendid price on her," I congratulated Boots.

He stood there, dangling her collar in his right hand. "I am ruined," he said, glumly. "whatever shall I do without a Brigella?"

"I do not know about your Brigella," I said, "but I think I might be able to help you with another of your problems."

"Do I not know you from somewhere?" asked Boots.

"We met some days ago, briefly, in Port Kar," I said.

"Yes!" he said. "The carnival! Of course! You are a captain, or officer, are you not?"

"Sometimes, perhaps," I said.

"What do you want of me?" asked Boots, warily.

"Do not fear," I smiled. "I am not in hire to pursue you, nor am I interested in collecting bills."

"I fear," said Boots, "that I may be indebted to you in the matter of five silver tarsks in Port Kar. I have them here." He held out his hand with the five silver tarsks, accrued by moments earlier form the sale of the Brigella.

"It was six, not five," I said.

"Oh," said Boots.

"If I had anything to do with them," I said, "to which I do not admit, of course, let us consider them merely as copper-bowl coins, coins such as might be gathered in the pursuit of your normal activities."

"But six silver tarsks," he said.

"You may consider them, if it makes it easier for you," I said, "as a gratuitous contribution to the arts."

"I accept them, then, in the name of the arts," said Boots.

"Good," I said.

"You have no idea how that arrangement assuages the agonies of conscience with which I might otherwise have been afflicted." said Boots.

"I am sure of it," I said.

"Thank you," said Boots.

"It is nothing," I said. "Happy carnival."

"To be sure," he said. "Incidentally, did you enjoy the show?"

"Yes," I said.

"I wonder if you forgot to express your appreciation," asked Boots, rather apologetically.

"No," I said.

"It was an excellent performance," he said.

"Here is another copper tarsk," I said. "That makes three."

"Thank you," he said.

"You are quite welcome," I said. I watched the tarsk disappear somewhere in his robes.

"Now," he said, "as I recall you were mentioning that you might be able to help me with some problem."

"Yes," I said. "As I mentioned, I do not think I can help you with your Brigella problem, at least certainly now, but I think I do know where you might be able to get your hands on a splendid candidate for a 'golden courtesan. "

"A slave?" asked Boots.

"Of course," I said.

"Can she act?" asked Boots.

"I do not know," I admitted.

"My girls must double as tent girls," he said.

"About her potentiality as a tent girl," I said, "I have no doubt."

"My girls, you understand," said Boots, "are not ordinary girls. They must be extraordinarily talented."

"She is blond, and voluptuous," I said.

"That will do," said Boots.

"You could always teach her to act," I said.

"That is true," said Boots. "And fortunately I am a master teacher. And if she should prove sluggish in her lessons, I will unhesitantly encourage her with the whip."

"Exactly," I said.

"Where is she?" he asked.

"One advantage to getting her," I said, "is that I think that she, being a relatively new slave, may be fairly cheap. I doubt that she would cost you, at the most, even given her beauty, more than two silver tarsks. You would then have three silver tarsks left over."

"Where my I find this slut?" he asked.

"She is for sale, I believe, at this very fair," I smiled.

"This is the Fair of En'Kara," he said. "There are thousands of girls for sale here, in the care of hundreds of owners."

"I know the very platform on which stripped, and in her collar and chain, she awaits her first buyer," I said.

"Perhaps you would be so good as to impart this information," said Boots.

"It would probably be difficult for you, by tomorrow evening, by which time, I gather, you may be taking y our leave from the fair, to locate her."

"Particularly," said Boots, "if we are attempting to get in an extra performance or two.

"Precisely," I said.

"What do you want?" asked Boots.

"You have a fairly regular itinerary in your travels, do you not?" I asked.

"Sometimes," said Boots, warily. "Sometimes not. Why?"

"Surely you have some notion of your plans for the next few months," I said.

"In what way?" asked Boots.

"You have some notion of the villages, the towns, the cities you plan to visit," I said.

"Perhaps," said Boots.

"I am interested particularly in one given city," I said, "a port on the coast of Thassa, one south of the Vosk's delta."

"Yes?" he said.

"Brundisium," I said.

"She is a staunch ally of Ar," he said. "We will be visiting her late in the summer."

"Good," I said.

"Why?" he asked.

"I am interested in joining your company," I said.

"What could you do?" he asked.

"Odd jobs, heavy work," I said.

"Security at Brundisium is very tight," he said. "They have become, in the last two years, for some reason, very suspicious of strangers. It is difficult to get access into the city, other than her closed-off wharves and trading places."

"A troupe such as yours might do so, however," I speculated.

"We have performed in the main square," he admitted, "once even in the courtyard of the palace itself."

"Let me join your company," I said.

"You are merely interested in obtaining admittance to Brundisium," he said.

"Perhaps," I said.

"Where might I get my chain on this female," he asked, "she whom you think might be found acceptable as a 'golden courtesan'?"

"Among the hundred new slaves of Samos of Port Kar," I said, "chained on the Shu-27 platforms in the southwestern sections of the Pavilion of Beauty."

"Has she a name?" asked Boots.

"Probably not now," I said. "But she had been given a name, or at least a house name, in the house of Samos, in Port Kar."

"What was it?" asked Boots.

"Rowena," I said.

"Thank you," said Boots. "You have been very helpful."

"Now, what about my proposal," I said.

"What proposal?" he asked.

"About my joining your company," I said.

"That?" he said.

"Yes," I said.

"Out of the question," he said.

7 The Tent; I Slip from the Tent

"Oh!" she wept, clutching me, squirming, helplessly pressing her imbonded flesh against mine. "Yes! No, don't let me go!" she cried. "Don't spurn me, I beg you. Hold me! Hold me! Please!" Her creamy flesh was hot. She was covered with sweat. Even her long blond hair, cut somewhat shorter now, half covering her face, was wet. Her body, broken out and mottled, was like a map, one recollective of my attentions. It was covered with an intense, irregular geography of scarlet patches, the capillaries near the surface of the skin swelled with blood, the red color suffusing upward as though from a light within her, as though fires raged within her, just beneath her exposed, yielding, eager softness, witnessing her excitement and arousal. She clutched me, helplessly. "What you can do to me!" she cried. "what men can do to me! I love it! Please, Master, do not stop!" She threw back her head, her lips parted, her eyes closed. "Ohh!" she gasped. "Yes! Ohhh! Yes! Yes! Oh! Oh! Yes, Master! Yes Master! Continue, I beg you, with all my heart! I plead with you not to stop! Oh, Master! Yes, Master! Yes, Master!" I heard the sound of the chain on her ankle. "Oh, Master! Yes, Master!" she said.

The chain was about a yard long. It ran between the ankle ring, locked snugly on her ankle, and a long, heavy stake. The stake was driven deeply into the ground. About five inches of it showed above the surface. It was placed about a yard within, and to the left of, facing outward, the entrance to the small, striped tent. The girls was stripped, save for her ankle ring and collar. She lay on a mat, spread on a blanket, spread over the grass. She awaits within, to see who will open the flaps of the tent. That will be he who has paid her current use fee, that set by her master. We were some two hundred pasangs west of the fairgrounds, at the edge of the woods of Clearchus, just off the road of Clearchus.

"Oh, yes," she wept, clutching me. Her collar was a simple one. It read, "If you find me, return me to Boots Tarsk-Bit. Reward." Boots used such collars for all his slaves. "Aiii!" she cried, suddenly. My touch had been light. I saw that she was ready for more. She was in a condition of slave arousal. She looked a me, wildly. "Yes," I said. "There is more." She began to squirm and shudder. "We now begin again," I aid. "How can I feel more?" she wept. "You have not yet even experienced the fullness of a slave orgasm," I said. Then, in moments, building on her earlier sensitivity, I conducted her perforce to a height where she might sense, but not yet experience, a new horizon. I held her there, on the brink, for a time, as it pleased me, sometimes permitting her to subside a bit, and then again, when I wished, with the cruelty of the master, almost as though beckoning her, a command she could not refuse, bringing her back to the edge, where, almost in madness, she quivered and pleaded for release.

"Not yet," I told her.

"Yes, Master," she wept. The decision was mine. She was totally in my power. She was a slave.

"In any event," I had said to Boots Tarsk-Bit, a few days ago, "let me show you the girl."

"That would be very nice of you," he had said.

"Perhaps, too," I said, "you will change your mind."

"Never," he had said.

I had then conducted Boots to the area where the agents of Samos had his hundred girls on sale, sent out from Port Kar for vending during the Fair of En'Kara. I had checked the location earlier in the afternoon. It was among the southwestern sections of the Pavilion of Beauty, more specifically on the Shu-27 platforms. The girls were all on their hands and knees on the long, narrow platforms, uniformly positioned, facing outwards, a short chain on the neck of each, running down to individual rings anchored in the thick planks. They had been forbidden to speak among themselves. Agents of Samos walked here and there among them, with whips. "There is the girl," I said. She had not yet been sold. A white "holding disk" was wired to her collar. Some of the collars which had held women near her earlier were empty.

"You!" she had said, earlier, around noon, when I had first seen her there.

"You remember me?" I had said.

"A girl never forgets the first man who puts the whip to her," she had smiled.

"How are the sales going?" I had asked her.

"I do not really know, Master," she had said, "as we are kept in separate slave boxes, and are usually brought forth only to be exercised or exhibited. I myself was first put on display only this morning."

"I have seen some empty collars about, on the other platforms," I said.

"Perhaps the sales, then, are going well," she said. "I dare not turn my head to look. One girl was beaten fearfully for that, only an Ahn ago."

The matter of the empty collars was not an easy one to interpret. If there are no empty collars then customers may think that no one else in interested in the merchandise, perhaps that something might be wrong with it, and then go elsewhere. If there are only y a few girls left, and many empty collars, they may get the impression, perhaps mistakenly, that nothing much of interest is likely to be left. The ideal impression to convey to the customer is perhaps that you have marvelous merchandise for sale, that even now many people are interested and buying, that it is moving fast, and that if he sees a girl he wants, perhaps he should snatch her up before someone else does. If you see a female locked in her platform collar, with its chain, of course, and in a while you see the collar empty, it is not irrational to suppose that she has been sold. Sometimes a woman who has been sold is not immediately removed from the platform but only, in one way or another, marked "Sold." There are several ways in which this can be done. For example, she may be placed in a white hood bearing the word «Sold» in red letters, a red tag, bearing the inscription, "Sold," may be wired to her collar, or the word «Sold» may be simply written in grease pencil on her body, usually, by convention, on her left breast.

"I think the sales are not going as well as they might," I said.

"Master?" she asked, frightened.

"You were put out only this morning," I said. "That suggests that the goods are not moving as rapidly as they might. Too, it is my impression, from what I have seen here and elsewhere, that there is an unusual amount of high-quality merchandise available this spring. I suspect that many of the lots, even large lots, literal bevies of luscious slaves, chained together forty or fifty in a lot, may end up being simply purchased by slavers at rock-bottom prices, for purposes of later speculation."

She groaned. "I am afraid the masters will be displeased," she said.

Her apprehension was understandable. She was a slave.

"Are you interested in this slave?" asked one of the men on the platform, coming over, his whip in hand. I did not think he was of the house of Samos. I did not, at any rate, know him. He was probably a slaver's agent, licensed for work at the fair. There are many fellows who, seasonally, do this work. At other times they normally work in slaver's houses. He may, of course, have been one of the fellows on the fairs' permanent staff. there are four such fairs, administered by the merchants, held annually in the vicinity of the Sardar, those of En'Kara, En'Var, Se'Kara and Se'Var. The girl was immediately very still, and very quiet, on all fours.

"I think I can find a buyer for her," I said.

"Who?" he asked.

"Come now," I said. "Let us not be naive."

"Do you want a commission?" he asked. "We are very careful about that sort of business."

"No," I said.

"Ah," he said, pleased. What he feared, of course, particularly since he did not know me, is the trick of two friends cooperating in the purchase of a slave. One attempts to obtain a finder's commission from the merchant which he then, of course, turns back to his friend, the buyer. In this way, the salve is purchased more cheaply. AS it was, since I was not bargaining for a commission w2ith him, he presumably supposed that I would obtain a finder's fee from the buyer. Some people actually make their living in this way, acting as buying agents, providing services such as locating rare slaves for collectors and filling the "want lists" of rich men.

"I would appreciate it, however," I said, "if you would put a 'hold' on her until, say, the eighteenth Ahn."

"Impossible," he said. "Look at her. See the curves, the lines." He tapped her with the whip. "Superb slave meat."

"I cannot get the buyer here until then," I said.

"Ten copper tarsks, to hold her until then," he said.

"Absurd," I said.

"It is refundable," he said.

"Under what conditions?" I asked.

"That you bring your buyer to the platform before the eighteenth Ahn," he said.

"What if he doesn't want her?" I asked. Actually, I was pretty confident he would want her.

"I will not hold you responsible for that," he said. "I will still give you back your tarsks."

"Good," I said. I then gave him the ten copper tarsks. His reasonableness in this matter, I suspect, was due at least in part to the slowness of the market. Indeed, some of the girls in the market, I suspected, would go for as little as that same ten copper tarsks.

"Hold still, Girl," said the man to the girl. I watched him while he, crouching down beside her, wired a circular, white tag, a holding disk, to her collar. He had placed his whip behind her. Some men place the whip where the slave can see it, noting its heavy-leather blades or coils, that she may understand its menace. Others, like this fellow, place the whip behind her, where she does not know precisely where it is, but knows very well that it is there. The second placement is perhaps, generally somewhat more to be dreaded by the female. There are no hard-and-fast rules in this sort of thing. Much can depend on the girl, on her intelligence and imagination, on the stage of her training, on the specific occasion in question, and so on. Sometimes it is desirable to have the female look very closely and clearly on the whip and, at other times, it is better for her merely to understand that it is in her immediate vicinity, somewhere, and that she may not, now, turn about to determine its specific location.

The tag on its wire now dangled some four inches below her collar. It had been one of several such tags in a small bag hooked to his belt. It had an inked «Eighteen» on it. Some of the white tags were blank, and might be written on. The red tags carry the inscription "sold." A black tag is sometimes used to indicate that a girl is ill. A yellow tag sometimes indicates that a girl is not to be sold without prior consultation with the slaver. Tags are sometimes, too, used to indicate distinctions among slaves, at least among slavers themselves, being correlated to the classes or grades of slaves. For example, a brown tag commonly signifies a low slave, such as a mere kettle-and-mat girl or a pot girl, little more than female work slaves, and so on, whereas a gold tag commonly signifies a much higher grade of slave, usually a trained pleasure slave or a dancer. There is, however, to be perfectly honest, no absolutely uniform color coding in these matters. different houses have their own conventions. It is unusual, incidentally, for a woman to be tagged in a regular market, except in so far as she might be marked «Sold» or have a «Hold» put on her. It is not hard in a Gorean market, for example, where the women are usually stripped, or will be stripped for they buyer's inspection, to see who is most beautiful or interesting. Too, of course, women in such a market can be literally made to display their beauty and pose and perform in various ways for the viewers. This, too, makes it easier to make choices amongst them.

One form of tagging is fairly common, however, during sales, and that is tagging during auctions, or in preparation for large sales, as when the girls are in exhibition cages, before being brought, usually serially, later, before the public. This form of tagging is the sales disk. It bears the girl's lot number on it. It is usually wired to her collar. This provides not only the seller with a convenience, helping to make certain his records remain clear, but it can be h elpful to the buyer also, who may then, presumably already having established his interests, perhaps in virtue of commands earlier addressed to the lovely chattels in the exhibition cages, simply bid by number.

I regarded the girl. She was quite beautiful, in all fours on the platform, the short chain on her neck descending to its ring in the heavy planks. There was a white disk dangling from her collar. She would be held until the eighteenth Ahn. The slaver's man was now again on h is feet. He had retrieved his whip.

I turned away.

"I know wear a holding tag, Master," she said to the slaver's man. "May I break position?"

I heard the lash fall upon her. "Forgive me, Master!" she cried.

How stupid her question had been. Did she not know that the prospective buyer might not prove to be interested in her, and that she might in the meantime, by lax postures or attitudes, be discouraging other occurrences of interest; too, what of the other slaves and the aesthetic integrity of the display line; too, the prospective buyer might appear earlier than was anticipated. Too, did she think her discipline would be relaxed because someone might be interested in her? No! It would be trebled!

"Ah!" had cried Boots, later, about the seventeenth Ahn, when he had first seen her. "But wait! She wears a holding disk!"

"Do not fear," I had said, "It is for your inspection that she is being held."

"Oh?" said Boots.

"I arranged it," I said.

"Let us take a look at her," said Boots.

In the end Boots got her for two silver tarsks. This is a high price for an untrained slave but, to be sure, all things considered, she was an excellent buy. Too, she seemed ideal for Boots's purposes. She would doubtless make a splendid "golden courtesan" and, after performances, there was little doubt but what she would prove popular in the sex tents. Too, getting her for two silver tarsks, though perhaps somewhat more than Boots cared to pay, left him a full three silver tarsks, the residue of his profit from the sale of the Brigella. Three silver tarsks would surely tide him over, and his company, until the next performances, presumably to take place somewhere other than on the fairgrounds.

"I do not know what I shall do without my Brigella," moaned Boots, preparing to pay the slaver's man.

"Look at it this way," I said. "You are at least getting a golden courtesan."

"There are more Brigella roles," said Boots.

"Well, this girl is not a Brigella," I said.

"True," lamented Boots.

"Perhaps you should not have sold your Brigella," I said.

"I needed the money," said Boots.

"Two silver tarsks," said the slaver's man.

"The price is steep," said Boots. "Could we not reconsider the matter?"

"Two silver tarsks," said the man.

"Would you care to make it double or nothing, on the basis of some wager of your choosing, such as in cups and pebbles?" he asked.

"Two," said the man.

"I have the cups and a pebble, by some stroke of luck, in my wallet," said Boots.

"Two," said the fellow. This game, like many such games, of various types, involves guessing. Small, inverted metal cups are used. A coin, pebble, or small object is supposedly placed beneath one of the cups. They are then moved about, rapidly. The odds are with the "house," so to speak, particularly if the coin or pebble is not placed under one of the cups. I was already familiar with Boots's skill in slight-of-hand manipulations from Port Kar. "Two," repeated the man. Boots then paid him. The slaver's man, of course, was well pleased with the sale. It was a good price, and it was a particularly good one for a slow market.

I had no difficulty in recovering m ten copper tarsks, put down to hold the girl for Boots's later inspection.

"Are you pleased with your buy?" I asked Boots later, when we were leaving the market, the girl following behind us, heeling us, her wrists tied behind her back with a string.

"She was pretty expensive," said Boots.

"But you are pleased, are you not?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

"Are you grateful?" I asked.

"Eternally, undyingly," he assured me.

"Perhaps you would consider granting me a favor," I said.

"Just ask," he said.

"I would like to join your troupe," I said.

"No," he said.

"I thought you just said to 'just ask'," I said.

"You are correct," said Boots. "That is exactly what I had in mine, that you should just ask, only that, and nothing more. Now, where are my wagons?"

"You are a hard man," I said.

"Yes," he said, "I am a grim fellow. But one does not attain my heights by being soft."

"Your wagons are in that direction," I informed him.

"Thank you," he said.

"You will not reconsider?" I asked.

"No," said Boots, "and what am I to do without a Brigella?"

"I do not know," I said.

"I am ruined," said Boots.

"Perhaps not," I opined, hopefully.

"Are you a business man?" he asked.

"No," I said.

"I will thank you, then," said Boots, "to have the decency to refrain from forming an opinion on the matter."

"Sorry," I said.

"Do you know where I can find a Brigella?" he asked.

"Perhaps you could buy one," I said.

"Not just any girl can be a Brigella," he said.

"I suppose not," I said.

"I am ruined," he said.

"At least you now have a golden courtesan," I said, "and I expect that she will prove profitable in the tent as well."

"Perhaps," said Boots.

"I would like to join your troupe," I said.

"It is out of the question," said Boots. "Now, where are those wagons?"

"That way," I said.

"Thank you," he said.

"More to the left," I said.

"Thank you," he said.

"You would not have to pay me!" I called out, after him.

"No, no," he said, waving his hand, "it is out of the question." He then continued on his way, muttering about Brigellas, expenses, free women, fate, elusive wagons and the woes that sometimes afflict honest men.

Security in Brundisium, I had learned earlier from Boots, was tight. I wondered why this might be. I was curious to know, too, why at least some in that city seemed to have an interest in Tarl Cabot, or Bosk, of Port Kar. Much seemed to me mysterious in Brundisium. It might be an interesting place to go visiting, I thought. Too, it had been a long time since I had gone hunting. I was sorry that I had not been able to join Boots's troupe. None, I thought, would be likely to suspect a lowly member of a group of strolling players. It would have been a superb cover. Tomorrow, before nightfall, I suspected, Boots's wagons would leave the fair, probably heading west, probably on the road of Clearchus. It is a dangerous road. There was no law against two traveling it. Boots had disappeared now among the booths and stalls of the fair.

* * *

"Please, let me yield!" she whispered. "I beg to be permitted to yield! Please, Master, let me yield! Please, Master! Please, Master!"

I looked down into her eyes. She looked up at me, through her hair, wildly, piteously.

"No," I said.

She moaned. She tried to control her breathing. Her beauty was held tense, rigid, almost motionless. I heard the tiniest sound of the chain on her ankle. the collar, the flat, snug, unslippable band on her throat, locked behind the back of her neck, was lovely.

We were some two hundred pasangs west of the fairgrounds, at the edge of the woods of Clearchus, just off the road of Clearchus. I had traveled for the last few days in the vicinity of the troupe of Boots, but not really with it. We had traversed the woods of Clearchus, Boots losing little time in the business, without incident. He had, this afternoon, at the edge of the woods, for local villagers, given his first performances since the fair, from which, as we had anticipated, he had been duly expelled, that following from various complaints lodged with the fair's board of governance by a certain free woman, the Lady Telitsia of Asperiche. He had also, given the supposed gravity of his offenses, been fined three silver tarsks and publicly flogged.

He had not been in a good mood that evening. Such things, of course, are not that unusual in the lives of players. Worse, perhaps, two of his company had joined another troupe, taking advantage of an opportunity at the fair, the fellows who commonly played the comic father and the comic pedant. Boots was now trying to make do with his Chino and Lecchio, two other fellows, his Bina and his new "golden courtesan." Things were so bad that he had, this afternoon, actually interspersed his dramatic offering with what were more in the nature of variety or carnival acts. One must make do as one can.

Fortunately his Chino was an accomplished juggler and his Lecchio was excellent as a comic tight-rope walker. Boots himself was very skillful in the matter of slight-of-hand and magic. Indeed, his dilapidated, oval-roofed wagons seemed a veritable repository for all sorts of wondrous paraphernalia, much of it having to do with matters of illusion and legerdemain. This multiplicity of skills, incidentally, is not all that uncommon with players. Most of them, too, it seems, can do things like play the flute or kalika, sing, dance, tell jokes, and so on. They are generally versatile and talented people.

Boots's player, incidentally, the kaissa player, the surly, masked fellow, called usually "the monster" in the camp, remained, too, with the troupe. He remained, as far as I could tell, from what I had heard this afternoon, consistently and insolently adamant to Boots's please that he manage to lose a game once in a while, if only for the sake of business, or, at the least, make an effort to play a bit less well. Nonetheless, even as it was, he did make some contribution to the welfare of the troupe. His kaissa games, for what it is worth, usually brought in a few coins. There was something I wanted to talk with him about, sometime.

"Please, Master," whimpered the girl.

"Are you ready?" I asked.

"Yes, yes, yes!" she said, tensely.

"'Yes' what?" I asked.

"Yes, Master!" she said, helplessly, tensely.

"Very well," I said. "You may yield."

"Aiii!" she screamed, wildly, inarticulately, in release, in relief, in animal gratitude. Then she cried, "Oh! Oh!" and thrashed beneath me. "Oh!" she cried. "Oh!" She clutched me, desperately. Her legs, with a rattle of the chain, locked about me. "Oh!" she cried. Her fingernails dug deeply into my back.

Then again she could speak. "I yield me!" she cried. "I yield me to you, Master! I am yours! I am yours, yours, yours! Oh, yes, I am yours, yours." She clung then to me, sobbing and gasping. I heard the chain on her ankle.

"Your yielding," I said, "was satisfactory-for a new slave."

She looked at me wildly, and then moaned softly, continuing to cling helplessly to me.

"There are, of course," I said, "infinite horizons and varieties of such responses, ranging from ravishings in which the slave, by one means or another, is driven almost to the point of madness by the pleasures inflicted upon her, ravishings in which the master, in his cruelty, and despite her will, forces her relentlessly and helplessly to, and beyond, ecstasy, giving her no choice but to accept total sexual fulfillment, to putting her helplessly to lengthy and gentle services, warm and intimate, in which her slavery and condition are well brought home to her."

"Sometimes, too, I gather," she whispered, "the slave must serve in varieties of manners regardless of her desires of the moment or will."

"Of course," I said.

"she is at the master's disposal, completely, for all forms of work and duties."

"Yes," I said.

"She is to be diligent and obedient in all things," she said.

"Yes," I said.

"That, too," she whispered, "is rewarding and gratifying."

"Really?" I said.

"Yes," she whispered. "Very much so."

"Interesting," I said.

"The being of the slave, like the being of the master," she said, "is a totality."

I lay on my back, looking up at the ceiling of the tent. She was right, of course. These things are totalities, modes of being. Too, I knew, from my own experience, that nothing fulfills maleness like the mastery. He who would be a man must be a master. he who surrenders his mastery surrenders his manhood. I wondered what those who flocked like sheep to their own castration received in recompense for their manhood. I supposed it must be very valuable. But it this were so, why did they feel it necessary to shrill so petulantly at others, those who scorned them and had chosen different paths?

I could hear Boots outside the tent. He was a few yards away, around the campfire with Chino and Lecchio. "Lamentations!" cried Boots. "Surely we are ruined! Surely we shall all starve!

There are not two copper tarsks in the coin kettle! What hope is there these days for artists such as we! That the skilled and famous company of Boots Tarsk-Bit, actor, promoter and entrepreneur, that company whose performances are commanded by high cities and ubars, the finest theatrical company on all Gor, should be forced to resort to mere carnival acts, that it should have to stoop to jugglery and somersaults, to mere tricks and illusions, to entertain village bumpkins, solid, noble fellows though they may be, is almost too much to bear. What shall be our fate first, I wonder, to merely starve in simple dignity or to perish in shame from such humiliation?"

"You are wrong about at least on thing, Boots," said Chino.

"Can it be?" asked Boots.

"Yes," said Chino. "There are more than two copper tarsks in the coin kettle."

"Oh?" said Boots.

I heard coins shaking in a metal kettle. "Listen," said Chino. "There is at least a silver tarsk's worth here."

"Are you sure?" asked Boots.

"Count it yourself," said Chino.

"Yes," said Boots. "Ah! Ah, yes. I did not realize my skills with magic were still that mysterious and baffling. Very good. Excellent, excellent. Excellent, indeed! You did well also, of course, Chino, my friend, and you, too, Lecchio. Well, it is as I always say, a bit of variety is a good thing. And one cannot always be too serious about art, you know. Upon occasion one should take a respite form even high drama. Too, excessive significance is not always good for the digestion. Also, we still need a Brigella, and desperately. I think, accordingly, that it will not be amiss if, upon occasion, particularly in somewhat less enlightened and more remote locations, we intermix a dash of legerdemain and prestidigitation, as well as a bit of carnival hilarity, prankery, and such, the sort of things that you folks are good at, with our nobler offerings. To be sure, we will still remain fundamentally true to the theater, for we are primarily, when all is said and done, serious actors. Too, our reputation depends on it. What do you think? I am glad that you agree."

I lay on my back, looking up at the ceiling of the tent. I felt the girl's cheek against my thigh. I remembered when she had been the free woman, Rowena of Lydius, whom I had first seen in the house of Samos. How proud she had been! She was now a contented slave, a girl who had been named «Rowena» at a man's thigh.

"The somersault on the rope was very good," Boots was telling Lecchio. "You should try to do it twice."

Boots's little Bina was chained in another tent. I thought perhaps I might try her sometime.

"Perhaps even three times, and backwards," Boots was saying.

I smiled to myself. He was talking, of course, about Lecchio's somersaults. The little Bina was very pretty, but I thought, rather clearly, she had not yet been brought to slave heat. I had gathered, from various tiny indications, back at the fair, and this afternoon, that Boots was not altogether satisfied with her. As a collared slave, I feared, she had much to learn. Too, she seemed to have a nasty streak in her. More than once I had heard her deride the "monster." In this I think she showed little judgment. He, at least, was free, whereas she, though she seemed not to fully understand it, was imbonded.

"It was funny, too," said Boots, "when you fell off the rope. Perhaps you should include that in the act."

"I did not do it on purpose," said Lecchio. "I am out of practice. I nearly broke my neck."

I supposed I might as well soon depart from the neighborhood of Boots's company. Surely there seemed little point in continuing any longer in its vicinity. My own small camp was within two hundred yards. To be sure, there was little there but a bedroll, some supplies and weapons, purchased at the fair. I had not seen fit to purchase a shield or spear, or even a bow, with sheaf arrows. Such things, I feared, might mark me as one to be reckoned with, or watched, on perhaps familiar with weapons. I supposed I would arouse enough suspicion in the neighborhood of Brundisium as it was, coming to their city as a lone male with no obvious business. I did have a sword and I had also purchased a set of Tuchuk quivas, their famed saddle knives. The set consists of seven knives, one for each of the seven sheaths in the Tuchuk saddle. They are balanced for throwing. I was rather skillful with them. I had learned their use long ago in the lands of the Wagon Peoples, or, as some think of them, on the plains of Turia. I must soon leave the tent. I must return to my own small camp. I must get a good night's sleep, and start out early in the morning.

"Ho!" I heard Boots call, suddenly. "Who is there?"

I was suddenly alert. It was a bit late now. The performances had been over for some hours. I was not at all sure that villagers or travelers would be about at this time.

"What is wrong?" asked the girl, sensing the change in me.

"Be silent," I said.

"Who are you?" called Boots. There was no answer. Whoever it was had not identified themselves.

I slipped into my tunic and picked up my sword, in its scabbard, the belt looped about the scabbard.

"Come forward," called Boots. "I know you are out there. Do not be afraid. Identify yourselves. Come into the light."

"If they wish to know if one was with you," I said to the girl, "tell them that he fled."

"What is going on?" she said.

I cautioned her to silence, holding my finger across my lips. This is a very natural gesture. I do not know if the gesture, considered as a Gorean gesture, had an independent development, or if, specifically, somewhere in the remote past, it had an Earth origin. There are many Gorean gestures, of course, some of which are very similar to Earth gestures and some of which are not. Another way of warning an individual to silence, incidentally, is to touch the fingers twice, lightly, to the lips. The origin of that gesture, as far as I know, is uniquely Gorean. I looked back at the female. Her lip trembled. She was frightened. She wanted desperately to speak. She could not speak, of course. She was a slave. She had been silenced. I lifted up the back of the tent, and inspected the terrain behind it. I would take my leave in this fashion. I looked back once more at the girl. She was kneeling, looking after me, frightened. She would remain, of course, exactly where she was. The chain on her ankle would see to that. How beautiful they are in collars. I then slipped from the tent.

8 I Make Myself Useful to Boots Tarsk-Bit; I Will Also Show Him What I Have Found in the Woods

"Release us!" demanded Boots Tarsk-Bit, on his knees, near the campfire, his arms roped to his sides.

The leader of the brigands, a bearded fellow, with a cloth wrapped about this head, lashed him across the mouth with the back of his hand. This was inappropriate as Boots was a free person.

"Your conduct," sputtered Boots, "is deplorable. I am Boots Tarsk-Bit, actor, promoter and entrepreneur. Doubtless you have heard of me. I am not a slave. I demand to be treated with civility and courtesy."

"Shall I cut his throat?" asked one of the brigands, taking Boots by the hair and pulling his head back.

"Not yet," said the leader of the brigands.

"Where are the keys to the ankle rings of your tent sluts?" inquired the leader of the brigands.

Boots grunted as his head was jerked farther back. The blade of the fellow's knife pressed against his throat.

"You had only to ask," said Boots.

"Where are they?" asked the leader of the brigands.

"On a nail, inside of the door of my wagon, the large wagon with the red roof, on the left," said Boots.

"Bring the two tent sluts here, bound, to the edge of the fire," said the leader of the brigands. "We shall then see if they are worth keeping or should be left here, with the others."

"What are you going to do with us?" asked Boots.

I saw two of the brigands exchange glances, grinning at one another. I saw another fellow start toward Boots's wagon, presumably to fetch the keys to Bina's and Rowena's ankle rings. I gathered if they were found sufficiently beautiful, or sufficiently desirable, they might be spared. It is in the modality of slavery, on the terms of masters, that females historically have sought, and sometimes have been granted, at least provisionally, their survival.

"Do you call this money?" asked the leader of the brigands, shaking the coin kettle under Boots's nose.

"Why, yes," said Boots, looking into the kettle.

The leader of the brigands again struck him.

"There is scarcely a silver tarsk here," snarled the leader of the brigands.

"I agree," said Boots. "It is a piteous sum, not even worth taking. Leave it, if you wish." He then shrank back, but the chief of the brigands lowered his hand, angrily.

The fellow who had gone to fetch the girls no2 returned. He had the two girls with him. The hands of each, by a cord knotted about their waist, were tied before their bodies. He drew them after him, in leading position, each bent over, by the hair. He then twisted them about and flung them to their backs in the dirt, by the fire. The leader of the brigands then took a flaming brand from the fire and holding it over the girls passed it back and forth, over their bodies, scanning them, examining them in the dancing light. He tossed the brand back into the flames. "We will keep them," he said.

The girls shuddered with relief. They had been found acceptable.

"Tie them," said the leader of the brigands, "kneeling, left ankle to right ankle, right ankle to left ankle."

In a moment this was done. They were knelt, back to back. Two cords are used. One cord fastens the first girl's left ankle to the other girl's right ankle, the same cord looped tight about both ankles, binding them closely together. The other cord, similarly, fastens her right ankle to the other's left ankle. It is a lovely, efficient tie, fastening both girls helplessly in a posture of submission. In this tie they will not leap to their feet and flee away. They will remain, waiting, where they have been placed.

"What moneys are there here?" demanded the chief of the brigands of Boots.

Boots was silent.

The chief of the brigands looked down, near the fire. There the other male members of Boots's company lay on their stomachs, bound, sly, agile Chino, simple Lecchio, Petrucchio, the tall, doleful "captain," and Publius Andronicus, supposedly the most famous actor in the company, saving perhaps the incredible Boots Tarsk-Bit himself. I had not yet, as a matter of fact, seen Publius Andronicus act. I supposed that he was capable of doing so. He was quite impressive, in a ponderous way, rather like a mountain range, in figure and visage. He also had a deep bass voice, which, when he wished, he could make boom like thunder. Boots was quite impressed with him. He was apparently holding himself in reserve for major leads, such as those of tragic statesmen, tormented poets, confused ubars, and such. I thought that perhaps he was in the wrong company. AT any rate it did not seem that the repertory of Boots's company, as I was familiar with it at least, was richly or unusually endowed with roles of such a nature. Too, bound, still hooded, the player, he called the "monster," lay with the others.

"Take what you want," said Boots. "Then be gone."

"That one," said the chief of the brigands, indicating Chino, "kill him."

"No!" cried Boots. "Hold! You cannot be serious! Such an act would desecrate the theater! That is the finest Chino on all Gor!"

"I do not like the idea either," said Chino, "on independent grounds."

"If only I had my sword!" cried Petrucchio. I really doubted that Petrucchio's huge, clumsy wooden sword, no more than a comic theatrical prop really, would be likely to turn the tide of battle. Still his courage I found admirable.

"Cut his throat," said the leader of the brigands.

"No," said Boots. "In my wagon, in the right-hand corner of the tray in my trunk there is a knotted sock which contains coins and there are some coins, too, thrust in the toe of a slipper at the side of the trunk."

"Fetch them," said the leader of the brigands.

The fellow who had seized Chino thrust him back to the dirt. he then made his way to Boots's wagon.

"What else?" demanded the leader of the brigands.

"I know of little else that might be of value to you," said Boots. "You may look about and take what you like. I cannot speak for the others."

"Where is Bort?" asked the leader of the brigands.

"He was keeping watch, at the road," said one of the men.

"We have them now," said the leader of the brigands. "We have called the guards in. Where is he?"

"Doubtless he will be in in a moment," said one of the men. He was mistaken.

"Bort! Bort!" called a fellow.

I had counted, all told, counting the leader, seven brigands. It is important, for obvious reasons, to be as clear as possible on such matters.

"Bort!" the man called out, again, more loudly.

I had mad the acquaintance of Bort, briefly, near the road. He had not had a great deal of time, however, to savor the relationship. His attention had been distracted by a tiny sound, the sound of a falling pebble, to one side. I had then approached him from the opposite direction.

"Bort!" called out the man.

The brigands were now six in number. They did not realize this, as yet.

"Where is he?" said one of the men.

"Sleeping at his post," said a man.

"Lost," said another.

"Let him go," said a fellow. "There will be more loot for us that way."

"Go find him," said the leader of the brigands.

Interestingly enough, only one man, he who had been calling Bort, came forth to locate him.

"Bort?" he inquired, warily, peering into the darkness. "Is that you?" I killed him. "No," I said.

I then circled the camp, approaching from the other side of the wagons. The leader of the brigands, and one other fellow, were near the prisoners. The others were rummaging through the wagons and goods. They were intent on ly on their loot. I caught one from behind and dragged him back into the darkness. I left him there. I used the same quiva I had on the other two.

"Titus!" called one of the brigands, emerging from a wagon, pausing on the steps at the rear. "See what I have found!" He brandished a large inlaid cup. I had seen such cups before. "Titus!" he called. "Titus?"

"Where is Crassius?" called the leader of the brigands to him. "Is he with you?"

"No," said the man. "Has he not yet returned?"

"No," said the leader.

The man lowered his arm with the cup.

"He should be back with Bort by now," said the man on the wagon steps.

"Bort!" called the leader into the darkness. "Crassius!" He then turned about. "Titus!" he called. "Titus!" He regarded the fellow with him. "I do not like it," he said.

"What is wrong?" asked another fellow, emerging form one of the wagons.

"Bort is missing," said the leader. "Crassius had not yet returned. We have called Titus. He does not respond."

The men looked about themselves, apprehensively.

"Sleen," said one of the men.

It is true that sleen sometimes make kills swiftly and silently.

"It could be a panther come from the woods, or a strayed larl," said one of the men. This was less likely than a sleen attack. Though panthers and larls can be extremely dangerous to men they will usually attack men only if they are disturbed or other prey is not available. Sleen, which ten to be fine hunters and splendid trackers, which are swiftly moving, aggressive, serpentine, generally nocturnal animals, particularly in the wild state, are less fastidious about their eating habits.

"It could be urts," said a man. "It is near the time of the year for their movements." Certain species of urts migrate twice a year. At such times, annually, it is usually necessary only to avoid them. People usually remain indoors when pack is in their vicinity. There is little danger from these migrations unless one finds oneself in their direct path. The urt, on the whole, most species of which are quite small, large enough to be lifted in one hand, does not pose much direct threat to human beings. Then can destroy Sa-Tarna fields and force their way into granaries. Similarly urts of the sort which live on garbage cast into the canals will often, unhesitantly, attack swimmers. Certain forms of large, domesticated urt, incidentally, should be excepted from these remarks.They are especially bred for attacking and killing. Such animals, however, are inferior to sleen for such purposes. They also lack the tracking capabilities of the sleen. Similarly they lack its intelligence. There was at least one good additional reason, incidentally, for supposing that whatever might be perplexing the brigands was not urts. The urts do not make their kills neatly and silently. They normally attack in a pack. It is usually a messy business. There is usually much blood and screaming.

"Gather in what you can," said the leader of the brigands. "Then we will be on our way." He looked about himself. Then he threw some more wood on the fire. The fire, of course, would be useful in keeping sleen at bay. It also, from my point of view, was useful in illuminating the camp area.

The two men at the rear doors of the wagons, on the steps, looked across at one another.

"Get busy," said the leader.

"You are near the fire," said one of the men on the wagons.

"We have enough," said the other.

"Cowards," said the brigand near their chief, near the fire.

"Let us be on our way," said the first fellow, holding the cup in his hand.

"Do you dispute me?" asked the leader.

The fellow put down the cup. His hand went to the hilt of his sword. I was pleased that the cup had been put down. I would not have wanted it to be dropped.

"Perhaps you are right," said the leader. "Come here, by the fire."

The fellow descended from the steps of the wagon, warily.

"You are right," said the leader. "We have enough."

"Good," said the fellow.

"Fetch the cup," said the leader.

As soon as the man turned about, however, the leader leaped toward him, seized him from behind, his arm locked about his throat, and plunged a dagger, to the hilt, into his back.

"Teibar!" cried the other fellow on the steps.

The leader, his knife bloody, whirled to face him. "Do you gainsay me on this?" he asked.

"No, no!" said the other fellow, quickly.

"Put leashes on the females," said the leader, straightening up, "and then untie their legs, to make it possible for them to move." This is common Gorean practice, to place one bond before removing another.

"You shall be led as befits slaves, as befits animals, as chattels," said the leader to the girls.

"Yes, Master," said Rowena.

"Yes, Master," said pretty Bina.

"What of the wagons and the men?" asked the fellow who was near the leader.

"We will burn the wagons," said the leader. "We will cut the throats of the men."

"Excellent," said his fellow.

"Fetch the cup," said the leader of the fellow who had now descended from the steps of the wagon.

"I do not want it," said the fellow, shakily, looking at his fallen fellow, near the fire.

"Coward," laughed the leader. he then moved past the fellow, proceeding toward the wagon.

The leader had not noticed, it seemed, that although the fellow's voice had surely suggested uncertainty and fear, his hand had been perfectly steady. The fellow's draw was swift and smooth. The leader had barely time to turn, taking the blade, descending, diagonally across the neck. He fell away from the blade, his head awry. The girls screamed. The assailant turned to face the other brigand.

"Do not strike!" cried the other brigand.

Momentarily the assailant hesitated. For an instant he was indecisive. He had not considered matters, it seemed, beyond the slaying of the leader. That had perhaps been short-sighted on his part. Surely the other man should have been included, in one way or another, in his original plan. Obviously he was going to be there, after the original blow. Obviously, in some fashion, he would have to be dealt with or related to. At any rate he had hesitated for a moment. Such dalliance can be costly. The other fellow now had his own blade free of its sheath.

"Let us not fight," said the fellow who had just drawn his blade. "I am with you! There is enough loot for two."

I now revised my estimate of the intelligence of the fellow who had struck down the leader. It seemed reasonably clear, from the voice and attitude of the fellow who had just drawn his weapon, that he was clearly alarmed. I did not think he was acting in this matter. At any rate it seemed to me that his fear was genuine.

"Sheath your sword," said the fellow who had struck the leader.

"Sheath yours," invited he who had been with the leader.

It was now my assessment of the situation that he who had struck the leader had been confident of his capacity to deal with the other fellow. It was thus, apparently, that he had been willing to postpone, for a moment or so, at least, his decision as to how to deal with him. He was now, it seemed, considering it.

"Let us not quarrel," urged the fellow who had been the confidant of the leader. "There may be sleen about."

The first fellow, scarcely taking his eyes off the other, glanced uneasily about. He could not see me, as I stood back in the darkness. Both were within the cast of a quiva. I turned the blade in my hand.

"Put away your sword," urged the fellow who had been the confidant of the leader.

"I do not trust you," said the other.

"Let us not fight," said the fellow who had been with the leader. "There is little enough her to justify our war."

"There is enough," said the fellow who had struck the leader. I saw that his decision had now been made.

"It is enough for two!" said he who had been with the leader.

"It will be more for one," said he who had struck the leader. "What is wrong?"

The fellow facing him had suddenly stiffened, drawing his shoulders close together. Then his hand fell, lowering the blade. He stumbled forward a step. The other, he who had struck the leader, tensed, his sword poised to fen any possible blow. Then the other, he who had been the confidant of the leader, pitched forward, falling near the fire. The girls, salves, kneeling, still bound helplessly, naked, their small hands jerking at the cords holding their wrists tight to their belly, screamed. Men, too, bound, cried out. From the fellow's back there protruded the handle of a knife, the hilt of a particular sort to knife, that of a saddle knife, that of the sort common in the lands of the Wagon Peoples, that commonly known as a "quiva." I had not thrown it hard enough, intentionally, to bring the point fully through the body. It is not necessary. The cast, as recommended, had been easy and smooth. The quiva itself, in its sharpness and weight, does the work. I turned another blade in my hand.

The fellow leaped backward from the fire. Perhaps, after all, he was not as intelligent as I had supposed. he had not destroyed the fire. He had only retreated from it. I could still see him. Understandably, of course, he was unwilling to flee headlong, blindly, from the camp, into an unknown, unexplored darkness, one in which the number and position of enemies was unknown.

"Who is there?" he cried.

Only the night noises of the nearby woods answered him.

"If you are magistrates," he cried, "know that I have come on this camp of brigands and, in cognizance of my jeopardy, was making ready to defend myself!" he looked about, wildly, drawing back another pace or so. "show yourself," he cried, "as befits your office, that of those who courageously do war with brigands, that of those who do nobly defend and support the law, or as plain honest men, if that you be, that I may ally myself with you, that we may then offer to one another, no, then pledge to one another, mutual protection and succor on these dark and dangerous roads."

It was very quiet, save mostly for the rustling and clicking of insects. Too I heard, intermittently, from somewhere far off, the cries of a tiny, horned gim.

"You do not show yourselves," called the man. "Good! Know then that I am a brigand, too! I feared you might be magistrates. It was thus that I spoke as I did. A falling out occurred here in which I was forced to defend myself. I am Abdar, who was of the band of Ho-Dan. Perhaps you have heard of me. I am wanted in five cities. Approach. Though the loot here is meager I am pleased to share it with you, or, if you wish, surrender it to you, as a token of my good faith. Consider the females, if you can see them. Both, I am sure, you would find acceptable as slaves. If you desire them, I give them to you. Show yourselves! Let us enmesh our destinies. I desire to enleague myself with you. Who are you! Show yourselves!"

I did not respond to him. I measured the distance between us.

"Are you still there?" he cried. "Are you still there?"

The, suddenly, with a cry of misery, the fellow spun about and broke into a run. I took one step and released the blade. he grunted and fell forward, sprawling to the dirt, and then lay on his stomach, a few feet from the fire. he rose to his knees and crawled a pace or two, and then again sank to his stomach. Then he lifted his upper body and head, and then fell forward again. he squirmed. He tried, vainly, clutching with his hand behind him, to reach the blade in his back. He could not do so. Then he shuddered and lay still.

I came forward and regarded the body. I removed the knife from it, cleaning it on his tunic. Then I resheathed the blade, in one of the seven sheaths sewn on the common, supple leather backing, slung now from its shoulder strap, at and about my left hip. Someone, as it had turned out, had been still there.

"You!" cried Boots Tarsk-Bit.

I regarded the two slaves. They knew that they were now being scrutinized as females, basically and radically. It is a fundamental sort of inspection. The girl must hope that she passes it. They straightened their bodies. They did not dare to meet my eyes. It is important for slaves to be pleasing. Their lives depend on it.

I looked at Boots. He swallowed, hard.

I then crouched down near him. I began to free his arms, where they were bound to his body. His sigh of relief was audible.

"Where are the other brigands?" he asked.

I freed his arms. "They are here and there," I said. "Do not fear. They are all accounted for."

"How many are with you?" he asked.

"I am alone," I said.

"By yourself you did this?" he asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Where did you learn to throw a knife like that?" he asked.

"In the south," I said, "far in the south."

"You have saved our lives," he said. "Those rascals, I fear, had no intent to spare us."

"Except the slaves," I said.

"Of course," he said. They, after all, were usable, beautiful, salable animals.

We then began to free the others, all but the slaves.

"We are grateful," Boots assured me.

"Thank you," said the player, surily, begrudgingly, as I freed his hand from behind his back. he then bent quickly, angrily, to untie the ropes on his ankles.

"Do not mind him," said Boots. "He is a puzzling chap. He would probably have preferred to have had his throat cut."

"But you are grateful?" I said to Boots.

"Yes," he said. "I am grateful."

"Eternally, undyingly?" I asked Boots, smiling.

"Of course," he said. "Eternally, undyingly!"

"I think I may be of further service to you," I said.

"How is that?" asked Boots, interested. We finished untying Chino, Lecchio, Petrucchio and Publius Andronicus. We left the girls, for the time, of course, as they were, as they were slaves. They would await our pleasure, that of free men.

"Come with me," I said. "And bring a torch."

"What is it?" asked Boots.

"It is something I would like to show you," I said. "I found it nearby in the woods, when I returned to my camp, to fetch weapons, a few Ehn ago."

"What is it?" he asked.

"Come with me," I said. "I will show you."

"Very well," he said.

"Bring a torch," I said.

"Very well," he said.

9 Two Women, One Free, One Bond; I Join the Company of Boots Tarsk-Bit

"Here," I said. "See?"

We were in a small clearing in the woods, not far from the road.

"Yes!" said Boots, appreciatively.

"Lower the torch," I said. "Look more closely."

The two women whimpered, looking up, blinking against the light. The torch, Boots crouching down, was passed slowly over their bodies. One were a long gown, sleeveless and white. It was all she wore, however, and it was thin. I did not think it was what she would have chosen to wear. It had apparently been picked out for her. The fullness of her beauty, at any rate, in its delicious amplitudes, was not difficult to conjecture beneath it. The other was excitingly curvaceous, too. About her beauty, however, there could be no possible mistake. She was absolutely naked. Both were bound tightly, helplessly, hand and foot.

"Pretty," said Boots.

"Yes," said Chino.

"Yes," said Lecchio.

Petrucchio and Publius Andronicus, too, voiced their assent. The surly, hooded player was not with us. After he had finished freeing himself from the ropes on his ankles, he had hurried to recover the cup which had been of such interest to the brigands. It seemed he did not wish others to see it, or understand its meaning. He had then, taking the cup, gone into his wagon. It seemed then that he had chosen, at least for the time, to remain there. He had not, at any rate, come with us. It seemed he was not particularly appreciative of what had been done for him. Perhaps he was too proud a man. Perhaps he resented fiercely the thought that he might owe anything to another. Perhaps, on the other hand, given his hatred, and the shame in which he seemed to live, he might not have found the cruelty of a brigand's knife that unwelcome.

I looked down at the woman in the long, thin white gown. "Have you been branded?" I asked.

"No!" she said, tensely. "I am free!" This seemed to me probably true, as she had been put in the gown, doubtless, at least for the time, to protect her modesty.

"You must understand," I said, "that we must make a determination on that matter."

"Of course," she said. The results of this determination could make an important difference in how she was treated and what might be, as a matter of course, expected of her. A free woman in one thing, and a female slave is quite another.

I put her on her side and thrust up her gown, and turned her about, from one side to the other. In a moment or two I had checked the normal brand sites for a Gorean female. The most typical brand site is high on the left thigh, high enough, under the hip, to be covered even by the brevity of a typical slave tunic. In this way one often does not know what brand the girl wears. IN this way a bit of mystery, I suppose, might be thought to be added to her.

The mystery in most cases, however, if one is truly interested, is usually no more than temporary. It is only necessary to lift her skirt. Sometimes bets are mad on this matter. In such bets, of course, the odds are with he who wagers on the graceful, cursive, Kef. This is the most common Kajira brand. «Kef» is the first letter in "Kajira," the most common expression in Gorean for a female slave. It is sometimes, too, spoken of as the "Staff and fronds." This is doubtless because of a fancied resemblance to such objects. Also, of course, this involves an allusion to beauty under discipline, indeed, to helpless beauty under absolutely uncompromising discipline. I also checked certain less common brand sites, such as the lower left abdomen, the interior of the left forearm and the high instep area of the left foot. If there is such a mark on a girl, it would not be well to miss it. Imagine the embarrassment of relating to a woman as though she were free and then discovering only later that she had been a legally imbonded slave all the time! Too, how dreadfully perilous would such a deception be for the female! I would surely not wish to be the female who might be found out in such a deception.

"Her body seems clear of brands," I said. "Apparently she is free."

"Yes," she said. "Yes!"

I pulled her gown down from where I had thrust it up, above her breasts, for my convenience in examining her body for brands, and then I worked it down, inching it, carefully, over her body and hips. It was thin and fit her closely. I did not wish to tear it. I then pulled its hem down to where it was supposed to be, at about her ankles. I then made my final adjustments of the gown, that her modesty might be as well protected, or about as well protected, as such a flimsy garment permitted. To be sure, I did, here and there, pull it a bit more snugly about her body than was perhaps necessary. This was excusable, of course. She was beautiful and bound.

I had made a stop at my own camp, incidentally, before coming to this place in the woods.

"As she seems to be free," I said, "I will claim her, she in the modality of the free captive."

"No!" she cried.

"Very well," said Boots.

"No, no!" she wept, struggling in the ropes.

I knew this female.

I pulled her to a seated position. I looked into her eyes. "You are my captive."

"Please, no!" she said.

"It is up to you, at least for the time," I said, "to decided what sort of captive you will be."

She looked at me, frightened.

I removed some metal from my pouch, that which I had brought from my camp, but moments ago, to this clearing in the woods. I dangled it, in its small, sturdy rings and four heavy, close-set links, before her eyes. "Do you desire it?" I asked.

"Yes," she whispered. "Close-chains."

I put the shackles on her ankles. Her ankles were now shackled only some four inches apart. She had decided that she wished to be kept in honor and modesty. To be sure, aside from the obvious consideration of the inflexible efficiency of the shackling itself, given the large number of ways in which a woman may be used for a man's pleasure, the matter was primarily symbolic. then ankle rings snug on her I removed the bonds of the brigands from her ankles. Her ankles parted, to the brief extent permitted by the chain linkage of my shackles. her wrists were still tied behind her. "How did you come to be captured by the brigands?" I asked.

"My superiors were dissatisfied with me," she said. "My lackeys were removed from me. I was put in a brief tunic, almost as though I might be a slave. I was forbidden even to wear a veil. I was given a small purse of coins, one sufficient for my projected expenses, and instructed to report back to my headquarters, alone and on foot."

"Alone, and on foot?" I asked.

"Yes," she said, bitterly.

"It is my conjecture," I said, "that they did not expect you to complete your journey successfully."

"It seems they were right," she said, bitterly.

I smiled. I did not think that her superiors were likely to be any more unaware of the dangers of Gorean highways than anyone else. A lovely woman, scantily clad, not even veiled, alone, on foot, did not seem a likely candidate to travel the Gorean wilderness with impunity. Their instructions, it seemed, had been, for most practical purposes, tantamount to an enslavement sentence. I did not think they expected to see her again, unless it might be in the rag of a slave and a collar.

"I was caught by the brigands last night," she said.

"You do not appear to be clad as might be a slave," I said.

"The garments in which my superiors had placed me," she said, "were removed by the brigands. They regarded them as inappropriate for a free woman. They put me, instead, in the gown in which you now see me."

"That was thoughtful of them," I said.

"But it is so thin and flimsy!" she protested.

"Of course," I said.

"I suppose it does mark me as a free woman," she said, "and in that sense might perhaps raise my price somewhat in case they were readying me for sale to a slave merchant."

"Too," I said, "with all due respect it is, in spite of its length and nature, rather flattering and revealing. Doubtless, too, it would give the merchant pleasure to remove it from you in your assessment, thereby revealing your beauty, that then of a potential slave."

"Yes," she said, bitterly.

"Have no fear," I said. "I will find you something else to wear."

"Thank you," she said.

"Is there another camp about, or somewhere," I asked, "used by the brigands?"

"No," she said. "There was one, but they broke it this morning. This afternoon they surreptitiously met a fellow in the woods. He had a wagon. They sold most of their loot to him."

"Apparently they did not sell all of it to him," I said, regarding her, glancing, too, at the other bound woman, she naked in the dirt.

"No," she said. "He was not a slaver. Too, I do not think he wanted any obvious connection to be noted between himself and the brigands, such as might be furnished by handling their slaves."

"Where were you enroute?" I asked.

"I do not know," she said. "I was told only that we were being taken somewhere where we could be sold to a proper slaver."

"Besnit, Esalinus or Harfax," suggested Boots.

I shrugged. "Perhaps," I said. These towns were all within a hundred pasangs of our present location. Such women could be disposed of almost anywhere, of course. Slave markets, like slaves, are common on Gor. Given the large number of slaves on Gore it is only natural that there should be an abundance of outlets for their handling and processing.

"You apparently made camp here," I said, "several Ahn ago."

"We stopped early, I think," she said. "I think they had discovered another camp, one on which they intended to perpetrate a raid."

"That is correct," I said.

"We were left here, helplessly trussed, females, to await their return," she said.

"They will not be coming back," I said.

"I see," she said, shuddering.

"Where are the other valuables, the moneys, in the camp," I asked, "their accruals from the fellow with the wagon, or otherwise?"

"It is all there," she said, indicating it with her head, "in those packs. The gold is in a small coffer, one bound with bands of iron, one studded with silver, that closed with a heavy golden-plated lock, in the first pack."

"It is all yours," I told Boots.

"All of it?" asked Boots, incredulously.

"All of it," I said.

"Thank you!" said Boots, fervently. "It will be put to good use."

"Perhaps you could use it in support of the arts," I suggested.

"My intention exactly," admitted Boots.

"It might be used, for example," I suggested, "in support of some worthy but struggling theatrical company."

"That is a sound and brilliant suggestion," Boots congratulated me.

"Perhaps you have some company in mind," I said.

"I have just the company in mind," he said.

"Us," said Lecchio.

"A bit abruptly and crassly put," said Boots, reprovingly, to Lecchio, "but that would indeed seem to capture the gist of the matter."

"Are you grateful," I asked.

"yes," said Boots.

"Eternally, undyingly?" I asked.

"Surely," said Boots.

"There is something you can do for me," I said.

"Name it, brother," said Boots.

"I am still interested in joining your company," I said.

"Out of the question," said Boots. "Impossible."

"Come now," I said.

"Come now," said Chino.

"Come now," said Lecchio.

"Come now," said Petrucchio.

"Come, come now!" insisted Andronicus.

"My mind is made up," said Boots.

"Perhaps you could unmake it, and start in, all over again," I suggested, reaching to the multiple sheath of saddle knives slung at my hip.

Boots eyed me, closely.

"By dear Boots, do not be an ungrateful dolt," scolded the ponderous Andronicus.

"I have spoken," announced Boots, grandly.

I drew one of the blades, and turned it in my hand. "Perhaps you could speak again," I suggested.

"Never," said Boots.

"Oh?" I asked. I turned the knife again, now holding it by the handle. The point idly seemed to focus on Boots's throat.

"What could you do?" asked Boots, uneasily, watching the knife point.

I flipped the blade in my hand, holding it now again by the blade. I looked at Boots, evenly. "I do a knife throwing act," I said. "Remember?"

"And a good one, too," admitted Boots.

"Let him join the company," pressed Chino.

"Yes," urged Lecchio.

"By all means," urged Petrucchio.

"It is little enough for all he has done," said Andronicus.

"We cannot take in every stray sleen who comes whining about the wagons," said Boots. "Are we a refuge for homeless waifs, a food wagon for improvident wayfarers, a training grounds for amateurs, a nomadic inn for stage-struck aspirants, an itinerant shelter for every awed, hopeful bumpkin desirous of donning the thespic mantle, and on our stage, that of the theater's titans, of sharing our riches, tangible and intangible, our glory and largesse, that of Gor's finest theatrical aggregation? What of our professional standards? What of our reputation?"

"Urt droppings," said Chino.

"Urt droppings?" inquired Boots.

"Yes," said Chino.

"Perhaps you are ready to reconsider your position on this matter," I said. I flipped the knife meaningfully about. The point now, again, was looking at Boots.

"You are skillful," said Boots. "There is no doubt about it. You are not an experienced, professional actor, of course."

"That is true," I granted him. The point was now an inch or so from his neck.

"There are, of course, many other things y9ou might do, simple work, heavy work, say, unsuitable for more skilled personnel."

"True," I said.

"Perhaps you could help the monster," he mused.

"Yes," I said.

"The stage must be set up," he said, "the tents put up, and so on."

"Yes," I encouraged him.

"Do not be ungrateful, Boots," said Andronicus. "We owe him our very lives."

"And you still could," I pointed out.

Boots swallowed, hard. "I am not a stern, inflexible fellow," he said. "It is well known that I am resilient and supple, as well as complex, subtle and talented. That Boots is a broad-minded fellow, I have often heard it said. He is easy-going and tolerant, as it is said, and, indeed, perhaps sometimes too much so for his own good, as it is also said. Yes, that Boots is a good fellow, one always ready to listen to arguments, to consider carefully the claims of reason, as they say."

"I take it you are reconsidering your position," I said.

"I am taking its reconsideration under consideration," said Boots.

"Let him join the company," said Andronicus.

"I am weakening," said Boots. "The arguments of Andronicus are swaying me."

"If you do not permit him to join us," said Andronicus, "I shall resign from the company."

Boots regarded him, aghast.

"Yes," said Andronicus, firmly.

"We would be devastated!" objected Boots.

Andronicus regarded him, his arms folded adamantly.

"I am swayed," said Boots.

Swiftly I reversed the blade I held and tucked it under my arm that I not wound Publius Andronicus who, victorious, was heartily reaching for my hand. Chino, Lecchio and Petrucchio, too, moved about me, slapping me on the back and congratulating me. Lastly Boots himself seized my hand warmly. "Welcome to the company of Boots Tarsk-Bit," he said. "Remember, however, this is no ordinary troupe. In joining us you have undertaken a grave responsibility and a most serious charge. See that you struggle to live up to our high standards."

"I will try," I assured him.

"We do have a problem, however," said Boots to the others in the troupe.

"What is that?" asked lanky Petrucchio.

"Where will he stay?" asked Boots. "I have no intention of sharing my wagon with someone who can handle a knife like that."

"He can use my wagon," said Petrucchio. "I myself, if he be amenable, will lodge with my friend, Andronicus, with whom I have lengthy discussions on the craft of the actor."

"On the art of the actor," said Andronicus.

"Craft," said Petrucchio.

"Art," said Andronicus.

"Is it all right?" asked Petrucchio.

"Of course, and welcome," said Andronicus. "It will give me an opportunity to train you in the one hundred and seventy-three movements of the head."

"I thought it was one hundred and seventy-one," said Petrucchio.

"In a text by Alamanius, I have discovered two new movements," said Andronicus, "each with its several variations."

"Fascinating," said Petrucchio.

"It is settled then," said Boots.

"Yes," said Petrucchio.

"Yes," said Andronicus.

"Thank you," I said to Petrucchio and Andronicus.

"It is nothing," they assured me.

"Do you wish to share my w2agon?" I asked my captive.

"No!" she said.

"You may lock her in the girl wagon, chained in her place, with Rowena and Bina," said Boots, generously.

"No," I said. "Do not bother. I will simply chain her by the neck under my own wagon."

"Very well," said Boots.

She regarded me angrily, and squirmed in her bonds.

"Gather up those boxes and packs, and that which might seem to be of any value here," said Boots to his fellows. "In particular do not neglect a small coffer, bound with iron, studded with silver, closed with a golden-plated lock, reputed to be in the first pack. These things we shall transport back to our own camp. Victory has been ours. The loot, thus, in its various items, of which I shall keep a careful list, in its various natures, quantities and qualities, is also ours."

"No!" protested the other woman, she who lay in the dirt, absolutely naked, helplessly bound, hand and foot, next to my own captive.

"Did you speak, my dear?" asked Boots Tarsk-Bit.

"Yes!" she said. "Free me!"

"Why should I do that?" asked Boots.

"I am a free woman!" she cried.

"Chino, bring a torch closer," said Boots.

Chino came from the area of boxes and packs, with one of the torches.

"As you are perfect gentlemen, you will free me," she said. "I can count on that as a free woman."

I smiled. Goreans tend to be less gentlemen, than owners and masters of females. IN the order of nature they tend to acquire and dominate them, making them uncompromisingly their own.

"Who are you?" asked Boots.

"I am the Lady Telitsia of Asperiche," she said.

"Ho, ho, ho!" cried Boots, gleefully, triumphantly, rubbing his hand together.

"I do not understand," said the woman.

"Hold the torch closer," said Boots to Chino.

"Oh!" cried the woman, as I turned her roughly to her right side in the dirt, this exposing her left thigh.

"Aha!" cried Boots, triumphantly.

"I have never been collared!" she cried. "I have never worn a collar!"

"That can be remedied," Boots informed her.

"I am not a slave!" she cried.

Her thigh, however, belied her protestation. It bore, clearly, indisputably, unmistakably, a brand, the common Kajira brand. It was as clear on her body as on that of any other slave. The brigands, it seemed, had, or had had her, reduced to slavery.

"It is only a mark!" she cried.

"I think it is a little bit more than that," said Boots. "It is a slave brand."

"It means nothing!" she cried.

"It means a great deal, as I am sure, sooner or later, you will agree," said Boots.

"No!" she cried.

"You are a slave," said Boots.

"Free me!" she begged. "I beg you to free me!"

"You will be the first item on my loot list, Lady Telitsia, as I may choose to call you for a time," said Boots.

"Surely you jest! Surely you will free me!" she said.

"Do I seem a fool to you?" asked Boots.

"No!" she said, hastily.

"Only fools free female slaves," said Boots. "Surely you are familiar with the saying."

"I am of high caste, and am rich!" she said.

"Once perhaps," said Boots, "but neither is true any longer. With your branding you became only an animal, a property. With the iron's first touch you ceased to be a legal person. You are now casteless. You now own nothing. Rather it is n now you yourself, slave, who are subject to being owned, as much as any other object or property."

"No, no!" she cried, squirming in the thongs that bound her. She was attractive, doing so. She could not free herself, of course. She was absolutely helpless. She had been bound by Gorean men.

"I think we can find some chains for you in the girl wagon," said Boots. "Perhaps, on occasion, I will have you come to my own wagon."

"No, no, no!" she wept, struggling.

Boots looked down upon her, beaming.

"Surely you have no intention of keeping me!" she cried.

"Your body, as I now see," said Boots, "now that you are naked, now that the pesky, interfering, obscuring robes of the scribe have been totally removed from it, not inconceivably might be of interest to a male."

She regarded him with horror. Too, he had surely understood the case. I had little doubt but what she would bring a fine price in a slave market. Indeed, those slaved curves of hers, even routinely put up for salve on a block, would be almost certain to elicit active and serious bidding.

"Too," said Boots, "I think you are highly intelligent, and, if I am not mistaken, you have also, at the fair, earlier, given to some subtle indications of possessing a great deal of talent."

"I do not understand," she stammered.

"Gather around, everybody," called Boots.

Petrucchio, Andronicus, and Lecchio joined Boots, myself and Chino near the bound woman.

"On your knees, my dear," said Boots to the bound woman.

She, moaning, struggled to her knees.

"Gentlemen," said Boots, "may I present Lady Telitsia, as, for the time, as it pleases me, I shall refer to her."

"Greetings," said Lecchio.

"Greetings," she whispered.

"Perhaps you remember her from the fair," said Boots.

"Yes," said Chino. "We remember her-well."

The slave shuddered.

"Behold her," said Boots, cheerfully. He took her by the hair and pulled her head back. Yes, I thought, she would bring a high price.

"Pretty," said Chino.

"Pretty," agreed Lecchio.

"That we have acquired her," said Boots, "we may account a stroke of great good fortune."

"How is that?" asked Lecchio.

"She comes to us, does she not," asked Boots, "at a peculiarly opportune time, at an instant when we are struggling in desperate straits, at a time when we find ourselves in agonizing and desperate need."

"She does?" asked Lecchio, a golden necklace draped about his neck, taken from he loot of the brigands.

"Yes!" said Boots.

"Ah, yes!" mused Chino.

"I have consented to Lady Telitsia's joining our company," announced Boots.

"No!" she cried, her head back, wincing, her hair in Boots's grasp.

"Yes!" reaffirmed Boots. "Too, she comes to us just in time to solve one of our most pressing problems."

"Yes, indeed," agreed Andronicus.

"I do not understand," said Lecchio.

"Is the matter not clear?" asked Boots.

"No," said Lecchio.

"Behold, Gentlemen," said Boots, pulling her head back a bit more and indicating her, displaying her, expansively with the palm of his left hand, "we have found our Brigella!"

"No!" cried the girl.

The fellows applauded Boots, admiringly, striking their left shoulders in Gorean applause.

"No!" she cried. "Never!"

"She is even prettier than the last," said Lecchio.

"I think she will do very nicely," said Chino.

"An excellent choice," said Andronicus.

"I refuse!" she cried. "The very thought of it! The outrage! The indignity! How dare you even think of such a thing! I am of high caste! I am of the scribes! Wait until I bring this matter to the attention of magistrates!"

"As I may remind you, my dear," said Boots, patiently, "you are no longer of high caste nor of the scribes. Similarly, as I am sure you will recognize, at least upon reflection, you now have no standing before the law. You are now of no more interest to magistrates, in their official capacities, as opposed to their private capacities, than would be an urt or a sleen."

She regarded him, frightened.

"Your days of making a nuisance of yourself are now over," said Boots. "Indeed, I speculate that those very same magistrates whom you have so often inconvenienced would be quite pleased to learn that you are now, at last, no longer capable of pestering them with your inane, time-consuming nonsense. I doubt that they would wish to see you again, unless perhaps it would be to return you naked and bound to your master, with the blows of a whip on your body, or perhaps, say, to have you serve them in a tavern, helpless in the modality that would then be yours, that of the total female slave."

"Please!" she begged.

"Hitherto you have sought to use men for your purposes," said Boots. "That is now changed. It is now you who will be used for their purposes, fully. In the past you have made many demands on men. Henceforth it will be your hope rather that they will find you pleasing, in all respects."

"I am a free woman!" she cried.

"You will soon learn differently," said Boots.

"I am free!" she wept.

"That is not true," said Boots, "as you will soon come to understand."

"I am not a slave," she wept. "I cannot be a slave!"

"Silence, Slave," said Boots.

"Please!" she wept.

"It has been a busy day," said Boots. "Chino, would you please untie the slave's ankles?"

"Surely," he said.

Boots then drew her to her feet and held her head, bent down, by the hair, at his waist, in leading position. Her hands were still tied behind her. "Lecchio, Chino, Andronicus, Petrucchio, if you would," said Boots, "bring along these other things, whatever seems of value."

"Very well," they assented.

"It is growing late, and I am weary," said Boots to Lady Telitsia. "It will be time enough in the morning to whip you."

"Whip me?" she gasped.

"I will then be fresher and can lay the lash to you more roundly," he said.

"The lash?" she queried.

"Yes," he said.

"You're joking!" she said.

"You may ponder that tonight, while chained in the girl wagon," he said.

"But why?" she asked.

"You have not been pleasing," he said, "not that that matters that much. As you know, no excuse, explanation, defense or reason is required to justify the whipping of a female slave. She may be beaten for any reason, or for no reason, whenever the master wishes. She may be whipped even, if he wishes, on the outcome of the spinning of a wheel or the cast of a die."

I crouched down beside my own prisoner, the free female, she whom I had shackled, she whose beauty seemed to strain protestingly against the long, thin gown put upon her by the brigands, as though calling for a man to tear it from her.

"You look upon me boldly," she said.

"You are a captive," I reminded her.

"But I am to be kept in honor!" she said.

"Of course," I said, "or at least for a time."

"I wear your gyves," she reminded me.

I regarded her fair ankles, snug in their metal fastenings, linked by the short chain. They could not now be parted, unless I chose to do so.

"Perhaps it is your intention to remove them?" she asked, apprehensively.

"Perhaps I shall occasionally remove them," I said, "perhaps for the purposes of exercise."

"Exercise?" she asked.

"Yes," I said. "For example, I might wish to take you-"

"Take me?" she asked.

"Say, for a run on a leash," I said.

"I see," she said.

"We must soon return to our camp," said Boots, his fist in the bent-over Lady Telitsia's hair.

"Surely you will remove my fetters at least to permit me to walk to your camp," suggested my captive.

I saw that she wanted the fetters off. I wondered if this was because she desired to escape, or if she wished to be caressed.

"Otherwise," she said, "I fear the journey will be both lengthy and painful. I do not even know if I can stand in them."

"You can stand in them," I said. "It is only that it would be difficult to move in them without falling."

"I see," she said.

"You could always crawl," I said, "dragging yourself forward, say, on your hands or elbows."

"Perhaps if your camp is close, I might, dragging myself through the underbrush, arrive there by morning."

"Perhaps," I said.

"If I did not get lost, or fall to sleen," she said.

"Perhaps," I speculated.

"Doubtless you will now, for your convenience, remove them," she said.

"No," I said.

"I do not understand," she said.

"They were not put on you to be removed so soon," I said.

"How then shall I get to your camp?" she asked, apprehensively.

"I have another mode of transportation in mind for you," I said, "a mode which I trust you will find instructive."

"No!" she begged.

"Yes," I said.

"Head forward," she pleaded.

"No," I said, "you shall be carried to the camp on my shoulder, your hands tied, your ankles helpless in their fetters."

"My head forward," she begged.

"No," I said, "to the rear."

"As a slave!" she cried, angrily.

"Yes," I said.

"Even she there, she who is naked and bound, she who is a true slave, is permitted to walk!"

"I do not think you will long envy her," I said.

Lady Telitsia, now a slave, whimpered, frightened.

"You treat me as a slave," said my captive. "Perhaps you will soon make me a slave!"

"Perhaps," I said.

"Your eyes rove me brazenly, I note," she said, angrily, "as though I might be a slave."

"Yes," I admitted. To be sure, she was quite beautiful. I had no doubt but what she might, if collared and trained, and brought into touch with her feelings, prove to be not only an adequate slave, but perhaps even a quite marvelous one.

"You said," she said, "that you would get me something else to wear."

"Have no fear," I said. "I shall."

"Let us be on our way," said Boots.

I scooped up the woman and threw her over my shoulder, her head to the rear. She was not heavy. I looked out, into the shadows of the woods. I did not think she would be likely to forget this nocturnal journey, being carried helplessly through the darkness into captivity.

"Back at the fair," said Boots to me, "as I recall, you expressed your eagerness to join our company."

"yes," I said.

"As I recall, as well," said he, "you were willing to work without pay."

"True," I grinned.

"That seems a suitable arrangement from my point of view." said Boots.

"Boots," warned Andronicus, sternly.

"But, of course, even though it might be difficult, we shall struggle to manage some small remuneration-somehow," Boots assured me.

"Thank you," I said.

"It is nothing," said Boots, generously.

"And if you are not careful, it will be," said Chino, cheerfully.

Boots then set off confidently through the woods.

"Your camp," I said to him, "is more to the right. That's it."

Boots led the way, Lady Telitsia stumbling along, bent over, held, beside him, in approximately the right direction. He was followed by his fellows, carrying various articles taken from the brigands' camp. I then brought up the rear, on my shoulder the Lady Yanina.

10 A Pleasant Morning in Camp; The Lady Yanina Will Obey

"Are you comfortable, Lady Telitsia?" asked Boots.

"Yes," she said. She knelt, her wrists tied together over her head, fastened by a short strap to a transversely mounted, sturdy wooden bar. It was about five feet from the ground. It was the morning after he had acquired her.

"Surely you are bluffing, and you have no intention of going through with this," she said. She was naked, except for a collar. The legend on the collar said, "If you find me, return me to Boots Tarsk-Bit. Reward." It was the same collar as was worn by Boots's other girls. He had put it on her immediately after returning to the camp last night. He had then chained her in the girl wagon, on one of the open, steel-floored, steel-sided kennels, and retired. This morning, early, he had dragged her forth and bound her in her present position. He had then h ad a large breakfast. Doubtless she was quite hungry. Still she had not yet been fed. That was just as well, considering what was to be done to her.

Boots shook out the blades of a five-stranded Gorean slave ship.

"As I recall," said Boots, "you said, at the fair, that you were not afraid of men."

She was silent.

"How proudly you said that," marveled Boots, swinging the freed lash blades loosely. "To be sure, at that time, you probably had never had any reason to be afraid of men. Now that you are a slave, however, you will find that you do have reason, and ample reason, and not only to fear men, but, indeed, any free person."

"I am hungry," she said. "Am I to be fed?"

"Perhaps when you learn to beg for it," he said.

"Never," she said.

"Did you enjoy your night in the girl wagon?" he asked.

"No," she said. "The steel was cold. I did not even have a rag to put between myself and the steel."

"To be sure, the nights are chilly," said Boots.

"I would like to have a blanket in the future," she said.

"There might be a shred of a blanket somewhere about," said Boots. "Perhaps you could beg for it."

"Never," she said.

"I gave you some time last night, while you were chained in the girl wagon," said Boots, "to consider your up-coming beating this morning. Did you give it much thought?"

"No," she said.

"Why not?" asked Boots.

"You would not dare to beat me," she said.

"Why not?" asked Boots, eager to be informed.

"Because of the kind of person I am," she said. "I am above being beaten. That is for low females."

"Such as slaves?" asked Boots.

"Yes," she said.

"I see," said Boots.

"As it turns out," she said, "I am right."

"How is that?" asked Boots.

"If you were going to beat me," she said, "you would have already done so by now."

"I have been giving my breakfast some time to digest," said Boots. "I would not wish to upset my stomach."

"Of course not," she said, ironically.

"But now," said Boots, "I think I will be all right."

"What?" she asked, half turning about.

"You have been a nuisance, Lady Telitsia," he said. "I think I will very much enjoy whipping you."

"You're serious!" she suddenly said, alarmed.

"Yes," he admitted.

"Wait!" she said, twisting in the ropes. "I am prepared to admit that in some legal sense I am a slave, and that I am theoretically subject to such things!"

"Very much more so than theoretically, my dear," said Boots.

"But I am too refined, too sensitive to be whipped!"

"Nonsense," said Boots.

"It is inappropriate to whip me," she said. "I am a lady of quality."

"You are only another slave," said Boots.

"Wait!" she cried.

"What now?" asked Boots, impatiently.

"I am bound," she wept, twisting in the ropes. "I am naked. I am tied in such a way that I cannot protect myself. I am exposed helplessly, utterly, to your mercy."

"Of course," said Boots.

"But it will hurt," she said.

"Have you ever felt the whip?" asked Boots.

"No!" she said.

"Then how do you know it will hurt?" he asked.

"I have seen girls beaten," she said.

"Perhaps it does not hurt much," said Boots. He himself, of course, earlier, at her instigation, when she was a free woman, had been flogged at the fair. This turnabout then must have been extra delicious for him, in addition to the simple, straightforward pleasure of giving her a good beating. To be sure, Boots had been beaten with a heavy whip, of the sort used on men, whereas she would find herself under only the familiar, common five-stranded Gorean salve lash. Still it is not without reason that that implement is much favored on Gor for the disciplining of females. Without permanently marking the girl it punishes with excruciating, terrible efficiency. The mere sight of wsuch a whip generally inspires terror in any female who has ever felt it.

"Do not whip me!" she cried. "It is not necessary! I admit that I am a slave! I am a slave! I will even obey!"

"Prepare to be beaten," said Boots.

"Mercy!" she cried.

"To quote someone I once heard at the fair," said Boots, "I do not choose to show you mercy."

The bound female groaned, hearing her own words.

"Prepare," said Boots.

"No! No!" she cried, springing to her feet, her bare feet raising dust, her bound wrists, of course, still tethered to the bar.

"Back on your knees, Lady Telitsia," said Boots, sternly, "or you will add blows to your beating."

Lady Telitsia, in misery, moaning, trembling, sank back to her knees, her wrists again now over her head.

"Would you like me to cross and bind your ankles?" Boots asked, kindly.

"No," she moaned.

I think she could see the shadow of Boots before her. Her back was illuminated by the morning sun.

"I do not want to be whipped!" she cried.

"It will be good for you to be whipped," said Boots. "It will be good for you to know what it is like. It will help you to understand that you are now truly a slave. Too, it will help to make you a more diligent slave, one more anxious to please."

"Mercy!" she wept.

" 'Slaves, " said Boots, " 'are to be shown no mercy'. I heard someone say that, also, recently, at the Fair of En'Kara. Perhaps you recall it?"

She sobbed, helpless in the ropes, awaiting her beating.

"Slaves are to be shown no mercy," she had said a few days ago at the fair. I recalled it. How uncompromisingly, how coldly, she had said it. Now she herself was a slave.

"Do you recall saying that?" asked Boots.

"Yes," she sobbed.

"Is it true?" asked Boots.

"Yes," she wept.

He then struck her, once, with the lash. She cried out, startled, in pain, in disbelief.

"Yes, what?" he asked.

"Yes, Master!" she cried.

he then struck her again. "No, no!" she cried out. "Please do not strike me again, Master!"

"It will be done with you as your Master pleases," he said.

"Yes, Master!" she sobbed.

He then, with a few blows, concluded her beating. It was neither a long nor a severe beating. Still he had placed the blows diversely and had varied their timing. It was in its way a kindly beating, as Boots was a kindly fellow, but it was also, I think, an efficient beating.

When Boots had finished he untied the strap that had fastened her bound wrists to the wooden bar. She fell to her belly in the dust and reached out, her wrists still bound, to touch his ankles. She put down her head and, lying in the dust before him, pressed her lips, those of a slave, again and again, piteously, to his feet. Boots then turned away and went about this business. She then lay on her belly in the dust, collapsed, near the wooden bar to which she had been tied for her beating. I went to her and turned her over with my foot. She looked up at me. She was in misery and in pain.

"You are branded," I said.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"You wear a collar," I said.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"What are you?" I asked.

"I am a female slave," she said, "a slave girl."

"Anything else?" I asked.

"No, Master," she said. "Only that."

"It is true," I said.

"Yes, Master," she said.

I saw in her eyes that she now knew these things to be true, that she now truly knew that she was a slave girl, that and only that.

"What am I to do, Master?" she asked.

"Go to your Master," I said, "and beg him to forgive you for having been displeasing."

"Yes, Master," she said. She rose painful to her feet and went slowly, painfully, to where Boots was sitting cross-legged, near the small fire between the wagons. He was now in the midst of enjoying a second breakfast. Chino and Andronicus were with him. She knelt down near him, her bound wrists on her thighs. She dared not speak. After a time, Boots, sucking his fingers, removing the grease from fried tarsk strips from them, turned about. She quickly, under the eyes of her master, put her head down to the dirt. "Did you wish something, girl?" asked Boots.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"You may speak," said Boots.

"I beg your forgiveness, Master," she said, her head still down, "for having been displeasing."

"Mend your way in the future," cautioned Boots, sternly. "Next time it may not go as easily with you."

"Yes, Master," she said, trembling.

Boots then helped himself to some more rolls and slices of fried tarsk.

Lady Telitsia, as it seemed she would be called now, at least for the time, then lifted her head and straightened her body. She remained kneeling, of course, in the immediate vicinity of her master.

"Good rolls," said Boots to Chino.

"Yes," agreed Chino, helping himself to another, as well.

"Excellent vulo eggs, excellent tarsk," said Boots, his mouth full.

"Quite," agreed Andronicus, wiping his fingers fastidiously on his tunic.

Lady Telitsia eyed the food, hungrily, pitiously. She squirmed. I heard her small, lovely, rounded belly growling.

"Did you say something, my dear?" asked Boots.

"No, Master," she said, quickly.

Boots returned to his repast. I wondered how long it had been since Lady Telitsia had been fed.

More noises emanated from her pretty belly. She put down her head in embarrassment.

"Lady Telitsia," said Boots. "Clean my hands."

She came forward and began to lick his cupped hands and then to suck his fingers, removing the grease from them. Meanwhile he continued to talk with Chino and andronicus.

"Slowly and more sensuously," said Boots.

"Yes, Master," she groaned. She looked up at him. Their eyes met. Their exchange of glances was quite meaningfull. Then she complied, as best she could, given that she had only recently been a free woman. She, apparently half starved, had been too eagerly licking and sucking at the grease on his hands and fingers.

"Better," he said. "Better." Then he dried his hands, aprtly on her body, partly on her hair, and returned his attention to his companions. As he had touched her body I had noted that she had gasped and, ever so lsightly, had pressed against his hand. I do not think, however, this action had been lost on Boots, either. The slave, "Lady Telitsia," had in her, I suspected, superb slave potential. Up to now, of course, as a free woman, given her conditioning and what was expected of her in her cluture, she had undobtedly, possibly even agonizingly, resisted her sexuality, fighting to control and suppress her slave drives. Now, of course, now that she had been freed of the psychological chains, the confining restrictions, the imprisoning inhibitions of the free woman, I had little doubt that she, and perhaps even soon, would prove to be a helplessly arousable, helplessly yielding slave, a joy both to herself and her masters.

"That is enough," said Boots.

"Master," she said.

"Yes?" said Boots.

"May I have permission to speak, Master?" she asked.

"You need only ask-sometimes," siad Boots.

"Thank you, Master," she said, gratefully. "Master-"

"Were you given permission to speak?" asked Boots.

"No, master," she whispered. "Forgive me, Master."

Boots regarded her, sternly.

"But you said I need only ask," she whispered, frightened.

"I said, 'You need only ask-sometimes, " said Boots. "This is not one of those times. You may not now speak."

'Yes, Master," she said. "Forgive me, Master." She then knelt back on her hells, not permitted to speak, a chastened slave.

"Ah," siad Boots, seeing me. "Are you hungry? Come join us."

"Thank you," I said, and sat down with them, cross-legged. It was still rather early. Soon I was helpign myself to a heaping serving of vulo eggs, tarsk strips and rolls.

"Perhaps you should feed our captive soon," siad Boots. He referred to the free woman, the Lady Yanina, shackled and chained by the neck under my wagon.

"Yes," I said. "I will take her a plate of food when I am finished here." One must show concern for her, of course. She was a free woman.

"You are going with us at least as far as Brundisium?" said Boots.

"That is my plan," I said.

"What takes you to Brundisium?" asked Boots.

"Mainly Petrucchio's wagon, I would suppose," I said. "and his tharlarion. He was kind enough to loan them to me. I may walk opart of the way, of course."

"Seriously," said Boots.

"I am quite serious," I said. "Walking is an excellent exercise."

"It is quite early in the morning for wit as scintillating as yours," observed Boots.

"Sorry," I said.

"Have you ever considered a career upon the stage?" he inquired.

"No," I said.

"It is probably just as well," he speculated.

"Perhaps," I admitted, somewhat grudgingly, not altogether convinced.

"What are you going to do in Brundisium?" asked Boots.

"That will depend, I expect," I said, "on what I find in Brundisium."

"Come now," said Boots.

"Business," I informed him.

"I see," said Boots. "I am glad that is cleared up."

I bit on some crisp tarsk strips.

"You are certainly a communicative fellow this morning," said Boots.

"The tarsk is good," I said.

"I am glad you like it," said Boots. "Brundisium, as I have warned you earlier, may be dangerous. The7 seem quite suspicious of strangers the last year or so."

"You do not know why, though?" I asked.

"No," he said.

"You are a good fellow, Boots," I said. "I appreciate your concern."

"I think I know how you intend to use your captive, at least as far as your participation in our show is concerned," said Boots, "but beware. If she is of Brundisium, or is known in Brundisium, it could be very dangerous for you there."

"In the vicinity of Brundisium, or within her walls," I said, "I could keep her hooded. If it seemed desirable, too, of course, I could always have her reduce to slavery before nearing, or entering, the city. She would then be of no legal interest to anyone, for whe would then be only a slave, only chattel."

"Of course," said Boots.

"It was a good breakfast," I siad. "I had better take her some food now."

"Yes," said Boots. "You must not keep her hungry. You must show her consideration. She is a free woman."

"Of course," I said.

I slowly, carefully, piled a plate high with rolls, eggs and fried vulo strips. It had probably been a long time since the Lady Yanina had eaten. She had been in the care of the brigands. She was probably quite hungry. I could always watch her feedings later, giving attention to theri possible effect on her figure. That would be if I decided, later, to turn her into a love captive, or, if it pleased me, a thousand times lower, nay, a thousand thousand times lower, nay, even uncountably times lower, nay not even on the same scale, a slave. Boots's slave, Lady Telitsia, eyes the plate hungrily, desperately. I thought I heard her whimper, softly. Certainly there were some piteous noises at any rate which suddenly, unexpectedly, perhaps to her embarrassment, emanated from her pretty belly."

"Did you say something?" asked Boots.

"No, Master," she said, hastily. She had been warned to silence.

I rose to my feet.

"May I have the plate a moment?" asked Boots.

"Surely," I said. I handed it to him.

He held it before Lady Telitsia. "It smells good, doesn't it?" he asked.

"Yes, Master," she said. She leaned forward, her eyes closed. She breathed in, deeply, relishing the odor of the fresh-cooked breakfast. She opened her eyes, looking at her master, piteously.

Boots handed the plate to me, and I carreied it between the wagons until I came to my wagon.

There, beneath my wagon, sitting down, her knees drawn up, was the Lady Yanina, once my captor. On her neck was an iron collar. By means of this collar and its chain, the chain fastened about the wagon axle, she was secured in place.

I put down the plate of food. "Ankles," I said.

She turned a little and, angrily, lowering her knees slightly, tugging the hem of her garment closely about her lower claves, exteneded her ankles toward me. I checked the gyves. All was in order. There was no sign of the metal having been tampered with, for example, scratched about the lock, or makred on the bands, as though haveing been struck futilely with a stone. Similarly her ankles were not cut or abraided as though she might have tried to slip the iron from her fair limbs. Such an action, of course, would have been ludicriously irrational. The Lady Yanina was not a foolish, panic-stricken Earth girl, new to bondage, its possibility scrcely having earlier entered her ken, frenziedly, absurdly trying to remove fetters from her body, but a Groean woman. She well knew that females locked in Gorean iron do not escape. Its stern, inflexible clasp is not designed to be eluded by she whom it confines and ornaments. Women in such bonds must ehlplessly await the pleasure of their captors. I thrust back her ankles.

"As you can see," she said, bitterly, "I continue to be held, perfectly."

Her ankles looked beautiful, confined in the steel. Too, she had spoken the truth.

I then checked her collar, and the attachment points of the chain, both at the collar and at the double loop where it was fastened about eh axle.

"I am perfectly secured," she said, angrily.

"I am sorry if chain check distresses you," I said. "You comprehend its rationale, of course."

"Yes," she sasid, angrily.

"It is procedurally recommended by the caste of slavers," I said.

"I am not a slave," she said.

"Chains, I suspect, do not much care whether it is a noble free woman whom they confine or a mere slave."

"Are you satisfied?" she asked, insolently. "Do I pass chain check?"

"Yes," I said. "You are perfectly secured."

She looked frightened for a moment, and her tow hands closed on the chain dangling from her collar. She drew on it a moent, almost inadvertently, and felt the tug at the collar ring. Then she removed her hands from the chain and regarded me, again the free woman, again insolent.

"See what you have given me to wear," she said, angrily lifting the hem of the garment I had fashioned for her last night.

"I gathered you did not apporve of the htin white gown the bringands had put you in," I said. "Surely it had little purpose other than to display you well for sale to a slaver and, in its piteousness, to invite its casual removal."

"I am a rich woman," she said, angrily. "I have status and position. In Brundisuim I hold high station, being a member of the household of Belnar, her Ubar. I am highly intelligent. I am educated and refined. I have exquisite taste. I am accumstomed to the finest silks, the most expensive materials. I have my gowns, my robes, even my veils, especially made for me by high cloth workers!"

"I am not a high cloth worker," I said, "but I did make it especially for you."

"Your skills leave something to be desired," she said.

"You are probably right," I said.

"I wear only the latest fashions!" she said.

"Perhaps you could start a new fashion," I said.

"How dare you dress me as you have!" she said.

"At least it is opaque," I said.

"That is true," she said, ironically.

"And it is long," I said, "and thus protective of your modesty."

"I am certain that I am grateful," she said.

"And so what is your complaint?" I inquired. As she was a free woman, it seemed I should be concerned, at least to some extent, with any complaints which she might have. A slave, of course, in distinction from a free woman, is not permitted complaints. She must try to obtain things in other ways, for example, by humble requests while kneeling or lying on her belly before her master.

She cried out angrily and jerked in frustration at the chain on her neck.

"It conceals your figure, at least to some degree," I said.

"You could at least have given me a belt," she said.

"It will conceal your figure bettter, unbelted," I said.

"Please," she asid.

"No," I said.

She cried out in anger, in frustration.

"It is difficult to stand in close chains," she said.

"There," I said, not pleasantly, indicating a place beside the wheel, beside the wagon.

"Very well," she said, rising, and clutching the wagon wheel, and pulling herself up, and around it. "One woman has been beaten in this camp this morning. I have no desire to be the second." These words interested me. A woman behaves very differetnly toward a man whom she knows is capable of disciplining her and may, if it pleases him, do so, then toward one whom she knows she may treat with contempt and scorn with impunity.

"Turn," I said. "Now, turn back."

She clutched the wagon wheel to keep her balance, now again facing me.

"How can I be attractive in this?" she asked.

Last night, after bringing her to the camp, I had removed the offensive, light white gown from her body, that to which she, a free woman, so objected, that in which the brigands to her dismay had insolently clothed her, and, from something I found in the camp, prepared her new garment. I had cut a hole in the material for her head, and two more holes for her arms. I had then had her put her arms over her head and had pulled the garment down over her body. She was then in it. She was then stnading there, regarding me with rage. "Excellent," I had said. I had then chained her by the neck under the wagon and had gone to bed.

"I do not know," I said, "but you are managing."

"It is a sack!" she cried. "Only a sack!"

That was true. It was a long, yellow, closely woven Sa-Tarna sack. If there could have been any doubt about it such doubt would have been dispelled by the thick, black, stenciled lettering on the bag, giving a bold and unmistakable account of its earlier contents, together with their grind and grade, and the signs of the processing mill and its associated wholesaler.

"Am I to gather that you are dissatisfied?" I asked.

"Yes," she said, acidly.

"The yellow sets off your hair nicely," I said. Perhaps if I enslaved her, I would put her in yellow slave silk. She was a beautiful woman.

"This makes me look ridiculous," she said.

"It is not unknown for free teen-age girls of poor families, in rural areas, to wear such garment," I said. Also, of course, it was not unknown for such girls to put themselves in the way of salvers, that they might be caught, and carried to cities, to be sold. Too often, however, it seemed they were merely sold to peasants in distant villages as sex and work slaves.

"I am not the simple, dirty, barefoot, unkempt, scrawny teen-age daughter of some destitute peasaant in ssome out-of-the-way place," she said. "I am the Lady Yanina of Brundisium!"

"You are barefoot," I said. Prisoners, as well as slaves, are often kept that way on Gor.

"This garment makes me look ridiculous," she said.

"You might look a bit silly," I siad, "but you do not look all the ridiculous. Indeed, I have never seen anyone wear a Sa-Tarna sack better."

"Thank you," she said, in fury.

"You're welcome," I said.

"Give me back the white gown," she said, "that in which the brigands put me!" she said. "I prefer that!"

"That garment," I remeinded her, "is strikingly attrative. It excitingly sets off your beauty. No free owman would consider wearing such a garment unless she was implicitly begging, pleading, for a collar. The brigands doubtless put you in it because it seemed an appropriate garment for a woman they were preparing for a full enslavement."

"I prefer it," she said, angrily.

"Are you a slave?" I asked.

"No!" she said.

"Why, then, would you wish to wear it?" I asked.

"It is pretty," she said, defensively.

I smiled. It was actually tauntingly, brazenly sensuous. "why would you wish to wear womething pretty?" I asked.

"To look nice," she said.

"Why do you wish to look nice?" I asked.

"I think better of myself then," she said.

"How do you know when something is pretty?" I asked.

"I just see that it is pretty," she said, puzzled.

"Think more deeply," I said.

"when it makes me attracitive," she said. "Then it is pretty."

"It seems then that the test for prettiness is the enhancement of your appearance, and this is understood in terms of increasing your attractiveness."

"Perhaps," she said, cautiously.

"Attractivness to what end?" I asked. "Attractiveness to whom?"

"I do not now," she said, sullenly.

"Come now," I encouraged her.

"I am a full-grown woman," she said, agnrily, "I like to be attractive to men!"

"You dress then," I speculated, "in certain says, in order to be attractive to men."

"Perhaps," she said, agnrily.

"She who is concerned with such matters," I said, "she who dresses in certain ways in order to make herself attractive to men, she who dresses herself in certain sayw in odrder that she may be pleasing to them, is, in her heart, a slave."

"Then all females are slaves at heaart," she swaid, angrily.

"Yes," I said.

"No!" she cried.

"And they weill never be fully content," I said, "until they are imbonded."

"No, no, no!" she cried. "No! No!"

I let her cry out in misery, resisting my suggestions. It was good for her.

Then she wiped her forearm across her eyes. "You distract me from the issue," she said. "The issue is my wardrobe."

"Very well," I said.

"Give me somehting else to wear," she said.

"No," I said.

"I am the Lady Yanina of Brundisium," she said. "I do not wear sacks."

"Oh," I said.

"I will wear nothing for a grament before I will wear a sack," she said.

"That can be arranged," I saiid.

"What are you doing?" she asked. "Why are you drawing your knife?"

"To remove the sack from yo," I said. "Nakedness in your chains is acceptable to me."

"No," she said, takinga step backward, clinging to the wagon wheel. "I will wear it!"

I sheathed the knife. "Are you hungry?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

I reached down and picked up the breakfast which I had put to the side before commencing her chain check.

"It is cold," she said. "Take it away, and bring me another."

"This is your breakfast this morning," I said, "and your only breakfast this morning. Eat it, and as it it, or not, as it pleases you."

"Are you serious?" she said.

"Yes," I said.

"Give it to me," she said. I handed her the plate. She began to attack the food voraciously. she might have been a starving slave. I supposed that she, like Lady Telitsia, had probably both been fed spraingly by the brigands, perhaps to conserve food, perhaps to slim their figures somewhat before their projected sale.

I watched her eat. In the Tahari a woman is often stuffed with food for days before her sale, even force fed, if necessary. Many of the men of the Tahari relish soft, pretty, meaty little slaves.

"Why are you looking at my ankles?" she asked.

"They are pretty," I said. Too, the gyves, sturdy and snug, looked nice on them, both from the aesthetic point of view and from the point of view of their significance, for example, that they were mine and that the beauty, confined, wore them. "Too," I said. "I was thinking that perhaps I should remove them, that you could be exercised."

"Doubtless I am to be exercised in the tall grass or in the brush," she said.

"Do not be apprehensive," I said.

"I am to be held in honor," she reminded me.

"At least for the time," I reminded her.

"Yes," she smiled, "at least for the time."

"If you do not wish to be exercised," I said, "I shall not force it upon you. You are a free woman. Not a slave."

"I may continue to wear shackles," she said.

"Yes," I said, "at least for the time."

"Of course," she said.

"Do you enjoy your breakfast?" I asked.

"It is cold," she said.

"Do you enjoy it?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

"Later," I said, "I will give you something briefer and prettier to wear."

"That will be nice," she said.

"While we are performing," I said.

"Perfroming?" she asked. "In what way?"

"You will see," I said.

"I am not a performer," she said. "I do not know anything about performing."

"Your role will be difficult," I said.

"I have had no experience in such matters," she said.

"Do not fear," I said, "you will do just splendidly."

"I am not a slave," she said.

"This role calls for a free woman," I said, "otherwise it would not be nearly so interesting or impressive."

"I see," she said, pleased.

She wiped her plate with a crust of one of the rolls. She did not wish to leave a particle of food on that homely tin surface.

"Do you know the lsave in camp, she called Lady Telitsia?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

"She has not eaten yet," I said.

"So?" asked the Lady Yanina.

"She is probably quite hungry by now," I said.

"So?" she asked.

"I do not think her master would permit her to beg food until a certain free woman, a prisoner in the camp, was fed."

"Probably not," asaid the Lady Yanina. "Why are you bringing the matter up?"

"I thought it might be of interest to you," I said.

"It is not," she said.

"You were common captives of the brigands," I said. "I thought you might have some concern for her."

"No," she said.

"I see," I said.

The Lady Yanina looked at me, and asmiled. She put the piece of crust in her mouth and nibbled on it, slowly. "Let her wait," she said. "She is a slave. Slaves are nothing."

I did not gainsay the Lady Yanina, of course. What she had said was true. I had only brought up the matter as a form of test for her, to satisfy my own curiousity. I wished to more exactly ascertain her self-image. It was, as I had expected, that of the lofty free woman, separating herself, at least publicly, by dimensions and worlds from mere slaves. This was particularly interesting to me in view of the fact that she was herself, obviously, a highly appropriate candidate fo rthe collar. Did she think, truly, she was that different from the slave who, but Ehn ago, had been tied and lashed?

The Lady Yanina handed me the cleaned plate. I put it to one sid. "If I had not eaten the breakfast, you would have tanken it away, and not brought me another, wouldn't you?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.

"And you will keep me in tis pathetic, degrading garment as long as it pleases you, won't you?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.

"And if I give you trouble, or inconvenience you in any way, in spite of the fact that I am free, you will whip me, won't you?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.

"I have always had my own way with men," she said.

"Are you sure you were dealing with men?" I asked.

"Pehaps not," she said.

"Some women do not realize what men are until they must kneel before them and obey."

"Do you find me attractive?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.

"I want these shackles off," she said, suddenly.

"Do you understand what you are asking?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

"Why?" I asked.

She averted her eyes. "I do not want to be chained under the wagon at night," she said. "It is hard to sleep on the ground. It is uncomfortable. Too, it is cold and miserable."

"I see," I said.

She looked up at me. "I am willing to do whatever is necessary to be permitted in the wagon, where it is warm and dry," she said.

"Speak clearly," I said.

"Remove my shackles," she said. "I am ready to be ketp as a full prisoner."

Woith the key from my pouch I removed her shackles and thebn, too, removed the collar from her neck.

"Proceed me up the steps into the wagon," I said.

She preceded me up the several steps. She drew the hem of her dress up about her calves, that she not trip. Then we were in side the wagon. I locked her hands behind her back. I locked them there iwth slave bracelets. I did not have another form of manacles for her.

"Oh!" she said. I pulled up her garment and drew it up under her arms and over her breasts, and then hooded her with it. "Kneel here, facing the door," I said. "And wait."

She knelt, braceleted, hooded, in the narrow space betw4en the two bunks, facing the door.

I then left the wagon, padlocking it shut behind me. IN a moment or so, retrieving the plate, I rejoined Boots near the fire. He was still eating. I am not clear whether this was a third breakfast, or a mere continuation of a somewhat prolonged second breakfats. In the case of Boots, such distinctions would occasionally prove difficult to draw. "The free woman has been fed," I announced.

"It is just as well," said Boots. "It is nearly time for lunch."

Boots was given to such jocular hyperbole. It was actually several Ehn until lunch time.

He gazed at Lady Telitsia. She wavered, slightly, and caught herself. I feared she might faint with hunger.

"May I speak, Master?" she whispered.

"Yes," he said.