BEASTS OF GOR
(Volume twelve of the Chronicles of Counter-Earth)
by John Norman
1. The Sleen
“There is no clue,” Samos had said.
I lay awake on the great couch. I stared at the ceiling of the room. Light from a perforated lamp flickered dimly. The furs were deep and soft. My weapons lay to one side. A slave, sleeping, lay chained at my feet.
There was no clue.
“He might be anywhere,” had said Samos. He had shrugged. “We know only that somewhere he is among us.”
We know little about that species of animal called the Kur. We do know it is blood-thirsty, that it feeds on human flesh and that it is concerned with glory.
“It is not unlike men,” had once said Misk to me, a Priest-King.
This story, in its way, has no clear beginning. It began, I suppose, some thousands of years ago when Kurii, in internecine wars, destroyed the viability of a native world. Their state at that time was sufficiently advanced technologically to construct small steel worlds in orbit, each some pasangs in diameter, The remnants of a shattered species then, as a world burned below them, turned hunting to the plains of the stars. We do not know how long their hunt took. But we do know the worlds, long ago, entered the system of a slow-revolving, medium-sized yellow star occupying a peripheral position in one of nature’s bounteous, gleaming, strewn spiral universes.
They had found their quarry, a world.
They had found two worlds, one spoken of as Earth, the other as Gor.
One of these worlds was a world poisoning itself, a pathological world insane and short-sighted, greed-driven and self-destructive. The other was a pristine world, virginal in its beauty and fertility, one not permitted by its masters, called the Sardar, or Priest-Kings, to follow the example of its tragic sister. Priest-Kings would not permit men to destroy Gor. They are not permissive; they are intolerant of geocide. Perhaps it is hard to understand why they do not permit men to destroy Gor. Are they not harsh and cruel, to deny to men this pleasure? Perhaps. But, too, they are rational. And one may be rational, perhaps, without being weak. Indeed, is not weakness the ultimate irrationality? Gor, too, it must be remembered, is also the habitat of the Sardar, or Priest-Kings. They have not chosen to be weak. This choice may be horrifying to those of Earth, so obsessed with their individualism, their proclaimed rights and liberties, but it is one they have chosen to make. I do not defend it. I only report it. Dispute it with them who will.
“Half-Ear is now among us,” Samos had said.
I stared at the ceiling, watching the shifting shadows and reflections from the small, perforated lamp.
The Priest-kings, for thousands of years, had defended the system of the yellow star against the depredations of the prowling Kurii. Fortunes had shifted perhaps dozens of times, but never had the Kurii managed to establish a beachhead on the shores of this beautiful world. But some years ago, in the time of the Nest War, the power of the Priest-Kings was considerably reduced. I do not think the Kurii are certain of this, or of the extent of the reduction.
I think if they knew the truth in these matters the codewords would flash between the steel worlds, the ports would open, and the ships would nose forth, turning toward Gor.
But the Kur, like the shark and sleen, is a cautious beast.
He prowls, he tests the wind, and then, when he is certain, he makes his strike.
Samos was much disturbed that the high Kur, it referred to as Half-Ear, was now upon the surface of this world. We had discovered this from an enciphered message, fallen into our hands, hidden in the beads of a necklace.
That Half-Ear had come to Gor was taken by Samos and Priest-Kings as evidence that the invasion was imminent.
Perhaps even now the ships of Kurii flamed toward Gor, as purposeful and silent as sharks in the waters of space’s night.
But I did not think so.
I did not think the invasion was imminent.
It was my surmise that the Kur, it called Half-Ear, had come to prepare the way for the invasion.
He had come to make smooth the path, to ready the sands of Gor for the keels of the steel ships.
He must be stopped.
Should he discover the weakness of the Priest-Kings, or construct a depot adequate to fuel, to shield and supply the beaching ships, there seemed little reason to suppose the invasion would not prove successful.
Half-Ear was now upon the surface of Gor.
“He is now among us,” had said Samos.
The Kurii moved now, at last, with dispatch and menace. Half-Ear had come to Gor.
But where was he!
I almost cried with anger, my fists clenched. We did not know where he might be.
There was no clue.
The slave at my feet stirred, but did not awaken.
I rose on one elbow and looked down at her. How incredibly beautiful and soft she seemed; she was curled in the furs; she was half covered by them; I lifted them away, that I might see her fully; she stirred; her hands moved a bit on the furs; she drew her legs up; she reached as though to pull the furs more about her but her hands did not find them; she drew her legs up a bit more and snuggled down in the furs; there is perhaps nothing in the world as beautiful as a naked slave girl; a heavy iron collar, with chain, was locked on her throat; the chain ran from a ring fixed in the bottom of the great couch, circular, and some twenty feet wide, around the circumference of the couch to the right and was lifted and coiled to one side, on the left. Her skin, she was very fair-skinned and dark-pelted, seemed very soft and reddish, subtly so, glowingly so, vulnerably so, in the light of the tiny perforated lamp. I found her incredibly beautiful. Her hair, dark and lovely, half covered the heavy collar that encircled her neck. I looked at her. How beautiful she was. And I owned her. What man does not want to own a beautiful woman?
She stirred, and reached again for the furs, chilled. I took her by the arm and drew her beside me, roughly, and threw her on her back. She opened her eyes suddenly, startled, half crying out. “Master!” she gasped. Then I had her swiftly. “Master! Master!” she whispered, clutching me. Then I was finished with her. “Master,” she whispered. “I love you. I love you.” One has a slave girl when and as one wishes.
She held me closely, pressing her cheek against my chest.
Sex is an implement which may be used in controlling a slave girl. It is as useful as chains and the whip.
“I love you,” she whispered.
Sex in a woman, I think, is a more complicated phenomenon than it is in a man. She, if properly treated, and by properly treated I do not mean treated with courtesy and gentleness, but rather correctly treated, as her nature craves, is even more helplessly in the grasp of its power than a man. Sex in a woman is a very subtle and profound thing; she is capable of deep and sustained pleasures which might be the envy of any vital organism. These pleasures, of course, can be used by a man to make her a helpless prisoner and slave. Perhaps, that is why free women guard themselves so sternly against them. The slave girl, of course, cannot guard herself against them, for she is at the mercy of her master, who will treat her not as she wishes, but precisely as he wishes. Then she yields, as she must, and as a free woman may not, and her will is yielded in ecstasy to his. The needs of a woman, biologically, are deep; it is unfortunate that some men regard it as wrong to satisfy them. The correct treatment of a female, which is only possible to administer to a girl who is owned, is adjusted to her needs, and is complex and subtle. The least girl contains wonders for the master who understands her. Two things may perhaps be said. The correct treatment of a girl does not always preclude courtesy and gentleness no more than it always involves them. There is a time for courtesy and gentleness, and a time for harshness. The master must remember that he owns the girl; if he keeps this in mind he will generally treat her correctly. He must be strong, and he must be capable of administering discipline if she is not pleasing. Sex in a woman, as in a man, is not only richly biological but psychological as well, and the words suggest a distinction which is somewhat misleading. We are psycho-physical organisms, or better perhaps, thinking, feeling organisms. Part of the correct treatment of a woman is treating her as you wish; she has genetic dispositions for submission bred into every cell of her body, a function of both natural and sexual selection. Accordingly, what might seem brutal or quick to a man can be taken by a woman in the dimensions of her sentience as irrefutable evidence of his domination of her, her being owned by him, which thrills her to the core for it touches the ancient biological meaning of her womanhood. He simply uses her for his pleasure, because he wished to do so. He is her master.
I did not thrust her from me.
“May I speak your name, Master?” she begged.
“Yes,” I said.
“Tarl,” she whispered. “I love you.”
“Be silent, Slave Girl,” I said.
“Yes, Master,” she whispered.
I watched the shadows on the ceiling. I sensed her lips softly kissing me.
You may judge and scorn the Goreans if you wish. Know as well, however, that they judge and scorn you.
They fulfill themselves as you do not.
Hate them for their pride and power. They will pity you for your shame and weakness.
Half-Ear stood somewhere upon Gor.
I did not know where.
Perhaps there was never a time for courtesy and gentleness with an owned woman.
The girl beside me, Vella, was an owned woman.
I laughed. I wondered if I had been tempted to weakness. She trembled then. Still she kissed me, but now frightened, trying to placate me.
How small and weak she was. And how beautiful. How I relished the owning of every bit of her!
I wondered if I had been tempted to weakness. Courtesy and gentleness for a slave? Never!
“Please me,” I said. My voice was hard.
“Yes, Master,” she whispered. She began to lick and kiss at my body.
In time I ordered her to desist and put her again to her back. I lifted aside the chain which ran to her collar.
“Oh,” she said, softly, as I claimed her.
I felt her fingernails in my arms.
She looked up at me, her eyes filled with tears. How helpless she was in my arms.
Then she began to cry out, softly. “Please, please,” she begged, “let me speak your name.”
“No,” I told her.
“Please,” she begged.
“What am I to you?” I said.
“My master,” she said, frightened.
“Only that,” I said.
“Yes, Master,” she said.
I did not let her speak further then, but forced the slave, as my whim had it, to endure the lengthy tumult of a bond girl’s degradation, lying chained in the arms of a master who does not choose to show her mercy.
I had her as what she was, a slave.
In a quarter of an Ahn her beauty squirmed helplessly; my arms bled from her fingernails; her eyes were wild and piteous. “You may speak,” I informed her. She threw back her head and screamed, jolting with spasms, “I yield me your slave! I yield me your slave!” she cried. How beautiful a woman is in such a moment! I waited until she drew tremblingly quiescent, looking at me. Then I cried out with the pleasure of owning her, and claimed her. She clutched me, kissing me. “I love you, Master,” she wept. “I love you.”
I held her to me closely, though she was a slave. She looked up at me. Her eyes were moist. “I love you, Master,” she said. I brushed back hair from her forehead. I supposed one could be fond of a slave.
Then I recalled that she, had once betrayed Priest-Kings, and had pointed me out to my enemies. She had served the Kurii in the Tahari. She had smiled at me when in a court at Nine Wells she had testified falsely against me. Once, from a window of the kasbah of the Salt Ubar she had blown me a kiss and tossed me a token to remember her by, a scarf, perfumed and of slave silk, to taunt me, when I was to be marched chained to the pits of Klima. I had returned from Klima and had made her my slave. I had brought her back with me from the Tahari to the house of Bosk, captain, and merchant, of Port Kar.
I kept her in the house, slave. Much work was she given. Sometimes, as this night, I let her sleep chained at my feet.
“I love you, Master,” she said.
I looked angrily to the slave whip upon the wall.
She trembled. Would I use the lash on her? She had felt it more than once.
Suddenly I lifted my head a bit. I smelled the odor of sleen.
The door to my chamber which, in my house, I did not keep locked, moved slightly.
Instantly I moved from the couch, startling the chained girl. I stood, bent, tensed, beside the couch. I did not move.
The snout of the beast thrust first softly through the opening, moving the door back.
I heard the girl gasp.
“Make no sound,” I said. I did not move.
I crouched down. The animal had been released. Its bead was now fully through the door. Its head was wide and triangular. Suddenly the eyes took the light of the lamp and blazed. And then, the head moving, its eyes no longer reflected The light. It no longer faced the light. Rather it was watching me.
The animal was some twenty feet in length, some eleven hundred pounds in weight, a forest sleen, domesticated. It was double fanged and six-legged. It crouched down and inched forward. Its belly fur must have touched the tiles. It wore a leather sleen collar but there was no leash on the leash loop.
I had thought it was trained to hunt tabuk with archers, but it clearly was not tabuk it hunted now.
I knew the look of a hunting sleen. It was a hunter of men.
It swiftly inched forward, then stopped.
When in the afternoon I had seen it in its cage, with its trainer, Bertram of Lydius, it had not reacted to me other than as to the other observers. It had not then, I knew, been put upon my scent.
It crept forward another foot.
I did not think it had been loose from its cage long, for it would take such a beast, a sleen. Gor’s finest tracker, only moments to make its way silently through the halls to this chamber.
The beast did not take its eyes from me.
I saw its four hind legs begin to gather under it.
Its breathing was becoming more rapid. That I did not move puzzled it.
It then inched forward another foot. It was now within its critical attacking distance.
I did nothing to excite it.
It lashed its tail back and forth. Had it been longer on my scent I think I might have had less time for its hunting frenzy would have been more upon it, a function in part of the secretions of certain glands.
Very slowly, almost imperceptibly, I reached toward the couch and seized one of the great furs in my right hand.
The beast watched me closely. For the first time it snarled, menacingly.
Then the tail stopped lashing, and became almost rigid. Then the ears lay back against its head.
It charged, scratching and scrambling, slipping suddenly, on the tiles. The girl screamed. The cast fur, capelike, shielding me, enveloped the leaping animal. I leaped to the couch, and rolled over it, and bounded to my feet. I heard the beast snarling and squealing, casting aside the fur with an angry shaking of its body and head. Then it stood, enraged, the fur torn beneath its paws, snarling and hissing. It looked up at me. I stood now upon the couch, the ax of Torvaldsland in my hand.
I laughed, the laugh of a warrior.
“Come my friend,” I called to it. “let us engage.”
It was a truly brave and noble beast. Those who scorn the sleen I think do not know him. Kurii respect the sleen, and that says much for the sleen, for its courage, its ferocity and its indomitable tenacity.
The girl screamed with terror.
The ax caught the beast transversely and the side of its head struck me sliding from the great blade.
I cut at it again on the floor, half severing the neck.
“It is a beautiful animal,” I said. I was covered with its blood. I heard men outside in the hall. Thurnock, and Clitus, and Publius, and Tab, and others, weapons in hand, stood at the door.
“What has happened?” cried Thurnock.
“Secure Bertram of Lydius,” I said.
Men rushed from the door.
I went to fetch a knife from my weapons. They lay beside and behind the couch.
I shared bits of the heart of the sleen with my men, and, together, cupping our hands, we drank its blood in a ritual of sleen hunters.
“Bertram of Lydius has fled,” cried Publius, the kitchen master.
I had thought this would be true.
I had looked into the blood, cupped in my hands. It is said that if one sees oneself black and wasted in the blood, one will perish of disease; if one sees oneself torn and bloody, one will perish in battle; if one sees oneself old and gray one will die in peace and leave children.
But the sleen did not speak to me.
I had looked into the blood, cupped in my hands, but had seen nothing, only the blood of a beast. It did not choose to speak to me, or could not.
I rose to my feet.
I did not think I would again look into the blood of a sleen. I would look rather into the eyes of men.
I wiped the blood from my hands on my thighs.
I turned and looked at the naked girl on the furs, half tangled in her chain, it running about her ankle and leg, looped, and lifting to the ring on the heavy collar. She shrank back, her hand before her mouth.
“Bertram of Lydius approached a guardsman,” said Publius, “who suspected nothing, Bertram of Lydius being guest in the house. He struck him unconscious. With a rope and hook he descended the delta wall.”
“The tharlarion will have him,” said a man.
“No,” I said. “There would be a boat waiting.”
“Ho cannot have gotten far,” said Thurnock.
“There will be a tarn in the city,” I said. “Do not pursue him.”
I regarded the circle of men about. “Return to your rest,” I said.
They moved from the room.
“The beast?” asked Clitus.
“Leave it,” I said. “And leave me now.”
Then I and the slave were alone. I closed the door. I slid shut the bolts, and turned to face her.
She looked very small and frightened, chained on my couch.
“So, my dear,” I said, “you labor still in the service of Kurii.”
“No, Master,” she cried, “no!”
“Who tended my chamber afore this morning?’ I asked.
“It was I, Master,” she said. It is common to let the girl who is to spend the night at your feet tend your chamber the preceding day. She scrubs and cleans it, and tidies it. It is not a full day’s work and she has hours in it in which she has little to do but wait for the master. She readies herself. She plans. She anticipates. When the master arrives, and she kneels before him, she is eager and anxious, vulnerable and stimulated, well ready both physically and psychologically for the mastery to which she will have no choice but to be joyfully subjected. Even the performance of small servile tasks, such as the polishing of his tarn boats, which she must perform, plays its role in her preparation for the night. The performance of such small tasks teaches her, incontrovertibly, in the depths of her beauty, that she truly belongs to him, and that he is truly her master. She is then well ready when he gestures her to the furs to perform for him exquisitely the most delicious and intimate of her assigned tasks, her most important tasks, those of the helpless love slave.
“Kneel on the tiles,” I told her.
She slipped from the couch and knelt on the tiles before me. She knelt in the blood of the sleen.
“Position,” I said.
Swiftly she assumed the position of the pleasure slave. She knelt back on her heels, her knees wide, her hands on her thighs, her back straight, her head up. She was terrified. I looked down at her.
I crouched before her, and took her by the arms. I was covered with the blood of the sleen. “Master?” she asked. I put her to her back on the tiles in the sleen’s blood. I held her so she could not move, and entered her. “Master?” she asked, frightened. I began to caress her from within, deeply, with my manhood. The warm closeness of her body, so beautiful, so helpless, that of an owned slave, clasped me. She began to respond to me, frightened.
“You labor still for Kurii,” I said.
“No, Master,” she wept, “no!”
I felt her spasmodically squirm beneath me. “Nor she wept. Her haunches shuddered.
“Yes,” I said.
“No,” she said, “no, Master!”
“The beast must have been put upon my scent,” I said.
“I am innocent!” she said. Then she writhed beneath me. “Please do not make me yield to you this way, Master,” she wept. “Oh,” she cried. “Oh!”
“Speak,” I told her.
She closed her eyes. “Have mercy!” she begged.
“Speak.” I told her.
“I was taking the tunics to the tubs,” she said. “I would have put them in with the others!” She half reared up beneath me, struggling, her eyes open and wild. She was strong for a girl, but girls are weak. I thrust her back down, shoulders and hair into the blood. Her head was back. She writhed, impaled and held. How weak she was. How futile were her struggles.
“There is no escape,” I told her. “You are mine.
“I know,” she said. “I know.”
“Speak further,” I said.
“Oh,” she cried. “Oh!” Then she wept, “Please, Master, do not make me yield this way!”
“Speak further,” I said.
“I was tricked,” she cried. “Bertram of Lydius, in the halls, followed me. I thought little of it. I thought only he wanted to see my body move in the livery of the house, that he only followed me as a man will upon occasion follow a slave girl, idly, for the pleasure in seeing her.”
“And this flattered you, did it not, you slut?” I asked.
“Yes, Master,” she said. “I am a slave girl.”
“Go on,” I said.
“Please, Master,” she wept, clutching me. “Oh, oh!” she cried.
“Go on,” I said.
“Yes,” she cried, angrily. “I was pleased! He was handsome, and strong, and Gorean, and I was a female slave. I thought he might ask for my use, and that it would be granted him by you in Gorean courtesy!”
It was true. Had a guest expressed interest in Vella, Elizabeth, a former secretary from Earth, one of my slaves, I would surely have given her to him for his night’s pleasure. And if he were not fully pleased, I would have had her whipped in the morning.
“He spoke to me,” she said. “so I turned and knelt before him, the tunics clutched in my arms. ‘You are pretty,’ he said to me. This pleased me.” Slave girls relish compliments. Indeed, there is a Gorean saying to the effect that any woman who relishes a compliment is in her heart a slave girl. She wants to please. Most Gorean men would not think twice about collaring a girl who responds, smiling, to compliments. It is regarded as right to enslave a natural slave. Most masters, incidentally, make a girl they own earn her compliments. She must struggle to be worthy of complimenting. She so struggles. Gorean compliments are generally meaningful, for they tend to be given only when deserved, and sometimes not then. A girl desires to please her master. When she is complimented she knows she has pleased him. This makes her happy, not simply because then she knows she is less likely to be punished, but because she, in her heart, being a woman, truly desires to please one who is her complete master. “‘Do you know me?’ he asked,” she said. “‘Yes, Master,’ I said, ‘you are Bertram of Lydius. guest in the house of my Master.’ ‘Your master has been kind to me,’ said he. ‘I would make him a gift to show my appreciation. It would be unfit-ring for me to accept his hospitality without in some small way expressing the esteem in which I hold him and my gratitude for his generosity.’ ‘How may I aid you, Master?’ I asked. ‘In Lydius,’ said he, ‘we encounter often the furs of snow sleen, fresh and handsome and warm. Too, we have there cunning tailors who can design garments with golden threads and secret pockets. I would make a gift of such a garment, a short coat or jacket, suitable for use in the tarn saddle, for your master.’”
“Few,” I said, “in Port Kar think of me as a tarnsman. I did not so speak myself to Bertram of Lydius in our conversations.”
“I did not think, Master,” she said.
“Did you not think such a gift strange for a merchant and mariner?”
“Forgive a girl, Master,” she said. “But surely there are those in Port Kar who know you a tarnsman, and the gift seems appropriate for one to proffer who is of Lydius in the north.”
“The true Bertram of Lydius would not be likely to know me a tarnsman,” I said.
“He was not then what he seemed,” she whispered.
“I do not think so,” I said. “I think he was an agent of Kurii.”
I thrust into her, savagely. She cried out, looking at me. She was hot with sweat. The collar was on her throat.
“I think we have here, too,” I said, holding her, “another agent of Kurii.”
“No,” she said, “no!” Then I began to make her respond to me.
“Oh,” she wept. “Oh. Oh!”
“He wanted my tunic,” I told her, “to take its measurements, that the jacket of the fur of the snow sleen might be well made.”
“Yes,” she wept. “Yes! But only for moments! Only for moments!”
“Fool,” I said to her.
“I was tricked,” she wept.
“You were tricked, or you are a Kur agent,” I said.
“I am not a Kur agent,” she wept. She tried to rise up, but I held her down, her small shoulders down to the tiles in the blood. She could not begin to be a match for my strength.
“Even if you are a Kur agent,” I said, softly, “‘know, small beauty, that you are first my slave girl.”
I looked down into her eyes.
“Yes, Master,” she said. She twisted miserably, her head to one side. “He had the garment for only moments,” she said.
“Was it always in your sight,” I asked.
“No,” she said. “He ordered me to remain in the hall, to wait for him.”
“He had it for only moments it seemed,” she said.
“Enough time,” I said, “to press it between the bars of the sleen cage and whisper to the beast the signal for the hunt.”
“Yes!” she wept.
Then I thrust again and again into her, in the strong, increasingly intense rhythms of a savage master until the collared she of her, once that of a civilized girl, screamed and shuddered, and then lay mine, without dignity or pride, shattered, only a yielded, barbarian slave, in my arms.
I stood up, and she lay at my feet collared, in the sleen’s blood.
I reached to the great ax of Torvaldsland. I stood over her, looking down at her, the ax grasped in my hands.
She looked up at me. One knee was lifted. She shook her head. She took the collar in her hands and pulled it out from her neck a bit, lifting it toward me.
“Do not strike me, Master,” she said. “I am yours.”
I looked at the collar and chain. She looked up at me, frightened. She was well secured.
My grip tightened on the ax.
She put her hands to the side, helplessly, and, frightened, lifted her body, supplicatingly, to me.
“Please do not strike me, Master,” she said. “I am your slave.”
I lowered the ax, holding it across my body with both hands. I looked down at her, angrily.
She lowered her body, and lay quietly in the blood, frightened. She placed the backs of her hands on the tiles, so that the palms were up, facing me, at her sides. The palms of a woman’s hands are soft and vulnerable. She exposed them to me.
I did not lift the ax.
“I know little of sleen,” she said. “I had thought It a sleen trained to hunt tabuk, in the company of archers, little more than an animal trained to turn and drive tabuk, and retrieve them.”
“It is thus that the animal was presented to us,” I said. That was true. Yet surely, in the light of such a request, one for a garment, a sleen in the house, her suspicions should have been aroused.
“He wanted a garment,” I said.
“I did not think,” she said.
“Nor did you speak to me of this thing,” I said.
“He warned me not to speak to you,” she said, “for the gift was to come as a surprise.”
I laughed, looking at the sleen.
She put her head to one side, in shame. She turned then again to look at me. “He had it for only a few moments,” she said.
‘The cage could be opened later, and was,” I said. “The hunt then began, through the halls of the house, in the silence and darkness.”
She closed her eyes in misery, and then opened them again, looking at me.
I heard the ship’s bell, in the great hail, striking. I heard footsteps in the hall outside.
“It is morning,” I said.
Thurnock appeared at the door to my chamber. “Word has come,” said he, “from the house of Samos. He would speak with you.”
“Prepare the longboat,” I said. We would make our way through the canals to his house.
“Yes, Captain,” he said, and turned and left.
I put aside the ax. With water, poured into a bowl, and fur, I cleaned myself. I donned a fresh tunic. I tied my own sandals.
The girl did not speak.
I slung a sword over my left shoulder, an admiral’s blade.
“You did not let me tie your sandals,” she said.
I fetched the key to the collar, and went to her, and opened the collar.
“You have duties to attend to,” I said.
“Yes, Master,” she said. On her knees she suddenly grasped my legs, weeping, looking up at me. “Forgive me, Master,” she cried. “I was tricked! I was tricked!”
“It is morning in Port Kar,” I said.
She put down her head to my feet. She kissed my feet. She then looked up at me. “If I do not please you this day, Master,” she said, “impale me.”
“I will,” I told her. Then I turned and left her.
2. The Message Of The Scytale; I Converse With Samos
“The arrogance of Kurii may yet prove their undoing,” said Samos.
He sat, cross-legged, behind the low table. On It were hot bread, yellow and fresh, hot black wine, steaming, with its sugars, slices of roast bosk, the scrambled eggs of vulos, pastries with creams and custards.
“It is too easy,” I said. I did not speak clearly with my mouth full.
“It is a sport for them,” he said, “this war.” He looked at me, grimly. “As it seems to be for some men.”
“Perhaps to some,” I said, “those who are soldiers, but surely not to Kurii in general. I understand their commitment in these matters to be serious and one involving their deep concern.”
“Would that all men were as serious,” said Samos.
I grinned, and washed down the eggs with a swig of hot black wine, prepared from the beans grown upon the slopes of the Thentis mountains. This black wine is quite expensive. Men have been slain on Gor for attempting to smuggle the beans out of the Thentian territories.
“Kurii were ready once,” said I, “or some party of them, to destroy Gor, to clear the path to Earth, a world they would surely favor less. Willingness to perform such an act, I wager, fits in not well with the notion of vain, proud beasts.”
“Strange that you should speak of vain, proud beasts,” said Samos.
“I do not understand,” I said.
“I suppose not,” said Samos. He then drank from his cup, containing the black wine. I did not press him to elucidate his meaning. He seemed amused.
“I think the Kurii are too clever, too shrewd, too determined,” said I, “to be taken at their face value in this matter. Such an act, to deliver such a message, would be little better than a taunt, a gambit, intended to misdirect our attention.”
“But can we take this risk?” he asked.
“Perhaps not,” I said. With a Turian eating prong, used in the house of Samos, I speared a slice of meat, and then threaded it on the single tine.
Samos took from his robes a long, silken ribbon, of the sort with which a slave girl might bind back her hair. It seemed covered with meaningless marks. He gestured to a guardsman. “Bring in the girl,” he said.
A blond girl, angry, in brief slave livery, was ushered into the room.
We were in Samos’ great hall, where I had banqueted many times. It was the hall in which was to be found the great map mosaic, inlaid in the floor.
She did not seem a slave. That amused me.
“She speaks a barbarous tongue,” said Samos.
“Why have you dressed me like this?” she demanded. She spoke in English.
“I can understand her,” I said.
“That is perhaps not an accident,” said Samos.
“Perhaps not,” I said.
“Can none of you fools speak English?” she asked.
“I can communicate with her, if you wish,” I told Samos.
“I speak English,” I informed her, speaking in that intricate, beautiful tongue.
She seemed startled. Then she cried out, angrily, pulling downward at the edges of the livery in which she had been placed, as though that would hide more of her legs, which were lovely. “I do not care to be dressed like this,” she said. She pulled away, angrily, from the guard, and stood before us. “I have not even been given shoes,” she said. “And what is the meaning of this?” she demanded, pulling at a plain ring of iron which had been hammered about her throat. Her throat was slender, and white, and lovely.
Samos handed the hair ribbon to a guardsman, gesturing to the girl. “Put it on,” he said to her, in Gorean.
I repeated his command, in English.
“When am I to be permitted to leave?” she asked.
Seeing the eyes of Samos she angrily took the ribbon, and winding it about her head, fastened back her hair. She blushed, angrily, hotly, knowing that, as she lifted her hands gracefully to her hair, she raised the lovely line of her breasts, little concealed in the thin livery. Then she stood before us, angrily, the ribbon in her hair.
“Thus it was she came to us,” said Samos, “save that she was clad in inexplicable, barbarous garments.” He gestured to a guardsman, who fetched and spilled open a bundle of garments on the edge of the table. I saw that there were pants of some bluish, denim-type material, and a flannel, long-sleeved shirt. There was also a white, light shirt, short-sleeved. Had I not realized them to have been hers, I would have assumed them the clothing of an Earth male. They were male-imitation clothing.
The girl tried to step forward but the shafts of two spears, wielded by her flanking guardsmen, barred her way.
There was also a pair of shoes, plain, brown and low, with darker-brown laces. They were cut on a masculine line, but were too small for a man. I looked at her feet. They were small and feminine. Her breasts, too, and hips, suggested that she was a female, and a rather lovely one. Slave livery makes it difficult for a girl to conceal her sex.
There was also a pair of colored socks, dark blue. They were short.
She again tried to step forward but this time the points of the guards’ spears prevented her. They pressed at her abdomen, beneath the navel. Rep-cloth, commonly used in slave livery, is easily parted. The points of the spears had gone through the cloth, and she felt them in her flesh. She stepped back, for a moment frightened and disconcerted. Then she regained her composure, and stood before us.
“This garment is too short,” she said. “It is scandalous!”
“It is feminine,” I told her. “Not unlike these,” I said. I indicated the brassiere, the brief silken panties, which completed the group of garments on the table.
She blushed redly.
“Though you imitated a man outwardly,” I said to her, “I note that it was such garments you wore next to your flesh.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.
“Here,” I said, “You wear one garment, which is feminine, and where it may be seen, proclaiming your femininity, and you are permitted no other garments.”
“Return my clothing to me,” she demanded.
Samos gestured to a guardsman, and he tied up the bundle of clothing, leaving it on the table.
“You see,” said Samos, “how she was.”
He meant, of course, the ribbon in her hair. She stood very straight. For some reason it is almost impossible for a woman not to stand beautifully when she wears slave livery and is in the sight of men.
“Give me the ribbon,” said Samos. He spoke in Gorean, but I needed not translate. He held out his hand. She, lifting her arms, blushing, angrily, again touched the ribbon. She freed it of her hair and handed it to a guard, who delivered it to Samos. I saw the guards’ eyes on her. I smiled. They could hardly wait to get her to the pens. She, still a foolish Earth girl, did not even notice this.
“Bring your spear,” said Samos to a guard. A guard, one who stood behind, gave his spear to Samos.
“It is, of course, a scytale,” I said.
“Yes,” said Samos, “and the message is in clear Gorean.”
He had told me what the message was, and we had discussed it earlier. I was curious, however, to see it wrapped about the shaft of the spear. Originally, in its preparation, the message ribbon is wrapped diagonally, neatly, edges touching, about a cylinder, such as the staff of a marshal’s office, the shaft of a spear, a previously prepared object, or so on, and then the message is written in lines parallel with the cylinder. The message, easily printed, easily read, thus lies across several of the divisions in the wrapped silk. When the silk is unwrapped, of course, the message disappears into a welter of scattered lines, the bits and parts of letters; the coherent message is replaced with a ribbon marked only by meaningless, unintelligible scraps of letters; to read the message, of course, one need only rewrap the ribbon about a cylindrical object of the same dimension as the original object. The message then appears in its clear, legible character. Whereas there is some security in the necessity for rewrapping the message about a cylinder of the original dimension, the primary security does not lie there. After all, once one recognizes a ribbon, or belt, or strip of cloth, as a scytale, it is then only a matter of time until one finds a suitable object to facilitate the acquisition of the message. Indeed, one may use a roll of paper or parchment until, rolling it more tightly or more loosely, as needed, one discovers the message. The security of the message, as is often the case, is a function not of the opacity of the message, in itself, but rather in its concealment, in its not being recognized as a message. A casual individual would never expect that the seemingly incoherent design on a girl’s ribbon would conceal a message which might be significant, or fateful.
From the girl’s reactions I gathered that she understood now that the ribbon bore some message, but that she had not clearly understood this before.
“It is a message?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“What does it say?” she asked.
“It is none of your concern,” I said.
“I want to know,” she said.
“Do you wish to be beaten?” I asked.
“No,” she said.
“Then be silent,” I said.
She was silent. Her fists were clenched.
I read the message. “Greetings to Tarl Cabot, I await you at the world’s end. Zarendargar. War General of the People.”
“It is Half-Ear,” said Samos, “high Kur, war general of the Kurii.”
“The word ‘Zarendargar’,” I said, “is an attempt to render a Kur expression into Gorean.”
“Yes,” said Samos. The Kurii are not men but beasts. Their phonemes for the most part elude representation in the alphabets of men. It would be like trying to write down the noises of animals. Our letters would not suffice.
“Return me to Earth!” demanded the girl.
“Is she still a virgin?” I asked Samos.
“Yes,” he said. “She has not even been branded.”
“With what brand will you mark her?” I asked.
“The common Kajira brand,” he said.
“What are you talking about?” she demanded. “Give me my clothing,” she demanded angrily.
Again the points of the two spears pressed against her abdomen. Again they penetrated the loosely woven cloth. Again she stepped back, for the moment disconcerted.
I gathered that she had been accustomed to having her demands met by men.
When a woman speaks in that tone of voice to a man of Earth he generally hastens to do her bidding. He has been conditioned so. Here, however, her proven Earth techniques seemed ineffectual, and this puzzled her, and angered her, and, I think, to an extent frightened her. What if men did not do her bidding? She was smaller and weaker, and beautiful, and desirable. What if she discovered that it were she, and not they, who must do now what was bidden, and with perfection? A woman who spoke in that tone to a Gorean man, if she were not a free woman, would find herself instantly whipped to his feet.
Then she was again the woman of Earth, though clad in Gorean slave livery.
“Return me to Earth,” she said.
“Take her below to the pens,” said Samos, “and sell her off.”
“What did he say!” she demanded.
“Is she to be branded?” asked the guard.
“Yes,” said Samos, “the common brand.”
“What did he say!” she cried. Each of the two guards flanking her had now taken her by an arm. She looked very small between them. I thought the common Kajira mark would be exquisite in her thigh.
“Left thigh,” I suggested.
“Yes, left thigh,” said Samos to one of the guards. I liked the left-thigh branded girl. A right-handed master may caress it while he holds her in his left arm.
“Give me back my clothing!” she cried.
Samos glanced at the bundle of clothing. “Burn this,” he said.
The girl watched, horrified, as one of the guardsmen took the clothing and, piece by piece, threw it into a wide copper bowl of burning coals. “No!” she cried. “No!”
The two guards then held her arms tightly and prepared in conduct her to the pens.
She looked with horror at the burnt remnants, the ashes, of her clothing.
She now wore only what Gorean men had given her, a scrap of slave livery, and a ring hammered about her neck.
She threw her head about, moving the ring. For the first time she seemed truly aware of it.
She looked at me, terrified. The guards’ hands were on her upper arms. Their hands were tight.
“What are they going to do!” she cried.
“You are to be taken to the pens,” I said.
“The pens!” she asked.
“There,” I said, “you will be stripped and branded.”
“Branded?” she said. I do not think she understood me. Her Earth mind would find this hard to understand. She was not yet cognizant of Gorean realities. She would learn them swiftly. No choice would be given her.
“Is she to be sold red-silk?” I asked Samos.
He looked at the girl. “Yes,” he said. The guards grinned. It would be a girl who knew herself as a woman when she ascended the block.
“I thought you said I would be stripped and branded,” she said, laughing.
“Yes,” I said, “that is precisely what I said.”
“No!” she screamed. “No!”
“Then,” I said, “you will be raped, and taught your womanhood. When you have learned your womanhood, you will be caged. Later you will be sold.”
“No!” she cried. “No!”
“Take her away,” said Samos.
The guards’ hands tightened even more on the beauty’s arms. She might as well have been bound in steel. She must go as they conducted her. “Wait! Wait!” she cried. She struggled, squirming in their grasp, her feet slipping on the tiles. Samos motioned that they wait, momentarily. She looked at me, and at Samos, wildly. “What place is this?” she asked.
“It is called Gor,” I told her.
“No!” she said. “That is only in stories!”
“No!” she cried. She looked about herself, at the strong men who held her. She threw her head back, moaning, sensing the ring on her throat. “No, no!” she wept. “I do not want to be a woman on Gor! Anything but a woman on Gor!”
“You are joking,” she said, wildly.
“No,” I said.
“What language is it here which they speak?” she asked.
“Gorean,” she said.
“Yes,” I said.
“And I must learn it quickly?” she said.
“Yes,” I said. “You must learn it quickly, or be slain. Gorean men are not patient”
“—Gorean,” she said.
“It is the language of your masters,” I said.
“—Of my masters?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said. “Surely you know that you are a slave girl.”
“No!” she cried. “No! No! No! No!”
“Take her away,” said Samos.
The girl was dragged, screaming and sobbing, from our presence, to the pens.
How feminine she seemed then. No longer did she seem an imitation male. She was then only what she was, a slave girl being taken to the pens.
Samos, thoughtfully, began to unwind the long ribbon, that which the girl had worn, and which formed the scytale, from the spear’s shaft.
We heard her screaming down the corridor, and then she cried out in pain, and was silent. The guards, wearied by her outcries, had simply cuffed her to silence. Sometimes a girl is permitted to scream. Sometimes she is not It depends on the will of the man. When she is branded a girl is commonly permitted to scream, at least for a time. But we would not hear that screaming, for, when it was done, she would be below, and far away, in the pens.
I dismissed her from my mind, for she was a slave. Her history as a free woman had terminated; her history as an imbonded beauty had begun.
Samos, the ribbon freed from the spear’s shaft, the spear retrieved by the guardsman, looked down at the table, at the ribbon, which now seemed only a ribbon, with meaningless marks.
“Greetings to Tarl Cabot,” I said, recalling the message. “I await you at the world’s end. Zarendargar. War General of the People.”
“Arrogant beasts,” he said.
“We had no clue,” he said. “Now we have this.” He lifted the ribbon, angrily. “Here is an explicit message.”
“It seems so,” I said.
We did not know where lay the world’s end, but we knew where It must be sought. The world’s end was said to lie beyond Cos and Tyros, at the end of Thassa, at the world’s edge. No man had sailed to the world’s end and returned. It was not known what had occurred there. Some said that Thassa was endless, and there was no world’s end, only the green waters extending forever, gleaming, beckoning the mariner and hero onward, onward until men, one by one, had perished and the lonely ships, their steering oars lashed in place, pursued the voyage in silence, until the timbers rotted and one day, perhaps centuries later, the brave wood, warm in the sun, sank beneath the sea.
“The ship is ready,” said Samos, looking at me.
Others said, in stories reminiscent of Earth, and which had doubtless there had their origin, that the world’s end was protected by clashing rocks and monsters, and by mountains that could pull the nails from ships. Others said, similarly, that the end of the world was sheer, and that a ship might there plunge over the edge, to fall tumbling for days through emptiness until fierce winds broke it apart and the wreckage was lifted up to the bottom of the sea. In the maelstroms south and west of Tyros shattered planking was sometimes found. It was said that some of this was from ships which had sought the world’s end.
“The ship is ready,” said Samos, looking at me.
A ship had been prepared, set to sail to the world’s end. It had been built by Tersites, the half-blind, mad shipwright, long scorned on Gor. Samos regarded him a genius. I knew him for a madman; whether he might be, too, a genius, I did not know. It was an unusual ship. It was deep-keeled and square-rigged, as most Gorean ships are not. Though it was a ramship it carried a foremast. It possessed great oars, which must be handled by several men, rather than one man to an oar. Instead of two side-hung rudders, or oars, it carried a single oar, slung at the vessel’s sternpost. Its ram was carried high, out of the water. It would make its strike not below, but at the waterline. It was a laughing stock in the arsenal at Port Kar, but Tersites paid his critics no attention. He worked assiduously, eating little, sleeping at the side of the ship, supervising each small detail in the great structure. It was said the deep keel would slow the ship; that the two masts would take too long to remove in the case of naval combat; that so large an oar would constitute an impractical lever, that it could not be grasped by a man, that the oarsmen could not all sit during the stroke, that if more than one man controlled an oar some would shirk their work. Why one rudder rather than two? With lateen rigging one could sail closer to the wind. Of what use is a ram which makes its strikes so high?
I was not a shipwright, but I was a captain. It seemed to me such a ship would be too heavy to manage well, that it would be clumsy and slow, that it might be better fitted to cargo service when protected in a convoy than entrusted to confront, elude or brave the lean, lateen-rigged wolves of gleaming Thassa, hungry for the cargoes of the ineffectual and weak. Were I to hunt the world’s end I would prefer to do so with the Dorna or the Tesephone, a sleep ship whose moods and gifts I well knew.
Yet the ship of Tersites was strong. It loomed high and awesome, mighty with its strakes, proud with its uprearing prow, facing the sea canal. Standing beside the ship, on the ground, looking up at that high prow, so far above me, it seemed sometime that such a ship, if any, might embark upon that threatening, perhaps impossible voyage to the ,world’s end. Tersites had chosen to build the ship in such a way that its prow faced west; it pointed thus not only to the sea canal; it pointed also between Cos and Tyros; it pointed toward the world’s end.
“The eyes have not yet been painted,” I said. “It is not yet alive.”
“Paint its eyes,” said he to me.
“That is for Tersites to do,” I said. He was the shipwright. If the ship did not have eyes, how could it see? To the Gorean sailor his ships are living things. Some would see this as superstition; others sense that there is some sort of an inexplicable. reality which is here involved, a difficult and subtle reality which the man of the sea can somehow sense, but which he cannot, and perhaps should not attempt to explain to the satisfaction of men other than himself. Sometimes, late at night, on deck, under the moons of Gor, I have felt this. It is a strange feeling. It is as though the ship, and the sea, and the world were alive. The Gorean, in general, regards many things in a much more intense and personal way than, say, the informed man of Earth. Perhaps that is because he is the victim of a more primitive state of consciousness; perhaps, on the other hand, we have forgotten things which he has not. Perhaps the world only speaks to those who are prepared to listen. Regardless of what the truth should be in these matters, whether it be that man is intrinsically a mechanism of chemicals, or, more than this, a conscious, living animal whose pain and meaning, and defiance, emergent, must transcend the interactions of carbon and oxygen, the exchange of gases, the opening and closing of valves, ft Is undeniable that some men, Goreans among them, experience their world in a rich, deep way that is quite foreign to that of the mechanistic mentality. The man of Earth thinks of the world as being essentially dead; the Gorean thinks of his world as being essentially alive; one utilizes the metaphor of the blind machine, the other the metaphor of the living being; doubtless reality exceeds all metaphors; in the face of reality doubtless all metaphors are small, and must fail; indeed, what are these metaphors but instruments of fragile straw with which we, pathetic, wondering animals, would scratch at the gates of obdurate, granite mystery; yet if we must choose our way in which to fail I do not think the Gorean has made a poor choice; his choice, it seems to me, is not inferior to that of the man of Earth. He cares for his world; it is his friend; he would not care to kill it.
Let it suffice to say that to the Gorean sailor his ships are living things. Were they not, how could he love them so?
“This ship is essentially ready,” said Samos. “It can sail soon for the world’s end.”
“Strange, is it not,” I asked, “that when the ship is nearly ready that this message should come?”
“Yes,” said Samos. ‘That is strange.”
“The Kurii wish us to sail now for the world’s end,” I said.
“Arrogant beasts!” cried Samos, pounding down on the small table. “They challenge us now to stop them!”
“Perhaps,” I admitted.
“We have sought them in vain. We were helpless. We knew not where to look. Now they in their impatient vanity, in their mockery of our impotence, boldly announce to us their whereabouts!”
“Have they?” I asked.
“‘We are here,’ they say. ‘Come seek us, Fools, if you dare!’”
“Perhaps,” I said. “Perhaps.”
“Do you doubt the message?” asked Samos.
“I do not know,” I said. “I simply do not know.”
“They taunt us,” said Samos. “War is a sport for them.”
“Perhaps,” I said.
“We must act,” he said.
“In what way?” I asked.
“You must sail immediately to the world’s end.” Samos looked at me, grimly. “There you must seek out Half-Ear, and destroy him.”
“None have returned from the world’s end,” I said.
“You are afraid?” asked Samos.
“Why,” I asked, “should the message be addressed to me?”
“The Kurii know you,” said he. “They respect you.”
I, too, respected them. I was a warrior. I enjoyed sharing with them the cruel, mortal games of war. They were cunning, and fierce, and terrible. I was a warrior. I found them precious foes.
“Does not the fate of worlds weigh upon you?” asked Samos.
“I know you,” he said, bitterly, “you are a warrior, a soldier, a mercenary, an adventurer. You fight for the exhilaration. You are frivolous. In your way you are as despicable as the Kur.”
“Perhaps I am an adventurer,” I said. “I do not truly know. I have stood against the Kur. I have met men with steel. I have had the women of enemies naked at my feet, suing to be my slaves.”
“You are a mercenary,” he said.
“Perhaps,” I said. “but I choose my wars with care.”
“It is strange,” said Samos.
“What?” I asked.
“We fight for civilization,” said Samos, “against the barbarism of the Kur.”
I smiled that Samos should see himself so.
“And yet,” said he, “in the world for which we strive we would have no place.”
I looked at him.
“In a civilized world, Captain,” said he, “there would be no place for such as you.”
“That is true,” I said.
“Is it not a paradox?” asked Samos. “Men need us in order to bring about a world in which we may be scorned and disregarded.”
I said nothing.
“Men seldom recall who it was who brought them the fruits of victory.”
“It is true,” I conceded.
“Civilized men,” said Samos, “the small and pale, the righteous, the learned, the smug, the supercilious, the weak-stomached and contemptuous, stand upon the shoulders of forgotten, bloody giants.”
“You are such a bloody giant,” he said.
“No,” I said. “I am only a tarnsman, a nomad in unusual conflicts, a friend of the sword.”
“Sometimes,” said Samos, “I weep.” He looked at me. I bad never before seen him in such a mood.
“Is our struggle, if successful,” he asked, “to issue only in the victory of defeat, the triumph of the trivial and placid, the glorification of mediocrity?”
“Perhaps,” I said.
“Will our blood have been shed,” he asked, “to bring about so miniscule an achievement, the contentment of the herd browsing among the dunes of boredom?”
“They will have their petty concerns,” I said, “which will seem important to them.”
He looked down, angrily.
“And they will have their entertainments and their stimulations. There will be industries which will attempt to assuage their boredom.”
“But will nothing truly matter?” he asked.
“Perhaps men must sleep before they wake,” I said.
“I do not understand,” he said.
“There are the stars,” I said.
“The Kurii stand between us and the stars,” said Samos.
“Perhaps we labor,” said I, “to open the gates to the stars.”
“Men will never seek them,” said Samos.
“Some men will,” I said.
“But the others will not help them, and the adventure will fall,” said Samos.
“Perhaps,” I said. “I do not know.” I looked at him. “Much depends on what men are,” I said.
“His measure has not yet been taken,” said Samos.
“And perhaps it will never be taken,” I said, “and cannot he taken. Every bound you set him will show him a place beyond which he can place his foot or hand.”
“Perhaps,” smiled Samos.
“I have hunted, and I have been hunted,” I said.
“Why do you say this?” he asked.
“And in hunting, and in being hunted,” I said, “I have been alive.”
“Yes,” said Samos. “But why are you saying this?”
“Do you not see?” I asked him. ‘The conflict, the struggle, even if it should issue in the triumph of the leveled herd, each smiling and trying to be the same as the other, will yet have been ours, and cannot be taken from us.”
“Yes,” said Samos.
“Ours will have been the war,” I said.
“Yes,” he said.
“It is our hand that will have grasped the hilt of the sword. It is we, not they, who will have met the enemy. Let them weep that they were not there.”
“Yes,” said Samos, “I would not be other than I am, and I would not be other than where I am.”
“The meaning of history,” I said, “lies not in the future. It is like a range of mountains with many summits. Great deeds are the meaning of history. There are many meanings and many summits. One may climb different mountains at different times, but each mountain glows in the same sun.”
“The Kurii must be met!” said Samos.
“Perhaps we will choose to do so,” I said.
“You are a monster, Captain,” he laughed.
“I am of the warriors,” I said.
“I know your sort,” he said. “It is the fight you relish. What a wicked sort you are, and yet how useful!”
“You see a fight you want, you take it,” he said. “You see a woman you like, you take her.”
“Perhaps if she pleased me,” I said.
“You would do as you wished,” he said.
“Of course,” I said.
“Warrior!” said he.
“Yes, Warrior,” I said.
“The eyes will be painted, and the ship will be launched at dawn,” he said.
I rose to my feet. “Let us not be precipitate,” I said.
He looked at me, startled.
“Supplies must be laid in,” I said. “Too, a crew must be recruited. Too, there must be an acceptable preliminary voyage, to test the handling of the ship, and its seaworthiness.”
“Time is crucial!” he said. “I can give you supplies, men.”
“I must think of these things,” I said. “And if I am to sail with men I must pick them myself, for our lives would depend upon one another.”
“Half-Ear waits at the world’s end!” cried Samos.
“Let him wait,” I said.
Samos looked at me, irritated.
“If he is truly waiting,” I said, “there is no great hurry.” I looked at Samos. “Besides,” said I, “it may take months to reach the world’s end, if it can be reached at all.”
“That is true,” said Samos.
“Besides,” I said, “it is En’Kara.”
“So?” asked Samos.
“It is time for the Kaissa matches at the Fair of En’Kara, at the Sardar,” I said. I found it hard to think that this was not on the mind of Samos. “Centius of Cos,” I said, “is defending his title against Scormus of Ar.”
“How can you be concerned with Kaissa at a time like this?” he asked.
“The match is important,” I pointed out. Anyone who knew anything of Kaissa knew this. It was the talk of Gor.
“I should have you whipped, and chained to an oar,” said Samos.
“I have been whipped,” I said, “at various times, and, too, I have been chained to an oar.” I had felt the leather. I had drawn the oar.
“Apparently it taught you little,” he said.
“I am difficult to teach,” I admitted.
“Kaissa!” grumbled Samos.
“The planet has waited years for this match,” I said.
“I have not,” said Samos.
It had been delayed because of the war between Ar and Cos, having to do with piracy and competitive commercial claims on the Vosk. The war persisted but now both players had been brought to the Sardar by armed men from their respective cities, under a special flag of truce, agreed upon by Lurius of Jad, Ubar of Cos, and Marlenus of Ar, called the Ubar of Ubars, who ruled in Ar. Hostilities between the two cities were suspended for the duration of the match. Kaissa is a serious matter for most Goreans. That Samos did not seem sufficiently impressed with the monumentality of the confrontation irritated me somewhat. It is hard to understand one who is not concerned with Kaissa.
“We all have our limitations,” I said.
“That is true,” he said.
“What did you say?” I asked. He muttered something.
“I said,” said Samos, “that Kaissa is a disease.”
“Oh,” I said. If it was a disease, and that seemed not unlikely, it was at least one which afflicted perhaps a majority of Goreans. I expected to have to pay a golden tarn disk for standing room in the amphitheater in which the match would take place. A golden tarn disk would purchase a trained war tarn, or several women.
“If there was a crucial act to be done at a given time,” said Samos, “and the fate of two worlds hung upon that act, and it interfered with a Kaissa match, what would you do?”
I grinned. “I would have to think about it,” I told him. “Who would be playing?”
Samos rose to his feet. exasperated, but grinning. “Come with me,” he said.
He conducted me to a place in the hail, where he pointed down to that portion of the intricate map mosaic which lay there.
“Cos and Tyros,” I said.
He pointed beyond them. For most practical purposes, except for a few small, close islands, of little or no importance, the mosaic ended there. No one knew what lay beyond Cos and Tyros to the west, once the small islands were passed.
“You should have your mind not on Kaissa,” said Samos, “my dear Captain, but on the world’s end.” He pointed to a place on the floor. It contained only small, smooth white tiles.
“Perhaps the world’s end,” I said, “is on the other side of the wall.”
We did not know where it might be, in the scale of the map mosaic.
“Perhaps,” laughed Samos. “Perhaps.”
He glanced about at the mosaic. For an instant his eye stopped, near its top.
“What is it?” I asked. I had noticed a bit of hesitation in him, a small movement in his shoulder, the sort of thing which suggests that a casual thought. unimportantly troubling, has occurred to someone.
“Nothing,” he said. He had dismissed the thought.
“No,” I said, curious. “What is it?”
He gestured to a guardsman to bring a lamp, for we were far from the light of the bowl of coals now, and of various torches set in the walls.
We walked slowly toward the back of the hall. The guardsman brought him the lamp there.
“As you know,” said Samos, “this house is an intelligence center, in which we receive many reports. Much of what we hear is trivial and unimportant, simply meaningless. Yet we try to remain informed.”
“Naturally,” I said. Who knew when, or if, a pattern might emerge.
“Two items of information we have received seem to us peculiar. We have received them at different times. They are in their nature, unrelated. Yet each is provocative.”
“What are they?” I asked.
“See,” said Samos, crouching down, holding the lamp about a foot above the floor, “here is Kassau, and the Skerry of Vars.”
“Yes,” I said.
“And Torvaldsland, northwards,” he said, “and Ax Glacier.”
“Yes,” I said.
“Have you heard,” he asked, “of the herd of Tancred?”
“No,” I said.
“It is a herd of northern tabuk,” said Samos, “a gigantic herd, one of several. The herd of Tancred winters in the rims of the northern forests south and east of Torvaldsland. In the spring, short-haired and hungry, they emerge from the forests hind migrate northward.” He indicated the map. “They follow this route,” he said, “emerging from the forest here, skirting Torvaldsland here, to the east, and then moving west above Torvaldsland, to the sea. They follow the shore of Thassa north, cross Ax Glacier here, like dark clouds on the ice, then continue to follow the shore north here, until they then turn eastward into the tundra of the polar basin, for their summer grazing. With the coming of winter, long-haired and fat, they return by the same route to the forests. This migration, like others of its kind, occurs annually.”
“Yes?” I said.
“It seems not to have occurred this year,” he said.
I looked at him, puzzled.
“Red hunters of the polar basin, trading for tea and sugar, have reported the failure of the herd to appear.”
“That is puzzling,” I said.
“It is more serious than that,” he said. “It means the perishing of the men of the polar basin, or their near starvation. They depend on the tabuk in the summer for food.”
“Is there anything that can he done?” I asked.
“I think not,” said Samos. “Their winter stores of food, from the ice hunting. will last them for a time. Then they must hunt elsewhere. Perhaps some can live by fishing until the fall, and the return of the black sea sleen.”
The red hunters lived as nomads, dependent on the migrations of various types of animals, in particular the northern tabuk and four varieties of sea sleen. Their fishing and hunting were seasonal, and depended on the animals. Sometimes they managed to secure the northern shark, sometimes even the toothed Hunjer whale or the less common Karl whale, which was a four-fluked, baleen whale. But their life, at best, was a precarious one. Little was known of them. Like many simple, primitive peoples, isolated and remote, they could live or die without being noticed.
“Send a ship north,” I said, “with supplies.”
“The waters north of Ax Glacier are ruthless,” said Samos.
“Send it,” I said.
“Very well,” he said.
“There was something else,” I said.
“It is nothing,” he said.
“Tell me,” I said.
“Here,” he said, moving a bit, “here.” He crouched over the mosaic where it delineated the sea, an arm of Thassa, crescentlike, extending northward and eastward, tangent upon the polar shores. The sea in this area was frozen for more than half the year. Winds and tides broke the ice, crushing and piling it in fantastic shapes, wild, trackless conformations, the sport of a terrible nature at play, the dreaded pack ice of the north.
Samos put the lamp down on the floor. “Here,” he said, pointing. “It lies somewhere here.”
“What?” I asked. Nothing was indicated on the map.
“The mountain that does not move,” he said.
“Most mountains do not move,” I smiled.
“The ice mountains of the polar sea,” he said, “drift eastward.”
“I see,” I said.
Samos referred to an iceberg. Some of these are gigantic, pasangs in width, hundreds of feet high. They break from glaciers, usually in the spring and summer, and drift in Thassa, moving with the currents. The currents generally moved eastward above the polar basin. Gorean has no expression specifically for an iceberg. The same expression is used for both mountain and iceberg. If a reference should he unclear the expression is qualified, as by saying, “ice mountain.” A mountain is a mountain to Goreans, regardless of whether it be formed of soil and stone, or ice. We tend to think of mountains as being land formations. The Gorean tends to think more of them as being objects of a certain sort, rather than objects of a certain sort with a particular location. In a sense, English does, too, for the expression ‘berg’ is simple German for ‘mountain’, and the expression ‘iceberg’, then is a composite word which, literally translated would yield ‘ice mountain’ or ‘mountain of ice’. ‘Berg’, of course, in actual German, would be capitalized, for it is a noun. Interestingly, Goreans, although they do not capitalize all nouns do capitalize many more of them than would be capitalized in, say, English or French. Sometimes context determines capitalization. Languages are diverse and interesting, idiosyncratic and fascinating.
I will generally use the expression ‘iceberg’ for it is easier for me to do so.
“There is here an iceberg,” said Samos, pointing to the map, “which is not following the parsit current.” Samos had said, literally, of course, ‘ice mountain’. The parsit current is the main eastward current above the polar basin. It is called the parsit current for it is followed by several varieties of migrating parsit, a small, narrow, usually striped fish. Sleen, interestingly, come northward with the parsit. their own migrations synchronized with those of the parsit, which forms for them their principal prey. The four main types of sea sleen found in the polar seas are the black sleen, the brown sleen, the tusked sleen and the flat-nosed sleen. There is a time of year for the arrival of each, depending on the waves of the parsit migrations. Not all members of a species of sleen migrate. Also, some winter under the ice, remaining generally dormant, rising every quarter of an Ahn or so to breathe. This is done at breaks in the ice or at gnawed breathing holes.
“An iceberg which does not drift with the current, which does not move with its brothers,” I said.
“Yes,” said Samos.
“It is a thing of myth,” I said.
“I suppose so,” said Samos.
“You grow too tense with your responsibilities, Samos,” I told him. “Obviously such a thing cannot be.”
Samos nodded. He grinned. “You are right,” he said.
“Where did you hear of this?” I asked.
“It was told by a man of the polar basin who had come south to sell skins at the Sardar.”
“Had he himself seen this?” I asked.
“No,” said Samos. I smiled.
“And how was it that he spoke of it,” I asked.
“He was given a coin,” said Samos, “to speak of anything strange or unusual of which he might have heard.”
“He well earned his coin,” I said.
“Wily sleen,” said Samos.
I laughed. Samos, too, laughed.
“They are clever fellows,” I said.
“It is not often I am outwitted,” said Samos.
Samos and I rose to our feet and returned to the small table. He put the lamp down on the table.
“You will sail then, soon, for the world’s end?” asked Samos.
“It is my intention,” I said. I turned to leave.
“Captain,” said he.
I turned to face him. “Yes,” I said.
“Do you think,” he asked, “that if ever the gate to the stars should be opened, that men will remember the name of Tarl Cabot?”
“No,” I said.
“I wish you well,” he said.
“I, too, wish you well, Samos, first captain of Port Kar,” I said.
“Who will win,” he asked, “Centius of Cos or Scormus of Ar?”
“Scormus of Ar,” I said. “He is invincible. Centius of Cos is a fine player, but he is beyond his prime. He is weary now. He has had his day. He will be no match for Scormus.”
I remembered Scormus of Ar, whom I had seen in the house of Cernus, of Ar, some years ago. He was an incredibly handsome fellow, young, brilliant, arrogant, haughty, lame. He lived much by himself. It was said he had never touched a woman. He ruled the high bridges of Ar with his Kaissa board. No other player might call “Kaissa” on those bridges until he had bested the young Scormus. His play was swift, decisive, brilliant, merciless; more than one player had given up the game after being indulged, and then toyed with and humiliated by the genius of Scormus. Kaissa was for him a weapon. He could use it to destroy his enemies. Centius of Cos, on the other hand, was an older man; no one knew how old; it was said the stabilization serums had not taken their full effect with him until he had seen fifty winters; he was slight and gray-haired; he was quite different in personality and character from the young Scormus; he was quiet, and soft-spoken, and gentle; he loved Kaissa, and its beauty. He would often ponder a board for hours, by himself, searching for a supreme combination. “It eludes me,” he would say. Once he had been bested by Sabo of Turia, at the Tharna tournaments, and he had wept with joy and embraced the victor, thanking him for letting him participate in such a beautiful game. “Winning and losing,” he had said, “do not matter. What matters is the game, and the beauty.” Men had thought him mad. “I had rather be remembered as the loser in one beautify! game,” he ‘said, “then as the winner in a thousand flawed masterpieces.” He had always sought for the perfect game. He had never found it. Beauty, I suspect, lies all about us. The craftsman can find it in a turning of leather, where I might never see it. A musician may find it in a sound which I cannot detect. And one who plays Kaissa may find it in the arrangements of tiny bits of wood on a board of red and yellow squares. Centius of Cos had sought always for the perfect game. He had never found it.
“When will you return?” asked Samos.
“After the matches,” I said.
“You will see others, too,” he asked.
“Of course,” I said. “Do you know that Philemon of Teletus will play Stengarius of Ti, and that Hobart of Tharna will match wits with Boris of Turia?”
“No,” said Samos, ruefully. “It escaped my attention.”
I shrugged. Samos, I decided, was hopeless.
He conducted me even to the first gate of his house, where I threw about myself the cloak of the admiral.
In a few moments, I sat at the tiller of the longboat, for the simple task of guiding the craft pleased me, and was being rowed to my house. I saw the silken head of an urt in the canal, a few feet from the boat It was a large urt, some forty pounds in weight. They live on garbage cast into the canals, and on bound slaves who have not been pleasing.
I looked back at the house of Samos. The slim, blond-haired girl would have been branded by now. We had not heard her scream for she, when it was done, would have been below, far away, in the pens.
I thought of the message:
Greetings to Tarl Cabot,
I await you at the world’s end.
War General of the People.
I smiled to myself.
The prow of the ship of Tersites pointed even now to the world’s end.
None had returned from the world’s end.
The canal turned then and I guided the craft about the corner. As we turned I glanced once more at the house of Samos. It loomed high and formidable, over the canal, a slaver’s house, a high, dark, frightening fortress.
In the pens far below the fortress there was a new slave, a slim, blond-haired Earth girl. She would be caged now. I wondered if she seized the bars of her cage, pressing her face against them, trying to understand what had happened to her. She had mixed in the affairs of worlds. She was now a slave. Probably she lay naked on her stomach on the cement flooring of her kennel, her hands over her head, screaming. On the exterior of her left thigh there would be a brand. On the interior of her thigh there would be blood. She had mixed in the affairs of worlds. It had not turned out well for her. She was now a slave. She would be soon sold off.
I wondered if she would learn swiftly to be pleasing to a master.
Another urt’s head, sleek and glistening, surfaced near the boat, then it submerged.
I expected she would learn swiftly.
I considered the upcoming match between Centius of Cos and Scormus of Ar.
I would wager heavily on Scormus of Ar. I did not expect, however, that I would get good odds.
3. The Fair Of En’kara
“Make way! Make way!” laughed the brawny young fellow. He had a naked girl over his shoulder, bound hand and foot. He had won her in Girl Catch, in a contest to decide a trade dispute between two small cities, Ven and Rarn, the former a river port on the Vosk, the second noted for its copper mining, lying southeast of Tharna. In the contest a hundred young men of each city, and a hundred young women, the most beautiful in each city, participate. The object of the game is to secure the women of the enemy. Weapons are not permitted. The contest takes place in an area outside the perimeters of the great fair, for in it slaves are made. The area is enclosed by a low wooden wall, and spectators observe. When a male is forced beyond the wail he is removed from the competition and may not, upon pain of death, reenter the area for the duration of the contest. When a girl is taken she is bound hand and foot and thrown to a girl pit, of which there are two, one in each city’s end of the “field.” These pits are circular, marked off with a small wooden fence, sand-bottomed, and sunk some two feet below the surface of the “field.” If she cannot free herself she counts as a catch. The object of the male is to remove his opponents from the field and capture the girls of the other city. The object of the girl, of course, is to elude capture.
“Make way!” he called. “Make way!” I, with others in the crowd, stepped aside.
Both the young men and women wear tunics in this sport. The tunics of the young women are cut briefly, to better reveal their charms. The young man wears binding fiber about his left wrist, with which to secure prizes. The young women, who are free, if the rules permit, as they sometimes do not, commonly wear masks, that their modesty be less grievously compromised by the brevity of their costume. Should the girl be caught, however, her mask is removed. The tunics of the girls are not removed, however, except those of the girls of the losing city, when the match has ended and the winner decided. The win is determined when the young men of one city, or those left on the field, have secured the full hundred of the women of the “enemy.” A woman once bound and thrown to the girl pit, incidentally, may not be fetched forth by the young men of her city, except at the end of the match, and on the condition that they have proved victorious. The captured women of the victorious city at the conclusion of the contest are of course released; they are robed and honored; the girls of the losing city, of course, are simply stripped and made slaves. This may seem a cruel sport but some regard it as superior to a war; surely it is cleaner and there is less loss of life; this method of settling disputes, incidentally, is not used if it is felt that honor is somehow involved in the disagreement. Honor is important to Goreans, in a way that those of Earth might find hard to understand; for example, those of Earth find it natural that men should go to war over matters of gold and riches, but not honor; the Gorean, contrariwise, is more willing to submit matters of honor to the adjudication of steel than he is matters of riches and gold; there is a simple explanation for this; honor is more important to him. Strangely the girls of the cities are eager to participate in this sport. Doubtless each believes her standard will be victorious and she will return in honor to her city.
The young man brushed past me. The girl’s hair was still bound, knotted, on her head; it had not yet even been loosened, as that of a slave girl. Looped about her neck, locked, was a slender, common, gray-steel slave collar. He had wired a tag to it, that she might be identified as his. She had been of Ram, probably of high caste, given the quality of her beauty. She would now be slave in the river port of Ven. The man appeared to be a young bargeman. Her lips were delicate and beautiful. They would kiss him well.
I watched him press on through the crowds, toward the looming palisade which ringed the Sardar mountains, black and snow-capped, behind it.
The numbers in the game are set at a hundred young men and a hundred young women, in order that there be a young woman for each winning male.
This was the first year, incidentally, in which masks had been permitted to the young women in some of these contests. The masks, however, had been brief and feminine. They concealed little and did little more than to excite the men and stimulate them to the beauty’s pursuit, culminating in her rude assault, capture and unmasking. Still I suspected the innovation, next year, would be dropped. It is easier to gamble on the taking of given girls, and how long they will be at large, if their beauty is better visible to the bettors.
I looked after the young man. He was going to the palisade. There he would climb one of the platforms and, putting the girl on her knees, her ankles and wrists crossed and bound, at his feet, facing the Sardar, he would unbind her hair. Then he would lift her in his arms, hair unbound, before the mountains of the Sardar, rejoicing, and giving thanks to Priest-Kings that she was now his.
“Where are the merchant tables,” I asked a fellow from Torvaldsland, with braided blond hair and shaggy jacket, eating on a roast hock of tarsk, “where the odds on the Kaissa matches are being given?”
“I do not know,” he said. ‘They play Kaissa only in the North.”
“My Thanks, fellow,” said I. It was true that the Kaissa of the north differed in some respects from tournament Kaissa in the south. The games, however, were quite similar. Indeed, Kaissa was played variously on the planet. For example, several years ago Kaissa was played somewhat differently in Ar than it was now. Most Gorean cities now, at least in the south, had accepted a standard tournament Kaissa, agreed upon by the high council of the caste of players. Sometimes the changes were little more than semantic. For example, a piece which once in Ar had been called the “City” was now identified officially as the “Home Stone” even in Ar. Indeed, some players in Ar had always called it the Home Stone. More seriously there were now no “Spear Slaves” in common Kaissa, as there once had been, though there were distinctions among “Spearmen.” It had been argued that slaves had no right upon the Kaissa board. One might note also, in passing, that slaves are not permitted to play Kaissa. It is for free individuals. In most cities it is regarded, incidentally, as a criminal offense to enslave one of the caste of players. A similar decree, in most cities, stands against the enslavement of one who is of the caste of musicians.
The man of Torvaldsland bit a large chunk from his hock of roast tarsk. “Where are the slave markets?” he asked.
“There are many,” I said. Indeed, one might buy slaves here and there, publicly and privately, at many places in the Fair of En’Kara, one of the four great annual fairs at the Sardar. It is not permitted to fight, or kill, or enslave within the perimeters of the fairs, but there is no prohibition against the buying and selling of merchandise within those precincts; indeed, one of the main functions of the fairs, if not their main function, was to facilitate the buying and selling of goods; the slave, of course, is goods. The fairs, too, however, have many other functions. For example, they serve as a scene of caste conventions, and as loci for the sharing of discoveries and research. It is here, for example, that physicians, and builders and artisans may meet and exchange ideas and techniques. It is here that Merchant Law is drafted and stabilized. it is here that songs are performed, and song dramas. Poets and musicians, and jugglers and magicians, vie for the attention of the crowds. Here one finds peddlers and great merchants. Some sell trinkets and others the notes of cities. It is here that the Gorean language tends to become standardized. These fairs constitute truce grounds. Men of warring cities may meet here without fear. Political negotiation and intrigue are rampant, too, generally secretly so, at the fairs. Peace and war, and arrangements and treaties, are not unoften determined in a pavilion within the precincts of the fairs. “The nearest,” I told the fellow from Torvaldsland, pointing down a corridor between pavilions and booths, “lies some quarter of a pasang in that direction, beyond the booths of the rug merchants. The largest, on the other hand, the platforms of slave exhibition and the great sales pavilion, lie to your left, two pasangs away, beyond the smithies and the chain shops.”
“You speak clearly for one of the south,” he said. He thrust the hock of roast tarsk to me. I took it and, holding it with both hands, cut at it with my teeth. I tore away a good piece of meat. I had not had food since the morning, when I arrived at the fair.
“My thanks,” I said.
“I am Oleg,” he said.
“I have been called Jarl Red Hair in the north.” I said.
“Jarl!” he cried. “Forgive me, I did not know!”
“The meat is good,” I said. I handed it back to him. It was true that in the north, by the word of Sevin Blue Tooth, I had stood upon the shields as Jarl.
“I fought with you,” he said, “at the camp of the beasts. I saw you once near the tents of Thorgard of Scagnar.”
“It was a good fight,” I said.
“It was,” said he, smacking his lips.
“Is the north quiet?” I asked. “Is there Kur activity in Torvaldsland?”
“No,” said he, “no more than an occasional stray. The north is quiet.”
“Good,” I said. The Kurii were not active in Torvaldsland. They had been driven from that bleak, rocky land by the mighty men of the high-roofed halls.
He grinned at me.
“Good hunting,” said I, “in the slave markets.”
“Yes, Jarl,” said he, grinning, lifting the hock of roast tarsk. He turned toward the nearest market. In a few moments he hurled the bone of the tarsk from him, wiping his hands on the sides of his jacket. Over his shoulder hung the great ax of Torvaldsland.
It had rained in the night, and the streets of the fair were muddy.
The Sardar fairs are organized, regulated and administered by the Merchant Caste.
I heard a girl screaming, being lashed. She was on her knees, to one side, between two tents; she was chained at a short stake, about which she had wrapped her arms, holding it for support. The side of her cheek was against the stake. The prohibition against violence at the Sardar, of course, does not extend to slaves. They may there, as elsewhere, be lashed, or tortured or slain, as it should please the master. They are slaves.
I turned down one of the muddy streets, making my way between booths featuring the wares of pottery and weavers. It seemed to me that if I could find the fair’s street of coins, that the makers of odds might well have set their tables there. It was, at any rate, a sensible thought.
“Where is the street of coins?” I asked a fellow, in the tunic of the tarnkeepers.
“Of which city?” he asked.
“My thanks,” I said, and continued on. The fairs are large, covering several square pasangs.
I turned another corner.
“Buy the silver of Tharna,” called a man. “Buy the finest silver on all Gor.”
He was behind a counter at a booth. At his belt, as did the men of Tharna, he wore two yellow cords, each about eighteen inches long. At the back of the booth, kneeling, small, her back low, her head and hair down to the mud, naked, collared, was a woman.
I stepped to one side to make way for a procession of initiates, who, with a ringing of bells, and shaking of bowls on chains, containing burning incense, passed me on their way to the palisade. An initiate in the lead carried a standard on which was mounted the sign of the Priest-Kings, a golden circle, that which has no beginning or end, the symbol of eternity, the symbol of Priest-Kings.
They were white-robed and chanting, and shaven-headed. The caste of initiates is rich on Gor.
I glanced to the kneeling woman in the booth of the man from Tharna. She had not dared so much as to raise her head. She had not been given permission. There are few free women in Tharna. One of the most harsh and cruel slaveries on Gor, it is said, is that of the slave girls of Tharna.
“Where are odds made on the Kaissa matches,” I asked the fellow from Tharna.
“I do not know,” he said.
“My thanks,” I said, and turned away. The woman remained kneeling as she had been placed.
I hoped the fellow from Torvaldsland would be able to buy a good piece of meat at the market.
“Where are odds made on the Kaissa matches?” I asked a small fellow, in the garb of the leather workers. He wore the colors of Tabor on his cap.
“I would ask you that,” he said.
“Do you favor Scormus of Ar?” I inquired.
“Assuredly,” he said.
I nodded. I decided it would be best to search for a merchant who was on the fair’s staff, or find one of their booths or praetor stations, where such information might be found.
I stepped again to one side. Down the corridor between tents, now those of the carvers of semiprecious stones, came four men, in the swirling garb of the Tahari. They were veiled. The first led a stately sand kaiila on which a closed, fringed, silken kurdah was mounted. Their hands were at their scimitar hilts. I did not know if the kurdah contained a free woman of high state or perhaps a prized female slave, naked and bejeweled, to be exhibited in a secret tent and privately sold.
I saw two men of the Wagon Peoples pass by, and, not a yard from them, evincing no concern, a fellow in the flowing robes of Turia. The fairs were truce ground.
Some six young people, in white garments, passed me. They would stand before the palisade, paying the homage of their presence to the mysterious denizens of the Sardar, the mysterious Priest-Kings, rulers of Gor. Each young person of Gor is expected, before their twenty-fifth birthday, to make the pilgrimage to the Sardar, to honor the Priest-Kings. These caravans come from all over known Gor. Most arrive safely. Some are preyed upon by bandits and slavers. More than one beauty who thought to have stood upon the platforms by the palisade, lifting laurel wreaths and in white robes singing the glories of the Priest-Kings, has found herself instead looking upon the snow-capped peaks of the Sardar from the slave platforms, stripped and heavily chained.
Colorful birds screamed to one side, on their perches. They were being sold by merchants of Schendi, who had them from the rain forests of the interior. They were black-visaged and wore colorful garments.
There were many slave girls in the crowd, barefoot, heeling their masters.
Schendi, incidentally, is the home port of the league of black slavers. Certain positions and platforms at the fairs are usually reserved for the black slavers, where they may market their catches, beauties of all races.
I stopped to watch a puppet show. In it a fellow and his free companion bickered and struck one another with clubs.
Two peasants walked by, in their rough tunics, knee-length, of the white wool of the Hurt. They carried staves and grain sacks. Behind them came another of their caste, leading two milk verr which he had purchased.
I returned my attention to the puppet show. Now upon its tiny stage was being enacted the story of the Ubar and the Peasant. Each, wearied by his labors, decides to change his place with the other. Naturally this does not prove fruitful for either individual. The Ubar discovers he cannot tax the bosk and the Peasant discovers his grain cannot grow on the stones of the city streets. Each cannot stop being himself, each cannot be the other. In the end, of course, the Ubar returns gratefully to his throne and the peasant, to his relief, manages to return to the fields in time for the spring planting. The fields sing, rejoicing, upon his return. Goreans are fond of such stories. Their castes are precious to them.
A slave girl in the crowd edged toward me, and looked up at me. She was alone.
I saw a short fellow in they street crowd. He was passing by. He was squat and broad, powerful, apparently very strong. Though the weather was cool in the early spring he was stripped to the waist. He wore trousers of fur, and fur boots, which came to the knee. His skin was dark, reddish like copper; his hair was bluish black, roughly cropped; his eyes bore the epicanthic fold. About his shoulder he had slung some coils of braided rope, fashioned from twisted sleen hide, and, in his hand, he carried a sack and a bundle of tied furs; at his back was a quiver containing arrows, and a short bow of sinew-bound, layered horn.
Such men are seldom seen on Gor. They are the natives of the polar basin.
The herd of Tancred had not appeared in the north. I wondered if he knew this.
I had arranged with Samos to have a ship of supplies sped northward.
Then he was gone, lost in the crowd.
The slave girl put her head down. I felt her timidly biting at my sleeve.
She lifted her eyes to mine. Her eyes were dark, moist, pleading.
Slave girls often need the caress of men.
“I followed you,” she said, “in the crowds.”
“I know,” I said. I had known this, for I was of the warriors.
“I find you very attractive, Master,” she whispered.
She held my arm, closely, looking up at me. Her breasts, sweet, pendant, white, were lovely in the loose rep-cloth of her tunic.
“Please, Master,” she whispered.
“Are you on an errand for your master?” I asked.
“No, Master,” she said. “I am not needed until supper.”
I looked away from her.
Her hands, small and piteous, grasped my arm. “Please, Master,” she said.
I looked down into her eyes.
There were tears in them.
“Please, Master,” she said, “take pity on me. Take pity on the miserable needs of a girl.”
“You are not mine,” I told her. “You are a pretty little thing, but I do not own you.”
“Please,” she said.
“Your master,” I said, “if he chooses, will satisfy your needs. If he does not, he will not.” For all I knew she might be under the discipline of deprivation. If that were so, I had no wish to impair the effectiveness of her master’s control over her. Besides I did not know him. I did not wish to do him dishonor, whoever he might be.
“Does your master know you are begging in the streets?” I asked.
“No,” she said, frightened.
“Then,” said I, “perhaps I should have your hands tied and write that upon your body.”
“Oh, no!” she cried.
“Is this girl bothering you?” asked a merchant, one whose head bore the talmit of the fair’s staff. Behind him were two guardsmen, with whips.
“No,” I said. Then I said, “Where are the tables for the gambling on Kaissa?”
‘They have been arranged but this morning,” he said. ‘They may be found in the vicinity of the public tents near the amphitheater.”
“My thanks, Officer,” said I ‘The lines are long,” he said. “I wish you well,” I said.
“I wish you well,” he said. They left.
“Thank you, Master,” said the girl. At a word from me, she would have been lashed.
“Kneel and kiss my feet,” I said.
She did so.
She then looked up.
“Run now to your master,” I said. “Crawl to him on your belly, and beg his touch.”
“Yes, Master,” she said. She leaped to her feet, frightened, and sped away.
I watched her disappear in the crowds.
I laughed. What a meaningless, lovely, delicious little slave she was. How helpless she was in her needs.
Another slave girl in the crowd smiled at me. I grinned at her, and turned away.
It is pleasant to live on a world where there are female slaves. I would choose to live on no other sort of world.
Before I left, the fair I would inspect the major market, that beyond the smithies and chain shops, where the most numerous exhibition platforms were erected, near the great sales pavillion of blue and yellow silk, the colors of the slavers.
If I found girls who pleased me I could arrange for their transportation to Port Kar. The shipment and delivery of slaves is cheap.
I turned down the street of the dealers in artifacts and curios. I was making my way toward the public tents in the vicinity of the amphitheater. It was there that the tables for the odds on the Kaissa matches might be found.
In traversing the street I saw the fellow from the polar basin, he stripped to the waist, with fur trousers and boots. He was dealing with a large fellow, corpulent and gross, who managed one of the booths. There was a thin scribe present as well behind the counter. The fellow in the furs, the rope coiled over his shoulder, apparently spoke little Gorean. He was taking objects from the fur sack he had carried with him. The large fellow behind the booth’s counter was examining them. The objects would not stand on the counter, for ‘they were rounded, as are shapes in nature. They were intended to be kept in a pouch and, from time to time, taken forth and examined. All details must be perfect, from every perspective, as in nature. Some collectors file such objects that they may be more easily displayed on a shelf or in a case. The native of the polar basin, on the other hand, holds them when he looks at them, and they have his attention as he does so. He is fond of them. He has made them. There were carvings of sea sleen, and fish, and whales, and birds, and other creatures, large and small, of the north.
Other objects, too, other carvings, were in the bag. The carvings were of soft bluish stone and ivory, and bone.
I continued on my way.
In a few minutes I had come to the area of the public tents, and there was there no difficulty in determining where the Kaissa lines were to be found. There were dozens of tables, and the lines were long at each.
I would stay in one of the public tents tonight. For five copper tarsks one may rent furs and a place in the tent. It is expensive, but it is, after all, En’Kara and the time of the fair. In such tents it is not unusual for peasants to lie crowded, side by side, with captains and merchants. During En’Kara, at the Fair, many of the distinctions among men and castes are forgotten.
Unfortunately meals are not served in the tents. For the price it seems one should banquet. This lack, however, is supplied by numerous public kitchens and tables. These are scattered throughout the district of the fair. Also there are vendors.
I took my place at the end of one of the long lines, that which I conjectured to be the shortest.
There are some compensations in the public tents, however. One may have paga and wines there. These are served by slave girls, whose comforts and uses are also included within the price of the lodging.
“Soup!’ Soup!” called a man.
“Soup!” I called, raising my hand. I purchased from him, for a copper tarsk, a bowl of soup, thick with shreds of hot bosk and porous chunks of boiled sul.
“Whom do you favor in the great match?” I asked.
“Scormus of Ar,” said he.
I nodded. I handed him back the soup bowl. I feared the odds would be too high on Scormus. Yet I would wager him the winner. I was not pleased, however, that I might have to bet a golden tarn to win a silver tarsk.
I could see on hills, on either side of the amphitheater, a golden tent pitched. One of these was for Scormus of Ar, the other, on the other side of the great amphitheater, was for Centius of Cos.
“Have they drawn yet for yellow?” I asked.
“No,” he said.
Normally much betting would wait until it was known which player had yellow, which determines the first move, and the first move, of course, determining the opening.
But already the betting was heavy.
I speculated on the effect which the draw for yellow might have on the odds in the match. If Centius drew yellow, I reasoned, the odds favoring Scormus might be reduced a bit, but probably not much; if Scormus, on the other hand, drew yellow, the odds might rise so in his favor as to preclude a rational wager. Few people would accept a bet of even twenty to one under such circumstances. Already I suspected I would have to wager at least ten to one to bet on Scormus, who would be champion. I noted a fellow from Cos a few men ahead of me in the line. “On whom do you wager?’ I asked him. “On Centius of Cos,” he said, belligerently. I smiled to myself. We would see. We would see. I wondered if his patriotism would last all the way to the betting table. Often, incidentally, the first move in a match is decided by one player’s guessing in which hand the other holds a Spearman, one of the pieces of the game. In this match, however, a yellow Spearman and a red Spearman were to be placed in a helmet, covered with a scarlet cloth. Scormus of Ar and Centius of Cos would reach into the helmet and each draw forth one Spearman. He who held the yellow Spearman had the first move.
I was now some twenty men from the table.
“Look,” called a man.
Two parties of men, one party from each of the tents, began to make their way toward the amphitheater. Somewhere in those parties were Scormus of Ar and Centius of Cos. The chief officer of the caste of players, with representatives of both Cos and Ar, would be waiting for them on the stone stage of the amphitheater, with the helmet.
I breathed more easily. I was confident now I would have my bet placed before the draw. If Scormus should draw yellow, and I were to place my bet after this fact was generally known, I would stand to win almost nothing, even should I wager a good deal.
“Hurry!” called a man. “Hurry!”
The two parties of men had now, from opposite sides, entered the amphitheater.
“A silver tarsk on Scormus of Ar,” said the man from Cos, who stood now at the table.
“They will be raising the standard of Ar or Cos any moment!” cried a man.
In moments I was two men from the table. Then there was only one man before me. “Next,” called the odds merchant.
I stood before the table.
“Fourteen to one favoring the champion of Ar,” he said.
“Fourteen hundred tans of gold,” said I, “on Ar’s champion.”
“Who are you?” asked the odds merchant. “Are you mad?’
“I am Bosk,” I said, “of Port Kar.”
“Done,” said he, “Captain!”
I signed his sheet with the sign of the bosk.
“Look!” cried a man. “Look!”
Above the amphitheater, on its rim, a man lifted the standard of Ar.
I stepped aside. There was much shouting. Men of Ar in the crowd embraced one another. Then, beside he who bore the standard of Ar, there stood one in the garb of the players, the red and yellow checkered robe, and the checkered cap, with the board and pieces slung over his shoulder, like a warrior’s accouterments. He lifted his hand. “It is Scormus!” they cried. “It is Scormus!” The ysrnng man then lifted the standard of Ar himself.
Men of Ar wept. Then the young man returned the standard to him who had first carried it to the amphitheater’s rim and withdrew from sight.
There was much cheering.
Next,” said the odds merchant.
The next man then stood before the table.
“Thirty-six to one, favoring the champion of Ar,” he said.
The man groaned.
I grinned, and left the vicinity of the tables. I would have preferred to have had better odds, but I had managed to place my bet before they had more than doubled against poor Centius of Cos. I stood now to win a hundred golden tans. I was in a good mood.
I turned my steps toward the main market. I would look at the goods on the long wooden platforms. Perhaps I would buy a girl for the night and sell her in the morning.
In a few minutes I saw the silken summit of the gigantic sales pavilion, its pennons fluttering, its blue and yellow silk billowing in the wind.
I saw male slaves thrusting a cart filled with quarry stones. It left deep tracks in the rain-softened earth.
I smelled verr, closed in shallow pens, more than a pasang away. The air was clear and sparkling.
I came to the great sales pavilion, but it was now roped off and quiet. There was much activity, and bustle, however, among the platforms. Here and there slaves were being thrown food.
I mingled with the crowds among the platforms. There are hundreds of such platforms, long, raised about a foot from the ground, far more than one could easily examine in a day’s browsing. They are rented to individual slavers, who, reserving them before the fairs, would rent one or more, or several, depending on their riches and the numbers of their stock. Small signs fixed on the platforms identify the flesh merchant, such as ‘These are the girls of Sorb of Turia’ or ‘These slaves are owned by Tenalion of Ar’.
I penetrated more deeply among the platforms. A girl, kneeling and naked, heavily chained, extended her hands to me. “Buy me, Master!” she begged. Then I had passed her and she was behind me. I saw two girls standing, back to back, the left wrist of each chained to the right wrist of the other. “Handsome master, consider me!” cried a girl as I passed her. Most of the girls knelt or sat on the platforms. All were secured in some fashion.
“Scandalous,” said a free woman, to another free woman, who was passing near me.
“Yes,” said the other free woman.
“Candies! Candies!” called a hawker of sweets near me in the crowd. “Candies of Ar!”
“Buy this candy of Ar, Master!” laughed a chained girl to me. I roughly fondled her head, and she seized my wrist suddenly in her chained hands and desperately began to press kisses upon it. “Please,” she wept. “Please!” “No,” I said. I pulled my wrist away and continued on. She sobbed, and knelt back in her chains.
“I will make you a superb love slave,” called another girl to me. I did not respond to her.
On a rounded wooden block a naked slave girl knelt, her wrists braceleted behind her. Her head was back. One of the physicians was cleaning her teeth.
By another platform a slaver’s man was moving along the platform. He carried a large, handled copper tureen filled with a watery soup. The slaver’s beauties, chained together by the neck, knelt at the edge of the platform. Each dipped her cupped hands twice into the tureen, and lifted them, drinking and feeding, to her mouth. They then licked and sucked their fingers and wiped their hands on their bodies.
Sales take place at night in the pavillion, from a sawdust-strewn block, under the light of torches, but girls may also be sold directly from the platforms. Indeed, many girls are sold from the platforms. Given the number of girls at the fair, and the fact that new ones are constantly being brought to the platforms, it is impractical to hope to market them all from the block. It is just not feasible. At the end of every fair there are always some hundreds of girls left unsold. These are usually sold in groups at wholesale prices In sales restricted to professional slavers, who will transport them to other markets, to dispose of them there.
“Do you think you could make me kneel to you?” asked a girl sitting on a platform, with chained neck and ankles, her knees drawn up, chewing on a larma fruit. She smiled at me, over the fruit, Then she turned white. “Forgive me, Master!” she cried. She had seen my eyes. She knelt before me on the boards, trembling, her head down. Would she be permitted to live? The fruit lay discarded beside her. I took the fruit and bit into it. I watched her for a time, and then I said, “Lift your head.” She did so. I threw the fruit back to her, and she, fearfully, caught it. She held it In her bands, looking at me. “Finish it,” I said, “and then, for an Ahn, lie on your belly.” “Yes, Master,” she said.
I looked up, beyond the crowds and platforms. From where I stood I could see the great palisade, and the black, snow-capped mountains of the Sardar.
I moved on, pushing past a man who was examining the legs of a slave girl, feeling them. He was considering her purchase.
“Where are the new slaves?” asked one man of another.
“They are on the western platforms,” said the respondent. Those platforms are commonly used for processing and organization. Girls are not often sold from them. They wait there, usually, when they are brought in, before they are conducted to their proper platforms, those on which they will be displayed, those having been rented in advance by their masters.
Since I had time to spare I took my way to the western platforms. If something good might be found there perhaps I could find on which platform she was to be vended, and might then arrange to be at that platform when she arrived. As soon as the locks snap shut on a girl’s chain at the platform she is available to be bid upon. Perhaps I would find something good.
I was soon at the western platforms.
It is easy to tell among girls which are familiar with their condition and which are not. Once a girl truly understands that she is a slave, and that there is no escape for her, once she understands it truly, emotionally, categorically, intellectually, physiologically, totally, deeply, profoundly, in every cell in her beautiful body, a fantastic transformation occurs in her. She then knows she is truly a slave. She then becomes wild, and free, and sexual, and cares not that he might be scorned by the free either for her miserable condition or helpless appetites; she knows she will be what she must; she has no choice; she is slave. Women, in their heart, long to submit; this is necessary for the slave girl; she must submit or die; submitted, she is thrilled to the core; she lives then for love and service, bound to the will of her master. The joy of the slave girl may seem incomprehensible to the free but it is a reality.
I heard the lamentations of girls in chains.
It must be clearly understood that the life of the slave girl, of course, can often be far from joyful.
After all, she is slave. Her wills mean nothing.
She can be bought and sold.
She is subject to the whip, and torture and even death should the master please.
She does not know who will buy her.
Her condition is objectively degrading.
Often she must labor with perfection to please a harsh master to whom she is nothing.
The glory of the slave girl is that she is a slave; and the misery of the slave girl is that she is a slave.
But all in all chains are right for a woman. They belong in them.
I looked at some of the new platforms. I could easily detect girls who were fresh to the collar. They were clumsy and tight, not yet liberated and free, not yet women.
Even as I walked about the new platforms wagons, drawn by draft tharlarion, waited to unload their lovely wares. The markets of the Sardar fairs are large and important ones in the Gorean economy. Most of the wagons were common slave wagons, with a parallel bar running down the center of the wagon box, about which the ankles of the girls were chained; others, however, were flat wagons fixed with an iron framework; two lines of girls kneel back to hack on such a wagon, their ankles and necks locked into the framework; on the flat wagons I saw the wrists of the beauties were braceleted behind them.
I inspected more of the new platforms.
It is painful for a girl to be locked in the framework of a flat wagon but, of course, she is well displayed enroute.
On some of the new platforms the women were still clothed or partly clothed.
I was about to leave the area of the western platforms when I saw something which interested me, a set of four girl.
I walked casually over to the vicinity of the platform, standing back somewhat.
Three were dark-haired and one was blond. The wrists of each were chained; the ankles, too, of each were chained. Their wrists were separated by some six inches of chain, their ankles by about a foot of chain.
They were kneeling.
They wore collars, fastened together by a chain.
What I found interesting about these girls was that they wore Earth raiment.
The girl on the end, blond, wore very brief denim shorts, faded and blue. They were low on her belly, revealing her navel and tattered about the hems. They had round metal snaps. She wore a blue, workman’s shirt, the tails of which were tied under her breasts, to display her midriff. She was tanned, and blue eyed. Her blond hair was loose and there were tiny rings in her ears. The next girl, dark-haired, lovely, wore black, feminine slacks; these were apparently of some synthetic Earth material; the left leg of the slacks was torn from the knee downward; she also wore what had probably been a soft, red, turtle-necked pull-over; it, too, was rather feminine; perhaps that is why it had been half torn from her; her right breast was exposed; when I looked at her she looked down, frightened, and with one chained hand drew a shred of the pull-over before her, to conceal herself; I smiled; how meaningless was the gesture; did she not know where she was; she was on Gor; she was on the platform; she, too, wore ornaments in her ear lobes, tiny jewellike disks, very small; the next two girls, too, were both dark-haired, and dark-eyed, and were attired, save for the colors of their shirts, identically; both wore blue trousers of denim; both wore flannel shirts, one a plaid flannel and the other a beige flannel; both wore small earrings of gold. I thought, of course, of the girl in the house of Samos and the raiment she had worn, which had been burned in her presence. She and the last two girls would have been extremely similarly attired; they all wore, or had worn, the male-imitation uniform which I gathered must be popular among such girls, girls apparently striving to copy a masculinity which hormonally and anatomically would be forever denied to them; better to be an imitation man they seemed to reason than to dare to be what they were, women; it seemed to me permissible that a woman should he a woman, but I suppose the matter is more complex than this simplicity would suggest; I wondered if such girls feared the promptings of their sex, the stirrings in them of a biology antedating the caves; but perhaps male imitation was only an unconscious step, a scarcely understood phase, ingredient to the possibly inexorable unfolding dynamics of a machine culture, a step or phase leading to what would be the proper fulfillment of the needs of the machine, sexless, tranquil, utilizable units, suitable components, functionality and neuterism triumphant. The machine and the animal must, I suspect, forever be at war, or until one conquers. On Gor slaves know to whom they belong.
I looked at the girls on the platform. How little they would understand a biological world. And yet each wore adornments in her ears, which required the literal piercing of her ears, the softness of her beauty yielding therein to the emblematic spike of penetration. On Gor only slave girls have pierced ears. On Gor these girls, with pierced ears, could be only slaves. Yet how feminine was this, that they had had their ears pierced, they, though girls of Earth. Gorean free women often envied slave girls their pierced ears, though this would seldom be admitted. How barbaric that an ear should be pierced that it may wear an adornment selected by a master. Their ears had been pierced. I admired this small, almost meaningless symbol of their femininity, this small, pathetic gesture protesting to the machine and the lies that they were really women; too, I recalled the undergarments of such girls; they, too, protested the cause of their beauty in the alien country of the machine. From the lineaments of the garments they wore I did not think, however, that their masters had permitted them their customary undergarments. Certainly the dark-haired girl in the torn red pull-over had no longer been permitted her brassiere. It is common to permit a Gorean slave girl only one layer of clothing, if any. That they had been permitted to retain for the time what they now wore rather than, say, brassiere and panties, or nothing, was doubtless due only to the whim of the slaver who owned them.
“I wish to speak to someone,” said the girl on the end, addressing a slaver’s man who was passing them. He stopped, surprised that she had dared to speak.
“Send someone to me who is in authority who speaks English,” she demanded.
He cuffed her. “Be silent,” he said to her, in Gorean. The girl had been struck back in her chains. She seemed utterly startled. Her eyes were wide. She put her fingers to her mouth. There was blood there.
“He hit me,” she said. “He hit me.”
The girls looked about themselves, frightened. The girl in the brief shorts, the blond on the other end, knelt back, making herself small.
“He hit me,” said the girl who had been struck. There was a strange, frightened look in her eye. She looked after the man, and then looked again to the other girls.
“Yes,” whispered the girl in the torn red pull-over, shrinking back in her chains.
The girl who had been struck again looked after the fellow who had cuffed her. There was a look in her eyes which was akin to awe. Then again they looked at one another, frightened. I gathered they had never seen a girl cuffed before. It might be done, they realized, to any one of them.
The girl in denim shorts, whom I would have originally thought would have been the least frightened of her native sexuality, looked at the others. “What if they make us kiss them?” she asked. “What will we do?”
“Kiss them,” said the girl in the torn red pull-over.
“Do you think they will want anything like that?” asked the dark-haired girl in the plaid flannel shirt.
“Who knows what they will want,” said the girl in the pull-over.
“We have rights!” said the blond girl in the shorts.
“Do we?” asked the girl in the red pull-over. She seemed the most feminine of all.
The girls were silent for a time. Then one spoke, the girl in the shorts. “What sort of prisoners are we?” she asked.
“Let us hope,” said the girl in the red pull-over, “that we are just prisoners.”
“I do not understand,” said the girl in the shorts. “What else might we be?”
“Can you not guess?” asked the girl in the red pull-over.
“No,” said the blond girl, in the brief shorts, frightened.
“Perhaps we are slaves,” said the girl in the red pull-over.
“Don’t joke,” said the blond girl, aghast.
The girl in the red pull-over shrugged and looked away.
“Please don’t joke,” whispered the blond girl. The girl in the red pull-over did not respond to her.
I considered the slaves. The fact that the blond had worn shorts and had tied her shirt as she had made it clear to me that she was willing to display her body. From this I would have originally thought that she might have been the least frightened of her sexuality. I now understood that she, in spite of her attire, deeply feared her native drives. Indeed, perhaps she had dressed as she did to try to convince herself, and others, that she did not fear them. Her behavior, however, made manifest the nature of her terror. Doubtless she had sensed in her dreams, and in inadvertent moments, what men might do to her. But that she had displayed her body as she did, even in compensation for her fears, which she would scarcely admit to herself, indicated the strength of the drives against which she fought. She had dressed her body as a challenge to men, though she feared them. Her mode of dress suggested powerful drives, which might, by a master, be well exploited. It was interesting to note that the garb of both the blond and the girl in the red pull-over were variations of the uniform of male imitation; the blond wore the uniform. except that she altered it to brazenly display that it was she, actually a female, and an attractive one, who wore it. The garb of the dark-haired girl, the black slacks of some synthetic material and the soft, red pull-over, was also a variation from the conformist raiment of the two girls on the end. She wore pants, of course, for slacks are a form of pants, and her garments, in general, were body-concealing; these features they had in common with the male-imitation garb of the two girls on the end; on the other hand the slacks were not as body concealing as they might have been for they were cut, actually, subtly, in such a way as to betray her figure; the soft pull-over, too, would leave no doubt as to her femininity, particularly now that her masters had removed her brassiere from her. The slacks, I conjectured, were custom tailored. She had probably been rich. She was now a slave. The blond girl, I would have conjectured, would have been from the middle class. She, too, now, was a slave. Both girls were now identical, only slaves. The fact that the dark-haired girl had worn the garments she did suggested that she had felt, for some time, her femininity, though doubtless it had never been adequately exploited on Earth. She would have lived in unfulfilled frustration. Her garments, in their own way, like those of the blond girl, suggested that she, too, had deep feminine drives. She seemed more honestly to recognize them than the blond girl. I did not know which of them would have the deepest, richest sexuality. Both, I conjectured, would be prizes. I had little doubt the dark-haired girl would come most quickly to lick her chains. The other two girls, I felt, were far behind their chain sisters. They were still, in effect, almost imitation boys. It might take months for them to suddenly, in the throes of the female slave orgasm, become true women.
Another slaver’s man walked past them. They shrank back.
I wondered if these girls had been in the same shipment as the girl I had met in the house of Samos. I supposed at one time each, unconscious, had worn locked on her left ankle the steel identification anklet of the Kur slaver. They wore now, as it was easy to see, only rounded ankle rings. Their feet were all bare, of course. Slavers do not put chains or bonds over stockings; similarly, if wrists are to be chained or bound, gloves would be removed; bonds are not placed over clothing. Gorean slave girls, incidentally, almost always go barefoot; it is a rare girl, and a high girl, who is permitted sandals. I looked again at the four girls. Earth-girl slaves, thanks to the raids of Kur slavers, are not as rare on Gor as they used to be. Earth girls are thought to make superb slaves. Gorean men will pay for them. Earth-girl names, incidentally, are thought of on Gor as slave names. Even many slave girls of Gorean origin wear them. That Earth-girl names are thought of on Gor as slave names is an indication of the regard in which Gorean men hold Earth girls. They are thought to be natural slaves. I believe, incidentally, that this hypothesis is true. She is not herself until she wears a collar and kneels at the feet of a master.
I turned away from the girls, for I had become hungry. I would eat at one of the public restaurants set up in the district of the fair.
I had considered buying the two girls on the end, those on the chain’s left, as I faced it, the blond and the dark-haired girl in the red pull-over, but I decided against it. They were not yet broken in, and I felt my men might kill them. Both girls I felt had an amazing potentiality, even beyond that of most Earth girls, for being superb slaves. It would be unfortunate if this potentiality were to be rudely terminated while they thrashed, bound, in the canals under the teeth of urts.
I glanced back once at the four girls, kneeling closely together, chained, on the platform. The collars they wore seemed somewhat incongruous with their upper garments, the blue workman’s shirt of the blond girl, the soft pull-over of the dark-haired girl, the flannel shirts of the two dark-haired girls on the end, but, still, somehow, they seemed correct, and even beautiful, on their throats. Their wrists, in the two-inch-high, steel cuffs, were small and lovely. Their feet, in the confining ankle loops, were small and beautiful. I was pleased. Their chains looked well on them. This is a way of telling what girls are true slaves. But do chains not look well on any woman? But is not any woman a true slave? I commended the taste and judgment of the Kur slavers. Such girls, yielded, would nestle well in a man’s arms. I saw two slaver’s men advancing toward them. The first carried a knife, the second, over his arm, carried some brief, white, platform tunics.
I swilled down the last of the Cal-da. I had not had it since Tharna.
In the restaurant where I had eaten there were some two hundred tables, under tenting.
I wiped my mouth on my sleeve and rose to my feet.
There were many at the tables who were singing the songs of Ar.
“I am looking forward to the game,” had said Centius of Cos to Scormus of Ar.
“I shall destroy you,” had said Scormus of Ar.
I wondered what thoughts occupied these giants of Kaissa on the eve of their confrontation. Scormus, it was said, walked the tiers of the amphitheater, alone, restlessly, eagerly, like a pacing, hungry beast. Centius of Cos, in his tent, it was said, seemed unconcerned with the match. He was lost in his thoughts, studying a position which had once occurred a generation ago in a match between the minor masters Ossius of Tabor, exiled from Teletus, and Philemon of Aspericht, not even of the players, but only a cloth worker. The game had not been important. The position, however, for some reason, was thought by Centius of Cos to be intriguing. Few masters shared his enthusiasm. It had occurred on the twenty-fourth move of red, played by Philemon, Physician to Physician Six, generally regarded as a flawed response to Ossius’ Ubar to Ubara’s Scribe Five. Something in the position had suggested to Centius of Cos a possible perfection, but it had never materialized. “Here, I think,” had said Centius of Cos, “the hand of Philemon, unknown to himself, once came close to touching the sleeve of Kaissa.”
I saw a fellow several tables away, his back to me, leave the tenting. Something vaguely bothered me about him. I could not place it. I did not see his face. I did not think he had seen me.
I left the tenting. One pays before the meal, and carries a disk, a voucher, to the table. The meal itself is brought to his place, marked on an identical disk, by a slave girl. One surrenders the disk to her and she places the meal before you. The girl wears a leather apron and an iron belt. If one wants her one must pay more.
Outside the tent I again mingled in the crowds. There was nothing pressing until tomorrow’s forenoon when the match would begin.
The singing of the men of Ar was now behind me.
A slaver’s man, pounding on a bar with a metal rod, called that the sales in the pavillion would begin within the Ahn.
“Rent her! Rent her!” called a man, moving through the crowds. Before him, thrust ahead of him on a control stick, her wrists braceleted behind her, was a naked slave girl. There is a chain loop at the end of the control stick, which is about two feet in length. The loop goes about her neck and, by means of a trigger, may be tightened or slightly loosened. The girl may be signaled by means of the chain. I saw her neck and head move, jerking under the chain. She knelt quickly before me and began to bite at my tunic. “Only a quarter tarsk!” called the man. I brushed her aside. At the other end of the control stick there is a leather loop. This goes about the right wrist of the master. Behind me I heard the girl cry out in pain and struggle to her feet. “You worthless slut,” said the man to her. And then he again was calling out, “Rent her! Rent her, kind masters!”
Some jugglers, to one side, were exhibiting their astonishing talents with colored plates and torches.
I passed some booths where rep-cloth was being sold in bolts. Peasant women were haggling with the vendors.
In another area boiled meat hung on ropes. Insects swarmed about it.
I wanted to watch the sales, or some of them, this evening. I wished to pick up some girl flesh for my men..
But there seemed little point in arriving before they had begun. Indeed, there is not much point, usually, in coming early to a sale. Merchants usually exhibit their best merchandise only later in the evening.
The thought of the fellow whom I had seen in the restaurant briefly troubled me. Then I dismissed it.
I made my way toward the platforms.
I saw the fellow from the polar basin again, him with the fur trousers and boots, and the rope and short bow. I recalled he had sold carvings to a dealer in curios earlier in the day.
I was curious to see the Earth girls again. When I had last seen them two slaver’s men had been approaching them, one with a knife and the other with some brief, white, platform tunics. I was curious to see what they would look like in clothing which would make clear their femininity rather than conceal or deny it.
“Where are the platforms of Tenalion of Ar?” I asked a man. They had been his property.
The fellow pointed to the two hundreds.
“My thanks, Sir,” said I. Tenalion is a well-known slaver.
Most girls on the platforms are exhibited naked in their chains. Some, on the other hand, are attired, usually briefly and in platform tunics, which may be opened. It is thought that sometimes a clothed girl is more intriguing to a buyer. When he comes forward and asks to see the girl, and the tunic is opened, he is, of course, already there and interested. The slaver or the slaver’s man, then, can talk with him, discussing, praising and pointing out the values of the commodity. This would not be easy if the fellow had merely glanced upon the wares and passed by. Girls are seldom, if ever, of course, sold clothed: It is said that only a fool would buy a clothed woman. That is certainly true. Would you buy a girl you had not had a chance to examine in detail?
In the two hundreds Tenalion’s platforms were numbered from two hundred and forty through two hundred and eighty, inclusive.
How pleased I was to see the slaves. It was now clear they were beauties. But many of the slaves of Tenalion were beautiful.
They still wore neck collars and were chained together. But now the neck collars were fantastically beautiful on them. No longer did they now wear their distracting, meaningless Earth raiment, but Gorean platform tunics. The tunics were white, with deep, plunging necklines, well revealing and setting off the collars, completely sleeveless, and terribly brief. They knelt. There was about a yard of chain between the collars, fastening them in a four-girl coffle.
“I hardly dare move,” said the blond girl. She knelt, as the others did, with her knees pressed closely together.
Their wrists were now in steel cuffs behind their backs. No longer would they be able to conceal themselves if their tunics were opened.
“Nor I,” said the girl on the end. “What is being done with us?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” said the third girl. “I don’t know!”
A man walked by, slowly, appraising them.
They shrank back.
Their ankles were confined in loose, steel ankle loops, but they could not slip them. A common chain ran though rings on the loops. No longer were their ankles confined with a foot of chain between them. Their ankles, now, for the chain running through the loop-rings was long, could be moved as closely together or as widely apart as they, or their masters, might wish. There were round, pierced metal balls at each end of the ankle chain, to prevent its slipping through the rings entirely. One such ball was to the right of the blond’s right ankle and the other was to the left of the left ankle of the last girl on the chain. This ankle-chain arrangement, permitting much plasticity of movement, makes it easier to display a girl.
“We have rights!” whispered the blond girl.
“Do you think so?” asked the dark-haired girl, who had worn the black slacks and the soft, torn red pull-over.
“Yes!” said the blond girl.
“Look at their eyes,” said the dark-haired girl.
The blond girl shrank back in the chains.
“Do you still think we have rights?” asked the dark-haired girl.
The blond was silent.
“Do you think a woman could have rights with such men?” asked the dark-haired girl. “Do you think we are still on Earth?” she asked.
“What has become of us?” asked the girl on the end.
“Is it not obvious?” asked the dark-haired girl. Her face was narrow, but delicate and very beautiful. Her figure was slight. but exquisite. Her hair was short, and very dark. She had lovely legs, marvelously revealed by the brevity of the platform tunic. I thought her the most beautiful of all. I also thought her the most intelligent The next most valuable meat in the coffle was, in my opinion, the blond, who was sweetly slung and exciting.
“No!” said the girl on the end. “No! It is not obvious!”
The slender dark-haired girl shrugged, and, with a rustle of chain, turned away.
Then all the girls suddenly shrank back, frightened, for another fellow was passing by, slowly, examining them.
“I do not wish to be dressed like this,” said the third girl on the chain.
“Be pleased,” said the first girl on the chain, the blond, “that they have given you anything to wear.”
Within sight of them, on other platforms, there were numerous, naked chained beauties.
“You will note, of course,” said the dark-haired girl, second on the chain, who had worn the torn, pull-over, “the nature of the garments in which we have been placed.”
The left side of the brief tunic overlapped the right side of the tunic. It was held in place by a light, white cord, which passed through two loops and was loosely knotted at the right hip. If the cord were jerked loose the garment would fall open and could be. easily brushed aside, to fall back, loose, behind them, on their cuffed, chained wrists.
“What about it?” asked the girl at the end of the chain, belligerently.
“Do you think it would be difficult to open?” asked the dark-haired girl.
“They wouldn’t dare!” said the blond girl.
The dark-haired girl did not respond to her.
“You think you are so clever because you are rich!” hissed the blond.
“Do you think any of us have anything now?” demanded the dark-haired girl, angrily. “Do you think we own even the chains we wear?”
“I do not understand what you are saying!” said the girl, angrily, at the end of the line.
The dark-haired girl did not respond to her.
“What sort of place is this!” cried out the girl on the end. She jerked her cuffed wrists futilely. She could bring one of them to a position behind her left hip or her right hip, but could not bring either before her body.
“Struggle if you will,” said the dark-haired girl. “It is not the intention of the men that you escape.” She smiled. “Therefore you will not escape.” The dark-haired girl looked out, over the crowds. “Besides, where would you escape to?” she asked. ‘There is nowhere to escape to,” she said.
“I hate you!” said the girl who had struggled. The dark-haired girl shrugged.
Two more men walked by, casually casting a glance upon the confined goods.
The girls were silent, and knelt back, small.
The men saw nothing of interest in them. There were many beauties on display.
“I cannot stand the way they look at us,” said the blond.
“What does it mean?” asked the third girl on the chain.
“Masters!” called a girl, in Gorean, some yards down the platform, accosting the two men who were passing. She knelt on one knee, and flexed and extended her other leg, beautifully, touching the boards of the platform with her toes. She lifted her body and thrust forth her lovely breasts to them. “Masters,” she whimpered, “take me home with you!”
“Do you beg to be purchased?” asked one of the men.
“Yes, Master!” she said.
“Slave,” said he, scornfully.
“Yes, Master!” she said.
“Do you find her of interest?” asked the first man, he who had questioned her, to his fellow.
“Stand, Slave,” said the second man.
She stood before them, beautifully, almost nude in the platform tunic.
A slaver’s man, seeing their interest, came to where they stood.
“Would you care to see the pretty little slut?” he asked.
The four Earth girls, though they could not speak Gorean, watched, horrified, the enactment of a common Gorean episode, the attempt on the part of a slave to interest masters in her purchase.
The blond girl gasped and shrank back when the slaver’s man, joining the girl on the platform, jerked loose the cord at her right hip and, with two hands, standing behind the girl, held back the tunic, well displaying her to the gaze of the inquirers.
They could not, of course follow the conversation, but it was clearly one of appraisal, and of commerce.
Then the Earth girls, with the exception of the dark-haired girl, who watched, fascinated, eyes shining, turned their eyes away, shuddering. One of the men had joined the slaver’s man and the girl on the platform. The girl cried out, startled, being ruthlessly appraised. Then she writhed on the platform, obedient to the touch of the masters.
“Look!” said the dark-haired girl.
The other three girls then looked too, in horror and fascination.
They saw the beauty being swiftly put through slave paces.
Then they saw her sold. There was a clear exchange of money. The girl was released from her chains and braceleted by one of the men. She was put in a collar and leash and led from the platform. Behind then was left only the discarded chains and a discarded, crumpled tunic. The girl was gone.
“Do you still ask what manner of place this is?” asked the dark-haired girl bitterly of the girl at the chain’s end.
That girl, dark-haired, too, shook her head with horror. “It cannot be,” she whispered.
The dark-haired girl, who had worn the pull-over, turned angrily to the blond, at the other end of the chain. “Do you still think,” she asked, “they will not ‘dare’ to look at your precious body?”
The blond shrank back, terrified in the chains.
“Do you truly think now,” pressed the dark-haired girl, furiously, “that you have rights, you foolish little thing? Do you think before such men you would have rights? These are not men of Earth!”
The blond girl looked at her with horror.
“These men will have their way with women,” she said. “Can you not see it in their eyes? They will have what they want from women.” And she laughed bitterly, “And we are women,” she said.
“This place then—” stammered the girl at the end of the chain.
“Yes,” said the dark-haired girl. Then she looked at the blond. “Do you still think,” she asked, “that we are merely some sort of prisoners?”
“No, no,” wept the blond girl.
“This is a slave market,” said the dark-haired girl, “and we are slaves.”
The blond girl moaned and threw her head back. The third and fourth girl began to sob.
“Accept it, my dear,” said the dark-haired girl, “our reality is now transformed.”
They looked at her.
“We are now slave girls on a strange world.”
“No,” whispered the girl on the end.
“I am for sale,” said the dark-haired girl, “and so, too, are you, and the rest of us.”
“Yes,” whispered the blond, suddenly shuddering, “I—I am for sale.”
“As are the rest of us,” said the dark-haired girl.
The girls then subsided, and were quiet.
After a time the dark-haired girl spoke. “I wonder,” she said, “what it will be like, being a slave girl.”
“I cannot even think of it,” said the blond-haired girl.
“I wonder what it will be like, being owned by a man,” mused the dark-haired girl.
“Perhaps a woman will buy us,” said the girl on the end.
The blond girl, and the dark-haired girl, looked at her, apprehensively.
“We would have less to fear from a woman,” said the girl on the end.
“Do you want to be owned by a woman?” asked the dark-haired girl.
“No,” said the girl on the end.
“Nor would I,” said the third girl.
“Nor would I,” said the dark-haired girl.
“—Nor would I,” said the blond.
“That is interesting, is it not?” asked the dark-haired girl, thoughtfully. She looked out at the crowd. “Have you ever seen such men?” she asked. “I had never dreamed such men could exist.”
“No,” whispered the blond girl.
“Do you not find them disturbing?” asked the dark-haired girl.
“Wicked girl!” cried the girl on the end.
“I will tell you something,” said the dark-haired girl. “They make me feel warm inside, and hot and wet.”
“Wicked girl! Wicked girl!” cried the girl on the end.
“I have never felt feelings like this before,” said the dark-haired girl. “I do not know what I would do if one of them touched me.”
“Feminine! Feminine!” scolded the girl on the end, who had worn the beige flannel shirt.
The dark-haired girl in the brief platform tunic, who had worn the red pull-over, knelt back. “Yes,” she said, “feminine.”
“If they so much as touch me, I’ll scream,” said the blond.
But there seemed little chance of this for there appeared to be much more choice merchandise for sale upon those long, darkly varnished, slatted platforms. I had stood back in the crowd, interested to hear them speak. But now I would move on. It was nearly time to go to the pavillion. I did see in the crowd, some platforms away, the fellow from the polar basin. He was looking at women. The rawhide rope was looped about his shoulder.
“Look,” I heard a fellow say, “it is Tabron of Ar.”
I turned about. A tarnsman, in the scarlet leather of his war rights, tall, was moving through the crowd. He casually stopped before the four girls.
The blond shrank back as his eyes examined her in the collar, chains and platform tunic.
He looked upon the dark-haired girl. To my surprise and pleasure I saw her kneel very straight and lift her body before him. Then he looked past her to the other two, girls and continued on his way. She knelt back in her chains.
“I saw you!” said the girl on the end, who had worn the beige flannel shirt.
“He was very handsome,” said the dark-haired girl. “—And I am a slave.”
“He didn’t buy you,” sneered the third girl, who had worn the plaid flannel shirt, “you rich tart!”
“He didn’t buy you either,” retorted the dark-haired girl, “you low-class idiot.”
I smiled. They were both only slaves.
“I am more beautiful than you,” said the third girl.
I was pleased to see that the third girl seemed now much more sensitive to her femaleness than earlier. Perhaps she would not take as long as I had thought to discover her womanhood. Gorean males, I conjectured, might teach it to her quickly. She would look lovely, I thought, crawling to her master, his sandals in her teeth.
“If we must discuss that sordid sort of thing,” said the girl on the end, who had worn the beige flannel shirt, “I am the most beautiful of us four.”
“I am,” said the dark-haired girl, angrily, indignantly.
“No,” said the blond. “I am surely the most beautiful!”
“You do not even want a man to touch you,” said the dark-haired girl.
“No,” said the blond. “But I am still the most beautiful.”
The dark-haired girl looked out over the crowd. “They will decide who is most beautiful,” she said.
“They?” asked the blond.
“The masters,” said the dark-haired girl.
“Masters?” stammered the blond.
“Yes,” said the dark-haired girl, “the masters, those men out there, those who will buy us, our masters, they will decide who is most beautiful.”
The girls knelt back in their chains. They knelt back easily, on their heels.
“Oh!” cried the blond girL
A stout fellow, in the garb of the tarn keepers, smelling of the tarn cots, stood looking at her. She pulled back, and shook her head, “No.” Her eyes were frightened.
The stout fellow looked about, and caught the eye of one of the slaver’s men who, seeing him, made his way through the crowds to his side.
“These are new slaves?” asked the tarn keeper.
“Fresh to the collar,” said the slaver’s man.
“I need a wench,” said the man, “one who will cost me little, one to keep in the cots by day, to shovel the excrement of tarns, one to keep in my hut by night, as a pot-and-mat girl.”
“These four wenches,” said the slaver’s man, expansively, indicating the small coffle, “are comely candidates for such a post.” He stepped upon the platform, and crouched upon its surface. “Consider this one,” he said, indicating the blond, who was first upon the chain.
He reached to her tunic.
“Don’t touch me,” she cried, drawing back.
“A barbarian,” said the tam keeper.
“Yes,” said the slaver’s man.
“And the others?” asked the tarn keeper.
“They are all barbarian, Master,” said the slaver’s man.
The dark-haired girl, seeing the tam keeper’s eyes upon her, shrank back.
The tarn keeper turned and walked away. The girls looked at one another, frightened, and knelt back. They seemed relieved. This relief, however, was surely premature. Another slaver’s man joined his colleague at the platform. “We will never sell these,” said the first. “They are raw girls, untrained, inept, clumsy, meaningless sluts. They do not even speak Gorean.”
“Tenalion has no intention of putting them on the main block in the pavilion,” said the second. He had a five-bladed slave whip at his belt.
“It would be a waste of block time,” said the first. “Who would want girls this worthless and ignorant?” he asked. “We shall surely have to transport them back to Ar.”
“Who of Ar would want them?” asked the second man grinning.
“We will have to take them back to Ar,” said the first man.
“We could sell them for sleen feed here,” said the second.
“That is true,” granted the first.
“Attend to the forty through forty-five platforms,” said the second man, who seemed to have greater authority than the first. “I shall stay in this vicinity for the time.”
The other man nodded, and turned away.
The second slaver’s man regarded the four girls, who did not meet his eyes. He wore blue and yellow, a tunic. He wore studded leather wristlets. At his belt hung the whip. The girls now seemed apprehensive. I did not blame them. One in whose charge they were now stood near them. I saw them look at his whip, but there was no real comprehension of it in their eyes. They did not yet understand the whip, or what it might do to them. I gathered they had never been whipped.
“The bids have begun in the pavilion,” I heard.
“Move forward,” said the slaver’s man to the girls, in Gorean. They did not understand his words, but his gesture was clear. Frightened, they, on their knees, crept forward to the edge of the platform. They were now quite near the crowd. Before they had been back about a yard or so on the platform. When a girl is back somewhat it is easier to see her. On the other hand, the proximity of female flesh to the buyer can in itself, of course, be a powerful inducement to her purchase. What man, truly close to a beautiful female, can fail to feel her in his blood, and want to own her?
The slaver, I conjectured, knew his business.
The girls looked at one another, terrified. They were now close to the men.
“Please, don’t!” begged the blond girl. A man in the crowd, passing her, had put his hand on her thigh.
The slaver’s man looked at her, angrily. She looked at him, tears in her eyes. Did he not know what the beast, in passing, had done? He looked away.
What did it matter that someone had touched, even intimately caressed, a woman who was only a slave?
She tried to creep back, but the slaver’s man, seeing this, irritably removed his whip from his belt and, with its coils, indicated the place on the platform where her knees must be. They were placed in such a way as to be a quarter of an inch over the edge of the platform. The other girls, too, made certain their knees were perfectly aligned. The robes of passing men then brushed their knees.
“I would look at this one,” said a leather worker, who stopped before the blond, first on the chain.
She shrank back.
“She is a beauty, isn’t she?” smiled the slaver. “Open her tunic. See what she has to offer you,” he invited.
The leather worker reached toward the girl, but she scrambled back. “Don’t touch me!” she cried. The dark-haired girl cried out with pain, dragged by her collar back, too. She fell twisted, on her side, in the chain.
“I’ll scream,” warned the blond girl.
The leather worker was quite puzzled. “I do not think I am interested,” he said. “Too, this one is a barbarian. She is not broken to the collar.”
“Break her to your collar,” said the slaver’s man.
“I do not want to take the time to break a girl in,” he said.
“Wait, kind sir,” said the slaver. “Wait! See what delights would await you.”
The man hesitated.
“Prodicus!” called the slaver’s man.
In a moment the first slaver’s man, who had gone to supervise the forty through forty-five platforms, those in the two hundreds, joined his colleague.
The second slaver’s man, who carried the whip, which he now uncoiled, unnoticed, I am sure, by the girls, indicated the blond with his head.
The fellow called to the platform scrambled onto it and swiftly knelt the blond before the slaver’s man with the whip and the leather worker. The fellow on the platform then jerked loose the knot at the blond’s right hip, which held the wrap-around tunic closed. “No!” she screamed. He jerked it back, away from her, exposing her. She was very beautiful. It lay behind her, over her chained wrists. He kicked her knees apart. Then he crouched behind her, holding her by the upper arms. She struggled, twisting, on her knees. She began to scream miserably, her head back. She pressed her knees closely together. The slaver’s man with the whip angrily leaped to the platform. He kicked her knees open again. She was sobbing and screaming. Men about laughed. “See, Master?” asked the slaver’s man with the whip, but the leather worker had gone. The slaver’s man glared down, in fury, at the chained blond. Another man in the crowd reached to take the ankle of the dark-haired girl in his hand and she, with a rattle of chain, jerked it away. She looked at him, terrified. “They are all barbarians,” said a man, “all of them.” Puzzled by the reactions of the blond and the dark-haired girl other men in the crowd reached out to touch the last two girls on the chain. One held with his two hands the thighs of the third girl, who had worn the plaid flannel shirt. She screamed in the collar. Another man took the fourth girl, who had worn the beige flannel shirt, under the arms, and pulled her to him. She fought to pull her lips back, that they might not touch his. She struggled in his arms. She screamed. He thrust her back on her side on the platform, and left her. The man who had held the thighs of the third girl, too, released her. There was much laughter in the crowd. She scrambled back in her chains, sobbing. The slaver’s man was furious. He looked from one girl to the other, to the stripped, chained blond, to the cowering dark-haired girl, her neck cut by the collar, from its movement, to the third girl, sobbing and looking up at him, to the fourth girl, lying on her side, her legs drawn up, crying. He gestured to his colleague. This man went to the second girl and jerked back her tunic, and to the third and jerked back her tunic, and to the fourth and jerked back her tunic. Then they lay in their chains, exposed at his feet. Then he put them under the whip.
In moments they writhed at his feet, slave girls, screaming for mercy.
Tenalion of Ar, the slaver, their master, stood at the edge of the platform. He was not pleased.
“They are worthless,” said the man with the whip, coiling it.
The girls lay on the platform, sobbing. Stripes were on their bodies.
“Take anything for them,” said Tenalion, and turned away.
“Two,” said a voice. “Two. How much?”
It was the fellow from the polar basin, who wore no jacket, but fur trousers and boots, with the bow at his back, and the rawhide rope on his shoulder. In his left hand he carried a bundle of furs, smaller now, than it had been, and a sack, which was now less bulky than it had been when I had seen it earlier near the puppet theater. I remembered he had sold carvings to a corpulent, gross fellow, one whose booth had been set up in the street of the dealers in artifacts and curios. It was not far from the puppet theater.
I moved in more closely, thinking he might have difficulty in communicating with the slaver’s man.
“Those,” said the coppery-skinned fellow, pointing to the blond and the dark-haired girl, freshly whipped, crying in their chains.
“Yes?” asked the slaver’s man.
“Cheap?” asked the man, a red hunter from the bleak countries north even of Ax Glacier.
“These two?” asked the slaver’s man.
The hunter nodded.
The slaver’s man knelt the two stripped girls before the hunter.
They looked at him with fear.
He was a man. They had felt the whip.
“Yes cheap. Very cheap,” said the slaver’s man. “Do you have money?”
The hunter pulled a pelt from the bundle of furs he carried. It was snowy white, and thick, the winter fur of a two-stomached snow larl. It almost seemed to glisten. The slaver’s man appreciated its value. Such a pelt could sell in Ar for half a silver tarsk. He took the pelt and examined it. The snow larl hunts in the sun. The food in the second stomach can be held almost indefinitely. It is filled in the fall and must last the larl through the winter night, which lasts months, the number of months depending on the latitude of his individual territory. It is not a large animal. It is about ten inches high and, weighs between eight and twelve pounds. It is mammalian, and has four legs. It eats bird’s eggs and preys on the leem, a small arctic rodent, some five to ten ounces in weight, which hibernates during the winter.
“Not enough,” said the slaver’s man. The hunter grunted. He had guessed this. I did not think the slaver’s man was out to defraud the hunter. For one thing, the fellow, this far south, probably had some conception of the values of the furs. For another thing the hunters of the north, though a generally kind, peaceable folk, except with animals, think little of killing. They are inured to it. As hunters they live with blood and death.
The hunter drew forth from the bundle of furs two tiny pelts of the leem. These were brown, the summer coats of the animals.
“Look,” said the slaver’s man, gesturing at the two girls, the blond and the dark-haired girl. “Two beauties!”
The hunter drew forth two more pelts of the leem.
“Not enough,” said the slaver’s man.
The hunter grunted and bent down, retying the bundle of furs. He picked up the bundle and began to leave.
“Wait! laughed the slaver’s man. “They are yours!”
The girls reacted. “We have been sold,” whispered the dark-haired girl. I recalled she had worn soft, black, custom-fitted feminine slacks, a soft, delicious, turtle-necked, red pull-over. It had been a beautiful top and had doubtless been quite expensive. I recalled that she had been rich. She was now the naked slave girl of a red hunter.
The slaver’s man put the pelts in a pouch which hung from his belt.
With his right hand he pulled the head of the blond girl down, until it was at her knees. He did the same with the head of the dark-haired girl. They knelt as they had been placed. They had felt the whip.
The slaver then went behind them and freed their ankles from the steel ankle loops. He then unlocked the two-inch-high steel cuffs which had held the hands of the girls behind them. Their platform tunics, loose, he then let fall to the boards of the platform. The hunter, meanwhile, with a knife, bad cut a length from the rope of twisted sleen hide which he wore over his shoulder. He fastened the two girls together by the neck. The slaver then unlocked the slaves’ throat collars and tossed them, with the chain, to the platform.
The two beauties were drawn by the hunter from the platform and they then stood, frightened, tied together by the neck, before it.
The third and fourth girl looked upon these proceedings with unfeigned terror. They knew they themselves could be as easily the objects of so casual a transaction, putting them in the total power of a buyer, their master.
The red hunter, with two short lengths of the leather rope, jerked the hands of the beauties behind them and, swiftly, expertly, fastened them together. The blond-haired girl winced. “Oh,” said the dark-haired girl, suddenly. I saw the hunter had tied women before. They were totally helpless.
The red hunters are generally a kind, peaceable folk, except with animals. Two sorts of beasts are kept in domestication in the north; the first sort of beast is the snow sleen; the second is the white-skinned woman.
“Ho,” said the red hunter, and strode from the platform. The two beasts he had purchased hurried after him.
“Theirs will be a hard slavery,” I said to the slaver’s man.
“They will learn to pull a sled under the whip,” he said.
“Yes,” I said. Such women were used as draft animals. But they would serve, too, as slave girls do, many other purposes.
“Wait until the red women get hold of them,” laughed the slaver’s man.
“They may kill them,” I said.
“They have one ‘chance for life,” he said, “to obey with total perfection.”
“But,” I asked, “is that not every slave girl’s one chance for life?”
“True,” he said. Then he turned and looked at the third and fourth girl.
They looked at him with terror. Beside them, on the platform, were two pairs of opened, empty ankle loops, two pairs of opened, empty wrist cuffs, two opened, empty collars, and some chain, and two platform tunics, discarded.
“I think,” I said, “that these two girls might now be moved back on the platform and have their hands chained before their bodies rather than behind.”
“I think you are right,” he said, chuckling. He climbed to the platform and moved the girls back. He then unlocked the left cuff of the first girl and then recuffed her, this time with her small hands before her body. He did the same with the second. In doing this he had discarded their platform tunics. He then rejoined me before the platform.
They now knelt back on the platform in normal display location, their hands chained before them. They looked at him.
The slaver’s man, with the whip, gestured broadly, expansively, to the passing crowd. He grinned at the girls.
The fourth girl, who had once worn the denim pants and beige flannel shirt, extended her chained hands to the crowd. “Buy me, Masters!” she cried out. “Buy me for your lover and slave. I am beautiful. I will serve you well!” She called out in English, for she knew no Gorean, but there could be little misinterpretation of her intent or of the desperate. piteous nature of her entreaties. “Buy me! Buy me!” she begged.
“I am even more beautiful!” cried the other suddenly. “Buy me instead!”
I saw men gathering about them. The girls redoubled their piteous efforts to please. “Buy me, Master!” cried one. “Buy me, kind masters!” cried the other. They sought the eyes of men in the crowd. I could see they now, though they were barbarian, excited interest. Some men like a barbarian girl. And if a girl is not fully broken to the collar, one can always teach her. There is always the whip.
“How much do you want for them?” asked a man.
“They are not cheap,” said the slaver’s man.
I smiled to myself and left the area of the platform. They would soon be sold.
I pressed through the crowds.
The sales in the pavillion would already have begun. “Buy these girls! Buy these girls!” I heard, as I made my way between the platforms toward the pavilion. “Buy me, Master!” called a girl, with long dark hair, naked, lying on her side on one of the darkly varnished platforms, her body hail covered with chains bound about her.
“A tarsk bit to enter, Master,” said a slaver’s man at the entrance to the pavilion.
I handed him a tarsk bit from my pouch, and pushed through the canvas.
My nostrils flared, my blood moved now faster in my veins. There is something charged and exhilarating about a slave market, the color, the movement, the excitement of the crowds, the bidding, the intensity, the lovely women being sold.
“Four copper tarsks!” was a bid called from the floor.
The girl stood on the block, her right side to the bidders. Her hands were behind her head, and her body was arched back. Her left leg was behind her, her right leg, flexed, thrust forth.
“Six!” was another bid.
She then faced the bidders, half crouched, her hands at her head, throwing her hair forward over her face. She regarded them angrily, sullenly, through her hair. Yet there was in her eyes a sultry need recognized by Gorean buyers. Taken home, she would soon become a satisfactory, hot slave, piteous and eager at her master’s feet. She was directed by the auctioneer, responding to his voice commands and the light, deft, guiding touches of his whip.
I moved through the crowds, to get somewhat closer to the block. The girl was sold for fifteen copper tarsks to a metal worker from Tor.
I looked about in the crowd.
The next girl was a willowy blond Earth girl. She was sent to the block in what are regarded as the odd undergarments of Earth females. Both the upper undergarment and the lower were white. Her hands were braceleted behind her and the auctioneer, his whip in his belt, controlled her by the hair. She was hysterical. Her brassiere was first removed, then the panties. The latter garment, by Goreans, is regarded as a peculiarly strange one. It, silken and brier, is obviously a slave’s garment, but it is closed at the bottom. It would take a man an extra moment to rape such a slave.
She was sold for four copper tarsks. I did not see who bought her. I think it was a locksmith from Ti.
I bought a slice of rolled meat, filled with sauce, in a waxed paper, from a vendor.
It was then that I saw him. Our eyes met. He turned white. Immediately, flinging aside the food, I began to thrust through the crowd toward him. He turned and, squirming and thrusting, fought his way toward the side of the tent.
I knew him now. He was the fellow whose back I had seen in the restaurant, from a distance. I had not been able to place at that time his identity. He no longer now wore the brown and black common to professional sleen trainers. He wore, as I, merchant robes.
I did not speak, or call out to him. Rather I pursued him. He looked back once and then, thrusting men aside, fought his way to the tent’s side.
I pursued him who had called himself Bertram of Lydius, he who had, in my house, set a sleen upon me.
I wanted his throat in my hands.
When I thrust through the cut side of the tent, where he had slashed it open, he was not in sight.
I cursed and struck my fist upon my thigh. He was gone.
Behind me, from the tent, I heard the calls and the bid-big. Another girl was on the block.
I looked out over the crowds. Thousands were at the fair of the Sardar.
My chances of finding one man in that crowd, and one who knew I searched for him, would be negligible. I looked angrily about. Behind me two men slipped into the tent, through the cut canvas. I no longer wished to attend the market. I turned away from the tent and, angrily, no clear destination in mind, mingled with the crowds. In time I found myself near the palisade ringing the Sardar mountains. I climbed one of the high platforms there. From these platforms one may look upon the Sardar. I stood alone on the platform, and gazed at the snow-capped mountains, glistening under the mingled light of the three white moons. From the platform, too, I could see the fair, with its lights and fires, and tents and shelters, and the amphitheater in the distance, where Scormus of Ar and gentle Centius of Cos would meet tomorrow on the opposite sides of a small board marked with red and yellow squares. The district of the fair covered several square pasangs. It was very beautiful at night.
I descended the stairs of the platform and turned my steps toward the public tent where I had, earlier in the morning, reserved a lodging for myself.
I lay thinking in the furs, my hands behind my head, looking up at the ceiling of the tent above me. There was little light in the tent, for it was late. It was difficult for me to sleep.
More than a thousand men slept in this great tent.
The ceiling of the tent above me billowed slightly, responsive to a gentle wind from the east.
There were small lamps hung here and there in the tent. They hung on tiny chains. These chains were suspended from metal projections on certain of the tent poles.
I turned to my side, to watch her approach.
She moved carefully through the furs.
She knelt beside me.
A string was knotted about her waist. Over this string, in the front, there was thrust a single, simple narrow rectangle of vulgar, white rep-cloth, some six inches in width, some twelve inches in length.
She wore on her throat a high, gold collar, with, in front, a large golden loop, some two inches in width. Threaded through this loop loose, was a golden chain. This chain terminated, at each end, with high, golden slave bracelets. When the girl stands her hands may fall naturally at her sides, each in its bracelet, each bracelet attached to the same chain, which passes through the collar loop.
It is a very beautiful way of chaining a girl.
“Master,” she whispered.
“I remember you,” I said. She had been the slave who had followed me earlier in the day, who had bitten at my sleeve near the puppet theater, whom I had saved from a beating by the guardsmen under the aegis of the officer of the fair’s merchant staff. She had begged me to take pity on her needs. I had not done so, of course. She might have been under the discipline of deprivation. Too, there had seemed no point in perhaps doing her master dishonor. I did not even know him. I had told her, after I had had her kneel and kiss my feet, to run to her master, and crawl to him on her belly and beg his touch. “Yes, Master,” she had said, and she had then leaped to her feet, frightened, and sped away.
“I did not know you were a slave in the public tents,” I said to her.
“Yes, Master,” she said, putting her head down. “I am a tent slave here.”
“Why did you not tell me?” I asked.
“Is a girl to be permitted no pride?” she asked.
“No,” I told her.
“Yes, Master,” she said.
“Would it have made any difference?” she asked.
“No,” I said.
“I thought not,” she said.
“When you ran to your master,” I asked, “as I commanded you, and crawled to him on your belly and begged his touch, what did he do?”
“He kicked me from his feet, and gave me over to a servant for switching,” she said.
“Excellent,” I said.
She looked down.
“Doubtless, by now,” I said, “you have been much pleasured in these furs.”
“There are other tent slaves here,” she said, “many more beautiful than I, and men come late to the furs, tired and drunk. It is hard for us to compete with the beauties, of the paga tents.”
“I see,” I said.
There were tears in her eyes. She reached forth her right hand, timidly, to touch my thigh. This caused the chain to slip a bit through the collar loop.
“Take pity on a slave, Master,” she said.
I looked at her.
She backed away a bit and then, on her belly, crawled to me. She timidly pulled back the furs and pressed her lips to my thigh. Her lips were soft and wet. She looked up at me, tears in her eyes. “I crawl to my master on my belly,” she said, “and beg for his touch.”
I, a guest in the tent, now stood to her, of course, as master. Such girls come with the price of the lodging.
“Please, Master,” she wept, “take pity on me. Take pity on the miserable needs of a girl.”
I threw off the furs, and motioned her to my arms. She crept into them, sobbing.
“You are kind, Master,” she said.
“Do you think so?” I asked.
She looked at me, frightened.
I drew her right hand away from her body, until the slave bracelet on her left wrist was against the golden collar loop. I then doubled the chain and formed from it a slip loop, which I dropped over her head. I jerked it tight. Her wrists now, both, were held at the collar loop. She looked up at me, frightened. I put her on her back, in the cradle of my left arm. She moved her small wrists in the cuffs; she tried to move her hands; they were held, confined, at the golden loop. I then pulled away the rectangle of rep-cloth she wore and wadded it and thrust it in her mouth. She looked at me, frightened. Then I began to touch her.
4. I Reward Two Messengers, Who Have Rendered Good Service
“Will he use the Two Tarnsmen opening?” asked a man.
“I wager,” said another, “he will use the Physician’s Gambit.”
“That would permit the Turian Defense,” said another.
I felt good. I had had a splendid night’s rest. I had had an excellent breakfast.
The slave I had used had been helpless and spasmodically superb. She had not been permitted to use her hands; they had been chained; her bit of a garment had been thrust in her mouth; she could not cry out; she must endure in helpless squirming silence, as a slave girl, what sensations I chose to inflict upon her body. I was pleased; I had put her through pleasures which would have made a Ubara beg for the collar. I do not think she slept all night. In the morning, red-eyed, lying at my thigh, she had piteously begged that I buy her.
The morning was cool and the air was bright and clear. It would be a good day for the match.
I had arranged to have the pretty little slave lashed and then sent to Port Kar. I think she was a good buy. She cost me only a quarter of a silver tarsk.
“On whom do you wager?” asked a man.
“On Scormus of Ar,” I responded.
“I, too,” he said.
I was no longer as angry as I had been that the man I had seen last night in the pavilion had escaped me. I did not expect to see him again. If I did, that would be time enough to conduct him beyond the fair’s perimeter and kill him.
I was restless and eager for the gates of the amphitheater to open. Already, even in Port Kar, I had reserved a seat for the match. It had cost me two golden tarns.
I found myself in the vicinity of the palisade. Initiates moved about, and many others. They performed ceremonies and sacrifices. In one place a white, bosk heifer was being slaughtered. Incense was being burned and bells were being rung; there was singing and chanting.
Then I was among the high platforms near the palisade.
Tied by the neck to the foot of a post, one of several supporting one of the long, high platforms near the palisade. kneeling, naked, their hands tied behind them, were two slave girls. They looked at me in terror. They had spent their first night in a man’s power. Their thighs were bloodied; the dark-haired girl’s arm was bruised. The red hunters are not gentle with their animals.
I climbed the stairs to the platform. I would look upon the Sardar in the morning light. At this time, particularly in the spring, the sun sparkling on the snow-strewn peaks, the mountains can be quite beautiful.
I attained the height of the platform and found the view breath-taking, even more splendid than I had hoped. I stood there very quietly in the cool, sunlit morning air. It was very beautiful.
Near me, on the platform, stood the red hunter. He, too, it seemed, was struck to silence and awe.
Then, standing on the platform, he lifted his bare arms to the mountains.
“Let the herd come,” he said. He had spoken in Gorean. Then he reached into a fur sack at his feet and, gently, took forth a representation of the northern tabuk, carved in blue stone. I had no idea how long it took to make such a carving. It would take many nights in the light of the sloping, oval lamps.
He put the tiny tabuk on the boards at his feet, and then again lifted his arms to the mountains. “Let the herd come,” he said. “I give you this tabuk,” he said. “It was mine, and it is now yours. Give us now the herd which is ours.”
Then he lowered his arms and reached down and closed the sack. He left the platform.
There were other individuals, too, on the long platform. Each, I supposed, had their petition to make to Priest-Kings. I looked at the tiny tabuk left behind on the boards. It looked toward the Sardar.
Below, the red hunter freed the kneeling, tethered girls of the post. They stood. He kept them neck-linked by the rawhide rope. Their hands remained bound behind them. He then made his way from the foot of the platform. I remembered that one of the Earth girls had been rich, the dark-haired girl; the other, the blond, I supposed had been middle class, perhaps upper middle class; I did not know; at any rate, whatever they might have been, that was now behind them, a world away; social distinctions no longer divided them; social distinctions, like their clothing, had been taken away; they were now the same, identical; both, whatever they might once have been, were now only naked slaves. They followed the red hunter, their master.
I looked at the amphitheater. I could see it easily from the height of the platform.
I saw that now the Kaissa flag, with its red and yellow squares, flew from a lance on the amphitheater’s rim. Flanking it, on either side, were the standards of Cos and Ar. That of Ar was on the right, for Scormus had won yellow in the draw; it had been his hand which, under the scarlet cloth, had closed upon the tiny, wooden, yellow spearman in the helmet, the possession of which determined the first move and, with it, the choice of opening.
I would win a hundred golden tarns.
The amphitheater was now open. I hurried down the stairs of the platform.
There was a great cheer in the amphitheater and men stood upon the tiers, waving their caps and shouting.
“Scormus of Ar!” they shouted. “Scormus of Ar!”
I could hear the anthem of Ar being sung now.
It was hard to see.
“He is here!” cried a man next to me.
I climbed on the tier and stood. I could now see, in the robes of the players, Scormus of Ar, the fiery, young champion of Ar. He was with a party of the men of Ar. The table with the board was set in the center of the stage, at the foot of the huge, sloping, semicircular amphitheater. It seemed small and far away.
Scormus lifted his hands to the crowd, the sleeves of his robe falling back over his arms.
He wore a cape, which was removed from him by two other players of Ar.
He threw his cap into the crowd. Men fought wildly to possess it.
He lifted again his arms to the crowd.
There was then another cheer, for Centius of Cos, with the party of Cos, had emerged upon the stage. I heard now the anthem of Cos being sung.
Centius of Cos walked to the edge of the stone stage, some five feet above the pit, and lifted his hand to the crowd. He smiled.
The amphitheater, of course, is used for more than Kaissa. It is also used for such things as the readings of poets, the presentations of choral arrangements, the staging of pageants and the performances of song dramas. Indeed, generally the great amphitheater is not used for Kaissa, and the Sardar matches are played in shallow fields, before lengthy sloping tiers, set into the sides of small hills, many matches being conducted simultaneously, a large vertical board behind each table serving to record the movements of the pieces and correspond to the current position. The movements of the pieces are chalked on the left side of the board, in order; the main portion of the board consists of a representation of the Kaissa board and young players, in apprenticeship to masters, move pieces upon it; one has thus before oneself both a record of the moves made to that point and a graphic representation of the current state of the game. The movements are chalked, too, incidentally, by the young players. The official scoring is kept by a team of three officials, at least one of which must be of the caste of players. These men sit at a table near the table of play. Games are adjudicated, when capture of Home Stone does not occur, by a team of five judges, each of which must be a member of the caste of players, and three of which must play at the level of master.
“Scormus of Ar will destroy him,” said a man.
“Yes,” said another.
Behind the table of play on the stage, and a bit to the right, was the table for those who would score. There was a man there from Ar, and one from Cos, and a player from Turia, Timor, a corpulent fellow supposed to be of indisputable integrity and one thought, at any rate, to be of a city far enough removed from the problems of Cos and Ar to be impartial. Also, of course, there were hundreds of men in the tiers who would simultaneously, unofficially, be recording the match. There was little danger of a move being incorrectly recorded. An official in such a situation insane enough to attempt to tamper with the record of the moves would be likely to be torn to pieces. Goreans take their Kaissa seriously.
I saw now upon the stage Reginald of Ti, who was the elected administrator of the caste of players. A fellow with him carried the sand clocks. These clocks are arranged in such a way that each has a tiny spigot which may be opened and closed, this determining whether sand falls or not. These spigots are linked in such a way that when one is open the other must be closed; the spigot turned by a given player closes his own clock’s sand passage and opens that of his opponent; when the clocks must both be stopped, as for an adjournment of play, they are placed on their side by the chief judge in the match, in this case Reginald of Ti. There are two Ahn of sand in each player’s clock. Each player must complete forty moves before his clock is empty of sand, under penalty of forfeit. The clocks improve tournament play which otherwise could become contests not of Kaissa but of patience, the victory perhaps going to him who was most willing to outsit his opponent There was a movement among some of the younger players to divide the sand in such a way that each player would have one Ahn for the first twenty moves, and one Ahn for the second twenty moves, subject to the same forfeiture conditions as the two-Ahn clock. The point of this, I was told, would be to improve Kaissa in the second Ahn. It was true that many times even masters found themselves in time pressure in the second Ahn, having perhaps only a few Elm sand left for eight or ten moves. On the other hand, there seemed little likelihood of this Innovation being accepted. Tradition was against it, of course. Also, it was felt preferable by many for a player to be able to decide for himself, under the conditions of a given game, the duration of his speculations on a given move. He is thought by many better able to govern his own play when there is only a single time pressure to be considered, that of the full two Ahn, I rather agree with the latter view. There are precision chronometers on Gor, incidentally, and a more mechanical method of time control is technically feasible. The sand clocks, on the other hand, tend to be a matter of tournament tradition.
Centius of Cos tossed his cap into the crowd and men, too, fought to possess it.
He lifted his arms to the crowd. He seemed in a good mood.
He walked across the stage, in front of the table of play, to greet Scormus of Ar. He extended his hand to him in the comraderie of players. Scormus of Ar, however, angrily turned away.
Centius of Cos did not seem disturbed at this rebuff and turned about again and, lifting his hands again to the crowd, returned to the side of the stage where his party stood.
Scormus of Ar paced angrily on the stage. He wiped the palms of his hands on his robe.
He would not look upon, nor touch, Centius of Cos in friendship. Such a simple gesture might weaken his intensity, the height of his hatreds, his readiness to do battle. His brilliance, his competitive edge, must be at its peak. Scormus of Ar reminded me of men of the caste of Assassins, as they sometimes are, before they begin their hunt. The edge must be sharp, the resolve must be merciless, the instinct to kill must in no way be blunted.
The two men then approached the table.
Behind them, more than forty feet high, and fifty feet wide, was a great vertical board. On this board, dominating It, there was a giant representation of a Kaissa board. On it, on their pegs, hung the pieces in their initial positions. On this board those in the audience would follow the game. To the left of the board were two columns, vertical, one for yellow, one for red, where the moves, as they took place, would be recorded. There were similar boards, though smaller, at various places about the fair, where men who could not afford the fee to enter the amphitheater might stand and watch the progress of play. Messengers at the back of the amphitheater, coming and going, delivered the moves to these various boards.
A great hush fell over the crowd.
We sat down.
The judge, Reginald of Ti, four others of the caste of players behind him, had finished speaking to Scormus and Centius, and the scorers.
There was not a sound in that great amphitheater.
Centius of. Cos and Scormus of Ar took their places at the table.
The stillness, for so large a crowd, was almost frightening.
I saw Scormus of Ar incline his head briefly. Reginald of Ti turned the spigot on the clock of Centius of Cos, which opened the sand passage in the clock of Scormus.
The hand of Scormus reached forth. It did not hesitate. The move was made. He then turned the spigot on his clock, ceasing its flow of sand, beginning that in the clock of Centius.
The move, of course, was Ubara’s Spearman to Ubara five.
There was a cheer from the crowd.
“The Ubara’s Gambit!” called a man near me.
We watched the large, yellow plaque, representing the Ubara’s Spearman, hung on its peg at Ubara five. Two young men, apprentices in the caste of players, on scaffolding, placed the plaque. Another young man, also apprenticed in the caste of players, recorded this move, in red chalk, at the left of the board. Hundreds of men in the audience also recorded the move on their own score sheets. Some men had small peg boards with them, on which they would follow the game. On these boards they could, of course, consider variations and possible continuations.
It was indeed, I suspected, that opening. It is one of the most wicked and merciless in the repertoire of the game. It is often played by tournament masters. Indeed, it is the most common single opening used among masters. It is difficult to meet and in many of its lines has no clear refutation; it may be played accepted or declined; it would be red’s hope not to refute but to neutralize in the middle game; if red could manage to achieve equality by the twentieth move he might account himself successful. Scormus of Ar, though almost universally a versatile and brilliant player, was particularly masterful in this opening; he had used it for victory in the Turian tournaments of the ninth year of the Ubarate of Phanias Turmus; in the open tournaments of Anango, Helmutsport, Tharna, Tyros and Ko-ro-ba, all played within the past five years; in the winter tournament of the last Sardar Fair and in the city championship of Ar, played some six weeks ago. In Ar, when Scormus had achieved capture of Home Stone, Marlenus himself, Ubar of the city, had showered gold upon the board. Some regarded winning the city championship of Ar as tantamount to victory at the Fair of En’Kara. It is, in the eyes of many followers of Kaissa, easily the second most coveted crown in the game. Centius of Cos, of course, would also be a master of the Ubara’s Gambit. Indeed, he was so well versed in the gambit, from both the perspective of yellow and red, that he would doubtless play now for a draw. I did not think he would be successful. He sat across the board from Scormus of Ar. Most players of the master level, incidentally, know this opening several moves into the game in more than a hundred variations.
“Why does Centius not move?” asked the man next to me.
“I do not know,” I said.
“Perhaps he is considering resigning,” said a fellow some two places down the tier.
“Some thought Scormus would use the Two Tarnsmen Opening,” said another fellow.
“He might have,” said another, “with a lesser player.”
“He is taking no chances,” said another man.
I rather agreed with these thoughts. Scormus of Ar, no irrational fool, knew he played a fine master, one of the seven or eight top-rated players on the planet. Centius of Cos, doubtless, was past his prime. His games, in recent years, had seemed less battles, less cruel, exact duels, than obscure attempts to achieve something on the Kaissa board which even many members of the caste of players did not profess to understand. Indeed, there were even higher rated players on Gor than Centius of Cos, but, somehow, it had seemed that it was he whom Scormus of Ar must meet to establish his supremacy in the game. Many regarded Centius of Cos, in spite of his victories or defeats or draws, as the finest player of Kaissa of all time. It was the luminosity of his reputation which had seemed to make the grandeur of Scormus less glorious. “I shall destroy him,” had said Scormus. But he would play him with care. That he had chosen the Ubara’s Gambit indicated the respect in which he held Centius of Cos and the seriousness with which he approached the match.
Scormus would play like an Assassin. He would be merciless, and he would take no chances.
Centius of Cos was looking at the board. He seemed bemused, as though he were thinking of something, something perhaps oddly irrelevant to the game at hand. His right hand had lifted, and poised itself over his own Ubara’s Spearman, but then he had withdrawn his hand.
“Why does he not move?” asked a man.
Centius of Cos looked at the board.
The correct response, of course, whether the Ubara’s Gambit be accepted or declined, is to bring one’s own Ubara’s Spearman to Ubara five. This will contest the center and prohibit the advance of the opposing spearman. Yellow’s next move, of course, is to advance the Ubara’s Tarnsman’s Spearman to Ubara’s Tarnsman’s five, attacking red’s defending spearman. Red then elects to accept or decline the gambit, accepting by capturing the Ubara’s Tarnsman’s spearman, but surrendering the center in doing so, or declining the gambit, by defending his spearman, and thus constricting his position. The gambit is playable both ways, but not with the hope of retaining the captured spearman for a material advantage. We wished Centius to move the Ubara’s Spearman to Ubara five, so that Scormus might play the Ubara’s Tarnsman’s Spear-man to Ubara’s Tarnsman’s five. We were then eager to see if Centius would play the gambit accepted or declined.
“Does he not know his clock is open?” asked a man.
It did seem strange that Centius did not move swiftly at this point in the game. He might need this time later, when in the middle game he was defending himself against the onslaughts and combinations of Scormus or in the end game, where the contest’s outcome might well hang upon a single, subtle, delicate move on a board almost freed of pieces.
The sand flowed from the clock of Centius.
Had the hand of Centius touched his Ubara’s Spearman be would have been committed to moving it. Too, it might be mentioned, if he should place a piece on a given square and remove his hand from the piece, the piece must remain where it was placed, subject, of course, to the consideration that the placement constitutes a legal move.
But Centius of Cos had not touched the Ubara’s Spearman.
No scorer or judge had contested that.
He looked at the board for a time, and then, not looking at Scormus of Ar, moved a piece.
I saw one of the scorers rise to his feet. Scormus of Ar looked at Centius of Cos. The two young men who had already picked up the Ubara’s Spearman’s plaque seemed confused. Then they put it aside.
Centius of Cos turned the spigot on his clock, opening the clock of Scormus.
We saw, on the great board, the placement not of the Ubara’s Spearman at Ubara five, but of the Ubar’s Spearman at Ubar five.
It was now subject to capture by yellow’s Ubara’s Spearman.
There was a stunned silence in the crowd.
“Would he play the Center Defense against one such as Scormus?” asked a man.
That seemed incredible. A child could crush the Center Defense. Its weaknesses had been well understood for centuries.
The purpose of the Center Defense is to draw the yellow Spearman front the center. Yellow, of course, may ignore the attack, and simply thrust deeper into red territory. On the other hand, yellow commonly strikes obliquely, capturing the red spearman. Red then recaptures with his Ubar. Unfortunately for red, however, the Ubar, a quite valuable piece, rated at nine points, like the Ubara, has been too early centralized. Yellow simply advances the Ubara’s Rider of the High Thalarion. This exposes the advanced Ubar to the immediate attack of the Initiate at Initiate one. The Ubar must then retreat, losing time. Yellow’s Initiate, of course, has now been developed. The move by the capturing yellow spearman, too, of course, has already, besides capturing the red spearman, developed the yellow Ubara.
The Center Defense is certainly not to be generally recommended.
Still, Centius of Cos was playing it.
I found this intriguing. Sometimes masters develop new variations of old, neglected openings. Old mines are sometimes not deficient in concealed gold. At the least the opponent is less likely to be familiar with these supposedly obsolete, refutable beginnings. Their occasional employment, incidentally, freshens the game. Too often master-level Kaissa becomes overly routine, almost automatic, particularly in the first twenty moves. This is the result, of course, pf the incredible amount of analysis to which the openings have been subjected. Some games, in a sense, do not begin until the twentieth move.
I looked at the great board.
Scormus, as I would have expected, captured the red spearman.
Some of the most brilliant games on record, incidentally, have been spun forth from openings now often regarded as weak or anachronistic.
The Center Defense seemed an implausible candidate however from which to project a brilliancy, unless perhaps the brilliancy might involve some swift and devastating exploitation of red’s temerity by yellow.
Still Centius of Cos seemed prepared to meet Scormus with the Center Defense.
The crowd was quite restless.
But Centius of Cos did not play to retake with the Ubar.
The crowd watched, stunned.
Centius of Cos had moved his Ubar’s Tarnsman’s Spearman to Ubar’s Tarnsman four.
It was undefended.
The Center Defense was not being played. Men looked at one another. Centius of Cos had already lost a piece, a spearman. One does not give pieces to a Scormus of Ar.
Most masters, down a spearman to Scormus of Ar, would tip their Ubar.
But another spearman now stood en prise, vulnerably subject to capture by the threatening, advancing spearman of yellow.
“Spearman takes Spearman,” said a man next to me. I, too, could see the great board.
Red was now two spearmen down.
Red would now advance his Ubar’s Rider of the High Tharlarion, to develop his Ubar’s Initiate and, simultaneously, expose the yellow spearman to the Initiate’s attack.
“No! No!” cried a merchant of Cos.
Instead Centius of Cos had advanced his Ubar’s Scribe’s Spearman to Ubar’s Scribe three.
Another piece now stood helplessly en prise.
I grew cold with fury, though I stood to win a hundred golden tarns.
Scormus of Ar looked upon Centius of Cos with contempt He looked, too, to the scorers and judges. They looked away, not meeting his eyes. The party of Cos left the stage.
I wondered how much gold Centius of Cos had taken that he would so betray Kaissa and the island of his birth. He could have done what he did more subtly, a delicate, pretended miscalculation somewhere between the fortieth and fiftieth move, a pretended misjudgment so subtle that even members of the caste of players would never be certain whether or not it was deliberate, but he had not chosen to do so. He had chosen to make his treachery to the game and Cos explicit.
Scormus of Ar rose to his feet and went to the table of the scorers and judges. They conversed with him, angrily. Scormus then went to the party of Ar. One of them, a captain. went to the scorers and judges. I saw Reginald of Ti, high judge, shaking his head.
“They are asking for the award of the game,” said the man next to me.
“Yes,” I said. I did not blame Scormus of Ar for not wishing to participate in this farce.
Centius of Cos sat still, unperturbed, looking at the board. He set the clocks on their side, that the sand would not be draining from the clock of Scormus.
The party of Ar, and Scormus, I gathered, had lost their petition to the judges.
Scormus returned to his place.
Reginald of Ti, high judge, righted the docks. The hand of Scormus moved.
“Spearman takes Spearman,” said the man next to me. Centius of Cos had now lost three spearmen.
He must now, at last, take the advancing yellow spearman, so deep in his territory, with his Ubar’s Rider of the High Tharlarion. If he did not take with the Rider of the High Tharlarion at this point it, too, would be lost.
Centius of Cos moved his Ubara to Ubar’s Scribe four. Did he not know his Rider of the High Tharlarion was en prise!
Was he a child who had never played Kaissa? Did he not know how the pieces moved?
No, the explanation was much more simple. He had chosen to make his treachery to Kaissa and the island of Cos explicit. I thought perhaps he was insane. Did he not know the nature of the men of Gor?
“Kill Centius of Cos!” I heard cry. “Kill him! Kill him!”
Guardsmen at the stage’s edge, with shields, buffeted back a man who, with drawn knife, had tried to climb to the level where sat the table of the game.
Centius of Cos seemed not to notice the man who had been struck back from the edge of the stage. He seemed not to note the angry cries from the crowd, the menace, of its gathering rage. I saw many men rising to their feet. Several raised their fists.
“I call for a cancellation of all wagers!” cried a man from Cos. He had, I assumed, bet upon the champion of Cos. It would indeed be a sorry way in which to lose one’s money. Several men had bet fortunes on the match. There were few in the audience who had not put something on one or the other of the two players.
But among the angriest of the crowd, interestingly, were hot-headed men of Ar itself. They felt they would be cheated of the victory were it so fraudulently surrendered to them.
I wondered who had bought the honor of Centius of Cos, to whom he had sold his integrity.
“Kill Centius of Cos!” I heard.
I did not think my hundred tarns were in danger, for it would be madness on the part of the odds merchants to repudiate the documented bargainings they had arranged. I did think, however, that I would not much relish my winnings.
Guardsmen, with spear butts and cruel shield rims, forced back two more men from the stage’s edge.
Scormus of Ar moved a piece.
“Spearman takes Rider of the High Tharlarion,” said the man next to me, bitterly.
I saw this on the great board. Yellow’s pieces, as they are arranged, begin from their placements at the lower edge of the great board, red’s pieces from their placement at its upper edge.
Centius of Cos had now lost four pieces, without a single retaliatory or compensating capture. He was four pieces down, three spearmen and a Rider of the High Tharlarion. His minor pieces on the Ubar’s side had almost been wiped out. I noted, however, that he had not lost a major piece. The response of Centius of Cos to the loss of his Rider of the High Tharlarion was to retake with his Ubar’s Initiate.
There was a sigh of satisfaction, of relief from the crowd. Centius of Cos had at least seen this elementary move. There were derisive comments in the audience, commending this bit of expertise on his part.
This move, of course, developed the Ubar’s Initiate. J also noted, as I had not noted before, that red’s Ubar’s Scribe was developed. This was the result of the earlier advance of red’s Ubar’s Tarnsman’s Spearman. The Ubara, of course, as I have mentioned, had been developed to Ubar’s Scribe four. The Ubar, too, I suddenly realized, stood on an open file. I suddenly realized that red had developed four major pieces.
Scormus, on his sixth move, advanced his Ubar’s Spearman to Ubar four. Ubar five would have been impractical because at that point the spearman would have been subjected to the attack of red’s Ubara and Ubar. Scormus now had a spear-man again in the center. He would support this spearman, consolidate the center and then begin a massive attack on red’s weakened Ubar’s side. Scormus would place his Home Stone, of course, on the Ubara’s side, probably at Builder one. This would free his Ubar’s side’s pieces for the attack on red’s Ubar’s side.
Centius of Cos then, on his sixth move, placed his Ubar at Ubar four. This seemed too short a thrust for an attack. It did, however, place his Ubar on the same rank with the Ubara, where they might defend one another. The move seemed a bit timid to me. Too, it seemed excessively defensive. I supposed, however, in playing with a Scormus of Ar, one could not be blamed for undertaking careful defensive measures.
On his seventh move Scormus advanced his Ubar’s Tarnsman’s Spearman to Ubar’s Tarnsman five. At this point it was protected by the spearman at Ubar four, and could soon, in league with other pieces, begin the inexorable attack down the file of the Ubar’s Tarnsman.
Scormus of Ar was mounting his attack with care. It would be exact and relentless.
I suddenly realized that yellow had not yet placed his Home Stone.
The oddity in the game now struck me.
No major piece had yet been moved by yellow, not an Initiate, nor a Builder, nor a Scribe, nor a Tarnsman, nor the Ubar nor Ubara. Each of these major pieces remained in its original location. Not one piece had yet been moved by yellow from the row of the Home Stone.
I began to sweat.
I watched the great board. It was as I had feared. On his seventh move Centius of Cos advanced his Rider of the High Tharlarion to Ubara’s Builder three. This would prepare for Builder to Builder two, and, on the third move, for placement of Home Stone at Builder one.
The crowd was suddenly quiet. They, too, realized what I had just realized.
Anxiously we studied the board.
If Scormus wished to place his Home Stone at either Ubar’s Builder one or Ubara’s Builder one, it would take three moves to do so. It would also take three moves if he wished to place it at Ubar’s Initiate one, or at Ubara’s Scribe one, Ubara’s Builder one or Ubara’s Initiate one. He could place the Home Stone, of course, in two moves, if he would place it at Ubar’s Tarnsman one, or Ubar’s Scribe one, or Ubar one, or Ubara one, or Ubara’s Tarnsman one. But these placements permitted within two moves left the Home Stone too centralized, too exposed and vulnerable. They were not wise Placements.
Already, though he had red. Centius of Cos was moving to place his Home Stone.
Now, on his eighth move, Scormus of Ar angrily advanced his Rider of the High Tharlarion to Builder three. His attack must be momentarily postponed.
On his own eighth move Centius of Cos advanced his Ubara’s Builder to Builder two, to clear Builder one for placement of Home Stone.
On his ninth move Scormus of Ar, following suit, advanced his Ubara’s Builder to Builder two, to open Builder one for the positioning of the Home Stone on the tenth move.
We watched the great board.
Centius of Cos placed his Home Stone at his Ubara’s Builder one. He had done this on his ninth move. It needed not be done before the tenth move. His tenth move was now free, to spend as he would.
Scormus of Ar, on his tenth move, inexplicably to many in the crowd, though he possessed yellow, a move behind, placed his Home Stone at Builder one.
The two Home stones, at their respective locations, faced one another, each shielded by its several defending pieces, Scribe and Initiate, one of the central spearmen, a flanking spearman, a Builder, a Physician, and a Rider of the High Tharlarion.
Scormus might now renew his attack.
“No,” I cried suddenly. “No, look!”
I rose to my feet. There were tears in my eyes. “Look!” I wept. “Look!”
The man next to me saw it, too, and then another, and another.
Men of Cos seized one another, embracing. Even men of Ar cried out with joy.
Red’s Ubar’s Initiate controlled the Ubar’s Initiate’s Diagonal; the red Ubara controlled the Ubar’s Physician’s Diagonal; the red Ubar controlled the Ubar’s Builder’s Diagonal; the Ubar’s Scribe controlled the Ubar’s Scribe’s Diagonal. Red controlled not one but four adjacent diagonals, unobstructed diagonals, each bearing on the citadel of yellow’s Home Stone; the red Ubara threatened the Ubara’s Scribe’s Spearman at Ubara’s Scribe two; the Initiate threatened the Ubara’s Builder at Builder two, positioned directly before yellow’s Home Stone; the Ubar threatened the Rider of the High Tharlarion at Builder three; the Scribe threatened the Ubara’s Flanking Spearman at Ubara’s Initiate three. I had never seen such power amassed so subtly in Kaissa. The attack, of course, was not on the Ubar’s side but on the side of the Ubara, where Scormus had placed his Home Stone. Moves which had appeared to weaken red’s position had served actually to produce an incredible lead in development; moves which had appeared meaningless or defensive had actually been deeply insidious; the timorous feint to the Ubar’s side by red with the Ubara and Ubar had, in actuality, prepared a trap in which Scormus had little choice but to place his Home Stone.
On his tenth move Centius of Cos moved his Rider of the High Tharlarion, which had been at Builder three, obliquely to Builder four. This opened the file of the Builder. The power of this major piece now, in conjunction with the might of the Ubar, focused on yellow’s Rider of the High Tharlarion. The attack had begun.
I shall not describe the following moves in detail. There were eleven of them.
On what would have been his twenty-second move Scormus of Ar, saying nothing, rose to his feet. He stood beside the board, and then, with one finger, delicately, tipped his Ubar. He set the clocks on their side, stopping the flow of sand, turned, and left the stage.
For a moment the crowd was silent, stunned, and then pandemonium broke out. Men leaped upon one another; cushions and caps flew into the air. The bowl of the amphitheater rocked with sound. I could scarcely hear myself shouting. Two men fell from the tier behind me. I scrambled onto my tier, straining to see the stage. I was buffeted to one side and then the other.
One of the men of the party of Cos which had now returned to the stage stood on the table of the game, the yellow Home Stone in his grasp. He lifted it to the crowd. Men began to swarm upon the stage. The guards could no longer restrain them. I saw Centius of Cos lifted to the shoulders of men. He lifted his arms to the crowd, the sleeves of the player’s robes falling back on his shoulders. Standards and pennons of Cos appeared as if from nowhere. On the height of the rim of the amphitheater a man was lifting the standard of Cos, waving it to the crowds in the fields and streets below.
The stage was a melee of jubilant partisans.
I could not even hear the shouting of the thousands outside the amphitheater. It would later be said the Sardar itself shook with sound.
“Cos! Cos! Cos!” I heard, like a great drumming, like thunderous waves breaking on stone shores.
I struggled to keep my place on the tier.
Pieces were being torn away from the great board. One sleeve of the robe of Centius of Cos had been torn away from his arm.
He waved to the crowds.
“Centius! Centius! Centius!” I heard. Soldiers of Cos lifted spears again and again. “Centius! Cos!” they cried. “Centius! Cos!”
I saw the silvered hair of Centius of Cos, unkempt now in the broiling crowd. He reached toward the man on the table who held aloft the yellow Home Stone. The man pressed it into his hands.
There was more cheering.
Reginald of Ti was attempting to quiet the crowds. Then he resigned himself to futility. The tides of emotion must take their course.
Centius of Cos held, clutched, in his hand, the yellow Home Stone. He looked about in the crowd, on the stage, as though he sought someone, but there was only the crowd, surgent and roiling in its excitement and revels.
“Cos! Centius! Cos! Centius!”
I had lost fourteen hundred tarns of gold. Yet I did not regret the loss nor did it disturb me in the least. Who would not cheerfully trade a dozen such fortunes to witness one such game.
“Centius! Cos! Centius! Cos!”
I had, in my own lifetime, seen Centius of Cos and Scormus of Ar play.
On the shoulders of men., amidst shouting and the upraised standards and pennons of Cos I saw silver-haired Centius of Cos carried from the stage.
Men were reluctant to leave the amphitheater. I made my way toward one of the exits. Behind me I could hear hundreds of men singing the anthem of Gas.
I was well pleased that I had come to the Sardar.
It was late now in the evening of that day on which Centius of Cos and Scormus of Ar had met in the great amphitheater. There seemed little that was discussed in the fair that night save the contest of the early afternoon.
“It was a flawed and cruel game,” Centius of Cos was reported as having said.
How could he speak so of the masterpiece which we had witnessed?
It was one of the brilliancies in the history of Kaissa.
“I had hoped,” had said Centius of Cos, “that together Scormus and I might have constructed something worthy of the beauty of Kaissa. But I succumbed to the temptation of victory.”
Centius of Cos, it was generally understood, was a strange fellow.
“It was the excitement, the press, the enthusiasm of the crowds,” said Centius of Cos. “I was weak. I had determined to honor Kaissa but, on the first move, I betrayed her. I saw, suddenly, in considering the board what might be done. I did it, and followed its lure. In retrospect I am saddened. I chose not Kaissa but merciless, brutal conquest. I am sad.”
But any reservations which might have troubled the reflections of the master of Cos did not disturb those of his adherents and countrymen. The night at the fair was one of joy and triumph for the victory of Cos and her allies.
His response to Ubara’s Spearman to Ubara’s Spearman five, sequential, in its continuation, was now entitled the Telnus Defense, from the city of his birth, the capital and chief port of the island of Cos. Men discussed it eagerly. It was being played in dozens of variations that very night on hundreds of boards. In the morning there would be countless analyses and annotations of the game available.
On the hill by the amphitheater where sat the tent of Centius of Cos there was much light and generous feasting. Torches abounded. Tables were strewn about and sheets thrown upon the ground. Free tarsk and roast bosk were being served, and Sa-Tarna bread and Ta wine, from the famed Ta grapes of the Cosian terraces. Only Centius of Cos, it was said, did not join in the feasting. He remained secluded in the tent studying by the light of a small lamp a given position in Kaissa, one said to have occurred more than a generation ago in a game between Ossius of Tabor, exiled from Teletus, and Philemon of Asperiche, a cloth worker.
On the hill by the amphitheater, where sat the tent of the party of Ar, there was little feasting or merriment. Scormus of Ar, it was said, was not in that tent. After the game he had left the amphitheater. He had gone to the tent. He was not there now. No one knew where he had gone. Behind him he had left a Kaissa board, its kit of pieces, and the robes of the player.
I turned my thoughts from Centius of Cos and Scormus of Ar. I must now think of returning to Port Kar.
There was little now to hold me at the fair. Overhead, with some regularity, I saw tarns streaking from the fair, many with tarn baskets slung beneath them, men and women returning to their cities. More than one caravan, too, was being harnessed. My own tarn was at a cot, where I had rented space for him.
I thought that I would leave the fair tonight. There seemed little point now in remaining at the fair.
I thought of the ship of Tersites, its high prow facing toward the world’s end. That unusual, mighty ship would soon be supplied and fitted. It could not yet see. Its eyes had not yet been painted. This must be done. It would then be ready to seek the sea and, beyond it, the world’s end.
I was troubled as I thought of the great ship. I was troubled as I thought of the world’s end. I was not confident of the design of the ship. I thought I might rather ply toward the horizon beckoning betwixt Cos and Tyros in the Dorna or the small, swift Tesephone.
Tersites, it was clear, was mad. Samos thought him, too, however, a genius.
Oddly, for there seemed no reason for it, I found myself thinking, in a mentally straying moment, of the herd of Tancred, and its mysterious failure to appear in the polar basin. I hoped the supplies I had sent north would mitigate what otherwise might prove a catastrophe for the red hunters, the nomads of the northern wastes. I recalled, too, the myth of the mountain that did not move, a great iceberg which somehow seemed to defy the winds and currents of the polar sea. Many primitive peoples have their stories and myths. I smiled to myself. It was doubtless rather the invention of a red hunter, bemused at the request of the man of Samos, months ago, for reports of anything which might prove unusual. I wondered if the wily fellow had chuckled well to himself when placing the tarsk bit in his fur pouch. Seldom would his jokes and lies prove so profitable I suspected. The foolishness of the man of Samos would make good telling around the lamp.
I was making my way toward the tarn cot where I had housed the tarn on which I had come to the fair, a brown tarn, from the mountains of Thentis, famed for its tarn flocks. My belongings I had taken there earlier, putting them in the saddlebags. I had had supper.
I was looking forward to the return to Port Kar. It is beautiful to fly alone by night over the wide fields, beneath the three moons in the black, star-studded sky. One may then be alone with one’s thoughts, and the moons, and the wind. It is beautiful, too, to so fly, with a girl one has desired, bound over one’s saddle, tied to the saddle rings, commanded to silence, her white belly arched, exposed to the moons.
I turned down the street of the rug makers.
I was not dissatisfied with my stay at the fair and I did not think my men would be either.
I smiled to myself.
In my pouch were the receipts and shipping vouchers for five slave girls, she whom I had purchased at the public tent this morning and four others, recently acquired on the platforms near the pavilion. I had had good buys on the four, as well as the first. A new shipment had come in, from which I had bought the four. I had had almost first pick of the chain beauties. The market had been slow, as I had thought it would be, and as I had hoped it would be, because of the game earlier between the Kaissa titans, Centius of Cos and Scormus of Ar. Indeed the market had been almost empty, save for the displayed wares and their merchants. The girls must wait, chained, for buyers, while men discuss Kaissa. The four I had purchased I had obtained from the platforms of Leander of Turia. His caravan had been delayed in arriving at the Sardar because of spring floods on the Cartius. None of the girls was an Earth wench. All were Gorean. Each was woman enough to survive when thrown naked and collared among men such as mine. I had had the lot for a silver tarsk, a function of the slowness of the market, a slowness which I had anticipated and on which I had been pleased to capitalize. I happily slapped the pouch at my side which contained the receipts for the fair merchandise and the shipping vouchers. My favorite I thought would be the girl I had bought from the public tent. She could not help herself but turn hot and open when a man’s hand so much as closed on her arm. What marvelous slaves women make, when men are strong.
I turned down the street of the cloth makers now. Most of the booths were closed.
I thought again of the herd of Tancred, which had not appeared in the north, and of the “mountain that did not move,” the great iceberg which seemed, somehow, independent and stable, maintaining its position, fixed and immobile, in the midst of the restless, flowing waters of the polar sea. But I dismissed consideration of the latter, for that was obviously a matter of myth. That the herd of Tancred, however, had not appeared in the north seemed to be a matter of fact, a puzzling anomaly which, in Gorean history, had not, as far as I knew, hitherto occurred.
The herd has perhaps been wiped out by a disease in the northern forests.
I hoped the supplies I had had Samos send northward would save the red hunters from extinction.
I made my way down the street of the cloth makers. There were few people in the street now.
The ship of Tersites intrigued me. I wondered if its design was sound.
“Greetings to Tarl Cabot,” had read the message on the scytale, “I await you at the world’s end. Zarendargar. War General of the People.”
“It is Half-Ear,” had said Samos, “high Kur, war general of the Kurii.”
“Half-Ear,” I thought to myself. “Half-Ear.”
Eyes must be painted on the ship of Tersites. It must sail.
It was then that I heard the scream, a man’s scream. I knew the sound for I was of the warriors. Steel, unexpectedly and deeply, had entered a human body. I ran toward the sound. I heard another cry. The assailant had struck again. I tore aside a stake on which canvas was sewn and forced my way between booths. I thrust aside boxes and another sheet of canvas and stumbled into the adjacent street. “Help!” I heard. I was then in the street of the dealers in artifacts and curios. “No!” I heard. “No!” Other men, too, were hurrying toward the sound. I saw the booth, closed, from which the sounds came. I tore aside the roped canvas which, fastened to the counter and to the upper framework of the booth, closed off the selling area. Inside, crouching over a fallen man, the merchant, was the attacker, robed in swirling black. In his hand there glinted a dagger. Light in the booth was furnished by a tiny lamp, dim, burning tharlarion oil, hung from one of the booth’s ceiling poles. The merchant’s assistant, the scribe, his face and arm bleeding, stood to one side. The attacker spun to face me. In his hand, his left, he clutched an object wrapped in fur; in his right he held the dagger, low, blade up. I stopped, crouched, cautious. He had turned the dagger in his hand as he had turned to face me. It is difficult to fend against the belly slash.
I must approach him with care.
“I did not know you were of the warriors, he who calls himself Bertram of Lydius,” I smiled. “Or is it of the assassins?”
The struck merchant, bleeding, thrust himself back from the attacker.
The attacker’s eyes moved. There were more men coming. Gorean men tend not to be patient with assailants. Seldom do they live long enough to be impaled upon the walls of a city.
The assailant’s hand, that bearing the object of his quest, some curio wrapped in fur, flashed upward, and I turned my head aside as flaming oil from the lamp splashed upon me, the lamp itself struck loose from its tiny chains and flying past my head. I rolled to one side in the sudden darkness, and then scrambled to my feet. But he had not elected to attack. I heard him at the back of the booth. I heard the dagger cutting at the canvas. He had elected flight, it seemed. I did not know this for certain, but it was a risk I must take. Darkness would be my cover. I dove at the sound, low, rolling, to be under the knife, feet first, presenting little target, kicking, feet scissoring. If I could get him off his feet I might then manage, even in the darkness, regaining my feet first, to break his diaphragm or crush his throat beneath my heel, or, with an instep kick to the back of his neck to snap loose the spinal column from the skull.
But he had not elected flight.
The cutting at the canvas, of course, had been a feint. He had shown an admirable coolness.
But I had the protection of the darkness. He, waiting to one side, leaped downward upon me, but I, twisting, squirming, proved an elusive target. The blade of the dagger cut through the side of the collar of my robes and my hand then was on his wrist.
We rolled in the darkness, fighting on the, floor of the booth. Curios on shelves fell and scattered. I heard men outside. The canvas at the front of the booth was being torn away.
We struggled to our feet, swaying.
He was strong, but I knew myself his master.
I thought him now of the assassins for the trick with the canvas was but a variant of the loosened door trick, left ajar as in flight, a lure to the unwary to plunge in his pursuit into the waiting blade.
He cried out with pain and the knife had fallen. We stumbled, locked together, grappling, to the back of the tenting, and, twisted, tangled in the rent canvas, fell to the outside. A confederate was there waiting and I felt the loop of the garrote drop about my neck. I thrust the man I held from me and spun about, the cord cutting now at the back of my neck. I saw another man, too, in the darkness. The heels of both hands drove upward and the head of the first confederate snapped back. The garrote was loose about my neck. I turned. The first man had fled, and the other with him. A peasant came about the edge of the booth. Two more men looked through the rent canvas, who had climbed over the counter. I dropped the garrote to the ground. “Don’t,” I said to the peasant. “It is already done,” he said, wiping the blade on his tunic. I think the man’s neck had been broken by the blow of my hands under his chin, but he had still been alive. His head now lay half severed, blood on the peasant’s sandals. Gorean men are not patient with such as he. “The other?” asked the peasant. “There were two,” I said. “Both are gone.” I looked into the darkness between the tents.
“Call one of the physicians,” I heard.
“One is coming,” I heard.
These voices came from within the booth.
I bent down and brushed aside the canvas, re-entering the booth. Two men with torches were now there, as well as several others. A man held the merchant in his arms.
I pulled aside his robes. The wounds were grievous, but not mortal.
I looked to the scribe. “You did not well defend your master,” I said.
I recalled he had been standing to one side when I had entered the booth.
“I tried,” said the scribe. He indicated his bleeding face, the cut on his arm. “Then I could not move. I was frightened.” Perhaps, indeed, he had been in shock. His eyes though had not suggested that. He wag not now in shock. Perhaps he had been truly paralyzed with feat. “He had a knife,” pointed out the scribe.
“And your master had none,” said a man.
I returned my attention to the struck merchant. The placement of the wounds I found of interest.
“Will I die?” asked the merchant.
“He who struck you was clumsy,” I said. “You will live.” I then added, “If the bleeding is stopped.”
I stood up.
“For the sake of Priest-Kings,” said the man, “stop the bleeding.”
I regarded the scribe. Others might attend to the work of stanching the flow of blood from the wounds of the merchant.
“Speak to me,” I said.
“We entered the booth and surprised the fellow, surely some thief. He turned upon us and struck us both, my master most grievously.”
“In what was he interested?” I asked. Surely there was little in a shop of curios to interest a thief. Would one risk one’s throat and blood for a toy of wood or an ivory carving?
“In that, and that alone,” said the merchant, pointing to the object which the thief had held, and which he had dropped in our struggle. It lay wrapped in fur on the ground within the booth. Men held cloth against the wounds of the merchant.
“It is worthless,” said the scribe.
“Why would he not have bought it?” asked the merchant. “It is not expensive.”
“Perhaps he did not wish to be identified as he who had made the purchase,” I said, “for then he might be traced by virtue of your recollection to the transaction.”
One of the men in the tent handed me the object, concealed in fur.
A physician entered the booth, with his kit slung over the shoulder of his green robes. He began to attend to the merchant.
“You will live,” he assured the merchant.
I recalled the assailant. I recalled the turning of the blade in his hand. I remembered the coolness of his subterfuge at the back of the booth, waiting beside the rent canvas for me to thrust through it, thus locating myself and exposing myself for the thrust of the knife.
I held the object wrapped in fur in my hands. I did not look at it.
I knew what it would contain.
When the physician had finished the cleansing, chemical sterilization and dressing of the merchant’s, wounds, he left. With him the majority of the watchers withdrew as well. The scribe had paid the physician from a small iron box, taken from a locked trunk; a tarsk bit.
A man had lit the tiny lamp again and set it on a shelf. Then only I remained in the booth with the scribe and merchant. They looked at me.
I still held the object, wrapped in fur, in my hand.
“The trap has failed,” I said.
“Trap?” stammered the scribe.
“You are not of the scribes,” I said. “Look at your hands.” We could hear the flame of the lamp, tiny, soft, in the silence of the tent.
His hands were larger than those of the scribe, and scarred and roughened. The fingers were short. There was no stain of ink about the tips of the index and second finger.
“Surely you jest,” said the fellow in the robe of the scribe.
I indicated the merchant. “Consider his wounds,” I said. “The man I fought was a master, a trained killer, either of the warriors or of the assassins. He struck him as he wished, not to kill but in the feigning of a mortal attack.”
“You said he was clumsy,” said the fellow in the scribe’s blue.
“Forgive my colleague,” said the merchant. “He is dull. He did not detect that you spoke in irony.”
“You work for Kurii,” I said.
“Only for one,” said the merchant.
I slowly unwrapped the object in my hands, moving the fur softly aside.
It was a carving, rather roundish, some two pounds in weight, in bluish stone, done in the manner of the red hunters, a carving of the head of a beast. It was, of course, a carving of the head of a great Kur. Its realism was frightening, to the suggestion of the shaggy hair, the withdrawn lips, exposing fangs, the eyes. The left ear of the beast, as indicated with the patient fidelity of the red hunter, was half torn away.
“Greetings from Zarendargar,” said the merchant.
“He awaits you,” said the man in blue, “—at the world’s end.”
Of course, I thought. Kurii do not care for water. For them, not of Gorean background, the world’s end could mean only one of the poles.
“He said the trap would fail,” said the merchant. “He was right.”
“So, too,” I said, “did the earlier trap, that of the sleen.”
“Zarendargar had naught to do with that,” said the merchant.
“He disapproved of it,” said the fellow in the robes of the scribe.
“He did not wish to he cheated of meeting you,” said the merchant. “He was pleased that it failed.”
“There are tensions in the Kurii high command,” I said.
“Yes,” said the merchant.
“But you,” I said, “work only for Zarendargar?”
“Yes,” said the merchant. “He will have it no other way. He must have his own men.”
“The assailant and his confederates?” I asked.
“They are in a separate chain of command,” said the merchant, “one emanating from the ships, one to which Zarendargar is subordinate.”
“I see,” I said.
I lifted the carving.
“You had this carving,” I asked, “from a red hunter, a bare-chested fellow, with rope and bow about his shoulders?”
“Yes,” said the merchant. “But he had it from another. He was told to bring it to us, that we would buy it.”
“Of course,” I said. “Thus, if the trap failed, I would supposedly detect nothing. You would then give me this carving, in gratitude for having driven away your assailant. I, seeing it, would understand its significance, and hurry to the north, thinking to take Half-Ear unsuspecting.”
“Yes,” said the merchant.
“But he would be waiting for me,” I said.
“Yes,” said the merchant.
“There is one part of this plan, however,” I said, “which you have not fathomed.”
“What is that?’ asked the merchant. Momentarily he gritted his teeth, in pain from his wounds.
“It was the intention of Half-Ear,” I said, “that I understand full well, and with no possible mistake, that I would be expected.”
The merchant looked puzzled.
“Else,” I said, “he would have given orders for both of you to be slain.”
They looked at one another, frightened. The fellow with whom I had grappled, who had called himself Bertram of Lydius, would have been fully capable of dispatching them both with ease.
“That would have put the badge of authenticity on the supposedly accidental discovery of the carving,” I said.
They looked at one another.
“That you were not killed by one of the skill of the assailant,” I said, “makes clear to a warrior’s eye that you were not intended to die. And why not? Because you were confederates of Kurii. A twofold plan is thus manifested, a trap and a lure, but a lure which is obvious and explicit, not so much a lure as an invitation.” I looked at them. “I accept the invitation,” I said.
“Are you not going to kill us?” asked the merchant.
I went to the counter and thrust back the canvas. I slipped over the counter, feet first, and then turned to regard them.
I lifted the carving, which I had rewrapped in its fur. “I may have this?” I asked.
“It is for you,” said the merchant.
“Are you not going to kill us?” asked the fellow in blue.
“No,” I said.
They looked at me.
“You are only messengers,” I said. “And you have done your work well.” I threw them two golden tarn disks. I grinned at them. “Besides,” I said, “violence is not permitted at the fair.”
5. I Take My Departure From The House Of Samos
“The game,” I said, “was an excellent one.”
Samos rose to his feet, storming with rage. “While you sported at the fair,” said he, “here in Port Kar catastrophe has struck!”
I had seen the flames in the arsenal as I had returned on tarn from the perimeters of the Sardar.
“He was mad,” I said. “You know this to be true.”
“Only he could have so approached the ship, only he could have done this!” cried Samos.
“Perhaps he was not satisfied with the design,” I suggested. “Perhaps he feared to paint the eyes, perhaps he feared to commit his dream to the realities of Thassa.”
Samos sat down, cross-legged, behind the low table in his hall. He wept. He struck the table with his fist.
“Are you sure it was he?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Samos, bitterly. “It was indeed he.”
“But why?” I asked.
“I do not know,” said Samos. “I do not know.”
“Where is he now?” I asked.
“He has disappeared,” said Samos. “Doubtless he has thrown himself into the canals.”
“It meant so much to him,” I said. “I do not understand it. There is a mystery here.”
“He took a fee from Kurii agents,” said Samos.
“No,” I said. “Gold could not buy dreams from Tersites.”
“The ship,” said Samos, “is destroyed.”
“What remains?” I asked.
“Ashes,” said he, “blackened timbers,”
“And the plans?” I asked.
“Yes,” said he, “the plans.”
I nodded. “Then it might be rebuilt,” I said.
“You must take the Dorna,” said he, “or the Tesephone.”
“It makes little sense to me,” said I, “that Tersites would fire the ship.”
“It is the end of our hopes,” said Samos, “to meet Half-Eat at the world’s end.”
“I have spoken to you of that matter,” I said.
“Yes,” said Samos, bitterly, “I have seen your carving. Can you not recognize that as a ruse to mislead you northward, while Kurii pursue unimpeded their fierce schemes at the world’s end?”
“Perhaps,” I said. “But I sense that there is an honesty in this, as of the cruel sport of war. I think I sense the nature and being of this Zarendargar.”
“Kurii,” said Samos, “are without honor.”
“There is a brotherhood of professional soldiers,” I said, “which I suspect crosses the boundaries of species.”
“We have only one choice,” said Samos. “You must take another ship, the Dorna or the Tesephone, or you may take my flagship, the Thassa Ubara.”
“But there is little hope,” I smiled, “that such ships may reach the world’s end.”
“None have hitherto done so, or have done so and returned,” said Samos. He looked at me. “I do not, of course, command that you undertake such a journey.”
No sane leader could command this of a subordinate. A journey so far and terrible could be undertaken by none but volunteers.
“I am sorry about the ship,” I said, “and I do not understand what has happened there, but I had previously determined, my dear Samos, that in any case I would venture not to the west but the north.”
Samos looked at me, angrily.
“I hope, of course,” said I, “to discover one day what occurred in the arsenal.”
“I can command you,” said Samos, “as one loyal to Priest-Kings, to remain in Port Kar.”
“I am in my way a mercenary,” I said. “I command myself. I choose my wars. I choose my loyalties.”
“Would you betray Priest-Kings?” asked Samos.
“I will keep faith with them in my own way,” I said.
“I order you to remain in Port Kar,” said Samos, coldly.
I smiled at him. “That is an order you have no authority to issue,” I told him. “I am a free soldier.”
“You are a brigand and an adventurer!” he cried,
“I am curious to see the north,” I said.
“The ship may have been destroyed by Tersites, in fee to Kurii,” snapped Samos, “precisely to prevent you from reaching the world’s end!”
“Perhaps,” I admitted.
“That is where Zarendargar waits for you!” said Samos.
“We think of the world’s end as lying betwixt Tyros and Cos, at the end of a hundred horizons,” I said, “but who knows where a Kur would see it to be.” I rose to my feet and strode to the map mosaic on the floor of the great hall. I pointed downwards. “There,” I said, “may well be what a Kur regards as the world’s end.” I indicated the frozen north, the polar sea, the ice of the lonely pole. “Is that not a world’s end?” I asked.
“Only red hunters can live in such a place,” whispered Samos.
“And Kurii?” I asked.
“Perhaps,” he said.
“And perhaps others?” I asked.
“Perhaps,” he said.
“It is my belief,” I said, “that Zarendargar waits in the north.”
“No,” said Samos. “The carving is a trick, to lure you away from the locus of their true efforts, those at the true world’s end, there.” He indicated the western edge of the map, the terra incognita beyond Cos and Tyros, and the scattered, farther islands.
“A judgment must be made here,” I said. “And I have made it.”
“I will make the judgment,” said Samos. “I am commanding you to remain in Port Kar.”
“But I am not under your command,” I pointed out. “I am a free captain. Apprise yourself of the articles of the Council of Captains.”
I turned and strode to the door.
“Stop him,” said Samos.
The two guards, their spears crossed, barred my way. I turned to regard Samos.
“I am sorry, my friend,” he said. “You are too valuable to risk in the north.”
“Am I to understand,” I asked, “that it is your intention to prevent me by force from leaving your house?”
“I will cheerfully accept your word,” said he, “that you will remain in Port Kar.”
“I do not, of course, accord you that word,” I grinned.
“Then I must detain you by force,” he said. “I am sorry. I will see that your accommodations are in keeping with your station as a captain.”
“I trust,” I said, “you can make clear the benevolence of your intentions to my men.”
“If the house is stormed,” said Samos, “my defenses will be found to be in order. It would be my hope, however, that you would not see fit, under the circumstances, to encourage useless strife. We are both, surely, fond of our men.”
“To be sure,” I said, “I expect they could find better things to do than die on your walls.”
“I ask only your word, Captain,” said Samos.
“It seems I have little choice,” I said.
“Forgive me, Captain,” said Samos.
I turned and seized the crossed spears of the guards, twisting and pulling them toward me, flinging them, they surprised, not swiftly enough releasing the weapons, to the tiles.
“Stop!” cried Samos.
I slipped through the door and, with one of the spears, which I had retained, sliding the shaft through the great handles, closed the door. Instantly they were pounding on it. I seized the mallet of an alarm bar which hung in the hail, and began to pound it madly. It served to drown out the noise. Men’s feet began to pound in the halls; I heard the clank of weapons. I hurried down the hall and struck another alarm bar.
A guardsman appeared. “There!” I cried. “In the great hall! Hurry!”
Four more guards appeared.
“Come!” cried the first guard.
They ran down the hall.
Other guardsmen appeared.
“To the hall!” I cried.
They fled past me.
In a moment I was at the double portal, the first barred, of the house of Samos.
“What is it, Captain?” asked one of the guards there.
“I think it is nothing,” I said. “A new guardsman, affrighted at a shadow or noise sounded the alarm.”
“Is it a false alarm?” said the man.
“I think so,” I said.
“Perhaps a sleen is loose,” said another guard.
“That would be serious,” I admitted.
“Perhaps we should assist,” said one of the guards.
“I think you should remain at your post,” I said.
“He is right,” said another.
“Is my boat ready?” I asked.
“Yes,” said one of the guardsmen. He opened the interior gate, and then the heavy iron portal.
“Stop him!” we heard. “Stop him!” These shouts came from down the hall.
“It sounds as though there is an intruder,” I said.
“He will not get past us,” said one of the guardsmen.
“Good man,” I commended him.
“I wish you well, Captain,” said the man.
“I wish you well, too, Guardsman,” said I. Then I stepped across the narrow court before the house of Samos and down into the waiting longboat.
“To the house, Captain?” asked Thurnock.
“Yes,” I said.
6. Two Girls Are Made Slaves; I Proceed Northward To Lydius
I lay on my belly before the small pond, and, with the palm of my hand, lifted water to my mouth.
When I heard the sound of the tharlarion, some four or five of them, I rose to my feet.
“Have you see aught of a sport slave?” she asked.
“No,” I said.
She was very lovely and attractive in her hunting costume, brief tunic and long hose, brown, a scarlet cape and cap, the cap with a feather. She carried a short, yellow bow, of Ka-la-na wood, which could clear the saddle of the tharlarion, its missile being easily released to either side. Her black boots, slick and shining, were spurred. A quiver of arrows, yellow, was at the left of her saddle.
“Thank you, Warrior,” she said, and wheeled the light saddle tharlarion, its claws scattering pebbles by the side of the pond.
She was with four men, also on upright tharlarion. They followed her as she sped away.
She had had dark hair, dark eyes.
I did not envy the sport slave
I stood in the midst of fields south of the Laurius river, some forty pasangs inland from the shore of Thassa, some one hundred and twenty pasangs south of the river port of Lydius, lying at the mouth of the Laurius river, on its farther side. My tarn was foraging. I had brought it inland where game was more plentiful.
I had had at that time no intention of stopping at Lydius. My business lay far to the north.
I did not know how long it would take my tarn to make a kill and return. Usually this can be done within the Ahn. There is little scarcity of game on Gor, save in relatively populated areas. Usually one spots game from the saddle and calls “Tabuk,” which is the tarn’s hunting signal. I had, however, spotted little suitable game, and so had released the tarn to do his own foraging. When the tarn takes game one may either retain the saddle or not. If there is no press of time I have usually surrendered it, if only to stretch my legs. Too, the feeding of a tarn is not pleasant to witness.
From a distance, approaching, I could see a small retinue, not more than some fourteen persons.
A free woman, robed in white, veiled, was being carried in a sedan chair by four draft slaves. Beside the chair, on either side, afoot, walked a girl. Each was veiled but bare-armed. From the fact that their arms had been bared to the gaze of men I knew they were slaves.
The journey from Port Kar north had been long.
I felt in a good humor.
Besides the women and the draft slaves, the latter chained by the wrists and neck to the sedan chair, there were seven warriors, six spearmen and their captain.
I walked about the edge of the pond, to meet them. They were approaching the pond, presumably to draw water.
I waited, standing, my helmet over my back, my shield behind my left shoulder, leaning on my spear.
The retinue stopped, seeing me. Then, at a gesture from the robed figure in white, it proceeded again. It stopped some fifteen feet from me.
“Tal,” said I, lifting my right hand to them, palm facing the left.
They did not respond.
The captain stepped forth. They did not seem then to me to be pleasant fellows.
“Who are you?” asked the captain.
“One who has greeted you,” I said.
“Tal,” said he, lifting his hand.
“Tal,” I rejoined.
“We have seen nothing of the sport slave,” he said.
“I do not hunt him,” I said.
“Where is your tharlarion?” asked one of the men.
“I have none,” I said.
“Do not block our way,” said the captain.
“I mean you no harm,” I said. “I greet you in peace and friendship.”
“Who are you?” asked the captain.
“I am one who is of the warriors,” I said. “And I am a traveler, a visitor now in this country.”
“What is your business?” he asked.
“It lies in the north,” I said.
“He is a brigand from the forests north of Laura,” said the lady.
“No, Lady,” said I, deferentially. I inclined my head to her, for she was free, and obviously of high station.
“You have been greeted,” she said, icily. “Now stand aside.”
I thought her tone surly.
I did not move.
“This is the retinue of Constance, Lady in Kassau, enroute to Lydius, returning from the sights of Ar.”
“She must be rich,” I said. Surely this was true, for her to travel as she did, not in public caravan.
“Stand aside,” said the captain.
“A moment, Captain,” said I. I looked to the free woman. “I am a man, dear lady,” said I, “and am of the warriors. I have journeyed far.”
“I do not understand,” she said.
“I assume,” said I, “that you will linger briefly here, to fill the flasks of water, if not camp for the night.”
“What does he want?” she asked.
“He is of the warriors, milady,” said the captain.
“Forgive me, Lady,” said I, “but my need is much upon me.”
The two slave girls, bare-armed and veiled, quickly glanced to one another.
“I do not understand,” said the graceful figure in the sedan chair. She was free.
I grinned at her. “I have food,” I said. “I have water. But I have not had for four days a woman.”
She stiffened. The night before I had left Port Kar I had had Vella sent naked to my room. I had used her ruthlessly several times, before sleeping and, early in the morning, when I had awakened. “Take me with you,” she had begged. “So that you might with another Bertram of Lydius,” I asked, “conspire against me?” “He tricked me, Master,” she wept. “He tricked me.” “I should have you lashed to within an inch of your life, Slave Girl,” I had told her. “I am innocent, Master,” she had wept I had then turned my back on her and left her, naked, chained in the furs at the foot of my couch.
But that had been four days ago
I gestured to the two girls with the free woman. One of them slightly lowered her veil.
“I will pay well for the use of one of these slaves,” I said to the free woman.
“They are my personal slaves,” she said.
“I will give a silver tarsk for the brief use of one, either that you might indicate,” I said.
The warriors looked at one another. The offer was quite generous. It was unlikely that either of the girls would bring so much on the block.
“No,” said the free woman, icily.
“Permit me then to buy one,” I said, “for a golden tarn.”
The men looked at one another, the draft slaves, too. Such a coin would fetch from the block a beauty fit for the gardens of a Ubar.
“Stand aside,” said the free woman.
I inclined my head. “Very well, Lady,” said I. I moved to one side.
“I deem myself to have been insulted,” she said.
“Forgive me, Lady,” said I, “but such was not my intent If I have done or said aught to convey that impression, however minutely, I extend to you now the deepest and most profound of apologies and regrets.”
I stepped back further, to permit the retinue to pass.
“I should have you beaten,” she said.
“I have greeted you in peace and friendship,” I said. I spoke quietly.
“Beat him,” she said.
I caught the arm of the captain. His face turned white. “Have you raised your arm against me?” I asked.
I released his aim, and he staggered back. Then he slung his shield on his arm, and unsheathed the blade slung at his left hip.
“What is going on!” demanded the woman.
“Be silent, foolish woman,” said the captain.
She cried out with rage. But what did she know of the codes?
I met his attack, turning it, and he fell, shield loose, at my feet. I had not chosen to kill him.
“Aiii!” cried one of the draft slaves.
“Kill him! Kill him!” cried the free woman. The slave girls screamed.
Men shouted with rage.
“Who is next?” I asked.
They looked at one another.
“Help me,” said the captain. Two of the men went to him and lifted him, bleeding, to his feet. He looked at me, held between his men.
I stood ready.
He looked at me, and grinned. “You did not kill me,” he said.
“I am grateful,” he said.
I inclined my head.
“Too,” said he, “I know the skills of my men. They are not poor warriors, you understand.”
“I am sure they are not,” I said.
“I do not choose to spend them,” he said. He looked at me. “You are a tarnsman,” he said.
“Yes,” I said.
“I thought it would be so,” he said. He looked at me. “I give you greetings of the caste of warriors,” he said.
“Tal,” said I.
“Tal,” said he.
“Kill him!” cried the free woman. “Kill him!”
“You have wronged this man,” said the captain. “And he has labored within the permissions of his codes.”
“I order you to kill him!” cried the free woman, pointing to me.
“Will you permit us to pass, Warrior?” asked the captain.
“I am afraid, under the circumstances,” I said, “that is no longer possible.”
He nodded. “Of course not,” he said.
“Kill him!” cried the free woman.
“We are six now who can fight,” said the captain. “It is true that we might kill him. I do not know. But never have I crossed swords with one such as he. There is a swiftness, a sorcery, a savageness in his steel which in a hundred fights to the death I have never encountered. And yet I now stand alive beside your chair to explain this to you, who are incapable of understanding it.”
“He is outnumbered,” she pointed out.
“How many will he kill?” asked the captain.
“None, of course!” she cried.
“I have crossed steel with him, Lady,” said the captain. “Do not explain to me the nature of swordplay and odds.” He looked to his men. “Do you wish to fall upon him, Lads?” he asked, smiling wryly.
“Command us, and we shall attack,” said one of the men.
I thought their discipline good.
The captain shook his head ruefully. “I have crossed steel with him, Lads,” said he. “We shall withdraw.”
“No!” screamed the free woman.
The captain turned, supported by two men.
“Cowards!” she cried.
The captain turned to face her. “I am not a coward, Lady,” said he. “But neither am I a fool.”
“Cowards!” she cried.
“Before I send men against one such as he,” said the officer, “it will be to defend a Home Stone.”
“Coward! Cowards!” she screamed.
“I have crossed steel with him,” said the captain. He then, held between his men, withdrew. More than one of them cast glances at me over their shoulder. But none, I think, wished to return to do contest.
I resheathed the blade.
“Turn about,” said the free woman to the draft slaves. She would follow the retreating warriors.
“Do not turn about,” I said to them.
They obeyed me. The sedan chair stayed as it was. “Why did you not kill them?” asked one of the draft slaves.
“You were of the warriors?” I asked.
“Yes,” said he.
“It seems not fitting you should be chained to a lady’s chair,” I said.
He grinned, and shrugged.
“Will you not permit me to withdraw, Warrior?” asked the free woman.
“These seem fine fellows,” I said. “Doubtless you have the key to these chains in your possessions.”
“Yes,” she said.
“Give it to her,” said I, indicating one of the slave girls. This was done, and, at my gesture, the girl freed the draft slaves.
They rubbed their wrists, and moved their heads, no longer in the iron circle of the collars.
The sedan chair rested still on their shoulders. They looked at me, well pleased.
“I will let you have the use of one of the girls for a silver tarsk,” said the free woman.
I looked up at her. “It is a bit late for that, my dear Lady Constance,” I said.
“I will sell one of them to you for a golden tarn,” she said.
“That seems a high price to ask for a slave girl,” I said.
She lifted up her veiled head. “You may have the use of one or both for free,” she said.
“Lady Constance is generous,” I said.
She did not lower her head to so much as glance upon me. “I give them to you,” she said.
“Lower the chair,” I said to the draft slaves. The chair was lowered.
“Free them,” I said, indicating the draft slaves.
They stood about her, looking at her. She sat nervously in the chair. “You are free,” she said. “You are free.”
They grinned, and did not move.
“You may go,” she said. “You are free.”
I nodded to them and, together, grinning and striking one another in their pleasure, they withdrew. One remained for a moment. “My thanks, Warrior,” he said.
“It is nothing,” said I, “—Warrior.”
He grinned, and turned, hurrying after the others.
The two slave girls looked at one another.
“Remove your veils,” said the free woman.
The two girls pulled away their veils. Both were pretty.
I smiled at them. They blushed, basking in my smile.
“They are yours, of course, if you wish,” said the free woman, gesturing with her head to the two girls.
One of the girls looked at me, and I nodded.
“No!” cried the free woman. One of the girls had lifted aside the first of the free woman’s veils, and the other had brushed back the first of her hoods.
“No!” cried the free woman. Then, despite her protest, the first girl drew aside the last veil which concealed her features, and the second girl brushed back the final hood, revealing her hair, which was blond. The free woman’s blue eyes looked at me, frightened. She had been face-stripped. I saw that she was beautiful.
“Stand,” I said to her.
“I will pay you well to conduct me to safety,” she said. Her lip trembled.
“If the beauty of your body matches that of your face,” I said, “it is the collar for you.”
“It will be the collar for her, Master!” cried one of the slave girls, delightedly:
“Fina!” cried the free woman.
“Forgive me, Mistress!” said the girl.
The two girls lifted aside the free woman’s robes, until she stood displayed before me.
I walked about her. “Yes,” I said, “it is the collar for you, Lady Constance.”
“Daphne! Fina!” cried the free woman. “Protect me!”
“Do you not know enough to kneel before your master, foolish slave?” chided Fina.
Numbly the Lady Constance knelt.
“In my belongings, over there,” I said to one of the girls, she called Daphne, “there is a collar. Bring it.”
“Yes, Master,” she cried happily, running to where I had indicated, a place beside a small tree some fifty yards from the pond. I had made a temporary camp there, while awaiting the return of the tarn. I scanned the skies. It was not in sight.
“On your hands and knees, head down,” I said to the Lady Constance.
She assumed this posture, her blond hair hanging forward, downward, over her head.
I roughly collared her and she sank moaning to her stomach in the grass.
I then tied the hands of the two slave girls behind their backs and knelt them by the sedan chair. I then took what valuables and moneys there were in the chair, kept in the cabinets at its sides, and slung them, some scarfed and others placed in pouches, about the necks of the two slave girls. I was surprised. The owner of the chair had been rich indeed. There was a fortune there, and the notes for other fortunes. I would keep none of this. I had what I wanted. She lay collared in the grass.
“Stand,” I said to the two slave girls.
They stood, obediently. I pointed off, over the grass. The former slaves could be seen in the distance. “Do you see the men?” I asked. “Yes, Master,” they said. “Here in the wilderness, bound, alone, you will die,” I pointed out. “Yes, Master,” they said, frightened. “Follow the men,” I said to them. “Beg them to keep you, and the riches you bear.” “We shall, Master,” they said. “I think they will be agreeable,” I conjectured. “Yes, Master,” they said, looking down. “And that you may appear more worth keeping about, and to facilitate your pursuit of the men,” I said, “I will take the liberty of shortening your tunics.” “Yes, Master,” they said, pleased. But when I had finished my work they looked at me, frightened. They shrank back. “Hurry now,” said I, “after the men, before I rape you myself.” They laughed and turned and ran after the men. “Overtake them before dark,” I said, “for sleen may soon be prowling.” “Yes, Master,” they cried. I laughed, watching them stumble, weighted with riches, after the former draft slaves.
I returned to where the girl lay in the grass. She was on her stomach. Her hands had dug into the dirt. She sensed I stood near her. I stood a bit behind her and to her left.
“Am I a slave?” she whispered.
“Yes,” I said.
“You can do anything with me you want?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
Her head was to one side. There were tears on her cheek.
“What are you going to do with me, Master?” she asked.
“Whatever pleases me,” I said.
“I ordered my men to kill you,” she said. “Are you going to slay me for that?”
“Of course not,” I said. “That was the act of the Lady Constance. She no longer exists.”
“A slave girl is now in her place,” whispered the girl.
“Yes,” I said.
“It seems I have escaped easily,” she said.
“Not really,” I said. “It is only that now you are subject to new risks and penalties, those of a slave girl.”
She clutched the grass. She knew well of what I spoke.
“You may now be slain for as little as an irritable word, or for being in the least displeasing. Indeed, you may be slain upon the mere whim of a master, should it please him.”
“Do you understand?” I asked.
“Yes, Master,” she said. Then she looked up at me. “Are you a kind master?” she asked.
“No,” I said.
“I do not know how to be a slave,” she said.
“Men will teach you,” I said.
“I will try to learn swiftly,” she said.
“That is wise,” I said.
“My life will depend on it?” she asked.
“Of course,” I said. I grinned. Gorean men are not patient with their girls.
“This morning,” she said, “I was free.”
“You are now a slave,” I said.
“Yes, Master,” she said.
I looked up at the late afternoon skies. The tarn had not yet returned. Yet I was not displeased.
I looked down at the girl. “Go to my things,” I said. “Spread furs upon the grass.”
“I am a virgin,” she said.
“You are white-silk,” I said.
“Please do not use that vulgar expression of me,” she begged.
“Do not fear,” I said. “It will soon be inappropriate.”
“Show me mercy,” she begged.
“Spread the furs,” I said.
“Please,” she begged.
“I have no slave whip at hand,” I said, “but I trust my belt will serve.”
She leaped to her feet. “I will spread the furs, Master,” she said.
“Then lie on them on your belly,” I said.
“Yes, Master,” she said.
She spread the furs on the grass by the tree, and then lay on them, on her belly.
“Throw your hair forward and over your head,” I said.
She did so. The collar was now clearly visible on her neck. I stood behind her, and dropped my accouterments to the side.
“Why did you make me a slave?” she whispered.
“It pleased me,” I said.
I crouched beside her and took her by the right arm and hair, and turned her to her back on the furs. She was delicately beautiful. She would ravish well.
“In Torvaldsland,” I said, “it is said the woman of Kassau make superb slaves.” I looked at her. “Is it true?” I asked.
“I do not know, Master,” she said frightened.
“How marvelously beautiful you are,” I said.
“Please be kind to me, Master,” she begged.
“I have not had a woman in four days,” I told her. Then she cried out.
The three moons were high.
The night was chilly. I felt her kissing softly at my thigh.
“Is it true,” she asked, “what they say in Torvaldsland, that the women of Kassau make superb slaves?”
“Yes,” I said.
“I never knew that I could feel this way,” she said. “It is so different, so total, so helpless.”
I touched her head.
“It is only the feelings of a slave girl,” I said.
“Yes, Master,” she said.
I lay on my back, looking upward.
“Please, Master,” she whispered, “subject me again to slave rape.”
“Earn your rape,” I told her.
“Yes, Master,” she said, kissing me.
“Stop,” I said.
“Master?” she asked.
“Be quiet,” I said. I was listening. I rolled from her side and crouched in the furs. I was now certain that I heard it. I slipped my tunic over my head and looped the scabbard at my left shoulder. She crouched in the furs naked, beside me.
I drew the blade.
I could see him coming now, running over the fields, stumbling.
He was a large man, exhausted. At his hips he wore a rag. An iron collar, with broken chain, was at his neck.
He came near us and then stopped, suddenly. He stood unsteadily. “Are you with them?” he asked.
“With whom?” I asked.
“The hunters,” he said.
“No,” I said.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“A traveler, and a slave girl,” I said. She shrank hack in the furs, pulling them about her throat.
“You are of the warriors?” he said.
“Yes,” I said.
“You will not kill me, nor hold me for them?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
“Have you seen them?” he asked.
“A girl, and four guardsmen?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“Earlier today,” I said. “You are then the sport slave?” I said.
“Yes,” said he, “purchased from the pens at Lydius, for a girl’s hunting.”
I recalled the dark-eyed, dark-haired girl, vital and trim in her carefully tailored hunting costume, with the tunic and hose, the boots, cape and feathered cap. It was an attractive outfit.
“You have done well to elude them this long,” I said. “Would you care for food?”
“Please,” said he.
I threw him meat and he sat down, cross-legged. Seldom had I seen a man so tear at food.
“Would you care for paga?” I asked.
“No,” he said.
“I see that it is your intention to survive,” I said.
“That is my intention,” he said.
“Your chances,” I said, “are slim.”
“I now have food,” he said.
“You are a courageous fellow,” I said.
“Did they have sleen?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “They were, it seems, making it truly a sport.”
“Those well-armed and mounted can afford nobility,” he said.
“You sound bitter,” I said.
“If they do not find me tonight,” he said, “they will return with sleen in the morning.”
“That,” I said, “would be the end.” The sleen can follow a track better than a larl or a Kur. It is tireless and tenacious, and merciless.
“I have one chance,” he said.
“What is that?” I asked.
“They had formed a hunting line,” said he, “the girl in the center. It was in her path that I left a bit of rag, and did not deign thenceforward to conceal my trail. She should have come upon the bait by now.”
“She will summon her guardsmen,” I said, “and you will be finished.”
“I assess her vanity differently,” he said. “It is her sport, not theirs. She will pull away from her guardsmen to be first to the quarry.”
“They will pursue,” I said.
“Of course,” he said.
“You will have little time,” I said.
“True,” he said.
“Do you think that you, afoot, will be able to elude a mounted archer, be she even female?” I asked.
“I think so,” he said.
“There is little cover,” I said. I looked at the fields.
“There is enough,” he said. Then he rose to his feet and wiped his hands on his thighs. Then he walked over to the pond several yards away. He lay down on his belly and drank from the water.
“Yes,” I said. ‘There is cover. He is a clever fellow.”
The man left tracks by the side of the pond, and then waded into the chill water. He broke off a reed and then waded deeper into the water.
I felt the girl beside me touch me, timidly. “May I labor now to earn my rape, Master?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
I smiled to myself. The slave fires, which lurk in any woman, had been particularly easy to arouse in this girl. I recalled that the men of Torvaldsland regarded the women of Kassau as superb slaves. I saw now the justice of this assessment. Gorean girls, however, who are aware of the cultural implications of their collar, and its meaning, usually spend little time, once it is helplessly locked on their throats, in fighting their womanhood. They must bend, or die. In bending, in submission, in total, will-less submission to a master, they find themselves free for the first time from the chains of egoism, liberated from the grasping pursuits of the self, readied for the surrenders of love.
“Disgusting!” said the free woman, on the tharlarion, in the hunting costume.
I rolled over, looking up. The blond girl by my side, the slave, cried out with misery, and dared not meet the eyes of her free sister.
“Greetings,” I said.
“Do not permit me to interfere with your pleasures,” she said cooly.
The slave girl whimpered and put down her head. How shamed she was before the freedom and grandeur of the free woman.
“Have you found your sport slave yet?” I inquired.
“No,” she said. “But he is quite near.”
“I have not been paying much attention,” I said.
“You have been otherwise engaged.” she, said loftily. I wondered at the hatred which free women seem to bear to their imbonded sisters. This hatred, incidentally, is almost never directed at the master, but almost always at the slave. Do they envy the slaves their collar?
“That is true,” I admitted.
“It is fortunate I am here,” said the free woman. “You might need my protection.”
“You think there is a dangerous fellow lurking about?” I asked.
“I am sure of it,” she said.
“We shall be on our guard,” I said.
“I will take him soon,” she said. “He is not far.” She wheeled the tharlarion away. “Return to the pleasures of your slut,” she said.
“But we must be on our guard,” I called.
“There is little need,” she said. “I will take the fellow within minutes.”
I turned to the girl beside me, who was crying.
“Are you shamed?” I asked her.
“Yes,” she said.
“Good,” I said.
She looked at me.
“You are a slave,” I said.
“Yes, Master,” she said, her head down.
“Watch,” I said. She lifted her head.
The free woman was at the edge of the pond. She did not dismount. Her bow was ready. In an instant it might clear the saddle to either side. From the saddle she studied the tracks in the moonlight. She moved the tharlarion into the water. Doubtless she thought the pond had been waded, to obscure tracks, which would emerge on the other side. Had she been a more experienced hunter she would have circled the pond to determine this for certain.
The blond girl beside me kissed me. “What does she know of being a woman?” she asked.
“Very little,” I said. “But perhaps by tomorrow at noon she will know more.”
“I do not understand, Master,” said the girl.
“Watch,” I said.
The girl, astride the tharlarion, moved deeper into the pond.
“She is an arrogant girl, is she not, Master?” asked the slave.
“Yes,” I said.
Suddenly emerging from the water at the very side of the tharlarion there was the large, fierce figure of a man. His hand closed on the girl’s left arm and dragged her swiftly, forcibly from the saddle, she crying Out, startled, dashing her shoulder and headfirst into the water at his side. He thrust her under the surface following her under.
“She knew too little of men even to fear them,” I said.
In a moment the figure of the man reared up shaking his head to clear his eyes of water. The girl’s knife was in his right hand; his left hand held her head, grasped by the hair, beneath the surface. He looked about. He jerked her head up from the water and she gasped and sputtered. When she could scream he thrust her head again beneath the surface. The tharlarion moved about, water at the stirrup, shifting, tossing its head about. Then its reins hung in the water. It was a small, hunting tharlarion, controlled by bit and bridle. The large upright tharlarion, or war tharlarion, are guided by voice commands and the blows of spears. The man put the knife in his teeth and, fiercely, smote the tharlarion. It grunted and, splashing, fled from the water, running in its birdlike gait across the fields. The man again pulled up the girl from the water. She spit water into the pond, and vomited, and coughed. The man then tore the belt from her and fastened her hands behind her back. He thrust the knife he had held in his teeth in his belt. He broke off a tube of reed. The girl looked at him, frightened. In the distance I could see the four guardsmen, moving swiftly, trying to catch up with the girl who had broken away from them in the rash vanity of her hunt, desiring to be first upon the prize. She had apparently broken the hunting line without informing them. Perhaps, too, her tharlarion was swifter than theirs. It bore less weight. I saw the man take the tube of reed he had broken off and thrust it in her mouth; then the knife he carried, hers, lay across her throat; I saw her eyes, wild, in the moonlight, and then he, another bit of reed in his mouth, pulled her quietly below the surface.
In a few moments the four guardsmen, distraught, reined up beside my furs.
I looked up from the collared slave in my arms.
“Tal,” said their leader.
“Tal,” I said.
“Have you see aught of the Lady Tina of Lydius?” inquired one of the men.
“The huntress?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“She was here, inquiring about a sport slave,” I said.
“Where did she go?” asked one of the men.
“Have you not taken the sport slave yet?” I asked. “It is late.”
“Have you see the Lady Tina?” asked the leader of the men.
“Yes,” I said, “earlier.”
“Where did she go?” asked the leader.
“Are there tracks?” I asked.
“Here,” said one of the men, “here, see here. There are tracks.”
They followed the tracks to the side of the pond. Had they crossed the pond they might, in the breadth of their passage, have struck the submerged couple. These men, however, apparently more skilled than the girl, first circled the pond to discover emergent tracks. They found these, of course, almost immediately, those of the running tharlarion. In their haste, and in their desire to overtake their lovely charge, they sped into the night. It was not even clear to me that they, in their concern with the tracks of the tharlarion, observed the tracks of the man leading to the pond. Too, as I determined later, his tracks had been, for the most part, obscured by the tracks of the beast of his lovely huntress. Some of the more obvious ones, too, I had erased with a branch.
I assumed the couple might be chilled upon emerging from the water and so I took the liberty of building a fire. The wood was gathered by my slave, whom I named Constance.
In time I saw the man’s head lift slowly, almost imperceptibly, from the pond.. He reconnoitered, and then, dragging the girl with him, her wrists bound behind her back, approached the fire.
“You had better get out of those wet clothes,” I told the girl.
She looked at me with horror.
“Don’t,” she begged her captor.
She squirmed, held, as he cut the tunic and cape from her, and then she was thrown on her belly on the grass and the wet hose and boots were drawn from her. He then knelt across her body and freed her hands. With the knife he slit the belt into narrow strips, improvising binding fiber. He then retied her hands behind her back and, crouching beside her, crossed and bound her ankles. She struggled to her knees. She faced us.
“I am the Lady Tina of Lydius,” she said. “Free me!”
We looked at her.
“I am the Lady Tina of Lydius,” she said. “I demand to be immediately freed.”
I thought she would look well dancing naked in a paga tavern before men.
“Free me!” she cried.
I had once owned a slave named Tina, who also had been from Lydius. It is not that uncommon a name. The Tina whom I had known was now free, an esteemed member of the caste of thieves in Port Kar, one of the most skillful in the city. She was doing well for herself.
I looked at this Tina. She was obviously too beautiful to free. She would be kept as a slave for men.
“You have won,” she said to the slave. “I acknowledge that in the generosity of my freedom. Release me now and I shall petition that you not be slain.”
“In the morning,” he said, “they will bring sleen.”
“Yes,” she said.
“Will you discuss the matter with them?” he asked.
“Perhaps they will be leashed,” she said.
The man laughed. “Do you think me a fool?” he asked. “They will be run free from the kennels. Do you think they want me alive?”
“I own you,” she said to the man. “Free me!” I recalled that he had been purchased from the pens of Lydius for her sport. Apparently she had stood the purchase price. Her arrogance, and airs, suggested that she might well have done so.
“You seem rich and educated,” I said.
“I am both,” she said. “I am of the high merchants.”
“I, too, was of the merchants,” said Constance.
“Be silent, Slave Girl,” snapped the free woman.
“Yes, Mistress,” stammered Constance. She placed a branch upon the fire. She withdrew. She was new to her collar.
The free woman glared at the man who had captured her. “Free me, now!” she said.
He looked at her, fingering the knife he had taken from her.
The free woman squirmed in her bonds, frightened. She looked at me. “You are free,” she said, “protect me!”
“What is your Home Stone?” I asked.
“That of Lydius,” she said.
“I do not share it,” I said.
The man crouched near her. His hand was behind her neck, holding her. The point of the dagger was in her belly.
“I free you! I free you!” she said.
“Have some meat,” I said to him. I had been roasting some bosk over the small fire.
He, now a free man, came and sat near me, across the fire from me. The free woman shrank back, in the shadows. Constance knelt behind me and to my left, making herself unobtrusive. Occasionally she fed the fire.
The free man and I fed. “What is your name?” I asked. I threw a hit of meat to Constance, which she snatched up and ate.
“Ram,” said he, “once of Teletus, but friendless now in that island, one banished.”
“Your crime?” I asked.
“In a tavern,” he said, “I slew two men in a brawl.”
“They are strict in Teletus,” I said.
“One of them stood high in the administration of the island,” he said.
“I see,” I said.
“I have been in many cities,” he said.
“How do you work your living?” I asked. “Are you a bandit?”
“No,” said he. “I am a trader. I trade north of Ax Glacier for the furs of sleen, the pelts of leem and larts.”
“A lonely work,” I said.
“I have no Home Stone,” he shrugged.
I pitied him.
“How is it,” I asked, “that you fell slave?”
“The hide bandits,” he said.
“I do not understand,” I said.
“They have closed the country north of Ax Glacier,” he said.
“How can this be?” I asked.
“Tarnsmen, on patrol,” said he. “I was seized and, though free, sold south as a slave.”
“Why should these men wish to close off the north?” I asked.
“I do not know,” he said.
“Tarns cannot live at that latitude,” I said.
“In the summer they can,” said he. “Indeed, thousands of birds migrate each spring to the nesting cliffs of the polar basin.”
“Not tarns,” I said.
“No,” said he. “Not tarns.” Tarns were not migratory birds.
“Surely men can slip through these patrols,” I said.
“Doubtless some do,” he said.
“You were not so fortunate,” I said.
“I did not even know they came as enemies,” he laughed. “I welcomed them. Then I was shackled.” He chewed on a piece of meat, then swallowed it. “I was sold at Lydius,” he said. He looked up, again chewing, at the free woman. “I was bought there by this high lady,” he said. He swallowed down the meat.
“What are you going to do with me?” she asked.
“I can think of many things,” he said, regarding her.
“It would be simple to untie her ankles,” I said.
“Do not touch me!” she said. “I am free.”
“Perhaps you are a slave,” he said.
“No,” she said. “No! I am free!”
“We shall see,” he said.
“I do not understand,” she said.
He turned away from her, wiping his hands on his thighs. He went over to the edge of the pond, and, kneeling down beside the water, drank. When he got up he looked at the tracks there. When he returned, he smiled. “My thanks,” said he.
I scanned the skies for the tarn. Game must indeed be scarce, I thought.
Constance put more wood on the fire. She glanced at the Lady Tina.
“Do not look at me, Slave!” hissed the Lady Tina.
“Forgive me, Mistress,” said Constance. She looked away, frightened. She did not wish to be beaten.
“Sir,” said the free woman, addressing her captor, Ram, once of Teletus.
“Yes,” he said.
“My modesty is offended,” she said. “I find it disagreeable to be unclothed before a slut of a slave who is not even my personal maid.”
“In the morning,” said he, “you will be partially clothed.” She looked at him, puzzled.
“May I command your girl,” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Constance,” said he.
“Yes, Master,” she said.
“Look well and carefully upon our prisoner,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” she said.
The free woman turned her head away, in fury.
“Do you think,” he asked, “that she might make a pretty slave.”
“I am not a man, Master,” said Constance, “but I should think she might make even a beautiful slave.”
“Please!” protested the free woman.
“Look upon her when and as you wish,” said Ram.
“Yes, Master,” smiled Constance. I saw her make a tiny face at the Lady Tina.
“Oh!” cried the Lady Tina, in fury, squirming in the leather.
“What do you think?” asked Ram of me.
“She squirms well,” I said. “I think she is excellent meat for marking.”
“I hate you all!” said the Lady Tina. “And I will never be a slave! You cannot make me a slave! Never, never will I be a slave. No man can make me a slave!”
“I shall not even try,” said Ram.
She looked at him, startled.
“I shall not make you my slave,” he said. “unless you beg to be my slave.”
She threw back her head and laughed. “I would die first,” she said.
“It is late now,” I said. “I think we should sleep.”
“What is your name?” he asked.
“Tarl,” said I. “Let that suffice.”
“Accepted,” he said, smiling. He would not pry further into my affairs. Doubtless he assumed I was bandit, fugitive or assassin.
I took Constance by the arm, and threw her to his feet. It was a simple act of Gorean courtesy.
Constance looked at me, wildly.
“Please him,” I said.
“Yes, Master,” she whispered.
“Yes, slut,” called the free woman. “Please him! Please him well, you stinking little slave!”
“My thanks, my friend,” said the fellow once from Teletus. He took Constance by the arm to one side and threw her on the grass beneath him.
In a few Ehn she crept to my side in the furs, shuddering. He was asleep.
I looked over at the free woman. She was struggling in the narrow leather which confined her. But she would be unable to free herself. She had watched in fury, and, I think, ill-concealed envy at the rapine which had been worked upon Constance.
I, in the light of the subsiding fire, watched the Lady Tina fight weeping with her bonds.
He had said that in the morning he would partially clothe her. I had not understood this.
I observed her struggling. I thought she would look well in a slave collar. Then I went to sleep.
“Hear it?” I asked.
It was early morning. Ram sat upright in the grass. I stood near the tam, which had returned in the night, its beak smeared with blood and the hairs from the small yellow tabuk, of the sort which frequent Ka-la-na thickets. I cleaned its beak and talons with dried grass. I had already saddled the beast.
Constance lay to one side, curled in the furs. The free woman, the Lady Tina of Lydius, too, slept, lying on her side, exhausted from her struggles of the night. The sky was overcast, and gray.
“Yes,” he said. “Sleen.”
We could hear their squealing in the distance. There must have been four or five of the beasts.
“Master?” asked Constance, rubbing her eyes.
“It is sleen, in the distance,” I said. “Get out of the furs, lazy girl.”
She was frightened.
“We have time,” I said.
“What weight can the tarn carry?” asked Ram.
“It is strong,” I said. “It can carry, if need be, a rider and freighted tarn basket.”
“Might I then request passage?” he smiled.
“It is yours,” I said.
I rolled the furs in which Constance had lain, and put them across the back of the saddle, fastening the two straps which held them.
We could hear the sleen cries quite clearly now. I do not think they were more than a pasang away.
“This ring,” I said to Ram, pointing to a ring at the left of the saddle, “will be yours.”
“Excellent,” he said.
“Come here, Constance,” I said.
“Yes, Master,” she said, running to me.
“Awaken, Lady Tina,” I heard Ram say. He was bending near her.
“Cross your wrists before your body,” I said to Constance. She did so and I lashed them together. I then carried her to the right side of the saddle and placed her left foot in a ring there, which I had wrapped with fur. Her tied wrists I looped over the pommel.
I, standing in the stirrup, looked over the fields. There were five sleen. They were about a half of a pasang away, excited, squealing, their snouts hurrying at the turf.
“I have an extra tunic here,” I said to Ram, throwing it to him.
“What are you doing?” demanded the Lady Tina.
He had taken the rags he had worn about his hips and was, with what had been her dagger, punching holes in them. Through these holes he threaded a strip of her belt. He knotted the rags about her hips. Because of the lovely flare of her hips, the smallness of her waist, the sweet, exciting swelling of her breasts, she would be unable, her hands tied behind her, to pull or scrape the garment from her.
“Is your modesty less offended now?” he asked. He slipped on the tunic which I had thrown him.
“What is that sound I hear?” she asked.
“Sleen,” he said.
“I do not understand,” she said, tremulously.
He cut the leather strips which had bound her ankles. “You will now be able to run,” he said.
“I do not understand,” she said.
“You soon will,” he said.
I climbed to the saddle. Ram placed his left foot in the ring which I had designated and looped his left arm about the pommel of the saddle.
She struggled to her feet. “Where are you going?” she cried.
“To Lydius, Lady Tina,” I informed her. I had not originally intended to go to Lydius, but I had acquired a girl in the fields. She was not yet branded. I would have her marked in Lydius.
The sleen were now within a few hundred yards of the tarn. I took the tarn straps in my left hand, the one-strap in my right.
Their squealing was loud. I could see them moving swiftly toward us.
Suddenly Lady Tina went white. “Oh, no! No!” she cried. She tried with her bound wrists to tear away the rags which she wore but they, because of the knotted belt strip, were perfectly fastened upon her.
“No!” she screamed.
The rags she wore, of course, were rich and heavy with the scent of him who had been her quarry. Such rags would have been used to put the sleen on his track.
“No!” she screamed. “No! They will tear me to pieces!”
The sleen were now no more than two hundred yards away. The squealing was wild now, as they caught sight of the bound girl in the field.
“They will tear me to pieces!” she wept.
“Run, Lady Tina,” suggested Ram.
“They will tear me to pieces!” she wept, screaming.
“It is the same chance,” said he, “which I in your place would have had.”
The five sleen stopped now, tails thrashing, crouched down, shoulders high, heads low, eyes blazing. They were some fifty yards from the girl. Their nostrils were flared, their ears laid back against the sides of their broad, triangular heads. I saw the tongue of one darting in and out.
They crept forward, there must be no mistake of losing the prey.
The girl turned and fled, bound, the rag on her hips to the legs of the tarn. She knelt in the grass. She looked up, her eyes wild.
“Take me with you!” she wept.
“There is no room for free women here,” said Ram.
“But I am a slave!” she cried.
“Are you a natural slave?” asked Ram.
“Yes, yes,” she wept. “I have known for years in my heart that I was truly a slave. I lack only the brand and collar!”
“Interesting,” said Ram.
“Make me your slave!” she wept.
“But perhaps,” said he, “I do not want you.”
“Want me! Want me!” she begged.
“Do you acknowledge yourself a true slave?” asked Ram.
“Yes, yes!” she cried.
“Do you beg to be my slave?” he asked.
“Yes, Master,” she said, on her knees.
“Then beg,” said he.
“I beg to be your slave, Master,” she said.
The sleen charged. Ram, with his left hand on the tarn harness, managed to get his right hand on her arm. The tarn, given the sudden force on the one-strap, reared and, smiting the air with his mighty wings, lifted itself into the air. The girl screamed, dangling. One of the sleen leaped more than twenty feet into the air, tearing at her, but fell back to the turf, twisting, squealing. She who had been the Lady Tina was held safe in the arms of Ram, her master. He freed her hands that she might hold to him. With his knife he cut the rags from her hips and we watched them fall among the angry sleen who tore them to pieces.
“It seems we have a new slave girl,” said Constance.
She who had been the Lady Tina looked at her with fear.
“Yes,” I said.
I turned the head of the tarn toward Lydius.
“We are flying in the direction of Lydius, Master,” said Constance, her hair lifted by the wind.
“We shall stop there for a time,” I said. “I acquired a girl in the fields. She has not yet been branded. It is my intention to have her marked.”
She turned white.
“Did you expect to escape the brand?” I asked.
“No, Master,” she said. She, Gorean, knew well that slave girls are marked.
She was silent.
I would let her anticipate the iron.
“I, too, acquired a girl in the fields,” said Ram. “I may, in Lydius, as well, see that her thigh is clearly marked, that identifying her as what she is, a slave.”
I looked at the naked girl clinging fearfully, helplessly to Ram. “She is so beautiful,” I said, “there could be little doubt in anyone’s mind that she is a slave, whether she is branded or not.”
“She is comely,” admitted Ram. “But I will nonetheless have her incontrovertibly marked.”
“The mark will improve her beauty,” I said, “making it doubly desirable.”
“True,” said Ram, “perhaps even infinitely more desirable.”
“Perhaps,” I said. It was true that a brand incredibly enhanced the beauty of a female. Some women did not know what male lust was, until they became slaves, and found themselves, suddenly, vulnerably exposed to its full predations.
She who moments before had been free held to Ram, her master, clutching him, desperately, that she might not fall.
I let her hold to Ram for a while; then I said to her, “Extend your wrists to me, crossed.”
“I will fall,” she wept.
“If your master pleases,” I said, “he will hold you.”
“Hold me, Master,” she wept. “I beg you!’
“Perhaps,” he said.
She extended her wrists to me, crossed. I lashed them together with binding fiber.
She knew that it was only her master’s hands on her which prevented her from failing to the ground, hundreds of feet below. She depended on him totally for her life, that he would hold her.
Then her hands were bound, and I drew her up and over the saddle. I then lifted up Constance’s arms and thrust the new slave’s tied wrists over the pommel, then placed Constance’s bound wrists over hers.
The load was thus balanced on the tarn, the weight of the two beauties on one side, that of Ram on the other.
I had placed Constance’s bound wrists over those of the new slave for Constance was first girl. She would be first to be lifted from the pommel.
“You are first girl,” I told Constance.
“Yes, Master,” she said.
“Constance is first girl,” I told her who had been the Lady Tina of Lydius.
“Yes, Master,” said she who had been the Lady Tina of Lydius.
“Address her as Mistress,” I told the former free girl. “Mistress,” said she who had been the former Lady Tina of Lydius, frightened, to Constance.
“Slave,” responded Constance to her confirming the former free woman as second girl.
“Now, on to Lydius!” I said.
“Yes, Master,” said the two girls, the blond and the brunet, first girl and second girl, yet both really new slaves, neither of whom had as yet even been branded.
7. I Am Careless In Lydius: I Am Taken Captive
I kicked in the door. It splintered inward. I was through the door, sword drawn.
The man at the desk leaped up.
“Where is Bertram of Lydius?” I asked.
“I am he,” said the man, in fur jacket. “What do you want? Are you an assassin? You do not wear the dagger. What have I done?”
I laughed. “You are not the man I seek,” I said. “One in the south who meant me harm, who seemed a sleen master, had assumed your identity. I thought perhaps ho might truly have been Bertram of Lydius.”
“I do not know you,” said the man.
“Nor I you,” I said.
I described to him the man who had called himself Bertram of Lydius. But he could not identify him for me. I wondered at who he might truly be.
“You have an excellent name in sleen training,” I said. “It is known even in the south. Else I would not have permitted the man to my house.”
“I am pleased I am not he whom you seek,” said Bertram of Lydius. “I do not envy him.”
“The one I seek,” I said, “is skilled with the knife. He is, I suspect, of the assassins.”
I threw a tarsk bit to the desk. “Your door will need repairing,” I said.
Then I turned and left the place. I had not thought the man at my house, he, too, whom I had seen in the tent of the curio dealer, had been truly Bertram of Lydius, but I had wished to clarify that. Too, I had thought he might be one known to Bertram of Lydius, if it were not he. It is easier to assume an identity where one knows a subject reasonably well. Yet one, to assume that identity, would have to know little more than the streets of Lydius and the training of sleen. I hoped to renew my acquaintance with the fellow. Little love is lost betwixt the castes of warriors and assassins. Each deems himself the superior of, and the natural foe, of the other. The sword of the warrior, commonly, is pledged to a Home Stone, that of the assassin to gold and the knife.
I walked through the streets of Lydius until I came to the small metal worker’s shop, one out of the main ways of the city.
I entered the shop.
“Are you still crying?” I asked Constance.
She sat in the straw beside an anvil. A chain ran from the anvil and was padlocked about her neck.
“My brand hurts, Master,” she said.
“Very well,” I said, “cry.”
“There,” said the metal worker. He eased the heavy iron collar, with the short, dangling chain, from Ram’s neck.
“Ah,” said Ram.
Beside him, on the floor, knelt Tina, which was now her slave name.
Ram directed the metal worker to saw away an inch and a half of the opened collar. He put it in a vise on his workbench and did so.
“Did you find Bertram of Lydius?” asked Ram.
“Yes,” I said.
“You slew him?” asked Ram.
“No,” I said. “He was not the man I sought.”
“Oh,” said Ram.
“I did not think he would be,” I said.
I looked down at Tina. “Show me your thigh, Girl,” I said. She did so.
“How did she take the iron?” I asked.
“She screamed like a she-sleen,” he said, “but she is quiet now.”
“The brands,” I said, “are excellent, both of them.”
“Thank you, Master,” said Constance, smiling. Tina, too, I noted, straightened herself a bit.
I threw the metal worker a silver tarsk.
“My thanks, Warrior!” he said.
Both of the girls had been beautifully branded. I was pleased.
The metal worker finished sawing the portion off the heavy collar Ram had worn.
Ram then pulled Tina to the feet by her hair and forced her head down on the anvil.
The metal worker looked at him.
“Put it on her neck,” he said.
I watched while the heavy collar, shortened now to fit a woman, was curved expertly about her neck by blows of the hammer, and then, decisively, struck shut.
“Lift your head, Slave Girl,” said Ram.
She did so, tears in her eyes. The chain on the collar dangled between her breasts.
I signaled the metal worker to free Constance of the chain on her neck. I tossed both girls a light, white rep-cloth slave tunic which I had purchased in the city.
Gratefully, half sobbing, they drew them on. I smiled. Did they not know, to a man’s eye, they were almost more naked in such a garment than without it? Garments are an additional way, incidentally, in which to control slave girls. Knowing that the master may not permit her even such a rag if he chooses tends to make her more eager to please him, that she not be sent into the streets without it.
“I will march her barefoot, clad so, through the streets of Lydius,” said Ram.
“Excellent,” I said. It would be a rich joke. Who would recognize in her the former lofty lady of Lydius, the rich Lady Tina, who had often trod these streets aloof and hidden, probably escorted, in her several veils and multitudinous robes of concealment? Looking upon her, and look they would, they would see only a bond girl, only a lovely, half-naked slave at the heels of her master.
“I will have her serve me paga, publicly, in her own city,” said Ram.
“Let us go to the tavern of Sarpedon,” I said. “It is a fine tavern.” I had been there before, some years earlier. I remembered a girl who had once been wench there, named Tana. It was I who had informed Sarpedon, her master, of her skill in dancing. She had been danced that very night for the patrons, but I had had business, and had not dallied to see her perform.
In less than a quarter of an Ahn we had come to the tavern of Sarpedon.
It was, however, in an angry mood. On the wharves leading to the tavern, in many places, I had seen bales of hide. It was hide of the northern tabuk.
“I must leave Lydius tonight,” I said. ‘There is much here I do not understand. It must be investigated.”
“I shall accompany you,” said Ram.
“I am a tarnsman,” I said. “It is better that you remain.”
“The reins of a tarn are not unfamiliar to me,” said Ram.
“You are a tarnsman?” I asked.
“I have done many things,” he said. “In Hunjer I worked with tarn keepers.”
“Do you know the spear, the bow, the sword?” I asked.
“I am not a warrior,” he shrugged.
“Remain behind,” I said.
“Do masters desire aught?” asked the proprietor, a paunchy man, in leather apron.
Ram and I sat behind one of the small tables. Our girls knelt by us.
“Where is Sarpedon?” I asked.
“He visits in Ar,” said the man. “I am Sarpelius, who is managing the tavern in his absence.” He regarded the girls. “Lovely,” he said. “Would masters care to sell them? I can always use such wenches in the alcoves.”
“No,” I said.
The girls seemed then less tense.
“There are many bales of hide on the wharves,” I said.
“From Kassau, and the north,” he said.
“Did the herd of Tancred this year emerge from the forests?” I asked.
“Yes,” said the man. “I have heard so.”
“But,” said I, “it has not yet crossed Ax Glacier?”
“I would not know of that,” he said.
“On the wharves,” I said, “there are thousands of hides.”
“From the northern herds,” he said.
“Are there traders come south from the north?” asked Ram.
“Few,” said the man.
“Is it common,” I asked, “for the hides to be so plentiful in Lydius in the spring?” Normally hide hunters prefer the fall tabuk, for the coats are heavier.
“I do not know,” said the man. “I am new in Lydius.” He looked at us, smiling. “May I serve, Masters?” he asked.
“We will be served by our own girls,” said Ram. “We will send them shortly to the vat.”
“As masters wish,” beamed Sarpelius, and turned about and left us.
“Never have there been hides in this quantity in Lydius,” said Ram to me, “either in the spring or fall.”
“They are perhaps from the herd of Tancred,” I said.
“There are other herds,” he said.
“That is true,” I said. But I was puzzled. If the herd of Tancred had indeed emerged from the forests why had it not yet crossed Ax Glacier? Surely hunters, even in great numbers, could not stay the avalanche of such a herd, which consisted of doubtless two to three hundred thousand animals. It was one of the largest migratory herds of tabuk on the planet. Unfortunately for the red hunters, it was also the only one which crossed Ax Glacier to summer in the polar basin. To turn such a herd from its migratory destination would be less easy than to turn the course of a flood. Yet, if reports could be believed, the ice of Ax Glacier had not yet, this year, rung to the hooves of the herd.
I was now more pleased than ever that I had had Samos send a ship with supplies north.
But I was suddenly afraid that the ship might not have gotten through. Ram had said that the north was closed.
“Worry upon the morrow,” suggested Ram. “Tonight let us divert ourselves with the pleasures of slave girls and paga.”
I put a golden tarn on the table. “Remain,” I said. “But I fear I must go. There is much here which is seriously amiss. I fear the worst.”
“I do not understand,” he said.
“Farewell, my friend,” said I. “Tonight I take tarn for the north.”
“I will accompany you,” he said.
“I cannot share this business,” I said. “My flight will be fraught with peril, my work is dangerous.” I thought of Zarendargar, Half-Ear, waiting for me at the world’s end. Now, more than ever was I certain that the works of the Kurii flourished concealed among the snows of the northern wastes. The pattern was forming. The north was closed. The red hunters were to die by starvation. The frozen north. in its wind-swept desolation, was to keep its secrets in silence from men. “No, my friend,” I said. “You cannot accompany me.” I turned and strode to the door.
At the door I encountered Sarpelius. “Master asked many questions,” he observed.
“Stand aside,” I said.
He did so, and I brushed past him. Constance fled after me, in the brief tunic of white rep-cloth. Outside the tavern I turned and looked at her. She had slim, lovely legs, and sweet breasts. She was very beautiful in my collar. I knew where, on the wharves, there was a slave market. I had once bought a dark-haired, captured panther girl named Sheera there. I had broken her swiftly to my collar. She had been excellent in a man’s arms. Months later I had freed her. What a fool I had been. It was not a mistake I would make again with a woman. Keep them slaves; They belong in collars.
“Master?” asked Constance.
“It will not be hard to sell you,” I said. “You are quite beautiful.”
“No!” she begged. “Do not sell me, Master!”
I turned my back upon her. I thought I would probably obtain a silver tarsk for her. She was new to the collar, but she had incredible potentialities. Any slaver could determine that.
With a few more havings I thought she would be helpless, and paga hot.
I strode toward the market. I must leave soon. The girl stumbled after me, weeping. “Please, Master!” she wept. I did not tell her to heel. It was not necessary. She was slave.
I thought she would bring me a tarsk.
Suddenly I heard her cry out, startled. I spun about. “Do not unsheath your blade. Fellow,” said a man.
I was covered with four crossbows, the quarrels set. Fingers were tense at the triggers.
I raised my hands.
Two woven canvas straps, some two inches in width, had been looped about the girl’s throat and drawn close about it. She was bent backward. Her fingers pulled futilely at the straps. She could scarcely breathe. The man behind her, the straps looped about his fists, tightened them slightly and instantly, terrified, eyes wild, she stopped all attempts to resist.
“In there, between the buildings,” said the man, the leader of the others.
Angrily I moved between the buildings and stood in the half darkness of the alley, my hands raised. The girl, rudely, the straps on her throat, was dragged into the darkness with us.
“The bolts,” said the man, indicating the missiles at rest in the guides of the weapons, “are tipped with kanda. The slightest scratch from them will finish you.”
“I see you are not of the assassins,” I said. It is a matter of pride for members of that caste to avoid the use of poisoned steel. Too, their codes forbid it.
“You are a stranger in Lydius,” said the man.
“I scarcely think you are magistrates investigating my business,” said I. “Who are you? What do you want?” I was angry. My thoughts had been too filled with fear and tumult, and fury at the mysteries of the north. I, though a warrior, had been insufficiently alert. I had been careless.
“I do not think he will be missed,” said one of the men.
“You are not common robbers,” I said.
“Welcome to Lydius,” said the leader of the men. He proffered to me a metal cup. He had filled this from a verrskin canteen slung at his left hip, behind the scabbard.
“Why do you not simply loose your quarrels?” I asked.
“Drink,” said he.
“Paga,” I said. I had smelled the drink.
“Drink,” said he.
I shrugged. I threw back my head and drained the cup. I held the metal cup in my right hand. Then it fell from my hand.
One of the men had set aside his crossbow. I saw the wadding of a slave hood thrust deep in Constance’s mouth and then, behind her neck, secured in place with two narrow, buckled straps. The hood itself was then drawn over her head and buckled shut under her chin. The fellow removed the straps from her throat.
I leaned back against the wall.
I saw Constance’s hands pulled behind her and snapped in slave bracelets.
I sank to one knee, and then I fell on my shoulder to the stones of the alley. I tried to push myself up, but fell again.
“He will be useful at the wall,” said a man.
The boots of the men about me blurred, and then were clear, and then blurred again.
“Yes,” said another man.
The voice had seemed far away. Things began to go black. I was dimly aware of them removing my belt and pouch, and the strap with scabbard and sword. Then I lost consciousness.
8. I Find Myself Prisoner In The North
“There seems to be no end of them,” said a man’s voice. “We kill hundreds a day, and yet more come.”
“Increase then,” said a girl’s voice, “the ratios of your slaughtering.”
“The men are weary,” said the voice.
“Double then the fees,” she snapped.
“It will be done,” said the voice.
“The wall weakens a pasang east of the platform,” said another man’s voice.
“Strengthen it,” she said.
“Logs are now few,” he said.
“Use stone,” she said.
“It will be done,” said the voice of the man who had spoken.
I lay on a wooden floor, of heavy, rough boards. I shook my head.
I felt the roughness of the boards with my shoulder. I was stripped to the waist. I wore loose trousers of fur, tied about my waist, and fur boots. My hands were manacled behind my back.
“This is the new one?” asked the girl’s voice.
“It is he,” said a man’s voice.
“Arouse him,” she said.
I was dragged to my knees and struck with the butts of spears.
I shook my head, and regarded her.
“You are Tarl Cabot,” she said.
“Perhaps,” I said.
“What men could not do,” she said, “I have done. I have taken you.”
“There were some men in Lydius,” I said.
“They were in my fee!” she said. “Thus, it is I who have taken you.”
“Of course,” I said.
“We have been watching for you,” she said. “We were warned that you might be foolish enough to venture northward.”
I said nothing.
“You are a strong, sensuous brute,” she said. “Is it true that you are so dangerous?”
I saw no point in responding to her.
“Your acquisition,” she said, “will earn me a promotion with my superiors.”
“Who might they be?” I asked.
“Ones who are not Priest-Kings,” she smiled. She went to a table. I saw belongings of mine upon the table, doubtless fetched from Lydius.
“It was clear quite early,” she said, “that you were no common ruffian from the docks of Lydius.” She sifted golden tarn disks through her fingers. She drew forth the blade from the sheath. “I am told,” said she, “this is a finely tempered blade, keen, subtly balanced, the weapon of one who is of the warriors.
“Perhaps,” I said.
She unwrapped from its fur the carving, in bluish stone, of the head of a beast. “What is this?” she asked.
“Do you not know?” I asked.
“The head of a beast,” she said.
“That is true,” I said.
She placed it back in the fur. It seemed clear to me that she did not understand its import. Kurii, like Priest-Kings, often work through men, concealing themselves from those who would serve them. Samos, for example, had little inkling of the nature of Priest-Kings.
“You are a woman,” I said.
I regarded her. She wore trousers and a jacket of whitish fur, of the sea sleen; the jacket had a hood, thrown back, rimmed with lart fur, on which human breath does not freeze. Her boots were of the fur of sea sleen, trimmed, too, with lart fur. The jacket was held about her waist, closely, by a narrow belt, black, and shining, with a golden catch. To this belt, on two small straps, hung a dagger sheath; the handle of the weapon was ornamented with reds and yellow swirls. Over her shoulder, across her body, was a second belt, from which hung, at her right hip, a pouch and, on a ring, a slave whip, its blades folded, and four coils of narrow, rawhide rope.
“You are perceptive,” she said.
“And one who is perhaps beautiful,” I said. Surely her face was beautiful. It was one which, like that of Constance, was very feminine and delicate. It did not comport well with what I took to be the harshness of her charge in the north. Her complexion was very fair; her eyes were softly blue; her hair, fallen about her shoulders, revealed by the thrown-back hood, was a soft, lush auburn in color.
“What do you mean ‘one who is perhaps beautiful’?” she asked.
“The furs obscure my vision,” I said. “Why do you not remove them?”
She strode toward me, angrily, and struck me across the mouth with her small hand.
She could not hit me hard, for she was too weak. I did not think she weighed more than one hundred and twenty Earth pounds. She was about five feet five inches in height.
I laughed. “I suppose you would bring something in the neighborhood of a silver tarsk in the market,” I said.
She struck me again, and again. And then desisted, in fury.
“I will make you regret your insolence,” she said.
“Do you know the dances of a Gorean slave girl?” I asked.
“Beast!” she screamed.
“You are of Earth,” I said. “Your accent is not Gorean.” I looked at her. “American, aren’t you?” I asked her, in English.
“Yes,” she hissed, in English.
“That explains,” I said, “why you are unfamiliar with the dances of the Gorean slave girl.”
She looked at me in fury.
“But you might be taught,” I said.
She pulled the whip from her belt in a rage and hysterically, holding it with both hands, began to strike me with it. It was not pleasant, but she did not have the strength to make the blows tell. I had been whipped by men. Finally, angrily, she stepped back.
“You are too weak to hurt me,” I said. “But I am not too weak to hurt you.”
“I will have you whipped by my men,” she said.
“What is your name?” I asked.
“Sidney,” she said.
“What is your first name?” I asked.
“That is my first name,” she said, not pleasantly. “I am Sidney Anderson.”
“‘Sidney’,” I said, “is a man’s name.”
“Some women have it,” she said. “My parents gave it to me.”
“Doubtless they wanted a boy,” I said. Then I added, “They were fools.”
“Do you think so,” she asked.
“Certainly,” I said, “both sexes are utterly splendid. One is fortunate to have either. Women are rich, and subtle and marvelous.”
“I did not think you respected women,” she said.
“I do not,” I said.
“I do not understand,” she said.
“The man who respects a woman does not know what else to do with her,” I said. “I meant only to indicate that women are inordinately precious and desirable.”
“We look well in collars,” she said, acidly.
“You belong in collars,” I said, “at the feet of men.”
She turned away, angrily. I could not see her face.
“Are you still attempting to be the boy your parents wished?” I asked.
She spun about, in fury.
“In such a task,” I said, “you will never be successful.”
“You will be lengthily and sufficiently beaten,” she said.
I looked away, at the room. It was high, and of wood, and with an arched roof. There was a dais at one end, on which, in a rough-hewn curule chair, she had sat. There was a rug of sleen skin beneath the chair, and another before the dais. A table was to one side, on which were some of my things. There was a hearth to one side, in which wood burned.
I turned my attention back to the auburn-haired girl.
“Are you well paid?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“Do you understand the nature of the cause in which you work?” I asked.
“Of course,” she said. “I labor in the cause of Sidney Anderson.”
“You are a true mercenary,” I smiled.
“Yes,” she said, proudly, “I am a mercenary.” She looked at me. “Do you think a woman cannot be a mercenary?”
“No,” I said, “I see no reason why a woman cannot be a mercenary.”
She came over to me and touched me on the cheek with the whip.
“I will put you to work on the wall,” she said.
“What wall?” I asked.
“You will see,” she said.
“Are you a virgin?” I asked.
She struck me across the face with the whip. “Yes,” she said.
“I shall be the first to have you,” I told her.
She struck me again, savagely. “Be silent!” she said.
“Surely you are curious about your sexuality,” I said.
“Do not use that word before me!” she said.
“It is obvious,” I said. “Consider how closely you have fastened the belt on your furs. That is done, even if only unconsciously, to draw attention to your figure, accenting and emphasizing it.”
“No!” she said.
“Have you never considered,” I asked, watching her, “what it would be like to be naked on a slave block, being sold to men, what it would be like to be a nude slave, owned, at the command of a master?”
“No! No! No!” she cried.
“You have seen slaves,” I said. “Surely you are curious what it would be like to be one.”
“No!” she screamed.
The intensity of her responses had conveyed to me the in-formation in which I was interested.
“There is a slave in you,” I said. “I will collar her.”
I closed my eyes that I be not blinded by the blows of the whip.
Then she stopped and, angrily, fastened the whip at her belt.
“Sidney Anderson,” she said, “will never be a man’s slave. Never!”
“When I own you,” I told her, “I will give you a girl’s name, an Earth girl’s name, a slave name.”
“And what name would that be?” she asked, curious.
“Arlene,” I said.
Momentarily she trembled. Then she said, “That is only a girl’s name.”
“And you are only a girl,” I said.
“I see,” she said. She backed away from me a few feet, and regarded me. “You are clever,” she said. “You seek to anger me.”
“No,” I said, “I merely, in response to your request, informed you of the name I would give you, when I own you.”
“You are my prisoner,” she said.
“For the time,” I said.
“I will teach you to fear me,” she said.
“It is you who will be taught to fear me,” I said, “when I am your master.”
She threw back her head and laughed.
I saw that she, too, as had the Lady Tina of Lydius, knew too little of men to fear them. I supposed she had known only the men of Earth and, on Gor, those who were her subordinates in the discipline of the Kurii cause.
I saw the sense of the Kurii enlisting such women. They owed no Gorean allegiances. They possessed no Home Stones. They were aliens on this world.
Did they not know that they, not having a Home Stone, were subject to any man’s collar?
She looked at me. She had laughed, but I saw that she seethed with fury. Too, in her eyes there was another emotion. I think she was wondering what it would be like to be owned by me. She would learn.
“The mighty Tarl Cabot,” she said, “a manacled, kneeling prisoner.”
Too, such women, in their frustrations, so desperately fighting their femininity, made excellent agents.
“Where men have failed to take you,” she said, “I have succeeded.”
Too, their sex and alien origin, being from Earth, gives them an excellent distance from their subordinates.
She pulled the loops of rawhide rope from the ring at her belt, the same ring which held the hook on the whip, and tied one end of the rope about my neck, knotting it tightly.
Yes, I thought, such women would make excellent tools for the Kurii.
“There,” she said, “the feared Tarl Cabot is tethered, kneeling on a woman’s rope.”
I was puzzled only that the Kurii would enlist such obviously feminine, genuinely feminine, even beautiful, women in their cause. Surely they could find more masculine women upon Earth. Why did they not use harder, harsher, more manlike females?
I looked up at her. She jerked the rawhide rope, testing it.
“An interplanetary force,” she said, “unknown to the fools of Earth, lays siege to this solar system. Its programs will culminate in conquest. I, participating in this struggle, will find high place in the ranks of the victors.”
“Priest-Kings oppose them,” I said.
“I understand Priest-Kings are weak,” she said. “Do they move other than defensively?” she asked.
“Upon occasion,” I said.
Yet it was true, surely, that Priest-Kings were not an aggressive species. It did not seem to me, objectively, that it was unlikely they would eventually be supplanted in the system by a fiercer, more territorial, more aggressive form of life. Kurii, it seemed to me, were well fitted to become the dominant life form in the system.
“I shall be on the winning side,” she said.
“The mercenary speaks,” I said.
“Yes,” she said.
I regarded her. She was slim, blue-eyed, auburn-haired, delicately beautiful and feminine.
“Do you truly think,” I asked, “that if the Kurii are victorious you will stand high in the ranks of the victors?”
“Of course,” she said.
I smiled to myself. I now knew why such women had been brought to Gor. When they had served their purpose, they would be made slaves.
She jerked the rope. “On your feet, Beast,” she said.
I rose to my feet.
I looked down on the beauty. She had been brought to Gor, ultimately, to wear a man’s collar.
I determined that it would be mine.
“Come, Beast,” she said, leading me leashed from the room. “I will show you our work in the north. Later, as I choose and direct, you will labor for us.” She turned and looked at me. “You have opposed us long enough,” sue said. “Now you will, in your humble way, contribute, if only by carrying stone and wood, to our cause.”
9. I See The Wall; I Am To Be Whipped
“Impressive, is it not?” she asked.
We stood on a high platform, overlooking the wall. It extended to the horizons.
“It is more than seventy pasangs in length,” she said. “Two to three hundred men have labored on it for two years.”
Beyond the wall there milled thousands of tabuk, for it had been built across the path of their northward migration. They stretched for pasangs to the south, grazing.
On our side of the wall was the compound, with the hall of the commander, the long houses of the guards and hunters, and the roofed, wooden pens of the laborers. There was a cook shack, a commissary, smithy and other ancillary structures. Men moved about their work.
“What are in the storage sheds?” I asked.
“Hides,” she said, “thousands, not yet shipped south.” “The slaughtering,” she said, “takes place largely at the ends of the wall, to prevent animals from taking their way northward.”
“It seems many would escape,” I said.
“No,” she said. “The ends of the wall are curved, to turn the beasts back. When they mill the hunters fall upon them. We kill several hundred a day.”
“Can you skin so many?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “We content ourselves with prime hide. Most of the animals we leave for the larts and sleen, and the jards.” The jard is a small scavenger. It flies in large flocks. A flock, like flies, can strip the meat from a tabuk in minutes.
“Even the jards die, gorged with meat,” said the man near us on the platform.
“May I present my colleague,” said my lovely captor, “Sorgus.”
“The hide bandit?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
The man did not speak to me, nor look at me.
“Such men,” she said, “have been useful. No longer are they confined to robbing the hides of honest hunters. We give them harvests beyond the loots which might be reaped from a hundred seasons of thievery.”
“But I note.” I said, “that higher men aid you as well.”
I looked to the other fellow on the platform.
“We meet again,” he said.
“It seems so,” I agreed. “Perhaps now,” I said, “you might succeed in striking me with your dagger.”
“Release him,” said he to my captor, “that I may with blades, he, too, armed, dispatch him.”
“The silly pride of men offends me,” said she.
“Free him,” said he.
“No,” she said. “He is my prisoner. I do not wish for you to kill him.”
“It seems,” said he to me, “that you will live, if only for an Ahn longer.”
“It is you, perhaps,” said I, “whose life she thusly prolongs.”
He turned away, to look out over the railing on the platform, and out over the high wall, to the thousands of animals, like cattle, beyond.
“Can you truly do your own killing,” I asked, “or do you need, as in my house, to enlist the services of a female slave to aid you?” I recalled Vella. She had given him a jacket of mine, that he might use it to give my scent to the sleen. What a traitress she was! I had known she had once served Kurii. I had not known at that time that the pretty little slave, the former secretary on Earth, still licked their claws. She would no longer receive an opportunity to betray me. Death was too good for her. When I returned to Port Kar I would plunge her into a slavery deeper than she would believe possible.
The man, angry, did not respond to me.
“You are not Bertram of Lydius,” I said to him. “Who are you?”
“I do not speak to slaves,” he said.
My fists clenched in the manacles.
“Did you truly enlist the services of a female slave in his house?” asked my captor.
“I do not wish to speak before him,” said the man.
“Do so,” she snapped.
I saw him look at her, angrily. I read the look in his eyes. I smiled to myself. I saw that it had been to him that she, when her work was done, had been promised as a slave.
“I am waiting,” she said.
“Very well,” said he. “It is true that I enlisted the services of a lowly bond girl in his house, to obtain material from which I might give scent to the sleen.”
“She is a spy there?” she asked.
“No,” he said, “I tricked her. I used her as a mere dupe in my scheme. It was not difficult. She was only a woman.”
My captor’s eyes flashed.
“Only a slave girl,” he said.
“That’s better,” she said. Then she said, “Slave girls are so stupid.”
“Yes,” he said, “that is true.”
I was amused. I wondered if she would change her opinion as to the intelligence of slave girls when she herself wore the collar. As a matter of fact intelligence is one of the major criteria used by Gorean slavers when scouting an Earth girl for capture and abduction to the chains of Gor. The other two major criteria appear to be beauty and femininity. Intelligent, beautiful, feminine women make the best slaves. Who would want a stupid slave? Too, intelligent women can feel their slavery much more keenly than their simpler sisters. This makes it much more amusing to keep them in bondage. Too, because of their intelligence they more swiftly realize the biological rightness of their predicament, though they may fight it longer. The intelligent woman is more apt to trust her own intelligence, and intuitions and feelings than the duller woman, who is more apt to be a naive functjon of the stereotypes and images with which she has been conditioned. The more intelligent woman is quicker to realize, though more tardy to admit, that it is right for her beauty to be enslaved. Her yielding, too, to her secret realities, when she yields honestly and fully to them, is a glorious thing. At last she whispers, on her knees, to him, “I am a slave, Master.” “Go to the furs,” he says, gently. “Yes, Master,” she says, and obeys.
But many highly intelligent women have fought these battles out in their heart long before they see a chain or the steel of a collar.
They live waiting for a master. They wait for the man who will look into their eyes and see what they truly are, and into whose eyes they will look, and see that he knows their secret. When they are alone, he will say to her, softly, “Kneel, Slave.” They kneel. They are then truly a slave, his.
“Tell him your name,” she ordered the fellow on the platform.
“I do not speak to slaves,” he said.
“Obey me!” she said.
He turned and went down the stairs of the platform.
“He is called Drusus,” she said. “He is of the metal workers.”
“He is not a metal worker,” I said. “He is of the Assassins.
“No,” she said.
“I have seen him use a knife,” I said. “He did not obey you,” I observed.
She looked at me, angrily.
“Your days in authority here,” I said, “are numbered.”
“I am in command here!” she said.
“For the time,” I said. I looked out over the milling tabuk.
They were northern tabuk, massive, tawny and swift, many of them ten hands at the shoulder, a quite different animal from the small, yellow-pelted, antelopelike quadruped of the south. On the other hand, they, too, were distinguished by the single horn of the tabuk. On these animals, however, that object, in swirling ivory, was often, at its base, some two and one-hall inches in diameter, and better than a yard in length. A charging tabuk, because of the swiftness of its reflexes, is a quite dangerous animal. Usually they are killed from a distance, often from behind shields, with arrows.
My thoughts strayed to Vella, once Elizabeth Cardwell. Apparently she had not knowingly collaborated with Drusus, he who had called himself Bertram of Lydius. He had tricked her in the matter of the sleen. She had been his dupe. It would not then be necessary to be too hard on her. It would be sufficient, when I returned to Port Kar, merely to have her whipped for her stupidity.
I put her from my mind, for she was only slave.
“It must be difficult to place the logs of the wall,” I said, “because of the permafrost.”
“How difficult you will learn,” she said. She was still angry that her authority had been flouted in my presence.
At this latitude, even in the summer, the earth only thaws to a depth of some two feet. Beneath this depth one strikes still frozen ground. it is almost like stone. Picks and drive bars ring upon it.
The construction of the wall was, in its way, a considerable engineering feat. That it had been accomplished by men, with simple tools, said much for the determination of the Kurii, and the rigors imposed upon its laborers by their guardsmen.
“You will see who is in authority here,” she said, angrily. I felt the line on my neck jerk tight. I accompanied her down the stairs of the platform.
“Guards!” she called. Some four guardsmen came to her, running.
“Bring Drums to me,” she said, “if necessary in chains.”
They hurried from her. In a few moments they returned, he who called himself Drusus with them.
She pointed arrogantly to the ground at her feet. “Kneel,” she said to him.
Angrily he knelt.
“Tell him your name,” she said to him.
The man looked up at me, in fury. “I am Drusus,” he said.
“Attend now to your duties, Drusus,” she said.
He got to his feet and left. I saw that she was truly in authority. If her tenure of authority were to be soon terminated there was as yet no sign of it. She looked at me, and tossed her head arrogantly. She was supreme among these men.
“It was Drusus who identified you for me,” she said.
“I see,” I said.
“Three prisoners have been captured,” said a man, coming up to her.
“Bring them before me,” she said.
The three prisoners, their hands bound behind their backs, were brought forward. One was a man, the other two were girls, slave girls. The man was on an individual neck tether, in the hand of a guard. The girls were on a common tether, the throat of each tied at a different end of a long strap; it served as their common leash, a guard grasping it in the center. The man was the red hunter I had seen at the fair. He no longer possessed his bow or other accouterments. The two girls were the slaves he had purchased at the fair, the Earth girls, one blond, the other dark-haired, who had worn the torn red pullover. He was dressed as he had been at the flit, in trousers and boots of fur, but bare-chested. The two girls now, however, wore fur wrapped on their feet, tied with hide string, and brief fur tunics. The hair of each was tied behind her head with a red string. Under the tether on the throat of each there was tied an intricately knotted set of four leather strings. In such a way the red hunters identify their animals. The owner of the beast may be determined from the knetting of the strings.
“Kneel,” said a guard.
The two slave girls immediately knelt, obedient to a master’s command.
My lovely captor regarded them with contempt.
The red hunter, he of the polar basin, had not knelt. Perhaps he did not speak Gorean well enough to understand the command. There are several barbarian languages spoken on Gor, usually in more remote areas. Also, some of the dialects of Gorean itself are aimost unintelligible. On the other hand, Gorean, in its varieties, serves as the lingua franca of civilized Gor. There are few Goreans who cannot speak it, though with some it is almost a second language. Gorean tends to be rendered more uniform through the minglings and transactions of the great fairs. Too, at certain of these fairs, the caste of scribes, accepted as the arbiters of such matters, stipulate that certain pronounciations and grammatical, formations, and such are to be preferred over others. The Fairs, in their diverse ways, tend to standardize the language, which might otherwise disintegrate into regional variations which, over centuries, might become mutually unintelligible linguistic modalities, in effect and practice, unfortunately, separate languages. The Fairs, and, I think, the will of Priest-Kings, prevents this.
“No,” said the red hunter. He had spoken in Gorean.
He was struck to his knees by the blows of spears. He looked up, angrily. “Free our tabuk!” he said.
“Take him away and put him to work on the wall,” said my lovely captor.
The man was dragged away.
“What have we here?” Sidney Anderson asked, regarding the two girls.
“Polar slaves, beasts of the red hunters,” said a man.
“Look up at me,” she said.
The girls looked into her eyes.
“You have the look of Earth girls,” said my captor, in English.
I thought her perceptive. They could still be distinguished from Gorean collar girls. There was still something about them which, to a discerning eye, betrayed their intricate, constricted Earth origin. Later, if they had the proper master or series of masters, it would no longer be possible to do this by sight. They would be betrayed then, if their teeth were not carefully inspected, only by their accent. A filling found in a tooth is usually a sign of an Earth girl. It is not an infallible sign, however, for not all Earth girls have fillings and some dental work is done upon occasion by the caste of physicians on Gorean girls. Cavities are rare in Goreans because of their simple diet and the general absence of cruel emotional stress, with its physiological and chemical consequences, during puberty. Gorean culture tends to view the body, its development, its appetites and needs, with congeniality. We do not grow excited about the growth of trees, and Goreans do not grow excited about the growth of people. In some respects the Goreans are, perhaps, cruel. Yet they have never seen fit, through lies, to inflict suffering on children. They seem generally to me to be fond of children. Perhaps that is why they seldom hurt them. Even slave children, incidentally, are seldom abused or treated poorly, and are given much freedom, until they reach their young adulthood. It is then, of course, that they are taught that they are slaves. Men come, and the young male is tied and taken to the market. If the young slave is a female she may or may not be sent to a market. Many young slave maidens are raised almost as daughters in a home. It is often a startling and frightening day for such a girl when, one morning, she finds herself suddenly, unexpectedly, put in a collar and whipped, and made to begin to pay the price of her now-blossomed slave beauty.
“Are you not Earth girls?” asked blue-eyed, auburn-haired Sidney Anderson of the two kneeling girls, in their short fur tunics, the strings on their throats, and tethers, their hands tied behind their backs.
“Yes! Yes!” said the blond girl suddenly, “Yes!”
Sidney Anderson, I conjectured, was the first. person on Gor whom they had met who spoke English.
“What are you?” asked Sidney Anderson.
“We are slaves, Mistress,” said the blond girl.
“What are your names?” asked my lovely captor.
“Barbara Benson,” said the blond girl. “Audrey Brewster,” said the dark-haired girl.
“I scarcely think,” said my captor, “that those names would have been given to you by an Indian.”
I had not really thought of the red hunter as an Indian, but I supposed this was true. The men of the polar basin are usually referred to as the red hunters in Gorean. Certainly they were culturally distinct from the red savages, tarn riders, of the countries north and east of the Thentis mountains, who maintained a feudal nobility over scattered agricultural communities of white slaves. Those individuals, more than the red hunters, I thought of as Indians. Yet, doubtless the red hunters, too, if one were to be strict about such matters, were Indian. On the other hand the children of the red hunters are born with a blue spot at the base of the spine and those of the red savages, or red tarn riders, are not. There is, thus, some sort of racial disaffinity between them. There are also serological differenees. Race, incidentally, is not. a serious matter generally for Goreans, perhaps because of the inter-mixtures of people. Language and city, and caste, however, are matters of great moment to them, and provide a sufficient basis for the discriminations in which human beings take such great delight.
The blond-haired girl looked up at Sidney Anderson. “I am Thimble,” she said.
“I am Thistle,” mid the dark-haired girl.
How beautiful they looked, kneeling, with their hands bound behind them.
“Are you not shamed to be slaves?” asked Sidney Anderson.
“Yes, yes!” wept the blond-haired girl. I remembered she had once worn the brief, denim shorts, raveled, and the man’s shirt, tied under her breasts.
“Good,” said Sidney Anderson.
They looked at her.
“Look at yourselves,” she said. “Consider your attire. You should be ashamed.”
“Are you going to free us?” breathed the blond-haired girl. Then she added, “—Mistress?”
Sidney Anderson regarded them with contempt.
“Some women,” she said, “should be slaves.”
“Mistress,” protested the blond-haired girl.
“I look upon you,” said Sidney Anderson, “and I see women who deserve to be only meaningless slaves.”
“Mistress!” protested the blond-haired girl.
“Take them away,” said Sidney Anderson.
“Do you want them killed?” asked a guard.
“Wash and comb them,” she said, “and then chain them in the long house for the guards.”
“It will be done,” said the man.
The girls were dragged away.
“Doubtless you have other girls, too,” I said, “kept for the men.”
“Those are the only two,” she said. “I have given orders that our sutlers not peddle slave sluts in the camp.”
“When I was captured,” I said, “a blond slave named Constance was taken, too. I would have thought she would have been brought here.”
“No,” said my lovely captor.
“Where was she taken?” I asked.
“I do not know,” she said..
She tugged on the rawhide leash I wore. Then she reached up and removed it from my neck, and coiled it, and replaced it on the ring on her belt.
“The sun is beautiful in your auburn hair,” I said.
“Oh?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said. “Did you know that girls with auburn hair often bring higher prices on the slave block?” I asked.
“No,” she said, “I did not.” Then she said to guardsmen who stood about. “Take him to the whipping frame. Secure him there and beat him well. Use the snake. Then pen him and chain him. Tomorrow put him to work on the wall.”
“The red hunters depend on the tabuk,” I told her. “Without it they will starve.”
“That is not my concern,” she said.
The men put their hands on my arms.
“Oh,” she said, “incidentally you may know of a ship of supplies which had been bound for the high north.”
“I know of such a ship,” I said.
“It has been sunk,” she said. “Its crew doubtless will greet you tomorrow. They, too, labor on the wall.”
“How could you take the ship?” I asked.
“There are five tarnsmen here,” she said, “though now they are on patrol. They fired the ship from the air. Its crew, abandoning the ship, were apprehended later. The ship, burned to the waterline, was steered onto the rocks and fell awash. In the rising of the tide it was freed and sank. Sharks now frequent its hold.”
I looked at her.
“We are thorough,” she said.
“The red hunters will starve,” I told her.
“That is not my concern,” she said.
“Why are you holding the tabuk?” I asked. “What have you to gain?”
“I do not know,” she said. “I am merely discharging my orders.”
“The red hunters,” I said.
“They are not my concern,” she said. Then she said, “Take him away.”
Two men seized me and conducted me from her presence. I was confident that I saw the point of stopping the tabuk. Its role in the plans of Kurii seemed clear to me. I was puzzled that the girl did not see its import.
She knew no more, it seemed, than she needed to know.
10. What Occurred In The Vicinity Of The Wall
“Is he still alive?” asked a man.
I lay chained in the slave pen.
“Yes,” said the red hunter.
“He is strong,” said another man.
I wanted the woman in my power who had had me beaten. I struggled to a sitting position.
“Rest now,” said Ram. “It is nearly dawn.”
‘They have you, too,” I said. I had left him in Lydius, in the paga tavern.
He grinned wryly. “Late that night,” said he, “in the alcove they surprised me with Tina. At sword point I was hooded and chained.”
“How was the girl?’ I asked.
“In a quarter of an Ahn,” he said, “I had her screaming herself mine.” He licked his lips. “What a slave she is!” he marveled.
“I thought she would be,” I said. “Where is she?” I asked.
“Is she not here?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
“Where have they taken her?” he asked.
“I do not know,” I said.
“I want her back,” he said.
“She is only a slave,” I said.
“I want to own her again,” he said.
“Do you think she is your ideal slave?” I asked.
“Perhaps,” he said, “I do not know. But I will not be content until she is again at my feet.”
“But did you not make her serve you paga publicly in her own city, and as a slave girl?”
“Of course,” he said. “And then I took her by the hair to the alcove.”
“Is that the way you treat your ideal slave?” I asked.
“Of course,” he said.
“Excellent,” I said. I saw that Ram was a true master. The girl’s helplessness was doubtless in part a response to his strength. Slave girls are seldom in doubt as to which men are their masters and which are not.
“What is your name?” I asked the red hunter. “Forgive me,” I said.
Red hunters are often reluctant to speak their own name. What if the name should go away? What if it, in escaping their lips, should not return to them?
“One whom some hunters in the north call Imnak may share your chain,” he said.
He seemed thoughtful. Then he seemed content. His name had not left him.
“You are Imnak,” I said.
“Yes,” he said.
“I am Tarl,” I said.
“Greetings, Tarl,” he said.
“Greetings, Imnak,” I said.
“I have seen you before,” said a man.
“I know you,” I said. “You are Sarpedon, who owns a tavern in Lydius.
“I sold the little slave whom you knew,” he said.
“I know,” I said. “She is now collared in my house.”
“A superb wench,” he said. “I often used her for my pleasure.”
“Your tavern, now,” I said, “seems to be managed by one called Sarpelius.”
“I know,” he said. “I would that I could get my hands on the rogue’s throat.”
“How came you here?” I asked.
“I was voyaging upstream on the Laurius,” he said, “to see if panther girls had caught any new slave girls, whom I might purchase from them for arrow points and candy, for use in the tavern as paga sluts. But unfortunately it was I, taken by five tarnsmen on the river, who found myself chained. It was part of a plan, of course. My assistant, Sarpelius, was in league with them.”
“Your tavern is being used to recruit workers for the wall.” said Ram.
Several men grunted angrily.
“Put Sarpelius in my grasp,” said Sarpedon, “and I will see you receive rich satisfaction for your inconvenience.”
“Admiral,” said a man.
“I know you,” I said. “You are Tasdron, a captain in the fee of Samos.”
“The ship was fired, and then sunk,” said he, “the supply ship, that bound for the north.”
“I know,” I said.
“I am a failed captain,” said he.
“It is difficult to defend against tarn attack, the sheets of burning oil to the sails.”
“They came again and again,” he said.
“You were not a ram ship,” I said, “not craft set for war.”
“Who would have thought there would be tarnsmen north of Torvaldsland,” said Ram.
“It is possible in the spring and summer,” said Sarpedon.
“You saved your men,” I said. “You did well.”
“What ship is this?” asked Imnak.
“I had a ship sent north,” said I, “with food for the men of the polar basin, when I heard the herd of Tancred had not yet trod the snows of Ax Glacier.”
Imnak smiled. “How many skins would you have demanded in payment for this provender?” asked he.
“I had not thought to make a profit,” I said. Imnak’s face darkened.
The people of the north are proud. I had not meant to demean him or his people.
“It is a gift,” I said. He would understand the exchange of gifts.
“Ah,” he said. Gifts may be exchanged among friends. Gifts are important in the culture of the men of the polar basin. There need be little occasion for their exchange Sometimes, of course, when a hunter does not have food for his family another hunter will invite him to his house, or will pay a visit, bearing meat, that they may share a feast. This pleasantry, of course, is returned when the opportunity presents itself. Even trading in the north sometimes takes on the aspect, interestingly, of the exchange of gifts, as though commerce, obvious and raw, might somehow seem to offend the sensibility of the proud hunters. He who dares to pursue the twisting, sinuous dangerous sea sleen in the arctic waters, fended from the teeth and sea by only a narrow vessel of tabuk skin and his simple weapons and skill, does not care to be confused with a tradesman.
“I know you are wise and I am stupid,” said Imnak, “for I am only a lowly fellow of the polar basin, but my peoples, in the gathering of the summer, in the great hunts, when the herd comes, number in the hundreds.”
“Oh,” I said. I had not realized there were so many. One ship would have done little to alleviate the distress, the danger of starvation, even had it managed to slip through the air blockade of the Kurii’s tarnsmen.
“Too,” said Imnak, “my people are inland, waiting for the herd to come to the tundra grazing. It gives me pleasure to know that you understood this, and knew where to find them, and had considered well how to transport the gifts to them. so many sleeps across the tundra.”
“There was only one ship,” I said. “And I had not realized the difficulty of getting the supplies to where they would be most needed.”
“Do my ears deceive me?” asked Imnak. “I cannot believe what I am hearing. Did I hear a white man say be had made a mistake?”
“I made a mistake,” I said. “One who is wise in the south may be a fool in the north.”
This admission took Imnak aback for a moment.
“You are wiser than I,” I added, for good measure.
“No,” he said, “you are wiser than I.”
“Perhaps I am wiser in the south,” I said, “but you are wiser in the north.”
“Perhaps,” he said.
“And you are a great hunter,” I said.
He grinned. “I have done a little hunting,” he said.
“Rouse up! Rouse up!” called a guard, beating on the wooden bars of the pen with his spear. “It is time for your gruel, and thence to your labors.”
Two guards were then amongst us, prodding men awake and up.
“Release this man from the chain,” said Ram, indicating me. “Yesterday he was beaten with the snake.”
It was not unusual that men died under the lash of the snake, that heavy coil laced with wire and flecks of iron.
“It is ordered,” said the guardsman, “that he labors today.”
Ram looked at me, startled. I was already on my feet. My lovely captor, I recalled, had said that I would labor today. I was to well understand whose prisoner I was. “I am hungry,” I said.
The guard backed away from me. He went to check the ankle chains of the others.
We were soon shuffled from the pen. In making our way to the cook shack we passed the large, wooden dais on which the whipping frame had been erected. It was some twelve feet square, and some four feet in height, its surface reached by steps. The whipping frame itself, vertical, consisted of two heavy uprights, some six inches square and eight feet high, and a crossbeam, some six inches square and some seven feet in length. Each upright was supported by two braces, each also six inches square. A heavy ring was bolted on the underside of the high crossbeam; it was from this ring that a prisoner, bound by the wrists, might be suspended. A matching ring was bolted in the beams of the dais, under the upper ring. It was to the lower ring that the prisoner’s feet, some six inches above the wood, crossed and tied, might be bound. This prevents undue swinging under the lash.
We were knelt outside the cook shack. We were given wooden bowls. We were served gruel, mixed with thick chunks of boiled tabuk, by the blond, she who had once been Barbara Benson, now Thimble, and the dark-haired girl, who had once been the rich girl, Audrey Brewster, now the slave girl, Thistle. Thimble had been made first girl. She made Thistle carry the metal bucket of gruel while she, with a ladle, filled the bowls. Neither girl any longer wore the strings on her throat, identifying them as a hunter’s beasts, nor her brief furs nor the fur wrappings on their feet. Both had been placed in belted woolen camisks, an open-sided garment sometimes worn by female slaves. Though it was chilly both were barefoot.
Blond Thimble cried out, seized by one of the men in the chain. She struck at him with the ladle. She was thrown to the ground beneath him. Instantly guards were on the fellow, striking him with spear butts and pulling him from the girl. They struck him cruelly. “She is for the guards,” they told him.
Terrified, Thimble, her camisk half torn away, stumbled back, away from the chain.
“Fill their bowls again,” said the head guard. ‘They have much work to do today.”
Thimble and Thistle began again at the far end of the line to my right. They swayed back, frightened, as far as they could from the line, in their serving.
They knew the terror of slave girls, among men hungry for women.
There were some forty men in my chain. Along the some seventy pasangs of the wall there were several such chains, with their own pens and facilities. Somewhere between three and four hundred men, with their guards, labored at one place or another along the wall. I do not think it was a mistake that I was in one of the more central chins. My lovely captor, doubtless, had so decreed it. She was quite proud of my capture, which she regarded as a function of her own merits. She wanted me in a position of maximum security, nearer the wall’s center, closer to her headquarters. Too, I think she relished the pleasure of seeing me in her chains.
We were marched past the high platform overlooking the wall.
She was on the platform, with two guards.
“She is up early this morning,” said one of the men.
Near the platform there were piled some logs and heavy stones, carried there by other laborers the preceding afternoon. Tools, also, wrapped in hide, were there.
“Lift these logs,” said a guard. “Carry these stones.”
I, with Ram and Imnak, and Tasdron, who had been the captain in the fee of Samos, he whose ship had been lost to the tarnsmen, shouldered one of the logs.
My lovely captor looked down on us. Her face was flushed with pleasure.
“She wears a man’s furs,” said Ininak.
That was true, at least from the point of view of a red hunter. Women of the red hunters are furred differently from the hunters. Their boots, soft, of sleenskin, are high, and reach the crotch, instead of the knee. Instead of trousers of fur they wear brief panties of fur. When they cover their breasts it is commonly with a shirt of beaded lartskin. In cold weather they, like the men, wear one or more hooded parkas of tabuk hide. Tabuk hide is the warmest pelt in the arctic. Each of the hairs of the nothern tabuk, interestingly, is hollow. This trapped air, contained in each of the hollow hairs, gives the fur excellent insulating properties. Air, incidentally, is extremely important, generally, in the effectiveness of the clothing of the red hunters. First, the garments, being of hide, are windproof, as most other garments are not. Cold air, thus, cannot penetrate the garment. The warming factor of the garment is a function of air trapped against the skin. This air, inside the garment, is warmed by the body, of course, The garment, because of the hood, and the weight of the garment on the shoulders, tends to trap this warm air inside. It does not escape from the bottom because warm air, being less dense than cold air, tends to rise. The major danger of these garments, interestingly, is the danger of the wearer becoming overheated. Perspiration in the arctic winter, which can freeze on the body, and soak the clothing, which can then become like ice, brittle and useless, is a peril to be avoided if at all possible. Yet the garment’s design permits this danger to be nullified. When the hunter becomes overheated he pulls down the neck of the parka. This permits the warm air to escape and its place is taken by fresh, cold air from the bottom. He thus, by closing or opening the throat of the garment, regulates its effectiveness according to his needs. The warmth of most normal clothing, incidentally, is a function of layers of cloth, not of trapped, warmed air. These many layers of clothing are, of course, heavy, cumbersome and difficult to work in. Also, of course, since this sort of clothing is not normally windproof cold air penetrates the garment and, meeting the warm air of the body, tends to precipitate moisture. The garments thus become wet and more heavy, and more dangerous, at low temperatures. Also, there is no simply way of avoiding this danger. One may, of course, remove layers of clothing, but this, in arctic temperatures, can be dangerous in itself. Also, when one wishes to replace the clothing, it may be, by then, frozen. At arctic temperatures moisture in a garment can turn to ice in a matter of seconds. The armholes in a parka, incidentally, are cut large enough to allow a man to pull his arms and hands inside and warm them, if he wishes, against the body. The clothing of the arctic hunter seems ideally suited to his needs in the north. It is warm, light in weight and permits great freedom of movement.
“Work well, Tarl Cabot,” cailed my lovely captor from the height of the platform.
“Move,” said a guardsman.
We strode forth, moving in unison, on the left foot. Our right ankles, chained in coffle, followed.
The log was heavy.
“It is like stone,” said Ram. He drove the iron bar, which he gripped in fur, downward. It struck the layer of permafrost, and rang.
I, too, drove the bar into the hole. A bit of frozen dirt was chipped away.
We made our hole at a diagonal, for the logs we were to set now were bracing logs, which would help support the wall at this place. It was some half a pasang from the platform. It was weakened at this point. I had heard of this yesterday, be-fore I had been conducted by my fair captor from her headquarters. Some work had been done yesterday, with logs and stone. More remained to be done now. This weakness was to the left of the platform, looking out toward the tabuk. The center of the wall had been built across the main run of the tabuk migration. The animals, frustrated, sometimes tended to press against the wall. Sometimes, too, animals at the wall were forced against it, pinned against it, by the weight of animals behind them. Sometimes, in open places, huge, massive bucks, heads down, would charge and strike the wall with their horns. The animals did not understand this obstruction in their path. It was incomprehensible to them, and, to many, maddening. Why did it not yield?
Two or three times, at certain points, I learned, the wall had buckled, but, each time, men managed to repair it in time.
“Put stone here,” said a guardsman.
Men, carrying stone, placed it against the wall. Such support, however, would not be as effective as the log braces which we were laboring to set in place.
On the other side of the wall there were thousands of tabuk. New thousands arrived each day, from the paths east of Torvaldsland.
“With the permafrost,” I said to Ram, “the logs of the wall cannot be too deeply fixed.”
“They are deeply enough fixed,” he said. “They could not be withdrawn without sufficient labor.”
“Surely we have sufficient labor,” I said.
“Perhaps you could discuss the matter with the guards,” he said.
“They might not be agreeable,” I pointed out.
“What is your plan?” he asked.
We two were chained together, but apart from the others, to facilitate our labors. Several other pairs, too, were so chained. The coffle, in virtue of the arrangements of chains and ankle rings, could be broken up into smaller work units.
“Imnak,” I said, “would you like to go home?”
“I have not seen the performance of a drum dance in four moons,” he said.
“Tasdron,” said I, “would you like a new ship?”
“I would fit it to fight tarnsmen,” said he. “Let them then try to take her.”
“Do not be foolish,” said a man. “Escape is hopeless. We are chained. Guards, if not here, are many.”
“You have no allies,” said another man.
“You are mistaken,” I said, “our allies number in the thousands.”
“Yes!” said Ram. “Yes!”
The keys to our ankle rings were in the keeping of the chief guard, the master of our coffle.
“Speak less,” said a guard. “You are here to reinforce the wall, not spend your time in talk like silly slave girls.”
“I fear the wall is going to buckle here,” I said, indicating a place at the wall..
“Where?” he asked, going to the wall, examining it with his hands.
I did not think it wise on his part to turn his back on prisoners.
I thrust his head, from behind, into the logs. It struck them with considerable force. I gestured to the men about, that they join me at the wall. The fallen guard could not be seen amongst us. His sword I now held in my hand.
“What is going on there?” called the chief guard.
“You will get us all killed,” said a man.
He pushed his way amongst us, striking to the left and right. Then he saw his fallen fellow. He turned, white-faced, his hand at the hilt of his sword. But the sword I carried was at his breast.
Ram relieved him swiftly of the keys he bore. He released me, and then himself, and then gave the keys to Tasdron.
“There is no escape for you,” said the chief guard. “You are pinned with the wall on one side, the guardsmen who may be swiftly marshaled on the other.”
“Call your fellow guards to your side,” I said.
“I do not choose to do so,” he said.
“The choice is yours,” I granted him. I drew back the blade.
“Wait,” he said. Then he called out, “Jason! Ho-Sim! To the wall!”
They hurried over. We had then four swords, and two spears. They did not carry shields, for their duties had only involved the supervision of a work crew.
“Captain!” called another guard, from some forty yards away. “Are you all right?”
“Yes!” he called.
But the man had apparently seen the movement of a spear among the workers.
He turned suddenly and, bolting, fled toward the platform and main buildings.
“A spear!” I said.
But by the time it was in my grasp the man was well out of its range.
“He will give the alarm,” said the chief guard. “You are finished. Return to me my weapons and place yourselves again in chains. I will petition that your lives be spared.”
“Well, Lads,” said I, “let us now to work with a good heart. I do not think we will have a great deal of time to spare.”
With a will, then, they set themselves to the opening of the wall.
“You are insane!” said the chief guard. “You will all be trampled.”
As soon as one log was tortured out of the earth and lifted away Imnak slipped through the opening, out among the tabuk.
“He at least will escape,” said one of the men.
“He will be killed out there,” said another.
I was disappointed that Imnak had fled. I had thought him made of sterner stuff.
“Quickly, Lads,” I said. “Quickly!”
Another log was pulled out of the earth, levered up by bars and, by many hands, heaved to the side.
We could hear the alarm bar ringing now. Its sound carried clearly in the clear, cold air north of Torvaldsland.
“Quickly, Lads!” I encouraged them.
“You, too,” I said, gesturing to the three guards who were conscious. “Work well and I may spare your lives.”
Angrily, then, they, too, set themselves to the work of drawing logs out of that cruel turf.
Suddenly a tabuk, better than eleven hands at the shoulder, thrust through the opening, buffeting men aside.
“Hurry!” I said. “Back to work!”
“We will be killed!” cried the chief guard. “You do not know these beasts!”
“Guards are coming,” moaned a man.
Hurrying toward us we could now see some forty or fifty guardsmen, weapons at the ready.
“Surrender!” said the chief guard.
“Work,” I warned him.
He saw that I was ready to make an example of him. Earnestly he then bent sweating to his work.
“I surrender! I surrender!” cried a man, running toward the guards.
We saw him cut down.
I took again the spear which had earlier been pressed into my grasp.
I hurled it into the guards, some fifty yards now away. I saw a man fall.
The guards stopped, suddenly. They did not have shields. I took the other spear.
“Work!” I called to the men behind me.
“Heave!” I heard Ram call.
Two more tabuk bounded through the rupture in the wall. There would not be enough. They did not know the wall was open. Some four more tabuk, as though sensing freedom, trotted past.
There would not be enough.
I threatened the guards with the spear. They fanned out, now, wisely, warily.
Another log was rolled aside.
Two more tabuk bounded through.
“Kill him!” I heard the chief of those guardsmen say. Four more tabuk trotted past.
There would not be enough tabuk! The guards now crept more close, blades ready.
“Aja! Aja!” I heard, from behind the fence. “Aja! Hurry, my brothers! Aja!”
There was a cheer from those who labored at the destruction of the wall.
Forty or more tabuk suddenly, with startling rapidity, a tawny blur, trotted past me. They were led by a magnificent animal, a giant buck, fourteen hands at the shoulder, with swirling horn of ivory more than a yard in length. It was the leader of the herd of Tancred.
“Aja!” I heard from behind the fence.
Suddenly it was as though a dam had broken. I threw myself back against the logs. The guardsmen broke and fled.
Floodlike, like a tawny, thundering avalanche, blurred, snorting, tossing their heads and horns, the tabuk sped past me. I saw the leader, to one side, on a hillock, stamping and snorting, and lifting his head. He watched the tabuk streaming past him and then he bounded from the hillock, and, racing, made his way to the head of the herd. More tabuk now, a river better than sixty feet wide, thundered past me. I heard logs splintering, and saw them breaking and giving way. They fell and some, even, on the backs of the closely massed animals, were carried for dozens of yards, wood floating and churned, tossed on that tawny, storming river, that relentless torrent of hide and horn, turned toward the north. I moved to my left as more logs burst loose. In minutes the river of tabuk was more than two hundred yards wide. The ground shook beneath me. I could hardly see nor breathe for the dust.
I was aware of Imnak near me, grinning.
11. What Further Events Occurred In The Vicinity Of The Wall; I Again Turn My Eyes Northward; I Pause Only To Reduce A Woman To Slavery
I tied her wrists together. There was a great cheer from my men.
As I had anticipated there had been little actual fighting.
Once the wall had been broken, Drusus, of the Assassins, had departed with several men.
Several guardsmen, too, their discipline broken, had sought supplies and fled south. The wall broken there seemed little point to them to remain and die.
We had little difficulty with the guards and work crews east of the break in the wall. It had been a simple matter to don the uniforms of guards and seem to march a new chain of men east. The men in the chain, of course, were not locked within, save for those at the end of the chain who had been former guards, now clad in the rags of laborers. I was of the warriors, and Ram, as it turned out, was quite skillful with the sword. Confronted with us and the majority of the putatively chained laborers, suddenly throwing off their chains and encircling them, they offered little resistance. Soon they, like their colleagues, wore locked manacles and laborers’ rags. At the eastern end of the wall a similar ruse surprised the camp of hunters. We lost some of these as they fled south but others we captured and chained, acquiring several longbows, which might he used at the latitude of the wall, and several hundred arrows. Some nine men among our forces were of the peasants. To these I gave the bows.
At the end of the wall Imnak wept, seeing the strewn fields of slaughtered tabuk. The fur and hide of the tabuk provides the red hunters not only with clothing, but it can also be used for blankets, sleeping bags and other articles. The hides can serve for harnesses for the snow sleen and their white-skinned, female beasts. Too they may be used for buckets and tents, and for kayaks, the light, narrow hunting canoes of skin from which sea mammals may be sought. Lashings, harpoon lines, cords and threads can he fashioned from its sinews. Carved, the bone and horn of the animal can function as arrow points, needles, thimbles, chisels, wedges and knives. Its fat and bone marrow can be used as fuel. Too, almost all of the animal is edible. Even its eyes may be eaten and, from its stomach, the half-digested mosses on which it has been grazing.
Fluttering jards, covering many of the carcasses like gigantic flies, stirred, swarming upward as Imnak passed them, and then returned to their feasting.
He looked about, at the slaughtered animals. Only one in ten had been skinned.
The sinew had not been taken, nor the meat nor bones. Some hides had been taken, and some horn. But the mission of the hunters had not been to harvest from the herd of Tancred. Their mission had been to desttoy it.
With a sudden cry he fell upon a bound hunter. I prevented him from killing the man.
“We must go,” I said. I vomited. My stomach had been turned by the stench.
I used capture knots on her wrists. There was a great cheer from my men.
“I am your prisoner, Captain,” she said.
I did not speak to her, but handed her, her wrists bound before her body, to one of my men.
“We shall hold you to your word,” said Sorgus, the hide bandit, uneasily.
“It is good,” I told him.
He, with his men, some forty, who had taken refuge in the wooden hail, that serving as the headquarters of the wall commander, filed tensely between the ranks of my men. I had permitted them their weapons. I had little interest in the slaughter of minions.
The men and guardsmen who had been at the wall’s center, in the buildings there, and west along the wall, including the hunters at that termination of the structure, learning the breaking of the wall and the freeing and arming of many laborers, had for the most part fled. Others, however, under the command of Sorgus, had boldly rallied to turn the tides of victory in their favor. They had not at that time, however, realized that nine of our men, peasants, gripped bows of yellow Ka-la-na wood. Behind each of these nine stood men bearing sheafa of arrows. Of the original force of Sorgus, some ninety-five men, fifty had succumbed to the fierce rain of steel-tipped arrows which had struck amongst them. Only five of his men had been able to reach the bowmen. These I slew. Sorgus, with some forty cohorts then, seeing me deploy bowmen to his rear, broke for the hail and barricaded himself within.
“He is waiting,” said Ram, “for the return of the tarnsmen, those on patrol.”
We would have little protection from attack from the air.
The arrow flighted from a diving tarn, allied with gravity and the momentum of the winged beast, can sink a foot into solid wood.
Such an attack would necessitate the scattering of my men, their seeking cover. Defensive archery, directed upward from the ground, fighting against the weights of gravity, is reduced in both range and effectiveness. The dispersal of my men, of course, would provide Sorgus and his men with their opportunity, under the covering fire of their tarnsmen aloft, to escape from the hall.
“When are the tarnsmen due to return from patrol?” I asked.
“I do not know,” said Ram.
“Sorgus!” I had called, to he within the headquarters.
“I hear you,” he responded.
“Surrender!” I called.
“I do not!” he said. Arrows were trained on the door through which he spoke.
“I do not wish to slay either you or your men,” I called to him. “If you surrender now I will permit you to retain your weapons and withdraw in peace.”
“Do you think me a fool?” he called.
“When do you expect your tarnsmen to return?” I asked.
“Soon!” said he.
“It could be days,” said Ram.
“I hope, for your sake, Sorgus,” I called, “that they return within the Ahn.”
I positioned my archers at the openings to the hall, with armed men to defend them. I encircled the hall with my men. They carried stones and clubs.
“What do you mean?” called Sorgus.
“I am going to fire the hall,” I said.
“Wait!” he said.
“You and your men may depart in peace now,” I said, “or die within the Ahn.”
More men joined me, still in their chains. They had come east from the farther portions of the wall. They had been abandoned by their guards. These wore even their chains as yet. We would remove them from them later with tools. These newcomers carried, many of them, the iron bars used for chipping at the permafrost, and picks, and shovels. Two carried axes.
Now there were some three hundred and seventy men encircling the hall, all armed in one way or another, some even with stones. They were not in a pleasant mood.
“Do not fire the hall!” called Sorgus.
I ordered fires lit. Rags, soaked in oil, were set at the tips of arrows.
“How do I know you will let us leave, if we leave now, in peace?” he asked.
“I have pledged it,” I said. “And I am of the warriors.”
“How do we know you are of the warriors?” he asked.
“Send forth your best swordsman,” I said, “that my caste may be made clear to you.”
No one emerged from the hall.
“I shall wait one Ehn,” I said. ‘Then I shall have the hall fired.”
In a few moments I heard her screaming, from within the hall. “No, no,” she cried. “Fight to the death! Fight to the death!”
I knew then I had won.
Sorgus emerged from the hall, his hands raised, his sword slung still at his hip.
I watched Sorgus and his men depart.
“I am a free prisoner,” she said. “I demand all the rights and privileges of such a prisoner.”
“Free these new men of their chains,” I said, indicating those fellows who had recently joined us, from the western portions of the wall.
“Yes, Captain,” said a man.
I turned to the fair captive.
“I am a free prisoner,” she said, “and I-”
“Be silent, I said to her. Her own dagger was at her throat.
“You were once in command here,” I said. “But that is now finished. You are now only a girl on Gor.”
She looked at me, suddenly frightened.
“When are the tarnsmen due?” I asked.
“Soon,” she said.
A man pulled back her head, by the hair. I laid the blade across her throat.
“Four days,” she whispered. “They are due to return on the afternoon of the first day of the passage hand.”
“Put her in the handle tie,” I said. “Yes, Captain,” said the man, grinning.
Her fur boots were pulled off and her ankles were linked by leather thongs; she had good ankles; the leather permitted them a separation of some twelve inches; the tether on her wrists then was taken between her legs and lifted up and behind her, where its loose end was tied about her neck. The linking of the ankles prevents the slipping of the handle tie, and controls the length of her stride when she is put in it. A given pressure on the handle tie, exerted through the strap at the back, permits it to function as a choke leash; a different pressure permits her to be hurried along on her toes. The handle tie is usually, of course, reserved for naked slave girls.
“Oh,” she said.
The man had looped his fist twice in the strap, tightening it.
She looked at me. She was in the control of the man who held the strap.
“If the tarnsmen return before the afternoon of the first day of the passage hand,” I said, handing the man, who controlled her her dagger, “cut her throat.”
“Yes, Captain,” he said.
“Oh,” she cried, being hurried from the presence of men. Did she not know she was now only a girl on Gor?
“We have much to do,” I told my men. “The wall is to be destroyed. After that you may divide what supplies and treasures exist here and take your leave. Any who leave before the work is done, trailed and recaptured, are to be staked out among the fallen tabuk.”
The men looked at one another, uneasily. They did not care to become feasting meat for the scavenging jards.
“We are hungry,” said a man.
“Imnak,” said I, “go to the platform. Keep watch. You shall be relieved in two Ahn.”
He grunted and went to the platform.
“We are hungry,” said men.
“I, too,” said I. “Make a feast, but there is to be no drinking of paga. It is late now for commencing our labors. Morning for such work will be soon enough.”
There was a cheer.
In the morning they would work with a hearty will. I did not think it would take long to destroy the wall, surely not more than the days to the first passage hand. We had more than three hundred and fifty men for work. In many places, too, the wall had been weakened by the buffeting tabuk over the past weeks.
I heard the miserable cries of two girls. A man was coming from the cook shack, where Thimble and Thistle had hidden themselves. He now dragged them before us, bent over, a hand in the hair of each.
“What have we here!” cried a man cheerfully.
“Slaves!” cried others.
“Hold,” said I. “We are honest men, and are not thieves. Release them.”
The man loosed the hair of the girls. Swiftly they knelt, frightened.
‘These girls,” said I, “belong to Imnak.”
“He is a red hunter,” said a man.
“He is one with us,” I said.
There was an angry cry.
I drew my blade. “None may use them without his permission,” I said. “I shall maintain discipline, if need be, my comrades, by the blade.”
I looked down at the kneeling girls. “There are many men here,” I said. “Doubtless they are quite hungry. Perhaps you should consider scurrying to the cook shack, to be about your duties.”
“Yes, Master!” they cried.
“Pull down your camisks,” I warned them.
Weeping they fled to the cook shack, trying with their small hands to adjust their garments so that they would reveal less of their beauty. The men roared with laughter. I smiled. The brief, open-sided camisks they wore had not been designed to permit a girl much success in such a project.
“We are now alone,” I told her.
It was early afternoon, on the first day of the passage hand.
“All alone?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Completely?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Where have the men gone?” she asked.
“The work is finished,” I said. ‘The wall, burned and uprooted, has been destroyed. Other buildings, too, with the exception of this hall, have been fired. The laborers, in various groups, laden with goods and gold, have filtered away, scattering, returning to the south.”
“They have taken my gold?” she asked. She was sitting at the side of the hall, her back against its wall of horizontally fitted logs. Her ankles were drawn up. The same thongs which, looped about her stomach and threaded through a ring behind her, holding her to the wall, led to her ankles, drawing them back. The original thongs on her ankles, which had served as leather ankle shackles, I had had removed. She still wore, however, the tether on her wrists, the loose end of which had been taken up behind her and tied about her neck, the handle portion of the handle tie.
“Ten strongboxes were found,” I said, “and forced open. Their contents were divided. Few men are discontent to have earned fees so rich for their services.”
“I am now without economic resources,” she said.
“You are pretty,” I said, “perhaps men might be persuaded to let you live.”
“You are a beast!” she said.
“Captured guardsmen and hunters,” I said, “released, given supplies, have also taken their way south.”
“You are generous,” she said.
“Sometimes,” I said. “—with men.”
She shrank back in her bonds.
“They labored well with the others to destroy the wall,” I said.
“What of the red hunter?” she asked.
“He alone, of all who worked at the wall,” I said, “treks northward.”
“What of the two girls?’ she asked.
“He drives his pretty beasts before him,” I said. Imnak had fashioned a sled, which would be of use in crossing Ax Glacier. Thimble and Thistle drew it now across the tundra toward the snows. Before he had left he had had them sew northern garments for themselves, under his instruction. From the furs and hides among the spoils at the wall they had cut and sewn for themselves stockings of lart skin, and shirts of hide, and a light and heavy parka, each hooded and rimmed with lart fur. Too, they had made the high fur boots of the northern woman and the brief panties of fur, to which the boots, extending to the crotch, reach. On the hide shirts and parkas he had made them sew a looped design of stitching at the left shoulder, which represented binding fiber. This designated the garments as those of beast. A similar design appeared on each of the other garments. About their throats now, too, they wore again the four looped strings, each differently knotted, by means of which a red hunter might, upon inspection, determine that their owner was Imnak. This morning Imnak, walking behind and to one side of the sled, had left the camp’s area. Because it was warm he had not permitted the girls to wear their hide shirts or parkas. Northern women often do not do so in warm weather. When he had cracked his whip they had put their shoulders to the traces. The sled was heavily laden, but with little gold. More significant to Imnak had been sugars and Bazi tea, and furs and tools. Interestingly he had also placed much wood on the sled, both boards and poles, for it is of great value in the north. Wood can be used for sleds, and tent frames and the frames of kayaks and umiaks, the large, broad vessels which can hold several individuals, sometimes used in whaling. Trees do not flourish in the land of Imnak and their needs for wood must largely be satisfied by occasional finds at the shore, driftwood, from hundreds of pasangs south, dragged from the chilled water. Imnak’s whip cracked and she who had been Barbara Benson. a middle-class girl, and she who had been the rich, upper-class Audrey Brewster, now Thimble and Thistle, cried out and began to draw their master’s sled. I watched them leave. Both were now leveled women. Both would now have to compete in absolute equality, beginning at the same point, neither with an advantage, as pure females, and as slaves, for the favor of men. I did not know which might be more pleasing. In time I thought both might prove superb.
Sidney Anderson, tied sitting at the wall, looked up at me. “You, too,” she said, “had better flee.”
“The laborers,” I said, “have not fled. They are simply returning to their homes.”
“You have remained behind,” she said.
“Of course,” I said.
“I do not understand,” she said. Then she said, “Do not touch me!”
I released her from the wall and removed the thongs, too, which had held her ankles. I pulled her to her feet. I slipped my fist into the handle of the tie she wore and, looping it about my fist twice, tightening it, thrust her before me toward the door of the hall.
“Where are you taking me?” she asked.
I tightened the tie more. “Oh!” she said. Then she was quiet. She bit her trembling lip. Outside I scanned the skies. They were clear.
Sidney Anderson looked about. Buildings were burned. No one was in sight. The wall had been destroyed. The platform, too, had been pulled down, and had then been burned. Ashes were about, and debris, and turf cut by the feet of many men.
I thrust her before me, toward the whipping platform, which I had ordered remain intact.
“What are you going to do?” she asked.
“Tarnsmen,” I said, “will soon be here, will they not?”
“Yes,” she said, angrily. “What are you going to do?”
I thrust her up the steps, onto the platform. “You are going to serve Priest-Kings, my pretty little charmer,” I told her.
I removed the tether from her throat and, bringing it between her legs and before her, tossed it through the ring on the crossbeam.
“Oh,” she said.
I drew her from her feet, and hung her by her bound wrists from the ring.
I then crossed her ankles and, with a peice of rope, tied them together, and fastened them to the lower ring, that fastened in the floor of the whipping-frame platform.
I pulled back the hood from the furs she wore. The auburn hair took the sun beautifully.
I scanned the skies again. There was nothing in sight, save clouds.
“How am I to serve Priest-Kings?” she asked, wincing.
“As naked bait,” I told her.
“No!” she said. I cut the furs from her. “You are quite beautiful,” I told her.
“No, no!” she wept.
I regarded her. “You are even beautiful enough to be a Gorean slave girl,” I said.
“No!” she cried.
“Those who brought you to Gor,” I said, “doubtless had that fate eventually in mind for you.”
“That is a lie!” she said.
“It would have been easy enough to find ugly women,” I said.
“No,” she said. “No!”
“You are too beautiful to be long left free,” I said.
“No!” she said.
“It is my conjecture,” I said, “that you were eventually to be given to Drusus.”
“Given?” she said.
“Of course,” I said, “as a slave.”
“No!” she cried.
“You are indeed naive,” I said. “Do you think a woman as beautiful as you on Gor could long keep out of the collar?”
She looked at me with horror. I gagged her, that she might not cry out.
The tarnsmen were wary. There were five of them. They circled the area several times.
They would have little difficulty, even from their distance aloft, in identifying the lovely captive suspended from the ring. There were few white girls this far north, above Torvaldsland, at the brink of Ax Glacier. Her auburn hair, too, would leave little doubt as to her identity. Such hair, as I have noted, is rare on Gor.
They would see the girl. They would see the destruction of the wall, and of the buildings, except for the hall.
Then one would land, to reconnoiter.
It was his tarn that would serve me.
I fitted an arrow, of black tem-wood, with a pile point, to the string of the yellow bow. The string was of hemp, whipped with silk. The arrow was winged with the feathers of the Vosk gull.
“Beware!” she cried, as soon as the gag was cut from her mouth. “One remains! One remains!” But I do not think he heard her. She screamed, and he spun back, falling from the platform to the turf. At the same time I, casting the bow aside, began the race for the tarn. I leaped into the saddle and dragged back fiercely on the one-strap. The winged monster screamed with rage and reared upward, wings cracking like whips at the air. I leaned to one side as the raking talons of a second tarn tore downward for me. I dragged back again on the one-strap, almost throwing the bird on its back, bringing its talons high. I almost lost the saddle as my bird, struck by the next tarn, reeled buffeted, twisting backward, some forty feet in the air. Then, both birds, screaming, talons interlocked, grappled in the air. The bolt of a crossbow sped past my head. Another tarn closed in from my left. I tore the shield from its saddle straps and blocked the raking talons that furrowed the leather. The fourth tarn was below us. I saw the man thrust up with his spear. It cut my leg. I wheeled the tarn to the left and it spun, still interlocked with its foe. The tarnsman to my left drew back on the one-strap to avoid fouling straps with his ally. The fellow whose tarn was tearing at mine drew back, too, on his six-strap, and the bird swept upward and away, from my right. A bolt from a crossbow skidded ripping through the saddle to my left. Then he who had fired it swept past behind me. My tarn was then loose. The four of them, now grouped, in formation, ascended in an arc some hundred yards from me. I took my tarn higher, swiftly, to be above them. Then the sun was behind me and they were below me. They broke apart and began to circle, separately. They had no wish to meet me falling upon them from the tarn’s ambush, the sun. I kept them generally below me. I fastened the safety strap now: I examined the shield. It was torn deeply but still serviceable. There was a spear at the saddle. I loosened it in its straps. A crossbow hung to my right. A sheaf of bolts was behind the saddle. I saw the girl, suspended from the ring, far below. Suddenly I laughed with elation. I pulled back on the one-strap again. I would wait for them in the clouds.
The moons of Gor were high when I returned to the sturdy platform.
The hunt had been long. It had carried for several pasangs. Two had been foolish enough to follow me into the clouds. The other two had fled. I had not managed to overtake them until late afternoon. They had fought desperately, and well.
“You have escaped,” she said, in wonder. “There were four of them.”
My tarn, now, was weak and bloodied. I did not know if it would live.
In the end they had struck at the bird. It was shortly after that that I had finished the hunt.
“You had best flee,” she said, “before they return.”
“Do you think they will rescue you?” I asked.
“Surely.” she said.
I was weary. I put my hand on her body. It was the first time that I had touched her. She was really quite beautifuL
“Do not touch me!” she hissed.
“Do you still hope for succor?” I asked.
“Of course!” she said. Then she screamed as I threw the four heads to the turf. I was weary then, and I had lost blood, from the wound in my leg, so I turned away, descended the steps of the whipping platform, and made my way to the hall, where I would sleep.
“You are a barbarian! A barbarian!” she screamed.
I did not answer her but entered the hall, to rest, for I was weary.
In the morning I was much refreshed.
The sun was high and bright, and I had fed well, and had rigged a backpack, in which I had placed supplies and my things, when I again climbed the steps to the whipping platform.
The girl was unconscious. I slapped her awake.
“I am leaving now,” I told her.
She looked at me, dully. I looked away from her, out over the tundra, the loneliness, the blackened remains of the scattered logs which had been the wall, the ruined buildings. I would fire the hail, too, before I left. There is a bleakness to the north which, in its harsh way, can be very beautiful. It was chilly: A dust of snow had fallen in the night. I saw a group of five tabuk, stragglers, cross the line that had been the wall. They would follow the herd north. They would be unaware that there had ever been an impediment to their journey. I watched them pick their way through burned logs and, in their characteristic gait, turn northward. One stopped to nuzzle at the turf, pushing back snow with its nose, to bite at moss.
“Are you going to leave me here, to die?” she asked.
I cut her down, and cut the bonds on her wrists and ankles. She sank to the wood of the platform. It was coated with crystals of snow. She clutched the furs there to her. I had yesterday cut them from her.
I then descended the steps of the platform. In a few moments I had set fire to the hall.
As I stood before the burning edifice I turned once to look at the platform. She knelt there, small, the furs clutched to her.
She was an enemy.
I turned away, northward. I, too, would follow the herd.
I did not look back.
Toward noon I stopped to make a camp. I ate dried meat. I watched the small figure some two hundred yards behind me slowly approach.
When she was some three or four yards from me she stopped. I regarded her.
She knelt. “Please,” she said.
I threw some meat to the snow before her and, eagerly, she ate it.
The beauty was ravenous. “Please,” she begged, “give me more.”
“Crawl to me on your belly in the snow,” I told her.
“Never,” she said.
I continued to eat.
Then I reached down to where her head, as I sat cross-legged, lay in the snow by my knee. She was on her belly. “Please,” she begged. “Please.”
I thrust meat in her mouth. Gratefully she ate it. In time she looked up at me. “You made me crawl to you on my belly,” she said, resentfully.
I stood up. I must be on my way.
“I never thought I would meet a man so strong,” she said. She shuddered. I thought it must be from cold.
“The tarn?” she asked.
“It was weak,” I said. “I freed it.”
“You are going north,” she said.
“I have business in the north,” I said.
“You will go afoot?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“You will have little chance to survive,” she said.
“I will live on the herd,” I said. “The only danger, as I see it, will be the winter.”
In such times even groups of the red hunters sometimes perished.
“Do not follow me further,” I said.
“I cannot live alone in the north,” she said. “I would surely fail to reach the south safely.”
I thought her assessment of the situation accurate.
“Panther Girls,” I said, “such as, here and there, frequent the northern forests, might survive.”
“I am not a Panther Girl,” she said.
I looked at her kneeling in the snow at my feet, her small, trim figure, her soft, sweet exquisite curves, her delicately beautiful throat and face, the pleading blue eyes, the lush wealth of auburn hair loose behind her naked shoulders.
“That is true,” I said. I looked upon her. Her body, so helpless and exquisitely feminine, seemed made for rapacious seizure at the hands of a rude master. Her face, vulnerable and delicate, would be easy to read. Tears might swiftly be brought to her eyes by a word, or fear to those lovely features, by as little as an imperial gesture. I considered whether it would be worth while teaching her the collar.
“I am an Earth girl,” she said.
I nodded. She knew nothing of woodcraft or of survival. She was alone on a harsh world.
“You are an enemy,” I told her.
“Do not leave me,” she begged. She swallowed hard. “Without a man to feed and protect me,” she said, “I will die.”
I recalled how she had responded when, before I had won ray freedom, I had informed her that the red hunters might starve, if the tabuk were not permitted to continue their northward migration.
“It is not my concern,” she had said.
“Please,” she said, looking up at me.
“It is not my concern,” I said.
“Oh, no!” she wept. “Please!”
“Do not attempt to follow me,” I said. “If you persist, I shall bind you, hand and foot, and leave you in the snow.”
“I am pretty,” she said. “I know that I am pretty.” She looked up at me, tears in her eyes. “Might not men be persuaded,” she asked, “to let me live?”
I smiled, recalling what once I had suggested to her.
“Please,” she begged.
“You do not know of what you speak,” I laughed. “You are only an ignorant Earth girl.”
“Teach me,” she begged.
She put her arms to her sides and lifted her body before me.
“What a salacious tart you are,” I said.
Tears formed in her eyes.
I considered to myself how she might look in a snatch of slave silk and a steel collar, one bearing a master’s name. The prospect was not completely displeasing.
“Assume attitudes and postures,” I said to her. “Try to interest me.”
With a cry of misery she tried then to provoke my interest. She was clumsy but I learned, incontrovertibly, that which I had wished to determine. She who performed so desperately before me was a natural slave. I had thought this the first instant I had laid eyes on her. It was now confirmed beyond doubt. The insight, sensitivity, taste and lust of the Kur agents who had recruited her was surely to be commended.
“It is enough.” I told her.
She lay at my feet in the snow, terrified.
“What do you feel like?” I asked.
“It is a strange feeling,” she said. “I have never felt it before.”
“It is the feeling of being a woman,” I said.
She reached out to touch my ankle. “Please,” she said, “take me with you.”
I bent to her and began to tie together her ankles. “No!” she said. “Please! Please!”
Her ankles were tied.
“No!” she said.
“I do not wish the inconvenience in the north,” I said, “of bothering with a free woman.”
I knotted her hands behind her back.
“I do not ask to come with you as a free woman!” she cried.
“Oh?” I asked.
“No!” she said.
“Do you know the meaning of your words, foolish girl?” I asked.
“Yes,” she wept.
“You would dare to be a slave?” I asked.
“Yes,” she whispered. I wondered at her words. Did she not know the hopelessness, the completeness, of being a slave girl on Gor? If she did not, she would learn.
I rose to my feet.
She struggled to her knees, her ankles crossed and bound, her hands tied behind her. “I beg to be a slave,” she wept.
I looked down upon her.
“I know,” she said, “that with a man of your strength I could never be anything but a slave.”
“To any Gorean male,” I said.
“Yes, yes,” she said.
I freed her ankles of the bonds and freed her hands, but then retied her hands before her body. I knelt her before me, knees wide, back on her heels, arms lifted and raised, her head down, between her bound arms.
“Are you familiar with any of the rituals of enslavement?” I asked.
“I, Sidney Anderson, of Earth,” she said, “submit myself to Tarl Cabot, of Gor, as a slave, completely, his to do with as he pleases.”
I saw that she had been curious as to what it would be like to be a slave. She had inquired into this matter. It was an excellent sign.
She was then a beautiful, little exquisite brute at my feet, a slave animal.
I took a length of binding fiber and knotted it, with capture knots, about her throat. It was her collar. Too, the capture knots, those of a warrior, would serve to identify her as mine in the north.
She looked up at me, frightened, a slave.
“Kiss my feet,” I told her.
She bent her head to my feet and, through the fur of my boots, I felt her lips press against them. She then, timidly, tears in her eyes, lifted her head.
I put my hands in her hair. She must regard me. “You are Arlene,” I told her.
She shook with emotion.
“Lift your wrists,” I said.
She did so.
I freed her of the binding fiber on her wrists, and returned it to my pack.
“I have never had a girl’s name before,” she said.
“You are now only a girl,” I told her.
“Yes,” she whispered.
“Yes, what?” I asked.
“Yes,” she whispered, “—Master.”
I then threw her to her back in the snow, that I might begin to teach her the meaning of her collar.
12. I Tent With Imnak At The Gathering Of The People; I Advance Arlene A Bit In Her Training
“Put them on, Slave Girl,” said Thimble, not pleasantly.
“Yes, Mistress,” said Arlene. In the hide tent she slipped into the brief fur panties worn by the women of the north. She had been forced to sew them herself, under the direction of Thimble and Thistle. At the left hip they bore the sign of the looped binding fiber, sewn in them with red-dyed sinew, which identified them as the garment of one who was an owned beast.
Imnak and I sat across from one another, both cross-legged. He dropped a tiny bone to the fur mat between us.
Each player, in turn, drops a bone, one of several in his supply. The bone Imnak had dropped was carved in the shape of a small tabuk. Each of the bones is carved to resemble an animal, such as an arctic gant, a northern bosk, a lart, a tabuk or sleen, and so on. The bone which remains upright is the winner. If both bones do not remain upright there is no winner on that throw. Similarly, if both bones should remain upright, they are dropped again. A bone which does not remain upright, if its opposing bone does remain upright, is placed in the stock of him whose bone remained upright. The game is finished when one of the two players is cleaned out of bones.
“Pull on the stockings,” said Thimble to Arlene. Arlene did so. The stockings were of lart fur. Each, in its side, wore the sign of the looped binding fiber. “Now,” said Thimble, “the boots.” In cold weather a layer of grass, for warmth, for insulation, changed daily, is placed in the bottom of the boots, between the inside sole of the boot and the foot of the stocking. Arlene now, of course, did not bother with this. The best harvests of grass for use in this way occur, naturally at the foot of the bird cliffs. Arlene drew on the high boots. They reached to her crotch. It was a hot crotch, as I had determined, a superb crotch for a slave girl. The fur trim at their top touched the panties. She was stripped from the waist up. Many of the women of the red hunters, too, went about so, inside and outside the tents, in the warmer weather. They of course, being free, did not have leather, like Arlene, or bondage strings, like Thimble and Thistle, at their throats. Similarly, their garments did not bear the slave marks of the looped binding fiber. Such marks, of course, were not necessary, in the north, for determining what Thimble, and Thistle and Arlene were. Even the leather or bondage strings at their throats were not necessary for that purpose. Their white skins alone, as they were females, identified them as slave beasts.
The tiny tabuk which Imnak had dropped remained standing upright.
I took my eyes from Arlene. What a lovely catch she had been!
I had not yet bothered to teach her complete slavery. I was in no hurry. Let her retain for a time a shred of her pride and dignity. I could always rip it from her when I wished, or when she herself should beg me to take it from her.
“Try on the shirt, Slave Girl,” said Thimble.
Arlene drew on the hide shirt. At the left shoulder, prominently, it bore the sign of the looped binding fiber. I glanced at her and she straightened her body, but then tossed her head and looked away, as though disdaining to take cognizance of my appraisal. The shirt fell nicely from her breasts, standing as she was. She was exquisitely figured. She stood as few Earth girls would have dared to, displaying her beauty, though she appeared to be completely disinterested in any such objective. I smiled to myself. She was discovering her sexuality. She looked at me, and then, quickly, looked away. I wondered if she knew she was being brought along slowly as a slave. Sometimes I read in her eyes a look that said, “I can resist you,” and, at other times, a look that said, “I begin to sense and fear what you might do to me. Please be kind, Master.” Once she had said to me, angrily, “You are dallying with me, aren’t you, Master?” “Perhaps,” I had told her. “Perhaps, Slave Girl.”
I dropped the tiny carved tabuk I held. It, too, remained upright.
Imnak picked up his tiny carved tabuk and held it over the fur mat.
Arlene made a small noise. I sensed that she was angry that I no longer looked upon her.
Was she not sufficiently beautiful? She had a girl’s vanity. Did she not yet know she was a slave, and that she might account herself fortunate should a free man so much as glance in her direction?
“Try on the first parka,” said Thimble.
Arlene slipped it on, over the head, as such garments, like northern garments generally, are donned.
“Hood,” said Thimble.
Arlene lifted the hood and placed it properly.
“Do I please you, Master?” asked Arlene. She wished attention.
I looked up. Her face was very beautiful, rimmed in the lart fur trimming the hood.
“It is very nice,” I said.
“Thank you, Master,” she said, acidly.
“Put on the second parka and its hood,” said Thimble. Arlene complied. Both the parkas bore, at their left shoulder, the design of looped binding fiber, identifying them as the garments of slaves.
“Master?” asked Arlene.
“Excellent,” I said. ‘The garments are superb, and you are very beautiful in them.”
She flushed. “Thank you, Master,” she said. Then she said, acidly, “A girl is pleased if her master is pleased.”
“It is well,” I said, soberly. She trembled, momentarily.
“Take them off,” said Thimble, “all of them, everything, except the leather on your throat.”
“Yes, Mistress,” said Arlene.
Arlene stripped herself, to the leather collar, in Imnak’s hide tent. Thimble and Thisile were also naked. All were girls, only slave beasts in the tent of their masters.
I dropped the tiny carved tabuk which was mine, that which was my piece in the game. It did not land upright.
“I have won,” said Imnak.
“What are you gambling about?” asked Arlene. She was folding her garments.
“Put away the garments,” I said, “drop to all fours, and come here.”
Arlene put the folded garments to one side in the tent, and, in fury, on her hands and knees, crawled to where we had played.
I put my hand in her hair and pulled her to her stomach. “Here she is,” I told Imnak.
“Master!” she cried.
Imnak took her and turned her over, pulling her on her back across his legs.
“Master!” cried Arlene.
“Imnak has won your use, until he chooses to leave the tent,” I told her. “Obey him as though he were your own master.”
“Please, no!” she cried.
“Obey him,” I said, sternly, “as though he were your own master.”
“Yes, Master,” she said, miserably.
Imnak then dragged her to the side of the hide tent.
Perhaps I was struck most by the absence of trees.
Some five days after I had acquired the slave girl, Arlene, following the herd of Tancred, generally climbing, I came to the edge of Ax Glacier. There I found the camp of Imnak, and Thimble and Thistle.
“I have been waiting for you,” had said Imnak. “I thought you would come.”
“Why did you think this?” I had asked.
“I saw the furs and supplies you put aside for yourself when we were near the wall,” he said. “You have business in the north.”
“It is true,” I said.
He did not ask me my business. He was a red hunter. If I wished to tell him, he knew that I would. I decided that I would speak to him later. In my pouch was the small carving, in bluish stone, of the head of a Kur, one with an ear half torn away.
“I had hoped you would wait for me,” I said. “It might be difficult otherwise for one such as myself to cross the ice.
I knew that he had watched me prepare my pack.
Imnak grinned. “It was you,” said he, “who freed the tabuk.” Then he turned to his girls. “Break camp,” he had told them. “I am anxious to go home.”
With Imnak’s help we would cross Ax Glacier and find the Innuit, as they called themselves, a word which, in their own tongue, means “the People.” I recalled that in the message of Zarendargar he had referred to himself as a war general of the “People.” He had meant, of course, I assumed, his own people, or kind. Various groups are inclined to so identify themselves. It is an arrogance which is culturally common. The Innuit do not have “war generals.” War, in its full sense, is unknown to them. They live generally in scattered, isolated communities. It is as though two families lived separated in a vast remote area. There would be little point and little likelihood to their having a war. In the north one needs friends, not enemies. In good years, when the weather is favorable, there tends to be enough sleen and tabuk, with careful hunting, to meet their needs. One community is not likely to be much better or worse of than another. There is little loot to be acquired. What one needs one can generally hunt or make for oneself. There is little point in stealing from someone what one can as simply acquire for oneself. Within given groups, incidentally, theft is rare. The smallness of the groups provides a powerful social control. If one were to steal something where would one hide or sell it? Besides, if one wished something someone else owned and let this be known, the owner would quite possibly give it to you, expecting, of course, to receive as valuable a gift in return. Borrowing, too, is prevalent among the red hunters. The loan of furs, tools and women is common.
I looked downward, out across the ice of Ax Glacier. Beyond it lay the polar basin.
The north is a hard country. When one must apply oneself almost incessantly to the tasks of survival there is little time to indulge oneself in the luxury of conquest.
Thimble and Thistle dismantled the hides and poles of Imnak’s tent, and began to load them on the sled.
Violence, of course, is not unknown among the Innuit. They are men.
Aside, however, from consideratiolis such as the fewness, comparatively, of their numbers, and their geographical separation, and the pointlessness of an economics of war in their environment, the Innuit seem, also, culturally, or perhaps even genetically, disposed in ways which do not incline one to organized, systematic group violence. For example, they seem generally to be a kindly, genial folk. Hostility seems foreign to them. Strangers are welcomed. Hospitality is generous, honest, open-hearted and sincere. Some animals, doubtless, have better dispositions than others. The Innuit, on the whole, seem to be happy, pleasant fellows.’Perhaps that is why they live where they do. They have been unable, or unwilling, to compete with more aggressive groups. Their gentleness has resulted, it seems, in their being driven to the world’s end. Where no others have desired to live the Innuit, sociable and loving, have found their bleak refuge.
Imnak’s whip cracked down across the bare back of Thimble, the blond, who had been Barbara Benson, and she cried out and wept, “I hurry, Master!” She busied herself with loading the sled. Thistle, the dark-haired girl, who had once been the rich Audrey Brewster, hurried, too, lest it would be her own back which next would feel the lash.
The red hunters, though a genial folk, keep their animals under a firm discipline.
“I see you, too, have a beast,” he said, looking beyond me to the lovely Arlene.
She stood back, in the light snow, frightened of the red hunter. She wore a sleeveless jacket of fur, belted with binding fiber, which depended to her knees; fur leggings; and skins wrapped and tied on her feet. I had improvised these garments for her. I looked at her. She did not even know enough to kneel.
“Those garments,” said Imnak, “will be insufficient in the north.”
“Perhaps you could teach her,” I suggested, “to sew herself more adequate clothing.”
“I have showed my girls,” he said. “They will teach her.”
“Thank you,” I said.
It was rather beneath the dignity of a man to show a girl how to sew. Imnak had done this with Thimble and Thistle and did not wish to repeat the task. It is enough for a girl to teach a girl to sew.
“I see you have leather on your throat,” said Thimble to Arlene.
“I see your breasts are uncovered,” said Arlene to Thimble.
“Remove your jacket,” I told Arlene. Angrily, she did so. Imnak’s pupils dilated. He would welcome this lovely she in our small herd.
“Into the traces,” said Imnak.
Thimble and Thistle bent down and each looped the broad band of her trace across her body.
“You are animals, aren’t you?” called Arlene to them.
“Can you rig another trace?” I asked Imnak.
“Of course,” he said.
Soon Arlene, too, to her fury, stood in harness.
Imnak cracked his whip over their heads and they threw their weight against the traces and the long, narrow, freighted sled eased upward, over the rocks, and then slid down onto the ice of Ax Glacier. Imnak and I held the rear of the sled that it not move too rapidly downward. The ice of Ax Glacier, where we crossed it, had been cut by the countless hooves of the herd of Tancred; leaving a trial of marked ice more than one hundred and fifty yards wide. We would follow the herd.
It took ten days to cross Ax Glacier. There are many glacial lines among the rocks and mountains of the north, but Ax Glacier is easily the broadest and most famous. These glaciers, like frozen rivers or lakes of ice, or emptying seas, depend to the shores of Thassa, seeking her, flowing some few feet a year, imperceptibly like stone, to her chill waters. More than once we heard gigantic crashes as hundreds of feet or more of ice broke away from the glacial edge and tumbled roaring into the sea. It is thus, of course, that icebergs are formed. These great pieces and mountains of ice, shattering from the brinks of Ax Glacier and her smaller sisters, in time, drifting, carried by currents, would reach the northern sea, that eastward-reaching extension of Thassa rimming the polar basin. It was in that northern, or polar, sea that there was said to exist, if it were not myth or invention, the “mountain that did not move,” that iceberg which, in defiance of tide, wind and current, stood immobilely fixed. Sometimes we could see, from where we stood, the sea, with these great pieces of ice within it. Some of these pieces of ice reared more than a thousand feet into the air. Sometimes they are even miles long. Their occasional vastnesses, and the might of the forces that have formed them, become even more impressive when it is understood that what one can see above the surface does little more than hint at what lies below. The fresh-water ice from which such blocks are formed is less dense than the salt water in which they float, weighing only about seven eighths as much. Thus, in a given piece of such ice, there is some seven times more beneath the surface than appears visible above it. These pieces of ice, like moving, drifting reefs, can be hazardous to shipping. The smaller ones, especially at night, can be particularly dangerous. Gorean ships, however, seldom run afoul of them. They are, generally, very shallow-drafted, which permits them to come much closer to such ice without the danger that would threaten deeper-keeled craft; too, the Gorean ship, because of the shallow draft, can occasionally run up on such ice, sliding onto it, rather than breaking apart when it strikes it; too, the Gorean vessel, because it is usually light in weight, tends to be extremely responsive to its helm or helms, this permitting such obstacles to be avoided on shorter notice than would be possible with a heavier more sluggish vessel; too, Gorean vessels, except when manned by those of Torvaldsland and the northern islands, usually beach at night; thus, when visibility is poor, they are not abroad; if they do not beach they will sometimes lower their masts and yards and throw over their anchors; that most Gorean ships are oared vessels, too, gives the crewmen recourse in an emergency; they are not at the mercy of the wind and they can, if necessary, back the ship off the ice; lastly, few Gorean ships ply the northern waters in the months of darkness; sufficiently far north, of course, the sea freezes in the winter. A much greater danger to Gorean shipping than the iceberg is the sea itself, when it begins to freeze. A ship caught in the ice, if not constantly cut and chopped free, its men on the ice itself, can become solidly frozen, arrested, in the ice; then it is at the mercy of pressures and bucklings; the ice, grinding, shifting, can shatter a ship, breaking it apart like a lacing of frozen, brittle twigs.
“Har-ta!” said Imnak to the girls. “Har-ta!” The expression ‘har-ta’ is Gorean. “Faster! Faster!” He spoke sometimes to them in his own tongue, and sometimes in Gorean. Imnak himself spoke fair Gorean. He had traded furs and skins south more than once. Many of the red hunters cannot speak Gorean.
Imnak and I, too, applied our strength to the haul, thrusting at the wooden uprights at the back of the sled.
Imnak wished Thimble and Thistle to know Gorean. Would a white trader not pay more to rent one if she could understand his commands?
The nose of the sled tipped upward and then fell to the level on the glacial pebbles, and Ax Glacier, like the broad blade of a Torvaldsland ax, lay behind us.
“Har-ta!” called Imnak. Again we trekked.
There are tiers of mountains, interlaced chains of them, both east of Torvaldaland and north of her. Ax Glacier lies in one valley between two of these chains. These chains, together, are sometimes called the Hrimgar Mountains, which, in Gorean, means the Barrier Mountains. They are surely not a barrier, however, in the sense that the Voltai Mountains, or even the Thentis Mountains or Ta-Thassa Mountains, are barriers. The Hrimgar Mountains are not as rugged or formidable as any of these chains, and they are penetrated by numerous passes. One such pass, through which we trekked, is called the pass of Tancred, because it is the pass used annually by the migration of the herd of Tancred.
Four days after leaving the northern edge of Ax Glacier, we climbed to the height of the pass of Tancred, the mountains of the Hrimgar flanking us on either side. Below the height, the pass sloping downward, we could see the tundra of the polar plain. It is thousands of pasangs in width, and hundreds in depth; it extends, beyond horizons we could see, to the southern edge of the northern, or polar, sea.
I think this was a moving moment for Imnak. He stopped on the height of the pass, and stood there, for a long time, regarding the vastness of the cool tundra.
“I am home,” he said.
Then we eased the sled downward.
I suppose I was not watching well where I was going. I was watching the fellow being tossed in the fur blanket. The leather ball struck my back.
That was not all that struck my back. In a moment a small woman, a girl of the red hunters, fiery and very angry, was striking it. She stopped striking my back primarily because I turned to face her. She was then, however, striking my chest. After a time she stopped and, looking up at me, began to scold me vociferously.
I am pleased in some respects that words are less dangerous than arrows and daggers, else there surely would have been little left of me.
She finally grew weary of berating me. I gather she had done a good job of this from the interest and occasional commendations of the onlookers.
She looked at me, angrily. She wore the high fur boots and panties of the woman of the north. As it was, from their point of view, a hot day, one which was above the freezing point, she, like most of the women of the red hunters, was stripped to the waist. About her neck she wore some necklaces. She seemed pretty, but her temper might have shamed that of a she-sleen. The fur she wore, interestingly, was rather shabby. Her carriage and the sharpness of her tongue, however, suggested she must be someone of importance. I would later learn that the unmated daughters of even important men, namely, good hunters, were often kept in the poorest of furs. It is up to the mate, or husband, if you wish, to bring them good furs. This perhaps is intended as an encouragement to the girls to be a bit fetching, that they may attract a man and, subsequently, have something nice to wear. If this were the plan, however, clearly it had not yet worked in the case of my pretty critic. I was not surprised. It would be a bold fellow indeed who would dare to make her a present of fine feasting clothes.
She tossed her head and turned away. Her hair was worn knotted in a bun on the top of her head, like that generally of the women of the red hunters. Their hair is worn loose, interestingly, out of doors, only during their menstrual period. In a culture where the gracious exchange of mates is commonly practiced this device, a civilized courtesy, provides the husband’s friends with information that may be pertinent to the timing of their visits. This culture signal, incidentally, is not applicable to a man’s slaves in the north. Animals do not dress their hair and slaves, generally, do not either. Imnak sometimes did give Thimble and Thistle a red string to tie back their hair, but often he did not; he did with them what he pleased, and they did for him what they were told. He usually gave them the red string when he took them out with him, as a way of showing them off. Imnak had his vanities. I had not bothered to place Arlene under any strictures in these regards. Sometimes she wore her hair up, and sometimes let it fall loosely about her shoulders.
“You spoiled her kick,” said a man to me, in Goreali.
“I am sorry,” I said.
The girl, with other youths, had been playing a soccerlike game with the leather ball, with goals drawn in the turf. I had not realized, until too late, that I had been traversing the field of play.
“I am sorry,” I said.
“She has a very loud mouth,” said the man.
“Yes,” I granted. “Who is she?”
“Poalu,” he said, “the daughter of Kadluk.” Red hunters, though they are reticent to speak their own names, have little reservation about speaking the names of others. This makes sense, as it is not their name, and it is not as if, in their speaking it, the name might somehow escape them. This is also fortunate. It is sometimes difficult, if not impossible, to get one of these fellows to tell you his own name. Often one man will tell you the name of his friend, and his friend will tell you his name. This way you learn the name of both, but from neither himself. The names of the red hunters, incidentally, have meaning, but, generally, I content myself with reporting the name in their own language. ‘Imnak,’ for example, means “Steep Mountain”; ‘Poalu’ means “Mitten”; ‘Kadluk’ means “Thunder”. I have spoken of ‘Thimble” and ‘Thistle.” More strictly, their names were ‘Pudjortok’ and ‘Kakidlamerk’. However, since these names, respectively, would be ‘Thimble’ and ‘Thistle’, and Imnak often referred to them in Gorean as ‘Thimble” and ‘Thistle” I have felt it would be acceptable to use those latter expressions, they being simpler from the point of view of one who does not natively speak the tongue of the People, or Innuit.
“She is a beauty, is she not?” asked the man.
“Yes,” I said. “Is it your intention to offer her bright feasting clothes?”
“I am not insane,” he said. “Kadluk will never unload her.”
I thought his assessment of the situation was perhaps true.
“Have you a friend who might know your name?” I asked.
He called to a fellow who was nearby. “Someone would like to know the name of someone,” he said.
“He is Akko,” said the man. He then left.
“I can speak my own name,” I said to him. “I am from the south. Our names do not go away when we speak them.”
“How do you know?” asked Akko.
“I will show you,” I said. “My name is Tarl. Now listen.” I waited a moment. “Tarl,” I said. “See?”
“Interesting,” granted Akko.
“My name did not go away,” I said.
“Perhaps it came back quickly,” he suggested.
“Perhaps,” I said.
“In the north,” he said, “we do not think one should take unnecessary risks.”
“That is doubtless wise,” I granted.
“Good hunting,” he said.
“Good hunting,” I said. He left. Akko, or Shirt Tail, was a good fellow.
I smelled roast tabuk.
The great hunt had been successful. I did not know if it were morning, or afternoon, or night. In these days the sun, low on the horizon, circles, it seems endlessly, in the sky.
Six days ago Imnak and I, and our girls, had descended from the height of the pass of Tancred. The great hunt had been already in progress. Hundreds of the women and children of the red hunters, fanned out for pasangs, shouting, beating on pans had turned the herd toward the great alley of stone cairns. These cairns, of piled stone, each some four or five feet high, each topped with black dirt, form a long funnel. more than two pasangs in depth. The herd, which in the grazing on the tundra, has scattered is reformed to some extent by the drivers. It, or thousands of its animals, fleeing the drivers, pour toward the large, open end of the funnel. The stone cairns, which are perhaps supposed to resemble men, serve, perhaps psychologically, to fence in and guide the herd. The animals seem generally unwilling to break the imaginary boundary which might be projected between cairns. For example, the human seeing three dots spaced one way “sees” a line; seeing three dots spaced another way, he “sees” a triangle, and so on. One may fear to transgress a boundary which, in fact, exists only in one’s mind. It is not an unusual human being who finds himself a prisoner in a cell which, if he but knew it, lacks walls. Whatever the explanation the tabuk, generally, will postpone breaking the “wall” as long as possible. They flee along the alley of cairns. At the end of the cairns, of course, they turn about, milling, and many are slain, until some, wiser or more panic-stricken than others, break loose and, nostrils wide, snorting, trot to freedom and the moss of the open tundra.
I watched two men wrestling.
I had not yet spoken to Imnak about the carving of bluish stone among my belongings, the carving of a Kur, with an ear half torn away.
I could see the blue line of the Hrimgar Mountains in the distance to the south. To the north the tundra stretched forth to the horizoll.
Many people do not understand the nature of the polar north. For one thing, it is very dry. Less snow falls there generally than falls in most lower latitudes. Snow that does fall, of course, is less likely to melt. Most of the land is tundra, a cool, generally level or slightly wavy, treeless plain. In the summer this tundra, covered with mosses, shrubs and lichens, because of the melted surface ice and the permafrost beneath, preventing complete drainage, is soft and spongy. In the winter, of course, and in the early spring and late fall, desolate, bleak and frozen, wind-swept, it presents the aspect of a barren, alien landscape. At such times the red hunters will dwell by the sea, in the spring and fall by its shores, and, in the winter, going out on the ice itself.
I stepped aside to let a young girl pass, who carried two baskets of eggs, those of the migratory arctic gant. They nest in the mountaim of the Hrimgar and in steep, rocky outcroppings, called bird cliffs, found here and there jutting out of the tundra. The bird cliffs doubtless bear some geological relation to the Hrimgar chains. When such eggs are frozen they are eaten like apples.
I saw a woman putting out a pan for a domestic snow sleen to lick clean.
In another place several women sat on a fur blanket playing a cat’s cradle game. They were quite skilled. This game is generally popular in the Gorean north. It is played not only by the red hunters, but in Hunjer and Skjern, and in Torvaldsland, and as far south as the villages in the valley of the Laurius.
The tundra at this time of year belies its reputation for bleakness. In many places it bursts into bloom with small flowers. Almost all of the plants of this nature are perennials, as the growing season is too short to permit most annuals to complete their growing cycle. In the winter buds of many of these plants lie dormant in a fluffy sheath which protects them from cold. Some two hundred and forty different types of plants grow in the Gorean arctic within five hundred pasangs of the pole. None of these, interestingly, is poisonous, and none possesses thorns. During the summer plants and flowers will grow almost anywhere in the arctic except on or near the glacial ice.
At certain times in the summer even insects will appear, black, long-winged flies, in great swarms, coating the sides of tents and the faces of men.
Two children raced past me, playing tag.
I looked to the north. It was there that Zarendargar waited.
“Greetings, Master,” said Thimble.
“Greetings,” I said to her. She was dressed, save for her bondage strings, in much the same way as most of the women of the red hunters, bare-breasted, with high boots and panties. Thistle, however, behind her, was naked, in a northern yoke and on a leather leash. The northern yoke is either of wood or bone, and is drilled in three places. The one Thistle wore was of wood. It was not heavy. It passed behind her neck at which point one of the drilled holes occurred. The other two holes occurred at the terminations of the yoke. A leather strap is knotted about the girl’s wrist, passed through the drilled hole at one end of the yoke, usually that on her left, taken up through the hole behind the neck, looped twice about her neck, threaded back down through the center hole, taken up through the other hole at the end, usually the one at her right, and tied about her right wrist. She is thus fastened in the yoke. From each end of the yoke hung a large sack.
“We are going to pick moss and grass,” she said. Moss is used as wicks for the lamps. Grass, dried, is used for insulation between the inner soles of the boots and the bottom of the fur stockings in the winter.
“That is good,” I said. “Why is Thistle yoked?”
“It pleased me, Master,” said Thimble, first girl. There was little love lost between the girls.
“Was she insubordinate?” I asked.
“She said a sharp word to me,” said Thimble.
“Did you switch her, too?” I asked.
“Of course, Master,” said Thimble.
“Excellent,” I said. Discipline must be kept in the tent.
I looked at Thistle. She met my eyes, briefly, and then looked down. She was quite attractive. I had not as yet had either Thimble or Thistle.
“Is Imnak finished yet with the new slave girl?” I asked, referring to Arlene.
“I think so, Master,” said Thimble, smiling. “At least he has tied her to a pole behind the tent.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“I do not think she is much good, Master,” said Thimble, one slave girl appraising another.
“Do not let me detain you from your labors,” I said.
Thistle, suddenly, knelt down before me, yoked, and put her lips to my boot. Her head was jerked up by the leash in the hand of Thimble. Her eyes were moist “Master!” she begged.
“Come, Slave!” snapped Thimble, and pulled her to her feet and dragged her away, behind her. Thistle looked over her shoulder, at me. I gave no sign of response. She stumbled away, on Thimble’s leash. I smiled to myself. Thistle, as I had expected, was the first of the girls to begin to understand and feel her slavery.
“Help us, Tarl,” said Akko, whom I had met earlier in the day.
“He is a big fellow,” said a man.
“Yes,” said another.
I followed Akko and his friends to a place where two teams of men waited, a heavy, braided rope of twisted sleen-hide stretched between them.
They put me at the end of the rope. Soon, to the enthusiastic shouts of observers, we began the contest. Four times the rope grew taut, and four times our team won. I was much congratulated, and slapped on the back.
I was, accordingly, in a good mood when I returned to Imnak’s tent.
“Greetings, my friend,” I said. I had noted that Arlene, her wrists crossed and over her head, bound, was fastened to the horizontal pole of a meat rack, supported by its two tripods of inclined poles.
“Have you had a good day?” inquired Imnak, politely.
“Yes,” I said.
“That is good,” he said.
I waited a while. Then I said, “Have you had a good day?”
“Perhaps someone has not had a good day,” said Imnak.
“I am sorry to hear that,” I said.
“Perhaps someone who won a wager,” he said, “is not well repaid for his having won.”
“Oh?” I said.
“Sometimes,” he said, “it is hardly worth winning.” He shrugged.
“I will return in a moment,” I said.
I went back of the tent to Arlene.
“I want to talk to you,” she said. “I will have no more of this treatment on your part. You cannot simply give me to anyone you please.”
“I did not hear you say, ‘Master’,” I said.
“Master,” she said.
“You are never again,” she said, “to give me to another man.” Her eyes flashed.
“I gather linnak was not pleased,” I said.
“Imnak!” she cried.
“Yes, Imnak,” I said. I reached up and cut her loose. I, with my left hand, then took her by the hair.
“Please, stop!” she said.
I turned her face to look at me. With my right hand I jerked the leather at her throat. “What is this?” I asked.
“A collar,” she said.
“You are a slave,” I said.
“Yes,” she whispered, “Master,” frightened.
I threw her to my feet and she looked up at me. “You will now crawl to Imnak,” I said, “and beg to try and please him again. If he is not pleased, do you understand, I will feed you to the sleen.”
“No, no!” she whispered.
“It is up to you, Slave Girl,” I said. “For what do you think you are kept and fed?”
“No,” she whispered.
I looked down at her.
“You would not,” she whispered.
“I should have left you at the remain of the wall,” I said.
“No,” she whispered. Then she looked up at me, and reached out her hand. “Sometimes I feel so slave,” she said. She touched my thigh with her finger tips. “Sometimes I feel I want your touch, and as a slave girl.” I could scarcely hear her. “Your touch,” she said, “not his.”
“What you want is unimportant,” I said. “If Imnak is not pleased,” I said, “you will be fed to the sleen.”
She looked up at me, in horror. “Would you do that?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“I do not even know how to please a man!” she wept.
“You are an intelligent woman,” I said. “I suggest, if you wish to live, that you apply your intelligence to the task.”
Her tears, her head down, shaking, fell into the turf.
“Do you obey your master?” I asked.
“Yes,” she whispered. “I obey my master.”
“On your belly,” I told her.
On her belly she crawled to Imnak. No longer was she a commander among the agents of Kuril. She was now a naked slave girl obeying her master.
“Have you had a good day?” I later asked Imnak.
“Yes,” he said, “I have had a good day.”
“How is the auburn-haired slave beast?” I asked him.
“Splendid,” he said. “But Thimble and Thistle are better.”
I did not doubt but that this was true. But then they had been slaves longer, too.
“Make us tea, Arlene,” I said.
“Yes, Master,” she said. She was very pretty. I wondered what she would look like in a snatch of a slave silk, and a true collar.
Imnak, and Thimble and Thistle were asleep. Outside the low sun, as it did in the summer, circled the sky, not setting.
“Master,” whispered Arlene.
“Yes,” I said.
“May I share your sleeping bag?” she asked.
“Do you beg it?” I asked.
“Yes, Master,” she said.
I permitted her to creep into the bag, beside me. I put my arm about her small body. Her head was on my chest.
“Today, you much increased your slavery over me, did you not?” she asked.
“Perhaps,” I said.
“You forced me to crawl to a man and serve him,” she said. “How strong you are,” she said, wonderingly. She kissed me. “I did not know what it was like to be a slave,” she said.
“You still do not know,” I told her.
“But you are teaching me, aren’t you?” she asked.
“Perhaps,” I said.
“It is a strange feeling,” she said, “being a slave.”
“Does it frighten you?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “it frightens me, terribly.” I felt her hair on my chest. “One is so helpless,” she said.
“You are not yet a true slave,” I told her.
“Sometimes I sense,” she said, “what it might be, to be a true slave.”
“Oh?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“And it frightens you?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “but, too, and this is frightening, too, I—” She was silent.
“Go on,” I told her.
“Must I speak?” she asked.
“Yes,” I told her.
“Too,” she wept, “I—I find myself desiring it, intensely.” I felt her tears. “How terrible I am!” ~he said.
“Such feelings are normal in feminine women,” I told her. “Sometimes it takes courage to yield to them.”~
“I must try to fight these feelings,” she said.
“As you wish,” I said, “but in the end you will yield to them, either because you wish to do so or because I force you to do so.”
“Oh?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, “in the end you will become a true slave.”
She was silent.
“You were brought to Gor to be a slave,” I said. “When your tasks were finished at the wall, you would have been put in silk, collared and placed at a man’s feet.”
“Do you truly think so, Master?” she asked.
“Of course,” I said. “Consider your beauty, and the nature of the men of Gor.”
She shuddered. “I fear slavery, and myself,” she said.
“You are a true slave,” I told her, “No,” she said.
“Only you do not yet know it,” I said.
“No,” she said.
“Fight your feelings,” I said. “I will,” she said.
“In the end it will do you no good,” I said.
She was silent.
“You have been counter-instinctually conditioned,” I said. “You have been programmed with value sets developed for competitive, territorial males. There are complex historical and economic reasons for this. Your society is not interested in the psycho-biological needs of human females. The machine is designed with its own best interests in mind, not those of its human components.”
“I do not want to be a component in a machine,” she said.
“Then,” said I, “listen in the quiet for the beating of your own heart.”
“It is hard to hear in the noise of the machine,” she whispered.
“But it beats,” I said. “Listen.”
She kissed me, softly.
“You have been taught to function,” I said, “not to be alive.”
“How wrong it is to be alive!” she wept.
“Perhaps not,” I suggested.
“I dare not be true to myself,” she said.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because I think,” she whispered, “deep within me, there lies a slave.”
“One day you will be awakened,” I said, “and will discover that it is you yourself who are that slave.”
“Oh, no,” she said.
“Surely you have been curious about her,” I said, “about that girl, your deep and true self.”’
“No, no!” she said. Then for a long time she was quiet. Then she said, “Yes, I have wondered about her.”
I put my hand gently on her head.
“Even as a girl,” she said, “lying alone in bed, I wondered what it might be like to lie soft and small, perfumed, helpless, in the arms of a strong man, knowing that he would treat me as he wished, doing with me whatever he wanted.”
“It is uncompromising manhood which thrills you,” I said. “It is found but rarely on your native world.”
“It is not useful to the machine,” she said.
“No,” I said, “but note, interestingly, in spite of the fact that you perhaps never in your life on Earth encountered such manhood, yet you were capable of understanding and conceiving it, and longing for its manifestation.”
“How can that be?” she asked, frightened.
“It is a genetic expectation,” I told her, “more ancient than the caves, a whisper in your brain bespeaking a lost world of nature, a world in which the human being, both male and female, were bred. You were fitted to one world; you found yourself in another. You were a stranger in a country not of your own choosing, a troubled guest, uneasy in a house you knew was not yours.”
“I fear my feelings,” she said.
“They hint to you of nature’s world,” I told, her. ‘They are inimical to the machine.”
“I must fight them,” she said.
“They are a reminiscence,” I said, “of a vanished reality. They whisper of old songs. The machine has not yet been able to eradicate them from your brain. Such feelings, in their genetic foundations, lie at the root of women, and of men. They antedate the taming of fire. They were ancient when the first stone knife was lifted to the sun.”
“I must fight them,” she wept.
“Fight yourself then,” I said, “for it is your deepest self of which they speak.”
“It is wrong to be true to oneself!” she said.
“Perhaps,” I said. “I do not know.”
“One must always pretend to be other than what one is,” she said.
“Why?” I asked.
“I do not know,” she said.
“Gorean men,” I said, “you will learn are less tolerant of pretense than the men of Earth.”
“They would force me to be what I truly am, and in my heart long to be?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“I’m frightened,” she whispered. We did not speak for a time. “Why are there no true men on Earth?” she asked.
“I am sure there are many true men on Earth.” I said. “But it is much more difficult for them.”
“I do not think there are any men on Earth,” she said, angrily.
“I am sure they exist,” I said.
“What of the others?” she asked.
“Perhaps someday,” I said, “they will cease to fear their manhood.”
“Is there much hope for those of Earth?” she asked.
“Very little,” I said. “A reversal of the pathology of centuries would be required.” I smiled. “The wheels are heavy, and the momentum great,” I said.
“The machine will tear itself apart,” she said.
“I sense that, too,” I said. “How long can it continue to spread, to grow and devour? Stalemate will be achieved upon the ashes of civilizations.”
“It is horrible,” she said.
“Perhaps it will not occur,” I said.
“Perhaps the lies of civilization are preferable to the truths of barbarism,” she said.
“Perhaps,” I said. “It is hard to know.”
“Cannot there be a civilization that makes room for the realities of men and women?” she asked.
“A civilization that makes room for life?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“I do not know,” I said. “Perhaps.”
“You are kind to talk to me,” she said.
“Once we were both of Earth,” I said.
“How can you talk to me like this and yet keep me a slave?” she asked.
“I do not detect the difficulty,” I said.
“Oh,” she said.
“One of the pleasant things about owning a slave,” I said, “is the opportunity to converse with her, to listen to her, to hear her express herself, her feelings and ideas. One can learn much from a slave. Many slaves,, like yourself, are highly intelligent. They can express themselves articulately, clearly, trenchantly and lyrically. It is a great pleasure to talk with them.”
“I see,” she said.
“Then, when one wishes,” I said, “one puts them again on their knees.”
“You are cruel,” she said.
“Kiss me, Slave,” I said.
“Yes, Master,” she said, and kissed me, softly.
We were then silent for a time.
“Master,” she whispered.
“Yes,” I said.
“I begin to sense,” said she, “what it might be like to be a true slave.”
“You are an ignorant girl,” I said.
“I have learned some things,” she said.
“Very little,” I said.
“I have learned to obey,” she said, “and to call free men, ‘Master.’”
“What else have you learned?” I asked.
“Something which you have taught me,” she whispered.
“What is that?” I asked.
“I have learned to need the touch of a man,” she said.
“I will sleep now,” I said.
“Please do not sleep now,” she said. I felt her fingers tips at my shoulder.
“Touch me,” she begged. “Touch me—as a slave girl.”
“Do you beg it?” I asked.
“Yes, Master,” she whispered.
“Very well,” I said.
She looked up at me. “Are you going to make me a full slave?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “I am only going to satisfy your slave needs as they exist at your present level.”
“Yes, Master,” she said.
Later she wept and squirmed in my arms lost in the sensations and ecstasies which she could at that time reach. Then she lay at my thigh. “Can there be more?” she asked. “Can there be more?”
“You have not yet begun to learn your slavery,” I told her.
I almost cried out as her teeth bit into my side and her fingernails tore at my thigh in her frustration. She seemed almost fastened on me like an animal. With my hand in her hair I pulled her head upward. She lay then with her head just below my chest. Her eyes were wide. Her small hands held me tightly. She was breathing heavily. “Master, Master,” she whispered.
“Be silent, Slave,” I said. “It is now time to rest.”
“Yes, Master,” she whispered.
13. Imnak Broaches To Me A Topic Of Some Importance; We Encounter Poalu
One of the problems in approaching tabuk on the tundra is the lack of cover.
I followed Imnak’s example, crawling on my belly, after him, the horn bow in my hand, an arrow loose at the string. I was very cold, and was soaked through. The tundra is cold, and much of it is boglike in nature.
Some eleven tabuk were grazing on the mosses some one hundred yards from us.
The horn bow, unfortunately, formed of pieces of split tabuk horn, bound with sinew, is not effective beyond some thirty yards, One must, thus, be almost upon the animal before loosing the shaft. Wood is scarce in the north and the peasant bow, or longbow, is not known there. More importantly, in the colder weather, the long bow would freeze and snap, unable to bear the stress of being drawn to its customary extent I had brought a longbow north with me but I wished to accustom myself to the horn bow, for the larger weapon, I knew, would be useless for most of the year in these latitudes. It is difficult to convey the nature of a world subject to great cold. A nail struck by a hammer can shiver into fragments. Urine can freeze before striking the ground. The squeal of a sleen may be heard for ten to twelve miles. A common conversation can be heard half a pasang away. A mountain which seems very close, given the sharpness of visibility in the clear air, may actually be forty pasangs in the distance. The cold air, touching the body of a sleen, forms a steam which can almost obscure the animal. A running tabuk can leave a trail of such steam drifting behind it. One’s breath can freeze in a beard, leaving it a mask of ice.
I cursed inwardly, as the tabuk trotted a few yards farther away grazing.
I had suggested to Imnak that we come hunting. I wished to speak to him alone, without the girls being present. A hunt had seemed at the time a convenient way in which to accomplish that objective. Now I wished we had simply sent them off packing to gather moss.
Hot Bazi tea I wanted. This is an important trade item in the north. I now knew why. The southern sugars are also popular. I had originally supposed this was because of their sweetness, there being few sweet items, save some berries, in the north. I now began to suspect that the calories of the sugars also played their role in their popularity. The red hunters think little of eating half a pound of sugar at a sitting.
We were trying to move close to a large bull tabuk. He moved away from us again.
I resisted the desire to rise to my feet and run screaming at the animal, bow drawn.
I followed Imnak. He almost seemed a part of the tundra itself. When the bull tabuk would turn, lifting its head, ears high, we would stop, remaining immobile.
We inched closer. We had been on our bellies for more than an Ahn trying to approach the animals.
Imnak gestured that I should crawl beside him. I did so.
“Are you cold?” he whispered.
“Oh, no,” I said.
“That is strange,” he said. “I am very cold.”
“I am glad to hear that,” I said. “I am very cold, too.”
“It is hard not to be cold,” he said, “when one is soaked with icy water crawling on the tundra.”
“That is it,” I said.
“You do not seem in a good mood,” he said. “Was Arlene not pleasant in the sleeping bag?”
“She was very nice,” I said. “How was Thimble?”
“She squeaks a lot,” he said.
“Some girls are noisier than others,” I said.
“It is true,” he said.
“Perhaps you are not in a good mood because you are cold,” suggested Imnak.
“I wager that is it,” I said. “Why are you in a good mood,” I asked, “if you are cold?”
“It is bad enough to be cold,” he said, “without being in a bad mood, too.”
“I see,” I said. For some reason, ridiculous as it was, I felt cheered up.
“I wanted to come hunting with you,” said Imnak, “because I have something serious to discuss with you.”
“That is strange,” I said, “I wanted to discuss something with you.”
“My business is serious,” he said.
“So, too, is mine,” I said.
“Men of the south must be approached so cautiously,” said Imnak. “They are so touchy and strange. Else I would have mentioned my business to you long ago.”
“Oh,” I said. It had been for much the same reason that I had delayed broaching to Ininak the nature of my mission in the north.
“My business,” said Imnak, “concerns Poalu, the daughter of Kadluk.”
“Your business is more serious than mine,” I said. “Mine pertains only to the saving of the world.” I well remembered Poalu, the coppery spitfire whose kicked leather ball I had unwisely permitted to strike me.
“I do not understand,” said Imnak.
“It does not matter,” I said. “What of Poalu?”
“I love her,” said Imnak.
“That is unfortunate,” I said.
“Do you love her, too?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “I thought that it was unfortunate for you.”
“Oh,” he said. Then he said, “That is not unlikely, but it is difficult to help matters of that sort”
“True,” I said.
“And Poalu loves me, too,” he said.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “once when I took feasting clothes to her father’s house she threw the urine pot at me.”
“That is a hopeful sign,” I said.
“Another time,” he said, cheerfully, “she beat me with a stick, calling me a good-for-nothing.”
“It is clear she is very interested in you,” I said.
“It is strange that so beautiful a girl has so few suitors,” he said.
“Yes, it is quite strange,” I admitted.
“Akko, who is my friend,” said Imnak, “says that to take such a woman would be to leap naked into a pit of starving snow sleen. Do you think so?”
“I think so,” I said. Actually I thought Akko’s appraisal of the potentialities of the situation was overly hopeful, it being colored by his native good humor and optimism, vices endemic among red hunters.
“But I am shy,” he said.
“I find that hard to believe,” I said. “You seem to me a bold fellow.”
“Not with women,” he said.
“You are certainly fierce enough with Thimble and Thistle,” I said. “They live in terror of displeasing you in the least.”
“They are not women,” he said.
“Oh?’ I asked.
“Oh, they are women of a sort,” he said, “but they are not of the People. They are nothing, only pretty, white-skinned slave beasts. They do not count.”
“That is true,” I said. They did not count. They were only slaves.
“Poalu is different,” he said.
“That is for certain,” I granted him.
“I will have Poalu!” he said, suddenly. He climbed to his feet. “Yes!” he said. “I will have Poalul”
The tabuk trotted away.
“The tabuk have gone,” I said.
“But I am shy,” he said. “You must help me.”
“The tabuk have gone.” I said.
“You must help me,” he said.
“Very well,” I said. ‘The tabuk have gone,” I added.
“I knew I could count on you,” he said.
“The tabuk have gone,” I said.
“Yes, I know,” he said.
“What do you want me to do?” I asked.
“I am too shy to do it,” he said.
“You are too shy to do what?” I asked.
“I am too shy to carry her off,” he said.
“You want me to carry her off?” I asked.
“Of course,” he said. “Do not worry. No one will mind.”
“What about Poalu?” I asked.
He frowned. “Well, I do not know about Poalu,” he admitted. “Sometimes she is moody.”
“Perhaps you should carry her off yourself,” I suggested.
“I am too shy to do this,” he said, miserably.
“I suppose it might be done,” I mused, “under the cover of darkness.”
“But then you could not well see what you are doing,” said Imnak. “Besides it will not be dark for several weeks.”
“I know,” I said. “We could wait.”
“No, no, no, no, no,” said Imnak.
“You want her carried off in full daylight?” I asked.
“Of course,” he said. “That is the time for carrying girls off.”
“I did not know that,” I said. “I am new in the north.” I looked at him. “Do you not occasionally run into problems.” I asked, “like being speared in the back by her brothers?”
“Poalu has no brothers,” said Imnak.
“That is lucky,” I said. “What of her father? He is inept and weak, I trust.”
“He is a great hunter, Kadluk,” said Imnak. “He can throw a harpoon into the eye of a sea sleen from a tossing kayak.”
“What if Kadluk docs not approve of my carrying off his daughter?” I asked.
“Why should he disapprove?” asked Imnak.
“Oh, I do not know,” I said. “It was just a thought.”
“Do not fear,” said Imnak, reassuringly. “All the arrangements have been made.”
“Arrangements?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“Kadluk, then, knows that I am to carry off his daughter?”
“Of course,” said Imnak. “Surely one would not wish to carry off Kadluk’s daughter without his permission.”
“No,” I said, “from what I have heard of Kadluk, I think not.”
“That would not be polite,” said Imnak.
“True,” I granted him. Also I did not want a harpoon in my head. The thought of the steely-eyed Kadluk drawing a bead on me with his harpoon was unnerving. I could not get the sea sleen out of my mind.
“Does Poalu know she is supposed to be carried off?” I asked.
“Of course,” said Imnak. “how else could she be ready on time?”
“I just was not thinking,” I said.
“That is all right,” said Imnak, generously.
“Well,” I said, “let us return to the tent. The tabuk are gone and I am soaked and freezing. I will well relish a hot cup of Bazi tea.”
“Ah, my friend,” said Imnak, sadly, “I am sorry there is no Bazi tea.”
“Recently,” I said, “there was a great deal of it.”
“True,” said Imnak, “but now there is not.”
“You used the tea to buy Poalu?” I asked.
Imnak looked at me, horrified. “I made a gift to Kadluk,” he said.
“Oh,” I said.
“Also,” said Imnak, “there is no sugar left, and few furs.”
“What of the gold pieces you took for trading?” I asked.
“I gave them to Kadluk, too,” said Imnak. “and most of the wood.”
“At least we have the tabuk slices from the kills we made earlier,” I said, glumly.
“Kadluk likes tabuk,” said Imnak.
“Oh,” I said.
We trudged back, wet and miserable, to the encampments of the People.
As luck would have it we encountered Poalu.
“Ah,” she said, “you have been hunting.”
“Yes,” said Imnak.
“I see that your shoulders are heavy with game,” she said.
“No,” said Imnak.
“I see,” she said. “You made many kills in the fields and have marked the meat. You will later send out your girls to cut steaks for all of us.”
Imnak hung his head.
“You surely do not mean to tell me that you have returned to the camp with no meat,” she said, disbelievingly.
“Yes,” said Imnak.
“I cannot believe that,” she said. “A great hunter like Imnak comes back without meat! It is just too hard to believe!”
Imnak looked down, shuffling.
“Can my father be wrong?” she asked.
Imnak looked up, puzzled.
“He says Imnak is a great hunter! I think it is true. It is only that Imnak is not too smart and leaves all the meat out in the fields for the jards.”
Imnak looked down again.
“It is fortunate,” she said, “that you are only a miserable fellow with no wife. Think how embarrassed she would be. She speaks to her guests, “Oh, no, Imnak has forgotten to bring back the meat again.” “Not again,” they say. “Yes,” she says. “He is a great hunter. Only he always forgets to bring the meat home. He is not too smart. He leaves it in the fields for the jards.””
“Are you sure she expects to be carried off?” I asked Imnak.
“Of course,” said Imnak. “Can you not see she loves me?”
“Yes,” I said, “it is certainly clear.”
Then Poalu looked at me. She whipped a knife out from her furs. “Do not think you are going to carry me off,” she said. “I will cut you to ribbons!”
I stepped back, in order not to be slashed with the knife. Imnak, too, leaped backward.
Poalu then turned about and walked away.
“She is moody sometimes,” said Imnak.
“Yes,” I admitted.
“But she loves me,” he said, happily.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Imnak. “She cannot hide her true feelings.” He nudged me. “Did you not notice that she did not stick the knife into us?” he asked, secretively.
“Yes,” I said, “she missed.”
“Did Poalu not love me,” he said, smiling, “she would not have missed.”
“I hope that you are right,” I said. “She did not miss Naartok,” he said. “Oh,” I said.
“He was in his tent for six weeks,” he said. “Who is Naartok?” I asked.
“He is my rival,” said Imnak. “He still loves her. He may try to kill you.”
“I hope he is not good at throwing harpoons into the eyes of sleen,” I said.
“No,” said Imnak. “He is not so good a shot as Kadluk.”
“That is good,” I said.
“Yes,” said Imnak.
14. The Courtship Of Poalu; What Followed The Courtship Of Poalu
It is not easy to knock at a tent.
“Greetings, Kadluk,” I called.
A coppery face poked itself outside the tent. It was a very broad face, with high cheekbones, and very dark, bright eyes, a face framed in cut, blue-black hair, with bangs across the forehead.
“Ah,” beamed Kadluk. “You must be the young man who has come to carry off my daughter.”
“Yes,” I said. He seemed in a good mood. He had, perhaps, waited years for this moment.
“She is not yet ready,” said Kadluk, shrugging apologetically. “You know how girls are.”
“Yes,” I said. I looked back a few yards to where Imnak stood, lending me moral support. He smiled and waved encouragingly. Reassured I stood waiting outside the tent.
I waited for several minutes.
Another figure emerged from the tent, a woman, Tatkut, or Wick-Trimmer, the woman of Kadluk, the mother of Poalu. She smiled up at me and bowed slightly, and handed me a cup of tea.
“Thank you,” I said, and drank the tea.
After a time she returned and I handed her back the cup. “Thank you again,” I said.
She smiled, and nodded, and returned to the tent.
Imnak sidled up to me. He was looking worried. “It should not take this long to carry a girl off,” he whispered. I nodded.
“It should not take this long to carry a girl off,” I called. Imnak backed away, expectantly.
Inside the tent then we heard an argument in course. There was much expostulation. I could make out Poalu’s voice, and that of Kadluk and Tatkut. They spoke in their own tongue and I could pick up but few of the words. I did hear the expression for Bazi tea a few times. I gathered that Kadluk had little intention, or desire at any rate, to return Imnak’s quantities of Bazi tea, or other gifts, to him.
After a time Kadluk’s head reappeared. “She does not want to be carried off,” he said.
“Well, that is that,” I shrugged. I turned to Imnak. “She does not want to be carried off,” I said. “Let us return to our tent.”
“No, no!” cried Imnak. “You must now rush into the tent and carry her off by force.”
“Is Kadluk armed?” I asked.
“What possible difference could that make?” asked Imnak.
“I thought it might make a difference,” I said. I still remembered the harpoon and the sleen.
“No,” said Imnak. “Kadluk!” he called.
Kadluk came outside the tent.
“It seems your daughter must be carried away by force,” said Imnak.
“Yes,” agreed Kadluk. This reassured me.
“Go ahead,” said Imnak. “Go in and get her.”
“Very well,” I said.
“She has a knife,” said Kadluk.
“Go ahead,” urged Imnak.
“We need not make haste in this matter,” I observed. “Are you sure you really want to have Poalu in your tent? Perhaps you should subject the matter to further consideration.”
“But we love one another,” said Imnak.
“Why do you not go in and get her yourself?” I asked.
“I am too shy,” said Imnak, hanging his head.
“Perhaps she will listen to reason,” I said, hopefully.
Kadluk turned about, holding his sides. In a moment he was rolling on the ground. Red hunters are often demonstrative in the matter of their emotions. In a few moments ho had regained his composure, wiping the tears from his eyes.
I lifted aside the tent flap, cautiously, Inside was Ponln. She was dressed in feasting clothes. Near her was her mother, Tatkut, beaming her pride in her daughter.
I dodged as the knife sailed past my head, narrowly missing Imnak outside.
“You will never carry me off by force!” she cried.
“I grant you the likelihood of that,” I said.
She seized a heavy iron pan, of the sort used out of doors across stones for cooking.
It would not be pleasant to have that utensil beating on my head.
“Look,” I said, “I am supposed to carry you off.”
“Don’t touch me,” she said.
“The arrangements have all been made,” I pointed out.
“I did not make them,” she said.
That seemed to me a good point. “She says she did not make the arrangements,” I called out to Imnak.
“That does not matter,” called Imnak in to me.
“That does not matter,” I told her.
“It does matter,” she said.
“It does matter, she says,” I relayed to Imnak, outside.
“No, it does not matter,” he ‘said.
“It does not matter,” I relayed to Poalu, from Imnak outside.
“She is only a woman,” pointed out Imnak.
“You are only a woman,” I told her, relaying Imnak’s point. It seemed to me a good one.
She then rushed forward, striking down at me with the heavy, flat pan. I removed it from her. I did this that I not be killed.
She then fled to the back of the tent. She looked about, but found nothing else which seemed suitable as a weapon. Kadluk, I then understood, had wisely removed his gear, such as knives and arrows, from the tent before Imnak and. I had arrived.
His daughter was as well known to him as others, of course.
“Would you please hand me the blubber hammer behind you,” asked Poalu.
Obligingly I handed her the hammer. I thought I could probably avoid or fend its blows. The object, wooden-handled, with a stone head, is used for pounding blubber to loosen the oil in the blubber, which is used in the flat, oval lamps.
“Thank you,” said Poalu.
“You’re welcome,” I said.
She then faced me, holding the hammer.
“If you do not wish to be carried off,” I said, “why are you wearing your feasting clothes?”
“Isn’t she pretty?” asked Tatkut, smiling.
“Yes,” I admitted.
Poalu looked at me, shrewdly. “I am not your ordinary girl,” she said, “whom you may simply carry off.”
“That seems certain,” I granted her.
“Where is Imnak?” she asked.
Surely she knew he was just outside the tent. “He is just outside the tent,” I said.
“Why does he not carry me off?” she asked.
“I wish that he would,” I said. “He is shy.”
“Well,” she said, “I am not going.”
“She says she is not going,” I called out to Imnak.
There was a pause. Then I heard Imnak say, “That is all right with me.”
Poalu seemed startled. I was relieved. I turned about to take my departure.
“Wait,” she said. “Aren’t you going to carry me off?”
“I would be content,” I said, “if it were up to me, to leave you in your father’s tent forever.”
I heard Imnak outside. “Yes,” he said, “it is all right with me if she does not come.”
“I will give you back your gifts, Imnak,” said Kadluk, rather more loudly than was necessary.
“You may keep them,” said Imnak, expansively.
“No, I could not do that,” said Kadluk. I found myself hoping that he would indeed return Imnak’s gifts. We in Imnak’s tent could use that Bazi tea, those furs and the tabuk steaks.
“It will be amusing to hear the songs they will sing in the feasting house about Poalu,” said Imnak, loudly, “how no one wants her.”
“How can you carry me off?” called Poalu. “You have no sled.”
“There is no snow,” I said to her.
“There is a proper way and an improper way to do things,” said Poalu to me.
“Oh, look,” said Imnak, “here is a sled.”
Poalu, still clutching the blubber hammer, poked her head outside.
There was indeed a sled there, that which Imnak had built at the wall, and which the girls had drawn, that sled by means of which his supplies and gear had been transported across Ax Glacier.
Harnessed to the sled, in their full furs, were Thimble, Thistle and Arlene.
“Ho! Ho!” called Poalu, derisively. “You would expect to carry a girl off in a sled drawn by white-skinned slave beasts! What a scoundrel you are! How insulting!”
“I will borrow a snow sleen,” said Imnak. “Will that be sufficient?”
I thought a snow sleen, one of those long, vicious animals, would surely be puzzled to find itself attached to a sled where there was no snow.
“Perhaps,” called Poalu.
Imnak unhitched Thimble, Thistle and Arlene. They stood about, puzzled. He then turned and left the vicinity of the tent. “Would you like more tea?” asked Tatkut.
“Yes, thank you,” I said. I was at least getting some of the tea back which Imnak had given to Kadluk.
In a few minutes Imnak returned with a snow sleen on a stout leash. Soon it was hitched to the sled. It was Akko’s animal, and he, in the fashion of the red hunters, had cheerfully volunteered its services.
“Someone has a snow sleen hitched to a sled outside of the tent of someone,” called Imnak.
“It is a poor beast,” said Poalu. “Find a better.”
“Someone has not even looked at it,” said Imnak.
Poalu stuck her head out the tent. “It is a poor beast.” said Poalu. “Find a better.”
Imnak, for no reason that was clear to me, scouted about and located another snow sleen.
“That is worse than the other,” said Poalu.
Imnak angrily unhitched the second animal, and rehitched the first one, that which belonged to Akko.
“Surely you do not expect me to ride behind so poor a beast?” inquired Poalu.
“Of course not,” said Imnak. He made ready to leave.
“What are you doing?” asked Poalu.
“I am going away,” said Imnak. “I am going to my tent.”
“I suppose it will have to do,” said Poalu.
“You could strike her heavily along the side of the head.” said Kadluk to me. “That is what I did with Tatkut.” Tatkut nodded, beaming.
“It is a thought,” I said.
“Will no one protect a girl from being carried off!” cried Poalu.
She still carried the blubber hammer. If struck properly with it one might be brained.
“Is there no one who will save me?” wailed Poalu.
Kadluk looked about, anxious should anyone interfere. There were by now several bystanders about.
“Naartok,” cried Poalu, “will you not save me?”
A heavy fellow nearby shook his head vigorously. He still carried his right arm high and close to his body, his shoulder hunched somewhat. I recalled that Poalu had in the past driven her blade into his body somewherer in that vicinity. Imnak had warned me that Naartok, his rival, might try to kill me, to prevent my carrying Poalu off. Naartok, however, seemed competely willing that I should undertake that task. It was clear that I had his best wishes for success in this endeavor. Naartok, like many of the red hunters, was not a fellow to be bitter about such things.
“Come along,” I said to Poalu. “It will soon be dark.” That was true. In a few weeks the Arctic night would descend.
She hurled the blubber hammer at my head and I slipped to the side. It sped past me and struck Naartok a cruel blow on the forehead.
She fled back into the tent and I nimbly pursued her. In the tent I scooped her up and threw her over my shoulder. Her small fists beat rapidly on my back.
“Will you stop that?” I asked.
“I do not want to go,” she said.
“Oh,” I said.
I put her to her feet and turued about, leaving the tent. “She says she does not want to go,” I told Imnak.
“Go back,” urged Imnak.
“Nonsense,” I said. “Look, Imnak,” I said, “I value your friendship but I have really had enough of this. I frankly do not think Poalu wants to be carried off by me.”
Imnak looked at me, miserable.
“That is my considered opinion,” I told him, confirming his fears.
“You will just have to carry her off yourself,” I said.
“I am too shy,” he wailed.
“Well, let us go home then,” I said, “for I have drunk enough tea at the tent of Kadluk and evaded enough missiles to last me for several years.”
“It is true,” said Imnak, glumly. “You have endured more than one could rightfully ask of a friend.”
“Too,” I pointed out, “I was of aid in freeing the tabuk at the wall.”
“Yes,” said Imnak. “Forgive me, my friend, for imposing on you.”
“It was no imposition,” I said. “I would cheerfully carry off a girl for you, but it is one thing to carry off a girl and quite another to carry off Poalu.”
“Poalu is a girl,” said Imnak.
“I am not at all sure of that,” I said.
“Do you think she may be a she-sleen?” asked Imnak, concerned. His metaphysics allowed this possibility. Sometimes men took the form of animals, and animals the form of men.