Conspirators of Gor
I had not expected to be sold.
I suppose very few do.
And certainly not on another world.
The collar is not uncomfortable. Usually I am not aware it is on me. It is noticeable, of course, when I see my reflection, as, for example, when I wish to adjust it a bit, on my neck, that it may sit more attractively on me. He wishes the lock, for example, to be squarely at the back of my neck. He is clear on that point. It is perhaps the first thing one notes, when one looks upon me, or any girl, whether she is in a collar or not. I think he will keep me in a collar, as he likes me that way. I realize now that I belong in one. I did not always realize that, but I suspected it. Most girls are not collared, but some of us are, particularly those who have been brought here from other places. They expect that we will wear collars. Surely, whether or not a girl wears a collar is the most important thing about her. You see instantly what she is, and you understand how she is to be treated. Too, in the collar, you know what you are to do, and how you are to act. The collar makes things very simple.
The collar might be removed, but that would make little difference, as we are marked, tastefully but unmistakably, most commonly on the left thigh, high, just below the hip. That is done shortly after we are brought here.
By that sign, if by no other, we are identified as what we are.
Usually we are distinctively garbed.
We are not to be confused with free women.
The tunic conceals very little. Men will have it that way.
Here I am no longer ashamed of my body.
I do not feel self-conscious, as I am an animal.
Here I am a far less beautiful animal than many, but, I think, too, I am a not inferior animal, either, to many. I have seen the eyes of men upon me. It is an interesting feeling, knowing that one is an animal. If I had not been of interest to men I do not think I would have been brought here, an animal, for their markets.
It is an interesting feeling, knowing that one is an animal, and is desired as such.
Men decide how they will have us before them.
I do not mind.
Rather, it pleases me.
It pleases me to be so, before them, as they will have me be, unmistakably displayed as what I am, honestly, forthrightly, without subterfuge, or hypocrisy, so markedly and visibly different from themselves, an animal, which may be of interest to them.
I do not object.
Rather, I am pleased.
How the free women hate us for that!
Here I am well displayed or exhibited. Here I may not conceal my nature, and needs. The tunic, the collar, the mark, make that clear.
Here we are helpless. We are denied our finest weapons, pretense, prevarication, and deceit.
How free we are, then, animals, so different from their free women.
How the free women despise us, and how we fear them!
I have learned how to walk, and move, and turn, and hold my head, and speak, and many things.
We are expected to improve our value.
Men expect much from an animal of my sort.
We are trained, as other animals.
I think it pleases them to train us.
Too, they clearly enjoy owning us, as well as other sorts of animals.
At night we are usually chained, or kenneled.
I did not always wear a collar. I was not always subject to the chain, the kennel, the whip.
I come from far away.
It is a very different place from those with which you are likely to be familiar. It is called Earth.
On your world you take so much for granted.
I wonder sometimes if you see things as they are. You value your lives, surely, and your Home Stones, and your fellows, but I wonder if you value your world, truly, or, perhaps better, value it enough. Perhaps you will value it more if you could see it, if only for a moment, through the eyes of another, one astonished, one from a quite different world, a world which was much like a charnel house, or a smoke house, a world with little pride, but much vanity, a world of crowding, scrambling about, cruelty, hating, treachery, hypocrisy, pollution, noise, corruption, foulness, a world muchly lacking in pride, and honor, a world without Home Stones.
I suppose you find that strange, a world without Home Stones.
Indeed, I wonder if you believe me, that there could be such a world, one without Home Stones.
It does exist.
I am not permitted to lie.
I am collared.
Conceive then, if you can, a world such as that from which I was obtained, a world without Home Stones, a world so meaningless, so forlorn, so petty, so empty. What are we worthy of, we, we without Home Stones? To such as those with Home Stones, of what value could such as we be? I touch my collar, and suspect. Of what else could we be good for? I look in the mirror, and understand.
I hope to please my master.
I am well aware of the penalties for failing to do so.
The men here are virile, and powerful, and are not patient. We learn to obey instantly, and unquestioningly.
It is very different here, from the world from which I was brought.
I do not object.
I think that I, even on my old world, longed for something like this, a world in which nature was recognized, and respected.
I wonder if that is hard to understand.
I do not think so.
Here is a world on which men take us, as it pleases them, and master us.
I do not object.
This is a world on which I kneel, and, head down, humbly lick and kiss the feet of my master.
He permits this.
I am grateful.
Do not despise me.
I am a female.
This is very different from being a male.
How long I longed to be taken and owned! How long I longed for a collar, and a master!
Now I am as I should be.
I am collared, and mastered.
Many of you, as I understand it, disbelieve in the existence of Earth, or, if you give some credit to the stories, you speculate that it lies to the east, beyond the Voltai, or far to the south, perhaps far beyond Bazi and Schendi, or west, like the Farther Islands. If you have attained, on the other hand, to the Second Knowledge, you understand it is alleged to be a different world, one of several orbiting Tor-tu-Gor, Light-upon-the-Home-Stone, but, even so, many of you, even with the Second Knowledge, remain skeptical, regarding it as no more than a myth or fable, and then, again, better credit the suppositions of the First Knowledge that it, if it exists, is here, on your world, but in a remote area, far from civilization.
But here I am to speak little of my old world.
In this narrative I am to deal, at least largely, with certain dark matters, political and military, matters which few here suspect, matters certainly unbeknownst to the vast majority of you, you who, in your scattered communities, in your villages, your towns, and walled cities, inhabit this fresh, wild, unspoiled, scarcely populated, beautiful place. You do not realize the danger which threatens you, what lurks in the brush, in the shadows, so to speak, so close, even at your elbow, and, too, far off, yet close enough, what crouches, watching, in the sky.
Know, good Masters and Mistresses, that others know of your world, sparkling in the darkness of the night, your morning world, so fresh, green, and sunlit, others who inhabit metal globes, who once owned such a world themselves, so beautiful, but destroyed it, and who now long for another.
I am to speak.
Many will disbelieve what I say.
And what could most do, even if they credited this narrative?
But I am to speak, nonetheless.
When in the presence of free persons, we commonly kneel. When we speak, when we are permitted to do so, we commonly speak softly, and with our heads lowered. But this is known to you. It is appropriate. We are collared.
So please forgive me for addressing you, for speaking first.
Do not think me bold.
I assure you I have learned my place.
My master has taught it to me well.
Many women on my old world do not know their place. At one time I did not know it, but I know it now.
My master has taught it to me well.
I am content in my place, for it is where I belong.
I have been commanded to speak.
I must obey.
I have no choice, I am collared.
But, too, I wish to speak.
Suppose then, if you wish, if it is easier for you, that I have been admitted to your presence, unworthy though I am, and am kneeling before you, head down, naked if you wish, a meaningless, purchasable barbarian who, with your permission, begins to speak.
She will speak of cities, and secret places, of a metal box, a Metal Worker, of beasts, large, hirsute, and dangerous, of an underground workshop, of pride, ambition, and devotion, of warriors and slaves, of gold and steel, of cords, and silk, of ships and worlds.
And so she begins.
On my former world, Gorean, the Language, is spoken rarely, and then only secretly. That is another thing you may find difficult to understand. But even on your world there are places where Gorean is not spoken. Surely you know that. Too, on my former world we do not have the serums you take so much for granted, assuring youth and strength, youth and beauty, serums so readily available, so inexpensive and abundant, that you administer them thoughtlessly and routinely, even to such as I. On my old world, such things would buy cities and ransom Ubars. On the other hand, I have here seen disputes resolved with blades, fleet tabuk felled with arrows, men confronting larls with no more than spears. Time kept with sand and water. Your swiftest ships knifing the water, propelled by no more than wind and oars. How primitive this seems to me, this country of paradoxes, of marvels and anomalies. I have gathered that much of this has to do with the rulings of your gods, called Priest-Kings, reigning from the dark, palisaded Sardar. But we are told little of these things. They are not for such as we. Matters of such moment are not discussed with us, no more than with sleen or kaiila. We rage with curiosity, and learn that curiosity is not becoming to such as we. But perhaps, finally, you know as little of your gods, your sovereigns, or Priest-Kings, as we. But we do know they exist. I have seen melted stones, where their ships have landed.
I have spoken of those who lurk in the brush, so to speak, and who watch from the skies.
They have powers far beyond your keenest steel, your sharpest spears, your swiftest arrows.
And they desire your green, fresh, unspoiled world.
The least of them, the weakest and most defective, armed with engineering, technology, and weaponry, could destroy the finest bands and prides of your Scarlet Caste, could reduce the mightiest walls to rubble, burn your ships like kindling, demolish to dust the loftiest of your fortresses.
Your only protection against these Others, these Different Ones, the lurkers and watchers, are your gods, your Priest-Kings.
But what if they should tire of you, and desert you?
I was not brought here to be embroiled in intrigue. It was not my choice. I was brought here as most from my world, as animals for your markets, selected for qualities and attributes of interest to strong men, qualities and attributes for which strong men, historically, even on my old world, will bid and pay, those qualities and attributes so despised in us, and yet coveted, I think, by your free women, beauty, desirability, weakness, vulnerability, femininity, a readiness and longing for submission, an inevitability to become, in a man’s hands, the helpless, begging prisoner of our own passion, a desire to love and serve, to give all, to belong unstintingly and wholly, to be a sort of woman, meaningless and worthless, a man’s subdued, yielding, grateful, loving slave! And yet, put them in a collar, and see if they are different! Subject them to the suitable and uncompromising power of nature, to exposure on the platform, to cages and kennels, to thongs, to the chain and whip, to thorough, unqualified, absolute domination, and see if they do not hasten, quickly and gratefully, to press their lips to the sandals of masters!
“Slave,” she said. “Kneel!”
“You are not a free woman!” I said. “Are you so different from me? That bit of cloth you wear is as much a mockery of a garment as that which clings about me! Do I not see a metal circlet clasped close about your neck, which, I trust, is locked in place? If it is not, remove it, and I will kneel before you.”
“Barbarian!” she said.
“We are no different,” I said. “We are now the same, whether barbarian or Gorean!”
“No!” she said.
“I might sell for as much, or more than you!” I said.
She put her hands on her collar, her eyes flashing. “I was once free!” she said.
“So, too, once, on my world, was I!” I exclaimed.
“Liar!” she said. “See your upper left arm. You came here with that brand!”
“It is not a brand,” I said. “It is a medical thing, a trace, a mark, the residue of a medical procedure, called a vaccination.”
“It is a blemish,” she said.
“It is very tiny!” I said.
“By such things, tiny, betraying brands, marking them as slaves,” she said, “many barbarians are recognized.”
“They are not brands,” I said.
“Perhaps by such brands,” she said, “the hunters recognize slaves.”
“That is unlikely,” I said, “for women on my world do not rush about, unclothed.”
“What a liar, you are!” she said. “Many of your women are unveiled. Many times their arms are bared. I have seen slave garments exhibited which were concealed beneath the clothing of women on your world, obvious slave garments, garments so tiny, so soft, so smooth, so stimulating to the base, possessive instincts of men. And your hands and ankles might be noted on your world, or often so. And what of the beaches on your world, where slaves are exposed by their masters with little garmenture?”
“Few would be slaves,” I said.
“Then proto-slaves,” she said, “exhibiting themselves for prospective masters, displaying themselves brazenly, hoping that they might thereby come to the attention of masters.”
“I assure you,” I said, “my world is as complex as yours, perhaps more so.”
“In the markets,” she said, “I have seen chained barbarians exhibited in such garments.”
I did not respond. I was unfamiliar with such markets, save from the inside.
“To be sure,” she said, “only a fool would buy a clothed slave.”
I had, of course, as doubtless she had as well, been sold naked. Few such experiences are as telling in making clear to one one’s femaleness.
“Perhaps, on the other hand,” she said, “it is by such brands that the hunters mark out their picks, their selections, their prey, for a later, convenient acquisition, a preliminary, provisional mark, scarcely noticeable, which will do, until a more appropriate marking, in the pens.”
“No,” I said. “Such marks often go back to childhood.”
“They select them so young?” she said, interested.
“No,” I said. “And men of my world are often similarly marked.”
“Male silk slaves?” she said.
“Not at all,” I said.
“I have seen such milky, frightened things in the markets,” she said. “Some women like them. But they are men, of course, and there is always the danger that one of them, seeing here what men may be, may revert, and turn on one.”
“Many men on my world are capable of being masters,” I said, “and doubtless some are masters.”
“It must be a fearful experience,” she said, “when one’s silk slave turns on one, perhaps binds one and disposes of one in a small market, taking the coins and departing the city.”
“Perhaps few would have such courage,” I said.
“Let us hope so,” she said.
“I think that mark was a brand,” she said, “by which the hunters recognized you as a slave.”
“Not at all,” I said. “It would not have been visible. It would have been concealed by the clothing I wore.”
“How then did they recognize you as a slave?” she asked.
“I have no idea,” I said, though, in truth, I had an idea of such matters. Who could not have seen the slave beneath my clothing? Could not a practiced eye have discerned saleable lineaments beneath that cloth? Who could not have looked upon my throat and not speculated on how fittingly it would have been encircled by a metal collar? Who could not have looked into my eyes, severely, and not seen the trembling, waiting slave?
“You must have been assessed,” she said.
“Doubtless,” I said.
“Where, when, how?” she asked.
“I do not know,” I said. I did not know. It might have been anywhere, at any time, perhaps when I least suspected it, on a bus, in a subway, on the street, shopping, waiting for a light to change, stepping in or out of a taxi, in a corridor, in the aisle of a market, in a classroom, on the campus, anywhere, anytime.
But then I was sure I knew.
It had been at a party, in the house, if nowhere else.
“It is unusual that you would not have been assessed naked,” she said.
“Perhaps,” I said.
I did not tell her of a troubling dream I had had, weeks ago, after the party. I had dreamed I had been sedated, and stripped in my own bed, in the house, in my room, and, in the light of a flashlight, a sort of torch without fire, held by one man, had been turned about, and, roughly, in one way and another, handled as expertly and casually as might have been a slave, by two others, even measured. The men had then tied me, supine, my hands and ankles fastened well apart, to the posts at the head and foot of the bed. It seemed I was struggling, futilely, trying to regain consciousness, trying to awaken, unsuccessfully, while the men conversed nearby, with low voices. I sensed they had come to some sort of agreement. Notations were made, on some sort of device. I twisted, and squirmed, and bucked and thrashed, wildly, jerking against the cords, fastened several times about my wrists and ankles. Then I lay back, knowing that I could not free myself. I was helpless, absolutely helpless. The flashlight was turned on me. Two of the men laughed. I then fully lost consciousness. I awakened in the early morning, in the house, in what, in your reckoning, would have been something like the Fifth Ahn, whimpering, and then suddenly I screamed, before I realized, with unbounded relief, that I was safe, so safe, in my own room. But somehow, inexplicably, I was naked. Somehow, in the night, I had slipped from my night gown. I did not see how that could be. I shuddered. I felt small, and helpless, and frightened, and quietly, not moving, lay in the bed, my legs drawn up. It had been a most unusual, and frightening, dream. I was still uneasy. I still felt its terror. But in a few moments I had recovered myself sufficiently to regard the dream with amusement, but then, suddenly, a moment later, cried out with horror. Two of the other girls entered the room, Eve and Jane, and the house mother, Mrs. Rawlinson. I drew the covers about me. “A dream,” I explained. “A dream!” My two friends, Eve and Jane, looked to one another, and then left. The house mother, Mrs. Rawlinson, however, dallied a bit, and regarded me, the covers drawn up about my neck, and smiled, and, as it seems to me now, knowingly. I and two others of my sisters in the house, my sorority sisters, for a sorority is a sort of club, my friends, Eve and Jane, had had, some days ago, a fearful contretemps with the house mother. Examining our rooms in our absence, while we were in class, certain books had been discovered, literature certainly inappropriate for our prestigious house, one of the most exclusive and inaccessible on campus, and inappropriate, as well, for our small, expensive, illustrious, private institution, one of the most selective in the northern hemisphere of my former world, save for certain reluctant concessions to political pressures, abetted by special grants and fellowships, and inappropriate, as well, for members of our class, that of my sisters and myself, our social station. I think there was no girl in our house who did not derive from a background of refinement and great wealth. Too, I think I should mention that our sorority was generally recognized as the richest and most desirable sorority on campus, amongst several others, of similar repute. We lived arrogant, tasteful, condescending lives, in keeping with our superiority. On the other hand, we underwent much supervision by our peers, and house mother, Mrs. Rawlinson, and much attention was devoted to our activities. Though we were undeniably privileged and special, we were not as much at liberty as might be supposed, for our freedoms were limited in certain ways, that as a natural function of our station and the reputation of the house. For example, our classes, interests, books, majors, and such, were to be such as were suitable for us; our charity work, if done, was to be restricted to suitable charities; our acquaintances were to be proper, of a suitable class, position, background, appearance, and such; and, in particular, one must be judicious in dating. We were not to date beneath our station, for, just as you have castes, we have social divisions which, in their way, are also strict. Certainly we were expected to behave in such a manner as to, at all times, maintain the dignity, prestige, and reputation of the house. Accordingly, our social activities, where the men, or boys, were concerned, were to be limited to a small set of men’s clubs or fraternities, in their ranking comparable to ours. The girls of our sorority, or club, I might add, were not only rich, but, too, tended to be aloof, refined, aristocratic, spoiled, and vain. That is clearer to me now than it was at that time. Also, there seemed to be another criterion imposed on membership in our house, but, as obvious and generally recognized as it was, it was never mentioned explicitly. Each of our girls was extremely beautiful. We were the Ubaras of the campus, so to speak. To date one of us was a coup for the lucky fellow, and one of our common pleasures was to disdainfully refuse such dates, unless, of course, requested by young men whose wealth and social position was superior to ours. What is the point of beauty, if not to open doors, to bargain, and to enhance one’s prospects? Were we not prostitutes, in a way, ready to sell ourselves, high-priced merchandise, for power, position, station, and wealth?
You have probably guessed the nature of the “inappropriate literature” discovered by the house mother. But perhaps not.
Just as many of you doubt the existence of a world called Terra, or Earth, so, too, many on my world doubt the existence of your world. Indeed, I did so, as well, until I found myself here, naked in a slave pen, chains on my limbs. In any event, though the evidence for your world doubtless exists, in many ways, on my world, what evidence is recognized is, as far as I know, subjected to alternative explanations, ignored, or explained away, in one way or another. This is not to say, of course, that Goreans are not here and there on Earth. My presence here, for example, makes that clear, or, at least, that there are those on Earth who know of Gor, and are familiar with her. This is not to deny, of course, that better information might be housed in various intelligence communities on Earth, evidence which it would be wise to treat with circumspection. In any event, various manuscripts pertaining to your world have appeared, in a variety of languages, on my former world, despite efforts to suppress them, to deny them to the reading public. And even if such efforts should prove overtly successful it is not unlikely that some copies will elude the insecure and bigoted, and will continue to circulate, as an underground literature, if nothing else, hidden here and there, and passed secretly from hand to hand, a badge of understanding and brotherhood, in defiance of haters and tyrants concerned to engineer a pathology congenial to their political ambitions.
In any event, in my room, and apparently in those of Eve and Jane, Mrs. Rawlinson had discovered certain of these books, apparently, as I then thought, to her astonishment, embarrassment, dismay, and indignation. Certainly I had hidden the books, I had thought well, in a trunk, covered with clothing, had confessed to no one that I had read such things, and was terribly self-conscious at having done so. I was miserably embarrassed that this secret was discovered. What would Mrs. Rawlinson, my sisters, others, think of me?
Worse, I could be publicly humiliated, disdained, ostracized, and summarily expelled from the sorority, with all the devastating social consequences which that might entail.
A delicate and fragile world, carefully constructed and maintained with an eye to the future, might tumble about me.
I was frightened.
I was suddenly, for the first time in my life, vulnerable, at risk.
I would be on the outside, alone, ignored and despised, the gates shut against me.
How delighted would be Nora, and certain others of my sisters, at my downfall, my discomfiture!
How rapidly and eagerly would this welcome news of my exposure be broadcast about the campus!
I had come upon such books by accident, in a store dealing with old books. I was curious. I looked into one or more. I was startled. I could not believe, even from the first pages, the nature of what I read. I did not understand how the authors, Tarl Cabot, and others, might have dared to write what they did. Did they not know the formulas? Were they unaware of the political requirements imposed on contemporary literature? Were such so obscure, or difficult to discern? What an unexpected paradox, to put aside the rules, to deny orthodoxy, to speak so plainly, so simply and quietly, and naturally, of a culture so different from ours, and to speak of it not to denounce it, but to understand it, to speak of it from the inside, instead of disparaging it from the outside, from the alleged vantage point of some arrogant, unargued, unquestioned position or posture whose credentials were not only dubious but nonexistent. What of the simple test of life consequences? Is it obvious that an unnatural culture which produces vehemence, confusion, hysteria, sickness, treachery, hypocrisy, mass murder, and hatred is obviously superior to a culture compatible with nature, and her kinds and differences, a culture in which nature is recognized and celebrated, and enhanced by all the ennobling sophistications of civilization, rather than denied?
In any event, if only to my dismay, and fear, the books spoke to me.
Too, they spoke to me of secrets I had long concealed from myself. My life was boring and empty, and largely mapped out for me. I was on a road, cold, glittering, metallic, and arid, which I did not much care to follow. I did not know myself. Perhaps I was afraid to discover myself. What might I learn, what might I find? I did know that I was a scion of a series of species bred for thousands of generations for a world quite different from the one in which I found myself, a world less populated, greener, more open, more perilous perhaps, and certainly more beautiful. And I knew, too, that there were men and women, and that each had been bred beside the other, for countless generations, each in the light of the other, and I suspected, from my thoughts, my needs, and dreams, that they were not identical, but that each sex, so radically dimorphic, had its own wonderful nature, each nature complementary to the other. What of relationships, so pervasive amongst mammals? Had such things not been selected for? Was nature so hard to read? Did the consequences of denying her lead to happiness, or fulfillment? It did not seem so.
But, still, I had been caught.
Books had been found in my room.
Mrs. Rawlinson had sternly summoned me, and Eve and Jane, before her. We were then alone, frightened, in the room with her. The room was not well lit. Her straight, menacing figure was outlined against the wide window behind her. I soon realized, from the books on her desk, that Eve and Jane, too, were familiar with such books. I wondered how many other women, and men, knew of such things.
Could it be that I was not alone, that I was not an isolated, shameful exception to the pompous glories of political orthodoxy?
How rare is courage!
How mighty is the shuffling, drifting, dull, pressing herd!
Eve, Jane, and I exchanged frightened glances.
Oddly, I wondered which of us might be found most beautiful on a Gorean slave block. Do not women wonder about such things?
And what of Nora, and my enemies in the house?
Would they be so different, barefoot in the sawdust, turned, exhibited, in the torchlight, being bid upon?
“Shame! Shame!” said Mrs. Rawlinson, pointing to the books on the desk before her, the window behind her.
“What have you to say for yourselves?” she asked.
There seemed little for us to say. I felt tears of shame course my cheeks. Eve and Jane, too, sobbed.
“I thought so,” she said. “Know that there is no place for such as you in this house. This is terrible, terrible! You are an insult to the house, to your sisters, to the national organization. You are finished here, disgraced. You will go to your rooms, pack your belongings, and leave the premises before nightfall.”
“No,” we wept. “Please, no!”
“Tomorrow morning I shall bring the matter to the attention of the house board, and your sisters, following which the evidence will be presented, and the vote taken, the outcome of which I do not doubt will be to publicly and officially expel you from the house, and, concomitantly, the national organization.”
“Forgive us!” begged Eve.
“We are sorry!” said Jane.
“For offenses less meaningful, less heinous, expulsion is in order,” she said.
“Is it truly so great a matter?” I wept.
“Quite,” she said. “You may now leave the room,” she said.
“Please, no!” we wept.
She pointed to the door and, shuddering, stumbling, numb, we turned about, unable to speak, unable to comprehend the dissolution of our reality, the sudden and catastrophic loss of our position and status, taken as given and unassailable but moments ago.
We had been everything, and now, in moments, we would be nothing, we would be despised and negligible, would be then no more than others, inferiors. The shame of this expulsion would be general knowledge, and certain of our sisters, I thought I knew which ones, Nora, and others, would see to it that the cause of our expulsion would be well publicized. Our continued presence at the school would be intolerable.
“What do you think you are,” asked Mrs. Rawlinson, “reading such things?”
We turned back to face her.
Something had been different about her voice. She suddenly seemed other than she had been.
“We are sorry, very sorry!” said Eve, hopefully.
“You are silly little bitches,” said the house mother. “I wonder what you are good for?”
This was not the tone of voice, nor the diction, to which we had become accustomed. Her carriage, oddly, now seemed slimily lithe, her voice younger.
She was new to the house, as of the beginning of the semester. I was suddenly less clear as to her age.
“Do you wish to be reported, and expelled?” she inquired.
“No,” we said. “No!”
“Remove your shoes,” she said.
We looked to one another, in consternation.
“I see you must vacate the premises,” she said.
We removed our shoes.
“Now,” she said, “kneel before me.”
“It is acceptable,” she said. “I am a free woman.”
I did not understand this, nor, I suspect, did Eve or Jane. Surely we were all free, all of us. Who was not free?
She came about the desk, and pointed to the rug, at her feet.
“Here,” she said.
Scarcely understanding what we were doing, almost numbly, we knelt before her.
It was the first time I had ever knelt before another person. I suddenly felt, overwhelmingly, the significance of this, placing oneself before another human being, in what was clearly a posture of submission. I was shaken. It was as though I had been struck a blow by nature. Was I in my place? Were Eve and Jane? I almost fainted, with understanding, and uncontrollable, suffusing emotion.
“So,” she said, “you think you know of the Gorean world?”
We looked up at her.
“Get your heads down, to the carpet,” she said, “and place the palms of your hands beside your head.”
We were thus kneeling before her in what I would later learn was the first position of obeisance.
“Now you are as you should be,” she said.
We trembled before her, but, too, it now seemed clear that we would not be required to leave the house, that no motion for expulsion would be brought to the floor in the morning, before the board, before our assembled sisters.
“You think you know something of the Gorean world,” she said, “but you know nothing.”
I suddenly realized that she before whom we knelt was not incognizant of the world of which she spoke.
I suddenly suspected that she, too, was a reader of this unusual literature, in which one encountered a different world, a natural world, one so far removed from the negativities and artificialities of our own.
I was very much aware of my forehead pressed to the carpet.
“What little sluts you are,” she said. “It is clear what you are good for, and the only thing you are good for.”
How dared she call us “sluts”?
Then, to our astonishment, she laughed.
“Girls will be girls,” she said.
A laugh escaped me, one of relief. It was a merry jest. But, somehow, we did not raise our heads.
“Look up,” she said.
We did so, but did not rise to our feet. We had not received permission to do so.
“What naughty young women you are,” she said, “to read such books,” indicating those on her desk.
We struggled to smile.
“Remain on your knees,” she snapped.
We did so.
“Surely you understand how inconsistent such things are with the certain dictates and dogmas of our culture,” she said, “with, say, certain principles and notions which are to be taken as beyond question or review, principles and notions which are to be accepted uncritically, mindlessly, without inquiry or investigation, because they have somehow come to exist, and understand, as well, how they might frighten some individuals, individuals of certain sorts. At the least they are not clearly in accord with various prescribed political proprieties.”
We nodded, but remained on our knees.
“Still,” she said, “I am prepared to be lenient.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Rawlinson,” whispered Eve.
“Please,” I said.
“Please,” said Jane.
“Expulsion may not be necessary,” she said.
“No!” I said.
“I am not unaware,” she said, “of the stresses and pressures imposed upon young women, even proper young ladies, refined and well-bred, such as yourselves, by biology. Indeed, how could you escape them? What could you do other than pretend they do not exist? But such pretensions would be unavailing. They will have their way, in one way or another. They will frequent your thoughts; they will emerge in your dreams.”
We dared not respond.
How could Mrs. Rawlinson, a house mother in a sorority such as ours, dare call attention to such things?
“Do you know what such things tell you?” asked Mrs. Rawlinson.
“No,” said Eve, uncertainly.
“That you are females,” said Mrs. Rawlinson. “And doubtless, in young men, stresses and pressures also exist, quite different from those which trouble you, which you strive to ignore or repudiate, but complementary to them. They, too, in this world, have their different whisperings, which they, too, are expected to strive to ignore or repudiate. But it is hard for them, as for you, to ignore the drums of nature, pounding in the blood.”
It struck me as strange that she had used the expression ‘in this world’? What other world could there be? Could there be another world, one in which one need not strive to ignore or repudiate what one truly was? Was it so wrong, to be true to one’s nature, whatever it might be?
Was nature so terrible?
Had it not preserved extant species for countless generations?
“Too,” she said, “you are young, intelligent, healthy, curious, and hormonally active. Too, perhaps you are not wholly happy, or at ease with yourselves. Perhaps you are miserable, bored, unsatisfied. Perhaps you are uneasy, and know not why. It is understandable, then, that you might wish to look into such things.”
“Yes, Mrs. Rawlinson,” said Eve.
Then she put her head down, quickly, frightened.
“Your interest in such matters,” said Mrs. Rawlinson, “despite what you might think, is not unusual. Many thousands know of these things, here and abroad, in Europe and Asia, and elsewhere. To you, it seems it is a secret. But surely it is a strange “secret” which is unbeknownst shared by multitudes, each of its keepers perhaps unaware of the others. But, too, there are many places where the enemies of nature are less entrenched and powerful than here, places where it does not occur to men and women that obvious biotruths, such as the complementary nature of the sexes, are to be routinely suppressed.”
“We thank you for your understanding,” said Eve.
“Yes, thank you,” said Jane.
“So much!” I said, fervently, gratefully.
“Still,” said Mrs. Rawlinson, “you are guilty. You have had in your possession literature quite improper for this house and the school.”
“Yes, Miss Rawlinson,” said Eve.
“Moreover,” she said, “you are not common, ordinary young women. You are very special young women, young women of high intelligence, education, refinement, wealth, taste, and breeding. Indeed, you are ladies, but not ladies in so exalted and powerful a sense that such as you would grovel and tremble in the very presence of such.”
I did not understand this.
“Rather,” she said, “you are ladies, here, young ladies, in a somewhat archaic sense of the term, a term associated with station, quality, and gentry.”
“Yes, Mrs. Rawlinson!” said Eve.
“And, as such,” she said, “in the possession of such literature, well aware of its political impropriety, you have behaved inexcusably.”
“Mrs. Rawlinson!” protested Jane.
“Stay on your knees, sluts,” she said.
“Sluts!” protested Jane.
She had called us this before.
“Who else would read such things?” she asked.
Eve burst into tears.
“Yes,” said Mrs. Rawlinson, “‘sluts,’ all of you, and less than that, far less, if you but knew.”
I did not understand her.
I was afraid.
“You must be punished,” she said.
“No!” said Jane.
“No!” I said.
“I see,” said she, “that expulsion from the house is in order.”
“No!” we cried. “Please, no!”
It is difficult to convey my feelings, and, I suspect, the same might have been said for Eve and Jane. We were afraid, uncertain, and confused. In a moment we might be lost. In a sense, we were helpless. We were before the house mother, awaiting her pleasure and decision, on which our future might depend, and, as she would have it, unshod, and on our knees.
The thought came to me, unbidden, sudden, that I was where I belonged, on my knees.
“Be kind!” I begged.
“You will be punished,” she said, “all of you, and exquisitely, in a way which will be wholly appropriate to your fault, in a way which will both conceal you and reveal you.”
We understood nothing of this.
“I will see to it that you will pay for your indiscretion,” she said. “I will see to it that you will suffer for it. I will see to it that you will be profoundly and exquisitely humiliated, that you, all of you, will be openly and publicly shamed, excruciatingly so, deliciously so, and yet in such a way that only we, you and I, understand fully what is occurring.”
Eve, Jane, and I exchanged frightened glances.
“You are familiar to some extent with the Gorean world,” she said. “That is clear from the books found in your rooms. Therefore, it is only fitting that such things be considered in your punishment.”
“Mrs. Rawlinson?” stammered Eve.
“We shall arrange a party,” she said. “To some, perhaps more than you suspect, it will be clear that it is a Gorean party; to others it will be no more than a delightful, exquisite entertainment, a costume affair, with a Roman or Greek flavor, hosted by the house, to which selected members of particular fraternities will be invited.”
Such parties, and others, I knew, innocent and pleasant, but subtly, implicitly, and unmistakably stimulating, were not unknown on prestigious, sophisticated campuses
Needless to say, we were much relieved.
“The highest fraternities!” said Eve.
“Of course,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
These would be the fellows from whom even we hoped for attention, and dates.
Such a party, eagerly arranged and planned by our sisters, would be the talk of the campus, and the envy of other sororities, our rivals, which, I suspected, would soon address themselves to similar affairs.
“It will take some days to prepare,” said Mrs. Rawlinson. “There is the question of a proper decor, an apt menu, and such. It will not be difficult to arrange music. Dancers, too, may be obtained.”
“Is this a punishment?” asked Eve.
“For you three, yes,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
“I do not understand,” I said. “May I rise to my feet?”
“No,” she said.
“There would be the matter of costumes?” said Jane.
“Quite right,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
“How could one come by a proper wardrobe?” asked Jane.
“It would have to be improvised,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
“Robes, and such,” said Eve.
“Yes,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
“But the women would have to be veiled,” said Jane.
Mrs. Rawlinson regarded her.
“It must be unpleasant to drink through a veil,” said Jane.
“It shows crudeness, to be sure,” said Mrs. Rawlinson, “but low-caste women, in public, commonly do so. But do not be concerned. Our party will be intimate, and private. In such circumstances high-caste women commonly dispense with veiling.”
“But they might enter, veiled?” said Jane.
“Yes,” said Mrs. Rawlinson, “and, if they wish, they may eat and drink behind the veil.”
“I did not know that,” said Jane.
I did not know it, either.
“Much may be done with a veil,” said Mrs. Rawlinson, “at the discretion of its owner, an adjustment, an inadvertence, a slight laxity, a glimpsed cherry lip, a sparkling eye, and the knife is turned about in the heart of some luckless fellow.”
“Delightful,” said Eve.
“How will we distribute the garments, the roles?” asked Jane.
“Would not everyone choose those of high caste, even those of Ubaras?” I asked.
“We will select the roles, and distribute them by lot,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
“Very well,” said Jane. “That seems fair. It would not do to have thirty Ubaras in the house.”
“The lots, to some extent,” said Mrs. Rawlinson, “will be rigged.”
“How is that?” asked Eve.
“I think that Nora will be our Ubara,” she said, “and certain of her friends the Ubara’s confidantes, or attendants.”
“Why is that?” asked Jane.
“My choice,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
“Oh,” said Jane.
I was sure that Mrs. Rawlinson was very much aware of certain interpersonal relationships obtaining in the house. There was no secret about such things.
“I hope,” said Eve, “I will be of the Merchants. Their robes are yellow and white, or gold and white. I think I would look stunning in such robes.”
Eve had strikingly dark hair.
“I trust I will be of the Builders,” said Jane. “Their robes are yellow.”
“Their official caste robes,” said Mrs. Rawlinson. “Goreans do not always wear their caste’s colors.”
“I did not know that,” said Jane.
Mrs. Rawlinson looked at me. “And you?” she said. “Perhaps you would care for the robes of the Scribes?”
“No,” I said. “They are poor. I do not know why they are a high caste.”
“Perhaps then,” said Mrs. Rawlinson, “the green of the Physicians. They are a high caste.”
“No,” I said. “They, too, are not rich enough. I gather their pleasure is in their healings, and not in their fees. They are too devoted to their work, to their research, serums, and medicines, and distributing the benefits of their administrations and learnings indiscriminately, denying such to no one.”
“That is in their caste codes,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
“They are fools,” I said. “People sometimes need their skills and knowledge, even desperately. That is when they could make others pay, and well.”
“Yet they seldom do so,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
“To neglect such opportunities seems to me unwise, and scarcely comprehensible.”
“The caste has its traditions, and codes,” she said.
“Such practices, and refrainings,” I said, “seem an unlikely route to the prestige of a high caste.”
“Perhaps,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
“Where is their wealth, their power?”
“The personal physicians of Ubars do well,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
“But the others?” I said.
“There are the traditions, the codes,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
“Wealth is power,” I said.
“Only if it can purchase steel,” she said.
“In any event,” I said, “I would like, like Eve, to be of the Merchants. Surely there could be more than one.”
“Of course,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
I, too, had dark hair. I thought it would look well against white and yellow, or white and gold.
I had little doubt that the Merchants was the wealthiest caste. It seemed to me, then, that it should be the highest caste. Of what value, for example, was the Scarlet Caste, the caste of Warriors, if not to protect the gold, the wealth, of the Merchants?
“None of you,” said Mrs. Rawlinson, “will be of high caste.”
“But,” said Eve, “if we are of low caste, of the Metal Workers, the Cloth Workers, the Workers in Wood, the Leather Workers, the Bakers, the Tarnsters, or such, we would have to be placed lower at the tables.”
“But,” said Mrs. Rawlinson, “you will not be placed at the tables, at all. As mentioned, the lots will be arranged. It will seem that it was merely your fortune, a matter of chance, that the lots fell as they did.”
“No!” said Eve.
“Never!” said Jane.
“Certainly not!” I said.
“Yes,” said Mrs. Rawlinson. “It will be your role to serve the feast. You will serve attentively, efficiently, and humbly. You will be alert to the needs of the guests, an empty plate, a glass in need of refilling. You will be swift to respond to summoning, of any sort, for example, to bring a laver of scented water to a place, that the guest may rinse his hands, or to lend your body, clothing, or hair, if a guest wishes, to wipe grease from his fingers. You will not speak unless you are spoken to. If spoken to, you will respond softly, with deference. Your head is to be lowered, unless you are ordered to raise it; you are not to meet the eyes of a guest, unless commanded to do so. You are to be self-effacing. You are prohibited from participating in the feast, in any way, either by eating or drinking, unless commanded by a guest. One may wish to feed you by hand, or cast scraps to the floor, which you are to retrieve on all fours, without the use of your hands. If a pan of water is set on the floor for you, you are to approach it on all fours, bow your head, and drink from it, humbly, as an animal. Each guest will be furnished with a switch, which he may use on you, if he is in any way dissatisfied with your service, or, if he wishes, for no reason at all.”
“Never!” said Eve.
“This is your punishment,” said Mrs. Rawlinson. “There is still time for you to leave the house.”
Jane began to sob.
“The guests, and your sisters, will think this all a matter of the lots,” said Mrs. Rawlinson. “Thus, in a sense, your fault, your punishment, will be concealed, and yet, in a way, its consequences will be well revealed.”
“You would have us be as kajirae?” said Jane, aghast.
“Slave girls-Gorean slave girls?” whispered Eve, scarcely daring to form the words.
“Precisely,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
“But the fellows would not stand for such a thing,” said Eve. “They would object. They would rush to rescue us.”
“Do not be too sure of that,” said Mrs. Rawlinson. “I think they will see it as all in the spirit of good fun. Too, I suspect that most will be pleased to see you, or any number of other young women, so. Further, the young men will be informed that any attempt to interfere with matters will result in their immediate ejection. I think things will go splendidly.”
“How will we be clothed?” I asked.
“I have decided that,” she said.
“As I understand it,” I said, “kajirae are commonly clothed sedately, in long gowns, if with bared arms, at such feasts, that is, if free women should be present?”
One scarcely dared conjecture how they might serve, if free women were not present.
“Not always,” said Mrs. Rawlinson, “particularly if the kajirae would be recent captures from an enemy city, or, say, enslaved rivals of the free women attending the feast, or such.”
“I gather,” I said, “that we are not then to be allowed the dignity of lengthy, concealing gowns.”
“No,” she said.
“You would dare have us appear in public in less?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“No, no!” said Jane.
“It is all in good fun,” she said.
“How then,” asked Eve, “are we to be clothed?”
“Obviously then,” I said, “in a garmenture appropriate to slaves.”
“Tunics, then,” said Jane, in misery, “tunics fit for slaves, slave tunics.”
“I am sure,” said Mrs. Rawlinson, “that you would all look quite fetching in such tunics, slave tunics, particularly of the sort designed by men, by means of which the beasts boast of the lineaments of their properties.”
“I will never put such a thing on!” exclaimed Jane.
“Never!” said Eve.
“Never!” I said.
“We might perish of mortification!” said Jane.
“Scarcely so,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
“Still!” I exclaimed.
The thought of myself in such a garment was shocking, insupportable, so exhibited, so displayed! How unthinkable, would be such a thing!
It would be as though I were a slave!
“I gather, from men,” she said, “that such things are extremely attractive.”
“They demean a woman,” said Jane.
“How can one demean a slave?” she asked.
“But you need have no fear,” she said. “I have no intention of putting you in slave tunics.”
We exchanged glances, of relief.
“You will not wear slave tunics,” she said.
“Thank you, Mrs. Rawlinson,” we said.
“No,” she said, “you will not be allowed such dignity. You will serve in camisks, all of you, in the common camisk.”
“Never!” we cried.
“Remain on your knees,” she said.
The camisk is a narrow rectangle of cloth, with an opening in the center. It is slipped over the head, and belted snugly, commonly with a double loop of thong or binding fiber, this fastened with a slip knot at the left hip, that it may be convenient to a right-handed man. The double loop provides enough thong or binding fiber to bind the occupant, helplessly, hand and foot. The slip knot at the waist of the camisk is similar to the disrobing loop at the left shoulder of some slave tunics, by means of which the garment may be conveniently removed, a simple tug loosening it, permitting it to fall gracefully about the ankles of its occupant.
“We will never wear such things,” said Eve.
“It seems expulsion is in order,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
“No!” we wept.
“Would you prefer to serve naked?” she inquired.
“No, no!” we said.
“It is not unusual for a Gorean feast to be so served by kajirae,” she said.
I did not doubt that.
“Many men claim it improves the appetite,” she said.
“No, no,” whimpered Eve, tears coursing down her cheeks.
“I am told so,” said Mrs. Rawlinson.
“Relent, be kind,” pleaded Jane.
“But many,” she said, “prefer the tunic, or camisk. It gives them something to remove.”
“You would punish us so?” I wept.
“Your fault was grievous,” she said. “You may beg to be permitted a camisk.”
“I beg to be permitted a camisk,” said Eve.
“I beg to be permitted a camisk,” said Jane.
“I beg,” I said, “to be permitted a camisk.”
“It is all in good fun,” she said.
Jane, Eve, and I exchanged glances, of dismay, and misery. We would be almost nude, exhibited, as might be slaves, and the others would be fully clothed, veiled, robed, and such.
Clearly she had conceived a suitable punishment for such as we, a punishment fully appropriate, given our fault, having dared to read of a natural world.
“Your left ankles,” she said, “will be encircled several times with small, colored cords, on which bells will be threaded. Slaves are often belled. It stimulates the men.”
We looked at one another, miserable.
“Collars, too, would be appropriate,” she said. “One would not wish your necks to be naked. Common dog collars will do for you, particularly as you are bitches. But they will be locked on your neck. You will know yourself well in them. Small padlocks will do, to which I shall hold the key.”
Eve began to cry.
“I assume you will all know enough to kneel in the presence of free persons, save when you are serving, fetching, and such.”
I nodded, in misery.
And Nora, and her clique, and the others, would be such, free persons!
“You will all need a little coaching,” she said, “in posture, grace, and such, which I shall supply, but the important thing is that you should know yourself as slaves, that you should understand that, fully, in the deepest roots of you. Given that understanding, much will come quite naturally. Most of your serving, I assure you, will be quite proper, quite innocent. For example, in serving wine to a male you need only do so on your knees, your head down, extending the goblet, held in both hands, between your extended arms. You need have little fear that you will be expected to serve wine in the typical Gorean fashion, which is so stimulating to a male, and, I might observe, in passing, too, so helplessly and erotically stimulating to the slave as well. One would not wish you to be dragged to the kitchen by the hair, and enjoyed on the linoleum, would we?”
“No,” we whispered.
“But Mrs. Rawlinson,” said Eve, “if the boys see us thusly, how will they see us?”
“As lusciously desirable,” said Mrs. Rawlinson, “but only as slaves.”
“What if we do not do well?” said Jane.
“I am sure you will do well, very well,” said Mrs. Rawlinson. “And remember, the guests will be furnished with switches.”
We recalled this.
“It is unpleasant to be switched,” she said. “You will try to do your best, will you not?”
We looked to one another.
“Yes,” we said.
“And remember,” she said, “you are to address all free males as Master, and all free females as Mistress. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” we said.
“Yes, Mrs. Rawlinson,” she suggested.
“Yes, Mrs. Rawlinson,” we said.
Several days later, the party took place, and Eve, Jane, and I, half-naked, belled, and collared, served as kajirae. Our punishment, as Mrs. Rawlinson had suggested, was exquisite. As she had anticipated, we were well shamed, excruciatingly so. We knew we were being punished; the guests did not. I supposed I should have been grateful.
I learned, for the first time in my life, at that party, something of what it might be to be looked upon as a slave. I could not remove the collar, of course, unless I had recourse to tools. Accordingly, it was well on me. It was the first time, of course, that I had ever been in a locked collar. Interestingly, though I would have told no one at the time, I was erotically charged, even in my shame. Could I be, I wondered, a slut, or less? The bells, too, with their subtle rustle, marked the least of my movements. It was a strange feeling, to be belled. In some strange way that, too, aroused me. Did they not say, so to speak, ‘You are a slave, a belled slave’?
Eve, Jane, and I were, I suppose, quite popular at the party, at least with the young men. Many times, unnecessarily I was sure, we were summoned to serve one or another of them. I think this did not much please several of our sisters, also at the tables.
“Slave,” called Nora, in her sumptuous robes, as our Ubara, “to me!”
I hurried to her, and knelt before her, head down.
How pleased, I thought, must she, my enemy, be to have me so before her!
“My hands are greasy from the meat,” she said. “Come closer.”
Then, while she chatted with the young man beside her, she pulled me by the hair closer, and held me, painfully, my face down, at the table, and wiped her hands, carefully and firmly, in my hair.
Then, turning to me, as though she had just then noticed me, she said, “Get out!”
I withdrew to the side, kneeling.
My eyes were hot with tears. I kept my head down.
“To me,” she called again, later. “Stop!” she then said, when I was a few feet from her. I knew enough, from Mrs. Rawlinson, to kneel, immediately.
“You must be hungry,” she laughed.
We were hungry, for we were not permitted to participate in the feast. Too, on Mrs. Rawlinson’s instructions, we had been denied lunch, and, later, kept locked in a room behind the kitchen, until we had been brought forth, covered by a large sheet, and introduced into the common room, now arranged as a banquet hall. We had been knelt, and the sheet, swirling, lifted away, revealing us, camisked, collared, and belled. “Slaves!” had said Mrs. Rawlinson, in her own robes, with an expansive gesture, and there had been much laughter, and some gasps, for even our sisters had not been apprised of how we would appear, and, too, there was some hooting from the young men, and vulgar noises, and an appreciative, even enthusiastic, clapping of hands.
Then, at a sharp clapping of Mrs. Rawlinson’s hands, we leapt up and hurried to the kitchen, to bring forth the fare, the sweets, the candies, the nuts, the bowls of fruit, the herbs, the bread, flat, circular loaves of bread, which would be divided into eight wedges, the many covered dishes of boiled vegetables and hot meat, the vessels of wine, and such, and placed these on the serving table, from which place we began to serve the guests.
“Are you hungry?” inquired Nora.
I did not know what to do.
“You may speak, slave,” she said.
“Yes,” I said, “-Mistress.” I had been informed by Mrs. Rawlinson that those in collars must tell the truth. How vulnerable this makes them. They are not free women.
She then took some scraps from her plate and cast them about, on the floor.
“Feed,” she said.
Burning with shame, but yet, too, eager for food, I crawled to the scraps and, head down, without my hands, fed. That was the first time I had fed thusly. Oddly, I was glad to feed, even grateful.
Could I be, I wondered, a slave?
And how significant this would have been, I thought, had the scraps been cast to the floor not by Nora, but by a man!
I was suddenly overcome, almost unable to move.
I was overwhelmed by a sudden, momentous sense of meaningfulness.
How meaningful suddenly seemed my posture, my garmenture, the bells on my ankle, the collar on my neck.
How small I seemed, how degraded and mocked, and how worthless, how helpless!
And my sense was not just one of meaningfulness, as profound as that sense might be, and as comprehensible as such a sense would be, given the circumstances, but, rather, startling me, and frightening me, one of fittingness, of propriety, of rightfulness!
Could it be that I, despite my antecedents and background, my upbringing, education, and indoctrination, was a slave?
Since puberty I had suspected that some women were slaves. Were not the blossoming subtleties of my body, and those of others, such that they had been carved out over countless generations by the lusts of men? Were we not delightful prizes, goods, like fruit and animals, to be seized and exploited? Had we not been selected to be delights to possessors? Had we not been selected to be roped and snared? Had we not been, in our way, bred for the auction block?
Yes, I thought, there must be rightful slaves, women who cannot be whole, cannot be fulfilled, who will never know true happiness except at the feet of men, owned, and mastered.
Could I be one such?
Surely not, surely not!
It went against everything I had been told, everything I had been taught.
Could it be that what I had been told was false, that what I had been taught was untrue?
Who was I?
What was I?
I sensed Nora walking about me, and was confident she had in her possession her switch.
In a moment I heard a pan placed on the floor near me.
I looked up, from all fours.
I felt the tip of her switch beneath my chin, and, responsive to its pressure, I lifted my head, and then, on all fours, my head up, guided by the switch, by its gentle pressure, first on one side of my face and then the other, I was moved about, faced to the left, and then to the right, and then, again, ahead, being exhibited to those at the low tables, the men cross-legged, the women kneeling, some guests lounging, bemused, on an elbow.
“She is a pretty thing, is she not?” said Nora.
There was a generous assent to this, particularly from the young men.
Our sorority was quite particular about such things. No one was accepted as a pledge, let alone initiated, who did not meet certain standards.
Our house was envied on campus, and, by some, held in contempt. Sometimes it was referred to as “the house of meaningless beauty,” sometimes as “the harem,” sometimes as “the slave market,” which, I supposed, was a reference to a girl’s judiciously selling herself, so to speak, to the highest bidder. One fellow had referred to it, jokingly, as “the pleasure garden.” I had gathered, then, that I might not be the only one about who might be familiar with certain forms of forbidden literature. But the expression, of course, is familiar, and well-known. I did not inquire into the matter, for I would have been frightened to meet a male who might be familiar with such things. I wondered, though, what it might be like to be within the walls of such a place, waiting for the bell, sounding my particular notes, that I must hasten to the room of preparation, to be prepared for the slave ring of my master.
“I think she looks nice in a collar, don’t you?” asked Nora. “I think she belongs in one, don’t you?”
I could not remove it. It was locked on me.
I saw Mrs. Rawlinson, in the background. She was smiling. I recalled that I was being punished, well punished.
I suspected that the sight of a woman in a collar was stimulating to men. I wondered if they knew that being in a collar had a similar effect on its occupant.
I had little doubt that orgasms were easily obtained from an obedient, yielding, helpless slave.
What choice had she?
But did the men know how eagerly the slave sought the embrace of her master’s arms? One supposes so. Surely they must know the need, the passion, of the slave. How helpless is a woman once her slave fires have been ignited. Do the masters truly not understand the slave’s uneasiness, her whimpering, her sidelong glances, the bondage knot in her hair, her kneeling before him, the pathetic way she presses her lips to his feet, hoping to call herself to his attention?
Surely the strongest chain on a slave is her nature and her needs.
And I wondered, suddenly, what it would be to encounter a man so virile and strong, so powerful and lustful, that he would be satisfied with nothing less than my absolute possession, with nothing less than owning me, with nothing less than having me as his slave.
And what would it be, to be at the feet of such a man?
Could there be such man? Could there be such a place, such a world?
Nora’s questions were greeted with obvious agreement.
The switch drew my attention, and that of the guests, to the pan which had been placed near me.
It was a pan of water.
“Drink,” said Nora.
“Please, no,” I protested.
“Please no, what?” inquired Nora.
“Please, no, Mistress,” I said.
“Drink,” said Nora, sternly.
I put down my head, and, on all fours, not using my hands, drank.
I was drinking as a slave. How strange to be in such a posture, I, a free woman, performing such an act. What feelings coursed through my body, strange feelings, unaccountable feelings. I could not understand them. But of course I was being punished. I must remember that. That must be all it was, all it could be. But such feelings, so broadcast, weakening, and suffusive! Could it be, I wondered, that I was a slave.
I had had only a swallow or two when Nora’s slipper swept across the floor and upset the pan.
“Clumsy slave!” she said.
Then, suddenly, I felt a stinging rain of leather cracking on my back, and then I was rolling on the floor, crying, turning about, trying to fend the blows which fell upon me, and then I struggled to my knees, and put my head down to the floor, covering it with my hands. She struck some more blows, lashing blows, on my arms, and calves, and back, and then, perhaps weary, returned to her place.
“What a careless, clumsy slave,” she remarked.
I shook with sobs, and pain. I was not brave. Nora had conquered. She had defeated me, I was shattered, and subdued. She had won. I did not even think of myself as a free person. I felt myself to be something different, something helpless, meaningless, and unworthy. I was camisked, collared, and belled. I was only a punished slave. I knew then that I would strive to please her.
The leather had taught me my place.
She was mistress. I was slave.
I wondered if Eve and Jane, in their exposure, their humiliation, and degradation, in their punishment, had suffered as I had. I did not doubt it. How could it be otherwise? Neither had been switched as I had, but each, more than once, when deemed less than fully pleasing, had felt a sharp stroke, sometimes a merry stroke, across the back of her legs. Certainly, though excruciatingly sensitive to our exposure and shame, we all strove to play our roles well, for we were all constantly under the exacting scrutiny of Mrs. Rawlinson. She retained our confiscated books, and might, we knew, at any time, initiate the proceedings which we were desperate to avoid. But I wondered, too, if Eve and Jane, now and again, in their serving, in their awareness of how they were looked upon, doubtless as never before, in their sense of exposure, of vulnerability and helplessness, in their hope to be found pleasing, and their fear of failing to be found so, had had feelings analogous to mine, those unaccountable feelings which a woman might feel, if she sensed her legs within no more than a scrap of cloth, if she lightly touched her finger tips to her throat, and found a collar there, if she were to understand, in its full moment, that she did not belong to herself but to another, that she was a property, and no more, that she was owned, that she was slave. I wondered if Mrs. Rawlinson knew what she had done to us, what she had forced us to feel, what she had forced us to suspect about ourselves.
At last the party was over, and the guests departed, and our sisters, laughing and chatting, weary but excited, retired to their rooms. Eve, Jane, and I were permitted to remove our bells and were placed in maid’s gingham uniforms, and set to clear the tables, tidy the room, and attend to the dishes. It was only when the work was complete that we were aligned, and Mrs. Rawlinson, behind us, one by one, removed our collars.
“You may thank me,” she said.
“Thank you, Mrs. Rawlinson,” we said, and then fled, sobbing, to our rooms.
It was some days after the party that I had had the troubling dream to which I earlier alluded, that in which it seemed that men were in my room, that in which I had sensed myself meticulously examined, and then, as I struggled to awaken, to escape the dream, bound helplessly, my wrists and ankles widely separated, while the men conferred. When I awakened, whimpering and frightened, I had screamed. Then I had realized, to my relief, that I was safe in my own room. Strangely I was naked, having apparently somehow slipped from my nightgown in the night. For some time, I remained in the bed, frightened and troubled, even though it was now clear to me that I was in my own room. After a bit, however, my alarm seemed foolish to me, and I regarded the dream, for all its seeming reality, with amusement. It was then, a moment later, that I had cried out with horror, this the outburst which had brought Eve and Jane, and Mrs. Rawlinson, to the room. I had drawn the covers up about me. “A dream,” I said, “a dream!” Mrs. Rawlinson had been the last to leave the room, and she had smiled before leaving, smiled knowingly, as it seemed to me at a later time. The reason for my outburst was simple. There were cord marks on my wrists and ankles.
“Slave,” she had said. “Kneel!”
“You are not a free woman!” I had said. “Are you so different from me? That bit of cloth you wear is as much a mockery of a garment as that which clings about me! Do I not see a metal circlet clasped close about your neck, which, I trust, is locked in place? If it is not, remove it, and I will kneel before you.”
“Barbarian!” she said.
“We are no different,” I said. “We are now the same, whether barbarian or Gorean!”
“No!” she said.
“I might sell for as much, or more than you!” I said.
These remarks, and those which had followed, recounted earlier, were not unprecedented in exchanges between native Gorean slaves and imports, such as I, merchandise brought from Earth, particularly when they are unfamiliar to one another. I had, at this time, been better than three months and four passage hands on your world. You might note that I was not without my collar vanity. I had literally suggested that I might bring as much off the block as she, though she was Gorean. To be sure, this would depend on the bidders. It had not taken me long to realize that I, and others like me, were commonly despised by Gorean women, both free and slave. The men, on the other hand, I soon discovered, though commonly regarding us as inferior and worthless, were not immune to our charms. Certainly they bid nicely for us, and were not reluctant to put us in their collars. We needed the men and hoped to be purchased by them, for they would protect us from the women. We needed only serve them with eager and abject perfection, in all the diverse ways of the female slave. Something more was involved here, of course, than the simple animosity of women, particular and generalized, for rivals, or the usual suspicion of that which is other than oneself, or different. We imports brought high prices. This was doubtless, in part, a result of a different and exotic cast of merchandise, but, too, I think there was little doubt that the prices paid for us were not unrelated to the quality of the goods sold. When a city falls, or a caravan is taken, one will usually add to one’s chain what is at hand. On the other hand, sometimes a woman is stripped and dismissed, whipped from a camp, or the smoking wagons. To her humiliation and rage, she has been rejected. She is insufficiently attractive to be a slave. She would not sell, or might sell for no more than a pot girl. Contrariwise, the girls taken from Earth are apparently selected with great care, for beauty, intelligence, and, I suspect, somehow, though I am unclear how it is assessed, for latent, and eventually uncontrollable, passion. I frankly see no reason to believe that the women of Earth, in general, are either better looking or not, when compared with their Gorean sisters, nor, of course, that they are better or worse than we. I would think them much the same. Clearly we are all female, and human. On the other hand, the Goreans have an expression, “slave beautiful,” and that clearly means beautiful enough to be a slave. Accordingly, the women in collars, Goreans or not, tend to be females of a sort which is of interest to men. And, as you might recall, if you would forgive me, the imports from Earth are not acquired randomly, say, in virtue of the fortunes of war or raiding. They are selected with great care, apparently by men, or women, who are professionals in such matters. I have often wondered about Mrs. Rawlinson, whom I suspect is not unacquainted with my fate, and perhaps that of others. I wonder if she is amused, to think of us as we might now be. At different times it had seemed her voice was different, younger, and, at times, it seemed her posture and carriage was more that of a younger woman. I had come to suspect that she had been disguised, and somehow placed in the sorority for some purpose. I recalled she had once identified herself as “a free woman.” I had been puzzled by that at the time, but now it seemed somehow meaningful. She had said this shortly before she had had us kneel before her. If Mrs. Rawlinson was Gorean, or in league with Goreans, she had certainly been well placed to examine and assess a number of supercilious, vain, intelligent, highly cultured, beautiful young women, women conveniently gathered together, women nicely located and accessible, self-selected women, beauties all, of a sort which, once collared, might be of interest to men. I wondered about Eve, and Jane, and the others. Too, I wondered about beautiful, arrogant Nora, who might now find herself on the other end of a switch. I have spoken of collar pride. I soon learned collar pride. I learned that I was “slave beautiful,” and that the female slave is the most desirable and exciting of human females. What woman would be immune to such flattery, the flattery of chains, the tunic, the collar, the whip? What woman, in her vanity, would be insensible of the compliment paid to her, the compliment of thongs and bracelets? How could she be unaware of the tribute and honor paid to her, that she should be cast amongst the least and most worthless of animals, the most desirable of women, the female slave? So I came to be proud of my beauty, and its meaning. The collar may be viewed as a simple contrivance, a device prescribed by Merchant Law, identifying a slave and, if the collar is engraved, often her master. Free women may view it as a badge of inferiority and degradation, and perhaps appropriately, from the social point of view. But the collar, too, as I have suggested, may be seen as a badge of quality, a token that the woman has been found desirable enough, and beautiful enough, of sufficient interest to men, to be put in a collar. It is no wonder the free women, encumbered in their robes, uneasy within them, perhaps, for all I know, seething with need, suspecting the joys of the collar, hate us so.
We are as natural and real a part of your world as the unpolluted air you breathe. You think nothing of our presence. It is there, as that of your other domestic animals. You find us on your streets, and in your markets, shopping; you note us waiting for our masters, our necks or ankles chained to street rings; surely you have seen us on holidays, promenaded on our leashes? Are we not everywhere, hurrying about, intent on our errands? We are in your homes, and kitchens, and fields. Do we not serve in the paga taverns, sometimes nude and belled? Do we not, sedately tunicked, as serving slaves, assist free women with their complex ornaments, their perfumes, robes, and veils? Do we not gather gossip for them, and carry messages for them in their petty intrigues and assignations; do we not accompany their palanquins? Will you not find us in military camps, and stables? Do we not serve well in the baths? Is it not a great pleasure of your visitors, foreign ambassadors, and such, to see us in your towns and cities, doubtless comparing us to those in theirs? Do we not fit in well with your colorful architecture, your broad boulevards, the lovely statues and fountains, and, surely, with your extensive, shaded public gardens, with their secluded, winding paths? Surely your slaves are one of the delights, one of the pleasures and joys, of your world. It is easy to see why you would not give the least thought to letting us out of our collars. You want us in them, and we will be kept in them. Indeed, who but a fool would free a slave girl?
Deny this, if you wish, but I have discovered, on your world, that such as I are not only accepted, as your other animals, but are, in a way, prized. Surely you are aware of the jokes, the songs. Certainly we are muchly sought for? Is it not for us that citadels are stormed and caravans raided, that we may be coffled and led naked to your markets? Surely you cannot deny our importance, negligible though we may be? Are we not somehow special amongst your animals, though we commonly sell for less than a sleen, and dozens of times less than a tarn? I think so. And I do not think you would wish to do without us. No. Are we not well worked, and are we not beautiful? And you find many uses for us, to which we are put.
Sometimes I marvel at your world.
Here, as not on my former world, the slavery of such as I is not questioned. Its utility, value, naturalness, and appropriateness is accepted, and understood. In a natural order, a natural order refined and enhanced with the rituals, customs, and institutions of civilization, would there not be such as we? Is it not the natural right of a natural master, that he should have a slave, or slaves? And is it not the natural right of the natural, needful slave, that she should kneel to her master? What begins in the caves, with fastenings formed from the sinews of beasts, may flourish in the boulevards, where delicate, graceful bracelets may confine the small wrists of women behind their backs.
We are subject to your whips, and wear your chains.
Surely that is obvious.
But is our lot so miserable?
Men and women are different, very different.
Surely you know that.
Here women such as I find ourselves a very real part of a very real world.
Here we know who we are, and how we must be.
Here we have a role and an identity, to be sure one inescapable and imposed upon us, whether we will have it so or not, for we are only animals, only slaves. But consider us, if you will, and our natures, though one need not consider a slave. Do you think slaves do not have natures, even though their natures may be scarcely worth noticing, and despicable?
We do have our natures.
Do you think all gratification, or fulfillment, is on the side of the master? It is not. Why are we commonly so radiant, so content? Have you not wondered how that could be? Many of us, once embonded, once brought to the feet of a man, find ourselves. Enslaved, we learn we are of the slave sex. We then desire, with all our heart, to be slaves, worthy slaves of our masters. Can you, who are free, understand that? I suspect your free women can. Perhaps they awaken, sweating and screaming, in the night.
Your world is a natural world, on which exist dominance and submission, and I have learned that I am not dominant. To be sure, I knew this even on my world, a world in which such things are clearly recognized, in all their obviousness, but denied. They are not denied here, as I learned, on my knees, looking up, into the eyes of masters.
Some are slaves, and some masters.
Why should the slave not be a slave, and the master a master?
How long we waited for our masters! How we need our masters! How precious are our masters, and how we, trembling, hasten to serve them, to please them, and as a slave!
I, for one, am content. I belong in my collar. Keep me in it.
And yet, too, I am only a slave, and sometimes tremble in terror. We cannot choose our masters. We may be bought and sold, exchanged and bestowed, wagered and stolen. We may be ignored, despised, and beaten. Who knows to whose whips we must press our lips obediently?
I was taken in the parlor of the house.
I was summoned downstairs by a man’s voice. I descended the stairs, frightened. But surely these were workers, summoned by Mrs. Rawlinson. But where was she? I shook my head. It was in the late afternoon, in the fall. I remember how the light came through the windows. Somehow, unaccountably, I had fallen asleep after lunch. Where was Mrs. Rawlinson? Where were my sorority sisters? The house, a large house, seemed empty.
Then I was suddenly very afraid, for I was now sure it was empty. I could not run past the men, and one of them was behind me. Another blocked the stairs.
“Who are you?” I asked, pleasantly enough. “What are you doing here? May I help you?”
Three of the men arranged chairs before me, the backs of the chairs facing me. They sat on the chairs, their arms on the backs, regarding me.
I stepped back a pace or two.
Where were my sisters? Where was Mrs. Rawlinson?
On one side of the room, a lamp had been overturned. Here and there, oddly, some lengths of ribbon lay on the carpet, red ribbon, white ribbon.
“What do you want?” I asked. “Doubtless Mrs. Rawlinson, she is the house mother, summoned you, but for what purpose I do not know. I think the house is in order. It is in order, as far as I know. She is not here now. She will doubtless be back later. May I help you? You could come back later.”
“Remove your clothing, completely,” said a man, he in the center chair.
I looked at him, disbelievingly.
“Must a command be repeated?” he asked.
I looked about, wildly.
There was something familiar about this question. It seemed I had heard something like this before, or read something like this, at one time or another.
I put my hand before my mouth.
“No one will hear you,” said a fellow.
I looked at the fellow in the center chair, he whom I took to be their leader.
“Now,” he said.
I remembered then where I had come upon that question. It had occurred in one or more of the books I had read, those compromising books which Mrs. Rawlinson had confiscated.
It was a Gorean question.
And I knew the sort of person, a female person, to whom such a question was likely to be addressed. Such persons were expected to comply with commands instantly and unquestioningly. Failure to do so, I suspected, was unwise.
I reached to the top button on my blouse.
“Who are you?” I asked.
In a few moments I stood naked before them.
“Stand straighter, and turn about, slowly, and then face us, again,” said their leader.
“What do you think?” asked the leader, of one of his confederates.
“Forty, perhaps sixty,” said the fellow.
I understood nothing of this.
“Back toward us,” said the leader, “your wrists crossed behind your back.”
I did so, and, shortly, with two or three encirclements of cord, snugly knotted, my wrists were tied behind my back.
I remembered the words, ‘forty, perhaps sixty,’ and gasped. This must stand for forty, or sixty, thousand dollars. I suspected then that I was to be taken to the Middle East, and would be destined for some rich man’s harem.
I struggled, futilely.
The leader came about, and stood before me. He held a generous length of ribbon, silken ribbon, in his hand, some feet in length. He wound this twice about my throat, and then knotted it, closely, under my chin. He jerked the knot tight. I felt the pull against the back of my neck. The ribbon was white.
“You are white-silk,” he said.
In my reading I recalled the significance of white-silk, but how could they know that I had not been “opened for the pleasure of men,” that I was a virgin? Then I remembered my strange dream, of several days ago, after the party. If it had been no dream, I supposed such a determination might have been easily made at that time, perhaps while I slept.
Then I stiffened, for one of the fellows was crouching beside me, on the left. I felt a metal anklet snapped about my ankle.
I had been ankleted.
“I know what you have in mind,” I said, “but you will never get me to the Middle East! You will never be able to sell me in a secret market!”
“You are not going to the Middle East,” said their leader. “And there will be nothing secret about the market in which you will be sold.”
“You are going to sell me?” I said. “Truly?”
“Your lineaments are not without interest,” said a fellow.
“That was clear from the film,” said another.
“Film?” I said.
“Taken at the party,” said a fellow.
“You look quite well in a camisk,” said a man.
“You know that word?” I said.
The fellow laughed.
“To be sure,” said another, “it was a rather generous camisk.”
I had been mortified, for I had been half naked. And I was dismayed to learn that some record of my humiliation, of my punishment, and, I supposed, of that of Eve and Jane, too, had apparently been made. I suspected Mrs. Rawlinson would not have been unaware of the filming. Perhaps she had arranged it, for a record of the party, which might later have been of interest to the guests. But how could these men have known of this, how could they have managed to see the film? Had it been stolen? Had it been given to them? Had it been sold to them?
“It may be a long time,” said another, “before you are again permitted a garment as concealing as a camisk.”
“You will never get me to the Middle East!” I said.
“You are not going to the Middle East,” said the leader. “You are going to Gor.”
“There is no such place!” I said. “There is no such place!”
I was aware of the metal on my left ankle, snugly enclosing it. I was aware of the ribbon twice encircling my throat, knotted there, a ribbon of white silk.
I was nude, and my hands were tied behind my back.
I was helpless.
“There is no such place!” I said. “There is no such place!”
I was then, from behind, gagged.
Two men then placed me on the rug, gently, and one crossed my ankles and another tied them together. I then lay on the rug, gagged, and bound, hand and foot.
“Put her in the van,” said the leader.
I was lifted and carried through the backdoor of the house, where a van was waiting. I was placed in the van, on the metal floor. The floor had some broad grooves. Such a feature, I supposed, was in the interests of cargo, affording a run-off for possible spillages, a higher, drier surface to protect against dampness, perhaps a less frictionated surface to facilitate the loading or unloading of boxes, crates, and such. It would not, of course, be a pleasant surface to lie on, as I would soon learn. One man climbed into the back of the van with me, and the doors were closed. Shortly thereafter the van left the driveway.
We had driven for perhaps two hours when I began to whimper. My body was sore, particularly given the recent roughness of the road, my jarring and jostling, and the hardness of the floor. In places on my body there were temporary marks, from the grooved flooring.
The man said nothing, but he removed his jacket, folded it, and placed it under my head and shoulders.
I looked at him, tears in my eyes, gratefully.
Then I lay back.
Had he been waiting for me to whimper, I wondered. Had he been waiting for me to beg?
I knew I had begged.
I did not know if this had pleased him or not.
But I had begged.
It was an hour later, and night must have fallen. The man snapped on the dome light in the rear of the van.
I lay before him.
He turned away, and, from a box to his left, he drew forth a thermos, and a small sack. I watched him, as he unwrapped a sandwich, and began to eat.
After a bit, he looked at me.
“Are you hungry?” he said.
I struggled to sit up. I nodded, piteously. I was cold, thirsty, famished, and bound.
“We are in the country,” he said. “It would do you no good to scream.”
“On your knees,” he said. “Approach me.”
I managed to kneel, and make my way to him.
“Turn about,” he said.
I struggled about, and he untied the gag, and drew it away.
“Face me,” he said.
I did so.
He poured some fluid from the thermos into the cup of the thermos, and held it to my lips, and I drank.
It was warm tea.
“That is enough,” he said, withdrawing the cup.
“Would you like to eat?” he asked.
Again I nodded, desperately.
He began to finish his sandwich, but before doing so, tore off a portion, and held it to me.
I extended my head to him, to take the bit of sandwich, but he drew it back, a little, so that I must reach farther forward to take it. Then, when I had done so, he permitted me to reach it, and take it.
He had well impressed on me that he was in control of my food.
He finished the sandwich, and I had finished the bit permitted to me.
“You may lick my hand,” he said.
I licked his wrist, and the back of his hand.
In this way, I expressed my gratitude, that I had been given drink, and had been fed.
“May I speak?” I asked.
I had said this naturally, understandably enough, for I was afraid. Yet, almost as soon as I had said the words, I wondered why I had used those particular words, in that particular way. Surely they seemed appropriate; but they also seemed familiar. It was as though I had heard them before, or read them somewhere. Then it occurred to me that I had read them, or something rather like them, in those books which Mrs. Rawlinson had discovered in my room, which she had seized, to my consternation and shame.
“No,” he said.
“Shall I replace the gag?” he asked.
I shook my head, negatively.
He had said we were in the country, and that it would do no good to scream. Certainly that seemed plausible, given the roughness of the road. And I hated the gag. How helpless a woman feels when speech is denied her! Too, he was a powerful man, and I did not doubt that even the suspicion that I might cry out might earn me a blow which might render me unconscious. Too, I saw those large hands, and did not doubt but what they might, if he wished, snap my neck.
I would not cry out.
“Lie on your stomach,” he said.
I lay on my stomach across his jacket.
He checked the bonds on my wrists and ankles. Apparently all was in order. They needed no adjustment.
So I lay on my stomach, under the dome light, bound, as the van sped on through the night.
I became very much aware that he was looking at me, prone and bound, lying across his jacket, under the dome light.
I began to suspect, trembling, what it might be for a man to see a woman so. And I was well aware that I was not unattractive. I knew that I had been accepted as a pledge to the sorority at least in part because of my beauty, as had been the other girls. We were a house of beauties. Certainly we had teased, and taunted, and dismissed, many young men who had sought our company. We were angling for the best on campus, for whom we were willing to compete. So surely I must not simply lie there before him. He was a strong man, and I was helpless. Was I not like a tethered ewe, in the vicinity of a tiger? I feared the teeth, the claws, of such a beast, but, too, I wondered what it would be to feel them on my body. I became much aware of the anklet fastened about my left ankle, the ribbon wound twice and knotted about my neck. I must attempt to distract him.
“I beg to speak!” I said.
Again, I had the sense that these words were somehow familiar. In any event, they expressed how desperately I wished to speak.
“You may speak,” he said.
“Untie me,” I said. “Let me go!”
“No,” he said.
“I am naked,” I said.
“Yes,” he said.
“Where are you taking me?” I asked. “What are you going to do with me?”
“You are being taken to a collection point,” he said, “from which point you will be shipped.”
“Then there are others,” I said.
“Several,” he said.
“As I?” I asked, pulling a bit at the bonds.
“Yes,” he said.
How helpless I was!
“Free me,” I said. “I can give you money, much money! I can make it worth your while, very much so!” I recalled that a fellow in the house had said something like ‘forty, perhaps sixty’ in response to another’s question. I could double or triple forty, or better, even sixty, thousand dollars for my freedom, simply from immediately available resources and accounts. “Whatever you, and your fellows, might get for me,” I said, “I can give you more, much more! Let me go!”
“But what of the others?” he asked.
“Surely they are rich, as I!” I said.
“Not at all,” he said. “We take some who have little to commend them but their extraordinary beauty, their high intelligence, and latent, exploitable needs.”
“If they cannot pay,” I said, “then let it be done with them as you will.”
“It will be done with them as we will,” he said.
“What of my sorority sisters?” I said, frightened.
“They are all in hand,” he said.
I thought of Mrs. Rawlinson.
“All of them are rich,” I said.
“No,” he said, “all are penniless, destitute, as you are.”
“I do not understand,” I said.
“If you were to be freed this moment,” he said, “you would soon discover that every economic resource you had has disappeared, vanished, save, I suppose, your body, which might bring you something from time to time on the streets.”
“I do not understand,” I said.
“There are ways, arrangements, documents, transfers,” he said.
“You’re joking,” I said.
“No,” he said.
“You already have everything I could give you?” I said.
“And something more,” he said.
“What?” I said.
“You,” he said.
“You will never get away with this!” I said.
“On your world,” he said, “you guard your goods, your automobiles, yachts, jewels, gold, almost everything, but not your women. We do not make that mistake with our women. Your women are like public fruit, ripe, moist, fresh, and tempting, dangling within easy reach, harvested without difficulty at our pleasure.”
I thought it odd, the expression “on your world.”
“We harvest judiciously,” he said, “with an eye to only the finest stock, wherever found, Japan, England, Germany, France, Denmark, wherever it may be found. We are particular.”
“I am to be flattered?” I said.
“You and your so-called sisters,” he said.
“I see,” I said, bitterly. My body was sore, cold, and tired, even lying on his jacket.
“In your party,” he said, “did you notice the eyes of the boys on you, and your camisked sisters?”
“Eve, and Jane,” I said. “Yes, it was difficult not to be aware of that.”
“Perhaps that was the first time you were ever looked upon that way,” he said.
“Yes,” I said, “but on the beach I was not unaware of the eyes of men on me.”
“That white, one-piece bathing suit,” he said, “was amusing, so putatively modest, and yet so subtly expressive.”
He knew about the suit!
“You enjoyed taunting the fellows with that,” he said.
I did not respond.
“And then,” he said, “when they were lured in, when they were encouraged, when they thought themselves welcomed, turning the freezing blast of a cold stare upon them, feigning surprise, indignation, and innocence. How useful was that little suit in your trivial, pretentious girl games.”
“Let me go,” I said.
“Surely you are aware of what I might do with you now, if I pleased,” he said.
“Yes,” I said, frightened. I wondered what it might be, to be put to the purposes of such a man, no boy, but a man.
“There are examination positions,” he said.
“I do not understand,” I said.
“You will learn them,” he said, “and assume them instantly upon command.”
“I am afraid,” I said. “Please free me. I will make no trouble. I will say nothing. I will not go to the police.”
“Do you think we do not have arrangements with the police?” he said.
“On the street,” he said, “it may be as simple as stopping and lowering your head, while being scrutinized, and assessed.”
“Assessed?” I said.
“But at the party,” he said, “the look of the men was quite different, was it not?”
“Yes,” I said, shuddering. “But I was half-naked, and I had to behave in certain ways, I had to be obedient, subservient. I was being punished, and so, too, were Eve and Jane!”
“Did it not excite you to be so clad, to act so, to be so looked upon?” he asked.
“‘Excite me’?” I asked.
“Sexually,” he said.
“How dare you!” I said.
“I see it did,” he said.
Bound, tears of shame welled in my eyes.
“How do you think you were looked upon?” he asked.
“I do not know,” I said.
“You were half-naked and there were collars on your necks, locked collars,” he said.
“So?” I said.
“How do you think you were looked upon?” he said.
“I do not know,” I said.
“Speak,” he said, not pleasantly.
“As slaves!” I said.
“You, and your sisters, are shallow, petty, vain, spoiled, mercenary, meaningless, little bitches,” he said. “You are worthless.”
“No,” I said. “No!”
“What,” he asked, “if you should meet not the men of your world, boys, half-men, subdued men, furtive glancers, guilty, shamed, crippled men, men trained to betray their nature, taught to suppress their manhood, but other men, natural men, quiet, unpretentious, powerful, confident, self-assured men, men who look upon women as delights, as delicious creations of nature to be fittingly brought within the ambit of one’s power, to be owned and mastered.”
“Could there be such men?” I asked. I was terrified because I, and my sisters, in our meaninglessness, were worthy to be to such men no more than slaves. But better I thought to be the abject slave of such a man than the pampered darling of a rich weakling, of the sort to which our background and the nature of our lives directed us. Owned by such a man one would strive to please him. One would hope, trembling, to be found pleasing
“There are such men,” he said, “even on Earth.”
“Surely not!” I said.
“There is nothing wrong with the men of Earth,” he said. “They are the same as those of which I speak. It is a cultural matter. It is possible that in a thousand years the men of Earth will come to understand what has been done to them, and they will find themselves.”
“Are my resources, my wealth, truly gone?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“Then I cannot use them to purchase my release, my freedom,” I said.
“No,” he said.
“Doubtless they are worth far more than I would sell for,” I said.
“Certainly,” he said.
“But my value,” I said, “is not negligible.”
“I gather,” said he, “you are curious to know what you might sell for.”
“Yes!” I said.
I turned my head to him, with difficulty. He was smiling. I did not realize, at the time, that I had acknowledged myself the sort of woman on whom a price might be set.
“It is hard to say,” he said. “We speculated that you might go from somewhere in the neighborhood of forty to sixty.”
“So that is what a beautiful woman, one as beautiful as I, would bring on the Arab slave market,” I said, “forty to sixty thousand dollars.”
“I do not understand,” he said.
“You intend to sell me in the Middle East,” I said, “to some sheik, some rich merchant.”
“No,” he said.
“To be held captive in some remote desert palace?”
“That seems unlikely,” he said.
“He would buy me for a wife,” I said.
“Scarcely,” he said.
“Surely not for less,” I said. “Surely not for a mere concubine!”
“No,” he said.
“Then?” I whispered.
“Yes,” he said.
“No, no!” I said.
He was silent for a bit. I sensed the van making a turn.
“I am a free woman!” I said.
“Free women,” he said, “regard themselves as priceless. You did not.”
“What then,” I asked, “do you think I am?”
“That should be clear,” he said.
I struggled in the bonds.
“You will not be sent to the Middle East,” he said.
“Where then?” I said.
“Gor,” he said.
“Do not tease me,” I said. “Be kind! Be merciful! Do not sport with a stripped, helpless captive!”
“Gor,” he said.
“That is fiction,” I said. “It is only in books, only in stories, only in stories!”
“Gor,” he said.
“I told you in the house,” I wept. “There is no such place! There is no such place!”
Then the van had stopped, I had no idea where.
Then I was aware of a hand in my hair, which pulled my head up and back, and, from the side, from my left, a soft, folded bit of white cloth, some six inches square. This square of cloth was damp, with some chemical. It was placed over my nose and mouth, and held in place, closely. I struggled for a moment, and then lost consciousness.
“You look well in chains,” he said.
I was well illuminated in the light of the torch.
“Please give me clothing!” I begged.
“Clothing is not necessary,” he said, “as you are a slave.”
“I am not a slave!” I said.
He pointed to his feet.
I crawled to him, the chains on my wrists and ankles dragging on the large, flat stones, and, head down, frightened, pressed my lips to his feet.
“See?” he said.
“Yes,” I whispered, “-Master.”
He then exited, bending down, and the small iron gate closed behind him. A moment later I heard a key turning in the lock, and was in darkness.
I realized I was on Gor.
In the small room, with the panel bolted on the outside, where we were commonly housed when not serving in the large outer room, the Gorean girl, well collared, had accosted me, demanding that I, a mere barbarian, should kneel before her. I had refused. She, with her beauty, her marked thigh, her encircled neck, was no more than I!
“How then did they recognize you as a slave?” she had asked.
“I have no idea,” I had said, though, in truth, I had an idea of such matters.
“You must have been assessed,” she had said.
“Doubtless,” I had said.
Suddenly the door had been unbolted from the outside, and Tela, first girl, entered. All of us in the small room immediately went to our knees, and put our heads to the floor, the palms of our hands on the floor beside our heads.
“I am frightened,” said Tela. “Something is wrong.”
We dared not change position, as we had not received permission to do so.
“Be as you would,” said Tela.
We looked up.
Usually Tela’s switch dangled from her wrist.
It was not there now.
She was clearly frightened, and her alarm spread to the rest of us, not now serving. I was the only barbarian in the room. We feared Tela, for she was first girl, our switch mistress. I had never seen Tela frightened before, except before the masters. There were two of us in the outer room, who would be, as far as I knew, serving.
“What is wrong, Mistress?” asked Midice.
“The guests have fled,” she said.
I did not understand this, for the tables, the games, did not close until the early morning.
“I fear the masters are undone,” she said. “They have departed.”
“What is going on, Mistress?” asked Midice.
“Listen!” said Tela.
“Oh!” whispered Lucia.
“The drums of guardsmen,” said Daphne.
“They are coming closer,” said Cara.
“Closer!” wept Portia. I gathered she had had dealings with guardsmen before. She seemed very much afraid.
“What of the masters?” said Dina. She wore the tiny Dina brand, “the slave flower.” The Dina is a familiar slave brand, but not nearly as common as the cursive Kef. The girls who wear that brand are often called “Dina,” doubtless from the mark.
“I do not think they will escape the city,” said Tela.
Our house was one of several on the Street of Chance in Ar.
Outside the drums had stopped, and we heard shouting, and pounding, from the sound of it, the pounding of spear butts, on the door.
“You know nothing!” said Tela.
I sensed that Faia and Tirza, in the outer room, must have hastened to the door, and, struggling, removed the long, heavy beam which secured it. I would later learn that the masters, as they departed, had instructed them to set the beam in place. In this, they may have been hoping to gain time.
The doors burst open and there were heavy footsteps, as of high, military sandals. I heard Faia and Tirza scream. There were shouts, and a crashing, and piling, of furniture.
In a moment I sensed fire, and, through the door, saw wild shadows cast on the walls, of armed men, breaking tables, hurling them to the center of the room. I smelled smoke.
“Run, run!” said Tela, hastening back, into the larger room.
We, in our serving tunics, crying out with fear, hurried out, into the larger room. Smoke was now billowing from the flaming heap in the center of the room, the tables, the wheels, the boards, the boxes of gaming pieces. We fled toward the welcome of the opened door, but our passage was blocked by a lowered spear.
“Where is your master?” said a voice.
“Masters!” said Tela. “But we do not know!”
Addressed by a man, we all knelt.
My eyes stung.
I began to cough.
“Who is first girl?” asked the man.
“I am,” said Tela, “if it pleases Master.” She was trembling.
“How many are there?” asked the man.
“Eleven, including myself,” wept Tela.
The soldiers, or guardsmen, despite the fire, were pulling down hangings, and prying loose panels from the wall. Two inspected our holding room, and two others rushed to the kitchen, and storage rooms. Then they, and the others, their work done, the premises rummaged through, the decor torn, scratched, and ravaged, exited behind he before whom we knelt, who barred our way.
“We are slaves,” wept Tela. “Have mercy on us! Let us out!”
An officer appeared behind the fellow who barred the door. “Close them inside, and block the door,” said the officer. “They are not stupid. They know what was transpiring here.”
“No, Masters!” cried Tela, from her knees. “We know nothing!”
“We are ignorant!” cried Faia.
“Who knows what transpires with masters?” cried Midice.
“We are only slaves!” cried Tirza.
“Slaves!” wept Lucia.
“We dared not inquire, Master,” said Daphne. “Curiosity is not becoming in a slave!”
The heavy door was swung shut before us. We rose to our feet, coughing, and weeping, and screaming, struck at it, pulled at it, tried to open it.
“The back is chained shut,” cried Cara.
We sank down, behind the door, scratching at it.
I was blinded with smoke, half strangled, with a lack of air. We could not help who had bought us.
I slipped to my belly before the door.
I put out my fingers, and touched the wood.
Then suddenly the doors swung back, and I saw light, and smoke billowed into the street.
My lungs drew in the bright, clean air of Gor.
A hand seized me by the hair and drew me forth on all fours, and then thrust me down to the street, on my belly.
“Fasten your hands in your hair,” said a man.
We lay prone, in a line, side by side. Midice was to my left, and Luta, who had spoken to me so contemptuously in the holding room, was to my right. I thought to myself, “See, Luta, we are not so different.”
I was aware of sandaled feet stepping about, amongst us.
We did not look up.
After a time, a voice said, “A silver tarsk, for the lot.”
“Very well,” said the officer, “but see that they are sold in the Tarsk Market.”
“A stipulation?” said a voice.
“Yes,” said the officer.
“Done,” said the voice.
I heard a clink of coins, and, shortly thereafter, I felt a rope looped about my left ankle, snugly, and knotted, tightly, and then passed to Midice, on my left, and thence to those beyond her.
“A silver tarsk!” I thought. “We have been given away!”
“Keep your hands fastened in your hair,” said a fellow.
Then another said, “Kajirae, up!”
We rose to our feet.
I stole a glance at he who seemed to have completed the purchase, in which I was an item. He was a small man, in a dirty white tunic, with a yellow sash.
I kept my hands in my hair, while the tunic was cut from me. We were then, in ankle coffle, herded through the lower streets of Ar, to the Tarsk Market.
The first step is made with the left foot.
The cages, of heavy, cable-like woven wire, are made for tarsks, not kajirae. One cannot stand in them. They are long, narrow, and low. Thus, more than one can be placed on a sideless, flat-bedded wagon, roped in place. Too, like the common slave cages designed for kajirae, they may be stacked.
I hooked my fingers in the wire, and looked out, frightened, from my knees. The Tarsk Market has its name, obviously enough, I suppose, because it is a general market for tarsks. Certainly the smell of tarsk was all about. And there was little doubt, from the condition of the cage, that the previous occupants of the cage had been tarsks.
Needless to say, it is only low slaves who are vended from such a market.
I lay down in the cage, on my right side, in the straw, facing the back wall of the warehouse.
How vulnerable we were, as slaves!
But, had we been free women I did not doubt but what we would have been abandoned, left in the house, to perish in the flames.
The marks on our thighs, our collars, had saved us. We had been saved, but only as animals.
It is often safer to be a slave than a free person. Who, for example, would bother slaying a tarsk, or a kaiila?
Instead, one would herd them, or rope them. One would appropriate them.
It is for such a reason that free women, trapped in a burning city, a fallen city, being sacked, will not unoften steal collars from their girls, and fasten them on their own necks, hoping to be taken for slaves, to be spared as slaves.
I had recognized two of the soldiers, and the officer. They had been patrons of the house.
They had lost heavily.
Of course we were guilty! Did we not know of the manipulation of the tables’ spins, of the dishonest stones, the fraudulent dice, the ostraka which, to the informed eye, could be read?
Did we not invite in the patrons, at the door, with our smiles, the glances over our shoulders, our fingers lightly touching our brands beneath the cloth, not silk, but rep cloth, for ours was a shabby den for its purposes. We served as the slaves we were in the wide, low-ceilinged, ill-lit interior of the outer room. We would bring the gamesters paga and ka-la-na, and platters of meat and bread, and cakes and sweets, to keep them at the tables. We pretended zestful enthusiasm for their playing, as if it might be our own. How we rubbed against them, so inadvertently, laughed, joked, touched their arms, and hands, applauded their boldness, pretended dismay at a loss, pretended chagrin and sorrow when they made to leave the tables. Rather they should choose and again match ostraka, hazard another turn of the wheel, another placement of the stones, another roll of the dice! We must serve our paga and ka-la-na modestly, of course, for the men must be kept at the games. Indeed, we served it in the manner that Eve, Jane, and I had been instructed by Mrs. Rawlinson to serve beverages at the party, kneeling, our head down, extending the goblet, held in both hands, between our extended arms. I suspected that Mrs. Rawlinson, at the party, had been amused, seeing us so. This posture and attitude, I suspected, was not unknown to her. Perhaps she, watching, envisioned us so serving at another time, in another locale. But even so, would not anyone seeing us so have found the behavior interesting and not without meaning? Did it not seem clear, the sort of female who must serve so? But even so, our service must be modest. We must not so excite the men, that they might be distracted. We were not paga slaves who, if too frequently spurned, may expect their master’s whip after closing. But more than once I had felt Tela’s switch, and had been driven from the outer room, to the holding area, weeping and shamed, while the men laughed, to be chained, supperless, to the ring by my mat. I could not help myself. I was now other than I had been on Earth. Men had seen to that.
How the fellow who had accompanied me in the van would have been amused, to see his prisoner, the vain, aristocratic young lady, indeed, the debutant, afflicted by need, slave need!
As the reader, if reader there may be, may have gathered, I had been much troubled on Earth, not knowing who I might be, or what might be my nature. I had been alarmed by casual thoughts, sometimes stealing upon me when I was unprepared to resist them, certain frequently recurring daydreams, and surely the strange, wild, unaccountable realities revealed to me in the astonishments of my troubled slumber. It was at such times, that I found it difficult, despite my upbringing, my education, and background, to see myself, and feel myself, as I had learned I should see myself, and feel myself. Who were others, to tell me who I was? How was this a freedom, to be told how to be? How strangely false and unsatisfying seemed the culture to which I was expected to conform, and that which I was expected to perpetuate! Was I truly an artifact, a meaningless, unhappy puppet of a dismal world, responsive to strings I had neither designed nor requested? Perhaps humanity, in its flight from nature, into its thousands of ideologies, superstitions, and pretenses, had unknowingly betrayed itself, building up about itself, brick by subtle brick, its invisible prison, satisfying only those who might profit by its exploitation. But perhaps, too, there are no prisons, other than those we ourselves make, or will accept. It would be interesting if the walls we most fear, within which we feel ourselves the most constrained, within which we most lament, do not exist. In any event, I knew that I carried in my body, as other human beings, a history and a heritage extending back to the first blind, reproducing forms of life, ages prior to the complex marvels of the unicellular organism. To such an organism could biology be irrelevant? Surely templates must exist in the human organism, as in other forms of life, perhaps subtler and vaster, but just as real. Could my behavior, my promptings, what would satisfy me, what I would need, be wholly independent of my form of life, be unique amongst all living forms, merely accidents and oddities imposed upon me from the outside, beginning with the first flash of light, the first breath, the sobbing birth cry of a small, bloody animal? That did not seem likely. The cultures which denied men and women to themselves, for their own purposes, in their own interests, inertial, self-perpetuating structures, productive of misery and alienation, were inventions of recent date, the mere tick of a clock, marking a moment in millenniums. If there was a human nature, had it been fabricated, truly, so recently? Might it not have been formed in other times and other places, a consequence of other conditions, as an entailment of alternative realities? Might we have been formed for one world and precipitated into another, a quite different world, an alien world, one in which our form of life finds itself homeless, finds itself in exile?
I saw no need for civilization and nature to be incompatible, to be enemies.
Might not a civilization be possible in which nature was recognized, refined, enhanced, and celebrated? In such a civilization surely there would be a place not simply for seasons and tides, for surf and wind, but for men and women, as well.
I had not been long on Gor before I was brought naked and back-braceleted into a round chamber. Its diameter may have been ten feet, or so. It was a plain room. The ceiling was domed, perhaps fifteen feet above my head. The walls were bare, but penetrated by two small, barred windows, some feet over my head, through which light fell dimly. The flooring was of large flat stones, as in my cell. The guard then turned about and left me there. The door was closed behind him, and I heard the bolt put into place.
I saw no one, but I was sure I was seen.
I lifted my head. “I am a free woman!” I said. “Return me to Earth!”
My declaration received no response.
I do not know how long I remained in the room.
The guard eventually returned, and, holding me by the left upper arm, conducted me back to my cell.
We stood without.
The bracelets were removed.
“Do you speak English?” I asked.
I was bent down, his hand in my hair, and I was thrust within the cell, and the door was closed, and locked.
I no longer wore chains within the cell, but I was left, as before, in darkness.
I felt about in the darkness, hoping to find food. There was a depression in the floor, which contained some water. Obviously I could not lift it, and, after trying to cup water in my hands, with little success, given the shallowness of the depression, I bent down, and lapped at it. I felt about and located the food pan, which contained some porridge-like material, and a thick crust of bread.
How could they treat me in this fashion? Did they not know who I was? Did they think me some waitress, some clerk, or secretary?
I would soon learn they thought me a thousand times less.
I cried out, in anger.
“I am a free woman! Let me go! Release me! Free me! Give me clothing! Give me decent food! Return me to Earth!”
My voice rang against the stones, in the small space. But I received no response to my cries.
I determined that I would show them what a woman of Earth could be, and a woman of my background, of my class, of my position, of my intelligence, and education. I would resist them.
Though I had often sensed myself a slave, and a rightful slave, I must now permit no countenance to such thoughts, to such suspicions, to such secret fears. I am a free woman, I told myself, over and over again. I am a free woman. I am a free woman. I am not a slave. I am a free woman!
I must be a free woman, I sobbed. I must be a free woman!
But what, I wondered, if I were not? What if I were a slave? What if I should be, as I had often feared, a slave, a rightful slave?
From time to time, in the darkness, I felt the white ribbon which had been twice knotted about my neck in the sorority house. Now it seemed grimy, and damp, from the cell. But it was still there.
The rounded, steel anklet which had been snapped about my left ankle in the house was gone when I awakened on Gor. I gathered that it had served its purpose, whatever that purpose might be.
I held to the ribbon.
What if I should be a slave, I asked myself, a slave?
The next day I was introduced again into the rounded chamber, similarly unclothed, my wrists, as before, braceleted behind my back.
The guard told me to kneel in the center of the room, and put my head to the floor.
As he left, I remained standing.
What free woman, I asked myself, as I was, would do such a thing?
When he returned I shrugged my shoulders, and lifted my head, proudly. I would show them what a woman of Earth could be, particularly one of my refinement, intelligence, education, and class, and a member of my sorority. And thus I was returned to my cell.
The next morning I was routinely branded, and then returned to the cell. I could not believe the casualness with which I had been marked. I might have been any domestic animal! A moment after the iron had marked me, and I was screaming in disbelief and pain, a scarf was placed over my eyes, and I could not even see the mark, which now made me, I sensed, somehow, radically and irremediably different than I had been.
I would learn later that I wore in my thigh, small, but clear, imprinted there, the cursive kef. I would learn, too, it is a common brand, marking common slaves.
Following my marking, still blindfolded, my thigh burning, I was returned to my cell, but now, by means of a belly chain and bracelets, my wrists were fastened behind me, closely, at the small of my back. Thus, I could not reach the brand. Another chain, something like a yard in length, run from the belly chain, held me to the wall behind me. My feet were then joined, pulled forward, and chained to another ring. A consequence of this chaining was that I could not much move from my place. I could lift my knees, draw back a bit, and sit up. I could also lie on my left or right side.
As I could not reach the water, or feed myself, I was tended by a young, tunicked woman. In the light, small as it was, that came through the opened door, I caught the glint of light on metal. Something was on her neck. Then I realized the woman was collared!
“Have mercy on me,” I whispered to her. “You must understand my plight. Be kind! You are a female, as I!”
She placed her fingers lightly across my mouth.
Then she held a pan with water to my lips, and I drank.
“Do you speak English?” I begged.
I hoped, of course, that anyone sent to tend me might be familiar with my language.
A thick wedge of dried bread was thrust to my lips, and then forced into my mouth. It gagged me as effectively as leather or cloth.
“You were displeasing,” she whispered to me, frightened. “You did not kneel as requested. Fortunately this fault was committed before you were marked. I advise you not to be so foolish in the future. You have been marked.”
I tried to speak, as I was desperate to do, but could not do so, for the bread. Then she was gone, and the door locked.
The next day I was again conducted to the round chamber, as before, stripped, back-braceleted.
How had they known I had not knelt as requested?
Clearly, as I had suspected, they must be able to see into the chamber.
Before the guard left me in the room, I was again instructed to kneel in the center of the room, my head the floor.
The heavy door closed. It was bolted.
As far as I could tell, I was alone, and yet, as before, I sensed I might somehow be under surveillance.
I was afraid. My knees felt weak. I was afraid I might fall. I pulled against the bracelets. I looked about, searching for tiny cracks, or openings. There might be any number of such, undetectable from where I stood. I might be seen, and as I was, stripped and braceleted, from a thousand places. I felt the stones beneath my bare feet, was conscious of a tiny movement of air on my body.
How alive, I thought, must be the body of a slave!
How alive to small things, a breath of air, a scent, subtle, scarcely noticed, the texture of a bit of cloth on her body, the feeling of a carpet or tiles beneath her bared feet, a rustle of chain in an outer room, are they coming for her, the weight of a manacle on her small wrist, the solid, cold feeling of bars clutched in fear.
And what, if she were bound and blindfolded, the touch of a master?
I wanted to throw myself to my knees and put my head down to the stones.
I felt a desperate desire to prostrate myself before the unseen others, if they were there.
It seemed every muscle and nerve in my body cried out to me to kneel, to place myself in a posture of submission.
It seemed to me that I belonged in such a posture.
“It is what you are,” something seemed to say to me. “Be what you are! Do not fight what you are! Do you not know, Miss Allison Ashton-Baker, for all your pretensions, you are a slave. You belong on your knees!”
No, no, I thought.
“Do not be afraid,” something seemed to say to me. “Acknowledge your reality! It is not wrong to be what you truly are. Only then will you know yourself whole, and, enslaved, most free.”
No, I cried out, to myself.
“Do you really think you will be given a choice?” asked the small, insistent, internal voice.
I am a free woman, I said to myself.
“You know you belong on your knees before men,” said the secret voice. “You have wanted to kneel before them, and submit yourself to them, as a slave, for years, since the first hopeful budding of your body.”
Certainly not, I said to myself.
“Have you not dreamed of masters?” asked the voice.
Do not torment me, I said to myself.
“You wish the men, then, to see to it?” asked the voice.
I do not understand, I wept to myself.
“Perhaps they will help you,” suggested the voice.
I do not understand, I said to myself.
“Apparently you wish for them to do so,” said the voice.
I sensed myself on a threshold, tottering on a brink, between conditions and realities, between what I was and what, for years, I had been told I should be, what, for years, I had pretended to be.
Then I straightened my body, and threw back my head, proudly. “I am a free woman!” I cried. “I am a free woman!”
Almost at the same time, the voice which had so tormented me, that small, insistent, inward voice, somehow within me, again spoke. “Foolish slave,” it said, “do you not know slaves are not permitted to lie?”
I remembered reading, in the confiscated books, that there were penalties for such failures and faults in a slave.
Then I looked about, in terror.
I remembered that I had been marked.
Had I been less than fully pleasing?
I feared so.
Hopefully no one had heard me, hopefully no one would know!
Scarcely had my cry ceased to ring within the stones when the bolt was thrown back, and the guard entered.
He put his hand tightly, painfully, in my hair, and forced my head down, to his hip. Then I was dragged, stumbling, from the chamber. I remembered, from the books, something of what was being done to me. I was being conducted somewhere, where I did not know, in the helpless, shameful, leading position commonly used with a female slave. “Forgive me,” I cried. “Please do not hurt me, Master!” How easily those words escaped me. Might they not have escaped the lips of a frightened slave? And how naturally I had addressed a free man as “Master!” I recalled, from the party, that all free males were to be addressed as “Master,” and all free females as “Mistress!”
I was taken to a side chamber. One of my hands was freed from the bracelets, and then both hands were fastened together again, but before me. I was placed before a dangling rope. I looked up. It was threaded through a heavy metal ring over my head. Most of the rope was on the other side of the ring. It ran to the opposite wall, where it was looped, loosely, about a large hook. The end of the rope near me was fastened about the chain of the bracelets.
“What are you going to do?” I asked.
A moment later I felt my braceleted wrists being pulled upward, toward the ring. The guard hauled on the rope until I was stretched, and I could just feel the stones of the flooring with the tips of my toes. He then secured the rope, fastening it about the hook on the opposite wall, holding me in position. I was well extended. What position could this be? He then tied together my ankles, and fastened them to a ring on the floor.
Why was I fastened in this way?
What could he intend?
I feared I knew.
“Please,” I said. “Forgive me! I will try to be a good slave!”
Had I not been marked?
He was behind me. I sensed he had something in his hand, perhaps retrieved from a peg on the wall.
“Forgive me, Master,” I wept. “Please, Master!”
I had never been struck in my life, until the party, when I had been subjected to the lashing of Nora’s angry switch.
I would have done almost anything to escape that switching. I remembered, in the pain, blind with misery, acknowledging her Mistress, and myself slave.
She, my enemy, and rival, being acknowledged Mistress! And I no more than a groveling, frightened, beaten slave at her feet! What a triumph that must have been for her, to see her despised rival, in beauty, in popularity, cringing at her feet, belled, collared, half naked, weeping, a slave with no option but to endure the displeasure of her Mistress!
That beating had been unpleasant, to be sure. And I could well understand how a slave will dread the switch, and do much to escape it.
Surely I would do so!
I had no wish to feel it again!
I tried to turn, to look behind me. I could not well see what he had in his hand. “What are you going to do, Master?” I asked, frightened.
Then I was put under the slave whip of Gor.
I am sure the beating was light, and intended to be more informative than anything else, but, still, I had, for the first time in my life, felt the flexible, broad-bladed, five-stranded Gorean slave lash, designed specifically for the discipline of female slaves, a lash designed to punish but not to mark.
Released from the rope, and my ankles freed from the ring, I sank to the floor. I was scarcely aware that my hands were once more being fastened behind my back. I lay there, my body afire, a whipped chattel, a slave.
I could not believe the pain.
I now knew the penalties which might attach to a slave’s lapses.
I would now strive to be a good slave, a pleasing slave.
I now knew I could be whipped, and would be whipped, if I were not pleasing.
I would do my best to be pleasing.
I could see the boot-like sandals of the guard, near me.
How small, vulnerable, dependent, and weak then seemed my sex. How different we were from men!
How obviously, if they chose, they were the masters!
And here, on this world, they had so chosen.
I struggled to my feet, sobbing, and hysterical, looked about, past the guard, and ran to the opened door of the small chamber, and, barefoot, ran down the hall. I was not striving to escape. I came to the opened door of the rounded room and stumbled through it, and knelt in the center of the room, trembling, my back aching, with my head down to the stones.
In a few minutes I was joined by the guard.
“Your training will begin in the morning,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I whispered.
“You may thank me,” he said.
“Thank you, Master,” I said.
I now knew I was a slave. It had been well taught to me. My only hope, now, was not to permit myself to be mastered. To be sure, I would have masters, as I was a slave. But it is one thing to be a slave, and have masters, and it is another, I thought, to be mastered.
I must never permit myself to be mastered, I thought.
And yet, as I knelt there, I knew I wanted to be mastered.
Yes, Allison, I thought, you want a master.
Since puberty you have wanted a master.
And now I suspected, a slave, I might be easily mastered.
You know, Allison, I said to myself, you may have many masters, and be mastered by any or all of them, as they might please.
Yes, Allison, I thought, you will doubtless be mastered many times. Then I thought to myself, you are no longer “Allison,” slave, for slaves have no names but at the pleasure of their masters. You are now nameless. It is masters who will name you, as any property, or beast, if they please, and as they please.
My training will not be detailed. Interestingly, it lasted only a few days. One learns the kisses and caresses, the kneelings, the manner of tying sandals, of dressing and bathing masters, and such, but most attention was devoted, interestingly, to the acquisition of Gorean, and a number of servile skills, such as cooking, sewing, cleaning, laundering, and such. The point of Gorean, I suppose, was to provide a barbarian slave with enough linguistic skill to make her survival more likely. It was not hard for me, and I suppose for other female barbarians, to adapt myself to Gorean. I do not think there was anything surprising or anomalous in this, for the linguistic skills of women, for whatever reason, tend to be considerable. Is not language the art, and joy, of women? To be sure, the intensity of the instruction, and the immersion in the speech world of Gor were doubtless relevant. Perhaps of importance, as well, was the natural way it was taught. I learned it much as a child learns his native language, in the beginning by ostension, and then by metaphor, correction, refinement, and intuition. Even throughout human history on Earth, women, I realized, as I now, must strive to learn the languages of conquerors and masters. It seems not unlikely then that the women who most swiftly and successfully learned the languages of their captors and masters, and were then most successful in pleasing and placating them, would be those most likely to survive and breed. Whatever may be the truth in such matters, my skills proceeded apace. To be sure, I was highly motivated. I wished to survive. Too, I did not care for the occasional impatient admonition of the switch when I badly misused a word, confusing similar sounds, or found myself guilty of some lapse in grammar. On the whole, I enjoyed the lessons in Gorean, but, initially, tended to resent the instruction in domestic felicities. I came from a class in which such things were for other sorts of women, low women, and such skills were, however important they might be, below me, and my kind. Certainly I knew nothing of cooking, and such things. Such things were the concern of servants, whom we hired, inferior women, of one sort or another. I tried to make this clear to my instructresses, who found my reluctance amusing. “For servants?” one said. “But you are less than a servant. You are a thousand times below a servant, for you are a slave!” And another said, “A master will expect you to do such things, and well, and I do not think it would be wise to disappoint him.” Another said, “If your master is not satisfied with your meals you may expect to be whipped. You are a slave, not a free companion, lofty in her dignity, who may be as clumsy and inept as she wishes.” “Do you understand?” asked another. “Yes, Mistress,” I said. “Keep your stitches small and neat,” said another, “and do not burn your food.” “Yes, Mistress,” I said, and then addressed myself diligently to those tasks to which I had hitherto regarded myself as superior.
I had now been fitted with a collar of the house, one which had been hammered about my neck. It was large, high, heavy, and uncomfortable. I could scarcely lower my chin. It was quite different from the light, lovely, comfortable, but quite secure, common collars which Gorean masters commonly lock about the throats of their kajirae, collars, for example, of the sort which I envied in my instructresses. Perhaps the point of such collars, the house collars, was to make their trainees eager to be brought to the block.
The grimy white ribbon which had identified me as “white-silk,” had been cut from my throat, before my head and neck had been laid across the anvil, for the hammering shut of the house collar. But then, when the house collar was in place, a smaller ribbon, also white, had been looped and knotted about the house collar. It, at least, was clean.
“It is only of rep cloth,” said one of the instructresses.
“Not of silk,” said another.
“She is too plain,” said one of them.
“No,” I said, “I am beautiful!”
“She will do,” said another.
I did not understand this. I knew myself to be extremely beautiful. But then, at that time, I did not understand the general high quality of Gorean kajirae. What gifts they are for men!
“Do not despair, Allison,” said one of the instructresses. “You will grow more sensuous, more beautiful, in your collar.”
“In my collar?” I said.
“Of course,” said one of the instructresses.
“The masters know what they are doing,” said another.
I had been permitted the name, Allison, but it had been made clear to me that it was now only a slave name. Somehow this seemed very meaningful to me, that ‘Allison’ was now a slave name.
As my progress in Gorean continued, and I became more adept in servile skills, being permitted to launder for the guards, and do some simple cooking for their mess, I was granted a tunic. Doubtless it had been worn by others before me, but, to me, it was inordinately precious. Certainly I would do much to keep it.
One of the first things I had done, when introduced into a training room, one walled with mirrors, was to hurry to the side, and examine my thigh.
“Vain slave!” laughed an instructress.
In the mirror one achieves a certain distance from the brand, and sees it rather as another might look upon it. In the mirror I saw a branded slave girl, and, a moment later, with a frisson of recognition, I realized the branded slave girl was I.
“It is a nice mark, Allison,” said one of the instructresses.
“Sometimes such things are bungled,” said another.
“Not by our iron master,” said another. I recalled that it was rumored that she was not unoften in his arms.
How frightful, I thought, to be badly branded. To be sure, such things seldom occurred. Most marking is done by members of the caste of Metal Workers. Most such shops will have a slaving iron, and it is often at hand, and, if not heated, ready to be thrust into the glowing coals of his forge. The Metal Workers, too, do most of the collar work, measuring, fitting, and such. Some free women are branded and collared within an Ahn of their taking.
I regarded the mark.
I recognized that it clearly enhanced my beauty, perhaps a thousandfold. The matter, however, was not purely aesthetic. I did not doubt that much more might have to do with its meaning, what it proclaimed about its bearer!
I examined the mark. It was small, fine, lovely, and tasteful, and telling in its meaning.
And it was on me.
“We have work to do, Allison,” said one of the instructresses.
“By nightfall,” said another, “you must learn to bathe a man, care for his leather, and kiss his feet.”
Could there really be more than one way to kiss a man’s feet, I wondered.
I would learn there was.
I looked into the mirror.
The slave, I knew, is the most seductive and desirable of women.
How can free women compete with her? The free man may find the free woman of interest, for example, in matters of family, position, power, and wealth, but is it not the despised, meaningless slave to whom he turns for pleasure?
Is it not the slave which his biological heritage demands?
I sensed the power of the slave.
Can we not drive men mad with pleasure?
I considered the brand. What jewel, what ring, what necklace, I wondered, has the free woman, to compete with that?
But consider the slave.
Consider her plight.
She is owned.
She well understands that she is property. The collar is hers, the whip is his. Is it any wonder she is concerned to be found pleasing?
Too, if she need not fear the competition of the free woman, she must fear that of other slaves. What if she is found lacking? Will she not be thrown into the market, and another purchased?
Are not animals such as she cheap?
“Keep me, Master!” she begs. But perhaps he is tired of her. Perhaps he now wants another. She has failed, failed to be such that he would never think of selling her. So back to the block with her!
She pleads, but she is slave, and he master.
I had wondered if it is not the slave which the male’s biological heritage demands. But, if this were so, I asked myself, it seems unlikely such a thing could exist in isolation, as some sort of biological anomaly. What then of the female, what then of the woman? Might there not be then, as well, something which is demanded there, or longed for there, by the woman, a consequence of her own biological heritage? If the male’s heritage demands the slave, might not the heritage of the woman demand, or long for, the master?
Are there not genetic insistencies which whisper about our hearts?
At this point in my training I thought mostly of the male, learning how to be appealing to him, learning how to please him, and such.
This is surely comprehensible.
I had felt the Gorean slave whip.
I did not, at the time, understandably enough, sense what might be done to the slave, what might be done with me.
I had needs, of course, but little more was involved, at first, than curiosity and uneasiness. When I was a girl I did not even comprehend, nor was I informed, as to the nature of the changes in my body, changes which were preparing me for men. Much of this, in the beginning, was little more than an unfocused restlessness. I felt stirrings within me into which I was not to inquire. It was not appropriate for a woman to do so. If they existed, they were to be, at best, sources of dismay and regret. Did not I, and my acquaintances, laud our superiority to such things, in effect competing with one another in our alleged frigidities? To be sure, at least from high school on, I was alarmed at intrusive thoughts, thoughts so unlike me, so improper for me, which I tried to dismiss, and, too, by incomprehensible dreams for which there could be no possible explanation, dreams in which I found myself in chains, dreams in which I found myself in the arms of masters. Certainly I was taught to suspect and fear certain embarrassing suspicions and promptings. Such were not suitable for one of my sex and class. These suspicions and promptings, such thoughts, were not only incompatible with my dignity and self-respect, but incompatible with the conventions and proprieties in terms of which my life was to be managed. Indeed, for years I had been taught to ignore my needs, to minimize them, to conceal them, to suppress them, even deny them. I must pretend to others that I was untroubled by such things, which were only to be found, if at all, in the lowest and most despicable of women. I feared I, in my discomforts and afflictions, might be unique amongst other young women of my acquaintance. Surely they were superior to such embarrassing weaknesses. Or were they lying to me, as I was lying to them?
From whence, to one of my intelligence, education, refinement, class, and breeding, could come such thoughts?
I thought of the history of a race.
Somewhere within me could there be a weeping slave, yearning for her master?
In any event, in my early weeks on Gor I was startled at the openness of my instructresses, eagerly discussing the attractions of the guards, the pleasures derived from their attentions, their joyful helplessness in the arms of one or another, their hopes, sometimes pathetic, of being summoned to this slave ring or that, their misery at being ignored, their plaintive agony if denied, for more than a day or two, a man’s touch.
Indeed, I saw one crawl on her belly to a guard, place his foot on her head, and beg to be caressed.
I understood little of this, at least on a fully conscious level, though I do not doubt but what I understood it well enough on a deeper level, but I did not think it wise to question the instructresses.
But at the same time I began to feel, in my own belly, ever more insistent sensations.
This was internal to me, not merely a pretence or calculation, designed to avoid the whip’s fiery, encircling coils.
It was also very troubling to me.
It is hard, of course, to pretend to indifference in certain matters when one is barefoot, collared, and clad in the brief rag of a slave.
The slave’s very condition is imbued with sensuality.
To merely look upon her is to see her as sensuous.
What is the very meaning of her collar, her condition, and tunic? Does it not say, “Here Masters, behold, here is a female slave. She exists for your pleasure. She is a property. She is yours. Do with her as you will.”
She is the most needful, the most helpless, the most sexual of women.
“You will learn to obey, will you not, Allison?” inquired one of my instructresses, early in my training.
“I have already learned, Mistress,” I said. I had felt the slave whip of Gor.
“Intelligent women,” said another, “learn swiftly to obey.”
“It takes stupid women a little longer,” said another.
“But only a little longer,” laughed another.
“And why do you obey, Allison?” asked the first instructress.
“Because I am a slave, Mistress,” I said.
“You are terrified not to obey?” asked one.
“Yes, Mistress,” I said.
“You do not wish to be punished?”
“No, Mistress,” I said. Surely that was an excellent reason. I was not a free woman. If I were not pleasing, I must expect to be punished, properly and appropriately, and often immediately.
“You think of punishment,” said one of the instructresses, “in terms of the switch, the whip, close chains, the denial of clothing, the affixing of a collar with points, a reduction in rations, being sent naked into the streets, being denied speech, being put in the modality of the she-tarsk, such things?”
“Yes, Mistress,” I said, shuddering. To be sure, I had only heard about some of these things.
“I will tell you of another punishment,” she said, “one you will not even understand now.”
“Mistress?” I said.
“You have sexual needs, do you not?” she said.
“Must I speak?” I said.
“Yes,” she said.
“-I suppose so,” I said.
One of the instructresses laughed.
I was annoyed that she had laughed.
“Later,” said the instructress who had laughed, “you will not be in any doubt about the matter.”
“Yes,” I said. “I have sexual needs.” I was oddly relieved to have said this. Indeed, it was the first time I had explicitly acknowledged this, aloud, before others. I felt an unusual sense of liberation, of freedom, having said this. To be sure, there was no doubt, on Gor, about this matter. My condition, my treatment, my training, my collar, my tunic, my brand, doubtless played some role in an awakening within my body that I sensed, day by day, was becoming ever more obvious and irresistible. I knew, too, of course, that I was not permitted to lie, as I was a slave.
“Your slave fires,” said one of the instructresses, “have not yet been lit.”
“If you think you are helpless now,” said another, “wait until that occurs.”
“You do not yet suspect the power that men will have over you,” said another.
“I do not understand,” I said.
“It will occur sooner or later,” said another.
“And from the look of your flanks,” said another, “I think it will occur sooner.”
“The time will come, Allison,” said the first instructress, “when you will want to obey.”
“You will be the prisoner and victim of your needs,” said another. “You will do anything to have them satisfied, if only for the time, before they again rage within your belly.”
“You will beg, grovel, and plead to be caressed,” said another.
“As the slave you are,” said another.
I found this hard to believe.
Could a woman be so reduced, rendered so needful, so helpless, transformed into so vulnerable and despicable an object, little more than an animal in heat?
Perhaps, I thought to myself, in fear, if she is a slave.
“Some slaves, many slaves,” said another of the instructresses, wistfully, “fall in love with their masters.”
“It is hard to be at the feet of a man, and be mastered, and not do so,” said another of the instructresses, “particularly if he should show you some kindness.”
“To be sure,” said another of the instructresses, “the slave is not to be loved, as she is worthless, no more than an animal.”
“Love is for free persons, companions,” said another, “not for animals and their masters.”
“Men fear to care for a slave,” said another. “Consider how their friends will laugh and make sport of them.”
“The girl will soon again be on the block,” said another.
“If you should love your master, Allison,” said another, “it would be wise for you to conceal your feelings.”
“I will never love a master,” I said. I was derived from a class of women who did not think in terms of love, but in terms of advancement, in terms of practicality, in terms of position, station, prospects, power, and wealth. What was a woman’s beauty for, if not to obtain advantages in a competitive marriage market? This was why Eve, Jane, and I were so terrified that we might be expelled from our sorority. That would have been socially calamitous. The sorority stood as one important step, among several, to a splendid future.
But how could I hope for such a future now, as I was on another world, a collared slave?
Tears sprang into my eyes.
And yet I suspected that a life lay before me, with all its unknowns and perils, which was a thousand times more real than the structured banalities and tediums to which I had been taught to aspire.
“What do you think of this room, Allison?” asked one of the instructresses, one morning, midway in my training. We had paused before an opened door on our way to our usual training room. “What is it for?” I asked. “It is called the Room of White-Silk,” said an instructress. “What is it for?” I asked. One of the instructresses laughed. There was not much in the room. A ring, or two, some chains, a trestle or two, and a number of deep, heaped, rich furs. It was certainly not as alarming as certain of the discipline rooms I had seen, with their devices and cages.
It was toward the end of my training, the few days of my training, that I was summoned by my instructresses to one of the training rooms. “Stand,” said one of them. “As a slave,” said another. “Please no,” I said. “Now,” said another. So I stood as a slave. “She still must learn to stand appropriately,” said another. “Do not fear, Allison,” said another. “It will soon be natural for you.” “Already,” said another, “perhaps unknown to yourself, you are beginning to stand, and move, and kneel, and carry yourself, with the loveliness and grace of a slave, with her subtlety, her lack of pretense, her softness, her deference, her awareness of what she is, her profound and vulnerable, and helpless, femininity.”
How terrible, I thought, to be feminine!
“Yes,” said another. “She is becoming feminine.”
“A slave,” said another.
“Yes,” said the first.
What was being done to me?
I suspected I was being released, to be myself, not an awkward, clumsy neuter, or a prescribed, facsimile male, but a natural woman in a natural world.
Surely I must resist!
But why, I asked myself. Why should I not be what I truly am?
Because it was frowned upon, or forbidden?
But here, on this world, such things were not frowned upon or forbidden. Here on this world, was I not free, though collared, to be myself?
“First obeisance position!” snapped one of the instructresses.
Swiftly I knelt, my head to the floor, the palms of my hands on the floor, at the sides of my head.
“You are changing, pretty Allison,” said an instructress.
“A transformation is being wrought in you, shapely barbarian,” said another.
“Are you aware of this, Allison?” asked another.
“No, Mistress,” I said. Then, by means of a shadow, I saw a switch lifted. “Perhaps, Mistress!” I sobbed. “Perhaps, Mistress!”
To my relief, the switch was lowered.
“She perhaps does not understand how she is changing,” said one of the instructresses.
I feared I was beginning to understand, only too well. The instructresses, of course, could be aware only of attitudes, postures, behaviors, speech, and such. On the other hand, it was becoming clear to me that these externalities, as profound as they might be, were no longer the simple result of intent and design, but were now beginning to emerge as the inevitable consequence of internal realities. My behavior, I sensed, was now becoming less the imitation of a slave’s behavior; and more the behavior of a slave.
“Do not be concerned, Allison,” said the first instructress. “There is nothing wrong with being graceful, beautiful, vulnerable, soft, passionate, and wholly, wholly female.”
“In short,” said another, “in being a slave.”
“Her transition is well underway,” said another.
“Men like women as women,” said one of the instructresses.
“And do we not like men as men?” asked another.
“True,” laughed another.
“Much of this you do not understand now,” said one of the instructresses, “but in time it will become clear.”
“Changes are being wrought in you,” said another, “that will become part of you, and improve your price on the block, how you move, smile, turn your head, and such.”
“You will not even be aware of these things,” said another.
“But one can tell a slave by such things,” said another.
“Sometimes guardsmen do so,” said another, uneasily. “Sometimes they simply command a woman to walk before them, back and forth, and thus detect the slave, even within the robes of a free woman.”
“Barbarians, such as you,” said another, “are even easier to detect, apart from the marks often placed on your upper arm, or the tiny bits of metal often found in your teeth. You do not know the drapings, the foldings, the layerings, and fastenings of the robes of concealment, the arrangement of the veils, and such.”
“There is much more to such things than the donning of a tunic or a camisk,” said one of the instructresses.
“Does Mistress know of such things?” I asked.
“Once,” she smiled. “But I would not now trade my tunic for the robes of a Ubara.”
I could not understand this.
Was not a Ubara a free woman, and one of consequence?
“There are a thousand things a native Gorean would know, of which a barbarian would be ignorant,” said an instructress.
“Too,” said another, “the Gorean taught to barbarians is often subtly different from that spoken by native Goreans, for example, in the pronunciation of certain words.”
“Have you taught me such a subtly different Gorean?” I asked.
“Curiosity,” she said, “is not becoming in a kajira.”
“Yes, Mistress,” I said.
“I wish we had more time to train her,” said one of the instructresses.
“Mistress?” I said.
“Market conditions change, orders vary, what is wanted at one time is not wanted at another time, what sold yesterday may not sell today, what sells today may not sell tomorrow.”
“I do not understand,” I said.
“You are a virgin, are you not?” asked one of the instructresses.
“Yes, Mistress,” I said.
“You do not look like a virgin,” said one.
“Most do not,” said an instructress.
“True,” said another.
“Unbeknownst to you,” said an instructress, “you have been observed by masters.”
“Yes, Mistress,” I said. I had not known this, but, surely, I had suspected as much. Would they not observe me, with certain ends in view?
“You have much to gain in attractiveness,” said one of the instructresses.
“I do not understand, Mistress,” I said. “Am I not beautiful?”
“Her slave fires have not yet been lit,” said one of the instructresses.
“Being beautiful and being attractive are not the same thing,” said an instructress. “Some extremely beautiful women are not attractive, and some extremely attractive women are not beautiful.”
“But I am attractive, am I not?” I asked.
“Do you wish to be attractive?” asked an instructress.
“Do not all women?” I asked. I knew that even cold women, and women who professed to hate men, wanted to be found attractive, if only to torment men, or further their own ends.
“Of course,” said an instructress.
“Am I not attractive?” I asked.
“You are attractive,” said an instructress. “Otherwise you would not be in your collar. But the masters feel that your current attractiveness does not measure up to your beauty.”
My head was at the floor. I had not received permission to lift it.
“Doubtless, in time, it will do so,” said an instructress. “We have great hopes for you. You are clearly a born slave. And, eventually, you should be an exquisitely desirable slave.”
“Her slave fires have not yet been lit,” said one of the instructresses, again.
“Kneel up,” said an instructress.
Gratefully I knelt up.
“Belly in, shoulders back, head up,” said an instructress.
My knees were clenched closely together.
I kept my eyes straight ahead.
“What are you doing, Mistress?” I asked.
“I am removing the white ribbon,” she said.
“Mistress?” I asked.
The instructresses were about, looking at me.
“What do you think?” asked one of the instructresses.
“She is pretty,” said one.
“Better than a kettle girl, or a pot-and-mat girl,” said another.
“A Tarnster, or Drover,” speculated another.
“If the price were right,” said another.
“Spread your knees, Allison,” said an instructress.
“Surely not, Mistress!” I exclaimed.
“Now,” she said.
I felt enormously vulnerable, and, oddly, subtly enflamed.
How could I, the former Allison Ashton-Baker be placed in such a position?
What sort of slave would kneel in such a position?
I feared I knew.
She who had removed the white ribbon now approached.
“Do not move, Allison,” she said.
I saw that in her hand she had a different ribbon, a red ribbon.
“I am not red-silk!” I said. “I am not red-silk!”
“Do not move,” she said, again.
“Yes, Mistress,” I said, a slave, commanded.
I was very much aware of the position and attitude in which I had been placed.
To be sure, it could not be appropriate for me.
It must be some mistake.
I was from Earth.
It is strange, how, when one is a slave, small things are noticed, the nap of a rug, the feel of tiles beneath one’s knees, one’s body then so alive.
I regarded the instructress, apprehensively.
The red ribbon, of dyed rep-cloth, not silk, was doubled, and then threaded under and over my collar. Its loose ends were then threaded through the loop, and I felt it jerked tight, against the collar.
“There,” said the instructress, and stood up. She and the others then stood back, a bit, looking at me. “What do you think?” she asked. “Is she satisfactory, will men like her?”
“She may do,” said another.
“Sooner or later,” said another.
I did not understand. Had I not been one of the most beautiful girls in my sorority, a sorority noted on campus for its beauties? Certainly I had not lacked for the attentions of young men. A week would not pass without my declining several offers for outings, afternoons or evenings, with such, while I would select from amongst such offers those few which I deemed suitable, those which might prove eventually to be to my advantage, those from suitably positioned young men, young men worth interesting and cultivating, young men whose background and assets exceeded my own. Oddly, though I had pretended to be interested in them, laughed at their jokes, and such, I had seldom received a second invitation from them. I did not understand this. Did they not realize my quality, the honor I paid to them, how fortunate they were, that I would permit them to share my company, however briefly? Surely there were many who would have rejoiced to be granted such an opportunity. How ungrateful, how foolish, how stupid they were!
“Keep those knees split, slave,” said one of the instructresses.
“Yes, Mistress,” I whispered.
“Wider,” snapped another.
“Yes, Mistress,” I said.
At least no man was present, to see me so. What would he think, should he see me so? Did I not know? Would it not be clear what I was, and what I was for?
How vulnerable a woman is in such a position!
Too, I felt decidedly uneasy.
“Steady,” said an instructress.
“She is heating,” said another.
“Mistress?” I said.
“The little tart is cooking,” said another.
“Wait until she knows what a man’s touch is,” said another.
“She is ready, nearly ready,” said another.
“I do not understand,” I said.
“She has nice slave curves,” said one.
“She has the flanks of a slave who will heat well,” said another.
“Mistress,” I said.
“Yes?” said the instructress who had placed the ribbon.
“Mistress has erred,” I said. “I am not red-silk.”
“Who speaks?” asked an instructress.
“Allison,” I said. “This slave speaks.” I felt tears form in my eyes.
“And what has she to say?” asked an instructress.
“She says,” I said, “that she is not red-silk, that she is white-silk.”
“The slave is correct,” said an instructress.
“Yes,” said she who had placed the ribbon.
“Please then, Mistress,” I said, “replace the white ribbon.”
“It is dirty, grimy,” said the first instructress, she who had placed the ribbon. “Surely you do not want such a ribbon on your collar?”
“Perhaps another ribbon then,” I said.
“You have another ribbon now,” she said.
“A white ribbon,” I said, “another white ribbon!”
“No,” she said.
“Put back the old ribbon then,” I said. “It is all right. I do not mind!”
“It goes to another girl,” she said, “one who is white-silk.”
“I am white-silk!” I said.
“What are you afraid of?” she asked.
“The men, the guards,” I said. “They may think me red-silk!”
“The market,” said an instructress, “is now slow for white-silks.”
“I do not understand,” I said.
“Do you not think you have been white-silk long enough?” asked an instructress.
“Mistress?” I said.
“Oh!” I cried, startled, for something of cloth and leather, enclosing, muchly opaque, was pulled over my head, from behind, by one of the instructresses. I heard it buckled shut, and the sound of a tiny padlock being snapped shut, doubtless linking two rings.
“Steady, steady!” warned an instructress.
“Position!” snapped another.
And then I knelt, as I had before, in position, hooded.
“Should we remove her garment?” asked an instructress.
“The men will do that,” said another.
“Stand up, Allison,” said the first instructress, gently. I felt her hand on my upper left arm. I was then being guided from the training room, and turned left, and, in a moment, I felt the smooth, worn, flat tiles of the corridor beneath my bare feet. We made two further turnings, and then we stopped.
“Here,” said the first instructress.
I heard a door opened, and I was conducted within, and released, some feet within the portal.
Where was I?
“Mistresses!” I pleaded. “Mistresses!”
I heard the door shut, and, from the outside, a bar put in place.
“Mistresses!” I cried.
I stood in the room, perhaps near its center, alone, hooded, frightened, disoriented.
I turned, and felt my way, hands extended, stumbling, toward the door, which was heavy, and shut, and locked, barred on the outside.
I pounded on the door, and cried out, again and again, but, if any heard, none responded.
I attempted to tear the hood from my head, but such are not meant to be removed by such as I.
I, fearing to fall, went to all fours, that I might explore my small world. In short order, I felt a carpet, and then furs, and cushions. Such things seemed luxurious, and abundant. Here and there, too, I felt chains, and wrist and ankle rings. At one side of the room, I reached up, and, bit by bit, felt the structure of a heavy, low, sturdy trestle.
I tore futilely at the hood.
I was in the Room of White-Silk.
“Do you not think you have been white-silk long enough?” had asked an instructress.
I trembled. I heard a soft moan, mine.
Helpless, and hooded, I realized what I was here for, what was to be done to me.
I lay on the cushions alone, for a time.
I supposed the guards, some of them, perhaps some who had noted me, or were curious about me, would visit me, when convenient, perhaps with the turn of the watch, when their duties were done.
I am not sure how long I lay alone in the room, hooded, amidst the cushions and furs.
Bars rang, and midbars.
I was tunicked. I did not know if the tunic would be left to me. It might be. It is a simple thing for a master to thrust up the short skirt of the tunic, to the slave’s waist. I wondered if they would be quick.
I clutched at a silken coverlet.
My fingers clenched it.
I dared not cover myself.
The masters might not be pleased.
They might wish to look upon my legs, my ankles, my arms, my throat.
Accordingly, I dared not cover myself.
I knew that a slave is usually expected, on a couch, on a slave mat, on furs, to wait naked, wholly uncovered, for her master.
Tunicked, one is already half naked.
I would not cover myself.
How long must I wait, alone?
Then I seemed suddenly to awaken.
The door had been opened.
I knew they would not talk to me. I must not realize who they were. It is better that way. Awareness is better reserved for a master.
I struggled to my feet.
I sensed there were several in the room.
They must have brought lanterns or lamps. I heard the fire strikers snap more than once. Too, I heard some tiny sounds, some suggesting the placing of lamps on shelves, others the hanging of lanterns on ceiling hooks. I sensed men looking at me, and moving about me. They said nothing. There would not be a great deal of illumination, but it would be soft, and ample, that of lamps and lanterns, two or three, I supposed.
“Masters?” I said.
I was not answered.
I felt my left ankle grasped, and I stiffened. A shackle was closed about it. Some loops of chain were thrown down, beside me. I gathered there was a good length of chain between the shackle and its ring. I do not know why I was shackled. Perhaps because I was a slave, and it was thought fit that I be shackled. I wondered if, later, the wrist rings and ankle rings would be used. I supposed that the length of chain allowed me would not be sufficient to allow me to reach the door, which might now be unbarred. I wondered if others, guards, passing by, might enter.
I knew little of how free women were handled. Perhaps much depends on the caste, or city. I had never encountered a Gorean free woman in any meaningful way, though, from time to time, one had visited the house. At such a time, if one were near, we must kneel in first obeisance position, head to the floor. I had been aware of little more than the almost inaudible sound of a soft slipper on the tiles, a rustle of silks passing me. My knowledge of free women was limited almost entirely to the hints, and gossip, of instructresses, which I had overheard. I gathered that there was little love lost between the slave and the free woman.
I sensed the men standing there, about me.
I did not know if I should kneel, or not.
Should I assume obeisance position, first obeisance position, kneeling, head to the tiles, hands to floor, perhaps second obeisance position, belly to the floor, palms down, beside my head, where one might reach inch forth, to press one’s lips to his feet?
How slave I felt, waiting.
I wondered how free women were handled, or if they were handled, so to speak, at all.
Gorean men, I knew, preferred slaves.
That is the way, I gathered, with men.
They prefer us, slaves.
I sensed myself scrutinized.
I was aware of light, dimly, on my right, through the hood. A lamp or lantern was lifted near me. I felt a warmth on my right shoulder. That would be from the lamp or lantern.
I would be in the light.
I knew that men liked to see their slaves.
They delighted in each nuance, and inch, of them.
In the house I had grown accustomed to being regarded openly, and appraisingly, by the guards. How different it was from Earth! There was nothing secret, quick, shy, sly, or furtive about it. We were regarded with the innocence and interest that one might regard an animal, and, in the case of the female slave, an animal which one might consider owning, and having at one’s slave ring. At first I had been considerably disturbed at the frankness, the openness, the length, of such assessments, particularly if commanded, turned about, and posed, but of course, a slave, I dared not complain, nor evince, in any way, any objection to such detailed, candid perusals, even handlings. I had no wish to be cuffed, or beaten. This was not Earth, in which a battery of social and legal weaponry might be invoked against any fellow so unwary as to dare to look honestly, openly, frankly, naturally, on a woman.
I, of course, might be so looked upon, certainly here, on this world, on Gor, as I was an animal, a slave.
I was not a free woman, a person, a citizen, the possessor of a Home Stone. I was not a proud creature of dignity and station. I was not the sort of woman who was to be treated with esteem and respect, even awe, to whom would be accorded the many honors befitting her position. I was not veiled in public, that men might not look upon my beauty. I was not wrapped in the lengthy, ornate folds of the Robes of Concealment, that the lineaments of my figure should not betray the delicate canons of modesty, or no more so than might provoke inevitable speculation. I was not encircled with conventions and formalities; I was not one for whom strong men were to step deferently aside, who might be carried in a palanquin, for whom ways were to be cleared, one who was expected, I gathered, at least if of high caste, to speak boldly, even sharply, and with haughty contempt, one expected to hold oneself, and move, in stately disdain, one mighty in presence and power. I had gathered from the instructresses that such women, certainly those of high caste, of such exalted nobility, so taken with themselves, commonly prided themselves on their self-containment, their self-control, their freedom from many human weaknesses, their superiority to many of the elements commonly found in the nature of the female. In particular, many felt they must, as persons, view themselves as above a variety of allegedly lower, or baser, considerations. Accordingly, they would compete with one another, it seems, each attempting to outdo the other with respect to their imperviousness to the liabilities commonly associated with a lower nature, an animal nature. Many, I gathered, particularly of high caste, held themselves superior to sex, which they professed to find demeaning. It is difficult, I supposed, to regard oneself as an equal to, or a superior of, a male when one is smaller, softer, and weaker, and finds oneself clasped in the arms of such a beast, helpless, unable to free oneself, its prisoner, one’s softness clasped forcibly, mercilessly, to its hardness, the beast beside itself in its rage of possession and joy. And how unfree then should she feel herself if she sensed what it might be, so held, to be owned and mastered? How she must resist her body, her dispositions, her inclinations, her desires, her emotions, her feelings, lest they betray her, lest they threaten treason to her dignity and personhood. Accordingly, it was said that amongst many free women the taint of carnality was to be eschewed, even violently, as a thing of embarrassment and shame, unworthy of a free woman. One’s slave is to be denied, hysterically, if necessary. To acknowledge her, is it not to acknowledge that one should be suitably collared, that one is already, so to speak, in the collar. Accordingly, when the society’s demands were to be met, and the more embarrassing, regrettable aspects of companionship satisfied, those having to do with matchings, lines, alliances, and such, the proper free woman was to enter into carnal congress with disdain, resignation, and reluctance, or feigned disdain, resignation, and reluctance, insisting, at least, that such lamentable congress be as brief as possible, and take place in complete darkness, preferably while substantially clothed, and surely beneath coverlets. To be sure, theory and profession were one thing, and reality another. Upper-caste women doubtless were subject to the same needs and drives as other women, and I would learn that affairs and assignations were not infrequent amongst them, and that many free women, particularly those most sensitive to the demands of their codes, who had most internalized society’s expectations with respect to their behavior, often lived a life of frustration, loneliness, and misery, speaking the secrets of their needs only to the silence of damp, tear-stained pillows. Demands on lower-caste women, on the other hand, were less, as befitted their inferior status, and such women were more likely to enjoy a life of open flirtation, even of comparative vulgarity and bawdiness. Indeed, it was often thought that lower-caste women, for all their jollity and looseness, or perhaps in virtue of it, commonly tended to live a more genuinely satisfactory life than their sisters of the higher, nobler castes. To be sure, much depends on the particular woman, the caste, the city, and sometimes, I understand, even the neighborhood or district within the city, as a Gorean city, as many cities, often contains a medley of subcultures. I had encountered something of these distinctions on Earth, and even in the sorority, in which we had tended to pride ourselves on our station, our aloofness, and, in a sense, our frigidity. “No man will ever turn me into something like that,” I had heard, “some gasping, whimpering, squirming, moaning, begging plaything!” I had taken her seriously until I had inadvertently come upon her in one of the house’s bedrooms, late, during a party, naked, on her knees before a male, his belt wrapped and buckled about her neck, her hands tied behind her with a stocking, leaning forward, kissing at his legs, begging to be touched again. She had turned about, seeing me, tears in her eyes, frightened, agonized, discovered. I had turned away. Oddly, I did not feel dismayed at what I had seen. Rather, as I hurried back to the party I found myself wondering if a woman did not belong at a man’s feet, and if I, Allison, did not belong at a man’s feet, the feet of some man, or, perhaps any man. I assured her the next day I would keep her secret. She had graduated the following spring.
I stood very still.
The men were about me.
I could sense the light of the lamp through the hood.
There is a joke that in the light of a lamp even a free woman is beautiful.
And I was not a free woman.
I was such that I had been selected for the collar of Gor.
I knew that we were hated by free women.
I knew that men preferred slaves.
“Masters?” I said.
There was no response.
“It is a mistake, Masters,” I said. “I should not be here. I am white-silk. I am white-silk.”
The tunic was then torn from me.
It was two days after my red-silking that I was again hooded. I was aligned with other girls, I supposed some five or six. My wrists were pulled behind me and I was back-braceleted. I had not been permitted clothing after my red-silking. The ribbon, however, was removed from my collar. It is the common presumption that a female slave is “red-silk.” My head was forced up, and the house collar, now a new house collar, submitting to a bolt and key, was thrust up, under my chin. This new house collar was quite different from the original house collar in which I had been placed, the high, heavy, iron collar, which had been hammered about my neck. That had been removed in the house’s metal shop the morning following my red-silking. I was much pleased to be relieved of the original collar. The new collar was not the light, lovely, secure embondment signification of the common collar but it was a considerable improvement over its high, weighty predecessor. The removal of the original collar suggested that my sale might be imminent. This speculation had proved to be warranted. One role of the original collar was presumably to encourage a girl to do well in her lessons, that she may the sooner be brought to the block. Would such a collar not be likely to produce such an effect? Should it not make one eager to escape the house? Yet I, personally, feared to leave the house, as I knew not what might be found for one such as I outside its walls. In the house there was a certain comfort, and security. One supposes that a girl might be left uncollared, of course, between the conclusion of her training and her departure from the house, as she is marked, and in the house, and her escape is unthinkable, but Goreans, it seems, do not see it so. They feel that a kajira should be in a collar, and know herself collared. It helps her to keep in mind that she is a slave. Too, a kajira soon comes to understand that it is appropriate for her to be collared, that she belongs in a collar. Is she not a slave? Too, without a collar, she might feel naked, insecure, and frightened. What terrible things might happen to her, were she to be mistaken for a free woman! I then felt another collar, a coffle collar, for one could sense the weight of the attendant chain, a light chain, for we were women, snapped about my neck. The house collar was then removed.
“What is happening, Masters?” I asked, in the coffle, back-braceleted, unable to see, for the hood.
My question received in response only the sharp sting of a switch on my right shoulder.
I realized, then, as I should have before, that I should be silent. Had I been given permission to speak? Too, is it not said that curiosity is not becoming in a kajira?
When we began to move we began our climb to higher levels of the house, and this continued so, for some Ehn. I heard us pass through some four gates, and, from the sound of it, from the weight on the hinges, two heavy portals, and then, after the second portal, the last, I suddenly felt the fresh air, and wind, of what must be the streets, and I sensed the warmth of the sun, Tor-tu-Gor, on my body. We were out of the house!
“Surely you know what you are doing here,” an instructress once said to me.
“Mistress?” I had said.
“You are a slave, are you not?” she asked.
“Yes, Mistress,” I had said.
“And only a slave?” she said.
“Yes, Mistress,” I said, “only a slave.”
“And what is a slave?” she asked.
“Mistress?” I asked.
“A property,” she said. “Goods, merchandise.”
“Yes, Mistress,” I said.
“So now you surely know what you are doing here?” she said.
“I am being trained,” I said.
“For what?” she said.
“That I may be pleasing to a master,” I said.
“We would like you to live past your first night at his slave ring,” she said.
“I will try to be pleasing,” I said.
“Wholly pleasing, in every way?” she said.
“To the best of my ability,” I said.
“So, then,” she said, “what are you doing here?”
“You are goods, merchandise,” she said.
“Yes,” I said, “I am goods, merchandise.” It was true; that is what I now was.
“So now you understand what you are doing here,” she said.
“Mistress?” I said.
“You are being readied for sale,” she said.
I well knew myself a slave, of course. I had sensed this even on Earth, and there was obviously no doubt about it here, on Gor. Here I might or might not wish to be a slave, but, in either case, it was what I was. Here my will was nothing. Whether I might kiss my fingertips and press them to my collar, or sob and scream, and try to tear it from my neck, it was on me. And my thigh was marked, with the Kef, the most common slave brand on Gor, a mark which showed all who might look upon it what I was, and only was, kajira. Still I had not thought, actively, or very actively, of being sold.
Now, as I was being marched through streets I could not see, naked, back-braceleted, a bead fastened in this small slaver’s necklace, the wind and sunlight on my bared body, I knew I was being taken, for the first time, to market, a market where I would not buy but be bought, as much as a verr, or a basket of suls.
Still I was delighted to be out of the house.
I wondered who might buy me.
I was soon to be owned, the property of a particular master.
“I regret,” had said one of the mistresses, “that we did not have more time to train you.”
“You are pretty,” said another, “and you will do your best to please, will you not?”
“Yes, Mistress,” I said.
“Many men do not object to a half-trained girl,” said another. “They are cheaper, and they may train them to their taste.”
“There are others coming in,” said another, “who must be prepared.”
“A city fell,” said another.
“You are a barbarian, Allison,” said another, “and barbarians are apt pupils, as they are already three-quarters slaves, but the new arrivals will be former Gorean free women.”
“I see,” I said.
“How we will love to have them under our switches,” said another.
“We will teach them that they are now slaves,” said another.
It was hard for me to imagine such women as slaves, from what I had heard of them, but I knew, too, that there were few bred slaves, at least in the sense of being the products of the slave farms. The overwhelming majority of female slaves on Gor would have once been Gorean free women, of one caste or another. Too, Gorean free women, whatever might be the expectations of their society concerning them, were surely women, with all the instincts, needs, desires, and drives of the human female, all the complex genetic codings of such latent in each cell of their bodies. And I had heard guards exchanging remarks, after the passage of one free woman or another in the house, perhaps shopping for a serving slave, or a silk slave, speculating on her possible value on the block. It was just as well our exalted visitors had remained oblivious of such conversations. Within the robes of concealment, it seems, following the views of the guards, there was always a slave, lacking only the collar.
“The slave, Allison,” I said, “thanks Mistresses for the training they have given her.”
They had kissed me, and, shortly thereafter, one of the guards arrived, the hood dangling in his hand.
We continued to make our way through the streets.
At that time, hooded, I did not realize the striking beauty of a Gorean city, how so many of its buildings, the lofty towers and graceful bridges, the spacious porticoes, the splendid colonnades, and such, were bright with color, nor was I aware of the wealth of colors in clothing, both that of men and women. I did realize, of course, from the house, that slave tunics came in a variety of cuts and colors, in samples of which I had been forced to pose before mirrors, but each was commonly of one color. They were, after all, slave tunics. The house tunics, incidentally, those worn in the house, were commonly drab, usually being brown or gray. There are fashions in such things, of course, for both the free and the slaves, with respect to colors, textures, materials, cuts, hemlines, and so on. How and when fashions changed, and why they changed, was not clear. Doubtless there were setters of trends, say, highly placed officials, wealthy Merchants, Actors, Singers, and Poets, certain women of noble family and high caste, and such, but why should one option rather than another succeed in being adopted, however transiently? Perhaps the higher, better fixed, more established or influential members of the Cloth Workers had something to do with it, with hints, with words dropped now and then, with boulevard posters, with some judiciously distributed free garmenture, here and there, and so on. Doubtless each time a fashion changed at least the high Cloth Workers, masters of the foremost garment houses, would sell more garmenture, at least to the fashion conscious, to those who were concerned to keep up with the times, to those who feared to be pitied or ridiculed for being out of style, and such. With respect to slave tunics, for example, it was several years, apparently, since the common slave tunic was white with black striping, usually with a diagonal striping. And, of course, if masters and mistresses might be concerned with the garmenture of their kajirae, as simple and brief, and as revealing and demeaning, as it might be, one can well imagine their concern with their own garmenture, particularly if they were of high caste.
The coffle chain was a girl chain, and, accordingly, light. Nonetheless it would hold us, its prisoners, in a perfect, neck-linked custody. This is not unusual, incidentally, the lightness. The custodial hardware of Gor, where kajirae are concerned, is commonly light. It is also, of course, strong, or strong enough, at least, to well exceed the strength of women. It is also, commonly, graceful, even lovely, and is designed to set off and enhance the beauty of its prisoner, while putting her wholly at the mercy of the free. She is, after all, a slave. Its usual purpose, then, is not merely to hold the lovely prisoner but to make it clear to any observer, casual or otherwise, that she is powerless, vulnerable, defenseless, and unprotected, accordingly, not merely to confine her, but to expose her, or should one say, in the case of a slave, as she is goods, to display her. For example, the slave bracelets we wore, which pinioned our wrists so helplessly behind our backs, were attractive. One might have mistaken them for ornaments or jewelry, were it not for the inflexible metal links which joined them.
I have wondered sometimes if free women do not sometimes wonder what it would be to find themselves in such “ornaments” or “jewelry,” stripped and helpless within them.
Did they realize that they might be that beautiful?
Perhaps an iron is being heated, and a collar has already been removed from its peg.
It is common, incidentally, to fasten a girl’s hands behind her back. In that way she is more helpless, her arms nicely drawn back, and her beauty, obviously, is better exhibited, more exposed to sight and touch. Too, of course, braceleted as she is, she is incapable of fending away or resisting caresses, even if she, unwisely, should wish to do so. I did not know my place in the coffle, other than the fact that I was neither first nor last, for I could feel the weight of the coffle chain on both the front and back ring of the coffle collar. It was the only collar I now wore. When I had been aligned in the house, awaiting my chaining, I had been hooded. Therefore I was not only ignorant of the number of girls in the coffle, but of the construction of the coffle, as well. Sometimes the most beautiful girl is first on the coffle, sometimes last. Sometimes the coffle is arranged merely in order of height, the tallest girl then placed first.
Interestingly, as I was hooded, I was very little self-conscious in this march. Had I not been hooded I would have been terribly, miserably, self-conscious. Naked slaves are sometimes seen in the streets but that is usually only the case with a new girl or one being punished. Clothing, of course, is at the discretion of the master, whether or not it is to be permitted, and, if so, its nature, whether say, a modest tunic, or a camisk, or slave strip. A new girl, sent into the streets naked, is well apprised of her bondage, and may soon be depended upon to be at her master’s feet, zealous to improve her performance and service a thousandfold, that she may be granted a garment, some garment, even the brief, disgraceful tunic of a slave, perhaps hitherto scorned. We are, as it is said, not permitted modesty, no more than a she-sleen or she-tarsk, but we will do much for a garment, however scanty. So much we are in the power of our masters! As I could not see, interestingly, I was concerned very little that I might be seen. Too, I was with others, as bared and helpless as I. In the hood, and with others, I had a sense of anonymity.
By now, I was sure we had been in the streets for at least twenty Ehn. Even coffled we must have been marched for better than a pasang. We had, so far, as far as I could tell, attracted no particular attention. I gathered then that such sights, a coffle of nude slaves, were not uncommon in the streets. Not uncommon, too, might be a line of roped verr, a string of tethered kaiila, or such. Our house was on the Street of Brands but, as I was given to understand, this is more a reference to a district or a part of a district than an actual street. To be sure, apparently several slave houses were in the same vicinity. One also heard of a Street of Coins, of which a similar observation would seem warranted. This, too, seemed to refer more to a particular district, than a particular street, one in which several money houses were to be found. In passing, I will note something of interest, at least to a barbarian. On your world pieces of paper, even with impressive printing on them, are seldom accepted in exchange for actual goods. The Gorean thinks generally in terms of metal, copper, silver, and gold, something obdurate and solid, which can be handled, split, quartered, shaved, and weighed, or else in terms of actual goods. It would be dangerous to try to buy a sleen or slave, or a sul or larma, from a Gorean for no more than a piece of paper. On the other hand, notes are exchanged amongst various coin houses, or banking houses, without difficulty. Sometimes the wealth of a city has been transferred from Jad to Ar, or Ar to Jad, in the form of a piece of paper, sewn into the lining of a robe. In such a way wealth can be exchanged, even back and forth, without a tarsk-bit changing hands.
We continued our march.
We did not know our destination, or destinations. Would you explain such things to sleen or kaiila?
I did note that the footing was now less smooth, less polished, more irregular. Too, more than once I felt dampness, or grime. In this part of the city, wherever it was, it seemed the shopkeepers, or residents, were less scrupulous in their housekeeping. It is understood that the streets in a Gorean city, local bridges, and such, are the responsibility of those in the neighborhood, not of the city or state. The responsibilities of the city and state tend to be limited, mostly to protection, civil and municipal, and arbitration. Whereas a city will often have a coinage, so, too, may private citizens. For example, the golden tarn disk of the banker Publius may be more valuable than that of Ar itself, or, at least, that of the Ar of the occupation, when someone named Talena graced the throne of Ar. Charity, care of the simple, the needy, and such, is handled privately, usually by clan lines, or caste councils. As the city or state is managed by men, and is armed, it is feared. Goreans prefer to be governed as little as possible. The city or state, on the other hand, which has properties, farms, and such, as well as it support from taxes, often supports public festivals, concerts, performances, and contests, competitions, for example, of strength, speed of foot, archery, javelin casting, riding, singing, drama, poetry, dancing, and such.
I occasionally heard men and women about. Conversation. Some bargaining. One fellow was hawking tastas, which is a confection, mounted on a stick. Sometimes female slaves are referred to as tastas.
I could hear the chain on its rings as we moved.
I felt myself prodded by a switch.
In many respects I did not know where I was, not only the district in which I might be, but even the city. I was sure, from the size of the house in which I had been trained, the city was large, at least by Gorean standards. It would take a large city with a substantial commerce to support a house so complex and impressive. I would learn it was Ar. Even were I familiar with the city, which I was not, I would have been thoroughly disoriented given the hood and the many twists and turns of the narrow streets. I was sure, of course, from my secret reading, that I was on Gor. I was still shaken by the comprehension that such a world actually existed. On it I found myself hooded, naked, and coffled, a slave. How could such a world exist and not be known, or, I thought, is it known? Perhaps it is known, but as a guarded secret, official or governmental, to be kept from the general public? Is it the will of the Priest-Kings, the alleged lords of this world, I wondered, that the existence of their world be known or not? Were the Gorean manuscripts intended to be hints of Gor, allusions to that world, a modality by means of which possibly alarming facts, facts for which a general population might not be ready, might be concealed under the veil of fiction? Or were such manuscripts somehow dangerously smuggled to Earth, against the will of, and without the consent of, Priest-Kings? I supposed, on balance, the existence of such manuscripts did not concern entities as mighty and mysterious as the supposed Priest-Kings. Doubtless they knew of them, but thought little of them one way or another. What difference might such thing make to them, the remote and disengaged gods of a world? But I now, at least, was in no doubt as to the reality of Gor. I felt it beneath my bared feet. I twisted my head a bit inside the hood I wore. I could not see. I was helpless. I jerked a little at the bracelets which held my hands behind my back. I, once Allison Ashton-Baker, once a member of a prestigious, wealthy sorority at an exclusive educational institution on the planet Earth, once a scion of the envied upper classes on my world, was helpless, and on Gor, a manacled, hooded, coffled slave!
“Oh!” I cried, suddenly pelted with gravel.
“Kajirae, kajirae!” I heard, a sing-song, mocking chanting of children. “Kajirae, kajirae!” Small stones, stinging, one after another, apparently from almost at my elbow, were hurled against me, and, from the disturbance in the coffle, the rattle of chain, and cries of surprise and pain, I knew I was not the only victim of this petty aggression. “Kajirae, kajirae!” they mocked, running beside us, now on each side. I cried out with pain, struck by a supple, barkless branch, a child’s makeshift switch. I heard the sound of such implements strike elsewhere, as well. “Please, no, Masters!” cried out more than one member of the coffle. They had addressed the word ‘Masters’ to children! Then I realized the children were doubtless free persons. “Please be kind, please be kind, Masters!” I wept, stung twice again. “Be off with you,” said one of the guards to our young assailants. “If you would beat a slave, buy your own!” There was laughter, from adults about. We tried to hurry, stumbling on. “Do not gaze upon such worthless, disgusting things!” I heard a woman’s voice say, perhaps admonishing a daughter, a child, one paused to look upon the coffle. Then we were beyond the children.
We continued on.
My body still stung.
The coffle was stopped, twice, before discharging one or more of its occupants, once when, apparently, a line of wagons was passing near us. They were probably produce wagons. We were pressed to the side, against a wall to our left. Some such wagons are driven by teamsters, others are conducted by small boys, with sticks. In the better part of the city such wagons move only at night, when they are less obstructive of traffic. I heard the creaking of wheels, their sound on the stones, and some grunting, and snorting, apparently of large beasts. These were draft tharlarion as I now realize, but I had not, at the time, seen such animals. Most Gorean streets are narrow, winding, and crooked. The boulevards, on the other hand, are spacious and straight, often with plantings. Many Gorean streets have no names, really, other than, say, the street of the “smithy of Marcus,” the alley “where Decius the cobbler has his shop,” and so on. The streets are familiar, of course, to those who live in their vicinity. Others may inquire their way, or fee a guide. The second time we were stopped we were ordered to the side, and ordered to kneel, our heads to the stones. The palanquin of a free woman was passing. It stopped. Perhaps the free woman had parted the curtains of the palanquin for a moment, to regard us. The palanquin then moved on.
“Up, beasts,” we heard.
We struggled to our feet.
We continued on, for another twenty Ehn, or so.
In what district of the city might we be?
I was sure we had passed through more than one.
My Gorean was acute enough, now, to detect some differences in accents. The local diction, with its lapses, and grammar, and vulgarities, its rapidities, its simplicities, its contractions, its elisions, unusual words, and vulgarities, was quite other than that of my instructresses, intelligent women who uniformly spoke, as nearly as I could determine, an educated, excellent Gorean. Four had supposedly attained to the “Second Knowledge,” whatever that was. All could write. I had some difficulty in even understanding the speech about me. I would learn that some members of some castes even reveled in a deliberately barbarous or vulgar Gorean, as though this were some badge of quality or superiority by means of which they might distinguish themselves from their despised “betters.” It was sometimes said that the power of Marlenus, the Ubar himself, rested ultimately on the lower castes, whom he cultivated and flattered. Is it not, ultimately, in the mass that the power lies? Who else, at a word, might swarm into the streets, armed with paving stones and clubs? Woe to the former free Gorean woman of high caste who, enslaved, might fall into the power of her hitherto despised “inferiors.” Each Gorean caste, interestingly, regards itself as equal to, or superior to, all other castes. Accordingly, each member of each caste is likely to have his caste pride. In some sense this doubtless contributes to social stability, and, surely, it tends to make the average fellow content with his own person, profession, background, antecedents, and such. He respects himself, and these things. Even the Peasants, commonly regarded as the lowest of castes, regards itself proudly, and with justification, as “the ox on which the Home Stone rests.” A casteless society, an open society, in which elevation, wealth, and success is supposed to depend, or does depend, on the outcome of merit and free competition will obviously generate an enormous amount of frustration, jealousy, envy, and hostility. In such a society most will fail to fulfill their ambitions and must almost inevitably fall short of achieving at least the greatest rewards and highest honors which such a society has to bestow. In an open race to which all are invited and in which all are free to run there will be only one winner, and many losers. It is natural then for the loser to blame not himself but the course, the starter, the conditions, the judge, the rules of the race, even that there is a race, at all.
The free woman of a high caste and the free woman of a lower caste commonly have one thing in common which unites them, securely, as free women. That is their contempt of, and hatred for, the female slave.
How strange they find it that men should prefer the helpless female slave, lovely, obedient, needful, desperate to please, to themselves!
How could such a thing be?
But it seems that it might be.
Do the free men not attend the auctions, do they not scout the exposition cages, do they not saunter to the gates, to witness the arriving coffles, to see the former free women of another city being marched naked to local markets, do they not want a shapely collar slut trembling at their slave ring, do they not frequent the paga taverns, and surely not always for conversation or kaissa. How detestable, think the free women, are slaves! How horrifying to want to be owned, to want to belong to a man, wholly, and desire to love and serve him, forever, abjectly, and unquestioningly, to the best of one’s ability! And how terrible men are that they should unaccountably prefer a cringing collar beauty, perhaps shackled, desperate to please them wholly, and as a female, to one of their own kind, forward, noble, splendid, proud, and free. What is so special about their terrified, groveling rival, licking and kissing at her master’s feet, with her marked thigh, and band-encircled throat? What could she, a slave, an animal, possibly have, or offer, that might begin to compete with the accorded favor of a free woman, standing on her dignity, and jealous of her rights? Why then, given such clear options, between the noble and the worthy, and the despicable and the meaningless, will men seek the despicable and the meaningless, the slave? Why then will they seek so zealously to leash and bracelet her, the slave, to rope her, hand and foot, to kneel her, to collar her? Why will they bid so zealously, and recklessly, to purchase her? Why do they fight to possess such things? Why are they willing to kill for them?
I cried out in sudden sharp pain. I knew the stroke. It was across my right shoulder. I had felt it often enough when I had displeased the instructresses, or made some error in diction, serving, position, or such. It was the result of a blow not from some child’s makeshift implement, a plaything, a pretended disciplinary device, but from an actual device of the sort his diversion mimicked, a supple, nicely crafted leather switch, an instrument designed to improve the discipline and service of a female slave. We most fear the whip but it is not pleasant, either, I assure you, to feel the corrective blow of the switch.
We will do much to please our masters!
“Sluts!” I heard, a woman’s angry voice. “Sluts! Sluts!”
I heard the sound of more blows, cries of pain.
“Wriggle to that!” screamed the woman. “Jump to the pleasure of that, you filthy sluts!”
“Please forgive us, Mistress!” cried a member of the coffle. But this plea, I gathered, did no more than earn its source another two or three blows.
I had been informed by the instructresses that free women were to be feared. If accosted by one, particularly if accosted unpleasantly, it is wise not only to kneel, as before a man, to ascertain his interests, intentions, or wishes, perhaps he wishes directions, or such, but to put one’s head to her feet, to, in effect, assume first obeisance position. In no way, either by word, tone of voice, act, expression, or attitude is one to show the least disrespect. The slightest suggestion of such a thing may result in severe and prolonged punishment. The woman is free, while one is a slave.
“She-tarsks!” cried the woman. “She-tarsks! She-tarsks!”
I heard the sound of more blows, cries of pain.
“Oh!” I wept, struck as well.
“Let them alone,” said a man.
“There are better things to do with little vulos than beat them,” said a fellow.
“Yes,” cried the woman. “You would know about that!”
“Mercy, Mistress!” begged one of the slaves. “Oh!” she cried, struck.
I was silent. I sensed the figure pass me.
Some fellow off to my right began to sing a little song about “Tastas.”
“Be silent!” screamed the woman.
“Demetrius will be home soon,” said a fellow, reassuringly.
I and one or two others were then struck again. I bent over, as I could, for the chain, cringing.
“Move the chain,” said someone to the side. “Move the chain.”
There was laughter.
“Give me back the switch!” screamed the woman. “Give me back the switch!”
“Move the chain!” a fellow urged, again.
“Step!” said one of the guards, and, gratefully, we moved forward.
“Give me the switch!” demanded the woman, now behind us.
We hurried forward, as we could.
I remembered a remark from one of the instructresses. I had not been more than two days in the house. “Be beautiful, and desirable,” she had said. “It is the men who will protect you.”
“Please the men,” said another. “It is the men to whom you will belong.”
“They will protect you from the women,” said another.
“If you are pleasing,” added another.
I was frightened from what I had heard of free women. I resolved to be pleasing to the men, as pleasing as I could be, and I understood what that meant, to be as pleasing as one could, and as a slave.
Soon the coffle was stopped, and, apparently, one individual was removed from it. We then continued on our way
I shortly became aware that another was removed from the coffle. We were apparently being delivered to different addresses. Some of the girls might have been purchased within the house. Usually a girl is sold in-house when the price offered seems clearly superior to what might be expected from vending her off an open block. Too, such a sale requires few arrangements, and little time. Sometimes, too, the capture and enslavement of a woman has been arranged by an enemy or admirer, and, in such a case, it is usually that particular woman that is wanted. She may have been paid for in advance, the price having been earlier negotiated and agreed upon. There is little difficulty in delivering such women through the streets, as they are hooded. Rich men, to whom money is of less interest than what it might purchase, sometimes buy in-house, putting out three or four times what a girl might bring in the open market. But most on the coffle, I supposed, and perhaps all, were being delivered to local markets, some possibly owned by the house itself.
As girls were removed from the coffle, their chaining, with the bracelets and coffle collars, was hung about the neck and shoulders of others. In the vicinity of the Tenth Ahn, as I guessed, I was alone, several loops of chaining, and such, slung about me or wrapped about my body. This was not pleasant, but, too, it was not much of a burden, as the chain was light, being girl chain. We were quite helpless in such bonds, but a man, it seemed, or some men, might have been able to pull apart such links. This is a way in which a woman may begin to understand that she is not a man. The sexes are quite different, and on Gor such picayune details have their role in helping to make the distinction clear. One is suitably master; one is suitably slave.
I was stopped by a hand on my shoulder.
I was also aware that the chaining which I was carrying was being unlooped, and unwound, from my body.
I gathered I was at my destination, wherever it might be. I did not inquire, of course. I did not wish to be struck. I had not been given permission to speak.
There had been two guards with the coffle.
One or both must now carry the chaining and such back to the house.
In the beginning, hooded, I did not know the number of beads on the small necklace. Counting their removal, and adding myself, there had been six.
I felt the coffle collar removed.
I stood there.
Now I was only hooded, and back-braceleted.
I felt a man’s hand on my left arm. “There are steps here, kajira,” he said. He then guided me, carefully, and assisted me up some five or six steps, onto a circular platform, cement, it seemed, but covered with a carpet, or heavy cloth, and then to the left. I heard a gate open, I would see later it was one of bars, and was conducted through it. Within he removed his hand from my arm, and I stood still. I stood on cement. The bracelets were removed.
“You have the papers?” a voice asked.
“Here,” said the guard.
I heard a movement of papers.
“Barbarian,” said the first voice.
“Yes,” said the guard.
“Is she any good,” asked the first voice.
“I do not know,” said the guard. “I have not put her to slave use.”
“I see she is red-silk,” said the first voice. That, I thought, must be on the papers. What right had they to know that?
“Recently,” said the guard.
“Good,” said the first voice. “There is no place for virgins here.”
I heard feminine laughter, from a few feet away.
On the whole, they had not been unkind to me in the Room of White-Silk. I had been handled with authority, of course, and was left in no doubt that I was within the grasp of masters, Gorean masters. I was not sure how many, as I had been hooded, had utilized me for slave pleasure, as some may have done so more than once. It was done to me in various ways. I was not freed of the ankle shackle until they were finished with me, and left, and the instructresses summoned, to unhood me and conduct me to my new domicile, a small, iron cage. I had occupied that cage, at night, until this morning, and my hooding and coffling. The cushions and furs in the Room of White-Silk had been deep. Occasionally the wrist and ankle rings were used, perhaps to accustom me to helpless slave service. I could still remember the feel of the heavy bar of the trestle against my belly. Toward the end, when I was half drunk, lost between confusion and disbelief, with the shocking and flooding of my belly, scarcely able to feel, I was thrown to the cushions and, for a time, left alone.
“Masters?” I said.
Were they done with me?
I was aware of blood on my thigh.
Some of it had been thrust to my lips, and into my mouth, that I might taste my virgin blood, which could be shed but once.
“Masters?” I whispered. Were they still in the room?
Strong hands put me on my back, over the cushions, my head back, and down. My ankles were pulled apart, widely. I left them as they had been placed. I supposed I was again to be put to use, routine, meaningless, forcible use.
I did not know how many times it had been done to me.
Then I felt a gentle, soft, moist, caressing touch, and I cried out, startled, drew my legs together, as I could, and reached out, and felt my fingers close in a man’s hair.
“Oh,” I said, softly.
Surely such a caress would never be inflicted on a free woman. It would be disgracefully inappropriate to subject a free woman to such an indignity. It might pull them out of themselves, and make them beg for the collar. It was not for free women. It was fit only for slaves.
“Please, Master,” I whispered. “Again!”
“Oh, yes!” I whispered, my fingers in his hair.
At least, I thought, I was not chained helplessly in place. It was hard to imagine what might be the sensations which a master might inflict, even casually, upon a helpless slave, one wholly at his mercy, their subtlety, their variety, their length, and nature.
How helpless she would be, so in his power!
I feared to be so chained. I wanted to be so chained!
How many ways a man has to conquer a woman I thought, the chain, the whip, the switch, the commanding her to her knees, her lips to his feet, a gesture, admitting no questioning, the casting to her of a rag, fit only for a slave, the ordering of her to her tasks, the masterful seizure of her beauty, a kind word, a caress!
“More, more, more, Master!” I begged. “Yes,” I whispered. “Yes, Master!”
Well now was I aware of how I might have responded had they been concerned less to routinely open a young slave and had they been more patient, slower, less merciful. What if they had been tortuously slow, reading my body, playing upon it, as on a czehar or kalika, bringing forth what music they wished? Could I help what I was, female, and slave? A thousand modalities attend the mastership, and the slave learns a thousand yieldings, and submissions. She may be seized, and put to use in any place, at any time, in any way. She may be used abruptly, and cast aside, and rejoices to have been granted even so much. Does this not inform her, to her delight, that she is a slave? This thrills her that she is such, only slave, that she may be so used. And she may be utilized at length, should he wish, for Ahn at a time. The master may put aside days for slave sport, mastering her in a hundred ways at his leisure. She learns the blindfold, the gag, ropes, wrapped silken cords, thongs, bracelets, and chains. She learns to bring the master the whip in her teeth, crawling to him, on all fours. She cooks, and sews, launders and cleans, and he may observe her at her lowly, servile tasks, until he summons her to his arms, that she may attend to her truest task, the pleasing and pleasuring of her master. She will bathe him, and he may comb her hair. Her garmenture, if she be granted such, depends upon his will. He may dress her and undress her, considering how she may best be displayed. He is concerned with her appearance. In the promenades she must look well on her leash. Perhaps he will have her taught the kalika, or dance, dance such as is appropriate for such as she, slave dance.
“Please, more, Master!” I begged.
Had I been capable of wondering, on Earth, if I were a slave, a rightful slave, a slave by nature? How foolish now seemed such abstract, idle ruminations! It was now confirmed upon me, that I, the former Allison Ashton-Baker, was a slave, and not only by law, however absolute that legal shackle might be, but by right, by nature! Not only was I slave, but I needed to be a slave!
“Master?” I asked, within the hood, the light of a lamp dimly sensed through the closed, buckled artifact.
I lifted my belly, pathetically, piteously, shamelessly, in the darkness.
“Masters?” I said.
But they were gone.
Later the instructresses came to free me of the shackle, and conduct me from the room. They did not ask me anything. I was left alone with my thoughts.
I stood now, hands free, but hooded, on the cement flooring of what I supposed to be a holding area, or cell, of some sort.
There were some about, at least two men, and some women.
I tried to stand proudly.
I was chagrined with how I had behaved, particularly later, in the Room of White-Silk.
I resolved that I must never again behave as might have a slave.
I must never again let myself be so shamed.
I found it hard to believe that I had begged. How shameful! Happily that lapse would remain a secret of the house. I resolved that that indiscretion must never be repeated.
But even in my righteous self-castigations, which I, of Earth, deemed I should proclaim, at least to myself, and even behind the fragile curtain of that resolve which I thought to interpose between what I supposed I should be and what I suspected I was, there seemed a subtle, elusive whispering, mocking and insistent, kajira, kajira. Then I stood less proudly, and lowered my head. Already, in the scarlet swirl of memory, rising and falling like some warm fluid, I was uneasy. In my belly were clear stirrings. Had I not sensed the beginning of such things, even before my red-silking? Does not being barefoot, tunicked, and collared have its effect, in knowing that one, so degraded, is a slave? What was going on in my body? How was I changing? What had been done to me? I remembered the arms of the guards, so strong about me, I so weak in their grasp. And I remembered those last, brief sensations, casually bestowed on a slave, so unexpected, so different, so startling, so irresistible, which I had so wanted to have prolonged, which I had piteously begged might be continued. Something within me knew, or suspected, that such things might be not only riches in themselves, exquisite and transformative, but were, as well, the promise, the hint, of something beyond them, the explosions and creations of worlds.
What right had I, I asked myself, to arrogate to myself the prerogatives and prides of the free woman?
And the slave, I reminded myself, does not belong to herself. She belongs to her master. She has no self to defend, no honor to preserve, no person to strive to keep isolated and inviolate.
I am not a free woman, I thought.
In a sense, I have never been one.
I was not free.
I did not want to be free.
I was content to be a shamed slave. It was what I was and wanted to be. Then I was no longer chagrined at my behavior in the Room of White-Silk. I regretted only that I might not have been as pleasing as possible to the masters.
Too, I had begun to suspect what I might become, and was willing to become, and wanted to become, in their arms, a slave.
The hood was removed, and I drew in a deep breath, and shut my eyes against the hurtful light.
Some cloth was thrust against me, and I took it.
Blinking, clutching the cloth, I looked about myself.
I was in a cell, a relatively small cell, about eight feet square, with a wall of bars on one side, facing a street. The floor of the cell was some four feet above the level of the street. In this way what was in the cell, given the bars, could be easily viewed from the street. To the left of the bars was a cement platform, at the same level as the floor of the cell, too, about four feet high, on which was spread a worn, soiled scarlet rug. There were steps on the outside leading up to this circular, cement platform, the steps which I had doubtless recently ascended, assisted by the guard. The guards had gone. A barred gate, to the left of the cell, would open to a small passage, which connected with the platform. It was through this passage that I had been introduced into the cell.
I looked about. There were six other girls in the cell. I looked up at a large man, stripped to the waist, who was regarding me.
He would be a slaver’s man.
I clutched the cloth.
Each of the girls wore a brief, wrap-around tunic, and each had, either about herself, or at hand, a short, white sheet.
What I held was such a tunic, and such a sheet.
“She is stupid,” laughed one of the girls.
I did not know what to do.
I desperately wanted to clothe myself. Now that I was not hooded, I was suddenly muchly aware of my nudity. I stood there in anguish. I did not have even a collar. What if someone should look into the cell, from the outside? I was, of course, well marked.
“How stupid,” said another girl.
“She is a barbarian,” said another.
“May I clothe myself, Master?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, and turned away. In a moment he had left the cell, closing and locking the gate behind him.
I had remembered, belatedly, that a slave may not clothe herself without permission. Most slaves, of course, have a standing permission to clothe themselves, a permission which is subject to revocation by the master. It is a bit like speech. A slave is not to speak without permission, but many have a standing permission to speak, a permission which may, of course, be revoked at any time. For those who might be interested in such matters, the standing permission to clothe oneself is more often granted than the standing permission to speak. There are few things more likely to convince a woman of her bondage than the need to request permission to speak. Sometimes a standing permission to speak is revoked for a few Ahn or a day, or even a week, that she may be the better conscious that permission is required, and need not be granted. Perhaps she is desperate to speak. “May I speak, Master?” “No,” she is informed. She is then well reminded of her collar and mark.
I glanced through the bars, out to the street. There were men, and women, here and there, passing, and, at some stalls, shopping, these on the other side of the street, but none seemed interested in the cell, or its occupants.
I quickly, gratefully, drew the brief, wrap-around tunic about me, tucking it in on the side. It occurred to me how simply it might be parted, and removed. I then clutched the sheet about me. It came midway to my thighs.
The bars were sturdy, some six inches apart, reinforced every ten horts or so by horizontally placed, flat, narrow plates of ironwork. The cell would have held men.
That made me feel particularly helpless.
I looked out, through the bars. Save for the bars the wall was open. It was easy to look out, into the street. And I was very much aware, as well, obviously, that it would be as easy to look within. Anyone outside might simply look within, and see us. Given the shape of the cell, there was nowhere to hide. I was suddenly reminded of a shop window on Earth, a window before which passers-by might stop, and, at their leisure, peruse what might be for sale.
And I, and the others, would be for sale!
I looked to the other occupants, the other merchandise, six girls, in the cell. Each was in a wrap-around tunic. Four were brunets, and two blondes, one a darker blond, one lighter. None were collared. But I had no doubt each was well marked. Gorean merchants do not neglect such details.
I folded the sheet, and put it about my shoulders. I was tunicked, and the tunic, while “slave short,” was not unusual. A girl would not be likely to expect more, unless she were a lady’s serving slave.
I went to the bars, grasped them, and looked out.
I was not pleased with what I saw. This could be no high market. One might as well have been chained on a slave shelf!
Surely a mistake had been made.
This was not a market in which such as I was to be sold. This was surely not the Curulean, a market of which I had been apprised, a palace of an emporium with its statues, carvings, columns, fountains, tapestries, and cushioned tiers, with its exposition cages of silver bars, with its great, torch-lit, golden auditorium which might hold more than two thousand buyers, with its great central block, with its height and dignity, from which might be expertly vended even the stripped daughters of Ubars. I looked about. The slaver’s man was nowhere in sight. I must complain. I must call their attention to their mistake.
I thought of calling out, but thought the better of it.
What if there had been no mistake?
I had been the last on the coffle to be delivered.
I had dared to suppose then that I was the best, that saved for last. But what if I had been saved for last, as I had been thought not the best, but the least? Could it be that others might regard me as less beautiful, less desirable, than I regarded myself? Was I less beautiful, less desirable, than I had thought? Surely I had been regarded as one of the most beautiful girls in my sorority! But, of course, we had never been put beside Gorean slaves. I did not know my ranking in the coffle, nor if I had a ranking in the coffle. I had no idea of the quality of the coffle as I had been hooded.
I looked about.
“What do they call you?” asked one of the girls, one of the brunettes.
“Allison,” I said.
“You are a barbarian,” said one of the girls.
“I am from Earth,” I said.
“Where is Earth?” she asked.
“It is far away,” I said.
“Barbarians are ugly, and stupid,” said the darker blonde.
“I am neither ugly nor stupid,” I said.
“If she were ugly and stupid,” said another of the brunettes, “she would not have been put under the iron, she would not be here, she would not be kajira.” I could not place her accent.
“She has skinny legs,” said another of the brunettes.
“No,” said the brunette, she with the unusual accent, “they are shapely and slender. Many men like that.”
“Well,” said the first brunette, “they are well exposed.”
“True,” said the girl with the accent, “and it goes nicely with her height.”
I was not especially tall. I was of medium height. Nora was taller than I. So, too, was Jane. I had been a bit taller than Eve. I was pleased to hear that my legs might be acceptable to a man. Some doubtless bought with such things in mind.
“I do not want to be sold with a barbarian,” said the light blonde. “It is humiliating.”
“I would rather be sold with a barbarian than with you, traitress!” snarled the darker blonde.
“I was high in the Merchants!” said the light blonde.
“And you are now yourself merchandise,” laughed one of the brunettes.
Tears brightened the eyes of the light blonde.
“You are fortunate to be such,” said another of the brunettes. “You misread your politics. You thought Ar irrecoverably fallen. You betrayed your Home Stone, as much as Talena of Ar or Flavia of Ar. You cast your lot with the occupation, abetting their crimes, conniving with the enemy, flattering officers, feasting and jesting, profiteering, exploiting a starving citizenry, battening on the misery of a confused, leaderless, beaten, subdued populace.”
“One must do what one can! One must look out for one’s self!” wept the light blonde.
“You did not know Marlenus would return,” said one of the brunettes, unpleasantly.
“None did,” said another.
“I am not a slave,” wept the light blonde. “I am the Lady Persinna, high in the Merchants, the Lady Persinna of Four Towers!”
One of the brunettes laughed. “Listen to the branded piece of collar meat,” she said.
“No!” said the former Lady Persinna.
“You are now only goods, goods, slut,” said one of the brunettes.
“No! No!” said the former Lady Persinna.
“And you are fortunate to be goods,” said the darker blonde. “You were on the proscription lists. You should have been impaled!”
“Perhaps you were saved because you had pretty flanks,” said one of the brunettes.
“Perhaps,” said another, “because someone wanted you at his slave ring.”
She who had been the former Lady Persinna paled. Perhaps she knew of someone of which such a suggestion might be true.
I understood little of this at the time, but it became clearer later. Before I had been brought to Gor it seems a revolution had taken place in the city, Ar, in which upheaval an occupying force deriving from, or given fee by, the island ubarates of Cos and Tyros, and perhaps other states, had been ejected. It seems that a former Ubar, one named Marlenus, had returned from banishment or exile, or some prolonged absence, had rallied the city, and, in several days of fierce and bloody fighting, had cast out the invaders. Even while war was waged in the streets proscription lists had been posted and many traitors, profiteers, and such, hundreds, were seized by maddened citizens and publicly impaled. Later, the invaders flighted and the blood lust of an outraged citizenry largely spent, numbers of surviving profiteers and collaborators, as apprehended, were placed in several underground dungeons scattered throughout the city. Many were later executed by impalement, but others were embonded, men usually destined to the quarries or galleys, and women remanded to slave houses.
“It must be near the Tenth Ahn,” said a brunette.
I supposed that so. There were few shadows in the street. So what did it matter, if it were near the Tenth Ahn, noon?
Was that, in some way, important?
One girl, one of the brunettes, went to stand near the bars, sideways, fingering her hair. I saw her smile at a fellow, who seemed scarcely to notice, and did not stop from his way. She tossed her head, annoyed. Her sheet was at her ankles. Another girl stood at the bars, her hands over her head, holding to the bars, her sheet about her shoulders. Her hands might have been fastened there. She had her right cheek pressed against a bar. Another girl, one of the brunettes, now sat a bit back from the bars, her head up and back, leaning back on her hands, her knees slightly bent, her legs extended. Then she would sit differently, her knees drawn up, her hands clasped about them, looking out, between the bars. Her sheet was beside her. The dark blonde now reclined back, a few feet from the bars, on one elbow, on her sheet, her legs partly extended, one more than the other, looking out. She did this in such a way that the view of her between the bars would not be much obstructed by the positions of the other girls. It seemed she would not be much interested in what might lie outside the bars. What was that to her? Her attention seemed casual, at best. I suddenly recalled that I had been taught that pose. It is languid, but seductive. It lifts the hip nicely, in such a way that the hip-waist curve is nicely emphasized, this drawing attention to the promising delights of her love cradle.
I, and two others, were now at the back of the cell, by the rear cement wall. I and the brunette who had spoken for me were standing. To my right, kneeling, was the light blonde, a lovely female, the former Lady Persinna, of the Merchants. I supposed someone would be glad to get his hands on her. She seemed to be trying to make herself small. She was frightened. I, too, was frightened. The brunette with us, too, seemed frightened.
I gathered that this might have something to do with the approach of the Tenth Ahn.
“Look at them,” whispered the former Lady Persinna, regarding the others, the other three brunettes, and the dark blonde, all nearer the wall of bars. “See them! See them, the disgusting sluts!”
“They are slaves,” said the brunette with us.
“Disgusting sluts!” said the former Lady Persinna.
“You, too, are a slave,” said the brunette.
“No,” said the blonde. “I am free, a free woman! I am the Lady Persinna, of the Merchants, of Four Towers.”
“If you wish to obtain a good master,” said the brunette, “perhaps you, too, should strive to present yourself well, subtly, of course.”
“No, no!” said the blonde.
“You are not so presenting yourself,” I observed.
“No,” said the brunette. “I am afraid.”
“I, too, am afraid,” I said.
“I do not want to be sold,” she said.
“Nor I,” I said.
Yet what else might we expect, as we were slaves?
My feelings concerning my bondage, at that time, as you may have surmised, were highly ambivalent. I was frightened to be a slave. Did it not hold its terrors, to be a property, to be owned! Yet I knew myself a woman who should be a property, who should be owned! I knew that I was a slave, and should be a slave. My entire Earth conditioning had informed me that I should lament my bondage, that I should regard it as a condition of unmitigated misery and woe. But I knew in my heart this was far from so. I could not, and would not, speak for all women, but I could speak for myself. And why should I allow others to speak for me, to tell me how I should feel, to decide how I should be? I was a female. I wanted to belong to a man, a master, wholly and unconditionally, to be his in the fullest sense that a female can belong to a man, as his rightless slave. Nothing short of this could fulfill the secret needs of my heart. But now, to my terror, on this world, it was done. I was a slave! I would be subject to a collar, and bonds, the rightless chattel of a master! The sense of this was devastating and overwhelming. And I would have nothing to say as to my disposition. This frightened me, alarmed me, terribly, but, too, as I waited with the others, in the cell, filled with a slave’s anxiety and apprehension, knowing she may soon be sold, I felt an unspeakable thrill. And then, again, I was terrified! Here, on this world, I was only a slave!
“They cannot sell me, they cannot sell me,” said the former Lady Persinna.
“You are mistaken,” said the brunette.
“Your accent is not like that of the others,” I said to the brunette.
“I am of the islands, from Tabor,” she said.
“A tabor is a drum,” I said.
“It is from the shape of the island,” she said. “I and others were taken at sea, by corsairs of Port Kar, not more than five pasangs from shore.”
“They were bold,” I said.
“They were of Port Kar,” she said.
I knew little of Gor. I had heard of Port Kar. It was well to the north and west, where the waterways of the Vosk’s delta drained into the Tamber Gulf, the city’s sea walls fronting the gulf on the south, Thassa, the sea, on the west. Was it not from the sea gates of Port Kar that the galleys of the dreaded Bosk, Bosk of Port Kar, clove the dark waters of restless Thassa?
“At least,” she said, “I was not sold in Port Kar.”
It is said the chains of a slave girl are heaviest in Port Kar.
“You must have been sold, several times,” I said.
“From one slaver to another,” she said, “not like this.”
“It is my understanding that none here are virgins,” I said.
“Perhaps the Lady Persinna,” she said.
“No,” said the light blonde, bitterly. “I was first opened in a dungeon, where I lay chained in the darkness.”
“No time was wasted with me, or the others,” said the brunette. “We were first used on the deck of the corsair itself.”
“What of you?” she asked.
“In a slave house,” I said, “recently, in a room set aside for the red-silking of virgin slaves.”
“How was it?” she asked.
I was silent.
“I see,” she said.
“Beasts gather,” said the light blonde.
I looked out. Some men had approached the circular cement platform to the left of the cell, four or five.
I saw there were tears in the eyes of the brunette. “Who will own me?” she asked.
The brunette who had been seated, her chin on her clasped, raised knees, now rose to her feet and stretched, lifting her hands over her head, and arching her back.
“The slut!” whispered the former Lady Persinna.
Two or three more men had now joined the few near the platform.
“It is near the Tenth Ahn, I am sure,” said the brunette with us.
The girl who was to the left, at the bars, put her hair back, about her shoulders, and then pressed a bit, softly, against the bars.
That, I supposed, the softness against the iron, the helplessness of the softness, confined, and such, would excite a fellow. She was a confined female, who would be for sale. In my training I had been chained from time to time, in one way or another, utterly helplessly, perfectly, by guards. It was clear my helplessness stimulated them. And I am sure that they, Goreans, realized that my vulnerability, my utter helplessness, stimulated me, as well. There are, after all, masters, and there are slaves.
There were now four slaves, the three brunettes and the dark blonde, at the bars. Three were standing, and one kneeling, one of the brunettes, who was clutching the bars.
There were now some ten or eleven men outside the bars. They were close. I was reminded of visitors at a zoo, peering through the bars. The analogy was imperfect, of course, as we were for sale. A better analogy would doubtless be a sales kennel.
One of the fellows reached through the bar and seized a brunette’s ankle. “Oh!” she protested, trying to draw back, but she could not free herself of the grip. He then released her, grinning.
“Buy me first, Master,” she said.
There was laughter.
They are flirting, I thought, all of them. And is not flirting, I thought, even on my former world, an act of display, hinting, alluding, presenting oneself as something vivacious, attractive, sparkling, as something of interest, something worth investigating, and acquiring, an object of desire? I had muchly enjoyed such games, the suggesting, the teasing, the luring, the playing with the feelings of men, the sensing of the power of my beauty and its effect on them, how it could arouse, disturb, excite, and torment them, and then, when weary of the sport, the pleasure one could take in the chilling, the turning away, the feigned surprise and indignation. How I had despised the boys. How pleasant it was to make them suffer. But now I was a slave, and would probably belong to a man, one who might exact from me, at a mere snapping of fingers, everything that a frightened, docile slave might give. I did remember occasions when it was I who had been rebuffed. How that had stung! Did they think I was unworthy of them, because they were richer, of a better-known, more-distinguished family, or such? How I hated them! I did not think, really, on the other hand, that they were that immune to my charm, my beauty, and such. Now, I supposed, if they might recall me, and find me of some interest, they might buy me, and hide me from their wives.
“See them!” said the former Lady Persinna of the girls at the front of the cell, those near the bars. “Disgusting! Disgusting!”
It is a received wisdom that the higher the price for which one goes the more likely it is to obtain a richer, better-fixed master, and to find oneself in a larger, better-appointed, wealthier household where the labors are likely to be lighter and less frequent. Accordingly, it is recommended, as a prudential matter, to display oneself in one’s sale as attractively as possible. There is much to be said for this, particularly when one might be sold at night, under torchlight, and one cannot well make out the buyers, save for some on the first tiers. One often hears only the calls from the darkness. Who is bidding? One might discover one’s master only when one is unhooded, in a strange domicile.
It is not unknown, of course, even on my world, for a girl to barter her beauty for gain, for access to exclusive, desirable precincts, to use it in such a way that it might obtain for her advantages and advancement, to win for her wealth and position, and such. Surely I and my sisters in the sorority were well aware of such things. I certainly endeavored to apply my beauty to such purposes, if unsuccessfully, as did they. If one were to obtain our beauty, one would pay our price. We had no intention of selling ourselves cheaply. And how furious I had been when my overtures, so to speak, had been rejected, or worse, ignored. Could they not see the value of what I was offering? On Gor, of course, to my chagrin, I realized that the profit on my beauty, if any, would accrue not to me, but to another. It is that way when one is oneself merchandise. Still, it is commonly to one’s advantage, as noted, to present oneself well on the block, hoping thereby to obtain a richer master, a better house, lighter duties, and such. Yet, at times, how meaningless are these prudential, mercenary considerations! Does the slave not hope that she will be purchased by a strong, handsome, powerful, virile master, rich or not, who will know well what to do with her, before whom she will know herself well in her collar? Are we not all looking for the master who will weaken our knees and heat our thighs, the master before whom we know we can be only slave, and desire to be no more? And what, too, of the love slave and the love master? In such cases, who can understand the mysterious chemistries involved? Let us suppose that a fellow is examining women on a slave shelf. They are kneeling, cringing, shackled, head down. Who can explain how it is that he, pulling up the head of one after another, by the hair, that her features may be examined, suddenly pauses, startled. What is different about this particular cringing, shackled slave? How is she different from another? She looks up, her eyes widened. He sees before him, his hand in her hair, his love slave, and she, looking up, tears in her eyes, for the first time, sees her love master. How is she more than merely another helpless, cringing, shackled slave, and how is he more than merely another male, another possible buyer, in his robes, so free, and strong, looking down on her? But he has found his love slave, and she, to her joy, has been found by her love master. Who can explain such things? Perhaps he has been keeping a collar for just such a one? Certainly a girl can attempt to interest a buyer; consider the differential zeal of the “Buy me, Masters,” as one fellow or another peruses a sales line; but, in the end, despite our efforts and hopes, we are not the buyers, but the bought. It is they who will choose, not we.
“Ah!” cried one of the slaves.
The bar had begun its sounding.
Some more men began to move toward us, gathering about the circular cement platform.
“It is the Tenth Ahn!” said the darker blonde.
There were few shadows in the street now. Tor-tu-Gor was at its zenith.
The former Lady Persinna burst into tears, and put her head in her hands. I wondered that one such as she, one apparently once of some prominence, was with us. I clutched the sheet more closely about me. I wished it was longer. My legs were not well concealed. Was it to demean her that she was put with us? Or did some estimate her beauty as equivalent to ours, worthy only of such a vending? I wondered if some might be interested in her, tracking her, informing themselves as to her market, and time of sale. I supposed that some men, for reasons other than her beauty and her promise as a slave, might be interested in obtaining her, perhaps an enemy, perhaps one reduced or ruined by her in her time of power, perhaps one she had once slighted, and did not even recall. Perhaps some lowly clerk once in her employ, mistreated, despised, scorned, and overworked, had saved some money and thought it might be pleasant to have her, once so socially and economically superior to him, chained at the foot of his couch.
I heard the second and third soundings of the bar.
Outside, approaching, I saw the slaver’s man, he stripped to the waist.
The bar was struck again.
That sound would carry for better than two or three pasangs, and I could hear, in the distance, other bars, taking up the ringing.
“I do not even know where I am,” I said to the girl from Tabor.
“The Metellan district,” she said.
“I do not even know the city,” I said, in misery. Curiosity, I recalled, was not becoming in a kajira.
“Ar, of course,” said she from Tabor.
I had thought that. But why had I not been told that in the house? Was that not a simple enough thing to tell a girl?
Ar, I knew from my reading, was the largest city in the northern hemisphere of Gor. It was the center of many trade routes. I was to be sold in Ar! Given the size of the city, and its many markets, I supposed it constituted a major market. Certainly it would be a convenient, easy place in which to sell a slave.
“What is the Metellan district?” I asked.
“Look about you,” she said. “I am from Tabor.”
The bar rang again.
“It is a shabby district,” she said, “but there are many worse, worse, and more dangerous. It is not much patrolled. Many free women arrange their trysts and assignations to take place in this district. It is a popular venue for such ventures. Few questions are asked. Little, if any, attention is paid to strangers.”
She was surely much better informed than I.
Perhaps her former masters had been less strict with her.
The bar sounded twice more.
Several men, now some twenty or so, perhaps more, had gathered about the circular platform.
“We will soon be on the block,” said the girl from Tabor.
“That circle of cement,” I said, “that is the block?”
“Of course,” she said. “This is not a high market.”
“Are we worth so little?” I asked.
“Ask the masters,” she said.
The bar rang again.
The former Lady Persinna was weeping.
I saw a small, wiry fellow, with a straggly beard, in soiled blue and yellow robes, approaching. He wiped his mouth with a dirty sleeve. In his right hand he held an implement I recognized well. It was a switch.
“It is he who will auction us,” said the girl from Tabor.
That seemed likely to me.
Certainly he wore the colors of the Slavers.
The small fellow, at the foot of the platform, conferred briefly with the slaver’s man.
I did not know if the small fellow owned the market, or owned us, or both. For all I knew I was still owned by the house, and I was merely being vended through this outlet, and the small fellow might be merely a professional auctioneer, hired for each sale. I supposed, beside his fee, he might receive some sort of commission on the sales. That meant he would be likely to do his best to get a good price. It also suggested to me that he might, then, be quick with his switch.
“I will not go on that block,” said the Lady Persinna, resolutely, sobbing.
“You will,” the girl from Tabor assured her.
“No!” she said.
“Have you ever felt the slave whip?” asked the girl from Tabor.
The former Lady Persinna paled.
“If summoned, you will hasten to the block,” said the girl from Tabor. “And you will smile, pose, and perform.”
“As a slave?” she moaned.
“As any slave,” said the girl from Tabor.
“No, no,” whispered the former Lady Persinna.
I wondered what she would bring, standing on that scarlet rug, on the platform, being displayed.
I recalled that on Earth it had been speculated that I would sell for between forty and sixty. I had supposed, at the time, that meant between forty and sixty thousand dollars. Here I conjectured that I might sell for between forty and sixty pieces of gold, or, given this market, and that I was not much trained, and was a new slave, perhaps only between forty and sixty silver tarsks.
The bar rang again, I think the ninth ring.
Would she bring more than I? I did not think so. She was a mere barbarian, a scion of a primitive culture, and I was a civilized woman of Earth, of the upper classes, young, beautiful, educated, intelligent, sensitive, well-bred, refined, now somehow inexplicably entrapped in a barbarian world, a world where I was denied the protection of the law, a world where my Earth rights were not only ignored, but did not exist. On this world I was a property. Thus, here, the law, in all its power and rigor, in all its weight and majesty, would be used not for me but against me, for example, to hunt me down and return me to a master.
“I can hardly stand,” I said. “I can hardly move. I will be unable to perform, even should I try to do so.”
“This is a low market,” said the girl from Tabor. “They may ask little of us. We may only have to stand, and turn.”
“At least,” I said, “we have our tunics, the sheets.”
“Now,” she said.
“Now?” I said.
“Yes,” she said.
I recalled that the bar had again sounded.
“The bar rang,” I said. “It was the ninth ringing, the ninth stroke, was it not?”
“I think so,” she said.
“What if we are not sold?” I asked.
“The masters would be displeased,” she said. “It is common to whip a girl who is not sold.”
“I see,” I said, frightened.
“One then tries, the next time, desperately, to be sold.”
I was suddenly overcome with the sense of my helplessness. I was wholly at the mercy of others. Anything could be done with me! How was it that I, a woman of Earth, was here, in a cell, on another world, with a marked thigh, caged with slaves? And how could it be that I, of Earth, was here, on this other world, also a slave, as much as they?
“I do not want to be sold!” I said.
“Do you wish to be whipped?” she asked.
“No, no!” I said.
“Then you should want to be sold,” she said.
“I am afraid,” I said.
“That is not unusual,” she said. “One does not know who will buy one, before whom one must kneel.”
Once again the bar rang out.
I seemed to feel the ringing in my whole body.
I looked out, through the bars.
And I said to myself, be silent, slave. You know that it is here that you belong, here with a marked thigh, in a cell, waiting to be sold.
This is right for you.
No, no, I whispered to myself.
Yes, yes, I thought.
Are you a slave, I asked myself, sternly.
Yes, Mistress, I whispered to myself, I am a slave.
I then well knew myself, though of Earth, a slave, a common slave.
I looked to the girl from Tabor.
“Perhaps someone from Tabor will buy you, and free you,” I said.
“You know little of Gor,” she said.
“He would not free you?” I asked.
“My left thigh bears the slave mark,” she said.
“Even so,” I said.
“Apparently you know little of Gor,” she said.
“I do not understand,” I said.
“I was once a free woman,” she said. “Men much enjoy keeping former free women as helpless slaves.”
“But,” I protested.
“I am marked,” she said.
“So?” I said.
“My own family would not free me,” she said. “They would see that I was sold elsewhere, in my shame and degradation.”
I regarded her.
“I am marked,” she said. “Are you not marked?”
“Yes,” I said, “I am marked.”
“Then understand it,” she said. “You are no longer what you were.”
I suddenly became aware that the bar was no longer sounding.
The short fellow had ascended to the height of the cement platform.
“Noble Masters, noble Masters, noble Masters,” he called, “approach, approach, gather about!”
Some twenty, or so, fellows were already clustered about the platform. Some others, from across the street, now approached.
“We have here for your consideration, and delectation, this lovely afternoon, seven beauties!”
There was laughter.
“The finest beads drawn from the finest of the slavers’ necklaces, each worthy of the central block of the Curulean, each fit for the Pleasure Garden of a Ubar,” said the auctioneer.
There was more laughter.
“Pot girls!” jibed a fellow.
“Have you not, several of you, examined these beauties earlier in the morning, and pondered your bids?”
“Yes,” said a fellow, “a copper tarsk for the lot!”
“You may ask,” said the auctioneer, “how is it that such goods, goods of such quality, could be offered here?”
“No other market would have them!” called a fellow.
“It is true, noble Masters, that our modest market, as the slave shelves, is noted for its bargains,” said the auctioneer, “but that is your good fortune and our pleasure, to serve you better. Would you not prefer to pay less for more? Would you not be pleased to obtain an exquisite pleasure slave, trim, responsive, and vital, for the price of a pot girl, a kettle-and-mat girl? Those who know how to buy know where to buy, and here is where to buy!”
“Begin!” called a man.
“Slaves,” called the auctioneer, “come to the bars, smile, press against them, reach out to the noble masters. Good. Can you not see, noble Masters, how ready they are, how they hope to be well purchased?”
I, the girl from Tabor, and the kneeling blonde, shaking with sobs, the former Lady Persinna, of the Merchants, remained at the back of the cell.
I saw the slaver’s man looking at us, from the level of the street. I shuddered. The girl from Tabor saw him, too. She then hurried to the bars, to join the other slaves. I saw her straighten her body, and lift her chin. She was beautiful.
“You may plead, needful beauties, to be purchased,” the auctioneer informed the girls.
“Buy me, Master,” they called to the men.
I saw the dark blonde extending both her hands through the bars, and call out, piteously, to a handsome fellow in the front row, “Buy me, Master!” He smiled. “I am prettier, Master!” called out one of the brunettes. “No, I, I, buy me, Master!” called out the dark blonde. I supposed it was pleasant to be a man, to whom women would beg to belong. I wondered what it would be, to be owned by him. One of my cellmates, I supposed, might learn. Perhaps I would learn! Other girls at the bars seemed to present themselves to one fellow or another. Most, I assumed, would fail to be purchased by the particular master of their choice. They would be purchased by whoever bid the most for them.
It is so with slaves.
It would be so with me.
“Enough!” called the auctioneer, suddenly, sharply. “Be silent. Go back in the cell, away from the bars! Huddle there, together, in the back, away from the bars. As you can, crowd together, and try to hide! Crowd together! Do not speak!”
Frightened, the girls did as they were told. All of us now were together, standing, except for the former Lady Persinna, who still knelt, perhaps unable to rise, toward the back of the cell, away from the bars.
We could not be seen so well now, for the bars, and the distance.
I supposed there was an order to the sales.
The slaver’s man entered the cell, took one of the brunettes by the wrist, and drew her from the cell, through the short passage, and led her to the block, where she stood, small, seeming isolated, much alone, though the auctioneer was near, on the red carpet.
The slaver’s man, he stripped to the waist, did not bother to close the gate, but none of us essayed the portal. We huddled together, at the back of the cell. One obeys the masters. Too, it would be unutterably foolish, insanity, to try to flee. We were tunicked, sheeted, and marked. What would one do? Where would one go? Where would one run? There is no escape for the Gorean slave girl, and I now well knew myself such.
“A choice item,” the auctioneer was saying. He extolled her, the brunette, as he turned her about. Shortly, he removed the sheet which she had clutched about her, continuing to exhibit her. Shortly thereafter he gracefully removed the wrap-around tunic, again turning her about.
She is merchandise, I thought.
It is said that only a fool buys a woman clothed.
He then put her to all fours on the red carpet.
“See her, noble Masters,” said the auctioneer. “Would you not like her crawling to your feet, begging not to be whipped?”
He then began to solicit bids.
The dark blonde was next taken by the wrist and drawn to the block. The fellow she had tried to interest did not bid on her. A fat fellow purchased her. I saw her hold forth her wrists and slave bracelets were clapped on them. She then followed her new master. She looked over her shoulder at the fellow she had hoped would buy her, but he did not notice her. His attention was again on the block. I did not feel sorry for her, as she had been unpleasant to me earlier, in the cell.
The girl from Tabor was next brought to the block, and, as the others, exhibited. At one point, she put her hands behind the back of her head, and bent backward. This well exhibited her figure, which was lovely. Bids increased. She would be, doubtless, a good buy. How dare she so display herself, I thought. But, if she were not sold, I thought, she would be whipped. Slavers are seldom lenient with their goods. They are not out to coddle them, but to make coin on them. What if I were not sold? I did not wish to be bound, and whipped. To my right, the Lady Persinna, still kneeling, head down, was weeping, her head again in her hands. I, too, suddenly felt like crying. I looked about, wildly, at the open gate, then through the bars, to the street outside, to the men, intent upon the object for sale. I considered running. Then I moved back, even further. I felt the cement wall of the back of the cage against my back. I would remain where I was. Somehow, the gate open, I felt a thousand times more helpless than before.
I did not see to whom the girl from Tabor went.
The auctioneer, in his introduction of the item which was the girl from Tabor, had mentioned her origin on Tabor, and inquired if there might be any from Tabor present. Apparently there were none. The auctioneer then remarked that her slavery then would doubtless be far easier. Laughter had greeted this remark. I liked the girl from Tabor. She had spoken well to me, earlier in the cell, despite the fact that I was a “barbarian,” and, too, we were both, so to speak, far from home.
The slaver’s man again entered the cell, and looked about. I was terrified that it would be my wrist which he would seize, in his large, manacle-like hand. But he took another brunette.
She brought less than the girl from Tabor.
Perhaps, I thought, a girl from the islands, with her accent, would have an exotic flavor at a fellow’s slave ring.
The brunette was purchased, I gathered, for a restaurant, or tavern, of some sort. “May she serve her goblets well, and nicely grace the chains of your alcoves,” had said the auctioneer to her buyer, while his man led her down the steps to the street, into his keeping.
Next, to her misery, the Lady Persinna was seized and drawn to the block. She was clutching the short sheet closely about her, and was shrieking, and sobbing. “I cannot be sold!” she cried. “I am a free woman, a free woman!”
“What is it that she is saying?” asked the auctioneer.
“I am free,” she wept. “I am free!”
“Ah!” said the auctioneer. “Can it be that she is free?”
“Yes,” she cried. “Yes!”
The slaver’s man then, holding her by the upper left arm with his right hand faced her left side to the crowd.
“No!” she cried.
He then, with his left hand, drew up the sheet, and the hem of her tunic, to the waist.
There was much laughter.
“It seems we have here only another slave,” said the auctioneer.
The former Lady Persinna fell to her knees before the auctioneer, holding the sheet closely about her. “Do not sell me!” she cried.
“‘Do not sell me’ what?” inquired the auctioneer.
She looked stricken, before him. “Do not sell me-Master,” she said.
There was much laughter.
The slaver’s man pulled her to her feet. She clutched the sheet closely about her. It seemed she could hardly stand.
The auctioneer surveyed the crowd.
“What am I offered for this slave?” he asked.
“A tarsk-bit!” called a man.
“Surely more!” laughed the auctioneer. “Surely the sheet does not much hide the legs of this slave!”
She threw back her head, sobbing.
The auctioneer then gestured, annoyed, to his man, who seized the former Lady Persinna by the hair, to hold her in place, and then he, carefully, measuredly, cuffed her, twice, once snapping her head to the right, and then to the left.
“Be silent!” said the auctioneer.
“Yes, Master!” she said.
The slaver’s man then released her, and stepped back.
“We have an unusual slave here,” said the auctioneer. “This slut was once the Lady Persinna, of the high Merchants, housed even in Four Towers. You know her well for her betrayal of the Home Stone, for her profiteering, for her collaboration with the hated invaders. Recall the shortages, the high costs, the adulterated goods!”
Angry murmurs seethed in the small crowd.
Given the seeming importance of the former Lady Persinna I did not understand how it was that she was being vended in such a market.
Was it, in spite of its appearance, a high market?
Perhaps, I thought, for how could one such as I be sold in any but a high market? Surely I was much too beautiful to be sold in any but a high market. I was now muchly pleased that I had not complained about the market, earlier.
“Behold her,” said the auctioneer.
The former Lady Persinna stood, miserable, small, a slave, the sheet clutched about her.
Then, a moment later, looking about myself, at the buyers, the street, the local buildings, the crowded shops across the way, I realized how foolish were my conjectures. In no way could this barred cell and that circular cement platform be thought a high market. We might almost as well have been chained on a slave shelf, where buyers might have examined our teeth, felt our limbs for firmness, and such.
How then, I wondered, could it be that the former Lady Persinna was even now on that simple cement platform, before buyers?
“You know her sycophancy,” said the auctioneer, “her privileges, her position in the court of the hated Talena, false Ubara! You know the favors she received, the contracts accorded her by Cos and Tyros.”
“Yes,” said more than one man.
“She was on the proscription lists,” said the auctioneer, “but she has been saved for your pleasure.”
The girl held the sheet tightly about her.
The auctioneer lifted the hair of the slave, displaying it.
“Golden hair,” he said, “sparkling as ripe Sa-Tarna.”
“Shave her head!” called a man.
“Consider it as a sheet of pleasure, which might be spread about your body,” said the auctioneer, “or its value as a bond, fastening her wrists behind the back of her neck.”
“Cut it off,” said a fellow. “Use it for catapult cordage, that she may be good for something.”
“Throw her to leech plants!” called a man.
“Feed her to sleen!” cried another.
I knew nothing, at the time, of leech plants, and I had not yet beheld a sleen.
“Come now, noble Masters,” said the auctioneer, “regard her ankles, her calves, her small hands, so tight on the sheet, the exquisite delicacy of her features.”
The men were silent.
“What are we offered for this traitress?” called the auctioneer.
“Let us see her!” called a man.
The sheet was whipped away from the slave, half turning her about.
Then she was turned before the crowd.
She was praised, as one might praise an animal. Then I realized that, as a slave, she was an animal. And I realized that I, too, was now an animal.
This thrilled me, that I should now be no more than an animal.
The men cried out with pleasure, at the removal of the wrap-around tunic. Now, it seemed, there was no more talk of leech plants, of sleen, or such. What they saw now, it seemed, was a slave.
The former Lady Persinna was put to all fours on the red carpet, while the bids were forthcoming.
A little later, she cried out, in misery, and terror, from all fours, not permitted to rise. “No, no! Not to him! Not to him! Do not sell me to him! Please! Please! Sell me to anyone, but not to him!”
But it was to that fellow that she was sold.
He came to the edge of the platform. “Perhaps you remember me,” he said.
She would have scrambled back, on the carpet, but it was too late. The leash had been snapped on her neck.
I saw her being led away.
I now suspected that the fellow who had bought her, despite the shabbiness of his nondescript robes, had come prepared, in such a market, in such a district, to outbid all likely competition. Apparently he had realized she would be sold in this market on this day. I supposed that was not common knowledge. It seemed probable to me that this matter had been arranged, perhaps even with the collusion of a praetor, if not the Ubar himself. Perhaps the fellow had requested, or been granted, such a favor, that he would purchase the former Lady Persinna, to her humiliation, in a low market, for a handful of coins. Indeed, I wondered if the coins, even, were his. Perhaps it amused someone, perhaps an important personage, if the former Lady Persinna should find herself in the collar of that fellow, or someone like him.
Thus, I conjectured a plausible explanation for the apparent anomaly of one such as the former Lady Persinna, of the Merchants, of Four Towers, which, I gathered, must be an exclusive residence, or an exclusive residential area, being vended in such a market. It was to demean and humiliate her. Let her learn quickly, and well, that she was now only a slave.
As the slaves had been sold, even the former Lady Persinna, much in the street had gone on as it had before the Tenth Ahn. Many men, and women, had come and gone, and shopped, and bargained, without attending to, or, apparently, even noticing, what was going on on our side of the street. A sale of slaves, particularly in a low market, was a familiar, commonplace thing, I gathered, worthy of no particular attention. A lad, drawing a cart, had stopped for a time, to look on, but had then gone ahead.
Suddenly I was much aware that only two remained in the cell, myself and another brunette, a darker, taller brunette. I felt the back of the cell wall against my back. I looked to my left, to the opened gate.
The portal was empty.
The slaver’s man was at the foot of the circular platform. The auctioneer stood on the surface of the platform. A small breeze moved the blue-and-yellow robes. The auctioneer and the slaver’s man, and some of the others, as well, now turned about, were witnessing the departure of the former Lady Persinna, naked on her leash, and her master. Three or four of the fellows who had been at the platform were following the pair, jeering at the miserable slave. I saw her spat upon, and one fellow cast dirt upon her. The only bond she wore was her leash, and, with her hands, and arms, she tried to cover her head. The leash was not taut. She tried to follow her master as closely as she could. It is the master who will protect the slave, as any other animal, should he choose to do so. Her current master, however, seemed not to notice the abuse to which his lovely acquisition was subjected, and she, of course, not having been granted the appropriate permission, would not dare to speak.
Then, after a time, the fellows who had hung about the departing pair stood still, shook their fists, and, looking after the couple, the slave and her master, called out some final words, which, I gathered, may have been foul.
I knew little about the former Lady Persinna, or the affairs, political and otherwise, which had brought her to a tiny, readying cell in the Metellan district, but I hoped that her master would put a different name on her. Given the veiling, and half-veiling, particularly amongst higher-caste women, I would suppose that few in the city would recognize the former Lady Persinna in just another scantily clad collar-girl, one amongst many, hurrying about her errands, fearing to dally, in teeming Ar. Perhaps many might suppose the Lady Persinna had perished in the revolution, or in her imprisonment, in some obscure dungeon, perhaps strangled there, or had perhaps eventually met her end writhing on some obscure impaling stake. Perhaps her secret, that of her former identity, would be known to few. Indeed, perhaps, eventually, for most practical purposes, it would be a secret shared primarily between the slave and her master. Then, as she knelt, and kissed and licked at his feet, she might hope that he would not see fit to reveal her former identity. Could she be so pleasing to him? Too, her life had been transformed. She was now only the slave of a master. Perhaps she might find in this those fulfillments of which a free woman scarcely dares to dream. In the collar she might find her happiness, and a thousand times more freedom, though an abject slave, than she had ever known in her former life. She did have “golden hair,” which was rare, but surely not unknown. That would probably not be enough to identify her to strangers. “Golden hair” tends to raise prices in the south, but not in the north, where it is more common. “Golden hair,” I suspected, had brought more than one girl into the collar, at least in the south. Interestingly, auburn hair is that pelting, so to speak, which tends to be most favored in the markets. I am not sure why that is. It is probably a matter of its rarity, as it tends to be even more rare than “golden hair.” One thing that I learned of your world, which struck me as of much interest, is your preference for honesty, or truth, or your dislike of fraud, or what you think of as fraud. On my former world, for example, it is quite common for a brunette to dye her hair blond, and, so to speak, pass herself off as a blonde. No one thinks much of this, or much objects to this. On your world, on the other hand, at least amongst slaves, such things are taken seriously. If a barbarian slave is brought to the markets and she has dyed hair, this is made clear to possible buyers, and is commonly taken as a defect. Sometimes her head is shaved. If it is thought the girl did this of her own will on her own world, dyed her hair or had it dyed, it is taken as evidence of her deceitful and meretricious nature, and, accordingly, the rightfulness of embonding so duplicitous and worthless a creature. Masters, incidentally, take seriously the moral character of their slaves, and commonly regard themselves responsible for its supervision and improvement, by the whip, if necessary. Interestingly, to me at least, a slaver who misrepresents merchandise, for example, claiming former high caste for a girl who was actually formerly of low caste, or who tries to pass off a dyed blonde for a natural blonde, may be banished and ruined, his goods confiscated, his house burned to the ground. On your world, honesty, truth, and such, are obviously of great moment. Still, I have heard rumors that some free women dye their hair. They may do as they wish, of course, for they are free.
The fellows who had for a time pursued the former Lady Persinna, and discomfited her so cruelly, she now only a slave, were now returning to the area of the block. Too, the fellows there, who had watched, but had not left the vicinity of the block, now turned about again, and began to gather again, now more closely, about the block. Some looked through the bars. We, the other brunette and I, were at the back of the cell, standing, close together. We could be seen, but perhaps not well. Though muchly clothed, as such things go, for slaves, in the wrap-around tunic, and covered as much as possible by the sheet, I was uneasy at how I sensed myself being regarded. In the house I had often found myself well viewed as a slave by men, but here, in the cell, it seemed different, and somehow more meaningful. One of the men outside, looking through the bars, considering my ankles, and such, might buy me. And what would be done with me if I failed to please him, and fully, and as a slave? The slaver’s man was on the street level, and the auctioneer, on the surface of the block, looking down, conferred with him.
We, the other brunette, the darker, taller brunette, and I, exchanged glances, but did not speak. At the beginning of the sales, the slaves had been warned to silence. That injunction had not been rescinded. We remained silent.
Was she as frightened as I? Did she, as I, desire desperately to speak, so that we might comfort one another, that we might share our apprehension, our fear? But we, slaves, must be silent.
I smiled at her, timidly, bravely, wanting to be her friend, if only for a moment, hoping for some understanding, some small comfort, in our common plight.
But then she looked away, regally, disdainfully.
Tears formed in my eyes.
I recalled that I was, in her view, a barbarian.
How different was I from she!
Even though we were both slaves, worlds separated us.
When I better learned your language, I was surprised to learn that you tend to regard the women of my world as natural slaves, and thus legitimate and appropriate prey for slavers. There are apparently a large number of reasons for this, aside from such obvious matters as the frequent dying of hair. The fact that women of my world seldom veil themselves, but bare their faces, that often their ankles, their wrists and hands, and such, are bared, that they often conceal soft garments, slave garments, beneath their clothing, is taken as evidence that they are, and should be, slaves. Indeed, some women of my own world have, of their own free will, with their own consent, though you may find this hard to believe, pierced ears, which, on your world, is commonly taken as a sign of the most worthless and degraded of slaves. Without daring to comment on these matters, I have heard, from men, of course, that all women are natural slaves, and should be slaves, that they are the natural properties of the dominant sex, that they are designed by nature to be owned, and pleasing, that they are all slaves, only that some are not yet collared. I dare not comment on so bold, but so common, a view. If there is anything in it, and if it should be true, even obviously so, to an informed view, it may be only that the women of my world, in baring their faces, and such, in presenting themselves as attractive objects, thus encouraging men to their acquisition, are more open about their nature than yours, and, if this is so, would the women of my world not be, on the whole, more honest than yours? I trust my master will not beat me for this speculation. I do not think, ultimately, that there is that much difference, if any, between the free woman of Earth and the free woman of Gor. We are all women, and, being women, might we not be, all of us, appropriately, the slaves of men, the slaves of our masters?
The auctioneer stood up, and the slaver’s man ascended the steps of the block, and disappeared into the short passage to the left.
In a moment he entered the cell.
The other brunette and I both shrank back, but he seized her left wrist, and I saw her drawn from the cell. In a moment she appeared on the block before the small crowd, and the auctioneer began her sale.
I was then alone in the cell. I clutched the sheet about me, tightly. My heart was beating wildly.
I closed my eyes that I should not see what was occurring outside, beyond the bars, to the left.
I could, of course, hear the auctioneer.
A murmur of approval coursed through the small crowd.
Then, unable to help myself, I opened my eyes. The slave’s sheet had been removed.
The highest price, so far, had been brought by the former Lady Persinna, who had gone for three and a half silver tarsks, three silver tarsks and fifty copper tarsks. Most of the other girls had sold for one to two silver tarsks.
Whereas I had recognized that my cellmates were all beautiful, as was common with Gorean female slaves, I had not regarded myself as inferior to any of them. Indeed, I supposed myself the most beautiful. And had I not been saved for last? Is the very best not saved for last? I was pleased that the masters apparently shared my judgment, as to the quality of my beauty. But, then, was the matter not obvious?
I closed my eyes briefly, and then looked quickly away, to the right, through the bars, that I not see the now-bared slave on the block.
I did hope that I would not be so exposed to the men. I was different. I was from Earth! But then I recalled the saying, that only a fool buys a woman clothed.
How was it that one of my beauty was in this market, such a market?
I wondered how it was that a price, an actual, finite price, could be set on beauty such as mine.
Surely it was priceless!
Then I recalled that only the beauty of a free woman was priceless. But it was priceless only as long as she was free. Once it was embonded, it would have a price, whatever men would pay for it.
I did recall that it had been estimated, on Earth, that I would go from between forty and sixty. Here, of course, I realized they did not deal in dollars, forty to sixty thousand dollars. Here, presumably, one would go for silver or gold. I accordingly had conjectured that I might go from between forty to sixty gold pieces, or, possibly, given my level of training, and such, from between forty and sixty silver tarsks. I was, after all, in their view, a barbarian. Too, although I had begun to sense, to my apprehension and excitement, what might be the whimperings and moanings of an aroused belly, natural to a slave, it seemed reasonably clear to me that I was not yet the helpless victim of what the instructresses had referred to as “slave fires.” As a woman of Earth I did not believe that such things could exist. Surely I, of Earth, could never be so victimized. Too, I was sure, even if such things could exist, in some women, I could resist them. I did not realize, at the time, that men might not permit it. I did not realize at the time what they could do to my body, how they could force it to be, as it might please them, irremediably that of a begging, needful slave. And I did not realize at the time that already such things, such fires, slave fires, had been kindled, subtly, in my belly, but, merely, had not yet leaped into flame.
I became aware, suddenly, that the auctioneer was no longer taking bids. I returned my attention to the block. A fellow below the block extended his hand, and assisted the slave down the steps. I was struck with the courtesy, the solicitude, the apparent gentlemanliness, of this gesture. It might have been done so, I thought, by a fellow of Earth. Perhaps I would be so fortunate as to have such a master, though I did not think I wanted such a one. A slave wants to know that she is a slave, that she belongs to a man, categorically, absolutely, wholly. I wondered if he was weak. At the foot of the block, the brunette was facing him, looking up at him. Though taller than I, she seemed quite small before him, he in his swathing of robes. The fingers of her left hand still rested in his right hand. Was that not almost tender? She smiled up at him. I saw that she, as I, suspected that that he might be weak. I sensed that she was confident that her bondage, if she were clever, pouted rightly, and such, would prove to be a lax and light one. She had been unpleasant to me, earlier in the cell, and just before her sale. I hated her. He then put his hands on her shoulders, turned her about, rudely, drew her wrists behind her, and braceleted her. She pulled against the bracelets, startled. Our eyes met, she on the street, I back in the cell, behind the bars. You have a master, slave, I thought. Learn it! You will be well collared, and will know yourself well collared, and you understand, do you not, that I know that you will be well-collared, and know, too, that you will know yourself well-collared, and that that pleases me, much pleases me. Indeed, I was much pleased. She straightened her body, and shrugged her shoulders, and, for a moment, glared at me, wildly, angrily, helplessly, but a word must have been spoken, perhaps sharply, for she swiftly turned about and knelt before her master, her wrists braceleted high behind her, and pressed her lips to his sandals. He then turned about, and strode away, and she rose to her feet, and, casting one look back at me, the look of a now-aware, frightened slave, who might now, I thought, welcome some small token of understanding or sympathy, hurried after him. No longer did I hate her. She was now only another braceleted slave. She increased her pace, to close the gap between herself and her master, that she might follow in prescribed heeling position. Failure to do so may, of course, result in punishment.
I trusted that the sales were over.
There was, at least, a lacuna in the proceedings.
Might I not now be returned to the house?
I had not been offered, so I should not be beaten, having not been sold.
Some men, I was pleased to note, had now turned away, and were leaving the vicinity of the block. Two others, however, I noted, were crossing the street, approaching.
Then the slaver’s man had entered the cell, and, taking me by the left wrist, drew me after him, and I was beyond the portal, and in the short passage, and then I was in the sunlight, outside, and I felt the nap of the worn, faded, scarlet rug beneath my bare feet. I blinked against the light, and put down my head. Then I felt the switch of the auctioneer beneath my chin, and I lifted my head, and opened my eyes, looking over the heads of the men.
Much of what then went on remains a blur. At times I did not even understand the auctioneer. This was doubtless in part a function of my Gorean, which was new, and limited, with its unfamiliar grammar, and my vocabulary consisting at that time of only a few hundred words, but, too, I think, part of it was an unwillingness, or refusal, to understand what was being said, or done. My native tongue is called “English,” and I am not sure that I would have allowed myself to understand the auctioneer even had he been speaking in that tongue. I had, incidentally, interestingly, understood him quite well, almost always, when he was vending others. To be sure, even if I had known not a word of Gorean, but had found myself somehow on that platform, so clad, so regarded, perhaps having been magically transported from my own world, wafted away, somehow, from chatting, strolling, or shopping, it would not have been difficult to understand what was occurring. I was a female being sold.
The auctioneer was not cruel with me.
The sale proceeds in three phases, in each of which the girl is turned, and exhibited, first in the brief sheet, then, the sheet removed, in the tunic, and, lastly, neither in the sheet nor tunic. The whole process takes no more than a few Ehn. I understood matters in disjointed patches of intelligibility. I did learn, for the first time, that I had been brought from the House of Tenalion, apparently a slaver of Ar. I was clearly identified as a barbarian, which I sensed was of some interest to the men. To be sure, I have gathered that we are no longer the novelties in the markets that we once were. Strictly, a “barbarian,” I have been given to understand, is one whose native tongue is not Gorean, a language spoken pervasively but not universally on your world. The pervasiveness of Gorean on your world, as I understand it, has something to do with your gods, the Priest-Kings, laired in the Sardar Mountains. These beings, it seems, encourage Gorean, perhaps that they might the more conveniently make known their will on this world. The caste of Initiates, it is said, act as the intermediaries between Priest-Kings and men, appointing festivals, prophesying, uttering oracles, accepting offerings, selling blessings, performing sacrifices, and such. Much remains unclear, however, as I understand it, concerning the actual relationship, if any, between the Initiates and the Priest-Kings. It is clear, however, that the Priest-Kings are not to be taken lightly. Violations of their weapon, transportation, and communication laws are often, when discovered, followed by sanctions of fearsome import, the destructions of cities, the seizures and flingings of tides, the melting of mountains, the geysers and floodings of fiery magma, inexplicable bursts of flame, and such. The standardization of Gorean is accomplished largely in virtue of the meetings of Scribes four times a year on the neutral ground of the great seasonal fairs held in the vicinity of the Sardar itself. This tends to standardize lexicons and prevent phonetic drift. On the other hand, it is also clear that the connotations of the term ‘barbarian’, if not its literal meaning, extend well beyond the matter of what might be one’s native language. As I have learned, “barbarians” are commonly taken to be simple, stupid, ignorant, uncouth, crude, unrefined, untutored, uncivilized, and, in general, worthless, and far inferior to native Goreans. But even your physicians, your men of medicine and health, the members of your green caste, will assure you that we are much the same as you. Had I been born on Gor and you on Earth, would I not, then, be the Gorean and you the barbarian? It is not our fault if we do not know what you know, your caste customs, your legends, your political arrangements, the histories of your cities, your holidays, your famous generals, musicians, poets, and such. How could we? We may be ignorant, but we are not stupid. To you we may seem lacking, to be simple, primitive, and barbarous, and, doubtless, in a way, we are, but these differences, I assure you, have to do with our history and background, not with what we are in ourselves, apart from such things. If we are so obviously inferior to you, it is a cultural inferiority, and only that. Certainly we have certain qualities which you recognize, which have value. You buy us, do you not? Perhaps in some respects we are objectionable. Yet I do not think you mind us in the furs, in our collars. It is generally understood we beg, squirm, and moan well. If you despise us for this I would suggest you put your precious, priceless, exalted, lofty free women at a slave ring and see if they are any different! Please, Master, do not beat me for this observation.
The sheet was pulled from me.
I was turned about.
“Behold this barbarian vulo,” said the auctioneer. “Surely she is of some interest. Might she not be useful as a third or fourth slave in your house, to relieve higher, better slaves of disagreeable tasks? Perhaps she might do as a starter slave, for a son, or a gift for a son or nephew, returning from his studies in Harfax, Venna, Besnit, or Brundisium.”
It was called to the attention of the men that I was new to bondage and only partly trained, but these defects were somehow transformed into advantages, that a master might then have the exquisite pleasure of teaching a new girl what it was to be in a collar, that one might then train me more specifically to his own tastes, and such.
“Speculate,” said the auctioneer. “Would she not look well in a camisk, or less?”
I recalled I had been put in a camisk by Mrs. Rawlinson at the party on Earth, when I had been forced, as a part of my punishment, for having dared to read of your world, to serve the guests half-naked, as though I might be a slave.
“Less!” called a man. “Let us see!”
“Part your tunic, my dear,” said the auctioneer.
“Please, no, Master,” I said.
Laughter greeted my request.
“Gracefully,” said the auctioneer.
I looked over the heads of the men, to the shops across the street. I dared not meet the eyes of any of the men. Tears sprang to my eyes.
“Posture,” said the auctioneer.
I straightened my body.
I felt tears running down my cheeks.
“Perhaps you suspect,” said the auctioneer, “that this is her first sale.”
There was laughter.
I supposed it was obvious.
“Turn about,” said the auctioneer. “Now face the masters.”
“A bit slender perhaps,” said the auctioneer, “but not, I think, disagreeably so.”
Surely I had had one of the best figures in the sorority!
“Let us see all of her,” said a fellow.
He did not seem excited. The request seemed very matter-of-fact. Were they unaware of my feelings? Did they not realize what was occurring? I was a female! I was a slave! I was being sold!
“The tunic, my dear,” said the auctioneer.
“Master!” I begged!
“Gracefully,” he said.
The tunic was handed to the slaver’s man, who stood to the left, behind, on the platform.
“Consider her,” said the auctioneer. “Barbarian. Slim, lovely. Darkly pelted, glossy hair. Partly trained, recently red-silked.”
I dared not look into the eyes of any of the men.
“Turn about, slowly,” said the auctioneer.
“Surely worth something,” said the auctioneer. “She is a barbarian, a mere barbarian. She has been harvested from the slave world for one purpose, and one purpose only, to serve your pleasure, wholly, in all ways. It is all she is for. She has no Home Stone. She has never had a Home Stone. Do what you will with her, without a second thought, use her variously, however you might wish. Keep her nude for a year, if you wish. Conceive of her, neck-chained, ankle-chained, at your slave ring. Consider her soft lips, and tongue, obedient and moist, on your feet, on your body. Is she not of interest? Consider her crawling to you, begging not to be whipped.”
I cried out, softly, in misery.
“Forgive me, Master,” I said.
“I am now prepared to accept bids,” said the auctioneer.
None had been forthcoming yet.
I saw two or three of the men turn about, and leave, chatting.
“Begin, begin, begin,” said the auctioneer. “Twenty, twenty, twenty.”
I stood there, weak, almost faltering.
The auctioneer occasionally held my upper left arm, steadying me. I might otherwise have fallen.
I knew myself a slave, but, still, the enormity of what was being done to me seemed almost incomprehensible. Where was Earth, my familiar surroundings, the college, the classes, my fellow students, the sorority?
I stood there, under the eyes of buyers.
I wondered if some of the young men I had known might have wondered how I, so aloof, so superior, so unapproachable, might have appeared on an auction block, reduced, rightless, stripped, a slave displayed for the perusal of buyers. I was not so lofty, so proud, now. They might have been amused to see me so, frightened, being vended. I wondered if some might have bid upon me. What if one had purchased me? I would then have been his, helplessly.
“Twenty-five, twenty-five, thirty,” was saying the auctioneer.
I feared I might fall.
The auctioneer’s hand steadied me.
“Thirty, thirty-five,” he was saying.
I heard coins, being rattled against one another, in the palm of someone’s hand.
So I stood there, naked, on the platform, only half understanding what was being done.
Was this being done to someone else?
Then I realized that it was I, I, who was being sold!
I recalled Mrs. Rawlinson.
How, in her mind’s eye, she must have smiled, considering the fate she was arranging for her lovely, vain, shallow, spoiled charges, the markets of Gor!
In the beginning, we had looked down on her, she merely a house mother, an employee, a servant of sorts, far beneath us, a woman hired to manage the house, to regulate mundane and domestic matters, to look after, even regulate and supervise, to some extent, a number of aristocratic, supercilious, patronizing young women, her social betters. But soon, whether because of the force of her personality, or the uncompromising, confident sternness of her demeanor, we began to fear the influence she might bring to bear, the power she might exercise. We had soon begun to treat her with respect, even awe. We followed her instructions, and did as we might be told. Even Nora feared her. The board, it seemed clear, for we, in our resentment and annoyance, had sought this information, was behind her. It became clear to us that however she had been emplaced, and however she had been empowered, that the house, and its occupants, were hers to rule. In that tiny world her word would be law. The board would accommodate itself to her recommendations, whatever they might be. A word from her, a charge from her, would initiate a sequence of actions which might culminate in one’s expulsion from the house, with the shame and ruin which might be consequent on such a disgrace. She might disrupt our plans; she might jeopardize our very future. Imagine then my terror, and that of Jane and Eve, when forbidden literature, secret, suspect literature, literature inappropriate for such as we, improper, scandalous literature, was discovered in our rooms! We were then at her mercy!
I wondered if she thought of us, I and the others, from time to time, now on Gor, owned, doubtless all of us, now the property of masters.
She had done her work well.
Perhaps she was now similarly employed, elsewhere.
That seemed not impossible.
The slave nets are carefully woven, with stout inescapable cordage, and they are cast with skill.
One does not escape their coils.
And so, as I stood naked on a block in the Metellan district, in Ar, the worn carpet beneath my feet, the afternoon sun on my body, warm, shadows across the street, the men about, some people passing by, not noticing me, exposed to buyers, being sold, I thought of Mrs. Rawlinson.
Yes, I thought, Mrs. Rawlinson, you are Mistress. You are a free woman, and here, on this world, as I had not on Earth, I have begun to sense what that might be, its unchallenged force, and pride, and power, and here I am a slave, only that, and here, naked on an auction block, being sold, I have begun to sense what that might be.
“Forty, forty,” said the auctioneer. “Forty-two, no more? No more? No more? Done!”
I realized I had been sold.
At least, I thought, I have gone for forty-two. I dared not suppose it would have been forty-two pieces of gold, for I was new to my condition, had not been extensively trained, and had only recently been opened, in what I now had come to understand was the house of Tenalion, in Ar.
I did not fear pregnancy, for early in my sojourn in the house I had been given Slave Wine. Understanding its nature, I had imbibed it willingly enough, as disgusting and foul a brew as it was. Its effects are removed, I am told, if one is given a Releaser, which, I am told, is palatable, even delicious. As a slave, an animal, I knew I could be bred, as any other animal. It is done with us as masters please. But I was not now apprehensive. I had not been administered a Releaser. The breeding of slaves, as you know, as other animals, is carefully controlled. I would be bred only if the masters so pleased.
I took forty-two silver tarsks to be a considerable amount of coin, particularly for a new slave.
My estimation of my extraordinary beauty, I was pleased to note, was now well confirmed, confirmed objectively, in virtue of a block price, in virtue of a sober economic transaction. The matter was now beyond argument. The former Lady Persinna, as I recalled, whom I had thought very beautiful, had gone for only three and a half silver tarsks.
I recalled that it had been estimated, even on Earth, that I would go from between forty and sixty, an amount which I had then mistakenly interpreted as dollars, thousands of dollars, a form of Earth currency.
I heard coins being counted out, one upon the other.
I could not resist looking. Might it not, though improbable perhaps, be gold?
“Master!” I protested. Then I was frightened, for I had spoken without permission. “Forgive me, Master!” I said.
The coins being counted into the palms of the auctioneer were neither of gold nor silver. They were copper.
“Forty-two,” said a fellow, thick-bodied, short-bearded, in a brown robe, girded up to his knees. His arms were bare. His left arm was scarred.
“Forty-two copper tarsks,” confirmed the auctioneer.
I could not believe that I had brought so little.
“A splendid buy,” the auctioneer assured the buyer. “Fortune has smiled upon your bidding.”
“An untutored barbarian,” said the fellow.
“We had hoped to get fifty for her,” said the auctioneer.
“She is not worth so much,” said the fellow.
“I trust she will prove satisfactory,” said the auctioneer. “If not, we will buy her back.”
“For how much?” asked the fellow, warily.
“Twenty,” speculated the auctioneer.
“How much Gorean does she have?” asked the man.
“Enough,” said the auctioneer. To be sure, I do not know how he knew that. And I surely hoped it would be enough. It is hard to be pleasing, if one cannot understand what is expected of one.
“She will prove satisfactory,” said the fellow. “The whip will see to it.”
The slaver’s man, from behind, took me by the arms, lifted me up, my feet some inches above the surface of the platform, and descended the steps of the platform, to the street, and placed me before the bearded fellow in the short, girded-up robe.
He was looking at me.
I did not know what to do.
“She is stupid,” said the bearded fellow to the auctioneer.
I quickly knelt down before the man and, the palms of my hands down on the street, pressed my lips to his sandals, kissing them.
“On all fours,” he said.
I had not yet dared to look into the eyes of my master.
As I was on all fours, before him, he removed something from within his robes, and bent down.
There was a click, and a collar had been fastened about my neck. I was now collared. The collar proclaimed me slave, even should I be clothed, and, doubtless, it bore certain information, perhaps something as simple, as “I am the slave of so-and-so,” “I belong to so-and-so,” or such. If it contained a name, that would doubtless be the name I would be given.
“What is your name?” he asked.
“Whatever Master pleases,” I said.
“You see,” said the slaver’s man, “she is not stupid.”
“What are you called?” asked the fellow.
“I have been called ‘Allison’,” I said.
“A barbarian name,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“You are Allison,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I said. “Thank you, Master.”
“Look up,” he said.
I did so.
It can be frightening to look up, into the eyes of someone who owns you.
“Are you any good in the furs?” he asked.
“I fear not, Master,” I said. That seemed the safest response I could manage.
“The whip can change that,” he said.
“I will try to be pleasing to my Master,” I said.
“You looked well at my feet,” he said. “I think you will be responsive.”
I shuddered. I feared I might be responsive, and as a slave.
He then turned about, and strode away.
I was not braceleted, or leashed. I hurried after him, heeling him. With two hands I felt the collar on my neck. It was the first standard Gorean slave collar I had worn. It was a flat band which closely encircled my throat. Such collars are common in the north. It was sturdy, but light, and not uncomfortable. Soon I would forget I wore such a device, but it was there. It was, of course, locked. I had determined that, almost immediately.
Hurrying behind my master, I did not feel as self-conscious as I might have otherwise. It is hard to go naked in the streets, alone, on errands, and such. Too, there is always the danger that one might encounter a free woman.
I was a little curious as to why I had not been bound, in one way or another, perhaps put on a wrist leash, or something. Did he have such confidence in me, that I would not try to run away? To be sure, I would have been afraid to run away. The instructresses had well impressed on me, in the house, that there was no escape for the Gorean slave girl, barbarian or not. There was nowhere to turn, nowhere to run. In my case, it would not be merely the brand, the garmenture, the collar, the closely knit society, and such, but the very Gorean I had been taught was quite possibly a slave Gorean, subtly different in certain ways from the Gorean spoken by the free. In this respect a Gorean woman enslaved had an advantage over me. But, just as there were barbarian accents, aside from deliberately inserted, betraying subtleties, even the enslaved Gorean girls would usually have an accent different from that of their masters. I recalled that the girl from Tabor, the island, had had a different accent. And I had heard that the island accents of, say, Tyros and Cos, were clearly different from those of, say, Ar or Venna. Turia in the south was different, as well, and surely, so, too, would be those of Torvaldsland, in the north. Still, as I hurried behind my master, I continued to ponder why no bond had been put on me. And then I realized that I did wear a bond, two bonds, the most inescapable bonds of all, a mark fixed in my thigh, and a collar, locked about my neck.
My first master was Menon, of the Peasants. He did not have a holding, nor did he till the fields. If he had, he would have looked for a larger, sturdier girl than I, one who in harness, alone or with another, might drag a hoeing plow. Menon maintained a public eating house near the sun gate, so spoken of because it is opened at dawn and closed at dusk. Several girls worked in the large kitchen, behind the eating hall, amongst whom I was placed. Our Ahn were long, and we were chained at night. I was the only barbarian in the kitchen, and I was much abused. While the kitchen master occasionally put me to his use, I think he preferred others. When I tried to call myself to his attention, placing myself before him, making inquiries, simply to be near him, and such, this was noticed by the other girls, and I paid for my forwardness when we were alone. My hair was jerked and twisted, short of being torn from my head, which would have been a punishable offense, and my body was much bruised, by small, angry fists, and, often enough, from the blows of ladles and stirring spoons. When I put myself to my belly before the kitchen master, pressing my lips to his feet, and complaining, or simply begging to be protected, I would receive little comfort. I was not Gorean. “Masters,” he would say, smiling, “do not much mix in the squabbles of slaves.” Had there been a “first girl,” I might have assisted her in her tasks, done much of her work, flattered her, cultivated her, petitioned her, and so on, but there was no first girl. The nearest thing to a first girl was Marcella, who did not care for me, and was the favorite of the kitchen master. It was not much comfort to me that she might regard me as a rival; rather, it was a source of considerable apprehension.
As you might suppose, girls are eager to escape the labors of the great kitchen, and make the most of their turns at serving the long tables, hoping to come to the attention of one or another of the guests. I, like the others, in such welcome opportunities to enter the eating hall, rare in my case, would hitch up my tunic, and be somewhat negligent in the adjustment of the disrobing loop. It need not be drawn up too tightly, nor knotted too securely. I was learning to move, and smile, and, too, the men, many of them so strong and virile, made me more and more uneasy, and more and more conscious of my bondage. The unquestioning simplicity and naturalness with which they looked upon me, and accepted me, spoke to me, and commanded me, as a slave, and excited me. I was a female slave, and knew myself more so each day, and they were males, and masters. Sometimes I twisted in my chains at night, moaned, and scratched at the straw and the wooden flooring, remembering one or another of them.
As is well known, free women are not permitted in the paga taverns or brothels, and it is dangerous for them to enter them, even for those bold enough to disguise themselves as slaves, but similar restrictions do not apply to the public eating houses. Even so, free women of high caste seldom patronize them, not because of any explicit impropriety in doing so, but, rather, because of the narrowness and plainness of the offerings, the rudeness of the appointments, and the general vulgarity of the diners. Such reservations, however, are seldom entertained by men of high caste, who welcome an opportunity to obtain a cheap, convenient meal, particularly during the workday. Paga may not be served in the eating houses, but a variety of cheap ka-la-nas is usually available.
Long tables are commonly used in the eating houses, with benches, rather as in Torvaldsland. In such an arrangement, the patron usually spends less time eating. There is no lingering over paga, taking time for a game of kaissa or stones, trying out one or another of the proprietor’s girls in an alcove, or such. One is usually in and out, without much ado, which usually means more coins per Ahn in the entry kettle. Two ostraka may be purchased. One pays upon entry. The basic ostrakon entitles one to the general meal of the day, with a mug of kal-da, and costs a tarsk-bit. The second ostrakon, or the ostrakon of privilege, costs two tarsk-bits, and entitles the patron to a choice amongst a number of offerings, and a glass of ka-la-na. Most patrons purchase the basic ostrakon. The ostrakon in question, the basic ostrakon or the ostrakon of privilege, is presented to the girl who serves that section of the patron’s table.
“Is Master pleased?” I asked.
“You are a pretty slave,” he said.
“A slave is pleased should she be found pleasing by a master,” I said.
“What is your name?” he asked.
“‘Allison’, if it pleases Master,” I said.
“I have not seen you here before,” he said.
“Allison is seldom permitted to serve a table,” I said.
“You are a barbarian,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“Are barbarians any good?” he asked.
“Perhaps Master would care to try one, and see,” I said.
“You are apparently eager to escape the kitchen,” he said.
“Master?” I said.
“Fetch more suls,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
At the sorority my sisters and I, as thoughtful, informed individuals, had set ourselves to increase our wealth and advance our station in life. Certainly we had not come to college in order to familiarize ourselves with Medieval French poetry, learn about Roman band instruments, and such. The route to these ends, the assurance of a future of comfort and influence, was obviously to contract a match with a suitable young man, one of wealth and family. Accordingly, in the social circles of an exclusive, prestigious institution, located high in the tiers of a subtly hierarchical society, one given to denying its hierarchicality, and are not all societies inevitably hierarchical, we, and others, competed for the attentions of promising young men. It was a race or game of sorts, but certainly not one of simple vanity, entered into for the sake of outdoing others, of testing one’s charms and such, but one, too, with significant consequences, bearing importantly on one’s future. The sorority, with its prestige, and its relationship with the most exclusive fraternities, was an excellent platform from which to conduct our operations. In this light, then, as suggested earlier, an expulsion from the sorority, with its shame, and such, would constitute a social calamity to be avoided at all costs. All that, of course, was now far behind me. I was now half-clad in a Gorean eating house, a slave band encircling my throat. Still, I saw, and was well aware, that certain similar constants and practicalities characterized my current existence. Certainly I was not the only girl who hoped to escape the eating house. What means, what tools, or weapons, has a female slave at her disposal? Only her charm and beauty. She owns nothing, not even the collar on her neck. It is she, rather, who is owned. She has little to offer a man but herself. Once again, as before, I was competing with other women for prizes we could not obtain for ourselves, but only through men. The nature of our life would again depend on men. Here the difference was that we were slaves. Men were still the masters, but now not subtly, almost invisibly, as on Earth, but now openly, visibly, in the full force of law. Our futures, our hopes, depended on men. And we were literally collared. How clear then, without obfuscation, the pretenses put aside, the veils now removed, became the nature of reality, culturally, socially, and biologically.
“Hitch up your disrobing loop, properly, pull down the hem of your tunic,” said the free woman.
“Yes, Mistress,” I said.
I hoped she would finish quickly.
Gorean free women of high caste almost invariably veil themselves in public. Gorean free women of the lower castes tend to be less fastidious, or strict, in such matters. Whereas some will emulate the high-caste women, others will veil themselves more casually, or loosely, exposing more of their features. This is sometimes referred to as half-veiling. In privacy, of course, free women seldom veil themselves. In public, it is easy to eat and drink behind the veil. It may be done with delicacy and grace. It is commonly done in the eating houses. I have seen low-caste free women drink through the veil, but this is rare. It is regarded as barbarous. I have seen some free women, of low caste, on hot days, who will eschew the veil altogether. This is, however, rare. As is well known the female slave may not veil herself even should she wish to do so. That would be an insult to free women. Too, one would not, for example, veil a tarsk.
I moved quickly away from the free woman.
She had come to the eating house alone. I was not surprised. I could see something of her face. What fellow would want her in his bracelets?
There is little room between the tables and one, making one’s way, usually slowly, for the crowding, taking orders, carrying platters, and such, often brushes against the patrons. There was a small, oval, bronze mirror in the kitchen, fixed on a wall, and I often regarded myself in its reflection, turning my face one way or another, brushing back my hair, arranging it, and such. It seemed to me that certain changes were occurring in me. It is said that bondage makes a woman more beautiful, and I suspect that that is true. This is doubtless, in part, a function of appearance, and behavior, but I think it extends well beyond a certain deference, a tone of voice, a betraying garmenture, a collar, suitable postures, lowering the head, and such. Bondage, whatever might be its numerous effects, feminizes a woman, radically, and the feminine woman is the most female, the most beautiful, of all women. She becomes soft, graceful, vulnerable, and eager to please. The collar removes many conflicts, which trouble, tighten, and coarsen a woman. She knows what she is, and how she is to behave. Allowed nothing else, and soon desiring nothing else, she accepts herself joyfully as what she is, a female, and a slave, her master’s slave, her master’s possession. She is radiant. She has never been so happy. She pities the free women, lacking masters. Too, she now understands herself as a natural, intensely sexual creature. The slave’s sexual needs are as natural, and persistent and irresistible, as her needs to eat and drink. In one sense she is at peace with her sex, but, in another sense, periodically, if her slave fires burn, she is its helpless victim, a tormented slave, who will crawl even to a hated master, for his least touch. She now not only wants sex, but needs it, and will beg for it, and strive to be sufficiently pleasing, that it may be granted to her. She is grateful, in her chains or thongs, to be her master’s pleasure object, his possession, and plaything. She knows herself his property, and would be nothing else. Who can recount the ecstasies of the possessed slave? Knowing herself a slave, she wishes to belong to a master. She could be satisfied with no man who would be contented with less than owning her, wholly. Gorean men are such. She sings at her work.
One cannot help, you must understand, in the closeness of the quarters, the small space between the benches, brushing against a master now and then. There is so little room.
“Oh,” I gasped, startled.
His large hand had closed on my leg, above the knee.
“Please, Master,” I whispered, smiling, protesting.
Then I shuddered. His grip was strong, commanding. It would be difficult to free myself. I was holding a large platter of strips of roast bosk, fastened in threes with wooden skewers, one of the choices for the second ostrakon.
I saw Marcella approaching, in the narrow aisle. She was carrying a vessel of steaming kal-da.
She did not look pleasant.
“Struggle,” said he.
“I might spill the platter,” I said.
“You are rather pretty for an eating-house girl,” he said.
In the past such compliments had been few. Of late, they had been more frequent. Too, of late, I had been more often assigned to the tables. Who knows how often fellows will come to the eating house, or why they will seek one table rather than another?
“Would Master not like to have me at his slave ring?” I whispered. “I would try to please him.”
He grinned, and removed his hand from my leg.
“May I serve Master?” I asked.
“What have you?” he asked.
“Roast bosk,” I said.
“I have paid only the first ostrakon,” he said.
“Master?” I said.
“Be off, pretty slave,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“Infamous she-sleen!” said a woman.
I had not noticed that the unpleasant free woman, she who, some days ago, had castigated me for a too-casual tunicking, was again in the vicinity. Once again, which did not surprise me, she was alone.
“Yes, Mistress,” I said. “Forgive me, Mistress.”
I quickly tried to hurry away, and Marcella, who was now near, between the benches, stood to one side, I supposed that I might pass. I smiled at her. Usually she would have expected me to turn about and move back, retracing my steps, removing myself from her path. I did not really want the attentions of the kitchen master, even though he had, of late, discouraged the other girls from bullying me. Surely she must understand that. She could have him. I wanted better game, higher game.
“Thank you,” I said to Marcella, smiling, as I went to move past her, anxious to remove myself as quickly as possible from the vicinity of the free woman.
“Oh!” I cried, in misery, stumbling, plunging over Marcella’s extended foot, sprawling between the benches, the platter of steaming meat flying ahead of me, meat and gravy showering about, then the platter clattering between the benches. Two or three men stood up, angrily wiping gravy and hot meat from their backs and shoulders. Marcella, simultaneously, had screamed, and turned, as though it might have been she who had been so discomfited. And I, too, screamed, but in pain, as the scalding kal-da soaked and burned through my tunic, and drenched my calves and ankles. “Clumsy slave!” cried Marcella. “You tripped me!” I cried. “I did not! You tripped me!” she screamed. Several of the masters laughed, some brushing themselves off, some others helping themselves to a three of skewered slices of the roast bosk, which they retrieved from the table, the floor, their laps. I was on my hands and knees, in pain, from the scalding, tears bursting from my eyes. Masters, I knew, did not look lightly on clumsiness in a slave. Too, to make matters worse, if they could be worse, the roast bosk was an item available only for the second ostrakon. I recalled that one of the girls in the kitchen, who had spilled porridge, had been put under the five-stranded Gorean slave lash. I had felt it once, in the house of Tenalion. “You tripped me!” I cried to Marcella. I did not want to be whipped! “You tripped me!” screamed Marcella. “No!” I cried. “Yes!” she screamed. She did not wish to be whipped either. “I saw the whole thing!” said the free woman. “That one,” she said, pointing at me, “is to blame!” “No, Mistress,” I sobbed. “That one, that one!” repeated the free woman, indicating me. I did not see how she, from her location, could have seen what occurred. I did know that she did not like me. A free woman, of course, may lie, for they are free. Marcella was lying, of course, but she had the words of a free woman spoken on her behalf. “Thank you, Mistress,” said Marcella, respectfully, much pleased at the course events were taking. I was sobbing, and still in pain. I did not want to be stripped, tied, and put under the whip. I feared the pain, and terribly, but, too, it is humiliating to be beaten for clumsiness, to be beaten as an inept slave, one who has failed to be pleasing. The slave is to be both beautiful and graceful. If she is not, let the lash instruct her. She is a slave. She is not permitted the woodenness, the awkwardness, of the free woman. “You should be sold for sleen feed!” said the free woman, coming angrily from her place, and hurrying about the table. I was still on the floor, on all fours, miserable, in pain. The boards were greasy. The tunic, in back, was wet, with warm fluid. It clung to my body. My legs hurt.
“Forgive me, Mistress!” I begged.
I felt the slipper of the free woman kick me, twice, viciously, in the left thigh. There would be marks there. I sensed she had spit upon me.
“I am sorry, Mistress!” I said. “Please, forgive me, Mistress!”
I went to my belly, in the grease and scraps, between the benches.
“Oh!” I wept, again kicked.
“Thank you, Mistress!” I said. “Thank you, Mistress!”
Should a slave not be grateful for her improvement?
“Aii!” I wept, again kicked.
“Thank you, Mistress!” I sobbed. “Thank you, Mistress!”
“What is going on here?” demanded a voice. Someone was making his way toward us, pushing, between the benches. My heart sank. It was the voice of Menon, my master. I had been several weeks in his establishment, but he seldom appeared in the kitchen. I was not sure he would remember the miserable, frightened slave purchased in the Metellan district. I struggled to my knees, held them closely together, and kept my head down.
“This slave tripped me, Master,” said Marcella, indicating me.
“Have you received permission to speak?” inquired Menon.
“No, Master,” said Marcella, turning white, dropping to her knees, head down.
“Well, Masters?” inquired Menon.
“They were passing between the benches,” said a fellow. “One of the girls tripped, and fell.”
“That one,” said the free woman, presumably indicating me, “tripped the other!”
“I see,” said Menon.
I kept my head down.
“You saw?” inquired Menon.
“Certainly,” said the free woman.
Menon turned about, a bit. I took him to be noting the place, across the table, with its dish and mug, where the free woman had been sitting.
“Did any others see?” inquired Menon.
No one volunteered to speak. Most, of course, would have had their backs turned to the aisle.
“That one,” said the free woman, presumably indicating me, “should be lashed bloody, to the bone, and fed to sleen!”
“There would not be much nourishment there,” said a fellow.
There was laughter.
I could not help it if I were slighter than many slaves, more slender. Many men, of late, I had been given to understand, did not find fault with me on this score. Certainly I had been one of the most beautiful girls in the sorority, and here, in the garmenture of slaves, what beauty I might possess, as that of other female slaves, left little to conjecture.
“Be silent!” screamed the free woman to the men.
There was silence.
I was afraid. As I was now well aware I was a female slave and what that meant on Gor, I would have been terrified to address a free man or men in that tone of voice, let alone utter words bearing such an import.
What would have been done with me?
But she was free.
There was no band on her neck.
She was not an animal.
She was not purchasable.
She was not owned.
“The house,” said Menon, “is distressed that your views have been shown less deference than they deserve.”
“You know,” said the free woman, “that she, that one, is a she-tarsk, a she-urt, a she-sleen, one who tunicks herself provocatively, who brushes against masters, who lingers in serving, who leans too closely to the diners, who puts her half-naked body before them shamelessly, who smiles so prettily, like a paga slut at the loading docks, advertising her master’s tavern.”
“And she is a barbarian, as well,” said Menon.
“Yes,” said the free woman, triumphantly. “A barbarian!”
Menon recalled I was a barbarian.
“My Home Stone,” she said, “is that of Ar.”
Menon nodded. Although his establishment was within the walls of Ar, it was not likely he shared its Home Stone. As he was of the Peasants, I supposed his Home Stone, the community stone, so to speak, not that of his domicile, would be that of some village in the environs of Ar.
“Is there no way to assuage your wrath?” asked Menon.
“No,” said the free woman.
Menon drew his pouch on its strings up from his belt, and opened it.
“No,” she said.
Menon fetched from within the pouch a handful of copper tarsk-bits.
“Perhaps,” said the free woman, “she needs only to be well lashed.”
Menon dropped the coins into the palm of the free woman.
“The master, of course,” she said, “will decide, as he pleases, what is to be the fate of a neck-banded she-tarsk.”
“Thank you, Lady,” said he.
I do not know if she looked again at me, but she hurried about the table, to her place and, a moment later, made away.
Menon was crouching near Marcella, who was shaking.
“There is a mark here,” said Menon to her, “on the outside of your right leg, above the ankle.”
Marcella said nothing.
Menon lifted up my left leg. “This mark,” he said, “is on the front of your left leg, just above the ankle.”
My heart leapt. It must be, then, that I had struck against Marcella’s ankle, thrust into my path, as I had tried to hurry past.
“You must have been hurrying,” said Menon to me.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“What happened?” he asked.
I sensed he knew well what happened.
“I stumbled,” I said.
Marcella gasped, gratefully, softly.
“I see,” said Menon. He smiled. “You should be more careful,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“You, too,” he said to Marcella.
“Yes, Master!” she said.
“It would not do,” he said, evenly, “for another slave to stumble in your vicinity.”
“Yes, Master,” she said.
“Do you understand?” he said.
“Yes, Master!” she said, pale.
Menon turned to me. “You are Allison, are you not?” he asked.
“Yes, Master,” I said, “if it pleases Master.”
“You are to come with me,” he said. “Leading position.”
I rose to my feet, and bent over, that my hair might be easily grasped. I felt his hand lock itself in my hair. My head was down, at his left thigh.
“Marcella,” he said.
“Master?” she said, apprehensively.
“You will return to the kitchen, and return naked, with a pan of water, and no rags,” he said, “and clean this mess.”
“No rags?” she said.
“Your hair will do,” he said.
Marcella had long glossy, dark hair, which fell well behind her. She was very proud of it. We envied her for it.
“Too,” said he, “when this is done, you are to inform the kitchen master that you are to serve the tables daily for the next twenty days, but, in this period, you are not to be permitted clothing.”
“Master!” she wept.
“And as your hair will be soiled,” he said, “you will have the kitchen master crop it short, as short as that of a mill girl.”
“Yes, Master,” she said.
“And at night, for this period, of twenty days, you are to be put in close chains.”
“Please, no, Master!” she wept.
“Would you prefer all this, and the lash, as well, once daily, for the next twenty days?”
“No, Master!” she said.
“Perhaps, in the future, you will be more careful,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” she sobbed.
“Come along, Allison,” said he, and began to make his way between the tables, and I, in the sullied, soaked tunic, stumbled along at his side, sometimes brushing into patrons, sometimes striking against benches, jutting out, in the narrow space between the tables.
“May I speak, may I speak?” I gasped, dragged along, at his side.
“Yes,” he said.
“Please do not whip me!” I said.
“Do you deserve to be whipped?” he asked.
“I trust not, Master!” I said.
“Do not all kajirae deserve to be whipped?” he asked.
“I trust not, Master!” I said.
“But they are slaves,” he said.
“Even so,” I said.
“Surely they know what they have done, or failed to do, even if masters do not,” he said, “and thus well know, given their lapses and faults, however infrequent or slight, which may have escaped the notice of the masters, how richly they deserve to be whipped, and, accordingly, should have no objection whatsoever to having the lash at any time well laid upon them.”
“I trust Master jests,” I said, stumbling along, my hair hurting.
How helpless we are in the hands of men, if they but choose to be masters! How they play with us, and use us as they please!
We are so different from them!
We are so small, so helpless in their power!
Yet I would not trade the Gorean man, with all his might and will, all his arrogance and power, all his virility and masculinity, all his forcefulness and possessiveness, all his ambition and aggression, all his energy and intelligence, his seeing us as women, and astonishingly different, and rightly, deliciously ownable, for all the males I knew on Earth.
“Surely, surely Master jests,” I said.
“Come along,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I said, as if I had any choice!
Slaves, as other animals, are seldom whipped on Gor. The reason for that is simple, and obvious. The slave, subject to the whip, and knowing herself so, is careful to avoid it, insofar as it lies in her power. She does her best to satisfy her master, and in all the ways of the slave, all of them. And, obviously, she who satisfies a man fully has little, if anything, to fear. Thus, it is she who is primarily responsible for keeping the whip on its peg. She is, of course, subject to discipline, and this encourages diligence. The female slave is far more likely to be beaten by a free woman than a free man. To the free man she is a joy and treasure; to the free woman she is a hated reproach and rival.
Menon’s office was not far from the paying counter, where ostraka were vended, to be redeemed for meals.
He pushed open the swinging partition leading to the interior, and threw me to the floor before a chair.
They are not always gentle with us.
We are slaves.
I kept my eyes down. I had never been in the office before.
“Is this the one?” asked Menon.
“Yes,” said a voice.
The back of my legs still hurt, from the scalding of the kal-da.
“Remove your tunic, my dear,” said the voice.
I instantly and unquestioningly disrobed. One of the first things a girl learns on Gor is that she is to instantly and unquestioningly obey. It is not Earth, and the college, and the sorority, were far away.
Here men were the masters, at least of women such as I, totally, and absolutely.
One knows oneself their slave, unequivocally, totally, and absolutely.
“Show him something,” said Menon.
“Master?” I said.
“As in slave paces,” said Menon, “posings, stretchings, curlings, liftings, twistings, floor movements, such things.”
“Yes, Master,” I said.
After a short time, from the voice, I heard, “Enough.”
“Yes, Master,” I said.
I had exhibited myself as the slave I now was. How faraway was the college, and the sorority!
“She is blushing,” said the voice.
“She is a new slave, and a barbarian,” said Menon.
“Yet she did well,” said the voice.
“She is born collar meat,” said Menon.
“She is of increased attractiveness,” said the voice, “different from the Metellan market.”
“Yes,” said Menon.
I had sensed, earlier, that I was changing. The collar causes such things in a female.
Too, the owner of the voice must have seen my sale some weeks ago.
“How would you like to leave the kitchen, the tables, Allison?” said Menon.
“It will be done with me as masters please,” I said.
“Kneel,” said Menon. “Face our guest.”
I knelt, my knees closely together. I did not cover my breasts, of course, for they were those of a slave.
“How, my dear,” asked the stranger, “would you like a new chain, a new cage?”
“It will be done with me as masters please,” I said.
“How, my dear,” said the voice, “would you like to be chained to a loom in the mills of Mintar, with cropped hair, or be placed in one of the public laundries, or sent to the mines of Argentum, or the tharlarion stables at Venna?”
“It will be done with me as masters please,” I said.
“But you would not be too pleased?” he asked.
“No, Master,” I said.
“Have no fear,” he said, “it is not to such a place I would send you.”
“A slave is grateful,” I said.
“What would you like?” he asked.
How absurd, I thought, that one should ask that of a slave.
“Perhaps, Masters,” I said, “I might be purchased as a private slave, to serve a private master?”
“You would like that, would you not, kajira?” asked the stranger.
“Oh, yes, Master,” I said, “yes, Master!”
It was for such a favor, such a delight, such a privilege, that I had plied the tables in my serving. I dared to look up and see the stranger. He was stocky, broad-shouldered, and powerful. He was blond-haired. He was not bad looking. Immediately I began to wonder what it might be, to be owned by him. How glorious, I thought, to have a private master, him or another, to whom one might devote oneself, assiduously, as his slave.
He seemed typically Gorean. He would see to it that a woman served him well, and doubtless with perfection, should she be a slave.
“I would try to serve Master well,” I said.
“Astrinax,” said Menon, “whom I have long known, is an agent, who receives orders, requests and such, screens merchandise, and buys for others.”
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“He contracts with several towers, for serving slaves,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
I had occasionally been out of the restaurant, on errands, and had marveled at the lofty towers of Ar, so lovely and colorful, and yet so stately, solid, and formidable, each, in its way, a defensible keep, with its reservoirs, and emergency stores. It would take years to reduce even one to submission. These towers, at various levels, were joined by narrow, graceful bridges. In times of peace, one might move from one tower to another, through one tower to another, by means of these bridges, to many parts of the city, without once descending to the streets. The bridges for the most part are unrailed but traversed with ease by urban Goreans used to them. I myself would have been terrified to set foot upon almost any one of them, the streets so far below. They were of different widths, some ten feet in width, many four to five feet in width. They have colored lanterns on them, spaced here and there, which are commonly lit at night. It is very lovely. On my former world, Earth, there are similar walks, but they are on the ground. Few of Earth would think twice about traversing such walks. On the other hand, if such walks were elevated, I suspect few would care to try them. One supposes it is largely a matter of that to which one grows accustomed. In any event, you traverse the high bridges with the same thoughtless nonchalance with which those of Earth traverse their own walks. Your bridges, slender and graceful, are often arched and curved, almost like branches in a forest, for you have an aesthetic sense, it seems, in so much that you do, evinced in things as intricate as the soaring melody of a skyline to things as simple as the carving on an oar or a wooden spoon. To be sure, you have your realms of crowding, ugliness, and danger as well, the dank, odorous, ill-lit insulae, steaming in the summer, clammy and cold in the winter, smelling of offal and urine, and the dark, cluttered, filthy, winding streets of some of the low districts. Sometimes the towers seem to be giants, standing proudly, independent and mighty, soaring to the sky, touching clouds, their feet in garbage. Much depends, of course, on the district. In many respects Ar is a city of wonder, of beauty and grace, of soaring towers, large parks and gardens, and broad boulevards. It is in terms of those that one numbers her amongst the “high cities.” But she is, too, a city in which poverty and wealth, surfeit and want, cleanliness and dirt, may be juxtaposed. A silken palanquin, with closed curtains, may be borne through slime. Here and there women, unattended, grace the bridges in their promenades, while below a troop of guardsmen may tread with care. Praetors preside in the markets, dispensing justice, while here and there, beneath their feet, in sewers, like urts, others wait for darkness. Much depends on the district, and the time of day. I suppose that cities are similar, on whatever worlds they may be found. Here a tunicked slave might wander about in the night without fear, there a guardsman is reluctant to enter at the Tenth Ahn. One thing I did not realize originally about your bridges is the military utility involved in their design, that they may be blocked and defended by small groups of armed men; five may defend against a hundred, because of the hundred only five can engage at a time. Too, the bridges may be broken, this preventing access to the towers, turning each into a solitary, soaring, nigh-impregnable citadel.
I supposed then that Astrinax, as I gathered his name was, was jobbing for some tower or another, presumably on the lookout for girls who might make acceptable tower slaves. There tends to be turnover in such slaves, as, in their work, in the corridors, on the stairwells, and in the apartments, they may come to the attention of one fellow or another, who will take them for a private slave. Being a tower slave is usually regarded as a plausible route, even a promising route, to obtaining a private master. Most slaves, as you know, or may suspect, long to be the slave, and wholly so, of one man alone. This is the joy of the slave, to kneel naked at the feet of her master, to lick and kiss his whip, and his feet, and then to lie before him, helpless in his chains.
To be sure, she hopes to be his only slave, as well!
I had occasionally seen tower slaves in the streets, in their white, knee-length, modest, demure tunics.
It was easy to see why a fellow might want to get them out of those tunics. Properly caressed, and long denied passion, it was said they were commonly as hot as paga sluts.
I did not think I would mind being a tower slave.
Surely, as one cleaned an apartment, dusted a bit, arranged furniture, and such, it seemed a clever girl might find ample opportunities for calling herself to the attention of one fellow or another.
A smile, an ankle seemingly inadvertently extended, colored string wound about it, a touching of one’s collar, a shy glance, a way of turning, of looking over one’s shoulder.
“Split your knees,” said Astrinax.
“Master?” I said. Then I went to “position,” not wanting to be cuffed for dallying.
“Astrinax also,” said Menon, “scouts and buys for the taverns and brothels, as well.”
“Yes, Master,” I said, uneasily.
“Do you think you would make a good paga girl, or brothel slut?” asked Menon.
“I do not think so, Master,” I said.
“Do not worry about it,” said Menon. “The lash quickly teaches a girl to be accommodating, and grateful.”
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“The paga slave quickly becomes a passion slut,” said Menon.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
I already had sensed that such things might be possible. But my body, too, had assured me that not all passion sluts would be in the taverns or brothels. Surely often enough, at night, I had lain uneasily in my chains.
What would it be to be in the arms of a master, my own master?
I would strive desperately to be pleasing to him.
It was not so much that I feared being beaten, should I be found wanting in some respect. Rather it was because I sensed myself a slave, and wanted his touch.
“We are not thinking about the taverns or brothels,” said Astrinax.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“Perhaps later,” said Astrinax.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“Knees,” said Menon, gently.
Quickly I widened my knees again.
I gathered Astrinax was not thinking in terms of tower slaves. Tower slaves do not kneel so. Another sort of slave kneels so, a familiar form of Gorean slave, the pleasure slave.
This was, of course, the sort of slavery for which, on the whole, I had been trained.
I supposed the same would be so of my sisters, from the sorority, from the college, doubtless brought to collars on Gor as well as I. I recalled Eve and Jane, from the party, in their improvised camisks. Surely I had seen the eyes of the boys on them, as well as on myself. They were young and beautiful. I did not doubt but what masters would find them pleasing. Too, Nora, and her friends, doubtless, would no longer be so resplendent in those ample, abundant, lovely garments worn at the party, put together to suggest the robes of Gorean free women. Perhaps here, on this world, they would be fortunate enough to be granted a tunic. I suspected that Nora would go for a high price.
I was pleased to think of her as collared, and owned.
So, if Astrinax was not thinking in terms of the towers, and was not thinking, at least at present, in terms of the taverns or brothels, in what terms might he be thinking?
“You are a barbarian are you not?” asked Astrinax.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“Barbarians,” said Astrinax, “have inferior moral characters.”
“Surely not,” I said.
“When you thought yourself free, on your former world, prior to your rightful collaring,” said Astrinax, “for you are obviously a slave, you had some sort of relationship with the men of your world, did you not?”
“I was brought to Gor as white-silk,” I said. “I was red-silked in the house of Tenalion, Tenalion of Ar.”
“I know the house,” said Astrinax. “What I have in mind is the nature of your social, economic, and political relationships to men.”
“I am not sure I understand,” I said. “I think that certain relationships, involving certain intentions, prospects, efforts, plans, ambitions, and such, would have been typical for a young woman of my background, position, wealth, and class.”
“But perhaps not for others?” said Astrinax.
“Probably not for all others,” I said.
“Tell me something of it,” said Astrinax.
“I was of the upper classes on my world,” I said.
“You look well in your collar,” said Astrinax.
“Thank you, Master,” I said. “I belonged to a group of young women chosen, among other things, for their beauty.”
“Slaves?” said Astrinax.
“Perhaps,” I said. “We were privileged. We were to be sought by men, and would make judicious choices amongst them, seeking thereby our advantage, bartering our beauty for advancement, for greater wealth, more secure position, more power, such things.”
“You were calculating in such matters,” said Astrinax. “You were selling yourself for profit, for gain.”
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“In Gorean we have a word for that,” said Astrinax.
“Master?” I said.
“‘Free woman’,” he said.
“Men must try to please us, must pay for our meals, our entertainments, and such,” I said.
“There is a politics involved in such things,” said Astrinax.
“Yes,” I said.
“And to achieve your ends,” said Astrinax, “you would do what seemed useful, flatter, pretend, flirt, intrigue, invite, and such.”
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“Good,” he said. “And lie?”
“I am no longer permitted to lie, Master,” I said, frightened.
“But then,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“You are not unattractive,” said Astrinax.
“Thank you, Master,” I said.
“And the men whom you knew had little or no experience with female slaves,” said Astrinax.
“No, Master,” I said.
“Accordingly then,” said Astrinax, “you must have been extremely attractive to them.”
“I think so, Master,” I said.
“They knew no better,” said Astrinax.
“No, Master,” I said. Tears came to eyes.
“Do not be upset,” said Astrinax. “You now have promise, even as a slave.”
“You are much more beautiful than when I bought you,” said Menon. “You are becoming slave-beautiful, slave-exciting. Those young men who found you beautiful then, as you were then, on your own world, would scream with pleasure if they could see you now, as you are, as a slave. Slavery much enhances the beauty of a woman. Now, sweet Allison, those young men would sweat, and cry out, and bid recklessly for you, in the hope of bringing you into their collar.”
I put down my head.
“I gather you were a true ‘free woman’ on your world,” said Astrinax, “with all her vanities, pettinesses, impostures, ambitions, plans, manipulations, machinations, pretensions, schemes, deceits, and lies.”
“Perhaps, Master,” I said.
“But now,” he said, “you are no longer on your own world.”
“No, Master,” I said.
“It is common for free women on your world to misuse their power,” said Astrinax.
“Perhaps, Master,” I said, frightened. I trusted I would not be punished on this world for faults which might have been mine on a former world. But, still, one does not know how men will see things, and they are the masters.
“Free women on Gor,” said Astrinax, “misuse their power.”
I thought of the free woman at the tables, who had caused me such discomfiture.
“I dare not speculate, Master,” I said. “They are free, and I am a slave.”
“But stripped and collared, and thrown to a man’s feet,” said Astrinax, “they are not so different from you.”
“I dare not speculate, Master,” I said. “They are free, and I am a slave.”
“You are all women,” said Astrinax. “Nothing more.”
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“Allison,” said Astrinax, “suppose that one of your sister slaves, in the kitchen, had been given a candy, perhaps as a tip from a customer, from waiting on the tables.”
“Yes, Master?” I said.
Some of the customers, I knew, kept such small treats about their person, or in their pouches. These were usually hard candies, which might last a long time, slowly savored. Sometimes they would roll them on the floor and have a girl pursue them on all fours, putting her head down, and picking them up, gratefully, in her teeth. Sometimes they would have the girl kneel at the bench, put back her head, her eyes closed, tightly, and open her mouth, widely. She does not know, strictly, if she is to be cuffed or rewarded, but, as you may suppose, she usually has an excellent sense as to how matters will fall out. If her service is thought to have been insufficiently prompt, diligent or deferent, and she is likely to suspect that, she may be struck. “Forgive me, Master,” she then sobs, and is hastened about her duties, now intent on improving her service. At least she is not lashed. Usually, however, if so knelt, she is to be rewarded, a candy being placed in her mouth. “Thank you, Master,” she breathes, licking and kissing the hand which has deigned to bestow so precious a gift upon her. How proud she is then, the possessor of so rare a treat, and how envied she will be amongst her chain sisters!
How she will nurse that treat, making it last as long as possible!
To be sure, such tipping is frowned upon by the establishment, as the women are merely slaves.
One wonders if the free can understand how important such a tidbit, negligible from their point of view, so tiny, savory, and sweet, can be to one of your despised collar girls.
Even today such a thing is meaningful to me, and my master may or may not grant it to me, as it pleases him, but, at that time, in the place of Menon, so small a thing seemed inordinately precious, and important.
I had not had such a sweet since Earth, since my “harvesting” as one of the ill-protected, exposed, dangling fruits so easily available to slavers in the “slave orchard of Earth,” no, not since my acquisition, my capture, my routine snaring, merely another sleek, defenseless animal, ignorant and unsuspecting, easily taken as the prize of methodical hunters.
“Now,” said Astrinax, “let us suppose that the girl who has been given the candy wants to save it, to postpone the pleasure of eating it until later, perhaps to when her work is done, and hides it somewhere, perhaps in the straw of her mat, and you, unbeknownst to her, have observed this.”
“Yes, Master?” I said, warily.
“Let us further suppose that you might, unobserved, and unsuspected, and with utter impunity, steal it. Would you do so?”
I did not care for this conversation. I was much afraid, to lie, or to tell the truth.
“I must tell the truth?” I asked.
“You are a slave,” said Menon.
“And I would not be caught?” I asked.
“No,” said Astrinax.
“I am not stupid,” I said.
“Of course not,” said Astrinax.
It was well known that high intelligence was one of the properties sought in slaves. Who would want a stupid slave? Too, it was well known that highly intelligent women made the best slaves. Of all women they were the quickest to learn that the collar was truly on them, that they were now actually owned by a master, that society wholly supported and approved their condition, and that escape was impossible. They were now slaves, unqualifiedly. Too, once they had been truly knelt, their sexual drives and needs would begin to rage within them; they would become aware of their biological being and its nature, that they were biologically the properties of men; and, pursuant to these understandings and bodily changes, and knowing themselves choiceless, the collar on their necks, they yielded to their being and nature, submissive to, and responsive to, categorical male dominance, yielded helplessly and appetitiously to this, naturally, passionately, and gratefully, it being that for which they had longed for so long, that without they were incomplete, given the radical sexual dimorphism of the species.
They would come to long for the chain, and the caress.
Even to beg for it.
“And she is only a slave,” I said.
“Of course,” said Astrinax.
“Then,” said I, “I would steal the candy. Who would not?”
“Many,” said Menon, regretfully.
“I think she will do very nicely,” said Astrinax.
“I fear so,” said Menon.
“Master?” I said, uneasily.
“Eventually,” said Menon, “you will have to grow more moral.”
“Master?” I said.
“You are a slave,” said Menon. “One expects a greater morality from a slave than a free woman.”
“Because they are afraid of being beaten?” I asked.
“Perhaps,” he said.
“But, Master,” I said, “is the testimony of slaves in courts not taken under torture, that they will not dare to lie?”
“It would be better,” said Menon, “for the testimony of free women to be taken under torture, for they are famous for saying whatever pleases them.”
“Under torture,” said Astrinax, “one speaks not to say the truth, but to say whatever will stop the pain.”
“I am disappointed in you, Allison,” said Menon.
“Forgive me, Master,” I said.
“She is a barbarian,” Astrinax reminded Menon.
“True,” said Menon.
“I am pleased to hear your response to my question,” said Astrinax.
“A slave is pleased if Master is pleased,” I said.
Surely a girl is entitled to look out for herself, avail herself of opportunities, improve her place, take advantage of things, and so on.
“I think you are a clever slave,” said Astrinax.
“Thank you, Master,” I said.
“Though perhaps not intelligent,” he said.
“Master?” I said.
“But clever, surely,” he said.
“Thank you, Master,” I said.
I wished he had said ‘intelligent’. ‘Clever’ had a suggestion of pettiness, of cunning, of smallness about it.
“And pretty,” he said.
“Thank you, Master,” I said.
“A pretty slave, and a clever one,” he said.
“Thank you, Master,” I said. I was not sure I had been complimented. Was I not intelligent, was I not beautiful, at least amongst women of Earth, if not compared to Gorean collar girls?
But is the word ‘clever’ not a mere disparagement, on the part of some, of true intelligence, that which is expedient, and prudentially wise, that by means of which one may pursue one’s best interests with the least regard to extraneous impediments, principles, codes, rules, and such?
I was annoyed.
I knew myself to be quite intelligent. The girls in the sorority had not been selected merely on the basis of appearance, carriage, dressing smartly, being economically well stationed, and so on. We were selected, at least in part, to enhance the reputation of the sorority, as an established avenue to wealth and power. Membership, this presenting us as rare prizes in marital competitions, above lesser advantaged girls, much increased the likelihood of our obtaining an enviable match.
“On your former world,” said Astrinax, “one supposes you were adept in certain familiar female practices, commonly associated with free women, for example, that you were skilled in flattering males, in teasing them, manipulating them, playing on their feelings, raising their hopes, encouraging them to pursuits in your interest, or perhaps in the interest of your superiors, inducing them to certain activities, by glances, smiles, words, and such.”
“Perhaps, Master,” I said.
I had enjoyed such games, sometimes for gain, sometimes for sport. It was easy to find gratification in my effect on males, boys, and men.
Then, of course, I was not a vulnerable slave, owned, subject to discipline, and such.
Then I was free. I was not in a collar.
What one did then one might not dare in a collar.
“Do you think you could engage in such activities now,” asked Astrinax.
“I do not understand, Master,” I said. I did not want to be lashed.
“Could you smile upon men, bring them drinks, brush against them, be at their side, smile, laugh, pretend to share their anxieties, their joys, their disappointments, and keep them engaged in certain activities?”
“Master?” I said.
“Could you lie, if commanded, pretend interest where interest was not felt, simulate affection where none exists, use your beauty, for you now have beauty, yes, beauty, such as it is, to whisper, wheedle, stimulate, instigate, and influence men, even to their ruin, collapse, or destitution?”
“I do not think I understand Master,” I said.
“Astrinax,” said Menon, “is seeking slaves for a gambling house. It is one of several on the Street of Chance. In such a house, there are commonly slaves, beautiful slaves, to wait upon the men, to serve drinks and food, to contribute to the decor and pleasantness of the setting, to mingle with the patrons, to encourage betting, even to the point of recklessness.”
“I see,” I said.
“In the beginning,” he said, “you would be a lesser slave, though not hard to look upon, and might assist the other girls.”
“Yes, Master,” I said. I was pleased, at least, to learn that I was not hard to look upon. Perhaps in such a place I might attract a man and win for myself a private master. I could make my choice judiciously, finding a fellow both handsome and strong, and, in such a place, quite possibly one of wealth. A girl has ways of course, of influencing a fellow to think of buying her.
It was lonely in my chains, at night. Sometime I clutched them, hurting my hands, in frustration, those metal fastenings on me so fixedly, and thrashed on my mat.
“I think I know the house,” said Menon to Astrinax. “If it is the one I think it is, it is rumored to be dishonest.”
“If so,” smiled Astrinax, “I think our little Allison might fit in quite nicely.”
I remembered my response to the question about the candy.
“Doubtless,” said Menon.
I feared I had disappointed my master.
“You understand the sort of thing we have in mind, do you not, Allison?” asked Astrinax.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“Do you think you could well fulfill your duties in such a place?”
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“I thought so,” he said.
“Slaves, there,” said Menon, “exist to loosen the strings on pouches, urge fellows to shower gold on the tables, to risk much, beyond reason, to pout and look away if there is evidence of hesitation or circumspection, to cry out in pleasure if an extra tarn disk is put in the plate, another card drawn, another flash of dice cast.”
“Yes, Master,” I said.
I did not see that that was my concern.
“Some will ply them with drink,” he said, “and bring them food, to keep them at the tables.”
“I understand,” I said.
“You may be expected to do such things,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“And,” said Astrinax, “you would be expected to do such things well, with an appearance of delight and enthusiasm. Do you think you could manage that?”
“Yes, Master,” I said.
In such a place might one not secure a suitable master, perhaps even one rich, though, to be sure, I would hope to be his only slave.
“The price agreed,” said Astrinax, “as I recall, was a silver tarsk.”
I looked up, startled.
I had originally sold for forty-two copper tarsks.
“The price, now,” said Menon, rising, looking down on me, “is fifty, fifty copper tarsks.”
“Oh?” said Astrinax, smiling.
“She is not worth a silver tarsk,” said Menon.
I knelt between them while the tarsks were counted out.
When the transaction had been completed, I dared to look up at Menon. “It is a shame,” said Menon, looking down upon me, “that the slavers consider little more than intelligence, beauty, and helpless, latent passion. Perhaps they should concern themselves more with the character of their prey.”
“Master?” I said.
“Women such as you,” he said, “belong beneath the whip.”
“Please do not whip me, Master,” I said.
“Take her away,” said Menon.
Astrinax stood up, and, from his pouch, he cast me a bit of purple cloth. There was not much to it. It had writing on the back, which I could not read. It barely covered me.
“Stand up, my dear,” said Astrinax.
I did so, hip turned, as I had been taught.
Astrinax regarded me, appraisingly. And I think he was satisfied.
“Come along,” said Astrinax, holding open the swinging panel, which led from the office.
“I wish you well, Master,” I said to Menon.
“Get out,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I said, and hurried after Astrinax, sobbing, my eyes filled with tears.
But, I thought, too, I am out of the kitchen, away from the tables. Too, I had little doubt I would be fetching in the sort of tunic I now wore. The angry glance of a free woman, outside the office, reassured me of this.
I felt so superior to her in that moment.
She was only a free woman. I was a slave, half clad, collared, shapely, desirable, ownable, the sort of woman men want, the sort of woman they prize, and buy.
I was a thousand times more than she.
I might be less than the dirt beneath her sandals, but I was a thousand times more than she.
It is no wonder they hate us so, and we fear them so.
How special it was to be a slave, and how right it was for me!
It was what I was, and should be.
If one is a slave, why should one not be a slave?
The cages, of heavy, cable-like woven wire, are made for tarsks, not kajirae. One cannot stand in them. They are long, narrow, and low. Thus, more than one can be placed on a sideless, flat-bedded wagon, roped in place. Too, like the common slave cages designed for kajirae, they may be stacked.
I hooked my fingers in the wire, and looked out, frightened, from my knees. The Tarsk Market has its name, obviously enough, I suppose, because it is a general market for tarsks. Certainly the smell of tarsk was all about. And there was little doubt, from the condition of the cage, that the previous occupants of the cage had been tarsks.
Needless to say, it is only low slaves who are vended from such a market.
I lay down in the cage, on my right side, in the straw, facing the back wall of the warehouse.
How vulnerable we were, as slaves!
But, had we been free women I did not doubt but what we would have been abandoned, left in the house, on the Street of Chance, to perish in the flames.
The marks on our thighs, our collars, had saved us. We had been saved, but as what we were, only that, animals.
“That one,” said a voice, a woman’s voice. I did not place the accent. It did not sound pleasant.
“That one?” asked a man.
“Yes,” said the woman’s voice. “I would see her.”
I felt a stick poke me. “Turn about,” said the man’s voice. “On all fours!”
I turned about, and went to all fours, my head down, frightened. I would have a bruise on my back.
My hopes of obtaining a handsome, rich master, from amongst the clients of the gambling house, had perished, as had the house, in the furious, vengeful fire, set by guardsmen.
No one with money would buy here, I suspected, not in such a place, not in such a market.
I had no doubt I smelled, of the straw, and the dung of tarsks.
Too, it was a woman’s voice.
“Let us see her,” said the woman.
I heard the gate at the end of the long, low cage unfastened. “Out,” said the man. “Stay on all fours.”
I made my way to the end of the cage, and emerged, out, onto the stained, straw-strewn floor.
I kept my head lowered.
“She must be cheap,” said the woman.
“She is, they all are,” said the man. “We had the lot for next to nothing.”
“Twenty tarsks,” said the woman.
“Surely not,” said the man.
“No more,” said the woman.
“She is not bad slave meat,” said the man. “Shall I put her in examination position?”
There are various examination positions, but the most common is to stand the slave with her feet widely spread, and her hands clasped behind the back of her neck, or the back of her head. The spreading of the feet makes movement difficult, and the position of the hands keeps them out of the way as the slave is examined. They shall not interfere, nor will there be an impediment to the buyer’s vision as the slave is considered. This position also lifts the slave’s breasts nicely. Too, the girl is expected to stand erect, her shoulders back, which also accentuates the breasts, and her belly is to be sucked in, this calling attention to the width of her love cradle, the narrowness of a pleasant, trim waist, and the lovely flare of her body, as it rises to the beauty of her bosom. She may be handled rather as the buyer pleases, must open her mouth upon request, that her teeth may be examined, and so on. Sometimes the slave cries out startled, or in misery, for she may be tested for sturdiness of body, for firmness, for responsiveness, and such.
“No,” said the woman.
“Shall I have her on her back or belly, and have her squirm for you?” asked the man.
“No,” said the woman.
I hoped that the woman might be a slave, buying for a master. I turned my head a little, and my heart sank. I saw no bared ankle, perhaps encircled with a locked ring, nor some loops of binding fiber, suitable for binding a girl, but the hem of a robe, a rich, scarlet robe, and glimpsed the toes of small slippers, yellow, beneath that hem.
It was a free woman!
“What do you want her for?” asked the man.
“Work,” said the woman. “Is it true that slaves are lazy?”
I thought that a strange question for a Gorean free woman. Was she a stranger, from some unusual city, away from civilization, unfamiliar with some sorts of animals, ones such as I?
“They had better not be,” said the man. “Too, the switch, the whip, encourages diligence.”
It suddenly occurred to me that the woman, seemingly unfamiliar with such obvious things, might not be Gorean. Certainly I was unfamiliar with the accent. Perhaps she might buy me and free me?
Then I realized how foolish was such a thought.
I was on Gor.
“Twenty tarsks,” said the woman.
“Not enough,” said the man.
“Show me something else, cheaper,” said the woman.
“There is nothing cheaper,” said the man. “She is the cheapest.”
“Twenty,” said the woman.
“Forty,” said the man.
“What was she?” asked the woman.
“A gambling-house girl,” said the man.
“What is that?” asked the woman.
“A serving slave, a display slave, a lure slave, such things,” he said. “They encourage men to drink, to eat, to spend, to wager, to linger at the tables, to draw further cards, to cast the dice just one last time, and such.”
“The gambling,” she said, “is not then done with lives, those of men and animals.”
“Not in any obvious sense,” said the man.
“I see,” she said. And it sounded as though she dismissed the bouts of the spinning wheel, the shaken box, the buying of chances, the drawing of cards. The blood shed in such games is largely unseen, doubtless, but, I fear, it is there.
I did know that men bet on tarn races, which could be dangerous at the rings, sometimes a body broken, a limb lost, a wing torn away, and that some cared for arena sports, sword games. Tharlarion races were regularly held at Venna, and other towns. Sometimes, interestingly, fortunes were wagered on kaissa matches.
“I suppose,” said the woman, “that a gambling-house girl, one purchased for such a work, would be likely to be of interest to men.”
“Very much so,” said the man.
“Good,” said the woman. “Such a slave upon occasion might prove useful.”
I did not understand what she meant.
If she were buying for a brothel, or tavern, it did not seem she would be here, in this market.
“Surely,” said the man. “I could let her go for fifty tarsks.”
“Fifteen,” said the woman.
“Forty-five,” said the man.
“Actually,” said the woman, “I would prefer a barbarian.”
“She is a barbarian!” said the man. “Bring a lamp!” he called.
I was pulled to my knees, and my left arm was seized, and held up. “The barbarian scarring,” said the man, indicating my upper left arm. “Many barbarians are so marked, not all.” Then he put his hand in my hair, and yanked my head up, and back. “Get your mouth open,” he said, “widely, more, more!” I closed my eyes against the light of the lamp, so close to me, held by his fellow. I felt its warmth. My mouth hurt, held so. “See?” said the man.
“I do not understand,” said the woman.
“The teeth,” he said.
“I see,” she said.
“They are in lovely condition,” he said.
“No,” she said, “the two specks, there and there.”
“Of course,” said the man, “many barbarians have such things, not all. It is one way of recognizing the barbarian.”
“What are they?” she asked.
“I do not know,” he said. “Some think they are a decoration, a thing of vanity, like a beauty mark, to call attention by contrast to the exquisite beauty of what is not blemished, others consider them an identificatory device, a subtle one, by means of which a slave may be recognized.”
“She is clearly a slave,” said the woman.
“Obviously,” said the man.
Actually, for those who may be unfamiliar with such things, what they spoke of was a consequence of the work of a form of physician on my native world, one who concerns himself primarily with the health and condition of teeth. The internal damaging of teeth is more common on my former world than on yours, a difference doubtless having much to do with differences in diet. In any event, the damaged tissue is often removed, the resultant opening being subsequently closed.
I looked up, piteously, at the man.
“You may close your mouth,” he said.
Gratefully I closed my mouth.
I remained on my knees. Slaves are commonly so, in the presence of free persons. Such things make clear the difference in status between the free and their properties.
And I now well knew myself a property.
The only question was who owned the property, who owned me?
“Too,” said the man to the woman.
“‘Too’?” she said.
“Yes,” he said. Then he said to me, “Say the alphabet.”
I could not read, but I had been taught the alphabet, by rote. Interestingly, he had had me recite the alphabet earlier, shortly after my arrival here, before I had been caged. I recited the letters, again, now, which I would not even have known were letters, if I had not been so informed in the house.
“There,” said the man, smiling. “Hear?” he asked.
“What?” said the woman, hesitantly.
“The mistakes,” said the man.
“Of course,” said the woman, but I was confident she was no more aware of the mistakes than I was. Indeed, I suspected she could not read. But the sumptuous raiment she wore surely suggested wealth, if not high caste.
The mistakes I had made, I unaware of them, had been taught to me, that they would mark me as a slave. Too, I was certain I had been taught certain pronunciations of words I was not likely to frequently hear, which were also, in their subtle way, entrapments. The free, of course, do not correct such mistakes, and let them pass, deliberately, as a matter of course. In this way it is difficult for the slave to understand what she might inadvertently be doing, which may call attention to her bondage. I had, some days ago, when out of the gambling house on an errand, barefoot, in my short, purple tunic, with its lettering on the back, seen a seemingly free woman, in lovely robes and veils, seized and stripped by guardsmen. Normally, when there is doubt as to the status or condition of a woman she is given to free women, who may then, with respect to her modesty should she be free, examine her body, for a possible collar, or brand. This one, however, was simply disrobed, bound hand and foot, and put in a wagon, for delivery to a market praetor, who would see to her return to her master, or, that failing, to her lashing, fugitive branding, and resale. I would not dare to speak to a free person, but I hurried to a tower slave in the crowd, trying to learn what had happened. The tower slave, however, would not demean herself by responding to the inquiry of a “half-naked, gambling-house girl.” A laundress, however, fresh from the troughs and bearing her bundle, looked at me, frightened, and said, “Slave Gorean.” “I see,” I had said. “It is an extra chain on us,” she said, “one we do not even know we wear.” “Yes,” I had said, uneasily, and hurried on, about my way. I, too, I was sure, wore such a chain.
“I am interested in an ignorant barbarian,” said the woman.
“A stupid barbarian?” asked the man.
“No,” she said, “one ignorant.”
Why, I wondered, would anyone want an ignorant girl? I supposed I was ignorant. I had not been that long on Gor. I hoped she did not want me for a serving slave. I did not even know the subtle fastenings of the robes of concealment, the layerings and arrangements of veils, the order of a woman’s bath, or such.
“Girl,” said the man.
“Master?” I said.
“When were you first collared?” he asked.
“In En’Kara,” I said, “in the house of Tenalion, of Ar.”
“That is a good house,” said the man to the woman.
“What year?” he asked me.
“This year, Master,” I said.
“There,” said the man. “This is your slave.”
“Twenty tarsks,” she said.
“Fifty,” he said.
“She is a barbarian, an untutored, ignorant barbarian,” she said.
I was not at all sure that the speaker herself was all that informed. Might she be a barbarian, as well? But I did not know the accent. Perhaps it was from the islands, or the far south.
“Barbarians make excellent slaves,” said the man. “They come from a world where there is little opportunity for their bondage. Slaves are mostly held in secret. On her world many men are crippled, confused, divided, set against themselves, taught to suspect their most basic, virile impulses. They are taught to fear manhood, and hold it as a thing of regret or shame. Accordingly, the women wander about, neglected, forlorn, lacking masters, denied the chain and whip.”
“I see,” said the woman.
“I did not, of course, mean women such as you, your graciousness,” he said.
“I trust not,” she said.
“But the slaves on this slave’s world,” said the man, presumably indicating me, I kept my head down, “are treated with great cruelty, a cruelty so great that it is difficult for such as we, scions of a high civilization, to even comprehend it, for they are denied what they need, and without which they cannot be fulfilled, their masters. It is little wonder they come hot from the block, tear-stained and needful, to put themselves to a man’s feet. They have come from a desert, to the green meadows of Gor. No longer do they thirst, no longer do they starve. Here they are put in collars.”
“Twenty,” said the woman, evenly.
“Perhaps forty-five?” suggested the man.
“No,” she said.
“Many men are fond of barbarians,” he said.
“I am not a man,” she said.
“You should have seen her,” he said, “in the tunic of the gambling house.”
“I am sure she was attractive,” said the woman.
“She was almost nude,” he said.
“If I buy her,” said the woman, “I may put her in a sack, left over from the transportation of suls.”
Such sacking is plain, coarse, and ill-woven.
Too, such garmenture is unflattering, and likely to solicit ridicule from one’s sister slaves.
“Behold the high slave!” they might laugh. “A slave?” might laugh another. “I must look more closely. I thought it a sack of suls!”
Such cloth, too, scratches.
It is a torment to put a slave in such a garmenture.
Some men avail themselves of such a means to demean or punish a girl.
“If you are interested in her attractiveness to men,” he said, “for example, you might wish to give her to one or another, for an evening, or such, for some purpose of yours, you might think in terms of a camisk, a ta-teera, a bit of rep-cloth, such things.”
I knew that camisks, and ta-teeras, were frowned on in the streets, in public. The streets of Ar were not the aisles of taverns, the vestibules and stairwells of insulae, the corridors in a military camp. Still one would see them. Indeed, in some of the lower paga taverns, the girls wore only their bells and collars. Little kaissa was played in such taverns.
“Twenty,” said the woman.
“Let us say, forty,” suggested the man.
“I wish you well,” she said, turning about, with a swirl of garmenture.
“Thirty!” he cried. “Yes, yes! Then twenty!”
She spun about. “Done,” she said.
I saw a twenty-tarsk piece put in his hand.
I had been sold, again.
“What is your name?” asked the woman.
“Whatever Mistress wishes,” I said.
Her eyes narrowed, and I sensed, within the veil, she wrinkled her nose. “What of Dung-of-Tarsk?” she asked.
“Whatever Mistress wishes,” I said.
“What have you been called?” she asked.
“Allison,” I said.
“I do not know that name,” she said.
“It is a barbarian name, your graciousness,” said the man.
“Good,” said the woman. “We will keep it. That way others will know that she is a barbarian, or no better than a barbarian.”
“It will help to keep her in her place,” said the man.
“What is your name, girl?” she asked.
“Allison, Mistress,” I said, “if it pleases Mistress.”
“I will have her picked up later this evening, after dark,” said the woman. “In the meantime shave her head and scrub her clean, with kaiila brushes.”
“It will be done,” said the man.
Why, I wondered, was I to be picked up after dark?
Why would she not take me with her, from the market? The men could thong-bind my wrists behind my back and cord-leash me.
Suitably bound and tethered I could no more escape from her than from a man. A slave is often made helpless, absolutely so.
Surely it would not take long to cleanse a slave, or, if one wished, to shave her head.
Why was I to be picked up after dark?
I was uneasy.
I was looking up, from my knees, these positioned closely together, as though I might still be white-silk, when the woman’s veil seemed to slip, as though inadvertently. I think, however, this lapse was not inadvertent, as she did not immediately restore it, but let it lay loose for a moment, as she smiled.
“Aii,” said the man, softly.
I myself gasped, as well. She was surely one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. Her features were exquisite, her eyes a deep, soft, lovely blue. At the side of her hood, there was a strand of bright, blondish hair.
“I am the Lady Bina,” she said. “It is in this name that my agent will call for the girl.”
She then refastened the veil.
I gathered she had well tested her power, to her satisfaction, on the hapless fellow.
I recalled the sternness of her bidding.
This was no ordinary beautiful woman.
“You may find my agent unusual,” she said. “But do not be afraid. He is harmless, save when aroused, or angered.”
I did not understand this.
“I have men,” said the fellow. “Let them conduct you from this place. It is a low place. The streets are not well lit. It will soon be dark.”
“I do not understand,” she said, in a way which suggested she well understood.
“The streets are dangerous,” he said. “Your graciousness should be guarded.”
“I am guarded,” she said, and turned, and left.
“She is beautiful enough to be a Ubara,” said the man to his fellow, who had held the lamp.
“That is an odd name,” said his fellow.
I thought it odd, as well, for ‘bina’ is a common word for beads, generally cheap beads, of colored wood, slave beads.
“I do not think she is Gorean,” said the man.
“What then?” asked the other. “She does not seem barbarian.”
“Did you see her?” asked the man.
“Of course,” said the other.
“What do you think?” asked the man.
“Ten golden tarn disks, at least of double weight,” said the other.
“I think so,” said the man.
“Such women are well guarded,” said his fellow.
“This is an honest house,” said the man.
“Yes,” said the other. Then he looked down at me. “So,” he said, “twenty tarsks.”
I put my head down.
“It is not a bad price for her,” said the man.
On Gor, commonly, slaves are cheap, even beautiful slaves. They are easily obtained. Almost anyone may own one, or more.
“Allison,” said the man, “follow Petranos. He will conduct you to the tubs. There he will shave your head, and then the girls will scour you.”
“May I speak, Master?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
I put my hands to my hair. “Must my head be shaved?” I asked.
He put his left hand in my hair, holding me, as I knelt, and then, first with the back of his right hand, and then with its palm, cuffed me, sharply, stingingly.
“Forgive me, Master,” I said.
I then rose to my feet, and hurried after Petranos.
I knelt under the sheet, it wrapped closely about me, sobbing, in an outer room, one with access to the street. I could see the street, through the opened door. It was already dark. My left ankle was chained to a ring anchored in the floor.
It is usually the left ankle which is chained.
My body was sore, for the slaves who had cleaned me had not been gentle. They were larger slaves, thick-bodied, and coarse. They tend to have something of the attitude of free women toward slaves of a sort likely to be of greater interest to men. They tend to despise the needful, lovely, feminine slave, the sort men are likely to seek, capture, collar, and put to their feet.
I was now much different from what I had been.
I was now sparkling, doubtless.
The cleaning slaves had seen to that.
The smell of tarsk was no longer on me. Surely that was to the good. But I was miserable. I put my hand to my head. I remembered the feel of the razor on my scalp. I cried out in misery. Petranos had done his work well.
How ugly I now was!
How could I now attract a desirable master?
For what had I been purchased? For the mills, or the mines, for work at the carnariums, the filth pits, for work in the sewers, in the tharlarion stables, at the tarsk pens? I did not know.
Clearly I would now be of little interest in the taverns, in the brothels, in the gambling houses, even in the towers, or inns.
Who now would want the former Allison Ashton-Baker? Not even the boys I used to torment!
I heard then a cry of alarm from the street.
I jerked against the chain, startled, and nearly rose to my feet, but then swiftly resumed my kneeling position. I was a slave. No free person had given me permission to rise.
We are on our knees as easily, and naturally, and as appropriately, as the free person is on his feet, or sits on his bench or chair, or reclines, at ease, on his supper couch.
Two or three men, from the market, who had been loitering outside, in the warm night, backed through the door, warily.
Something very large, and bent over, boulder-like, was in the doorway. It was huge, the form muchly concealed within the ample, thick, sheet-like, hooded cloak it wore.
The hood moved, from side to side, and I sensed that something deep within the hood was considering the room.
“Away!” cried one of the men.
I then heard a noise, a sort of noise, which, this first time I heard it, dismayed and terrified me. It was a noise such as one might expect from some large, wary, suspicious, predatory, carnivorous beast. It was clearly bestial. But, strangely, it seemed no ordinary noise, some sort of signal, or a revelation of a mood, but a subtly articulated stream of sound, and scarcely had it ceased than I heard Gorean, the words clearly sounded, but oddly spaced, produced, apparently, by means of some sort of device, some sort of machine or contrivance.
“Do not be afraid,” it said. “I bear no weapons. I mean you no harm. I come in peace. I come in the name of the Lady Bina, that I might claim on her behalf a female slave.”
“Who are you?” said a man.
“What are you?” said another.
“Are you human?” asked another.
“What is human?” rejoined the mechanical voice. “A mind, a shape, a form? Are you human?”
“It is a beast,” said another. “They are dangerous. They are hunted. They lurk in wildernesses. Some are north, in Torvaldsland.”
“I come on behalf of Lady Bina, to claim a slave,” said the voice.
“We await another,” said a man, he who had bargained unsuccessfully with the lovely Lady Bina, “her agent.”
“I am he,” said the voice.
“How do we know that?” asked a man.
“I come in her name,” said the voice.
I knelt, chained in place, in terror. I do not think I could have spoken, had I wished to do so.
“What is the name of the slave?” asked the fellow who had dealt with the Lady Bina.
“My translator,” said the voice, “does not carry the name.”
“Translator?” said a fellow, puzzled.
“The speaking thing,” said another.
“Then,” said the man who had sold me, “you cannot have her.”
At this point a sound came from within that enormous, cloaked, hooded figure which was not translated, but its menace was clear, and the men moved further back.
I found my voice, to scream, and hide my head.
A hairy, large, paw-like thing had come from under the cloak and brushed back the hood, revealing a broad, furred head, perhaps a foot in width, with large eyes. The ears, large and pointed, moved back, gently, against the sides of the head. The mouth opened, enough to see the movement of a large, restless tongue, and afford a glimpse of thick, spike-like, moist, curved fangs.
I had the sense that those massive jaws might have been capable of biting through a beam, and could easily, like tearing paper, snap away a man’s head, or woman’s.
The beast approached me, the cloak dragging behind it. I could now see its furred chest, and could see, against the chest, the small device, the translator, which was slung about its neck. One massive paw reached toward me.
“Do not!” said the leader of the men, he who had dealt with the Lady Bina. “She is chained! You would tear her foot off!”
The beast reached to the chain that fastened me to the ring, and wrenched it from the floor, with a splintering of wood.
“Stop!” said the leader.
The beast turned and looked at him.
I would not care to have such a thing so look at me.
“I will unchain her!” he said.
“The slave is female,” came from the translator, mechanically, unemotionally, a placidity quite at odds with the roiling, tensed power that seemed to rise now like lava within that immense, living frame, “the price was twenty tarsks, and the buyer is by name Bina, and by title, the Lady Bina.”
“I will unchain her,” said the man. “Forgive us. We wished to be sure of matters. Our mistake is natural. We were not warned, or sufficiently warned. We did not expect an agent such as yourself, noble Master.”
I did not think the beast was flattered.
He seemed to be measuring the distance between himself and the rear entrance, leading to the cage area. The ears were lifted. I heard nothing. There was moisture about its jaws and the fangs were wet with saliva.
Words came again from the translator.
“Tell them not to use their bows,” it said. “Before they could appear in the portal, I could strike away your head.”
“I do not understand,” said the man, disconcerted.
“Tell them to put their bows down, in the portal, where I can see them.”
The man turned about. “Is anyone there?” he called.
“Now,” came from the translator.
“There is no one there,” said the man.
“Now,” repeated the translator.
“There is no one there,” said the man.
“Do you wish to live?” came from the translator.
“Do it, do it,” said the man, “put your bows down, in the portal.”
Two fellows, whom I recognized from the market, then appeared in the portal, and placed crossbows on the floor.
I had heard nothing, nor, apparently, had the others in the room, only the beast.
Could one hear a step so soft, the drawing of a cable, the laying of a quarrel in the guide?
“You will live,” came from the translator.
A key was thrust into the lock on my manacle, and it was turned, moving the bolt, after which the sides of the device were opened, on their hinges.
The sheet was removed from me and I was put to my belly before the beast. I scarcely dared raise my head.
I saw heavy, furred, clawed feet before me.
“Your principal,” said the man, rising to his feet, “made an excellent buy. She is a beauty. But perhaps you cannot see that, as you are different.”
The large head lifted and regarded him. “I can see that,” it said.
“There is an additional charge, of ten tarsks,” said the man.
“Perhaps, after all,” came from the translator, “you do not wish to live.”
“It will be waived, of course,” said the man.
The beast then, bent over, wary, began to back toward the street. It paused in the portal. “Come with me,” came from the translator.
I saw the large eyes on me.
“What would such a thing want of a slave?” asked one of the men.
“Food?” suggested another.
I screamed in terror, sprang to my feet, and tried to run back toward the cages, but had moved not a step or two before I was caught in the rear portal by one of the fellows there, and held. I struggled, wildly, but my strength was no more than that of a child in his arms. I began to shudder. I turned to look at the beast, saw the eyes and fangs, screamed again, and lost consciousness.
I folded the ironed sheets carefully.
Afterwards I would deliver them about. One launders the sheets at the public troughs, and later sprinkles them, and puts them under the handled irons, heated on the plate over the house fire.
The tunic I wore was suitable for a woman’s slave, brown, high-necked, and mid-calfed, rather different from what a man would be likely to put on a slave. On the other hand, it was surely not the cruel farce of sul cloth which had been mentioned during the bargaining at the Tarsk Market. In the markets and the streets I had seen the typical garmenture of other women’s slaves, following their mistresses, heads down, modestly, supposedly that they might not reflect upon their mistresses by exchanging glances with passing men, garmentures which served to demonstrate at once the status and taste of the mistress and the presumed, irreproachable deportment of her slaves. To be sure, many a quick smile and sly glance was passed now and then between such a putatively virtuous pet and one hardy, bold fellow or another. Occasionally, caught in such a contretemps, I had seen a girl mercilessly switched, until she cowered, rolling under the blows, sobbing and crying out, and I scarcely dared to speculate what might occur when she was marched home to a whipping ring.
In the outer room of the Tarsk Market I had been revived abruptly and unpleasantly by a canister of cold water splashed on my body. It took only a startled, miserable instant to recall the occasion of my loss of consciousness, and one of the first sights to greet me were the eyes of that enormous, crouching beast, regarding me, peering out from within that dark, loose, blanket-like robe and hood within which he concealed, as he could, his massive, but strangely agile frame, that of some sort of hirsute, large-chested, muscular bipedalian, or near-bipedalian, form of life, surely one with which I was unfamiliar. It could rear upright, freeing its grasping appendages for the manipulation of tools, but, as I would later learn, it could also move on all fours, using the knuckles of its forelimbs, with great speed, much faster than a man could run, or a woman. Its entire mien suggested a kind of animal which was predatory, aggressive, and carnivorous. Yet I had gathered from the utilization of the device, or translator, which still hung from its neck, I could see the loose chain, it was rational. Interestingly this reassurance of rationality did not allay my trepidation but increased it, for it bespoke no ordinary beast but one which might pursue its ends not blindly, or even merely cunningly, but patiently, wisely, calculatedly. Surely it was an unfamiliar, fearful robe for intelligence to wear. It was no more than a dozen feet from me. None of the men were near it. I struggled a bit, and fell to my side. While unconscious I had been tightly bound. My wrists had been fastened together behind my back, and my arms had been tied tightly to my sides. Also a leather collar was on my neck, from which a leash dangled, and the end of the leash was clutched in one of the beast’s massive paws.
“Please save me, Masters!” I wept to the men about. “I will be a good slave! Keep me! Am I not pretty? I beg to please you, and wholly, unquestioningly, and abjectly, responding to your least whim, in all the ways of the female slave! I will please you muchly. Rescue me! Do not let me be taken by this beast!”
Surely they must have some pity, or feeling, for one who was, after all, a female of their own species, though one with a brand incised into her left thigh.
“Please, Masters!” I wept. “Please, Masters!”
“You have been paid for,” said the leader of the men.
“Return his money!” I begged. “Sell me to another!”
“The money was good,” said Petranos. “Everything is in order.”
“Please!” I wept.
“It is too late,” said a fellow.
“Please, please, please!” I begged, thrusting my head to the floor.
“This is an honest house,” said the leader of the men.
I felt the leash draw taut and my head was pulled up, and I must, along the length of the leash, regard the beast.
With a last, wary look about the room, before which the men shrank back, he backed through the portal, and I could not gain my feet, and was dragged from the room, my shoulder abrading on the wooden floor, and then I was on the stones of the street.
“Do not eat me!” I begged, from my side, looking to him, frightened, sore, lying on the street, he much as a gloomy boulder in the shadows.
Two or three of the men appeared in the doorway, dark against the light behind them from the room.
A low growl, of obvious menace, was emitted from the throat of the beast, and then men withdrew, and the door was shut, and I heard it bolted.
There was then little light in the street.
The leash was slackened, and gently snapped, twice.
This was a signal, to a trained animal.
I must try to rise to my feet, to be led.
Perhaps, then, I was not the first woman he had had on his leash! Who had taught a beast this? What of the others? Had they been eaten?
I tried to rise, but my legs gave way beneath me.
“Forgive me, Master,” I said. “I cannot stand. I am too weak. I am too frightened.”
I cowered then, and expected to be beaten with the free end of the leash, but my legs would still not hold me.
“Forgive me, Master,” I whispered.
Again he administered the simple leash signal.
I tried to rise, struggling, but again slipped to the stones.
He then approached me, and sat me, facing him. He then crossed my ankles, and, with the free end of the leash, bound them together.
I watched, with an odd fascination.
In the house, of course, the slaves are familiarized with various bindings and tetherings to which they might be subjected. Accustoming them to bonds of various sorts is part of their training. Additionally, they are instructed in various responses to various bindings, for example, how to exploit them to their advantage, how to wear them attractively, how to move seductively within them, how to utilize them to enhance their desirability, how to use them in such a way, by movement and expression, as to excite and stimulate the master, and so on. To be sure, ropes, thongs, bracelets, chains, and such, are not only attractive on the slave, but, as she understands her confinement, her vulnerability, and her helplessness, they have their role in intensifying her sexuality, in heightening her receptivity, her readiness, and passion, as well. A slave will often beg for binding. To be sure, the very condition of bondage itself, aside from questions of restraint, with its signals, rituals, garmentures, behaviors, accouterments, expectations, and such, is richly and profoundly sexual; it is a way of life, a richly sexual way of life, and, given the radical sexual dimorphism of the human species, and the selections of millennia, a very natural way of life, one in fulfilling accord with the biotruths of human nature.
As I watched my ankles being tied I noted the beast was using warrior knots, the sort which quickly and easily secure a woman. As women are common loot on Gor, of greater interest than, say, goblets and tapestries, warriors are instructed in such knots. By their means a woman may be rendered wholly helpless in a matter of Ihn. I moved my ankles a little. They were well tethered.
Where, I wondered, would such a beast have learned such knots? Surely it was not itself a member of the Scarlet Caste. Perhaps it had once known a warrior, somewhere, on some world or other.
I knew little of Gor, but it did not seem likely to me that this form of beast would be indigenous to this world.
“I know you understand Gorean,” I whispered.
It looked at me, one lip moving back a bit, revealing the tip of a fang.
“In the Tarsk Market,” I said, “the device, the translator, transformed your language into Gorean, but it did not translate the masters’ Gorean into your language. Thus, you know Gorean.”
I knew that some individuals can follow a language which they do not care to speak, or are not adept at speaking Too, how could a beast such as this articulate the phonemes of a human language, presumably no more than we could recreate the sounds of its own speech. How could one speak the language of a jard, a vart or tharlarion, even if they had a language?
The beast reached to the small device on its chain, slung about its neck. It pressed a portion of the device, at its center.
I had the sense that the device had been deactivated.
Then, straightening up, it seemed to growl, a guttural rumbling, some Ihn in duration, perhaps ten or fifteen, above me, and I shuddered. “Please, Master,” I said. “Use the device, the translator. You cannot expect me to understand you.”
I fought not to understand, for I thought I could not, or should not, understand, and perhaps I did not want to understand, and perhaps I would refuse to understand, and then, to my astonishment, it occurred to me that I had understood.
I looked up at him, in amazement.
He had said that he was Grendel, high Kur, once from the world of Agamemnon, Eleventh Face of the Nameless One, self-exiled from his world, that he might accompany and guard a woman, the Lady Bina, once, too, of that world.
“You understand,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
To be sure, I understood very little of what had been said.
“Most of my kind, if I have a kind,” he said, “cannot articulate Gorean, or well, certainly not without a translator. My throat is different, and my tongue, a little. There are reasons for this, which need not concern you. I can make myself understood in Gorean, if you will make the necessary adjustments. It is hard, at first, easy later.”
“Agamemnon,” I said, “was an ancient king, on Earth.”
“That is not his name, of course,” said the beast, “but you could not pronounce his name. ‘Agamemnon’ seemed a suitable substitute for the true name. It was suggested by humans, for some reason. They wanted, or needed, some name, it seems. Similarly, you cannot pronounce my true name. But I am called Grendel. That name, too, was invented by humans. I gather it is the name of a monster, a grotesque anomaly, a lonely thing of bogs, and marshes and wildernesses, unpleasant to look upon, hated and feared, perhaps the result of an experiment which turned out badly, so that seems appropriate.”
“I am a slave,” I said.
It occurred to me an instant later that I might have claimed to be a free woman, and thus, suitably, to be freed. Might I have confused or deluded him? Would he even understand these things? I would not have dared such a stratagem with a native Gorean, of course, even in my terror, for fear of the frightful consequences attendant on being discovered in such a deception.
I did not want to live the rest of my life in ankle chains, my throat locked in a high collar, of weighty iron, with points.
How one would long then for a common collar, and the simple exposure of a common tunic!
“Yes,” he said.
But of course I was a slave, and must be understood as such by the beast. I wore no collar, true, for the collar of the gambling house had been removed, but the slave mark was in my thigh, small, lovely, obvious, unmistakable. Too, I had been purchased. And I had been bound, and leashed, as a slave.
There was no doubt as to what the former Allison Ashton-Baker now was. She was slave.
“Sell me, sell me!” I said.
Again the lips moved back a bit, about the fangs.
“Please do not eat me, Master,” I said.
“I do not eat human,” it said.
I caught my breath. I shuddered with relief.
Was he telling the truth?
The mien of the beast, the size, the fangs, the eyes, set forward in the head, suggested the carnivore.
It reached down and scooped me up, gently, in its arms.
I felt very small within them.
“Please sell me,” I begged.
“I do not own you,” it said.
I twisted, helpless, in the bonds.
“Lie still,” it said.
I supposed that she spoken of as the Lady Bina owned me. Had she bought me for another, I wondered. Had she bought me for the beast?
Had I been bought as food for it, cheap food?
“Be still,” it said.
I then lay quietly, enfolded in its mighty arms, miserable, and it moved swiftly, but warily, along the dark street.
Once a fellow appeared, a shadow, in a doorway, but was greeted with so sudden, and fierce, a snarl, that he quickly withdrew.
I think I was as frightened as the fellow in the doorway, who withdrew so quickly, so silently, a shadow vanishing back amongst other shadows.
It was I, after all, goods, who was within the arms of the beast.
We continued on, for better than several Ehn.
I realized, as our journey continued, that I was being carried as a free woman is carried. The slave is commonly carried over the left shoulder, head to the rear, steadied by the bearer’s left arm. In this way the slave may not see where she is being taken, what lies before her bearer, and, too, she may understand herself as goods, so carried, as much so as a sack of suls, a roll of matting, a crate of larmas, a bundle of tur-pah. In this way, too, her bearer’s right arm is free.
I realized I had spoken, and more than once, without permission.
I had not been punished for this, nor even warned of so untoward an indiscretion, so culpable a presumption.
Too, I was being carried as a free woman.
I was reasonably sure that the Lady Bina, from her accent, was not of Ar, and from her demeanor, perhaps not of Gor itself. I suspected that I, in my ignorance, might be as much informed as she of Gorean ways and culture. Too, the beast, I suspected, was not of Gor. He did not even understand, I gathered, how a slave was to be carried. Thus, he might not understand many things about the treatment of slaves. This I might turn to my advantage. But he had tied me as a slave, and well. Too, had he not spoken of another world? I suspected then that not only the beast but the strikingly beautiful Lady Bina herself might derive from such a world. She, I was sure, was human, quite human. I did not understand the nature of the beast. It was a form of life, a fearful form of life, with which I was hitherto unacquainted.
I lay as quietly as possible in the arms of the beast, being carried through the dark streets.
My hopes of acquiring a suitable master had been muchly dashed after the burning of the gambling house, and my translation, with that of my chain sisters, to the Tarsk Market. What suitable master would have recourse to such a market for a slave? One would hope to find there, if slaves at all, only pot girls, kettle-and-mat girls, she-tarsks, so to speak. I certainly did not consider myself a she-tarsk. I had been popular enough, and as a slave, in the gambling house. Its patrons had not found the former Allison Ashton-Baker, barefoot, collared, briefly and seductively tunicked, remiss as, or displeasing as, a slave. And how she had enjoyed the eyes of the men upon her, well understanding such appraisals as evidence of her value! The free woman is doubtless priceless, but the slave has an actual value, what men are willing to pay for her. My thoughts of a master had varied from time to time. Sometimes it seemed to me that I would like a weak master whom I might control, manage, and manipulate, rather as a typical female companion on my native world was accustomed, given the culture in question, to control, manage, and manipulate their male companions, rather to the unhappiness, distress, and frustration of both. Would it not be pleasant to be owned by a weak man, with whom one would be sure of having one’s own way? To be sure, one must be careful. I would be in his collar, and there would be a whip on its peg. But I thought, rather, I must be a true slave, as I wanted a true man, one who would lust after me with power, who would be satisfied with nothing less than owning me, wholly, one who would be to my slave a master, one who would have me kneel before him, naked and collared, perhaps chained, my head to his feet, one who would own me, unequivocally. I wanted to be his, his property, a helpless object, goods, possessed by him, in all the fullness of law, in all the fullness of culture, in all the fullness of nature. I supposed then that I must be in my heart a slave, one radically female, and needful. To such a man I would have no choice but to submit, and wholly, and to such a man I longed to submit, and wholly. It was in the collar of such a man I wanted to be; it was the collar of such a man I longed to wear. It was the touch of such a man which would make me weak and helpless, a yielding, submitted slave. It was the touch of such a man which would set me afire. It was the touch of such a man for which I would beg. But, alas, how can one’s slave be satisfied, as in the lament of so many women of my world, where one has no master?
I was confident that I might exploit the ignorance, the weakness, of those unfamiliar with the nature of Gor.
Could I not win for myself, with a smile, a tear, a word, a frown, an easy life?
But I was unsure of these things, for much here seemed paradoxical, the nature of she who had bargained for me, and bought me, and the nature of he who was her agent, and had claimed me in her behalf.
I was being carried with all the gentleness and courtesy of a free woman.
Had I not seen free women standing as though forlorn before tiny lakes of drainage water and mud at intersections, until a suitable male approached, alert to her seeming distress, to whom she granted the daring privilege of carrying her to safety on the other side of the street? I supposed he knew what was occurring. I hoped so. There is a timing in such matters. Sometimes one had to circle a block in order to strand oneself opportunely.
Yet, though I was carried in dignity, as though I might be free, I was tightly, helplessly bound, bound as a slave.
I was a slave.
Would I be freed?
That seemed unlikely to me. There is a Gorean saying that only a fool frees a slave girl, and I suppose it is true. What man does not want a slave? Even on my native world I was sure that the men and boys I knew would not have minded in the least owning me. That sort of thing had been clear enough in the party on Earth, where they had looked delightedly and unabashedly on the collar on my neck, and my half-naked limbs.
I supposed they thought, how pleasant it would be to own Allison Ashton-Baker. What shall I name her?
Too, I had gathered, during my sale, that the Lady Bina had wished to reassure herself that I might be of interest to men.
I did not understand that.
Was a coin box to be chained about my neck and I would be sent into the streets? Was I to be put at the disposal of guests when I had finished serving a supper? Was I to be rented out?
To be sure, it is not unusual for a free woman to want her serving slaves to be attractive to men. A double cruelty is involved in this. In this way, by denying her girls the arms of masters she frustrates them, which pleases her, as she hates slave girls, and she also, in a way, punishes, or thinks she punishes, men, to whom she denies her girls, for their interest in slaves, which interest she, as a free woman, resents.
How could one care for a slave when a free woman was present?
But how could one care for a free woman, when a slave was present?
But how, I asked myself, could I now be of interest to men, given the work of the razor of Petranos?
“We are here,” said the beast.
One commonly irons, as one launders, on one’s knees. This is, of course, not different from the usual custom of free women, those of the lower castes. One of the things about your world which I found striking was the paucity of clutter and furniture in your dwellings. You do much with mats, cushions, and low tables, about which men will usually sit cross-legged, and women kneel. Whereas chairs, benches, and higher tables are familiar to you, as in the public eating houses, and common in the north, such things are much more common on my former world. There, almost anyone may sit upon a chair, whereas here, particularly in private dwellings, such an ensconcement is often reserved for individuals of status or importance. And certainly a slave would much fear to take a place on a chair, or, say, on a supper couch. It is not for such as we. Much storage is done in chests, kept at the edges of a room. Perhaps things are different in wealthier domiciles, with their larger kitchens and pantries, their walls, the interior colonnades, the fountains, and gardens, the rooms opening onto them, and such. I glimpsed something of that, once, when a portal had been briefly opened. From the outside, of course, little of luxury is suggested. Much seems drab, and plain, heavy, even forbidding. Sometimes bills are posted on the exterior walls, as though in public places.
I finished folding the sheets.
The Lady Bina had rented the upper-floor of a small, two-floor, common-wall house on Emerald. The front of the first floor, facing the street, was the shop of a pottery merchant, Epicrates, who, with his family, lived in the rear. His companion, Delia, like himself, could read. This is common amongst the Merchants. Indeed, thanks to her instruction, and a handful of coins, distributed over a few days, the Lady Bina was now passably literate. Certainly she could now manage the public boards and, I gathered, typical scrolls. She was apparently an apt pupil. Indeed, I gathered she could already read better than many allegedly literate Goreans. I had no doubt that my Mistress was not only extremely beautiful, but extremely intelligent, as well. She was very quick, and very ambitious. I was unclear as to her background, as much, or more, than that of the beast. It was almost as though she had never been taught, or socialized. There was something about her which, for all her intelligence, suggested the innocence of the animal, something wild and unconstrained, something immediate, direct, and untutored. As nearly as I could tell she was unencumbered by restraints or scruples. What she might want she would see to it, if possible, that she would have. In that small, beautiful body, slightly smaller than mine, there was a nature innocently prudential, vain, self-centered, independent, and calculating. I did not understand her. How had she been raised, or, in a sense, had she been raised at all? In her way she seemed as unsettlingly innocent, and as impatient, occasionally nasty, and possibly dangerous, if crossed, as an urt, or a small, lovely she-sleen. Oddly, I suspected more of humanity, or a sort of humanity, in the beast. It had, for example, or at least seemed to have, a sense of duty, of loyalty, of honesty, of honor. I recalled how my ankles had been bound outside the Tarsk Market. They had been fastened together with warrior knots. Might it be, somehow, familiar with the scarlet codes?
The beast had informed me that it was self-exiled, and had accompanied the Lady Bina to this world, from their former world, as a guard. I had, however, never noted coins passed between them. Guard he might be, but I did not think him a guard in any normal sense. Why, I wondered, had he left his own world, truly, and with her? It did not seem she owned him, or he her. Had he been outlawed, had he fled? What was his relationship, truly, to the Lady Bina? Had others banished him, denying him bread, fire, and salt? Was it substantially a coincidence that they were together, merely fellow expatriates? I did not think so. How had they come here? There must have been a ship. Indeed, how had I come here? There must have been a ship. The translator I had seen suggested a sophisticated technology. Yet here, on this world, I had seen little that would suggest such things. There were mysteries, apparently. And there were the mysterious Sardar Mountains, within which, supposedly, resided the gods of Gor, called Priest-Kings. It seemed a primitive world, but I, and others, had been brought here, and there was the translator.
The beast, in all things, save those in which her safety or health might be jeopardized, would give way to the Lady Bina. She was, of course, a free woman. Sometimes she would stamp her small foot, and pout, in annoyance, but he would be adamant, as a rock, if he feared for her welfare. He would even, with all his size and might, accept abuse at her hands, patiently, unflinchingly. I had seen her, in frustration, strike him, again and again, but he would make no effort to protect himself, or fend her away. I myself would have been afraid to lift my hand to him, lest it be bitten off. I had been purchased, obviously, at least in part, for the work of a female slave, that I might labor on behalf of my mistress, keep the domicile, clean and launder, purchase, prepare, and cook food, as I might, fetch and carry, in particular bringing water from the fountains, run errands, indulge her whims, tend to her wants, accompany her, head down, in the streets, and such. I did not care for the slavery, as I was a female slave, and had no master. It is one thing to perform such tasks for a master, knowing that even in small things I was serving him, each task then being subtly imbued with submission and sexuality, for a woman’s sexuality is subtle, warm, profound, and pervasive, and another to perform them for a woman. To the slave, shining the master’s boots can be a sexual experience, serving him, and being so close to something he has touched. How privileged is a slave to be permitted to kneel before such a man, put down her head, and lick and kiss his feet! How she hopes to please him! She will fondle the chain that fastens her to the foot of his couch. She is his. May he never sell her! But I had no master.
Lady Bina, I gathered, was proceeding splendidly in her literacy. She could now print, in the odd Gorean fashion, “as the bosk plows,” where the first line proceeds from left to right, the second from right to left, and so on. I did not know if the beast could read or not. Certainly it was not taking lessons from the companion of Epicrates. Few instructors, I supposed, would welcome so terrifying a pupil. I could not read, of course, not even my own collar. It said, I was told, “I belong to the Lady Bina, of Emerald Street, of the house of Epicrates.” Slaves are seldom taught to read. On the other hand, many are literate, as free women, particularly of the higher castes, are commonly literate. Free women of the upper castes, taken in war, and such, exposed on the block, often bring nice prices. Gorean men enjoy having former free women, particularly those who were formerly rich, or of the higher castes, in their collars. It is probably difficult for one of my former world to understand the awesome dignity and importance, the social and cultural status, of the Gorean free woman, for she possesses a Home Stone, a status incomparably far above that of the usual free woman of my former world. Accordingly, it would be difficult for one of my former world to understand the cataclysmic reversal of fortune involved should such a creature, formerly so powerful, exalted, and revered, suddenly find herself stripped and collared, a caught beast, helpless at a stranger’s feet. No longer is she a man’s equal, or superior, the haughty, protected possessor of a Home Stone, but a master’s property. But in time, they, too, lick and kiss the whip lovingly, for they, too, are women.
There is a common Gorean saying that curiosity is not becoming in a kajira. Certainly few things help us to keep our condition as clearly in mind as our being kept in ignorance. Why should we be informed? We are slaves. Would you speak to your kaiila or sleen about prospects, plans, projects, and such? I think the masters enjoy our frustration. We want so much to know, and feel so keenly our deprivation! How we wheedle, how we lie about the ankles of our masters and beg to be informed! But often our entreaties are greeted with laughter, and a foot may spurn us to the side. Is it not another way to remind us that we are in our collars? So, obviously, keeping a slave illiterate helps to keep her in ignorance. I am, incidentally, highly literate in my own first language, but here, I am only another ignorant slave girl, as it pleases masters I should be. One advantage to having a slave who cannot read is that one may use the girl to carry messages amongst friends or associates, messages which she cannot read. She does not even know if the message pertains to herself or not. More than one girl has been so delivered to a new master. A message might read, “Here is Lana, whom I sold to you yesterday evening. Put her at your ring, that she may know she is now yours.” A literate slave may deliver messages placed in a small leather tube, tied by a string about her collar. Her hands are thonged, or braceleted, behind her back. In this way she will be as ignorant of the message’s content as an illiterate slave. Messages of great importance, such as might be transmitted between armies, or cities, are carried by free persons, and are sealed with wax, bearing the imprint of a signet ring. In this way one is assured of the sender, and, if the seal is unbroken, of the security of the message.
As the sheets were now folded, and readied for delivery, I put the kerchief about my head.
It had been some weeks now since my purchase from the Tarsk Market. I was still terribly sensitive as to my appearance, following the work of the razor of Petranos. The hair that had been shorn from me had been discarded. That was from the soiling in the tarsk cage, lying on the straw, sleeping there, and such. The most common reason slaves are shorn is for punishment or cleanliness, or both. For example, slaves who work in the tharlarion stables are often shorn, and the girls in the mills, too. Too, when girls are put on slave ships, chained in their wire cages on tiered shelves in a hold, they are commonly shorn, and depilated, completely, to reduce the infestations of ship lice. The shorn hair is often utilized for catapult cordage, as it is much more resilient, and dampness resistant, than common cordage. Too, there are rumors that some shorn hair, taken from slaves, is used for wigs and falls, for free women. Naturally the hair is certified as having been that of other free women.
I did not think I was all that unattractive, as long as the kerchief was on me.
Interestingly, the Lady Bina was, in many ways, rather different from the typical Gorean free woman. She had observed other free women, with serving slaves, and so she had me heel her, at the proper distance, on the left, appropriately, head down, but she was not at all strict about my looking about, and I frequently did so. Might I not be of interest to a master, and might not one or another of the fellows about inquire of the Lady Bina, sooner or later, what she might be willing to take for her kerchiefed girl? My tunic was certainly not that of a pleasure slave, a paga girl, or such, or even a tower slave, but, too, it was not as calculatedly concealing as the common tunic of a serving slave. On the other hand, I had seen more than one serving slave, in such a tunic, unseen by her mistress, move in such a way that a passing fellow would be in no doubt that within that tunic there was a slave.
Once, before we were to exit the domicile, Lady Bina instructed me to hitch up the tunic a bit.
“Are you beautiful, Allison?” she asked.
“A little, perhaps,” I said.
“Let us see more of your legs,” she said.
“Yes, Mistress,” I said.
“They are a little thin, are they not?” she asked.
“I do not think so,” I said.
“Show more of them,” she said.
“Yes, Mistress,” I said.
“Good,” she said. “I may have use for your beauty.”
“Mistress?” I said, uneasily.
“For men,” she said.
“Yes, Mistress,” I said.
“Come along,” she said.
“Yes, Mistress,” I said.
As it was daylight the beast did not accompany us. It seldom went out until darkness.
One reason I had been purchased, I gathered, was to have a companion for the Lady Bina when she left the house.
We were in the Sul Market one afternoon.
“Allison,” said the Lady Bina, “are you attractive to men?”
“I think so, Mistress,” I said, “a little, sometimes, perhaps.”
To be sure, I thought myself quite attractive. Had I not been one of the most beautiful girls in the sorority, a sorority in which membership, clearly, was not unrelated to beauty? And now, of course, I was enslaved, and slavery much enhances the beauty of a woman. Collared and slave-clad what woman would not be beautiful? And there is the meaning and nature of the condition which in itself enhances the beauty of a woman a thousandfold, for she is then slave.
To be sure, not every woman is attractive, or particularly attractive, to every man. Too, of course, not every woman who yearns to be at the feet of a man yearns to be at the feet of every man. A woman who might plead for the collar of one man might tremble at being placed in the collar of another.
“Do you like being attractive to men?” she asked.
“Must I answer, Mistress?” I said.
“Certainly,” she said, “and remember that you are a slave.”
Slaves may not lie.
“Yes, Mistress,” I whispered.
Every woman likes to be attractive to men. Even women who hate men like to be attractive to them, if only to humiliate and torture them. In the college I had taken great pleasure in my attractiveness to boys and men, even those I held in contempt. Now, I realized, such might own me.
An important aspect of a slave’s life is closely associated with her attractiveness to men. The quality of her life is muchly affected by her desirability. How will she be fed, clothed, treated? Who will buy her? Must she compete with other slaves for the attention of the master? It is no wonder the slave strives to make herself exciting, attractive, and desirable, and as a slave. It is no wonder she strives to be pleasing to her master.
Too, it is not unknown for the slave to discover, sooner or later, perhaps to her trepidation, that she loves the man whose chain she wears.
Let her hope then that she will not find herself hooded and returned to a market.
“I would make test of your attractiveness to men,” said the Lady Bina.
“Mistress?” I said, puzzled.
“It is one thing for which you were purchased,” she said.
“There are no men in the house,” I said.
“There are many here, in the market,” she said, “large men, strong men.”
“Mistress?” I said, frightened.
“Have you had what they call Slave Wine?”
“Yes, Mistress,” I said, “in the house of Tenalion.”
“I shall give you ten Ehn,” she said.
“My head was shaved!” I said.
“You now have less than ten Ehn,” she said.
“Surely Mistress jests,” I said.
“You were purchased for twenty copper tarsks,” she said. “I am sure, now that you are cleaned up, and such, I could get at least twenty-five for you, if I sold you to a butcher, for sleen feed.”
“Surely Mistress would not do so,” I said.
“I could then purchase another girl, perhaps again at the Tarsk Market, one more attractive,” she said.
“I do not want to die,” I said.
“You are a slave,” she said. “You are supposed to want sex, even need it.”
“Please, Mistress!” I protested.
Certainly I had felt uneasiness, and, from time to time, after I had been collared, I had felt it acutely.
But, from the lingering effects of my Earth conditioning, and my newness to the state of bondage, I was not yet the helpless victim of the raging slave fires which so frequently tormented and dominated the bellies and bodies of many slaves.
Had I been I would have begged on my knees, or belly, for sex.
“Something like nine Ehn now,” said the Lady Bina.
“Please, no!” I cried.
The blue eyes of the Lady Bina regarded me, over the street veil, seemingly pleasantly, seemingly impassively. I did not sense that she was angry, or cruel. Again the mystery of her background alarmed me.
I cried out in misery and fled away, a few yards, and put myself to my knees before a stallsman.
I put down my head and pressed my lips to his sandals. “I am a slave vessel for your pleasure!” I said. “I am docile. I will be obedient. I am sure your touch would heat me, and well!”
“Are you mad?” he said.
“No, Master!” I said. “I beg use!”
“Here?” he laughed.
“Anywhere,” I said. “But soon, soon!”
“Where is your coin box, your pan?” he asked.
“I have none!” I said.
“What do you want?” he said.
“A copper tarsk!” I said. I thought it well to say something, that I might be more believable.
“A tarsk-bit, a tarsk-bit!” I said.
“No,” he said. “And how do I know you would give it to your master.”
“I have no master,” I said.
He regarded my tunic. “You are a woman’s serving slave?” he said.
“Yes, Master!” I said.
“No coin, no coin, nothing!” I said.
“On your way,” he said. “I am selling.”
“Master!” I begged.
He then pushed me with his foot to the stones, and turned to a customer, a free woman.
“How disgusting,” said the free woman.
The stallsman shrugged. “She is a slave,” he said.
I looked back, to where the Lady Bina was watching.
I then leapt up, and looked wildly about.
I next approached a fellow of the Leather Workers, or so I supposed, for he had several loops of harness slung about his shoulders. I barely noticed that several of harnesses slung about his shoulders were slave harness, a form of ingenious harnessing in which a slave might be variously, pleasingly, constrained and exhibited. In such fastenings, easily and conveniently applied, attractive and adjustable, a slave is well apprised of her bondage, as would be any who might care to look upon her.
“Please, Master!” I begged.
“Why are you wearing a kerchief?” he asked.
Tears sprang to my eyes, and he jerked it away. I heard men laugh. I put down my head, shamed.
When I looked up, he had gone.
Quickly I put the kerchief once more about my head.
“A mill girl,” I heard a fellow say.
“She has a serving-slave tunic,” said another.
“Probably she looked at a man,” speculated another.
There was more laughter.
I had no better fortune with two others.
I rushed back to my Mistress, and knelt and wept, “No one wants me! I am shorn! I am shorn!”
“I am disappointed, Allison,” said the Lady Bina. “It seems to me that you would be of interest to men, not that I am a likely judge in such matters.”
“I am sure I could be of interest, Mistress,” I said.
“I am sure some would find you of interest, Allison,” she said.
“Yes Mistress!” I said.
“Perhaps sleen,” she said. “Would you like to be thrown, naked and bound, into a sunken sleen cage?”
“No, Mistress!” I said.
“Five Ehn,” she said.
I rose up, again, and ran a few feet away. I tried to tear the collar from my neck. It read, “I belong to the Lady Bina, of Emerald Street, of the house of Epicrates.” It was locked on my neck.
I did not want to die!
“Four Ehn, Allison,” called the Lady Bina.
Then I straightened by body, and, carefully adjusted the collar on my neck, the lock directly at the back. Too, I adjusted the kerchief. I put back my shoulders. I recalled my instructresses from the house of Tenalion. “Remember,” they had told me, “you are a female slave, and the female slave is the most helpless, vulnerable, exciting, and desirable of all women.” I put up my head, and walked, unhurriedly, in the measured saunter of the slave, proud of her collar, and proud of her womanhood, and well demonstrating it, toward the buildings at the edge of the market. Thus I could be pinned against them. Thus I would have nowhere to run. In its way was this not an invitation? Might it not suggest to someone a convenience, an opportunity? I recalled how the instructresses had drilled me in that gait, at once arrogant, vulnerable, and ready, a gait that said, in effect, “I am a slave, what will you make of that, Masters?” When they were satisfied, they had invited two guards into one of the large training rooms. In this exercise I had been permitted a house tunic. One must learn to wear, and move well within, tunics, camisks, gowns, slave strips, ta-teeras, and such, of various sorts. “Walk,” had said the leader of the instructresses, “walk, Allison, in the third walk of the slave.”
There are, of course, a repertory of behaviors, walks, postures, prostrations, obeisances, and such, with which a slave is trained.
They are, after all, intended to be sold as dreams of pleasure to men.
“Aii!” had cried one of the fellows, leaping up.
In a moment I had been seized by both. I struggled in their arms. I felt myself being lifted from the floor.
“No, no!” laughed the chief instructress. “She is white-silk, white-silk!”
I was much shaken by this experience, but I had learned something of the power of the slave, for she is not without her power.
The two guards left, disgruntled. Doubtless they felt cheated. I am sure they made the instructresses pay later in the “coin of the furs,” not that the instructresses would much mind that. Indeed, I suspected I might have unwittingly figured in their plans.
“Disgusting slut, disgusting, half-naked slut!” hissed a free woman. At least she did not order me to kneel, to be beaten. They so hate us! Or so envy us? She was then away, somewhere. Actually, I was not really half-naked, as many men put their slaves into the streets, but reasonably modestly garbed, as I wore the tunic of a woman’s serving slave, to be sure, one rather more revealing than most.
I walked at the edge of the market, the walls of buildings to my right.
I had been told that larls stalking tabuk would sometimes delay their charge until their prey grazed beside a cliff, a wall of stone, a dense thicket. Indeed, sometimes they would herd, and drive, their prey against such barriers.
It was not so strange then that tabuk commonly grazed in open, or lightly wooded, areas.
The walls were at my right, at my right shoulder.
I gave as little evidence as I could of my fear.
I did not know how many Ehn might be left, perhaps two, perhaps three?
Suddenly an arm, abruptly, startling me, blocked my way, the palm of its hand on the side of the building.
“Serving slave,” pronounced a voice, a harsh, masculine voice. The arm before me, and the hand, were large.
“Master?” I said, stopped.
“Where is your Mistress?” asked the man.
“Somewhere,” I said.
“You do not walk like a serving slave,” he said.
“Forgive me, Master,” I said.
“Are you running away?” he asked.
“No, Master!” I said, frightened.
I was well aware there was no escape for the Gorean slave girl.
“But you have slipped away,” he said.
“Perhaps, Master,” I said.
He removed his hand from the wall, so it no longer blocked my passage. But he now stood before me. I did not try to move about him, or turn, or run away. I was a slave.
He pulled off the kerchief, and freed it of its knot.
“I see this is not the first time you have slipped away,” he said.
I did not respond to him. I let him think that my shearing was a punishment shearing, perhaps from some indiscretion, for which a woman’s serving slave might be punished.
“Perhaps,” he said, “you were also well lashed.”
“Perhaps, Master,” I said.
My kerchief dangled in his right hand.
“Turn about,” he said, “and place your hands, crossed, behind your back.”
“Master!” I protested.
“Now,” he said.
My hands were then tied behind my back. He tied them tightly.
“Kneel down, and put your head to the stones,” he said.
I obeyed, a slave, but I expected my Mistress, at any moment, to intervene.
Surely she was about!
“Aii!” I cried, startled. “Oh, please, oh!” Then I cried, “Master! Master!”
He then turned me about, and tore my tunic down, to the waist.
I was then thrown forward, on the stones.
“Is this your slave?” asked the man.
I looked up, from my belly.
“Yes,” said the Lady Bina.
“I return her to you, for the lashing she deserves,” he said.
I gathered the fellow had a righteous, proper streak. I was, after all, a woman’s serving slave.
“Did you find her attractive?” asked the Lady Bina.
“What?” he asked.
“Did you find her attractive?” asked the Lady Bina. “Could you conceive of men wanting her? Willing to buy her? Do you find her well shaped? Did she squirm well?”
I kept my head down. I had been given little opportunity to squirm.
“What are you asking me?” he asked.
“You are a man,” she said. “I am asking for your assessment of the girl.”
“She was made for the collar,” he said.
“Good,” she said.
“But she is to be as a woman’s serving slave, is she not?” he asked.
“No matter,” she said.
“I do not understand,” he said.
“She is a barbarian,” said the Lady Bina. “Does that dismay you, or give you pause?”
“No,” he said. “Barbarians make excellent slaves.”
“Good,” she said.
“They kick and juice as well as any other woman,” he said. “Forgive me, Lady, as well as any other slave.”
“Of course,” she said. “I now bid you good-day.”
“May Tor-tu-Gor warm you,” said the man.
“Thank you,” she said. “Come along, Allison.”
“My tunic, Mistress,” I said, “and I am bound.”
“No matter,” she said, “come along.”
So I followed her through the market, my head down, until we reached a stall, where the Lady Bina, I standing beside her, bargained for a stone of suls. It was late in the day, and the prices tend to be lower at such a time.
“I will need you,” she said, “to carry the suls.”
She looked about. “You,” she said to a tall, strapping fellow, in the gray and black of the Metal Workers, “untie this slave.”
He came to stand before me, and I felt his eyes, Gorean eyes, peruse me. I lifted my head, and turned away, angered. He looked at me as though I might have been on a block.
“You are in the presence of a free man,” he said. “Get on your knees.”
I suppose few women of Earth had heard such commands, but, hearing them, and in such a tone, I expect there would be few who would not obey.
I, collared, a slave, knelt immediately, frightened.
I looked up at him, from my knees, and our eyes met. I suddenly had the strange feeling that I was kneeling before my master.
I turned aside my head, no longer daring to look into his eyes.
Was I before my master?
“Untie her,” said the Lady Bina.
“I do not free slaves,” he said. “I bind them.”
Then he turned away.
I sensed he was a master who would well know what to do with a slave.
“You,” said the Lady Bina to the stallsman. “Untie her.”
He looked at her.
“The knots are tight,” said the Lady Bina. “I am a woman, with only a woman’s strength.”
“Surely,” said the stallsman, and freed my hands.
I rose to my feet, and tied up, as I could, the torn tunic, and replaced the kerchief. I then, carrying the suls, heeled my Mistress from the market.
“May I speak?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “You have, as of now, a standing permission to speak.”
“Thank you, Mistress,” I said.
“So speak,” she said.
“Is Mistress pleased?” I asked.
“You may put that differently,” said the Lady Bina.
“Is Mistress pleased with Allison?” I asked. I feared that the Mistress was learning more of Gor each day, perhaps, in part, from Delia, the companion of Epicrates.
“Yes,” she said, “I am pleased. I think you did very well, Allison. I am quite pleased. I think you will do very nicely.”
I was not clear as to Mistress’ intentions.
I followed behind her, carrying the suls.
I could not forget the Metal Worker, who ordered me to his feet. I thought I had seen him before, and more than once.
How strange had been the moment when our eyes had met.
Could I be, I wondered, his slave?
I was sure that, in his collar, I would indeed be his slave, and might not any woman?
In him I sensed a strange sense of power. I had the feeling that if I knelt before him I would lift my wrists to him, closely together, that they might be braceleted. Was his the leash, I wondered, which belonged on my neck?
How his eyes had roved me, my tunic half gone from me! What a beast, and monster, he was! How I scorned him, the large, callous, appraising, imperious brute! What could a woman be to such a man but a slave! His collar would be well locked on a woman’s neck! How he had looked upon me as a mere object, and yet, I sensed, as an object which he might find of some interest, slave interest. How I loathed him!
Then I dismissed these thoughts, for we had turned onto Emerald, and would soon be at the domicile.
As the sheets were now folded, and readied for delivery, I put the kerchief about my head.
I then lifted the bundle, and held it on my head, steadying it with both hands.
It was in this fashion that I had seen tunic-clad girls bearing burdens.
It was my impression that my Mistress, and her guard, the beast, Grendel, had come to Gor, and, later, to Ar, with considerable resources, and might still retain an ample portion of these. These were in the form, I gathered, of jewels, in particular, rubies. I had accompanied the Lady Bina to the Street of Stones, actually a tiny district, only a few establishments, near the Street of Coins which, in effect, is itself not truly a street, but a district, where banking is done, credit extended, loans made, moneys changed, and such. In this “Street of Stones” she had exchanged a single ruby, which she had earlier shown to me, proud of its size, cut, luster, and hue. “This would purchase ten or more of you,” she said, “even if you were a silver-tarsk girl.” “Yes, Mistress,” I had said. I supposed it true, and that her estimate might well have been conservative. I do not know what she received for the stone, as I was not permitted in the shop. I must kneel outside, in the sun, head down, chained by the neck to a public slave ring. Such things are apparently common in Gorean cities, at least in the high cities, the tower cities, for the convenience of masters and mistresses. As slaves are animals it is easily understood that there are many places in which they are less than welcome. One would scarcely, for example, bring a kaiila into a shop. In particular, slaves are not permitted within the precincts of temples, lest these edifices be considered defiled by their presence. A free person might seek sanctuary in a temple, but a slave might be killed, if found within one, after which the temple must be purified.
I avoided, whenever possible, the bridges. This was usually possible as, in times of peace, one may enter most towers at the level of the street, and use the stairwells within them, to gain access to the various levels, with their corridors, from which one might reach apartments, ranging from simple one-room cubicles to large, elegant suites. Laundering is done variously in the cities. Most cities have public laundries to which garments, sheets, linen, and such, may be taken, weighed, and washed, and, for an additional fee, ironed. On the other hand, the public laundries do not deliver. There are, in addition, public laundering troughs, which are divided into those reserved for free women and those accessible to slaves. Women of high caste seldom launder, but women of low caste often do. If a household contains a slave or slaves they will do the laundry, as well as other domestic tasks. Many lower-caste households do not contain slaves. There are two primary reasons for this. Whereas slaves are abundant and cheap, it costs to keep them. Most obviously, they must be fed and, to some extent, clothed. Secondly, if the household is small, and a free companion is in the household, she may not care to have a slave on the premises. For example, Delia, the companion of Epicrates, was such a woman. In the towers there are often “tower slaves,” most often owned by the management of the tower. These slaves will launder, amongst attending to other domestic duties, sweeping, dusting, polishing, cleaning, scrubbing, and such, but there is an additional charge for such services. Accordingly, some residents in the towers rent work slaves whose services, being more intermittent and casual, are less expensive. Advertisements for such may be found on certain of the public boards. It was through Delia that the Lady Bina was first apprised of such matters.
It seemed important to the beast, and this did not much please the Lady Bina, who would surely have preferred a suite in a lofty tower, and an opulent mode of life, that they should live obscurely and appear impoverished. I supposed the beast’s desire for privacy was easy enough to understand, given its unusual nature and appearance. In the streets it would surely be noted, watched, followed, called to the attention of guardsmen, and so on. It would no longer be possible to move freely. It might be subjected to ridicule, derision, and abuse. Too, it was scarcely the sort of thing to parade on the bridges or keep in some exclusive residential tower. So, it was thus that it had taken up residence over a small shop on Emerald. Its existence, of course, was not entirely concealed from the world, as Delia and Epicrates were obviously aware of its presence, and it was occasionally seen in the streets, usually after dark. It was understood to be an unusual pet of the Lady Bina. Few understood it as a rational form of life. In some respects, despite its tendency to indulge the will of the Lady Bina, it ruled, and categorically, and the Lady Bina, however fretful and resentful, must abide by its will. Their housing was one such instance. The point of appearing impoverished was involved in this, as well, as the impoverished attract less attention and are less likely to be the target of aggression. Few thieves will rob where robbery seems pointless. It is a fool who dips his bucket in a dry well. To be sure, the Lady Bina did insist on raiment befitting a free woman of station. But the beast would seldom let her out at night, and, when he did, he was often in the vicinity, beside her, or following, sometimes lightly, stealthily, watchful, on the adjacent roofs.
Goreans tend to be curious as to whence one’s income is derived. If one has no obvious means of support suspicion is aroused. Few would suspect that the Lady Bina might have at her disposal a cache of rubies, or similar stones. And it would be well that such suspicions were not entertained, lest they provoke the interest of the unscrupulously acquisitive.
Indeed, I was not sure what resources the Lady Bina and the beast retained. Had the aforementioned ruby been their last? They had no new source of income of which I was aware, lest it might be from investments in the Street of Coins, but I knew of no such investments, and I suspected they would not wish their principal to be tethered to a particular location, nor, perhaps, would they care to have their wealth, if wealth they had, recognized.
In any event, whether as a mere aspect of their disguise, or because the pittances of my earnings might actually be important to their economy, I found myself serving as a work slave, a laundering slave, several customers having been located on the public boards by Delia, companion of Epicrates. The inference to be drawn, correctly or not, was apparently that the Lady Bina was so tragically impecunious that it seemed advisable for her to take in laundry, by means, of course, of her slave, the girl, Allison. I was never permitted of course, to touch this money. Delia would collect coins from some customers, the richer ones, and others, the ones less well off, would deliver the coins to the shop of Epicrates.
And so it came about that the former Allison Ashton-Baker, once of the upper classes of her world, once so superior and haughty, once so special and important in her own eyes, once one of the beauties of an exclusive sorority, at one of her country’s most selective and expensive schools, now tunicked and barefoot, carried laundry in Ar.
I had at first rebelled at this suggestion.
This had occurred after the incident of the Sul Market, that dealing with the Metal Worker. I was still smarting from that episode. I recalled my humiliation, my helpless fury, on my knees before him, put there by his words, half stripped and bound, and he one of lesser caste, only a Metal Worker! This may have motivated, at least in part, my transient, foolish recalcitrance. Did I think I was still Allison Ashton-Baker? Did I not know I was now a slave? I would be reminded. I would be left in no doubt. I would test my limits. I would be taught them.
When I had first been brought to the house of Epicrates I suspected little more than the fact that the Lady Bina and the beast were not native to Gor. I thought this might constitute my opportunity for a manipulable, easy bondage. Certainly neither the beast nor the Lady Bina had treated me as I might have expected to be treated in a Gorean household, at least at first. For example, I had not been carried across the portal bound, thrown to the floor, and put under the whip. This is sometimes done to inform the slave that this is a household in which she is truly a slave, and must understand herself as such. Subsequently there is likely to be little doubt about the matter. And if doubts persist, they may be quickly dispelled. I took this lapse, if lapse it be, on the part of the beast, as an indication of indulgence or weakness, or perhaps merely a lack of interest, and, on the part of the Lady Bina, to be a consequence of ignorance, of her lack of familiarity with Gorean customs, and the attitudes and behaviors expected of a free woman. For all her petulance, pettiness, willfulness, vanity, and nastiness, she did not yet have the acculturated arrogance and sense of social power of the typical Gorean free woman. To be sure, she was highly intelligent and might be expected to learn such things. Delia, I am sure, would be an excellent tutor in such matters. She, like Epicrates, was of the Merchants, and the Merchants often take themselves as a high caste, though few others do. The five traditional high castes are the Initiates, the Scribes, the Builders, the Physicians, and the Warriors. Many would prefer not to count the Warriors as a high caste, but there are few who would openly deny their title to the status, as they are armed.
“I do not do such things,” I had told them, “launder, and such.”
“What?” had asked the beast.
“Grendel?” had said the Lady Bina, puzzled, turning to the beast.
I was standing, facing them.
“I was an important person on my world,” I said. “I am not the sort of person who is set to such tasks.” Then I straightened my body. “You must find another,” I said.
I would never have had the courage, or the stupidity, to speak so in a normal Gorean household.
In such a household, I would have been only too aware of what I was.
Before a man, for example, I would have knelt, head down, waiting to be commanded, hoping, at any cost, to be found pleasing.
A bit of lip pulled back about a fang on the beast’s jaws. In this instance, it had an unpleasant look about it.
I thought it best to kneel.
“What?” said the beast.
I lifted my head.
“I was an important person on my world,” I said, falteringly. “I am not the sort of person who is set to such tasks.”
From the throat of the beast their emanated a low sound, scarcely audible to me, though doubtless quite audible to the beast.
It was not a pleasant sound.
“You must find another,” I said, boldly.
Then I was frightened, for I suddenly feared that the beast, though only a beast, might be familiar with how slaves were to be treated. Why might he not know such things? He may have learned them from others, or another.
I remembered then not the gentle graciousness with which I had been borne here from the Tarsk Market, carried nestled in its arms, as though I might have been a free woman, but remembered, rather, the perfection with which I had been bound, bound as a slave. And the knots had been warrior knots!
I was scarcely aware of its movements so swift it was, and I felt myself seized up, lifted, in mighty paws, and I sensed nails within them, and heard a roar of rage, and I was flung a dozen feet across the room, striking into a wall. Then I was pulled back, by one foot, to the center of the room.
I was on my belly.
The beast, with its size and weight, knelt across my body.
I was pinned to the floor.
It leaned forward.
“Do not! Do not!” I heard the Lady Bina scream.
It was my first experience of the sudden rage of that form of life, a rage easily aroused, swift, unexpected, unpredictable, terrible and overwhelming, a rage almost impossible to subdue.
I would learn later that it was the rage of the Kur.
Whatever might be the nature of that body in it coursed the blood of the Kur.
I felt massive jaws close about my head. I felt the tongue, and saliva, of the beast, its hot breath.
“No, no!” screamed the Lady Bina.
The jaws seemed to tremble. They tightened, relaxed, then tightened again. Had they closed my head would have been bitten away.
“No! Stop!” screamed the Lady Bina. I sensed she was dragging at the fur on the beast’s back.
I sensed a titanic struggle being waged within the beast.
Then the jaws were removed from my head.
“Good, good,” said the Lady Bina, soothingly.
“It seems you do not know you are a slave, and are in need of discipline,” said the beast.
“No, no!” I said. “I am a slave. I am a slave, only a slave! I am not in need of discipline, Master! I will obey! I beg to obey!”
“Cord,” said the beast to the Lady Bina.
A Gorean male might have so spoken, calmly, one recognizing what must be done.
Then, as I lay on my belly, helplessly, pinned down, I felt my wrists drawn up, over my head, behind me, and then, held, they were bound together.
“You will beg on your belly,” said the beast, “for the privilege of serving your Mistress, and other free persons, as they might please, in whatever manner they might please.”
“I am on my belly, Master!” I cried. “I so beg! I so beg!”
My hands were still held up, bound, behind my head.
He then rose up and drew me to my feet, and to the side of the room, where there was a slave ring fastened in the ceiling, some two or three feet in from the wall. I was then bound to the ring, my hands high over my head. I could barely reach the floor, with my toes.
“Go downstairs,” said the beast to the Lady Bina. “Fetch a slave whip.”
“They have no slave,” she said.
“They will have such a device,” he said.
I did not doubt it.
Such things are common in a Gorean household. Delia, companion of Epicrates, a free woman, I was sure, would not be without one. Who knew when a slave, perhaps near the shop, at a fountain, on the street, might be displeasing? Free women, abroad, often have a switch about their person.
The Lady Bina scurried away.
I heard her descend the stairs.
I half turned about, muchly suspended from the ring. “It will not be necessary to whip me, Master,” I said. “I was foolish! I am sorry! I will obey, unquestioningly instantly. I am a slave. I beg for the privilege of serving masters and mistresses to the best of my ability!”
“I see you have felt the whip,” said the beast.
“Yes, Master,” I said, “in the house of Tenalion of Ar!”
I had no wish for that experience to be repeated.
Soon the Lady Bina had returned.
“Please do not whip me, Master!” I said.
“But you have not been pleasing,” he said.
I was then whipped.
When I was released from the ring I fell to the floor, on my belly, my hands still bound.
“Have you anything to say, Allison?” inquired the beast.
“Yes, Master,” I wept. “I am on my belly. I beg for the privilege of serving masters and mistresses, unquestioningly, instantly, as they might please, in whatever manner they might please.”
“Anything else?” he asked.
“Yes, Master,” I said, recalling my training. “I thank Master for my whipping. I hope that it has improved me.”
“Has it?” he asked.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“Go downstairs,” said Grendel to the Lady Bina. “Return the whip. But buy one. We should have one here.”
“You will not need a whip, Master,” I said.
“That is for me to say,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
I later learned that the beast had indeed learned how to treat slaves, and that he had learned this on another world, a steel world, the former world of Agamemnon, Eleventh Face of the Nameless One.
He was, of course, a beast, only a beast. I wondered what it might be to have a human master. That I thought might be even more frightening, for the human would be of one’s own kind, selected for according to the radical, dimorphic relationships of master and slave over countless generations, one well aware of, and sensitive to, the psychology, the needs, the fears, the vulnerabilities, the tricks, the wiles, the vanities, the pettinesses, the weaknesses, the helplessnesses of his natural prey and possession, the female slave.
How terrifying, I thought, it would be to belong to a Gorean male, a natural male, one by whom one would be uncompromisingly exploited and mastered, as, of course, in one’s secret heart, one would wish to be.
I thought of the Metal Worker, in the Sul Market. How arrogant and hateful he was! How I loathed him!
My wrists were freed by the beast.
“What are you going to do now, Allison?” he asked.
“Prepare supper, Master,” I said.
I made my way toward the tower of Six Bridges.
I was wary, as I did not wish my laundry to be soiled.
There was a reason for my fear.
All this was before the incident of the blind Kur.
I had had no idea, of course, when I and my sisters were transported to Gor where we would be sold. I was delivered to the house of Tenalion of Ar. Had others been, as well? I did not know. The house was large. And in a city the size of Ar there are many slave houses, many markets. The most famous is the Curulean. And, of course, there are hundreds of cities, mostly small, even in known Gor, and each would presumably have its emporium for collar-girls.
Still, upon reflection, though one supposes the catch from the sorority, the harvested items in that particular “slaver’s basket,” so to speak, would be distributed about, it is also plausible, upon reflection, that it might be more convenient to the masters, from the point of view of transportation, that several, if not all, might be disposed of in one location, or a limited number of such locations. From such a location, or locations, they might then be distributed variously. In this way, the wholesaler, so to speak, need not march coffles about, bundle his beasts into closed slave wagons, ankles chained to the central bar, ship them bound hand and foot in tarn baskets, and so on. Such things may be done by retailers.
I had hopes, of course, at least at first, that I might meet some of my sisters in Ar.
Surely that was a possibility.
Ar is large, but the number of laundry troughs, with their flowing water, is limited. So, too, is the number of wells and fountains, where water may be drawn. Kajirae, as is well known, though I think we are no different in this from many of our sex, delight to chat, gossip, observe, speculate, exchange views, recount anecdotes, waft rumors about, and so on. And the foremost gathering places for this sort of thing, for kajirae, at any rate, as they are not allowed in the baths unless they are bath girls, are the laundering troughs, those to which they are permitted access.
In any event, I had hoped, at least at first, that I might, at the troughs, or fountains, or in the markets, or on the street, encounter some of those I knew from the sorority, but I had not done so.
Then later it seemed to me that it was just as well, and perhaps better, that we not encounter one another again.
I assumed they would not have been freed. They were comely, and it is said that only a fool frees a slave girl.
How could I bear that they might look upon me now, in my shame and degradation, now no more than a barefoot, tunicked, collared slave? And what of them? How could I bear to look upon my former sisters, shamefully garbed, their necks clasped in the circlet of bondage?
Yet I knew I would be thrilled to see them so, owned, but, too, so free, so natural, so alive, so basically and radically female.
But how could I bear to have them see me, as a slave?
It was no dog collar now buckled, and locked, about my neck, as at the party, but, on my neck, now, a true slave collar, marking me as what I now was, a true slave.
Yet somehow, though I scarcely dared admit it to myself, I had never felt so healthy, so alive, so excited, so meaningful, so female, as here. I suppose this had something to do with the air of Gor, and the food, fresh, wholesome, tasty, and uncontaminated. But even more, I thought, it had to do with the culture, and the ethos, in which I found myself. These were so natural, so open, so innocent, so honest, so real. Here I could be what I always sensed I was. Here it seemed I had found myself. I found I loved what I was. And there was no doubt about what I was, no confusion, no uncertainty, no ambiguity. I was slave. Here, in a collar, I felt myself a thousand times more free than I had on my own world. Forgive me, Mistresses, if you are reading this, but it is true. I must speak the truth, for I wear a collar.
Whereas the Lady Bina was extremely intelligent, she was not always well informed, nor always realistic, and, I fear, she was not always wise.
She thought very highly of herself, and justifiably.
But she knew very little of Gor, or, I suppose, of any other complex human world.
From what sort of world, I had often wondered, had she been derived.
She was certainly well aware that she was unusually beautiful.
Indeed, she seemed to believe that she might well be the most beautiful woman on Gor.
For all I knew she might be, but, too, I had little doubt that there were thousands of other quite beautiful women who entertained the same suspicion, if not conviction. It was rumored that the former Ubara, Talena of Ar, daughter of Marlenus, the current Ubar of Ar, until disowned, might have regarded herself, or been regarded by many, as the most beautiful woman on all Gor. To be sure, given all the veiling of free women, and the dispersal of the population, who can speak practically of such things? Perhaps the most beautiful woman on all Gor is in some tiny village in Torvaldsland or herding bosk on the plains of the Wagon Peoples. Too, I had little doubt there were thousands of fellows about who thought that their companion or slave was the most beautiful woman on all Gor, for any woman, even ones whose appearance might frighten tharlarion, may appear beautiful when seen through the eyes of love. No one knew where Talena might now be. A large reward had been offered for her capture and return to Ar but the reward had never been claimed. I supposed she was in a collar somewhere. Certainly if she were as beautiful as many said, it would be almost certain she would have a collar on her neck. For some fellows, Goreans, having such a woman in a collar might be worth more than what she will bring in gold, thrown stripped and shackled to the foot of a Ubar’s throne. But, of course, for others, the gold might be preferred. Much would depend on the man, and here men are the masters. I was pleased I was not Talena of Ar.
I have suggested that the Lady Bina, my Mistress, while highly intelligent, may not have been as informed as would have been desirable, or as wise as might be desired, or such. In some respects she was an interesting, indeed, a remarkable, combination of vanity, ambition, and naivety.
I dared not speak to her of such things, even in hintings or allusions, as I was only a slave, and was now well aware of that, and her mind was muchly made up, and even the concerned, well-intentioned counsels of the beast were ineffective. He, though a stranger to Gor, was at least no stranger to matters of rank, distance, and hierarchy, no stranger to questions of status, no stranger to probabilities, nor to politics and political relationships.
In short, the Lady Bina, counting on her unusual beauty, and well aware of its usual effect on men, and bolstered by an unchastened vanity, one as yet little bruised by the contact with reality, planned to become, however unlikely or incredible it might seem, literally the Ubara of Ar, Gor’s greatest city, unless it be rivaled by Turia, in the far south. She seemed to believe that little more would be necessary to bring this astonishing elevation about than bringing herself to the attention of the Ubar or his advisors.
“Do not proclaim such ambitions,” warned the beast. “You will be thought mad.”
“But I am not mad,” she said.
“No,” said the beast, “but you do not understand these things, at all.”
“How so?” she asked.
Once again I wondered about her background, her seeming lack of socialization, and such. How could she understand so little? Might it not have been better if she had undergone some frustrations and disappointments? Had she no sense of her place, or her limitations, or that limitations even existed? Did she think that only a dozen or so individuals might be involved, as in a tiny village? Ar was profound and complex, socially and economically. Her population consisted of hundreds of thousands of citizens. Most did not even know one another. What were her antecedents? What had been her experiences? Again, from what sort of world had she derived? It was as though she had been told of something important and precious, say, a particular jewel, and had decided she would have it. Did she not know that a jungle, formidable and dangerous, exacting and competitive, existed in the streets of Ar, a jungle which, as in many communities, for all its reality, was invisible?
“A Ubar, a great lord, a potentate,” said the beast, “does not companion casually or lightly. There are slaves for that sort of thing, hundreds, scattered about in various pleasure gardens. He companions to forge alliances, protect borders, acquire cities, extend dominions, obtain access to trade routes, a port on the shores of Thassa. You are unknown, and unconnected, you bring no cities or armies into his grasp, no fleets, or cavalries of tarns. You do not even have a Home Stone.”
I knew little of Home Stones, at that time.
Nor would I be permitted one, as I was a slave. Sleen, kaiila, verr, and such, other animals, too, have no Home Stones.
“I see,” said the Lady Bina. “Things would then be difficult.”
“A Ubar might companion a Ubara from another city, a coveted city, one of wealth and power, or companion the daughter of another Ubar, of such a city, such things.”
“I see,” she said, not pleased.
As I knelt in the background, inconspicuous but at hand, I saw that the Lady Bina was not so much dissuaded of her astonishing ambition, as convinced that its realization might be less easily achieved than hitherto anticipated.
“Occasionally,” said the beast, “a Ubar may companion the Ubara of a captured city, forcing companionship, however unwelcome, upon her, making of her free spoils, so to speak, thereby, as she is then companioned, entitling himself legally to the wealth of her treasury and the allegiance of her subjects. In such a case she may sit beside him, on a throne, within her fine robes, chained.”
“I suppose,” said the Lady Bina, “he may do this severally.”
“No,” said the beast, “for one may have but one companion, at one time.”
I had no doubt, of course, that a Ubar, or, indeed, any person of means, might have several slaves.
“What if a second Ubara is conquered?” asked the Lady Bina.
“You are thinking of companioning?” asked the beast.
“Yes,” she said.
“Then the Ubara of less consequence,” he said, “will be demoted to bondage, and then kept, or put up for sale, or such.”
“But surely,” she said, “companioning is not always involved in such matters.”
“Certainly not,” he said. “The conqueror holds rights to all in virtue of the right of conquest, in virtue of war rights. The usual ensuance in such matters is that the conquered Ubara will be marched naked in the triumph, chained to the stirrup of the victor’s tharlarion or kaiila, after which she, and the women of her court, similarly paraded, will serve naked at the victory feast, during which they will be enjoyed, and after which, in the morning, they will be lashed and fitted with their collars.”
“I see,” she said.
“Accordingly,” said the beast, “abandon your unrealistic ambition.”
“Perhaps if I presented myself at the Central Cylinder,” she said.
“I would not do so,” said the beast. “You lack a Home Stone.”
“So?” she said.
“You might be collared,” he said. “Sometimes unauthorized women are rounded up and held for bidding, house biddings, thence to be distributed amongst the various slave houses of the city.”
“I suppose there are others of wealth and power,” she said, “other than Ubars, in a city such as this.”
“Doubtless,” said the beast.
“But,” she said, “I think a throne would be nice.”
“Perhaps,” said the beast.
The Lady Bina then cast me a glance, which made me uneasy. That night, when the beast was absent, the Lady Bina summoned me to her.
She entrusted to me a message, which was written in black ink on cheap rence paper, in simple block letters, at that time almost childishly formed letters, as she, for all her dexterity and intelligence, was still far from adept in Gorean. Certainly she was not yet the mistress of cursive script.
I had learned from the laundry troughs that a lady’s notes, having to do with her small secrets, private exchanges, intrigues, affairs, arrangements, assignations, rendezvous, and such, were generally carefully crafted, written in a tasteful, dainty script, usually on small sheets of fine linen paper, or parchment, subtly scented, and attractively sealed. There would be no doubt that their authors were women of refinement, breeding, sensitivity, taste, and intelligence. Surely much thought went into these things, well beyond the delicacy of the message itself. After all, the ink, the paper, or parchment, the script, the perfume, the seal, and so on, are, I suppose, in their way, a part of the message itself. Do they not themselves convey much without a word being spoken? In content the letters were often carefully ambiguous, designed to seem to promise much but guarantee little. I supposed the Gorean free woman was entitled, as with her veils and concealing robes, to balance concealment with revelation, mystery with the hint of possible abandon, even rampant disclosure.
A Gorean saying, seldom heard in the presence of free women, has it that beneath the robes of every free woman there is a naked slave.
These notes, of course, are commonly carried about by the woman’s slaves, often concealed within their tunics.
Discretion is of the essence.
And then one hears about it at the laundry troughs.
I had no doubt that many a fellow’s breath came faster, and his heart beat more rapidly, when he received such a note.
“May I inquire, Mistress,” I asked, “the content of the note which I am to carry?”
At that time I did not realize how unwise was such a question. Happily, at least at that time, the Lady Bina lacked many of the habits, dispositions, and responses of the Gorean free woman.
“Certainly,” she said. “I am proposing myself to be Ubara of Ar.”
“I see,” I said. “Is Master Grendel to be informed of this?”
“No,” she said. “He might not approve.”
I did not doubt that.
“You will leave in the morning,” she said, “at dawn, as though on a common errand. Indeed, I will give you two tarsk-bits and you may later purchase some larmas which we may press for breakfast.”
“Yes, Mistress,” I said.
In that way, I supposed, my true mission, that of import, might be judiciously veiled.
“Now,” she said, “relieve yourself, and we will chain you for the night.”
“I need not be chained, Mistress,” I said. “I will not run away.” Indeed, where would one run? By noon I had little doubt but what I would be returned, bound, on a leash, to the house of Epicrates.
“I suppose not,” she said. “But the Lady Delia has told me that a slut like you belongs on a chain.”
“Yes, Mistress,” I said.
I knew that males commonly kept their girls chained at night, usually to the foot of their couch, where they might be conveniently at hand, if desired in the night. In larger houses, girls were sometimes slept in their cages, perhaps to help them keep in mind that they are animals, and thus suitably caged.
The Lady Bina, perhaps on the advice of the Lady Delia, chained me so that my mat would lie across the threshold, at the height of the stairs. My left ankle was chained on one side of the portal and my right wrist on the other side. In this way an intruder would have to pass me, indeed, step over me, and, in this passage, would be likely to be discovered. The left ankle is the ankle most commonly chained, probably because most masters are right-handed. Too, it is the ankle most often fitted with bells or an ankle ring, presumably for the same reason. And I was right handed. Master Grendel slept on the roof. Were I a slaver, or a raider, I do not think I would have cared to have my tarn alight in his vicinity.
Master Grendel, as the Lady Bina apparently was not, was well aware of the possible jeopardy in which an unguarded free woman might find herself on Gor. Too, she had no Home Stone, no family, no clan, no caste.
I wondered if the beast was aware of how beautiful the Lady Bina actually was, how attractive she might prove to a human male. Probably not, I thought. She was not of his kind. He, a beast, would be unaware of such things.
The next day, about the Seventh Ahn, miserable and sore, walking stiffly, I had returned to the second floor of the house of Epicrates.
“What is wrong?” asked Master Grendel.
“Put the larmas here,” said the Lady Bina. “Is there change?”
“A tarsk-bit,” I said.
“You are improving in your bargaining,” said the Lady Bina.
“I did not let them know I had two,” I said.
“Excellent,” she said. “She is clever,” she said to the beast.
One learns such things.
“Why are you bruised?” asked the beast.
“No matter,” said the Lady Bina.
“No,” said the beast. “Why?”
I looked to the Lady Bina, frightened.
“You may speak, Allison,” she said.
“Soldiers,” I said.
I had not been within a hundred paces of the Central Cylinder when a lowered spear had blocked my way.
I had made clear my business, that I was to deliver a message to the Ubar, or to some high officer, who might then convey it to him, and the note was then taken from me by an officer, not of high rank, perhaps the commander of a ten, who read it, laughed uproariously, slapped his thigh, and then, to my unease, shared it with others, while I knelt.
It, and its bearer, were obviously the cause of much amusement.
“Is there an answer, Master?” I had asked.
“Yes,” he said, and availed himself of a marking stick, and wrote something on the back of the note.
Still kneeling, I took the note.
“Thank you, Master,” I said.
“Is your ‘Mistress’ free?” asked the officer.
I fear he thought some jest was afoot, perhaps sprung from the humor of some fellow officer.
“Certainly Master,” I said.
Surely a mistress would be free.
“We will give you something for her then,” he said. Then to four of his subordinates, he said, “Seize and spread her wrists and ankles and belly her.”
“Master?” I said.
“This,” said he, “is for your Mistress.”
He then, and some others, with feet and spear butts, belabored a slave.
I wept with misery.
“Here is one for your Mistress!” said a fellow.
“And here is another!” said another fellow.
“And another!” said yet another.
“Aii!” I cried. “Please no, Masters! Please, no, Masters!”
Then I was released, and lay before them, on the stones, sobbing, and bruised, a beaten slave.
One may not, of course, strike a free woman. They are not to be struck. They are to be held immune from such corporeal indignities. They are free. Indeed, there are penalties for such things. On the other hand, I then learned, and later confirmed, that a slave may stand proxy for a Mistress’s punishment.
Supposedly this is disconcerting to the free woman, and she much suffers, being outraged, scandalized, and humiliated at her subjection to this vicarious chastisement.
The Lady Bina, however, who knew little of Gorean culture, failed to detect the insult intended, and bore up well under the ordeal.
“I do not think anything is broken,” said the beast.
“No,” I said.
When a slave is beaten the point is usually to correct her behavior, or improve her, not to injure or maim her.
Still they had not been gentle.