With the capital city of Ar under the sway of the beautiful traitress Talena, a ruler placed in power by the Cosian invaders, Tarl Cabot and the Delta Brigade, the members of the underground force sworn to defeat Cos, must call upon the unique talents of master magician Boots Tarsk-Bit to recapture the precious Home Stone of vanquished Ar’s Station.

For snatching the Home Stone from the enemy’s grasp may prove the vital ingredient in Tarl’s desperate and dangerous campaign to rouse the people of Ar to fight on to regain their freedom from the hated foe.

In Magicians of Gor, Tarl Cabot and his allies must work a unique magic with illusions and sword blades to root out the treachery at the heart of a mighty empire.


(Volume twenty-five in the Chronicles of Counter-Earth)

by John Norman

1 The Street

"Surely you understand the law, my dear," he said.

She struggled in the net, dropped from the ceiling, then held about her by guardsmen sprung from concealment at the sides of the room.

"No!" she cried. "No!"

She was then turned about, twice in the net, on the couch so that she was thoroughly entangled, doubly, in its toils.

"No!" she wept.

The guardsmen, four of them, held the net.

Her eyes were wild. Her fingers were in the knotted mesh. She was like a frightened animal.

"Please," she wept. "What do you want?"

The fellow did not then answer her, but regarded her. She was naked in the toils of the net, and now lay on her side, her legs drawn up in it, now seemingly, small and very vulnerable, so bared and caught, on the deep furs of the huge couch.

"Milo!" she cried to a tall, handsome fellow to one side, "Help me!"

"But I am a slave," pointed out Milo, donning his purple tunic.

She looked at him, wildly.

"I am sure you are familiar with the law," said the first fellow, flanked by two magistrates.

"No!" she cried.

The magistrates were ex offico witnesses, who could certify the circumstances of the capture. The net was a stout one, and weighted.

"Any free women who couches with another's slave, or readies herself to couch with another's slave, becomes herself a slave, and the slave of the slave's master. It is a clear law."

"No! No!" she wept.

"Think of it in this fashion, if you wish," he said. "You have given yourself to Milo, but Milo is mine, and can own nothing, and thus you have given yourself to me. An analogy is the coin given by a free person to a street girl, which coin, of course, does not then belong to the girl but to her master. What is given to the slave is given to the master.

She regarded him with horror.

"I loathe you!" she cried. "Bring me my clothing!" she wept to the guardsmen.

"When the certifications are approved, and filed, and in this case there will be no ambiguity or difficulty about the matter, you will be mine.

"No!" she wept.

"Put her on her knees, on the couch, in the net," he said.

This was done.

She looked wildly at Milo. There were tears in her eyes. "Will I then, as a slave, be your woman?" she asked.

"I do not think so," said Milo, smiling.

"The handsome, charming, suave, witty Milo," said the fellow, "is a seduction slave."

"A seduction slave?" she wept.

"Yes," he said. "He has much increased my stock of slaves."

She tore at the net, in tears, but helpless.

"Had you, and your predecessors, not been so secretive, so much concerned to conceal your affairs with a slave, Milo's utility as a seduction slave would have doubtless been much diminished by now. On the other hand, the concern for your reputation and such, so natural in you free women, almost guarantees the repeatability, and continued success, of these small pleasant projects."

"Release me!" she begged.

"Some of Milo's conquests are used in my fields, and others in my house," he said. "But most, and I am sure you will be one of these, are exported, sold out of the city to begin your new life."

"My new life?" she whispered.

"That of a female slave," he smiled.

She struggled, futilely.

"Raise the net to her waist, and lower it to her neck," he said, "and tie it about her. Then put her in a gag and hood."

"No!" she wept.

"By tonight," he said, "you will be branded and collared."

"No, please!" she wept.

The net was then adjusted on the female, in accordance with the fellow's instructions, in such a way that her legs and head were free, but her arms were confined. It was then bound tightly in place.

The fellow then glanced at the handsome slave. "You will leave by another exit," he said.

"Yes, Master," said the slave.

The free woman watched the slave withdraw. "Milo!" she whispered.

"You are now kneeling on a couch," said the fellow, "which, for a female slave, is a great honor. You may be months into your bondage before you are again permitted such an honor."

"Milo!" she wept, after the slave.

The leather bit of the gag, a fixture of the hood, was then forced back between her teeth, and tied in place.

She made a tiny noise, of protest.

The hood itself was then drawn over her head, covering it completely. It was then fixed on her, buckled shut, beneath her chin.

"What have you seen?" said Marcus.

I stepped back from the crack in the shutters, through which I had observed the preceding scene.

"Nothing," I said.

We were in a street of Ar, a narrow, crowded street, in which we were much jostled. It was in the Metellan district, south and east of the district of the Central Cylinder. It is a shabby, but not squalid district. There are various tenements, or insulae, there. It is the sort of place, far enough from broad avenues of central Ar, where assignations, or triflings, might take place. "Is Ar this crowded always?" asked Marcus, irritably.

"This street, at this time of day," I said.

My companion was Marcus Marcellus, of the Marcelliani, formerly of Ar's Station, on the Vosk. We had come to Ar from the vicinity of Brundisium. He, like myself, was of the caste of warriors. With him, clinging closely, about him, as though she might fear losing him in the crowd, and attempting also, it seemed, not unoften, to make herself small and conceal herself behind him, was his slave, Phoebe, this name having been put on her, a slender exquisite, very lightly complexioned, very dark-haired girl. She had come into his keeping in the vicinity of Brundisium, some months ago.

"As we do have the yellow ostraka and our permits do not permit us to remain in the city after dark," said Marcus, "I think we should venture now to the sun gate."

Marcus was the sort of fellow who was concerned about such things, being arrested, impaled, and such.

"There is plenty of time," I assured him. Most cities have a sun gate, sometimes several. They are called such because they are commonly opened at dawn and closed at dusk, thus the hours of their ingress and regress being determined by the diurnial cycle. Ar is the largest city of known Gor, larger even, I am sure, than Turia, in the far south. She has some forty public gates, and, I suppose, some number of restricted smaller gates, secret gates, posterns, and such. Long ago, I had once entered the city through such a passage, its exterior access point reached by means of a putative Dar-Kosis pit, which passage, I had recently determined, descending into the pit on ropes, was now closed. I supposed that this might be the case with various such entrances, if they existed, given Ar's alarm at the announced approach of Cos. In a sense I regretted this loss, for it had constituted a secret way in and out of the city. Perhaps other such passages existed. I did not know.

"Let us go," suggested Marcus.

I saw a slave girl pass, in a brief, brown tunic, her back straight, her beauty protestingly full within her tiny, tight garment, balancing a jar on her head with one hand. The bottom of the jar rested in a sort of improvished shallow stand or mount, formed of a dampened, wrapped towel. In Schendi the white slave girls of black masters are sometimes taught to carry such vessels on their heads without the use of their hands or such devices as the towel. And woe to the girl who drops it. Such exercises are good for a girl's posture. To be sure, the lower caste black women of Schendi and the interior do such things commonly. I looked at the girl. Yes, I thought, she could be similarly trained, without doubt. If I owned her, I thought, I might so train her. If she proved clumsy or slow to learn she could be whipped. I did not think she would prove slow to learn. Our eyes met, briefly, and she lowered her eyes swiftly, still keeping her burden steady. She trembled for a moment. I think she had seen, in that glance, that I could be her master, but then, so, too, of course, could be many men. A slave girl is often very careful about meeting the eyes of a free man directly, particularly a stranger. They can be cuffed or beaten for such insolence. The collar looked well on her, gleaming, close-fitting, locked. She was barefoot. Her brief garment was all she wore. It would have no nether closure. Thusly on Gor are female slaves commonly garbed. She hurried on. "Let us be on our way," said Marcus. Phoebe clung close to him, her tiny fingers on his sleeve.

"In a moment," I said.

"I do not like such crowds," said Marcus.

We were buffeted about a bit.

"There is a date on the permits," Marcus reminded me, "and they will be checking at the gate to see who has left the city and who has not."

"I think they will be coming out in a moment or two," I said, "there at that door."

"Who?" he asked.

"There," I said.

I saw the fellow who had been in the room emerge through the door. He was followed by the two magistrates, who had probably now made the entries in their records. They were followed by four guardsmen, in single file. "Make way, make way!" said the fellow from the room, and the crowds parted a little, to let them pass. The third of the three guardsmen carried a burden on his right shoulder. It was a naked woman whose upper body was thoroughly and tightly wrapped in several turns of a heavy net, tied closely about her. Her head was covered with a buckled hood. She squirmed a little, helplessly. She was being carried with her head to the rear, as a slave is carried.

"So that is what you were watching," said Marcus, "a caught slave."

"In a sense," I said.

About at the same time, coming toward us, down the street, following the other party by several yards, was a large, graceful fellow, blond and curly-haired, who was astonishingly handsome, almost unbelievably so. On his left wrist, locked, there was a silver slave bracelet. His tunic was of a silken purple. He had golden sandals.

"Who is that?" I asked a fellow in white and gold, the colors of the merchants, when the handsome fellow had passed. Such a one, I assumed, might be generally known. He was no ordinary fellow.

"He is the actor, Milo," said the man.

"He is a slave," I said.

"Owned by Appanius, the agriculturalist, impresario and slaver," said the fellow, "who rents him to the managements of various theaters.

"A handsome fellow," I said.

"The handsomest man in all Ar," said the merchant. "Free women swoon at his feet."

"And what of slaves?" asked Marcus, irritably, scowling at Phoebe.

"I swoon at your feet, Master," she smiled, putting down her head.

"You may kneel and clean them with your tongue," said Marcus, angrily.

"Yes, Master," she said, and fell to her knees, putting down her head.

"The appearance of Milo in a drama assures its success," said the merchant. "He is popular," I said.

"Particularly with the women," he said.

"I can understand that," I said.

"Some men do not even care for him," said the merchant, and I gathered he might be one of them.

"I can understand that," I said. I was not certain that I was enthusiastic about Milo either. Perhaps it was merely that I suspected that Milo might be even more handsome than I.

"I wish you well," said the merchant.

"Perhaps Milo serves, too, in capacities other than that of as actor," I said. "What did you have in mind?" asked the merchant.

"Nothing," I said.

"It is Milo," whispered one free woman to another. They were together, veiled. "Let us hurry after him, to catch a glimpse of him," said one of them.

"Do not be shameless!" chided the first.

"We are veiled," the second reminded her.

"Let us hurry," urged the first then, and the two pressed forward, through the crowd, after the purple-clad figure.

"Fellows as handsome as he," complained the merchant, "should be forced to go veiled in public."

"Perhaps," I granted him. Free women in most of the high cities of Gor, particularly those of higher caste, go veiled in public. Also they commonly wear the robes of concealment which cover them, in effect, from head to toe. Even gloves are often worn. There are many reasons for this, having to do with modesty, security, and such. Slave girls, on the other hand, are commonly scandalously clad, if clad at all. Typically their garments, if they are permitted them, are designed to leave little of their beauty to the imagination. Rather they are designed to call attention to it, and so reveal and display it, sometimes even brazenly, in all its marvelousness. Goreans are not ashamed of the luscious richness, the excitingness, the sensuousness, the femininity, the beauty of their slaves. Rather they prize it, treasure it and celebrate it. To be sure, it must be admitted that the slave girl is only an animal, and is under total male domination. To understand this more clearly, two further items might be noted. First, she must go about in public, denied face veiling. Men, as they please, may look freely upon her face, witnessing its delicacy, its beauty, its emotions, and such. She is not permitted to hide it from them. She must bare it, in all its revelatory intimacy, and with all the consequences of this, to their gaze. Second, her degradation is completed by the fact that she is given no choice but to be what she is, profoundly and in depth, a human female, and must thus, willing or not, sexually and emotionally, physically and psychologically, accept her fulfillments in the order of nature.

"I wish you well," I said to the merchant.

He turned away.

"Make way," I heard. "Make way!"

A house marshal was approaching, carrying a baton, with which he touched folks and made a passage among them. He was preceding the palanquin of a free woman, apparently a rich one, borne by some eight male slaves. I stepped to one side to let the marshal, the palanquin and its bearers move past. The sides of the palanquin were veiled.

"Odd that a palanquin of such a nature should be in the Metallan district," I said.

"Perhaps we should consider saving our lives now," said Marcus.

"Phoebe is not finished with your feet," I said.

Phoebe, looked up, happily.

"Up," said Marcus irritably, snapping his fingers. Immediately she sprang to her feet. She stood beside him, her head down, docile. She, I noted, attracted her share of attention. I was not too pleased with this, as I did not wish to be conspicuous in Ar. On the other hand, it is seldom wise to interfere in the relationship between a master and a slave.

I looked back down the street. I could no longer see any sign of the fellow who had been in the room, the magistrate, or the guardsmen, with their shapely prisoner. She had been on a guardsman's shoulder, being carried, her head to the rear, as a slave. Later I did not think she would be often accorded the luxury of such transportation. Soon, perhaps in a day or two, she would be learning how to heel a man and to walk gracefully on his leash.

"Oh!" said Phoebe.

Someone in the crowd, in passing, had undoubtedly touched her. Marcus looked about, angrily. I did not know, really, what he expected.

I looked back down the street. I could see the head of Milo, with its blond curls, over the heads of the crowd, about fifty yards away. He was standing near a wall. The free woman's palanquin had stopped briefly by him, and then, after a time, continued on its way.

"Oh!" said Phoebe.

Marcus turned about again, swiftly, angrily. There was only the crowd.

"If you do not care for such things," I said, "perhaps you should give her a garment."

"Let her go naked," he said. "She is only a slave."

"Perhaps some article of clothing would not be amiss," I said.

"She has her collar," he said.

"You many never have noticed," I said, "but she is an exquisitely beautiful female."

"She is the lowest and most despicable of female slaves," he said.

"Of course," I said.

"Too," said he, "do not forget that I hate her."

"It would be difficult to do that," I said, " as you have told me so many times. Phoebe lowered her head, smiling.

"Too," said he, "she is my enemy."

"If ever she was your enemy," I said, "she is not your enemy now. She is now a slave. Look at her. She is simply an animal you own. Do you think she does not know that? She now exists for you, to please and serve you."

"She is Cosian," he said.

"Turn your flank to him, slave," I said. "Touch you collar."

Phoebe complied.

"You can see the brand," I said. "You can see the collar. Furthermore, it is yours."

He regarded the slave, docile, obedient, turned, her fingers, too, lightly on her collar, so closely locked on her lovely neck.

"And it is a pretty flank," I said, "and a lovely throat."

He moaned softly.

"I see that you think so," I said.

The feelings of the young warrior toward his slave were profoundly ambivalent. She was not only the sort of female that he found irresistibly, excruciatingly attractive, as I had known before I had shown her to him the first time, but, to my surprise and delight, there seemed to be a special mystery or magic, or chemistry, between them. Each was a dream come true for the other. She had been, it seems, in some profound genetic sense, born for his chains. They fitted together, like a lock and its key. She loved him profoundly, helplessly, and from the first time she had seen him. He, too, had been smitten. Then he had discovered that she was from Cos, that ubarate which was his hated foe, at the hands of whose mercenary and regular forces he had seen his city destroyed. It was no wonder that in rage he had vowed to make the lovely slave stand proxy for Cos, that he might then vent upon her his fury, and his hatred, for Cos, and all things Cosian. And so it was that he had determined to reduce and humiliate her, and make her suffer, but with each cuffing, with each command, with each kick, with each blow of the whip, she became only the more his, and the more loving. I had know for a long time, even as long ago as the inn of the Crooked Tarn, on the Vosk Road, before the fall of Ar's Station, that she had profound slave needs, but I had never suspected their depth until I had seen her in a camp outside Brundisium, kneeling before Marcus, looking up at him, unbelievingly. She had known then that she was his, and in perfection. I had no doubt they fitted together, in the order of nature, in the most intimate, beautiful and fulfilling relationship possible between a man and a woman, that of love master and love slave. To be sure, she was Cosian.

Phoebe put down her head, shyly smiling.

"Cosian slut!" snarled Marcus.

He seized her by the arms and lifted her from her feet, thrusting her back against the wall of the building.

He held her there, off her feet, her back pressed back, hard, against the rough wall.

"Yes," she cried. "Yes!"

"Be thusly used, and as befits you," said he, "slave, and slut of Cos!"

"Yes, my Master!" she wept. She clung about him, her eyes closed, her head back, gasping.

Then he cried out, and lowered her to the stones of the street.

She knelt there, gratefully, sobbing. Her back was bloody. Marcus had not been gentle with the slave. She was holding to his leg.

"Disgusting," said a free woman, drawing her veil more closely about her face. Did she not know that she, too, if she were a slave, would be similarly subject to a master's pleasure?

"This is a very public place," I said to Marcus.

A small crowd, like an eddy in the flowing stream of folks in the street, had gathered about.

"She is a slut of Cos," said Marcus to a fellow nearby.

"Beat her for me," said the man.

"She is only a slave," I said.

"A Cosian slut," said one man to another.

"She is only a slave," I said again.

The crowd closed in a bit more, menacingly. Phoebe looked up, frightened. In the press there was not even room to draw the sword, let alone wield it. "Let us kill her," said a fellow.

"Move back," said Marcus, angrily.

"A slut of Cos," said another man.

"Let us kill her!" said another fellow.

Phoebe was very small and helpless, kneeling on the stones, near the wall. "Continue on your way," I said to the men gathered about. "Be about your business."

"Cos is our business," said a man.

The ugliness of the crowd, its hostility, and such, was, I think, a function of recent events, which had precipitated confusion, uncertainty and terror in Ar, in particular the military catastrophe in the delta, in which action, absurdly, the major land forces at Torcadino, one of the largest assemblages of armed men ever seen of Gor, under their polemarkos, Myron, cousin to Lurius of Jad, Ubar of Cos, had now set their standards towards Ar. Torcadino had been a supply depot for the forces of Cos on the continent. It had been seized by the mercenary, Dietrich of Tarnburg, to forestall the march on Ar. Ar, however, had failed to act. She had not relieved the siege at Torcadino nor that in the north, at Ar's Station. Dietrich, finally understanding the treason in Ar, in high places, had managed to effect a withdrawal from Torcadino. His location was now unknown and Cos had put a price on his head. Now there lay little or nothing between the major forces of Cos on the continent, now on the march, and the gates of Ar. Further, though there was much talk in the city of resistance, of the traditions of Ar, of her Home Stone, and such, I did not think that the people of Ar, stunned and confused by the apparently inexplicable succession of recent disasters, had the will to resist the Cosians. Perhaps if there had been a Marlenus of Ar in the city, a Ubar, one to raise the people and lead them, there might have been hope. But the city was now under the governance of the regent, Gnieus Lelius, who, I had little doubt, might have efficiently managed a well-ordered polity under normal conditions, but was an unlikely leader in a time of darkness, crisis and terror. He was, I thought, a good man and an estimable civil servant, but he was not a Marlenus of Ar. Marlenus of Ar had vanished months ago on a punitive raid in the Voltai, directed against the tarnsmen of Treve. He was presumed dead.

"Kill her!" said a man.

"Kill her!" said another.

"No!" said Marcus.

"No!" I said.

"There are only two of them," said a fellow.

"Listen!" I said, lifting my hand.

In that instant the crowd was silent. More than one man lifted his head. We turned down the street. Phoebe, very small and vulnerable, naked, in her collar, crawled more behind the legs of Marcus.

We could hear the bells, the chanting. In a moment we could see the lifted golden circle, on its staff, approaching. The people in the streets hurried to press against the walls.

"Initiates," I said to Marcus.

I could now see the procession clearly.

"Kneel," said the fellow near me.

"Kneel," I said to Marcus.

We knelt, on one knee. It surprised me that the people were kneeling, for, commonly, free Goreans do not kneel, even in the temples of the Initiates. Goreans commonly pray standing. The hands are sometimes lifted, and this is often the case with praying Initiates.

"I do not kneel to such," said Marcus.

"Stay down," I said. He had caused enough trouble already."

We could now smell the incense. In the lead of the procession were two lads in white robes, with shaved heads, who rang the bells. Following them were two more, who shook censers, these emitting clouds of incense. These lads, I assumed, were novices, who had perhaps taken their first vows.

"Praise the Priest-Kings!" said a man, fervently.

"Praise the Priest-Kings!" said another.

I thought that Misk, the Priest-King, my friend, might have been fascinated, if puzzled, by this behavior.

An adult Initiate, in his flowing white robe, carried the staff surmounted with the golden circle, a figure with neither beginning nor end, the symbol of Priest-Kings. He was followed by some ten or so Initiates, in double file. It was these who were chanting.

A free woman drew back her robes, hastily, frightened, lest they touch an Initiate. It is forbidden for Initiates to touch women, and, of course, for women to touch them. Initiates also avoid meat and beans. A good deal of time, I gather, is devoted to sacrifices, services, chants, prayers, and the perusal of mystic lore. By means of the study of mathematics they attempt to purify themselves.

"Save Ar!" wept a man, as they passed.

"Save us, oh intercessors with Priest-Kings!" cried a man.

"I will bring ten pieces of gold to the temple!" promised another.

"I will bring ten verr, full-grown verr, with gilded horns," promised another.

But the Initiates took no note of these not inconsiderable pledges. Of what concern could be such things to them?

"Keep your head down," I muttered to Marcus.

"Very well," he growled. Phoebe was behind us, on her stomach, shuddering, covering her head with her hands. I did not envy her, a naked slave, caught inadvertently in such a place.

In a few moments the procession had passed and we rose to our feet. The crowd had dissipated about us.

"You are safe now," I said to Phoebe, "or at least as safe as is ever a female slave."

She knelt timidly at the feet of Marcus, holding to his leg.

"We cannot resist Cos," said a man, a few feet from us.

"We must place our trust in the Priest-Kings," said another.

Across from us, about seven feet away, on the other side of the narrow street, was the free woman who had secured her robes, that they might not touch an Initiate. She rose to her feet, looking after the procession. We could still hear the bells. The smell of incense hung in the air. Near the free woman was a female slave, in a short gray tunic. She, too, had been caught, like Phoebe, in the path of the procession. She had knelt with her head down to the street, the palms of her hands on the stones, making herself small, in a common position of obeisance. The free woman looked down at her. As the girl saw she was under the scrutiny of a free person she remained on her knees. "You sluts have nothing to fear," said the free woman to her, bitterly, "It is such as I who must fear." The girl did not answer. There was something in what the free woman had said, though in the frenzy of a sacking, the blood of the victors racing, flames about, and such, few occupations of a fallen city. I supposed, either free or slave, were altogether safe. "It will only be a different collar for you," said the free woman. The girl looked up at her. She was a lovely slave I thought, a red-haired one. She kept her knees tightly together before the free woman. had she knelt before a man she would probably have had to keep them open, even if they were brutally kicked apart, a lesson to her, to be more sensitive as to before whom she knelt. "Only a different collar for you!" cried the free woman, angrily. The girl winced, but dared not respond. To be sure, I suspected, all things considered, that the free woman was right. Slave girls, as they are domestic animals, are, like other domestic animals, of obvious value to victors. It is unlikely that they would be killed, any more than tharlarion or kaiila. They would be simply chained together, for later distribution or sale. Then the free woman, in fury, with her small gloved hand, lashed the face of the slave girl, back and forth, some three or four times. She, the free woman, a free person, might be trampled by tharlarion, or be run through, or have her throat cut, by victors. Such things were certainly possible. On the other hand, the free women of a conquered city, or at least the fairest among them, are often reckoned by besiegers as counting within the yield of prospective loot. Many is the free female in such a city who has torn away her robes before enemies, confessed her natural slavery, disavowed her previous masquerade as a free woman, and begged for the rightfulness of the brand and collar. This is a scene which many free woman have enacted in their imagination. Such things figure, too, in the dreams of woman, those doors to the secret truths of their being. The free woman stood there, the breeze in the street, as evening approached, ruffling the hems of her robes. The free woman put her fingers to her throat, over the robes and veil. She looked at the slave, who did not dare to meet her eyes.

"What is it like to be a slave?" she asked.

"Mistress?" asked the girl, frightened.

"What is it like, to be a slave?" asked the free woman, again.

"Much depends on the master, beautiful Mistress," said the girl. The slave could not see the face of the free woman, if course, but such locutions, "beautiful Mistress," and such, on the part of slave girls addressing free women, are common. They are rather analogous to such things as "noble Master," and so on. They have little meaning beyond being familiar epithets of respect.

"The master" said the free woman, shuddering.

"Yes, Mistress," said the girl.

"You must do what he says, and obey him in all things?" asked the free woman. "Of course, Mistress!" said the girl, and leaped to her feet, scurrying away. "You may go," said the free woman.

"Thank you, Mistress!" said the girl, and leaped to her feet, scurrying away. The free woman looked after the slave. Then she looked across at us, and at Phoebe, who lowered her eyes, quickly. Then, shuddering, she turned about and went down the street, to our left, in the direction from whence the Initiates had come.

"The people of Ar are frightened," said Marcus.

"Yes," I said.

We saw a fellow walk by, mumbling prayers. He was keeping track of these prayers by means of a prayer ring. This ring, which had several tiny knobs on it, was worn on the first finger of his right hand. He moved the ring on the finger by means of the knobs, keeping track of the prayers that way, comes to the circular knob, rather like a golden circle at the termination of the Initiate's staff, one knows one had completed one cycle of prayers. One may then stop, or begin again.

"Where do you suppose the Initiates were bound?" I asked Marcus.

"To their temple, I suppose," he said.

"What for?" I asked.

"For their evening services, I presume," he said, somewhat irritably.

"I, too, would conjecture that," I said.

"The sun gate!" he cried. "We must be there before dark!"

"Yes," I agreed.

"Is there time?" he asked.

"I think so," I said.

"Come!" he said. "Come quickly!"

He then, leading the way, hurried up the street. I followed him, and Phoebe raced behind us.

2 The Tent

"You may turn about," said Marcus, standing up.

Phoebe, kneeling, gasping, unclasped her hands from behind her neck, and lifted her head from the dirt, in our small tent, outside the walls of Ar, one of hundreds such tents, mainly for vagabonds, itinerants and refugees.

"Thank you, Master," said Phoebe. "I am yours. I love you. I love you."

"Stand and face me," he said. "Keep you arms at your sides.

Marcus took a long cord, some five feet or so in length, from his pouch, and tossed it over his shoulder.

"Am I to be bound now?" she asked.

"The air seems cleaner and fresher outside the walls," I said.

We could hear the sounds of the camp about us.

"It is only that we do not have the stink of incense here," smiled Marcus.

"Do you know what this is?" he asked, Phoebe. He held in his hand, drawn forth from his pouch, a bit of cloth.

"I am not certain," she said, timidly, hopefully, "Master." Her eyes lit up. I smiled.

"It is a tunic!" she cried, delightedly.

"A slave tunic," he said, sternly.

"Of course, Master," she said, delightedly, "for I am a slave!"

It was a sleeveless, pullover tunic of brown rep cloth. It was generously notched on both sides at the hem, which touch guarantees an additional baring of its occupant's flanks.

I saw that Phoebe wanted to reach out and seize the small garment but that she, under discipline, kept her hands, as she had been directed, at her sides. The cord over Marcus' shoulder, of course, was the slave girdle, which is used to adjust the garment on the slave. Such girdles may be tied in various ways, usually in such ways as to enhance the occupant's figure. Such girdles, too, like the binding fiber with which a camisk is usually secured on a girl, may be used to bind her.

"It is to be mine, is it not?" asked Phoebe, eagerly, expectantly, hopefully. She would not be fully certain of this, of course. Once before, in the neighborhood of Brundisium, far to the north and west, when she had though she was to receive a similar garment, one which had previously been worn by another slave, Marcus refused to permit it to her. He had burned it. She was from Cos. "I own it," said Marcus, "as I own you, but it is true that it was with you in mind that I purchased it, that you might wear it when permitted, or directed."

"May I touch it, Master?" she asked, delightedly.

"Yes," he said.

I watched her take the tiny garment in her hands, gratefully, joyfully.

It is interesting, I thought, how much such a small thing can mean to a girl. It was a mere slave tunic, a cheap, tiny thing, little more than a ta-teera or camisk, and yet it delighted her, boundlessly. It was the sort of garment which free women profess to despise, to find unspeakably shocking, unutterably scandalous, the sort of garment which they profess to regard with horror, the sort of garment which they seem almost ready to faint at the sight of, and yet to Phoebe, and to others like her, in bondage, it was precious, meaning more her doubtless than the richest garments in the wardrobes of the free women. To be sure, I suspect that free women are not always completely candid in what they tell us about their feelings toward such garments. The same free woman, captured, who is cast such a garment, and regarding it cries out with rage and frustration, and dismay, and hastens to don it only when she sees the hand of her captor tighten on his whip, is likely, in a matter of moments, to be wearing it quite well, and with talent, moving gracefully, excitingly and provocatively within it. Such garments, and their meaning, tend to excite women, inordinately. Too, they are often not such strangers to such garments as they might have you believe. Such garments, and such things, are often found among the belongings of women in captured cities. It is presumed that many women wear them privately, and pose in them, before mirrors, and such. Sometimes it is in the course of such activities that they first feel the slaver's noose upon them, they surprised, and taken, in the privacy of their own compartments. On Gor it is said that free women are slaves who have not been collared. In Phoebe's case, of course, the garment represented not only such things, confirmation of her bondage, her subjection to a master, and such, but more importantly, at the moment, the considerable difference between being clothed and unclothed. She, a slave, and not entitled to clothing, any more than other animals, was, by the generosity of her master, to be permitted a garment.

"Thank you, Master! Thank you, Master!" wept Phoebe, clutching the garment. Marcus had, of his own thinking in the matter, purchased the garment. It was, in my opinion, high time he had done so. Not only would Phoebe be incredibly fetching in a slave garment, garments permitting a female in many ways to call attention to, accentuate, display and enhance her beauty, but it would make her, and us, less conspicuous on the streets of Ar. Also, of course, she would then be no more susceptible than other similarly clad slaves to the pinches, and other attentions, of passers-by in the streets.

"May I put it on?" she asked, holding the garment out.

"Yes," said Marcus. He was beaming. I think he had forgotten that he hated the wench, and such.

"Why have you come to Ar?" I asked Marcus.

"Surely you know," he said.

"But that is madness," I said.

During the siege of Ar's Station its Home Stone had been smuggled out of the city and secretly transported to Ar for safekeeping. This was done in a wagon owned by a fellow named Septimus Entrates. We had learned, however, after the fall of Ar's Station, that the official rumor circulated in the south was to the effect that Ar's Station had opened its gates to the Cosian expeditionary force, this in consideration of substantial gifts of gold. Accordingly, those of Ar's Station were now accounted renegades in the south. This supposed treachery of Ar's Station was then used, naturally, to explain the failure of Ar's might in the north to raise the siege, it was supposed that Ar's dilemma in the north was then either to attack their former colony or deal with the retreating expeditionary force. On the supposition that the latter action took priority the might of Ar in the north entered the delta in pursuit of the Cosians, in which shifting, trackless morass column after column was lost or decimated. The devastation of Ar's might in the delta was perhaps the greatest military disaster in the planet's history. Of over fifty thousand men who had entered the delta it was doubted that there were more than four or five thousand survivors. Some of these, of course, had managed to find their way back to Ar. As far as these men knew, of course, at least on the whole, the circulating rumors were correct, namely, that Ar's Station had betrayed Ar, that it was still intact and that it was now a Cosian outpost. Such things they had been told in their winter camp, near Holmesk, south of the Vosk.

Phoebe slipped the garment over her head.

Marcus observed, intently.

Understandably enough, given these official accounts of doings in the north, Ar's Station and those of Ar's Station were much despised and hated in Ar. Happily Marcus' accent, like most of Ar's Station, was close enough to that of Ar herself that he seldom attracted much attention. Too, of course, these days in the vicinity of Ar, given the movements of Cos on the continent, and the consequent displacements and flights of people, there were medleys of accents in and about Ar. Not even my own accent, which was unusual on Gor, attracted much attention.

Phoebe drew down the tunic about her thighs, and turned before Marcus, happily. "Aii!" said Marcus.

"Does the slave please you?" inquired Phoebe, delighted. The question was clearly rhetorical.

"It is too brief," said Marcus.

"Nonsense," I said.

"It is altogether too brief," said Marcus.

"The better that my master may look upon my flanks," said Phoebe. They were well exposed, particularly with the notching on the sides.

"And so, too, many other men," he said, angrily.

"Of course, Master," she said, "for I am a slave!"

"She is extraordinarily beautiful," I said. "Let her be so displayed and exposed. Let other seethe with envy upon consideration of your property."

"She is just a slut of Cos!" said Marcus, angrily.

"Now only your slave," I reminded him.

"You are a pretty slave, slut of Cos," said Marcus to the girl, grudgingly. "A girl is pleased, if she is found pleasing by her master," said Phoebe. "Surely, by now," I said to Marcus, "you have thought the better of your mad project."

"No," said Marcus, absently, rather lost in the rapturous consideration of his lovely slave.

The Home Stone of Ar's Station, as I have suggested, was in Ar. It was primarily in connection with this face that Marcus had come to Ar.

"She is marvelously beautiful," said Marcus.

"Yes," I said.

"For a Cosian," he said.

"Of course," I said.

Given the anger in Ar at Ar's Station, and the fact that the Home Stone of Ar's Station had been sent to Ar, supposedly, according to the rumors, not for safekeeping, given the imminent danger in the city, but in a gesture of defiance and repudiation, attendant upon the supposed acceptance of a new Home Stone, one bestowed upon them by the Cosians, the stone was, during certain hours, publicly displayed. This was done in the vicinity of the Central Cylinder, on the Avenue of the Central Cylinder. The purpose of this display was to permit the people of Ar, and elsewhere, if they wished, to vent their displeasure upon the stone, insulting it, spitting upon it, and such.

"The stone," I said, "is well guarded."

We had ascertained that this morning. We had then gone to the Alley of the Slave Brothels f Ludmilla, on which street lies the insula of Achiates. I did not enter the insula itself, but made an inquiry or two in its vicinity. Those whom I had sought there were apparently no longer in residence. I did not make my inquiries of obvious loungers in its vicinity. I went back., with Marcus and Phoebe, later in the afternoon. The loungers were still in evidence. I had assumed then they had been posted. There was a street peddler nearby, too, sitting behind a blanket on which trinkets were spread. I did not know if he had been posted there or not. It did not much matter. Normally in such arrangements there are at least two individuals. In this way one can report to superiors while the other keeps his vigil. As far as I knew, no one knew that I was in the vicinity of Ar. I did know I could be recognized by certain individuals. The last time I had come to Ar, before this time, I had come with dispatches to Gnieus Lelius, the regent, from Dietrich of Tarnburg, from Torcadino. I had later carried a spurious message which had nearly cost me my life to Ar's Station, to be delivered to its commanding officer at the time, Aemilianus, of the same city. I had little doubt that I had inadvertently become identified as a danger to, and an enemy of, the party of treason in Ar. I did not know if the regent, Gnieus Lelius, were of this party or not. I rather suspected not. I was certain, however, from information I had obtained at Holmesk, at the winter camp of Ar, that the high general in the city, Seremides, of Tyros, was involved. Also, secret documents earlier obtained in Brundisium, and deciphered, gave at least one other name, that of a female, one called Talena, formerly the daughter, until disowned, of Marlenus of Ar. Her fortunes were said to be on the rise in the city.

"I am well aware," said Marcus, "that the stone is well guarded."

"Then abandon your mad project," I said to him.

"No," said he.

"You can never obtain the stone," I said.

"Have you come to Ar for a reason less likely of fruition?" he asked.

I was silent.

The girl did not understand our conversation as we had not spoken before her of these things. She was a mere slave and thus appropriately kept in ignorance. Let them please and serve. That is enough for them.

"Well?" smiled Marcus.

I did not respond to him. I thought of a woman, one now high in Ar, one for whom I had once mistakenly cared, a vain, proud woman who had once, thinking me helpless and crippled, mocked and scorned me. I though of her, and chains. It would be impossible to obtain her, of course. Yet, if somehow, in spite of all, I should obtain her it was not even my intention to keep her but rather, as a gesture, merely dispose of her, giving her away or selling her off as the least of slaves.

"I see," said Marcus.

"Master?" asked Phoebe, turning before Marcus.

"Yes," he said, "you are very pretty."

"Thank you, Master," she said, "for giving me a garment."

"For permitting you to wear one," Marcus corrected her.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"For at least a moment or two," he said.

"Yes, Master!" she laughed.

"You have an exquisitely beautiful slave, Marcus," I said.

Phoebe looked at me, gratefully, flushed.

Marcus made an angry noise, and clenched his fists. I saw that he feared he might come to care for her.

He whipped the cord, some five feet in length, from his shoulder.

Phoebe approached him and held her wrists, crossed, before her. "Am I to be bound, Master?" she asked. In extending their limbs so readily, so delicately, for binding, slaves express and demonstrate, their submission.

"Do you like the garment?" he asked.

"Whose use I may have, if only for a moment," she smiled. "Yes, Master. Oh yes, my Master!"

"Are you grateful?" he asked.

"Yes, Master," she said. "A slave is grateful, so very grateful."

"It is not much," he said.

"It is a treasure," she said. I smiled. To her, I supposed, a slave, such a tiny thing, little more than a brief rag, would indeed be a treasure.

"You understand, of course," he said, "that its use may be as easily taken from you as given to you."

"Yes, Master," she said.

"Do you wish to retain its use?" he asked.

"Of course, Master," she said.

"You now have an additional motivation for striving to please," he said. "Yes, Master," she smiled. The control of a girl's clothing, and many other things, such as her diet, chaining, name, whether or not her head is to be shaved, and so on, are all within the purview of the master. His power over the slave is unqualified and absolute. Phoebe, of course, was muchly in love with Marcus, and he, in spite of himself, with her. On the other hand, even if she had been, as he sometimes seemed to want her, the hating slave of a hating master, she would still have had to strive with all her power to please him, and in all things, and with perfection. It is such to be a Gorean slave girl. "Do you think me weak?" he asked.

"No, Master!" she said.

He regarded her, torn with his love for her, and his hatred of the island of Cos.

She lifted her crossed wrists to him, for binding.

But he did not move to pinion them. The cord, of course, was not for such a purpose, though that was a purpose which it could surely serve.

She separated her wrists timidly, and looked him, puzzled, with love in her eyes.

"I am eager to be pleasing to you," she said.

"That is fitting," he said.

"Yes, Master," she whispered.

"For you are a slave," he said.

"And yours," she said, suddenly, breathlessly, "yours, your slave!"

He looked at her, angrily.

"I exist for you," she said, "and it is what I want, to please and serve you." She was much in love. She wanted to give all of herself to Marcus, irreservedly, to hold nothing back, to live for him, if need be, to die for him. It is the way of the female in love, for whom no service is too small, no sacrifice too great, offering herself selflessly as an oblation to the master.

He regarded her, in fury.

She extended her arms a little, toward him, timidly, hoping to be permitted to embrace him. "Accept the devotion of your slave," she begged.

I saw his fists clench.

"I love you. I love you, my Master!" she said.

"Sly, lying slut!" he said.

"No!" she wept.

"Mendacious slut of Cos!" he cried.

"I love you! I love you, my Master!" she cried.

He then struck her with the back of his hand, striking her to one side, and she fell, turning, to her knees. She looked up at him from all fours, blood at her lips.

"Were you given permission to speak?" he asked.

"Forgive me, Master," she whispered. She then crawled to his feet and, putting her head down, kissed them. "A slave begs the forgiveness of her Master," she said.

Marcus looked down at her, angrily. Then he turned to me. "Her use, of course," he said, "is yours, whenever you might please."

"Thank you," I said, "but I think that I can find a rent wench outside in the camp, or, if I wish, buy a slut, for they are cheap in the vicinity of Ar these days."

"As you wish," said Marcus.

Although Marcus was harsh with his slave, pretending even to a casual and brutal disdain for her, he was also, it might be mentioned, extremely possessive where she was concerned. Indeed, he was almost insanely jealous of her. She was not the sort of girl, for example, whom he, as a hose, even at the cost of a certain rudeness and inhospitality, would be likely to hand over for the nightly comfort of a guest. It would be at his slave ring alone what she would be likely to find herself chained.

"Stand up," said Marcus to the girl.

"I hear some music outside," I said.

"Yes," I said.

"At least someone in the neighborhood seems cheerful," I said.

"Probably peasants," said Marcus.

I thought this might be true. There were many about, having fled before the march of Cos. Driven from their lands, their stock muchly lost, or driven before them, they had come to the shelter of Ar's walls. Still they were ready to sing, to drink and dance. I admired peasants. They were hardy, sturdy, irrepressible. Phoebe now stood humbly before Marcus, as she had been commanded.

"Wipe your face," said Marcus.

She wiped the blood away, or smeared it, with her right forearm.

"This cord," said Marcus, "may function as a slave girdle. Such may be tied in several ways. You, as a slave, doubtless know the tying of slave girdles." I smiled. Marcus would know, of course, that Phoebe would not be likely to know much, if anything, of such matters. Only recently she had been a free woman, though, to be sure, one who had been long kept, languishing, it seemed, and, of course, incompletely fulfilled, in the status of a mere captive. Only a few weeks again had she been branded and collared, and thusly liberated into total bondage.

"No, Master," said Phoebe. "I am not trained, save in so far as you, and before you, Master Tarl, have deigned to impart some understandings to me."

"I see," said Marcus. I think he was just as pleased that Phoebe had not been muchly trained. From one point of view, this suggested that she had presumably been less handled before coming into his keeping that might have been otherwise the case. Also, of course, if she was to strive to please, and squirm, under strict training disciplines, he would prefer that she do so under his personal tutelage, and in the lights of his personal taste, she thus being kept more to himself, and also being trained to be a perfect personal slave, one honed to the whims, preferences and needs of a particular master. To be sure, this sort of thing can be done with any woman. it is part of her "learning the new master."

"Master is undoubted familiar with many slaves, and things having to do with slaves," said Phoebe. "Perhaps then Master can teach his slave such things." Though Marcus was a young man and, as far as I knew, had never owned a personal slave before Phoebe, he, as a Gorean, would be familiar with slaves. Not only were they in his culture but he probably, as he was of the Marcelliani, which had been a prominent, wealthy family in Ar's Station, would have had them in his house, in growing up, the use of some perhaps being accorded to him after puberty. Similarly he would be familiar with them from his military training, which would include matters such as the hunting and capture of women, who count as splendid trophies of the chase, so to speak, and his military life, as officers and men commonly have at their disposal barracks slaves, camp slaves, and such. Too, of course, he would be familiar with the lovely properties encountered in paga taverns, and such places. Indeed, together we had frequented such establishments, for example, in Port Cos, after our landing there, as refugees from Ar's Station. The Gorean slave girl seldom needs to fear that her master will not be fully familiar with, and skilled in, the handling, treatment and discipline of slaves.

"I am not a professional slave trainer," said Marcus, "or costumer or cosmetician, but I will show you two of the most common ties. Others you might inquire of, when the opportunity permits, of your sister slaves."

"Yes, Master," she said.

Phoebe, because of the nature of her acquisition and holding, and our movements, and such, had had very little chance to associate with, or meet, other slaves. On the other hand this deprivation might soon be remedied. I supposed, if Marcus should take up a settled domicile. Indeed, even if we remained n the camp for a few days, it was likely that Phoebe would soon find herself in one group or another of female slaves, conversing, working together. Perhaps laundering, or such. From her sisters in bondage a girl, particularly a new girl, can learn much. In such groups there are normally numerous subtle relationships, hierarchies of dominance, and such, but when a male appears they are all instantly reduced, before him, to the commonality of their beauty and bondage. "Also," said Marcus, sizing up the slim beauty before him, "we can always, if we wish, extend our repertoire of ties by experiment."

"Yes, Master," said Phoebe, eagerly. It seemed she had forgotten her cuffing. Yet I had little doubt that its admonitory sting lingered within her, not only as a useful memorandum of her bondage but recalling her to the prudence of caution.

Marcus looped the cord and put it over her, so that the loop hung behind her back and two loosed ends before her.

Already, it seemed, Phoebe had returned to her normal mode of relating to him, as a mere, docile slave, not daring to confess her love openly. Yet I think there was not something subtly different in their relationship. Phoebe now, given his recent intensity, his denunciation of her mendacity, his fury, his excessive reaction to them, had more than ample evidence of the depth of his feelings toward her. She was more than satisfied with what had occurred. Such things, to the softness and intelligence of her woman's heart, spoke clearly to her. She was not in the position of the helplessly loving female slave at the feet of a beloved master who regarded her with indifference as merely another of his women, or was even cold to her, perhaps disdaining her as a trivial, meaningless possession.

Marcus now, roughly, took the forward ends of the cord, where they dangled before her, and put them back, beneath her arms, through the back loop, and drew them forward where he tied them, snugly, beneath her breasts.

"Oh!" she said.

"You are pretty, slut of Cos," he said, standing back, admiring his handiwork. "I wish I had a mirror," she said.

"You may see yourself, in a sense," I said, "in the mirror of his desire."

"Yes," she whispered, shyly.

"And this," said Marcus, loosening the cord, "is perhaps the most common way of wearing the slave girdle." He then took the forward ends of the cord, again free, and this time crossed them, over the bosom, before placing them again through the loop at the back, drawing them forward and, once more, fastening them, perhaps more snugly than was necessary, before her.

"Ohh," he said. "Yes."

"Aii," I whispered. I then needed a woman. I must leave the tent and search for one, perhaps a girl in one of the open-air brothels, forbidden without permission to leave her mat or even to rise to her knees.

"Is it pretty?" asked Phoebe.

"It is a perhaps not unpleasing effect," said Marcus.

"Yes," I agreed.

"There are, of course, numerous ways in which to tie slave girls," said Marcus. "True," I said. To be sure they tended to have certain things in common, such as the accentuation and enhancement of the slave's figure.

Phoebe moved about in the tent, delighted. She could perhaps suspect what she might look like.

"You see," I said, "there is some point in permitting a female clothing."

"Yes," said he, "providing it may be swiftly, and at one's will, removed."

"Of course," I said.

Phoebe then, beside herself with passion, knelt swiftly before Marcus. "Please, Master!" she said.

I saw that Marcus was in agony to have her. He could scarcely control himself. "Please!" wept the slave.

I expected him to leap upon her and fling her to her back to the dirt, ravishing her with the power of the master.

Please, please, Master!" wept the slave, squirming in piteous need before him. "What do you want?" asked Marcus then, drawing himself up, coldly, looking down at her. It amazed me that he was capable of this.

"Master?" she asked.

He regarded her, coldly.

"I beg use," she whispered.

"Do you protest your love?" he inquired. His hand was open, where she could see it. It was poised. She saw it. He was ready, if necessary, again to cuff her. "No, Master," she said, hastily.

"Not even the love of a slave girl?" he asked.

"No, Master," she said.

"And in any event," he said, "the love a slave girl is worthless, is it not?"

"Yes, Master," she whispered, tears in her eyes. This was absurd, of course, as the love of a slave girl is the deepest and most profound love that any woman can give a man. Love makes a woman a man's slave, and the wholeness of that love requires that she be, in truth, his slave. With nothing less can she be fully, and institutionally, content.

"You do not then protest your love," he said, "not even the love of a slave girl."

"No, Master," she whispered.

"What then?" asked he, casually.

"I beg simple use," she said.

"I see," he said.

"I am a slave in desperate need," she said. "I am at your mercy. You are my master. In piteous need I beg use!"

"So," said he, scornfully, "the slut of Cos, on her knees, begs use of her Master, one of Ar's Station."

"Yes, Master!" she said.

"You will wait," he said.

"Yes, Master," she moaned.

"I hear music, outside, the instruments of peasants, I believe," said Marcus, turning to me. "Perhaps they are holding fair or festival, such as they may, in such times."

"Perhaps," I said.

"Let us investigate," suggested Marcus.

"Very well," I said.

"Oh, yes," said he, looking down, "what of this slave?" She squirmed. It seemed she had slipped his mind.

"Bring her along," I suggested.

"You are an ignorant and unworthy slave, are you not?" asked Marcus.

"Yes, Master," she said. She was flushed and helplessly needful, even trembling. "Better surely," said Marcus, "that she be stripped and left here, behind, alone, bound hand and foot."

"Perhaps if you have a slave ring to chain her to," I said.

"You think there is danger of theft?" he asked.

"Yes," I said.

"You think she might be of interest to others?" he asked.

"Undoubtedly," I said.

"On your feet," he said to the girl.

Groaning, scarcely able to stand straight, so wrought with need she was, she stood.

"There will be darkness and crowds," mused Marcus. "Do you think you will try to escape?" he asked the girl.

"No, Master," she said.

"Straighten up," he said, "put your shoulders back, pull in your belly, thrust forth your breasts."

"She is a delicacy," I said, "worth at least two silver tarsks, in any market."

"I will try not to escape, Master," said the girl.

"I wonder," mused Marcus.

"I am collared," she said. "I am branded."

"True," said Marcus.

In this way she had suggested that even if she might desire to escape such a hope would be forlorn for her. She was reminding him of the categoricality of her condition, of its absoluteness, of the hopelessness of escape for such as she, a female held in Gorean bondage. For example, there are not only such obvious things as the brand and collar, and the distinctive garbing of the slave, or the lack of garbing, but, far more significantly, the extreme closeness of the society, with its scrutiny of strangers, and the general nature of an uncompromising and inflexible enforcement of, her condition. There is, accordingly, for all practical purposes, no escape for the Gorean slave girl. At best she might, at great risk to her own life, succeed in obtaining a new chaining, a new master, and one who, in view of her flight, will undoubtedly see to it that she is incarcerated in a harsher bondage that from which she fled, to which now, under her new strictures, she is likely to look back upon longingly. Similarly the penalties for attempted escape, particularly for a second attempt, are severe, usually involving hamstringing. Only the most stupid of women dares to even think of escape, and then seldom more than once.

"Will it be necessary to bind you?" asked Marcus.

"No, Master," she said.

"Turn about, and put your hands, wrists crossed, behind you," he said.

He then, whipping a short length of binding fiber from his pouch, with two single loops, and a double knot, a warrior's capture knot, tied her hands together.

"Will it be necessary to leash you?" he asked.

"No, Master," she said.

He then turned her about and put a leather leash collar, with its attached lead, now dangling before her, on her neck.

Although I did not think that Phoebe, who was a highly intelligent girl, would be likely to attempt an escape, even if she were not bound to Marcus by chains a thousand times stronger than those of iron, the chains of love, she might be stolen. Slave girls are lovely properties, and slave theft, the stealing of beautiful female slaves, is not unknown on Gor.

She tried to press against him, but he pressed her back, with one hand.

"Yes, Master," she sobbed. She was not now, without his permission, to so much as touch him.

"Let us be on our way," said Marcus.

The girl moaned with need.

"Very well," I said.

"Outside," said Marcus to the girl, "stand and walk well."

"Yes, Master," she said.

She was flushed, and needful, but I did not know if this would be readily apparent outside, among the moving bodies, in the darkness, in the wayward shadows, in the uncertain light of campfires.

"You are sure you do not wish to remain in the tent for a bit?" I asked. "Please, Master!" begged Phoebe.

"No," said Marcus.

Phoebe was quite beautiful in the tunic. It was adjusted on her by a slave girdle, in one of its common ties.

The girl looked at her master, piteously.

"Let us be on our way," said Marcus.

We left the tent, the girl following, bound, on the leash. She whimpered once, softly, piteously, beggingly, to which sound, however, her master, if he heard it, paid no heed.

3 The Camp

"Stones! Guess stones!" called a fellow. "Who will play stones?"

This is a guessing game, in which a certain number of a given number of "stones," usually from two to five, is held in the hand and the opponent is to guess the number. There are many variations of "Stones," but usually one receives one point for a correct guess. If one guesses successfully, one may guess again. If one does not guess successfully, one holds the «stones» and the opponent takes his turn. The game is usually set at a given number of points, usually fifty. Whereas the «stones» are often tiny pebbles, they may be any small object. Sometimes beads are used, sometimes even gems. Intricately carved and painted game boxes containing carefully wrought «stones» are available for the affluent enthusiast. The game, as it is played on Gor, is not an idle pastime. Psychological subtleties, and strategies, are involved. Estates have sometimes changed hands as a result of "stones." Similarly, certain individuals are recognized as champions of the game. In certain cites, tournaments are held. I wiped my mouth with my forearm and rose to my feet. I was now much refreshed. "Do not leave me, I beg you," said the girl at my feet, on the mat. Her hands were about my ankle. "I would kneel to you," she said.

"You do not have permission even to rise to your knees," I reminded her. She groaned.

"Paga! Paga!" called a fellow, with a large bota of paga slung over his shoulder.

"I belly for you!" said the girl, her head down, over my foot.

She held still to my ankle, her small hands about it. Her hair was about my foot. I felt her hot lips press again and again to my foot. She looked up. "Buy me," she begged. "Buy me!" the marks of the rush mat were on her back. She was a blonde, and short, voluptuously curvaceous. She drew her legs up then, and lay curled on her side, looking up at me, her hands still on my ankle. "Buy me," she begged.

"Lie on your back," I told her, "your arms at your sides, the palms of your hands up, your left knee raised."

She did so.

"Buy me!" she begged.

I could not walk away from her.

"Please," she begged.

Her words puzzled me. Why would she want me to buy her? Certainly I had not accorded her dignity or respect, or such things. Indeed, it had not even occurred to me to do so, nor would it have been appropriate, as she was a mere slave. Similarly I had not handled her gently. Indeed, at least in my second usage of her, purchased with a second tarsk bit placed in the shallow copper bowl beside her, she had been put through fierce, severe, uncompromising slave paces. Once, when she had seemed for an instant hesitant, I had even cuffed her. "I want to be your slave," she said. "Please buy me!"

I considered her. She was certainly a hot slave.

"Please, Master," she begged.

"Are you finished?" asked a fellow behind me.

I looked again at the female, luscious, collared, on the mat.

"Please buy me!" she begged.

I considered my purposes in coming to Ar, the dangers that would be involved. "I do not think it would be practical," I said.

She sobbed.

"You are finished?" asked the fellow, again.

"Yes," I said.

"Master!" she wept.

As I left, slinging about me my accouterments, I heard a new coin entered into the copper bowl.

Some peasants were to one side. Every now and then, presumably at some joke, or recounted anecdote, perhaps one about some tax collector thrown in a well, they would laugh uproariously.

A fellow brushed past me, drawing behind him two slaves, their wrists extended before them, closely together, pulled forward, the lead chains attached to their wrist shackles.

I was looking about for Marcus and Phoebe.

I glanced over to the walls of Ar, some hundred or so yards away, rearing up in the darkness. Here and there fires were lit on the walls, beacons serving to guide tarnsmen. The last time I had been to Ar, that time I had received the spurious message, to be delivered to Aemilianius, in Ar's Station, there had been no need of yellow ostraka, or permits, to enter the city. Such devices, or precautions, had in the interim apparently been deemed necessary, doubtless for purposes of security or to control the number of refugees pouring into the city which, even earlier, had been considerable. Many had slept in the streets. I had rented, at that time, a room in the insula of streets. One permitted residence in Ar received the identificatory ostrakon, for example, citizens, ambassadors, resident aliens, trade agents, and such, was a function of heir owner's possession of such ostraka. Others might enter the city on permits, usually for the day, commencing at dawn and concluding at sundown. Records were kept of visitors. A visitor whose permit had expired was the object of the search of guardsmen. Too, guardsmen might, at their option, request the presentation of either ostraka or permits. Ostaka were sometimes purchased illegally. Sometimes men killed for them. The nature of the ostraka, for example, taking different colors, being recoded, and so on.

I saw some fellows gathered about a filled, greased wineskin. There was much laughter. I went over to watch. He who manages to balance on it for a given time, usually an Ehn, wins both the skin and its contents. One pays a tarsk bit for the chance to compete. It is extremely difficult, incidentally, to balance on such an object, not only because of the slickness of the skin, heavily coated with grease, but even more so because if its rotundity and unpredictable movements, the wine surging within in. "Aii!" cried a fellow flailing about and then spilling from its surface. There was much laughter. "Who is next?" called the owner of the skin. This sort of thing is a sport common at peasant festivals, incidentally, thought there, of course, usually far from a city, within the circle of the palisade, the competition is free, the skin and wine being donated by one fellow or another, usually as his gift to the festival to which all in one way or another contribute, for example, by the donations of produce, meat or firewood. At such festivals there are often various games, and contests and prizes. Archery is popular with the peasants and combats with the great staff. Sometimes there is a choice of donated prizes for the victors. For example, a bolt of red cloth, a tethered verr or a slave. More than one urban girl, formerly a perfumed slave, sold into the countryside, who held herself above peasants, despising them for their supposed filth and stink, had found herself, kneeling and muchly roped, among such a set of prizes. And, to her chagrin, she is likely to find that she is not the first chosen.

I was brushed by a fellow in the darkness. While I could still see him I checked my wallet. It was there, intact. The two usual modalities in which such folks work are to cut the strings of the wallet from the belt, carrying it away, or to slit the bottom of the wallet, allowing the contents to slip into their hand. Both actions require skill.

I saw a line of five slave girls, kneeling, abreast, their hands tied behind their back. bits of meat were thrown to them, one after the other. A catch scored two points for the master. A missed piece might be sought by any of the girls, scrambling about, on their bellies. She who managed to obtain it received one point for her master. The girls were encouraged from the sidelines, not only by their masters but by the crowd as well, some of whom placed bets on the outcome.

"Would you like to purchase a yellow ostrakon?" asked a fellow. I had hardly heard him. I looked about, regarding him. His hood was muchly pulled about his face. Were his offer genuine, I would indeed be eager to purchase such an object.

"Such are valuable," I said.

"Only a silver tarsk," he said.

"Are you a resident of Ar?" I asked.

"I am leaving the city," he said. "I fear Cos."

"But Cos is to be met and defeated on the march to Ar," I said.

"I am leaving the city," he said. "I have no longer a need for the ostrakon."

"Let me see it," I said.

Surreptitiously, scarcely opening his hand, he showed it to me.

"Bring it here, by the light," I said.

Unwillingly he did so. I took it from his hand.

"Do not show it about so freely," he whispered.

I struck him heavily in the gut and he bent over, and sank to his knees. He put down his head. He gasped. He threw up into the dirt near the fire.

"If you cannot hold your paga, go elsewhere," growled a peasant.

The fellow, in pain, in confusion, in agony, looked up at me.

"It is indeed a yellow ostrakon," I said, "and oval in shape, as are the current ostraka."

"Pay me," he gasped.

"Only this morning I was at the sun gate," I told him, "where the current lists are posted, the intent of which is to preclude such fraud as you would perpetrate."

"No," he said.

"The series of this ostrakon," I said, "was discontinued, probably months ago."

"No," he said.

"You could have retrieved from a carnarium," I said. This was one of the great refuse pits outside the walls.

I broke the ostrakon in two and cast the pieces into the fire.

"Begone," I said to the fellow.

He staggered to his feet and, bent over, hobbled quickly away. I had not killed him.

"They may have to give up ostraka," said the peasant sitting cross-legged by the fire.

"Why?" I asked.

"It is dangerous to carry them," he said. "Too many folks are killed for them."

"What then will Ar do?" I asked.

"I think she will shut her gates," he said.

"But her forces are interposed between her gates and Cos," I said.

"True," said the peasant.

I then continued my search for Marcus and Phoebe. He was, of course, quite proud of her. I did not doubt but what he was now circulating about, seemingly merely wandering about, but showing her off. She would surely be one the most fetching slaves in the area.

How lofty, I thought, are the walls of Ar. Yet they were only of stone and mortar. They could be breached. Her bridges could be, as the Goreans have it, washed in blood. But there were forces of Ar between her walls and banners of Cos. It was well.

I stopped for a moment to watch an amusing race. Several slave girls are aligned, on all fours, poised, their heads down. Then, carefully, a line of beans, one to a girl, is placed before them. She must then, on all fours, push the bean before her, touching it only with her nose. The finish line was a few yards away. "go!" I head. The crowd cheered on its favorites. On this sport, as well as on several others, small bets were placed. Sometimes a new slave, one who has recently been a haughty, arrogant free woman, is used in such a race. Such things, aside from their amusing, and fitting, aspects, are thought to be useful in accommodating her to her new reality, that of the female slave. In them she learns something more of the range of activities that may be required of her.

I passed two fellows wrestling in a circle, others watching.

Another group, gathered about a fire, were singing and passing about a bota, I presume, of paga.

I passed a pair of fellows intent over a Kaissa board. It seemed they were in their own world.

A female slave passed me, looking shyly down. She moved, excellently. I saw another regarding me. She was on her master's leash. I recalled that Phoebe, too, had been on a leash. Perhaps by now, I though, Marcus would have returned with his slave, suffering in her need, to the tent, if only to satisfy himself with her, for he, too, I was certain, was in an agony to have her. Yet, in spite of his need, his intense desire for her, which it seemed he would choose to conceal from her, and her obvious, even explicitly expressed piteous need, which he chose to ignore, thereby supposedly, I suppose, indicating to her its meaninglessness to him, he had, as though nothing were afoot, simply taken her from the tent, as though merely to take in the sights, to see what might be seen in the camp. If Marcus had returned to the tent by now, of course, I did not think it would do for me to drop back, at least just yet. I wondered if, even now, Phoebe might be writhing at his mercy in an intricate slave binding, one which might make her so much the more helpless under his touch. Yet, given what I knew of Marcus, and his will, and determination, he was probably still about in the camp. But how long, I wondered, could he hold out. Certainly Phoebe had been superb in her tunic, adjusted on her by the slave girdle. The mere sight of her had led me to hurry to the mats. I supposed, however, that they were somewhere about. Knowing Marcus I would suppose so. He was excellent at gritting his teeth. I wondered if Phoebe had dared yet, in her need, to come close to him, on her leash, or even, perhaps, to brush against him, perhaps as though inadvertently. If Marcus though such a thing deliberate on her part it might have earned her another cuffing. To be sure, it doubtless amused Marcus, or seemed fitting to him, to lead her about on her leash, suffering in a need which might be detectable even in the darkness and the shifting shadows. He might regard that as quite appropriate for a "slut of Cos."

There was, from one side, a sudden sound of grunting and the cracking of great staffs, and urging cries from men. Two fellows, brawny lads, in half tunics, were doing staff contest. Both were good. Sometimes I could scarcely follow the movements of these weapons. "Watch him!" called a fellow to one of the contestants. "Cheers for Rarir!" called another. "Aii!" cried one of the lads, blood at the side of his head and ear, stumbling to the side. "Good blow!" cried an onlooker. But the lad came back with redoubled energy. I stayed for a moment. The lad from Rarir, as I understood it, then managed to pierce the guard of his opponent and thrust the staff into the fellow's chest. He followed this with a smiting to the side of the fellow's head which staggered him. he then, at the last moment, held back. the opponent, dazed, sat back in the dirt, laughing. "Victory for Rarir!" cried one man. "Pay us!" called another. Extending his hand to the foe the victor pulled him to his feet. They embraced. "Paga! Paga for both!" called a fellow.

I circled about a bit.

I saw no sight of Marcus or his lovely slave. Perhaps they had returned to the tent.

In one place, hearing the jingling of bells, I went over to a large open circle of fellows to watch a game of "girl catch." There are many ways in which this game, or sort of game, is played. In this one, which was not untypical, a female slave, within an enclosure, her hands bound behind her back, and hooded, is belled, usually with common slave bells at the collar, wrists and ankles and a larger bell, a guide bell, with its particular note, at her left hip. Some fellows then, also hooded, or blindfolded, enter the enclosure, to catch her. Neither the quarry nor the hunters can see the other. The girl is forbidden to remain still for more than a certain interval, usually a few Ihn. She is under the control of a referee. His switch can encourage her to move, and, simultaneously, of course, mark her position. She is hooded in order that she may not determine into whose power she comes. When she is caught that game, or one of its rounds, is concluded. The victor's prize, of course, is the use of the slave.

I continued to walk about.

Two fellows were haggling over the price of a verr.

I saw a yoked slave girl, two buckets attached to the ends of the yoke. She was probably bearing water for draft tharlarion. There were some in the camp. I had smelled them.

A fellow stumbled by, drunk.

I looked after the girl. She was small, and comely. She would probably have to make several trips to water the tharlarion.

I wondered if the drunken fellow knew where his camp was. Fortunately there were no carnaria in this vicinity. It would not do to stumble into one.

Around one of the campfires there was much singing.

I heard the sound of a lash, and sobs. A girl was being disciplined. She was tied on her knees, her wrists over her head, tied to a horizontal bar between two poles. I gathered that she had been displeasing.

In a tent I heard a heated political discussion.

"Marlenus of Ar will return," said a fellow. "He will save us."

"Marlenus is dead," said another.

"Let his daughter then, Talena, take the throne," said another.

"She is no longer his daughter," said a fellow. "She has been disavowed by Marlenus. She was disowned."

"How is it then her candidacy for the throne is taken seriously in the city?" asked a man.

"I do not know," admitted the other.

"Some speak of her as a possible Ubara," said a man.

"Absurd," said another.

"Many do not think so," said a man.

"She is an arrogant and unworthy slut," said another. "She should be in a collar."

"Beware, lest you speak treason," said one of the men.

"Can it be treason to speak the truth?" inquired a fellow.

"Yes," said the other fellow.

"Indeed," said a man, heatedly, "she may even know the whereabouts of Marlenus. Indeed, she, and others, may be responsible for his disappearance, or continued absence."

"I have not heard what you said," said a man.

"And I have not said it," was the rejoinder.

"I think it will be Talena," said a man, "who will sit upon the throne of Ar."

"How marvelous for Cos!" said a fellow. "That is surely what they would wish, that a female should sit upon the throne of Ar."

"Perhaps they will see to it that she does," said a man.

"Ar is in great peril," said a man.

"She had might between Cos and her gates," said a fellow. "There is nothing to fear."

"Yes!" said another, fervently.

"We must trust in the Priest-Kings," said another.

"Yes," said another.

"I can remember," said a fellow, "when we trusted in our steel."

I then left the vicinity of this tent.

I wondered if I could balance on the greased wineskin. I knew a fellow who, I had little doubt, could have done so, Lecchio, of the troupe of Boots Tarsk-Bit. I recalled the free female whose capture I had noted in Ar, that which had taken place in a street-level room in the Metallan district. Surely she must have know the law. The consorting of a free female with another man's slave renders her susceptible to the collar of the slave's master. The net had been cunningly arranged, that it might, when released, activated perhaps by springs or the pulling of a lever, fall and drape itself over the couch. It was clearly a device designed for such a purpose. The net and the room doubtless constituted a capture cubicle, simpler perhaps, but not unlike those in certain inns, in which a woman, lulled by the bolting on the doors, and feeling herself secure, may complete her toilet at leisure, bathing, combing her hair, perfuming herself and such, before the trap doors, dropped from beneath her, plunge her into the waiting arms of slavers. Guardsmen and magistrates, I had noted, had been in immediate attendance. She had had light brown hair and had been excellently curved. Yet I did not doubt but what her figure, even then of great interest, would be soon improved by diet and exercise, certainly before she would be put up on the block. To one side, in the half darkness, I heard the grunting of a man, and a female's gasping, and sobbing. There, to one side, in the shadows, difficult to make out, a slave girl, I could see the glint of her collar, writhed in a fellow's arms. I wondered if he owned her, or had simply caught her in the darkness. She was gasping, and squirming, and clutching at him. Her head twisted back and forth in the dirt. Her small, sweet, bared legs thrashed. Such responsiveness, of course, is not unusual in a female slave. It is a common function of the liberation of bondage. It comes with the collar, so to speak. Indeed, if a new slave does not soon exhibit profound and authentic sexual responsiveness, which matter may be checked by the examination of her body, within, say, an Ahn or so, the master's whip will soon inquire why. One blow of the whip is worth six months of coaxing. I though again of the captured free woman, she taken in the net. Doubtless, she, too, soon, given no choice, would become similarly responsive. Indeed, she, like other female slaves, would soon learn to be, and discover that she had become, perhaps to her initial dismay and horror, helplessly responsive to the touch of men, any man.

The pair thrashed in the darkness. She was pinioned, she sobbed with joy. To be sure, if one prefers an inert, or frigid, or anesthetic, so to speak, woman, one may always make do with a free female, inhibited by her status, and such. They are plentiful, dismally so. Goreans, incidentally, doubt that any female is, qua female, irremediably or ultimately frigid. It is a common observation, even on Earth, that one man's petulant and frigid wife is another man's, to be sure, a different sort of man's. passionate, begging, obedient slave.

"I yield me, Master!" wept the slave, softly.

"It is known to me," he said.

"Yes, Master," she said.

I heard the sound of a tabor several yards away, and the swirl of a flute, and the clapping of hands.

I went in that direction.

"Marcus," I said, pleased, finding him in the crowd there.

"Women are dancing," he said.

"Superb," I said.

Behind Marcus was Phoebe, standing very straight, and very close to him, but not touching him. She was holding her lower lip between her teeth, presumably to help her keep control of herself. Also there was a little blood at the left side of her mouth. I gathered she must have dared in her need to brush hopefully or timidly against her master, or whimpered a bit more than he cared to hear. Indeed, perhaps she had even dared to importune him. Her wrists were still bound behind her. The lead on her leash looped up to Marcus' grasp.

"The camp is in a holiday mood," I said.

"Yes," he said.

I saw more than one fellow looking at Phoebe. She had marvelous legs and ankles, and a trim figure. She stood very straight. It was not difficult to tell now, even by glancing at her, that she was in need. One of the fellows looking her over laughed. Phoebe trembled, and bit her lip a little more.

A fellow tore off the tunic of a slave girl and thrust her out, into the circle. "Aii!" cried men.

The female danced.

"I entered Phoebe in "meat catch", " said Marcus, "but she failed to catch even a single morsel."

"I am not surprised," I said. "She can hardly stand."

"That one is pretty," said Marcus. He referred to a redhead, thrust into the circle.

"I had thought you might have taken Phoebe to the tent by now," I said.

"No," said Marcus.

There were now some four or five girls in the circle. One wore a sigh that said, "I am for sale."

Phoebe made a tiny noise.

"I think Phoebe is ready for the tent now," I said.

"She did not even want to leave it," said Marcus.

"True," I said.

"Perhaps you should take Phoebe back to the tent," I said. "She is hot."

"Oh?" asked Marcus.

"Yes," I said.

"Perhaps I should put her into the circle," he said.

"She can scarcely move," I said.

"Oh," he said. I think he was pleased.

"She is in desperate need of a man's touch," I said.

"It does not matter," he said. "She is only a slave."

"Look," said Marcus. He referred to a new girl, joining the others in the circle. She wore ropes and performed on her knees, her sides, her back and stomach.

"She is very good," said Marcus.

"Yes," I said.

The dance in the circle, as one might have gathered. Was not the stately dance of free maidens, even in which, of course, the maidens, though scarcely admitting this even to themselves, experience something of the stimulatory voluptuousness of movement, but slave dance, that form of dance, in its thousands of variations, in which a female may excitingly and beautifully, marvelously and fulfillingly, express the depths and profoundness of her nature. In such dance the woman moves as a female, and shows herself as a female, in all her excitingness and beauty. It is no wonder that women love such dance, in which dance they are so desirable and beautiful, in which dance they feel so free, so sexual, so much a slave.

Another woman entered the circle. She, too, was excellent.

"How do you like them?" Marcus asked Phoebe. It was no accident, surely, that he had brought her here to watch the slave dance.

"Please take me to the tent, Master," she begged.

As Marcus had undoubtedly anticipated the sight of the slave dance would have its effect on his little Cosian. She saw how beautiful could be slaves, of which she was one. On the other hand, I suspected he had not counted on the effect on himself.

Another girl, a slim blonde, was thrust into the circle. Her master, arms folded, regarded her. She lifted her chained wrists above her head, palms facing outward, this, because of the linkage of the manacles, tightening it, bringing the backs of her hands closely together. She faced her master. Desperate was she to please him. There was a placatory aspect to her dance. It seemed she wished to divert his wrath.

"Ah," said Marcus, softly.

The girl who wore the sign, "I am for sale," danced before us, as she had before others, displaying her master's proffered merchandise. I saw that she wanted to be purchased. That was obvious in the pleading nature of her dance. Her master was perhaps a dealer, and one, as are many, who is harsh with his stock. Her dance, thusly, was rather like the "Buy me, Master," behavior of a girl on a chain, the "slaver's necklace," or in a market, the sort of behavior in which she begs purchase. A girl on such a chain, or in a market, who is too much passed over has reason for alarm. Not only is she likely to be lowered on the chain, perhaps even to "last girl," which is demeaning to her, and a great blow to her vanity, but she is likely to be encouraged to greater efforts by a variety of admonitory devices, in particular, the switch and whip. Earth-girl slaves brought to Gor, for example, are often, particularly at first, understandably enough, I suppose, afraid to be sold, and accordingly, naturally enough, I suppose, sometimes attempt, usually in subtle ways, to discourage buyers, thereby hoping to be permitted to cling to the relative security of the slaver's chain. Needless to say, this behavior is soon corrected and, in a short time, only too eager now to be off the slaver's chain, they are displaying themselves, and proposing themselves, luscious, eager, ready, begging merchandise, to prospective buyers.

The girl for sale was a short-legged brunet, extremely attractive. I considered buying her, but decided against it. This was not a time for buying slaves. I gestured for her to dance on. She whirled away. A tear moved diagonally down her cheek.

She might, of course, not belong to a dealer.

There are many reasons why a master might put his girl, or girls, up for sale, of course. He might wish, for example, if he is a breeder, to improve the quality of his pens or kennels, trying out new blood lines, freshening his stock, and such. He might wish, casually, merely to try out new slaves, perhaps ridding himself of one to acquire another, who may have caught his eye. Perhaps he wants to keep a flow of slaves in his house, lest he grow too attached to one, always a danger. Too, of course, economic considerations sometimes become paramount, these sometimes dictating the selling off of chattels, whose value, of course, unlike that of a free woman, constitutes a source of possible income. Indeed, there are many reasons for the buying and selling of slaves, as there are for other forms of properties.

I continued to watch the female, the sign about her neck, dance. No, I said to myself, it would not do to bring her into peril. Then I chastised myself for weakness. One would not wish to purchase her, of course, because she might constitute an encumbrance. Still, she was attractive. Even as I considered the matter she received a sign from a fellow, her master, I suppose, and she tore open her silk, and danced even more plaintively before one fellow and then another. She seemed frightened. I suspected she had been warned as to what might befall her if she should prove unsuccessful in securing a buyer. I saw her glance at her master. His gaze was stern, unpitying. She danced in terror. "Ahh," said Marcus. "Look!"

He was indicating the slim blonde, she with the chained wrists, whose dance before her master seemed clearly placatory in nature. She had perhaps begged to be permitted to appear before him in the dancing circle, that she might attempt to please him. he had perhaps acquiesced. I recalled he had thrust her into the circle, perhaps in this generously according her, though perhaps with some impatience, and misgivings, this chance to make amends for some perhaps unintentional, minuscule transgression. Perhaps his paga had not been heated to the right temperature. Women look well in collars.

"See?" asked Marcus.

I wondered how long he could hold out.

"I can do that, Master," sobbed Phoebe, trying to stand very still.

The blonde was now on her knees, extending her arms to her master, piteously, all this with the music in her arms, her shoulders, her head and hair, her belly.

"Aii!" said Marcus.

Her master seized her from the circle then and hurried her from the light, her head down, held by the hair, at his left hip. This is a common leading position for female slaves being conducted short distances. As the master holds her hair in the left hand, it leaves his right hand, commonly the sword hand, free. Another woman was thrust into the circle.

I thought the blonde had very successfully managed to divert her master's wrath, assuming that was what she was up to. The only whip she need fear now, muchly, at any rate, would seem to be the "whip of the furs." To be sure, she might be given a stroke or two, if only to remind her that she was a slave.

"Look," said Marcus, interested.

I saw that the girl with the sign about her neck had taken a leaf from the book of the blonde, and cunningly, too. She, too, was now on her knees, advertising her charms, attesting mutely to the joys and delicacies that would be attendant upon her ownership. I saw her owner look at her, startled. She, of course, did not now see him. I gathered he had never seen her in just this fashion or way before, her silk parted, writhing on her knees, kissing, lifting her hands, her head moving, her hair flung about. "I will buy her!" called a fellow. "How much do you want?" inquired another, eagerly. Her master rushed into the circle. "Close your silk, lascivious slut!" he ordered her. Swiftly she clutched the silk about her, startled, confused, kneeling small before him. He looked about, angrily. He jerked her by one arm to her feet. She struggled to keep her silk closed with the other hand. "She is not for sale!" he said. He then drew her rapidly from the light, into the darkness outside the circle. We heard a tearing of silk. There was much laughter.

"He did not know what he owned!" laughed a man.

"No!" agreed another.

I guessed that the possession of such a wench might not, after all, even in my situation, have been too burdensome. After all, one could always have gotten a great deal of good out of her, and a great deal of work. On the other hand, she was no longer for sale.

"I can do that, Master," said Phoebe.

"Nonsense," said Marcus.

"I can!" she said.

Marcus and I watched the women in the circle. I think perhaps about two Ihn passed. Perhaps one might have wiped one's nose, quickly, in the interval. "Well," said Marcus, wearily, "it is getting late."

"It is still early, Master," said Phoebe.

"I think that I shall return to the tent," said Marcus.

"A good idea," I said. "But I think, I shall dally a bit outside."

"Oh?" said Marcus, concerned, but, I think, not excessively disappointed. "Yes," I said.

"Perhaps we will return to the tent now," said Marcus to Phoebe.

"As Master wishes," she said, lightly. I thought she had carried that off rather well.

"I thought you wished to return to the tent," said Marcus.

"I am a slave," she said. "I must obey my master."

"Do you not want my touch?" asked Marcus.

"I am a slave," she said. "I must submit to the will of my master."

"I see," said Marcus.

Phoebe moved her lovely little head in the leash and collar, and looked off into the distance. "I am at your disposal," she said.

"I am well aware of that," said Marcus.

"Yes, Master," she said.

Phoebe's mistake, of course, was to look away. In this fashion she did not anticipate Marcus' touch. Too, it was firm, uncompromising, and not soon released. "Ohh!" she cried.

Marcus regarded her.

She, eyes wide, looked at him, startled, reproachfully, unbelievingly. She was half bent over. The leash dangled down from her collar.

She then began to tremble. Her small wrists pulled at the binding fiber, pinioning her hands behind her. Then, not even daring to move, she stood, partly bent from the waist, before him.

"Please," she whispered. "Please, my Master!"

"Perhaps you can move interestingly on your knees?" he said.

"Yes!" she said. "Anything! Anything!"

"And on your back and stomach?" he asked.

"Yes!" she said.

"And your sides?" he asked.

"Yes!" she said.

"Perhaps you desire to do these things," he said.

"Yes!" she said. "Yes!"

"Perhaps you will be bound," he said.

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

It is common to bind slave girls.

"Do you have any petitions, any supplications?" inquired Marcus.

"Take me to the tent!" she begged. "Take me to the tent!"

He regarded her.

"I beg your touch, my Master!" she gasped.

"Oh?" he said.

"I beg it! I beg it, my Master," she wept.

"Slut of Cos!" snarled Marcus suddenly.

"Your slave, only your slave, Master!" she wept.

He then, angrily, picked her up and threw her over his shoulder, her head to the rear. It is in this fashion that slaves are commonly carried. I saw her eyes for a moment, wild, but frightened, and grateful. Then he had sped with her from the place.

"A hot little vulo," said a man.

"Quite so," said a man.

"She could light a fire," said another.

"I wonder what he wants for her," said another.

"I do not think she if for sale," I said.

We then returned our attention to the dancing circle. New women entered it upon occasion, as others were withdrawn. There were now some ten to fifteen slaves in the circle. How beautiful women are!

"How disgusting," said a free woman, nearby. I had not noticed her standing there until now.

"Begone, slut!" said a peasant.

The free woman gasped, and hurried away. Peasants are not always tolerant of gentlewomen. To be sure, they do not always object to them when they come into their possession, as, say, they might after the fall of a city, or if one, say, has been captured and deliberately sold to them, perhaps by some male acquaintance, for one reason or another. Indeed I suspect the hardy fellows upon occasion rather enjoy owning such elegant women, women who are likely in their loftiness to have hitherto disparaged or despised their caste. It is pleasant to have them in ropes, naked at their feet. Sometimes they are asked if they rejoice to now be owned by peasants. If they respond negatively they are beaten. If they respond affirmatively they are also beaten, for lying. Quickly then will the women be taught the varied labors and services of the farm. Interestingly these women, under the domination of their powerful masters, often become excellent farm slaves. Sometimes they are even permitted to sleep in the hut, at their master's feet.

"That is an excellent dancer there," said a fellow.

"Yes," I said.

"I think she has auburn hair," said another fellow. It was difficult to tell in the light.

"Yes," said another.

Auburn hair is highly prized in the slave markets. I recalled the slave, Temione, now, as I understood it, a property of Borton, a courier for Artemidorus of Cos. Her hair was a marvelous auburn. Too, by now, it would have muchly grown out, after having been shaved off some months ago, for catapult cordage.

I noted that the free female had gone a bit about the outside of the circle, and now stood there, back a bit from the circle, where there was a space between some men. From that position of vantage she continued to watch the dancers. This puzzled me. If she found such beauty, such sensuous liberation, such fulfilling joy, such reality, such honesty, the marvelousness of owned women before their masters, offensive or deplorable, why did she watch? What did she see there in the circle, I wondered. {pg. 50) What so drew her there, what so fascinated here there? Like most free women she was perhaps inhibited, frustrated and unhappy. She continued to gaze into the circle. perhaps she saw herself there, clad in a rag and collar, if that, moving, turning with the others, like them so beautiful, so much alive, so vulnerable, so helpless, so owned. Does her master lift his whip? She must then redouble her efforts to please, lest she be lashed. I supposed that she, even there, standing so seemingly still, pretending to be a mere observer, could feel the dance in her body, in its myriad incipient movements, tiny movements in her legs, in her belly, in her body, in herself, in the wholeness of her womanhood. Perhaps she wished for her robes to be torn off and to be collared, and to be thrust, in her turn, into the circle. I did not doubt but what she would be zealous to please. Indeed, she had best be! But how strange that she, a free woman, would even linger in this place. Perhaps free women are incomprehensible. A Gorean saying came to mind, that the free woman is a riddle, the answer to which is the collar.

"Away!" called a fellow, who had turned about and seen the free woman. he waved his arm, angrily, "Away!" he said. The free woman then turned about and left the vicinity of the circle, hurriedly. I felt rather sorry for her, but then, I thought, surely the fellow was right, that the circle, or its vicinity, was no place for a free female. It was a place, rather, for the joy of masters and their slaves. Similarly, the vicinity of such places, though I did not think it would be so in this camp, at this particular time, can be dangerous for free women. For example, sometimes free women attempt, sometimes even disguising themselves, to spy on the doings of masters and slaves. For example, they might attempt, perhaps disguised as lads, to gain entrance to paga taverns. And often such entrance is granted them but later, to their horror, they may find themselves thrown naked to the dancing sand and forced to perform under whips. Similarly if they attempt to enter such establishments as pretended slaves they may find themselves leaving by the back entrance, soon to become true slaves. In many cities, such actions, attempting to spy on masters and slaves, disguising oneself as a slave, garbing oneself as a slave, even in the supposed secrecy of one's own compartments, lingering about slave shelves and markets, even exhibiting an interest in, or fascination with, bondage, can result in a reduction to bondage. The theory is apparently that such actions and interests are those of a slave, and that the female who exhibits them should, accordingly, be imbonded.

I noted a fellow approaching the circle, who had behind him, heeling him, an unusual lovely slave.

"Teibar!" called more than one man. "Teibar!"

I have, more than once, I believe, alluded to the hatred of free women for their imbonded sisters, and to how they profess to despise them and hold them in contempt. Indeed, they commonly treat such slaves with what seems to be irrational and unwonted cruelty. This is particularly the case if the slave is beautiful, and of great interest to men. I have also suggested that this attitude of the free female toward the slave seems to be motivated, paradoxically enough, by envy and jealousy. In any event, slave girls fear free women greatly, as they, being mere slaves, are much at their mercy. Once in Ar, several years ago, several free women, in their anger at slaves, and perhaps jealous of the pleasures of masters and slaves, entered a paga tavern with clubs and axes, seeking to destroy it. This is, I believe, and example, though a rather extreme one, of a not unprecedented sort of psychological reaction, the attempt, by disparagement or action, motivated by envy, jealousy, resentment, or such, to keep from others pleasures which one oneself is unable, or unwilling, to enjoy. In any event, as a historical note, the men in the tavern, being Gorean, and thus not being inhibited or confused by negativistic, antibiological traditions, quickly disarmed the women. They then stripped them, bound their hands behind their back, put them of a neck rope, and, by means of switches, conducted them swiftly outside the tavern. The women were then, outside the tavern, on the bridge of twenty lanterns, forced to witness the burning of their garments. They were then permitted to leave, though still bound and in coffle. Gorean men do not surrender their birthright as males, their rightful dominance, their appropriate mastery. They do not choose to be dictated to by females. The most interesting portion of this story is its epilogue. In two or three steps the women returned, mostly now barefoot, and many clad now humbly in low-caste garments. Some had even wrapped necklaces or beads about their left ankle. They begged permission to serve in the tavern in servile capacities, such as sweeping and cleaning. This was granted to them. At first the slaves were terrified of them but then, when it became clear that the women were not only truly serving humbly, as serving females, but that they now looked timidly up to the slaves, and desired to learn from them how to be women, and scarcely dared to aspire to their status, the fears of the slaves subsided, at least to a degree. Indeed, it was almost as though each of them, though perhaps a low girl in the tavern rosters, and much subject to the whip, had become "first girl" to some free woman or other, a rare turnabout in the lives of such collared wenches. Needless to say, in time, the free women, learning the suitable roles and lessons of womanhood, for which they had genetic predispositions, and aided by their lovely tutors, were permitted to petition for the collar. It was granted to them. It seems that his was what they had wanted all the time, though on a level not fully comprehensible to them at the beginning. One does not know what has become of them for, in time, as one might expect, they being of Ar, they were shipped out of the city, to be disposed of in various remote markets. "Greetings, Teibar!" called a fellow.

"Hail, Teibar!" called another.

From the latter manner of greeting, I gathered this Teibar might be excellent with the staff, or sword. Such greetings are usually reserved for recognized experts, or champions, at one thing or another. For example, a skilled Kaissa player is sometimes greeted in such a manner. I studied Teibar. I would have suspected his expertise to be with the sword.

"His Tuka is with him," said a fellow.

"Tuka, Tuka!" called another, rhythmically.

"Tuka' is common slave name on Gor. I have known several slaves with that name. The girl who had come with Teibar, Tuka, I supposed, now knelt at his side, her back straight, her head down. Her collar, like most female slave collars, particularly in the northern hemisphere, was close fitting. There would be no slipping it. I had no doubt that this Teibar was the sort of fellow who would hold his slave, or slaves, in perfect discipline.

"Tuka, Tuka!" called another fellow.

"She is extremely pretty," I said.

"She knows something of slave dance," said a fellow, licking his lips.

"Oh?" I said.

"Yes," he said.

"Tuka, Tuka, Tuka!" called more men.

The fellow, Teibar, looked down at his slave, who looked up at him, and quickly, timidly, kisses at his thigh. How much she was his, I thought.

"Tuka, to the circle!" called a fellow.

"She is a dancer," said a man.

"She is extraordinary," said another.

"Put Tuka in the circle!" called a fellow.

"Tuka, Tuka!" called another.

Teibar snapped his fingers once, sharply, and the slave leaped to her feet, standing erect, her head down, turned to the right, her hands at her sides, the palms facing backward. She might have been in a paga tavern, preparing to enter upon the sand or floor. I considered Teibar's Tuka. She had an excellent figure for slave dance.

"Clear the circle!" called a fellow.

The other dancers hurried to the side, to sit and kneel, and watch.

I considered the slave. She was beautiful and well curved.

Teibar gestured to the circle.

"Ahh!" said men.

"She moves like a dancer," I said.

"She is a dancer," said the fellow.

I considered the girl. She now stood in the circle, relaxed, yet supple and vital, her wrists, back to back, over her head, her knees flexed.

"She is a bred passion slave," I said, "with papers and a lineage going back a thousand years."

"No," said a man.

"Where did he pick her up," I asked, "at the Curulean?"

"I do not know," said a fellow.

I supposed she was perhaps a capture. I did not know if a fellow such as this Teibar, who did not seem of the merchants, or rich, could have afforded a slave of such obvious value. A fellow, for example, who cannot afford a certain kaiila might be able to capture it, and then, once he had his rope on its neck, and manages to make away with it, it is his mount.

"Aii!" cried a fellow.

"Aii!" said I, too.

Dancing was the slave!

"She is surely a bred passion slave," I said. "Surely the blood lines of such an animal go back a thousand years!"

"No! No!" said a man, rapt, not taking his eyes from the slave.

I regarded her, in awe.

"She is trained, of course," said a man.

Only too obviously was this a trained dancer, and yet, too, there was far more than training involved. Too, I speak not of such relatively insignificant matters as the mere excellence of her figure for slave dance, as suitable and fitting as it might be for such an art form, for women with many figures can be superb in slave dance, or that she must possess a great natural talent for such a mode of expression, but something much deeper. In the nature of her dance I saw more than training, her figure, and her talent. Within this woman, revealing itself in the dance, in its rhythm, its joy, its spontaneity, its wonders, were untold depths of femaleness, a deep and radical femininity, unabashed and unapologetic, a rejoicing in her sex, a respect of it, a love of it, an acceptance of it and a celebration of it, a wanting of it, and of what she was, a woman, a slave, in all of its marvelousness.

"Tuka, Tuka!" called men.

Men clapped their hands.

The slave danced.

Much it seemed to me, though there might be two hundred men about the circle, she danced for her master.

Once he even indicated that she should move more about which, instantly, commanded, she did.

"Tuka, Tuka!" even more called some of the other slaves about the edges of the circle, sitting and kneeling there, unable to take their eyes from her, clapping, too. Teibar's Tuka, it seemed, was popular even with the other slaves, of which she was such a superb specimen.

I watched her moving about the circle.

"Aii!" cried men, as she would pause a moment to dance before them. I had little doubt she might once have been a tavern dancer. Such dancers must present themselves in such a fashion before customers. This gives the customer an opportunity to assess them, and to keep them in mind, if he wishes, for later use in an alcove.

"Aii," cried another fellow.

I speculated that she would not have languished for attention in the alcoves. "She is superb," said the fellow next to me.

"Yes," I said.

She was working her way about the circle.

It was interesting to me that a master would dare to display such a slave publicly. I gathered that he was quite confident of his capacity to keep her. He must then, I suspected, be excellent with the sword.

"Ah," said the fellow next to me.

The dancer approached.

How marvelous are the Gorean women, I thought. And I thought then, too, sadly, of the women of Earth, so many of them so confused, so miserable, so unhappy, women not knowing what they were, or what they might be, women trapped in a maze of ultimately barren artifices, women subjected to inconsistent directives and standards, women subjected to social coercions, women subjected to antibiological constraints, women forced to deny themselves and their depth natures in the name of freedom, women trying to be men, not knowing how to be women, women torturing themselves and others with their confusions, their inhibitions, their pain, their frustrations. But I did not blame them for they were the victims of pathological conditioning programs. Any beautiful natural creature can be clipped and then instructed to rejoice in it mutilations and mishapeness. It was little wonder that so many of the women of Earth were so inhibited, so frigid, so inert, so anesthetic. That so many of them could even feel their pain was, I supposed, a hopeful sign. If their culture was correct, or judicious, why did it contain so much unhappiness and pain? In a body, pain is an indication that something is wrong. So, too, it is in a culture.

Then the dancer was before me, and I was awed with beauty.

I kept her there before me for a moment, not letting her move away, my gaze holding her.

I wept then for the men of Earth, that they could not know such beauties. How utterly marvelous are the Gorean females! How utterly different they are from the women of Earth! How impossible it would be for a female of Earth to match them!

I watched the dancer then move to the next fellow, and turn about.

Suddenly I was stunned. High on her left arm there was a small, circular scar. It was not, surely, in that place, and given its nature, the result of a marking iron. Indeed, it is by means of such tiny indications, fillings in the teeth, and such, that a certain sort of girl, for which there is a market on Gor, is often recognized.

She is not from Gor!" I said.

"She is from far away," said the fellow next to me.

"From a distant land," said another.

"Called "earth," said another.

"Yes," I said.

"They make excellent slaves," said another. I wondered if this might not be true. The Earth female, starved for sexual fulfillment, suddenly plunged into the gorgeous world of Gor, subject to masculine pleasure, taught obedience, and such, might well, I supposed, after a period of adjustment and accommodation, rejoice in self-discovery, in her true liberation, in her finding herself at last in her place in nature, the beautiful and desirable slave of strong and uncompromising masters.

"I think we should send an army there and bring them all back in chains," said another.

"That is where they belong," said another.

"Yes," said another.

The mark on the girl's arm had not been the result of the imprint of a master's iron. It had been a vaccination mark. I had noted, too, interestingly, just before she had whirled away, that she was shy. I assessed her as being quite intelligent, extremely sensitive, and an excellent slave.

She had now, as the music swirled to its finish, returned to move before her master. Then, the dance ended, men striking their left shoulders in Gorean applause, shouting their vociferous approval, some armed warriors striking their shields with spear blades, she sank to the ground, on her back, breathless, breasts heaving, covered with a sheen of sweat, before her master, her left knee raised, her head turned toward him, the palms of her hands, at her sides, vulnerably exposed.

She had been superb. My shoulder was sore where I had much struck it.

Then with a sensuous, fluid movement she rose to her knees before her master. She spread her knees, widely. She regarded him, beggingly. The dance had much aroused her, and she was totally his, completely at his will, his pleasure and mercy.

"Our gratitude, Teibar!" called a fellow.

"Hail, Teibar!" called another.

He called Teibar then waved to the men about, and turning about, took his way from the area of the circle. The slave rose to her feet and hurried after him, to heel him. more than one man touched her, and as a slave may be touched, as she moved through them, hurrying to catch up with her master. To even these touches I could see her respond, even in her flight. I saw that she was a hot slave, and one, who would be, whether she wished it or not, uncontrollable, helplessly responsive, in a man's arms. Then she was with her master, seeming to heel him, but yet so close to him that she touched him, brushing against him. I had little doubt that she would soon be lengthily used, ravished with all the attention, detail and patience with which Gorean masters are wont to exploit their helpless chattels.

After the dance of Tuka, men and slaves departed from the circle, many doubtless to hurry to their blankets and tents. I, too, thought I had taken comfort earlier with the blond mat girl, was uncomfortable.

"Use me, Master?" said a coin girl.

I looked down at her, a small brunet, half naked in a ta-teera, a slave rag. About her neck, over her collar, close about it, was a chain collar, padlocked shut, with its coin box, and slot.

"Master?" she smiled.

I was angry. She had doubtless come to a circle, knowing that fellows in need, ones without slaves, such as I, might be found there. Her attitude seemed to me insufficiently respectful. She was not even kneeling.

"Oh!" she cried, spinning to the side, cuffed.

I snapped my fingers. "There," I said, pointing, indicating a place before me, "kneel there, facing away from me." Swiftly she crawled to the place, obeying. "On your belly," I snapped. Swiftly did she fling herself, a slave who might have been displeasing, in terror, to her belly. I seized her ankles and parted them, widely, pulling her toward me. "Perhaps you deserve a full lashing," I said. "No, please, Master!" she wept. "How much are you?" I asked. "Only a tarsk bit, Master!" she wept. I considered the matter. I could afford that. I dragged her back to me. She gasped, mine. "Oh!" she cried. "Oh! Oh!" Then I thrust her from me, and stood. She was then on her side, looking back at me. She was grasping. I kicked her, angrily, with the side of my foot. She winced. "Forgive me, Master," she wept. "I beg forgiveness!"

"Perhaps you will learn manners," I said. "Yes, Master," she said. "Perhaps you will know enough next time to be respectful, and to kneel before men," I said. Yes, Master," she said. "Forgive me, Master!" I looked down upon her angrily. I think she feared she might be again cuffed, or kicked. Then she crawled to my feet, and kissed them. Then she looked up at me. "Buy me, "she begged, suddenly. "It is to a man such as you that I wish to belong!" I dragged her to her knees by the hair and, she sobbing, trying to hold me, thrust a coin, a tarsk bit into the coin box. I then thrust her back to the dirt, on her side, and, turning about, angrily, left her. "Master!" she called after me. "Please, Master!" In a time I turned back to regard her. She was where I had left her, except that she was now kneeling. Her shoulders shook with sobs. She had the coin box, on its chain, lifted in her hands. Her head was down, and her hair fell about the coin box. She pressed her lips to it, again and again, sobbing. I did not think that she was a poor slave. I think rather that she merely needed a strong master.

"Well done," said a fellow, passing me.

I looked back at the girl again. She did have pretty thighs, well revealed in the ta-teera. But then I steeled myself against softness, and reminded myself that this was no time to acquire a bond maid, even one with a lovely little figure and pretty thighs, one who was now clearly ready to obey instantly, and with perfection.

I looked to the lofty walls of Ar. Within them lay what danger, what treachery, what intrigue I dared not guess.

"Oh!" said a slave, slapped below the small of the back by a peasant.

"She is in the iron belt," said the fellow, looking at me, grinning.

The girl hurried on.

"Perhaps it is just as well," I said.

He laughed.

She looked well in the tunic.

I passed a couple, the master enjoying his slave.

I looked up at the moons of Gor. They have, it seems, an unusual effect on women. Sometimes female slaves, or captured free women, are chained beneath them. I do not know the nature of this effect. Perhaps it is merely aesthetic, for surely the moons are very beautiful. On the other hand the logical approach the moons may have a profound subconscious symbolism, in its waxings and wanings, clearly suggestive of feminine sexual cycles. But even more interestingly the effect on the female is possibly biological. There are many biological vestiges in the human being. One which is typical and interesting is the tendency of the skin to erupt in tiny protuberances, "goose bumps," when it is cold. This response presumably harkens back to a time when the human animal, or its forebear, had a great deal more hair from the flesh, thusly forming an insulating layer against the cold. So, too, the sight of the moons, and their rhythms, and such, so interestingly approximating the periods of feminine sexual cycles, may at one time have played a role in mating cycles. Perhaps the female came out into the moonlight, in her need, where she might be located and appraised, thought not in the harsh light of day. Perhaps in the moonlight, away from darkness, with its dangers of predators and such, she cried out, or moaned, her needs, attempting to attract attention to herself, calling for the attentions of the male. Perhaps those which would seek to mate in the fullness of light distracted the group from feeding, or were too much fought over. Perhaps those who sought the darkness were not as easily found or succumbed to predators. Perhaps, in time, as a matter of natural selections, operative upon a relatively, at that time, helpless species, those tended to survive whose mating impulses became synchronized with the moons. This might explain why, even today, and doubtless numerous genetic codings later, codings obviously favoring frequent and aperiodic sexuality, some women are, so to speak, in addition, still "called by the moon." It would be a vestige, like the rising of hair on "goose bumps." Aside from this, it might be noted, of course, that the sexual cycle of various species do tend to be correlated with the cycles of the moon, presumably through one natural selection or another. The Kurii, for example, seem to have retained some vestiges along these lines, for in that species, as I understand it, it is not unusual for females to go to the mating cliffs in the moonlight, where, helpless in their sexuality, they cry out, or howl, their needs.

I passed a few fellows playing dice. There are many forms of dice games on Gor, usually played with anywhere from a single die to five dice. The major difference, I think, between the dice of Earth and those of Gor is that the Gorean dice usually have their numbers, or letters, or whatever pictures or devices are used, painted on their surfaces. It is difficult to manufacture a pair of dice, of course, in which the "numbers," tow, three and so on, are represented by scooped out indentations. For example, the «one» side of a die is likely to have less scooped-out material missing than the «six» side of a die. Thus the «one» side is slightly heavier and, in normal play, should tend to land face down more often than, say the «six» side, this bringing up the opposite side, the «six» side in Earth dice, somewhat more frequently. To be sure, the differences in weight are slight and, given the forces on the dice, the differential is not dramatic. And, of course, this differential can be compensated for in a sophisticated die by trying to deduct equal amounts of material from all surfaces, for example, an amount from the «one» side which will equal the amount of the «six» side, and, indeed, on the various sides. At any rate, in the Gorean dice, as mentioned, the numbers or letters, of pictures or whatever devices are used, are usually pained on the dice. Some gamesmen, even so, attempt to expend the same amount of paint on all surfaces. To be sure, some Gorean dice I have seen to use the «scooped-out» approach to marking the dice. And these, almost invariably, like the more sophisticated Earth dice, try to even out the material removed from each of the surfaces. Some Gorean dice are sold in sealed boxes, bearing the city's imprint. These, supposedly, have been each cast six hundred times, with results approximating the ideal mathematical probabilities. Also, it might be mentioned that dice are sometimes tampered with, or specially prepared, to favor certain numbers. These, I suppose, using the Earth term, might be spoken of as "loaded." My friend, the actor, magician, impresario and whatnot, Boots Tarsk-Bit, once narrowly escaped an impalement in Besnit on the charge of using false dice. He was, however, it seems, framed. At any rate the charges were dismissed when a pair of identical false dice turned up in the pouch of the arresting magistrate, the original pair having, interestingly, at about the same time, vanished.

I stayed to watch the fellows playing dice for a few Ehns. I do not think they noticed me, so intent they were on their game. The stakes were small, only tarsk bits, but one would not have gathered that from the earnestness of the players. A slave girl was kneeling nearby, in a sort of improvised slave brace, a short, stout pole, drilled through in three places. Her ankles were fastened to the pole, by means of a thong threaded through one of the apertures, near its bottom, her wrists by another thong passing through a hole a few inches higher that the bottom hole, and her neck by a thong passed through the aperture at the top part of the pole, behind her neck. There are many arrangements for the keeping of slaves, bars, harnesses, and such. I will mention two simple ones, first, the short, hollow tube, usually used with a sitting slave, whose wrists are tied, the thing then passing through the tube to emerge at the far end, where it is used to secure her ankles, and, second, the longer pole, drilled four times, used with a prone or supine slave, in which it is impossible for her to rise to her feet. Her ankles are fastened some six inches or so from the end, and she is then, of course, secured, in one fashion or another, back or belly to the pole, as the master might please, at suitable intervals, by the wrists, belly and neck, the pole usually extending some six inches or so beyond her head. The girl near the gamblers was apparently not a stake in the game. On the other hand, it is not unusual for female slaves, like kaiila and other properties, to serve as stakes in such games, as in races, contests and such. Indeed, in many contests, female slaves are offered as prizes. I had once won one myself, in Torvaldsland, in archery. I had subsequently sold her to a warrior. I trust that she is happy, but it does not matter, as she is only a slave.

"Larls, larls!" called a fellow. "I win!"

"Alas," moaned the other. "I have only verr."

"Larls" would be maximum highs, say, double highs, if two dice were being used, triple highs if three dice were in play, and so on. The chances of obtaining a «larl» with one throw of one die is one in six, of obtaining «larls» with two dice, one in thirty-six, of obtaining «larls» with three dice, one in two hundred and sixteen, and so on. Triple «larls» is a rare throw, obviously. The fellow had double "larls." Other types of throws are "urts," "sleen," "verr," and such. The lowest value on a singe die is the "urt." The chances of obtaining, say, three «urts» is very slim, like that of obtaining three «larls» one in two hundred and sixteen. «Verr» is not a bad throw but it was not good enough to beat "larls." If two dice are in play a «verr» and a «larl» would be equivalent on a numerical scale of ten points, or, similarly, if the dice are numbered, as these were, one would simply count points, though, of course, if, say, two sixes were thrown, that would count as "larls."

A lad danced past, pounding on a tabor.

I stood there, in the camp, looking about, at the various fires and the folks about them. Mostly, as I have suggested, these folks were of the peasants, but, among them were representatives of many other castes, as well, mostly refugees from Torcadino and its environs, in the west, and from the vicinity of Ar's Station, in the north, folks who had fled before the marshes of Cos.

"Ai!" cried a fellow a few yards away, tumbling off the filled, greased wineskin. He would not win the skin and its contents. There was much laughter. "Next!" called the owner of the skin. "Next!" As it cost a tarsk bit to try the game I think he had already made more than the cost of the wineskin and its contents.

I wondered if I could balance on the skin. It is not easy, of course, given the surgent fluid and the slippery surface.

Another fellow addressed himself to the task, but was on his back in the dirt in an instant. There was more laughter about the skin.

"An excellent effort," called the owner of the skin, "would you care to try again?"

"No," said the fellow.

"We will hole you while you mount," volunteered the owner.

But the fellow waved good-naturedly and left.

"A tarsk bit," called the owner. "Only a tarsk bit! Win wine, the finest ka-la-na, a whole skinful, enough to treat your entire village."

"I will try," said a fellow, determinedly.

I walked over to the circle to watch.

The fellow was helped to the surface of the wineskin. But only an Ihn or so later he tumbled off into the dirt. Fellows about slapped their thighs and roared with laughter.

"Where is more wine?" called one of his friends.

There was laughter.

How odd it was, I thought, that these folks, who had so little, and might, were it not for the forces of Ar, such as they were, between Cos and the city, be in mortal jeopardy, should disport themselves so delightedly.

I watched another fellow being helped to the surface of the skin.

I supposed it might be safe, now, to return to the tent. Presumably, by now, it would not be a violation of decorum to return to the tent. Indeed, by now, Marcus and Phoebe might be asleep. Marcus usually slept her at his feet, in which case her ankles would be crossed and closely chained, or at his thigh, in which case, she would be on a short neck chain, fastened to his belt. A major advantage of sleeping the girl at your thigh is that you can easily reach her and, by the hair, or the chain, if one is used, pull her to you in the night. These measures, however, if they were intended to be precautions against her escape, were in my opinion unnecessary. Phoebe, as I have suggested, was held to her master by bonds compared to which stout ropes. Woven of the strongest, coarsest fibers, and chains or iron, obdurate, weighty and unbreakable, were mere gossamer strands. She was madly, helplessly, hopelessly in love with her master. And he, no less, rebellious, moody, angry, chastising himself for his weakness, was infatuated with his lovely slave.

The fellow struggled to stay up on the bulging, shifting wineskin, and then slipped off. He had actually done quite well. Nearly had he won the wine. There was applause about the small circle.

I heard a fellow advertising the booth of a thought reader. This reader probably read coins. One, presumably without the knowledge of the reader or a confederate, selects one coin from several on a tray or platter, usually tarsk bits, and then, holding it tightly in his hand, concentrates on the coin. Then, after the coin has been replaced on the tray or platter, the thought reader turns about and, more often than not, far more than the probabilities would suggest, locates the coin. One then loses one's tarsk bit. If the reader selects the wrong coin, one receives all the tarsk bits on the tray or platter, usually several. I assumed there must be some sort of trick to this, though I did not know what it was. Goreans, on the other hand, often accept, rather uncritically, in my mind, that the reader can actually read thoughts, or usually read them. They reason that if one fellow can see farther than another, and such, why can't someone, similarly, be able to «see» thoughts. Similarly, less familiar with tricks, prestidigitation, illusions, and such, than an Earth audience, some Goreans believe in magic. I have meet Goreans who really believed, for example, that a magician can make a girl vanish into thin air and then retrieve her from the same. They accept the evidence of their senses, so to speak. The taking of auspices, incidentally, is common on Gor before initiating campaigns, enterprises, and such. Many Goreans will worry about such things as the tracks of spiders and the flights of birds. Similarly, on Earth, there is a clientele, particularly in uncertain, troubled times, for those who claim to be able to read the future, to tell fortunes, and such.

"Noble Sir!" called the owner of the wineskin. "What of you?"

I regarded him, startled.

"A tarsk bit a chance?" he invited me. "Think of the whole skin of wine for you and your friends!"

A skin of wine might bring as much as four or five copper tarsks.

"Very well," I said.

There was some commendation from others about. "Good fellow," said more than one fellow.

"Surely you do not intend to wear your sandals," said the owner of the wineskin. "Of course not," I said, slipping them off. I then rubbed my feet well in the dirt near the skin.

"Let me help you up," said the fellow.

"That will not be necessary," I said.

"Here, let me help you," he said.

"Very well," I said. I had not been able to get on the skin.

"Are you ready?" asked the owner, steadying me.

"a€”Yes," I said. I wished Lecchio, of the troupe of Boots Tarsk-Bit, were about. He might have managed this.

"Ready?" asked the owner.

"Yes," I said.

"Time!" he cried, letting go of me.

"How well you are doing!" he cried, at which point I slipped from the skin. I sat in the dirt, laughing. "How marvelously he did!" said a fellow. "Has he gotten on the skin yet?" asked another, a wag, it seems. "He has already fallen off," he was informed. "He did wonderfully," said another. "Yes," said another, "he must have been on the skin for at least two Ihn." I myself thought I might have managed a bit more than that. To be sure, on the skin, an Ihn seems like an Ehn. Before one becomes too critical in these matters, however, I recommend that one attempt the same feat. To be sure, some fellows do manage to stay on the skin and win the wine.

"Next?" inquired the owner of the wineskin.

I looked about, and picked up my sandals. I had scarcely retrieved them when I noticed a stillness about, and the men looking in a given direction. I followed their gaze. There, at the edge of the circle, emerged from the darkness, there was a large man, bearded, in a tunic and cloak. I took him as likely to be of the peasants. He looked about himself, but almost as though he saw nothing. "Would care to try your luck?" asked the owner of the wineskin. I was pleased that he had addressed the fellow.

The newcomer came forward slowly, deliberately, as though he might have come from a great distance.

"One tries to stand upon the skin," said the owner. "It is a tarsk bit." The bearded man then stood before the owner of the wineskin, who seemed small before him. The bearded fellow said nothing. He looked at the owner of the wineskin. The owner of the wineskin trembled a little. Then the bearded man placed a tarsk bit in his hand.

"One tries to stand on the skin," said the owner again, uncertainly.

The large man looked at him.

"Perhaps you will win," said the owner.

"What are you doing?" cried the owner.

No one moved to stop him, but the large man, opening his cloak, drew a knife from his belt sheath and slowly, deliberately, slit the skin open. Wine burst forth from the skin, onto the ankles of the large fellow, and, flowing about, seeking its paths, sank into the dirt. The dust was reddened. It was not unlike blood.

The large fellow then sheathed his knife, and stood on the rent, emptied skin. "I have won," he said.

"The skin is destroyed," said the owner. "The wine is lost."

"But I have won," said the bearded man.

The owner of the rent skin was silent.

"Twenty men were with me," said the large, bearded man. "I along survived."

"He is of the peasant levies!" said a fellow.

"Speak, speak!" cried men, anxiously.

"The skin is rent," said the man. "The wine is gone."

"Speak!" cried others.

The fellow pulled his cloak away and put it over his arm.

"He is wounded!" said a man. The left side of the fellow's tunic was matted with blood. The cloak had clung to it a bit, when he removed it.

"Speak! cried men.

"I have won," said the man.

"He is delirious," said a fellow.

"No," I said.

"I have won," said the man, dully.

"Yes," I said. "You have stood upon the skin. You have won."

"But the skin is gone, the wine is gone," said a fellow.

"But he has won," I said.

"What occurred in the west?" demanded a man.

"Ar has lost," he said.

Men looked at one another, stunned.

"The banners of Cos incline toward the gates of Ar," said the man.

"No!" cried a man.

"Ar is defenseless," moaned a fellow.

"Let the alarm bells sound," wept a man. "Let her seal her gates!"

I had some concept of the forces of Cos. Too, I had some concept of the forces of Ar in the city, now mostly guardsmen. She could never withstand a concerted siege.

"I have won," said the bearded man.

"How have you won?" asked a man, angrily.

"I have survived," he said.

I looked at the rent skin and he reddened dust. Yes, I thought, he was the sort of man who would survive.

Men now fled away from the circle. In Ihn, it seemed, the camp was in consternation.

I stood there, for a time, holding my sandals.

Men moved past me, pulling their carts and wagons. Some had slave girls chained to them. Some of these women, in their manacles, attached to the rear of the vehicles, thrusting and pushing, helped to hurry them ahead. I heard the bellowing of tharlarion being harnessed.

"How far is Cos?" I asked the man.

"Two, three days," he said.

I gathered this would depend on Myron's decision as to the rate and number of marches. I did not think he would press his men. He was an excellent commander and, from what I had gathered, there need be no haste in the matter. He might even rest his men for a day or two. In any event, an excellent commander, he would presumably bring them fresh to the gates of Ar.

I donned my sandals.

Many of the fires in the camp had now been extinguished. It might be difficult finding my way back to the tent.

"Are you all right?" I asked the bearded fellow.

"Yes," he said.

I looked to the walls of Ar. Here and there, on the walls, like shadows flickering against the tarn beacons, I could see the return of tarnsmen. I looked to the west. Out there, somewhere, were the forces of Cos, their appetites whetted by victory. Within a week, surely, they would be within sight of Ar, eager for war, zestful for loot. I listened to the alarm bars in the distance, from within the city. I wondered how well, tonight, would sleep her free women. Would they squirm and toss in fear in their silken sheets? I wondered if they better understood, this night, perhaps better than other nights, their dependence on men. surely they knew in the bottoms of their lovely bellies that they, too, as much as the slaves in their kennels, were spoils. "Pray to the Priest-Kings! "Pray to the Priest-Kings!" wept a man.

I thrust him aside, moving through the press, the throng, the carts and wagons, the tharlarion. In a few Ehn I had come to our tent.

4 Within Ar

"Revile the Home Stone of Ar's Station while you may," said the guard to a tradesman. "We do not know what the future may hold."

"No," said the tradesman, looking about. He knew not who might be in the crowd, nor what their sympathies might be. He did not enter between the velvet ropes, forming their corridor to the roped enclosure within which rested the stone. "I do not fear to do so, even now," said a brawny fellow of the caste of metal workers.

"Steady," I said to Marcus, beside me.

"Nor do I fear," said the brawny fellow, "the legions of Cos, nor her adherents or spies! I am of Ar!" He then strode between the ropes of the stone, which rested upon a plank, itself resting on tow huge terra-cotta vats, of the sort into which slop pots in insulae are dumped. Such vats are usually removed once or twice a week, emptied in one carnarium or another, outside the walls, rinsed out and returned to the insulae. Companies have been organized for this purpose. "Curses upon Ar's Station," he cried, "city faithless and without honor, subornedally, taker of bribes, refuge of scoundrels, home of cowards, betrayer of the mother city! Down with Ar's Station. Curses upon her!" He then spat vigorously upon the stone.

"Steady," I whispered to Marcus. "Steady."

The fellow then, not looking about, exited between the velvet ropes on the other side.

Only yesterday there had been lines, though smaller than when we had first come to Ar, to revile the stone. Today almost no one approached it. The enclosure was within sight of the Central Cylinder, on the Avenue of the Central Cylinder. I put my hand on Marcus' wrist, not permitting him to draw his sword.

"Remember," I said. "They think that Ar's Station opened her gates to Cos."

"Cursed lie!" said he.

"Yes, indeed," I said, rather loudly, for I saw some fellows look about at Marcus, "it is a cursed lie for any to suggest that the men of Ar might lack courage. Surely they are among the bravest on all Gor!"

"True, true," said more than one fellow, returning his attention to his own business."

"Come away from her," I said to Marcus.

Phoebe was not with us. We had stopped at one of the depots for fee carts on Wagon Street, in southeast Ar. There we had backed her into a slave locker, reached by a catwalk, on all fours, inserted the coin, a tarsk bit, turned and removed the key. It is a simple device, not unlike the slave boxes used in certain storage areas. Unlike the slave boxes, they do not require the immediate services of an attendant. The lockers open outward, as opposed to the slave boxes, which open upward. The lockers, thus, like slave cages, may be tiered. The gate of the locker, like the lid of the slave box, is perforated for the passage of air, usually, like the slave box, with a design in the form of the cursive "Kef, the first letter of "Kajira," the most common Gorean expression, among several, for a female slave. The usual, and almost universal, temporary holding arrangement is a simple slave ring, mounted in the wall. These are conveniently available in most public places. The slave is usually chained to them. Marcus had decided to keep Phoebe today in a box or locker, rather than at an open ring. "Down on all fours, crawl within, backward!" Marcus had ordered the slim beauty. She had obeyed, instantly. Gorean slave girls swiftly learn not to demur at the orders of masters. I recalled her face, looking up at Marcus. "Let this help you to keep in mind that you are a slave," said Marcus. "Yes, Master," she had said. He had then closed the door, turning the key, removing it, placing it in his pouch. I did not object to this incarceration of his beauteous slave as such things are excellent for their discipline. Also, it seemed to me, aside from the value of its effect of Phoebe, an excellent idea. If her were successful in his mad attempt to obtain the Home Stone of his city he would doubtless be a recognized wanted man. Some might recall that Phoebe was his slave, and thus attempt to trace him through her. In the locker she would not be as easily recognized, surely not as easily as if she were kneeling at a wall, braceleted to a ring. The keeping her in a box or locker seemed to me superior, too, incidentally, to renting a tenement room, even though these were now cheaper and more available than when I had been last in Ar, because of the new egress of refugees, now from Ar herself. We might be remembered by the proprietor or other tenants in such a place. Had we used such a room we could have left her there, chained to a slave ring. In such a room, assuming slaves are allowed in the building, there are usually two of these, one at the wall and one at the foot of a straw-filled pallet. The depot, incidentally, had been muchly crowded, thought not with fee carts. Most of the wagons, coaches, fee carts, and such were gone. No longer were the schedules within and outside of the city, being kept. Tharlarion, and such transportation, were now said to be worth their weight in gold. I had heard that certain rich men had exchanged as many as fifteen high slaves, choice «flowers» from their pleasure gardens, trained even to Curulean quality, for a single tharlarion and wagon. But I did not know, even then, how far they might get, with the need of such conveyances, brigands on the road, advanced scouts of Cos, and such. Some, I had had heard, had been turned back even by guardsmen of Ar, outside the city. That seemed hard to understand. In any event, most of those in the city, surely the largest part, by far, of its population, had no practical way to leave the city, lest it be on foot. Even then they would have surely, most of them, nowhere to go, or stay. Who knew what dangers might lie outside the walls? Too, they could always be overtaken by tharlarion cavalry or Cosian tarnsmen. The citizenry of Ar, for the most part, was trapped in the city. Indeed, there were even rumors circulating that the gates of the city would soon be closed, and even sealed, reinforced against siege weapons. There was much talk, too, of course, about defending the city. Indeed, it was with this in mind, that I had come this morning to the city, to lend my sword, a modicum of mercenary iron, to her defense. On the other hand, this cause, I suspected, was doomed. It was not that I doubted that those of Ar, suitably rallied and led, might effect a stout and fierce resistance, but that I had some concept, as many did not, Marcus, for example, of the arithmetic of war. In any normalcy of combat, assuming the equivalence of the units, the comparability of weaponry, the competence of the commanders, and such, Ar would be doomed. The army of Cos was the largest ever brought to the field of Gor, and it was now, after the fall of Ar's Station, abetted by numerous reinforcements from the north. Furthermore, it had had the winter to restore its siege train, the original train burned in Torcadino, fired by Dietrich of Tarnburg, and, because of its recent success in the field, west of Ar, it could draw on thousands of square pasangs for its logistical support. Further, its lines of communication, from the palace at Telnus, in Cos, to the tent of Myron, the polemarkos, were swift and reliable. I doubted that Ar, even if rallied by a Marlenus of Ar, could hold out for more than a few weeks. And, once one added to the reckoning of these dismal tables, the skewing factor of treachery in Ar, and that her high general, Seremides, of Tyros, was traitorous to his oaths, as I had learned at Holmesk, in the north, Ar, I was sure, was doomed.

"Look!" said a man, pointing upward. "Tarnsmen!"

"They are clad in blue," cried a man.

"Cosian tarnsmen over the city!" cried another.

"The tarn wire will protect us!" said another.

"Where are our lads?" asked a man.

"They cannot be everywhere," said another, angrily.

Yet the appearance of Cosian tarnsmen over Ar indicated to me that Cos must now control the skies, as she had in the north.

"The tarn wire will protect us," repeated the fellow.

"Wire can be cut," said a man.

"No one must be permitted to again revile the Home Stone of Ar's Station!" said Marcus.

"Come away from here," I said. I pulled him from the knot of men, to the side. I looked back to the enclosure within which was the Home Stone of Ar's Station, it resting on the plank, supported by the two terra-cotta vats. There were at least ten guards in the vicinity, as well as perhaps fifty to a hundred men. "I do not think you are likely, at this time," I said, "to seize the Home Stone by force. Even if you could cut your way to it, you would not be likely to get more than a few feet with it, before you were brought down, by spear or quarrel, if not by blade."

"I can die in the attempt of its rescue," he said, grimly.

"Yes, I suppose you could," I said, "and probably without much difficulty, but if your intent is its rescue, and not your death in its attempted rescue, this is not the time to strike."

"You have many of the virtues of the warrior," I said, "but there is yet one you must learn-patience."

"It is not your Home Stone," he said.

"And that," I said, "is perhaps why it is easier for me to consider these matters with more objectivity than you."

"The Stone may be moved, or hidden," he said.

"That is a possibility," I said.

"We must strike now," he said.

"We must wait," I said.

"I do not want to wait," he said.

"I have an idea," I said. This had occurred to me as I had considered the Stone, its placement, the arrangement of guardsmen and such.

"What is your idea?" he asked.

"You would not approve of it," I said, "as it involves something other than a bloody frontal assault."

"What is it?" he asked.

"It is really only a possibility," I said. "I shall discuss it with you later." I then turned back toward Wagon Street, and Marcus, reluctantly, joined me. "Our permits to be within the city expire at sundown," he said. "And the camp outside is largely struck. Indeed, there may well be scouts and skirmishers of Cos under the walls tonight. The gates will be closed, we will be outside. We may not even be able to regain entrance to the city."

"It is my intention," I said, "to remain within the city, putting my sword at its service."

"You owe Ar nothing," he said.

"True," I said.

"She is doomed," he said.

"Perhaps," I said.

"Why would you wish to remain here then?" he asked.

"I have a reason," I said.

"Shall we discuss it," he asked, "its rationality, and such, with objectivity."

"Certainly not," I said.

"I thought not," he said.

We clasped hands, and then continued on our way, to fetch Phoebe.

5 Outside the Gate

"And so, tonight," said Marcus, huddling beside me, in a blanket, Phoebe covered in another, completely, so that she could not see, beside him, in the darkness and cold outside the sun gate, with perhaps two or three hundred others, "I thought you were to be warm and snug in Ar."

"There were no recruiting tables," I admitted.

"The services of your sword were not accepted," he said.

"No," I said.

"Interesting, he said.

"They did ask for my permit and told me I should be out of the city by sundown."

"Cos may be hiring," said a fellow.

"They did not need any more," said another.

I supposed that was true.

"It is strange," said Marcus. "I would have thought they might even free and arm male slaves."

I shrugged.

"But then," he said, "I suppose there are not too many male slaves in the city who might serve in that capacity."

"Perhaps not," I said. It was not like the city contained large numbers of dangerous, powerful, virile male slaves, such as might be found on the galleys, in the quarries, on the great farms, and so on. Such, in numbers, would be dangerous in the city. Most male slaves in the city were pampered silk slaves, owned by Gorean women who had not yet learned their sex. Such slaves, when captured, if not slain in disgust by the victors, were usually herded together like slave girls, and chained for disposition in markets catering to their form of merchandise, markets patronized largely by free women. To be sure, there were virile male slaves in Ar. For example, many of the fellows who attended to the great refuse vats usually kept at the foot of the stairs in insulae were male slaves. Usually they worked under the direct or indirect supervision of free men. occasionally they would be treated to a dram of paga or thrown a kettle girl for the evening.

"I would have thought," said Marcus, "that Ar might have rejoiced these days to obtain even the services of a lad with a beanshooter."

"Apparently not," I said.

"You understand what this means?" asked Marcus.

"Yes," I said. "I think I understand what it means."

"Do you think they will open the gate in the morning?" asked a man.

"Yes," said another.

"How far is Cos?" Marcus asked a fellow stirring around in his blankets. "Two days," said the fellow.

"Ar will be defended to the death," said a man.

"Perhaps," said another.

"You are not sure of it?" asked the first.

"No," said the second.

"Have you heard the latest news?" asked a fellow.

"What?" inquired another.

"It was suddenly in Ar," said the fellow. "I heard it just before I was expelled from the city, the gate then closed."

"What?" asked a man.

"Talena, the daughter of Marlenus, has offered to sacrifice herself for the safety of the city."

"I do not understand," said a fellow.

"Tell me of this!" I said.

"Talena has agreed to deliver herself naked, and in the chains of a slave, to the Cosians, if they will but spare Ar!"

"She must never be permitted to do so!" cried a man.

"No!" said another.

"Noble woman!" cried a man.

"Noble Talena!" cried another.

"It is absurd," said another fellow. "She is not the daughter of Marlenus. She was disowned by him."

"And thus," I said, "her offer is of no more import than would be the similar offer of any other free woman of Ar."

"Treason!" said a fellow.

"It is said," said a fellow," that she has been a slave."

"I have heard that," said a man.

"Marlenus did disown her," said a man.

"She does not even have her original name restored," said a man, "but the merely same name, permitted her, after she was freed."

"Long was she sequestered in the Central Cylinder," said another.

"As is Claudia Tentia Hinrabia, of the Hinrabians," said a man. "Remember her?"

"Yes," said a fellow. Claudia Tentia Hinrabie had been the daughter of a former Ubar of Ar, Minus Tentius Hinrabius. When Marlenus had regained the throne he had freed her from a bondage to which Cernus, his foe, who had replaced Minus Tentius Hinrabius on the throne, had seen that she was reduced. I recalled her. She had been a slender, dark-haired beauty, with high cheekbones. She still lived, as I understood it, in the Central Cylinder.

"I, too, have heard it said," I said, "that Talena was once a slave, and I have heard it said, as well, that even now she wears on her thigh the mark of Treve, a souvenir of her former bondage to a tarnsman of that city."

"She is the daughter of Marlenus," said a man, sullenly.

"She should be Ubara," said another.

"Her offer to deliver herself to the Cosians, that the city may be spared," said a fellow, "is preposterous. When they take the city they can have her, and any other number of free women. The whole thing is absurd."

"But incredibly noble!" said a fellow.

"Yes," said another.

"It is an act worthy of one who should be Ubara," said a man.

I considered these matters, rather interested in them. In making an offer of this sort, of course, Talena was implicitly claiming for herself the status of being a Ubar's daughter, else the offer would have been, as one of the fellows had suggested, absurd. This was, in its way, presenting a title to the throne. It was not as though she were merely one, say, of a thousand free women who were making the same offer.

"Is she asking, say, a thousand other free women to join her in this proposal?" I asked.

"No," said the fellow.

The extremely interesting thing to my mind would be the Cosian response to this offer. I had little doubt, personally, from what I had learned of the intrigues in Ar that this offer had some role to play in the complicated political games afoot in that metropolis.

At this point a fellow hurried among us. He had come from the darkness, away from the gate. "Cosians!" he said. Men cried out. Some slaves among us screamed. Some men ran to the wall. Some went to pound and cry at the gate.

"Where?" I asked, standing, my sword drawn. Marcus thrust Phoebe's head farther down, she covered totally by the blanket. He was then beside me, his weapon, too, unsheathed. These were two of the few weapons in the group. These fellows, I realized, could be pinned against the wall and gate, and slaughtered. I made as though to kick the tiny fire out. "No," said the man. "No!"

"Scatter in the darkness!" I said.

"No!" he said.

"They will be on us with blades in an instant!" said a man.

"Let us in!" cried a fellow, upward to the wall, where there were guards. "They are scouts, skirmishers?" asked Marcus.

"I think so," said the man.

"Surely they will attack," said a man.

"Perhaps we can be defended from the walls," said a man. I did not think that quarrel fire from the walls would be much to our advantage. We would be as likely to be hit, I supposed, as Cosians. Too, it was very dark. Few archers will waste quarrels in such light.

"I think we are in no danger, at least now," said the man.

"Why do you say that?" I asked.

"Look," he said. He held his hand near the fire and opened it.

"A silver tarsk!" said a man.

"It was given to me by a Cosian, in the shadows," said the man, wonderingly. "I do not understand," said a man.

"He pressed it into my hand," said the man, "when I thought to be spitted by his blade."

"What did he say?" asked a man.

"That Cos was our friend," said the man.

"How many were there?" I asked.

"Only a few, I think," said the man.

"Scouts, or skirmishers," I said to Marcus.

"It would seem so," he said.

"What shall we do now?" asked a man.

"We will wait her," said a man, "until the gate opens."

"It is only an Ahn until dawn," said a man.

I looked out into the darkness. Out there, somewhere, were Cosians. I then looked at the fellow who had recently joined us. He was sitting by the tiny fire now, trembling. He was perhaps cold. His fist was clenched. In it, I gathered, was a silver tarsk.

"I do not think Ar will choose to defend itself," I said.

"I do not think so either," said Marcus, softly.

"Doubtless that is why there were no recruiting tables," I said.

"Undoubtedly," he said.

6 The Public Boards

Marcus and I turned to the street for a moment, to watch a company of guardsmen, at quick march, hasten by, their bootlike sandals, coming high on the calf, resounding on the stones.

"Ar will defend herself to the death," said a man.

"Yes," said another.

I looked after the retreating guardsmen. I doubted if there were more than fifteen hundred such in the city.

"There is no danger," said a man.

"No," said another.

"The tarn wire will protect us," said a man.

"Our gates are impregnable," said another. "Our walls cannot be breached."

"No," said another.

How little these fellows knew of the ways of war, I thought.

"Here it is," said Marcus, calling back to me, "on the public boards." The public boards are posting areas, found at many points in Ar, usually in plazas and squares. These boards were along the Avenue of the Central Cylinder, and were state boards, on which official communiquA©s, news releases, announcements and such, could be posted. Some boards are maintained by private persons, who sell space on them for advertising, notifications, and personal messages. To be sure, many folks, presumably poorer folks, or at least folks less ready to part with a tarsk bit, simply inscribe their messages, in effect as graffiti, on pillars, walls of buildings, and such. Too, posters, and such, usually hand-inked, are common in public places, usually put up by the owners or managers of palestrae, or gymnasiums, public baths, taverns, race courses, theaters, and such. Sales of tharlarion and slaves, too, are commonly thusly advertised. Heralds and criers, too, and carriers of signs, are not unknown. Some proprietors rent space in their shops or places of business for small postings. So, too, similarly, some homeowners who live on busy streets charge a fee for the use of their exterior walls. There are many other forms of communication and advertising as well, such as the parades of acrobats, jugglers, clowns, animal trainers, mimes and such, and the passage of flatbedded display wagons through the streets on which snatches of performances, intended to whet the viewer's interests, are presented, or, say, slaves are displayed usually decorously clad, in connection with imminent sales at various markets and barns. The viewer, or the male viewer, at any rate, understands that the decorous attire of the imbonded beauties of the moving platform is not likely to be worn in the exposition cages or on the block. There is a Gorean saying that only a fool buys a woman clothed. On these platforms the women are usually chained only by an ankle, that there will be but little interference with their movements and their appeals to the crowds. On the other hand, some owners, who prefer more obvious restraints for their women, who are, after all, slaves, use flatbedded wagons with mounted slave bars of various sorts, sometimes with intricate chainings or couplings. Similarly, stout, multiply locked cage wagons may be used for a similar purpose.

"I see," I said, reading the boards.

"I have heard," said a man, near me, speaking to another, "that many other free women, like Talena herself, have offered themselves as slaves, that the city be spared."

"There is nothing to that effect here on the public boards," said the other fellow.

"True," said the first.

"Read to me," begged a fellow looking up at the boards. "I cannot read. What does it say?"

"Greetings from Lurius of Jad, Ubar of Cos, to the people of Glorious Ar," read a man, rather slowly, pointing to letters with his fingers, which led me to believe that his literacy was not likely to be much advanced over that of the other. To be sure, I myself did not read Gorean fluently, as the alternate lines changed direction. The first line is commonly written left to right, the second from right to left, and so on. Cursive script is, of course, at least for me, even more difficult. In particular I find it difficult to write. In defense I might point out that I can print Gorean fairly well, and can sign my name with a deftness which actually suggests to those who do not know better that I am fully literate in the language. In further defense I might point out that many warriors, for no reason that is clear to me, seem to take pride in a putative lack of literacy. Indeed, several fellows I have known, of the scarlet caste, take pains to conceal their literacy, seemingly ashamed of an expertise in such matters, regarding such as befitting scribes rather than warriors. Thus, somewhat to my embarrassment, I found I fitted in well with such fellows. I have known, incidentally, on the other hand, several warriors who were quite unapologetic about literacy interests and capacities, men who were, for example, gifted historians, essayists and poets.

"Know, people of Glorious Ar," the man continued to read, "that Cos is your friend."

"Does it say that?" asked a man.

"Yes," said the fellow, determinedly. He then continued to read. "Cos has no quarrel with the people of Ar, whom it reveres and respects. The quarrel of Cos is rather with the wicked and corrupt regime, and the dishonest and ruthless policies, of Gnieus Lelius, subverter of peace, enemy of amity between our states. It was only with the greatest reluctance and most profound regret that Cos found herself, after all avenues of conciliation and negotiation were exhausted, forced to take up arms, in the name of free peoples everywhere, to resist, and call to account, the actions and policies of the tyrant, Gnieus Lelius, enemy to both our states."

"I did not know Gnieus Lelius was a tyrant," said a fellow.

"That is absurd," said another.

"But it is on the public boards!" said another.

"It must be true," said another.

"Who made these postings?" asked a man.

"The members of the palace guard, the Taurentians themselves," said another. "They must then be true," said another.

"No," said a fellow. "All that is being done here is to inform us of the message of Lurius of Jad."

"True," said another, relievedly.

"Read on," said a man.

"Now, with sadness, given no choice, with the support and encouragement of all the world, now allied with me, I, Lurius of Jad, who would be your friend and brother, have been forced to come before your gates. The Priest-Kings are with me. My arms are invincible. I have conquered in the delta. I have conquered in Torcadino. I have conquered but three day's march from your very gates.

Resistance to me is useless. Yet, although Ar, under the tyranny of Gnieus Lelius, has been guilty of many crimes and my patience had been sorely tried. I am prepared to be merciful. I offer you the alternatives of annihilation or friendship, of devastation or prosperity. Make your decision not rashly, but with care. Do not force me to give Ar to the flames. Rather let us live in peace and brotherhood."

"Is there more?" asked a man.

"A little," said the fellow who was reading.

"What?" he was asked by several about.

"If Ar desires peace, and would survive, if she desires peace, and would be freed of the onerous yoke of a tyrant, let her deliver to my plenipotentiary, Myron, polemarkos of the continental forces of the Cosian ubarate, some sign of her desire for peace, some evidence of her hope for reconciliation, some token of her good will."

"What does he want?" asked a man.

"Is Gnieus Lelius a tyrant?" asked a fellow.

"There is the matter of the ostraka," said a man.

"And the permits!" said another.

"Tyrannical actions!" said another.

"Gnieus Lelius is a tyrant," said another.

"Absurd," said a fellow.

"He is soft, weak, vacillating," said a man.

"He is not a Ubar," said another, "but, too, he is surely not a tyrant."

"He is a weak fool," said another.

"But not a tyrant," said a man.

"No," said another.

"There is the matter of the ostraka, the permits, the restrictions," said another.

"That is true," said another.

"Perhaps he is a tyrant," said a man.

"Perhaps," said another.

"Yes," said another. "He is a tyrant!"

From the public postings, I had now gathered that Gnieus Lelius was not likely to have been of the party of treachery in Ar, which I was pleased to learn. To be sure, he might have been of that party, and might have been, in the development within that party, outmaneuvered, to find himself suddenly cast in the role of the scapegoat, something to be thrown to the crowd, to satisfy it and protect others. On the other hand, from what I knew of Gnieus Lelius, whom I had met, I guessed he was an honest man. Indeed, in another time and place, it was my speculation that he might have served as an efficient, beloved administrator. I suspected that he was at worst a dupe, a trusting man, perhaps even one of considerable talent, who had found himself, through no real fault of his own, a pawn in games of state, games in which there seemed to be no rules other than survival and victory.

"Read further," demanded a man.

"That is the message," said the fellow who had been reading it. "There is no more."

"No more?" asked a man.

"Only "I wish you well. Lurius of Jad, Ubar of Cos, " said the fellow "But what does Cos want?" asked a man.

"Apparently she wants some sign of our desire for peace," said a fellow, looking up at the posting.

"Tell them to go back to Cos," said a fellow, angrily, "and we shall consider the matter."

"The posting refers to some evidence of our hope for reconciliation," said the first fellow, "some token of our good will."

"Give them our steel in their neck!" said a fellow.

"And with good will!" said another, a fellow of the potters.

"That is a token they will understand," added another.

"But what do they want?" asked another.

"They may want our Talena," said a man.

"That brave and noble woman, we will never surrender her!" said another. "I myself would block the gate," said a fellow, "before I would see her leave the city at the stirrup of a Cosian envoy."

"She has offered so to sacrifice herself," said a man.

"It is here on the public postings," said another, "over here."

"They cannot have our Talena," said a man.

"I do not think it is Talena they want," said a man.

"But what, then?" asked another.

"What could be a suitable token of Ar's desire for peace?" asked another. "Who wants peace?" said a man.

"I do not understand what is going on," said a fellow.

"Those who are high in the city," said a fellow, "will inquire into these matters. They are wiser than we and will do what is best."

At this point there was much shouting in side streets, coming from the west. In moments, too, men were shouting about us.

"Cos!" they cried. "Cos can be seen from the walls!"

I did not think, in these times, that they would let civilians ascend the walls. Otherwise I might have hastened to the ramparts. From them, I gathered, might be viewed the legions of Cos. Such armies appear first like small lines at the horizons. It is often difficult, at first, to mark out the units. Sometimes, on sunny days, there is a flashing along the horizon, from lifted standards. At night one can usually see the fires of the camps, three of four pasangs away. To be sure, what might be visible from the walls now might be only smoke from fired fields or, more likely, dust from tharlarion cavalries.

"Are the Cosians numerous?" asked a man.

"They are like the leaves of trees, like the sands of the sea," said a man. "Look, overhead!" cried a man.

We saw a Cosian tarnsman over the city.

"Ar is doomed," said a man.

"We will fight to the death," said another.

"Perhaps we can treat with the Cosians," said another.

"Never!" said another.

"Way, make way!" we heard. Now, moving south on the Avenue of the Central Cylinder, toward the great gate of Ar, were several riders of tharlarion. "That is the personal banner of Seremides!" said a man.

The riders were muchly cloaked. From the precision of their lines, however, and the ease and discipline of their seat on the tharlarion, I took them to be soldiers. Too, if the fellow was right, that one of the banners in the group was that of Seremides, then presumably he, or his empowered agent, was one of the riders.

"Save us, Seremides!" cried a man.

Then the riders had passed.

"Where is Gnieus Lelius, the regent?" asked a man.

"He has not been seen in public in days," said another.

"Perhaps he has fled the city!" suggested another.

"Tonight," said another, "let our gates be sealed."

"I have heard," said a fellow, "that Cos is our friend, and that it is Gnieus Lelius who is the enemy."

"That is absurd," said a man.

"Last night, Cosian scouts, outside the walls," said a man, "distributed silver tarsks to the homeless, assuring them of the good intentions of the maritime ubarate!"

"That is preposterous," said a man.

"I know a fellow who received one," said the first fellow.

"Unfortunately," said a fellow," I was home in bed."

"You should have been outside the walls," said another.

"I could use a silver tarsk," said a man.

"Do you think that Cos is truly our friend?" asked a man.

"No," said a fellow.

Men looked at him.

"Why do you say that?" asked a man.

"I was in the delta," he said, and turned away.

"Ar's Station," said a man, "has been well treated by Cos."

"Do not respond to that," I said to Marcus, and drew him back a bit from the public boards, to the edge of the crowd.

The young warrior's face was flushed.

"Perhaps Seremides can save us," said a man.

"Or the intercessions of our beloved Talena," said another.

"We must fight to the death," said a man.

"Cos will show us no mercy," said another.

"Perhaps the city will be spared if we confess our wrongs, and make clear our desire for peace."

"What wrongs?" asked a man.

"Surely we must have wrongs," said a man.

"I suppose so," said another.

I myself could think of at least three, the failure to meet Cos at Torcadino, the failure to relieve the siege of Ar's Station, and the unprepared entry into the delta, in putative pursuit of the Cosian expeditionary force in the north. "We can do nothing," said a man.

"We are helpless under the tyranny of Gnieus Lelius," said another.

"Who can free us from the grip of this tyrant?" asked a man.

"Perhaps our friends in Cos," said a fellow.

"Where is he?" asked a man.

"Hiding in the Central Cylinder," said another.

"He had fled the city," said another.

"Ar cannot be indefinitely defended," said a man.

"We must declare ourselves an open city," said another.

"Others wiser than we will know," said another.

"How can we make Cos know we wish to be their friend?" asked another.

"I do not wish to be their friend," said a man, angrily.

"Our military situation is hopeless," said a man. "We must prove our desire for peace to the Cosians."

"How can we do that?" asked a man.

"I do not know," he said.

"They will wish some clear, explicit token," said a man.

"Yes," said another.

"But what?" asked a man.

"I do not know," said the first fellow.

"Come along," I said to Marcus.

In a few minutes we had come to a slave ring where we had left Phoebe.

The ring to which she was attached was set quite close to the ground level, a ring to which it was presumed a slave might be fastened by the ankle. Marcus, however, using a pair of slave bracelets, had fastened her to it by the neck, one bracelet about the ring, the other about her collar, pressing into her neck. She lay on her stomach on the stones, her neck held close to the ring, her eyes closed against the glare. Marcus kicked her, not gently, with the side of his foot. "Master," she said, and rose to her knees, bent over, her head held down to the stones.

"She is Cosian," he said to me.

"No," I said. "She is only a slave."

"Are you hungry?" Marcus asked Phoebe.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"Perhaps then," he said, "you will not be fed today."

"I am not permitted to lie to my master," she said.

"A slave, like any other animal," I said, "may grow hungry."

"True," said Marcus.

He then crouched down and removed the bracelets from the ring and collar. "I, too, am hungry," I said.

"Very well," he said.

"There are food shops on Emerald Street," I said.

"Is it far?" he asked.

"No," I said.

Then, in a moment we left, retracing our steps, moving north on the Avenue of the Central Cylinder, past shops, fountains, columns and such, until we would make our left turn, toward Emerald Street, Phoebe heeling him, her hands now fastened behind her in the bracelets.

"Look," I said, while still on the Avenue of the Central Cylinder, pointing upward.

"Another Cosian tarnsman," he said.

"Yes," I said.

"Coppers, coppers for the temple," called an Initiate, rattling some tarsk bits in a tray.

"What do you think Cos wants?" asked Marcus.

"I think," I said, "the destruction of the gates of Ar."

"That is absurd," said Marcus.

"True," I said.

"They will never be given that," he said.

"No," I said.

7 Ar is Liberated

We were muchly jostled.

"Hear the bars," asked Marcus.

"They are sounding out peals of rejoicing." I said.

It was now two days after we had read the first postings of the conciliatory message of Lurius of Jad on the public boards.

"Hail Ar! Hail Cos!" cried folks about.

It was difficult to keep our feet.

"Are they coming?" asked a man.

"Yes," said another, moving out further onto the avenue.

"Back," said a guardsmen. "Back."

We had come to this coign of vantage, such as it was, very early this morning, even at the second Ahn. Yet, even at that time, many had been about, some with blankets to sleep on the stones. It was in the open area near the Central Cylinder, which loomed in the center of a circular park, the territory open enough for defense, midway in the avenue.

"Hail Ar! Hail Cos!" cried a man.

Many folks held small Cosian banners which they might wave. Banners, too, of Ar were much in evidence.

The night before last, the night of that day on which we had taken note of the postings, the gates of Ar had been dismantled and burned. Some citizens had attempted to interfere with this, but were discouraged with clubs and blades. There had even been sporadic mutinies of small contingents of guardsmen, determined to hold their posts, but these for the most part dissipated when it became clear that the orders were from the Central Cylinder itself. Two of these armed reluctances, yielding neither to reason nor orders, were quelled bloodily by Taurentians. Gnieus Lelius, it seems, had been deposed, and Seremides, in a military coup he himself characterized as regrettable, had seized temporary power, a power to be wielded until the High Council, now the highest civilian authority in Ar, could elect a new leader, be it Administrator, Regent, Ubar or Ubara.

"I had not thought to see the gates of Ar burned, not by her own," said Marcus. "No," I said.

The metal plating had been pried from them, to be melted down. The great timbers then, shattered and separated, had been formed into gigantic pyres and burned. I think the light of these would have been visible for fifty pasangs. Marcus and I, and Phoebe, had watched the burning of the great gate for a time. Many folks from the city, too, some in numbness, some in sorrow, some in disbelief, had come out to watch. We could see their faces in the reflected light. Many had wept. Some uttered lamentations, tearing their hair and clothes. It had been uncomfortably hot even within a hundred pasangs of the flames, so great was the heat generated. I had come through that gate many times.

We could hear cheering in the distance.

"Cos is within the city," said Marcus.

"At last we are free!" cried a man.

"We have been liberated!" cheered another, waving a Cosian banner on a small stick.

The city was festooned with ribbons and garlands. It was hard to hear Marcus beside me, what with the sound of the bars ringing and the shouts of the crowd.

"Has there ever been such a day for rejoicing in Ar?" asked Marcus.

"I do not know," I admitted. After all, I was not of Ar.

"Do you think Cos will now sack and burn the city?" asked Marcus.

"No," I said.

"They are within the walls," he said.

"Selected, controllable contingents, probably mostly regulars," I said.

"You do not expect them to burn Ar?" he asked.

"No," I said. "Ar is a prize, surely more valuable as she is, rather than in ashes."

"Is the population not to be slaughtered?" he asked.

"I would doubt it," I said. "There is a great pool of skills and talent in Ar. Such things, too, are prizes."

"But surely they will sack the city," he said.

"Perhaps little by little," I said.

"I do not understand," he said.

"Study the campaigns of Dietrich of Tarnburg," I said.

Marcus looked at me.

"I do not doubt but what Myron, polemarkos of Cos, or his advisors, have done so."

"You speak in riddles," said Marcus.

"I can see them!" cried a man.

"Look, too, the Central Cylinder!" cried a man.

At the edge of the circular park, within which rears the lofty Central Cylinder, a platform had been erected, presumably that thousands more, gathered on the streets, could witness what was to occur. We were within a few yards of this platform. This platform could be ascended by two ramps, one in the back, on the side of the Central Cylinder, and one in front, opposite to the Central Cylinder, on the side of the Avenue of the Central Cylinder. Phoebe was close behind Marcus, clinging to him, that she not be swept from us in the throngs. "Look there, at the foot of the platform!" said a man.

"The sleen, the scoundrel, the tyrant!" cried a man.

There were cries of rage and hatred from the crowd. Being dragged along the side of the platform, conducted by a dozen chains, each attached to, and radiating out from, a heavy metal collar, each chain held by a child, was a pathetic figure, stumbling and struggling, its ankles shackled and its upper body almost swathed in chains, Gnieus Lelius. Other children too, some five of them, with switches, hung about him like sting flies. At intervals, for which they watched eagerly, receiving the permission of a supervising Taurentian, they would rush forward, striking the helpless figure. Muchly did the crowd laugh at this. Gnieus Lelius was barefoot. Too, he had been placed in motley rags, not unlike the sort that might be worn by a comedic mime upon the stage. I supposed this was just as well. Gnieus Lelius, thus, might have some hope of evading impalement on the walls of Ar. He would perhaps rather be sent to the palace of Lurius of Jad, in Telnus, to be kept there for the amusement of Lurius and his court, as a caged buffoon.

"Sleen! Tyrant!" cried men.

Some fellows rushed out to cast ostraka at him. "Take your ostraka, tyrant!" they cried. Gnieus flinched, several of these small missiles striking him. these were the same ostraka, I supposed, which, a few days ago, would have been worth their weight in gold, permits, passes, in effect, to remain in the city. After the burning of the gates, of course, one need no longer concern oneself with ostraka and permits.

"We are free now!" cried one of the men, flinging his ostrakon at Gnieus Lelius. Other men rushed out to fall upon the former regent wit blows, but Taurentians swiftly, with proddings and blows of their spears, drove them back.

Gnieus Lelius was then, by the front ramp, conducted to the surface of the platform. Many in the crowd, now first seeing him, shrieked out their hatred. There he was put on his knees, to one side, the children locking their chains to prepared rings, set in a circle, then withdrawing. The five lads with switches were given a last opportunity, to the amusement of the crowd, to strike the former regent, then they, too, were dismissed.

The sounds of the drums and trumpets to our right were now closer.

"Look!" said a fellow. He pointed in the direction of the Central Cylinder from which, but moments before, Gnieus Lelius, and his escort, had emerged.

"It is Seremides, and members of the High Council!" said a fellow.

Seremides, whom I had not seen this clearly since long ago in Ar, in the days of Minus Tentius Hinrabius, and Cernus, of Ar, with others, members of the High Council, I gathered, now, from the side of the Central Cylinder, ascended the platform.

"He is not in the robes of a penitent or suppliant!" shouted a fellow, joyfully. "No!" cried others.

"He is in uniform!" cried a man.

"Look," cried a man. "He has his sword!"

"Seremides retains his sword!" cried a man, calling back to those less near the platform.

There was much cheering greeting this announcement.

Then the High Council stood to one side, and Seremides himself returned to the point on the platform where the rear ramp, that near the Central Cylinder, ascended to its surface.

The ringing of the bars then ceased, first those of the Central Cylinder and then those near it, and then those farther away, about the city. This happened so quickly, however, that it was doubtless accomplished not by the fellows at the bells apprehending that those most inward in the city had ceased to ring but rather in virtue of some signal, presumably conveyed from the Central Cylinder, a signal doubtless relayed immediately, successively, by flags or such, to other points.

The crowd looked at one another.

No longer now, the bars now quiet, did I even hear the drums and trumpets of the approaching Cosians. Those instruments, too, were silent. I did not doubt, however, that the approach north on the Avenue of the Central Cylinder was still in progress.

Seremides now, at the rear of the platform, where the rear ramp ascended to its surface, extended his hand downward, to escort a figure clad and veiled in dazzling white to the surface of the platform. It was a graceful figure who, head down, the fingers of her left hand in the light grasp of Seremides, now came forward upon the platform.

"No! No!" cried many in the crowd. "No!"

"It is Talena!" wept a man.

The figure, to be sure, was robed in white, and veiled, but I had little doubt that it was indeed Talena, once the daughter of Marlenus of Ar, Ubar of Ubars. "She is not gloved!" cried a man.

"She is barefoot!" cried another.

Marcus looked down, sharply, at Phoebe, who clung to his arm. Instantly Phoebe looked down. In that crush she could scarcely have knelt. She might have been forced from her knees and trampled. Phoebe, of course, was much exposed in the brief slave tunic, her arms and legs. I looked at her calves, ankles and feet. She, too, was barefoot. This was appropriate for her, of course, as she was a slave. Slaves are often kept barefoot. I then looked up, continuing to regard her, she clinging to Marcus. Yes, she was quite lovely. She looked up a moment, saw my eyes upon her, and then looked down again, quickly. The slave girdle too, tied high on her, crossed, emphasized the loveliness of her small breasts. I was pleased for Marcus. He has a lovely slave. I was lonely. I wished that I, too, had a slave.

"She is in the robes of a penitent or suppliant!" cried another in dismay. "No, Talena!" cried a man.

"No, Talena," cried another, "do not."

"We will not permit it!" cried a man.

"Not our Talena!" wept a woman.

"The crowd grows ugly," observed Marcus.

"Ar is not worth such a price!" cried another.

"Better give the city to flames!" cried another.

"Let us fight! Let us fight!" cried men.

Several men broke out, into the street, where Taurentians, with spears held across their bodies, struggled to restrain them.

"Good," said Marcus. "There is going to be a riot."

"If so," I said, "let us withdraw."

"It will give me a chance to slip a knife into a few of these fellows," said Marcus.

"Phoebe might be hurt," I said.

"She is only a slave," said Marcus, but I saw him shelter her in his arms, preparing to move back through the crowd.

"Wait," I said.

Talena herself, on the height of the platform, had her hands out, palms up, shaking them negatively, even desperately.

I smiled.

This behavior on her part seemed scarcely in keeping with the dignity of the putative daughter of a Ubar, not to mention her mien as a penitent or suppliant. "She urges us to calm!" said a man.

"She pleads with us to stand back," said a man. "Come back."

"Noble Talena!" wept a fellow.

The crowd wavered. Several of the men in the street backed away, returning to the crowd.

Talena then, now that the crowd, divided and confused, seemed more tractable, put her head down and to one side, and, lifting her arms, the palms up, made a gesture as of resignation and nobility, pressing back the crowd.

"She does not wish succor," said a fellow.

"She fears that we may suffer in her behalf," moaned a man.

It had been a narrow thing, I thought. Had Talena herself not suddenly interposed her own will, clearly, vigorously, even desperately, signaling negatively to the crowd, the platform and avenue might have swarmed with irate citizens, intent upon her rescue. The handful of Taurentians about would have been swept back like leaves before a hurricane.

"Do not let this be done, Seremides!" cried a fellow.

"Protect Talena!" cried several men.

But now Seremides held forth his hands, calmly, palms down, and raised and lowered them, gently, several times.

The crowd murmured, uneasily, threateningly.

"Talena intends to sacrifice herself for us, for the city, for the Home Stone!" wept a man.

"She must not be permitted to do so," said a fellow.

"We will not permit it!" said another, suddenly.

"Let us act!" cried a man.

Again the crowd wavered. There was a sudden pressing forth toward the platform, a tiny, incipient surgency. Taurentians braced themselves and pressed back against the crowd with the shafts of their spears.

Seremides' calming hands continued to beg for patience.

Then, again, the crowd was quiet, tense. I did not think that it would take much to precipitate violence. Yet, for the moment, at least, it was still, if seething. There is often a delicate balance in such things, and sometimes in such situations even a small action, even a seemingly insignificant stimulus, can trigger a sudden, massive response.

Seremides then, again, held out his hand to Talena. He then led her forward, as before, toward the front ramp. As they neared the figure of Gnieus Lelius, kneeling in his chains near the front ramp, Talena seemed to hesitate, to shrink back with distaste. One small hand, even, extended, palm out, toward the former regent, as though she would fend away the very sight of him, as though she could not bear the thought of his nearness. She even turned to Seremides, doubtlessly imploring him with all the piteous vulnerability of the penitent or suppliant, that she not be stationed close to that odious object, which had brought such lamentable catastrophe and misery upon her city.

Seremides seemed to hesitate for a moment and then, as though he had made a determined decision, however unwise it might be, graciously, and with great courtesy, conducted Talena to a place further from the kneeling Gnieus Lelius. The crowd murmured its approval.

"Good, Seremides!" cried a man.

As Talena was conducted to her place, a few feet from Gnieus Lelius, she drew up the white robes a little with her right hand, so that they were above her ankles. In this way those who might not have noticed this fact before could now note that she was barefoot. I supposed this tiny act of exposure, so apparently natural, if not inadvertent, as though merely to aid her footing, this act so delicately politic, must have cost the modesty of the putative daughter of Marlenus of Ar much.

A man near me put his head in his hands and wept. Marcus glanced at him, contemptuously.

In a moment then, startling me, and doubtless many others in the crowd, there was a blast of trumpets and a roll of drums to our right. Regulars of Cos, regiments of them, in ordered lines, in cleaned, pressed blue, with polished helmets and shields, preceded by numerous standard bearers, representing far more units than were doubtless in the city at the moment, and musicians, advanced. Tharlarion cavalrymen, of both bipedal and quadrupedal tharlarion, flanked the lines. The street shook under the tread of these beasts. Turned on the crowd they might, in their passage, have trampled hundreds.

The crowd, now that it had segments of the forces of Cos before it, seemed strangely docile. These were not a handful of Taurentians that might have been swept from their path like figures off a kaissa board. These were warriors in serried ranks, many of whom had doubtless seen battle. To move against such would have been like throwing themselves onto the knife walls of Tyros.

Similarly, should the troops wheel to the sides, charging, blades drawn, they might have slaughtered thousands, harvesting the crowds, trapped by their own numbers, like sa-tarna.

With a roll of drums and a blast of trumpets, and the distinct, uniform sound of hundreds of men coming simultaneously to a halt, the Cosian array arrested its march not yards from the forward ramp.

I thought I saw the figure of Talena, standing on the platform, with others, tremble. Perhaps now she realized, I thought, what it might mean to have Cosians in the city. Did she now, suddenly, I wondered, realize how vulnerable she really was, and Ar, and how such fellows could now do much what they pleased. She was in the white robes of a penitent or suppliant. The penitent or suppliant, incidentally, is supposed to be naked beneath such robes. I doubted, however, that Talena was naked beneath them. On the other hand, she would surely wish the good citizens of Ar to believe that she was.

It seemed terribly quiet for a moment. If I had spoken, even softly, I am sure I would have been heard for yards, so still were the pressed throngs.

"Myron," I heard whispered. "Myron, polemarkos of Cos!"

I saw nothing for a time but the crowd, the platform, the people on the platform, and Cosians, for several yards to the right, standard bearers, some even bearing the standards of mercenary companies, probably not in the march, such as that of Raymond Rive-de-Bois, musicians, and soldiers, both foot and cavalry.

"He is coming!" I heard.

The polemarkos, if it were indeed he, I thought, must be very confident, to so enter Ar. I did not think that Lurius of Jad, Ubar of Cos, would have done so. To be sure, Lurius seldom left the precincts of the palace of Telnus. More than one triumph in a Gorean city has been spoiled by the bolt of an assassin. "I see him!" I said to Marcus.

"Yes," he said. Phoebe stood on her tiptoes, clinging to Marcus' arm, her slim, lovely body very straight. She craned her neck. She could still see, I thought, very little. The close-fitting steel collar was lovely on her throat. The collar, with its lock, muchly enhances a woman's beauty.

In a moment a large bipedialian saddle tharlarion, in golden panoply, its nails polished, its scales brushed bright, wheeled to a halt before the standard bearers. Behind it came several other tharlarion, resplendent, too, but lesser in size and panoply, with riders. Myron, or he who was acting on his behalf, then, by means of a dismounting stirrup, not the foot stirrup, the rider's weight lowering it, descended to the ground. It was curious to see him, as I had heard much of him. He was a tall man, in a golden helmet, plumed, too, in gold, and a golden cloak. He was personally armed with the common gladius, the short sword, the most common infantry weapon on Ar, and a dagger. In a saddle sheath, remaining there, was a longer weapon, a two-handed scimitar, the two-handed scimitarus, useful for reaching other riders on tharlarion. There was no lance in the saddle boot. He removed his helmet and handed it to one of his fellows. He seemed a handsome fellow, with long hair. I recalled he had once been under the influence of the beautiful slave, Lucilina, even to the point of consulting her in matters of state. She had been privy to many secrets. Indeed, her influence over the polemarkos had been feared, and her favor had been courted even by free men. Her word or glance might mean the difference between advancement and neglect, between honor and disgrace. Then Dietrich of Tarnburg had arranged for her to be kidnapped and brought to him, stripped. He had soon arranged for her to be emptied of all sensitive information. He had then renamed her "Luchita, an excellent name for a slave and quite different from the prestigious name "Lucilina, which might have graced a free woman. He had then given her to one of his lowest soldiers, as a work and pleasure slave. The last time I had seen her had been in Brundisium, among the slaves belonging to various mercenaries, men of the company of a fellow who was then identifying himself as Edgar, of Tarnwald. I did not know where this Edgar, of Tarnwald, now was, nor his men. I suspected that by now Myron had come to understand, and to his chagrin, how he had been the pliant dupe of a female, and even one who was a slave. I did not think it likely that this would happen again. He now doubtless had a much better idea of the utilities and purposes of females.

Myron, now, as I suppose it was Myron, with two fellows behind him, each bearing a package, ascended the platform.

Seremides approached him and, drawing his sword from its sheath, extended it to him, hilt first.

"Myron does not accept his sword!" said a man.

Myron, indeed, with a magnanimous gesture, had demurred to accept the weapons of Seremides, the high general of Ar. Seremides now sheathed the sword.

"Hail Cos! Hail Ar!" whispered a fellow.

The crowd then hushed as Seremides extended his hand to Talena and conducted her before Myron, her head down.

"Poor Talena," whispered a man.

The daughters of conquered ubars often grace the triumphs of victorious generals. This may be done in many ways. Sometimes they are marched naked at their stirrups, in chains; sometimes they are marched similarly but among slaves holding other loot, golden vessels, and such; sometimes they are displayed on wagons, or rolling platforms, caged with she-verr or she-tarsks, and so on. Almost always they will be publicly and ceremoniously enslaved, either before or after the triumph, either in their own city or in the city of the conqueror. Myron, however, bowed low before Talena, in this perhaps saluting the loftiness and honorableness of her status, that of the free female.

"I do not understand," said Marcus.

"Wait," I said.

"Will he not now strip her and have her put in chains?" asked Marcus.

"Watch," I said.

"She will be in his tent, as one of his women, before nightfall," he said. "Watch," I said.

"To be sure," he said, "perhaps she will be kept for the pleasure gardens of Lurius of Jad, or the kennels if his house slaves, if she was not beautiful enough for his pleasure gardens."

"Watch a moment," I said.

Talena, as I knew, was an exquisitely beautiful female, with that olive skin, and dark eyes and hair. I did not doubt but what she was worthy of a ubar's pleasure gardens, and even if, all things considered, she was not quite of that quality, she would still, undoubtedly, find herself there. Allowances are often made for special women, former enemies, and such, and I had little doubt that an allowance of one sort or another would be made for a ubar's daughter, or one taken to be such. It must be remembered, too, that the contents of a pleasure garden are not necessarily always viewed in only one light. For example, such a garden may contain women who are, in a sense, primarily trophies. Surely Talena might count, say, from the standpoint of a Lurius of Jad, as such a trophy. Indeed, some men, collectors, use their gardens mainly for housing their collections, say, of different types of women, selected perhaps primarily with an eye to illustrating, and exhibiting, various forms of female beauty, or, indeed, even for their unique or rare brands.

Myron then turned about to one of the two fellows who had ascended the ramp with him, each of which held a package.

"What is in the package?" asked a man.

"A slave collar, slave bracelets, shackles, such things," said a man.

"No, look!" said a man.

"Ai!" said Marcus.

Myron, from the package held by one of the two fellows who had ascended the ramp with him, drew forth a shimmering veil. He shook this out and displayed it to the crowd.

"It is the veil of a free woman!" said a man.

Myron handed this to Talena, who accepted it.

"I do not understand," said Marcus.

"It will be all she will be given," said a man, angrily.

"A Cosian joke," said another, "then to be removed from her when they wish."

"Cosian sleen," said a man.

"We must fight," said another.

"We cannot fight," said another. "It is hopeless."

Another fellow moaned.

Myron then, however, from the same package, drew forth a set of the ornate robes of concealment, displaying these to the crowd, as he had done with the veil. These, too, he then delivered to Talena.

"Why are they giving her such garments?" asked a man.

"They are Cosian garments," said a man.

"Perhaps it is that Lurius of Jad is to be the first to look upon her fully, in his pleasure chambers," said a man.

"Woe is Talena," whispered a man.

"Woe is us, woe is Ar!" said another.

"We must fight," said the man, again.

"No, it is hopeless!" said the other.

"No, see!" said another. "He again bows before her. Myron, the polemarkos, bows before our Talena!"

Talena then bowed her head, too, as though shyly, gratefully, before the polemarkos.

"She accepts his respects!" said a man.

"It seems she now wishes to withdraw," said a man.

"Poor modest little Talena!" said another.

To be sure, it seemed that Talena now, overcome with modesty, clutching the garments to her gratefully with one hand and with the other seeming to try to pull down the white robes, to more cover her bared feet, wished to leave the platform.

The hand of Seremides however gently stayed her.

"Modest Talena!" exclaimed a man.

"She is not a slave," said another, glaring angrily at Phoebe who, frightened, in her slave tunic, pressed herself more closely against Marcus.

"Myron will speak," said a man.

The polemarkos, or him I took to be he, then advanced to the front of the platform. Gnieus Lelius, chained, was kneeling to his right.

At the front of the platform, after a pause, Myron began to speak. He spoke in a clear, strong, resounding voice. His accent was Cosian, of course, but it was a high-caste Cosian accent, intelligible to all. Too, he spoke deliberately, and slowly. "I bring greetings," said he, "from my ubar, your friend, Lurius of Jad." He then turned to Talena, who stood somewhat behind him, the hand of Seremides on her arm, as though to supply her with perhaps much-needed kindly support in these trying moments. "First," said Myron, "I bring greetings from Lurius of Jad to Talena of Ar, daughter of Marlenus of Ar, Ubar of Ubars!" Talena inclined her head, accepting these greetings.

"Hail Cos!" cried a fellow in the crowd.

Myron now turned to the crowd.

The impressiveness of greeting Talena first, I had no doubt, had its significance. Also, I noted that she was being accepted as the daughter of Marlenus of Ar by Cos, in spite of the fact that Marlenus had disowned her. In accepting her as the daughter of Marlenus, of course, Cos had made it reasonably clear that they would not be likely to challenge any claims she, or others on her behalf, might make with respect to the succession in Ar. Also, though I did not think Lurius of Jad himself would have approved of Marlenus being spoken of as the ubar of ubars, as he perhaps thought that he himself might better deserve that title, the reference seemed a judicious one on the part of Myron. It was a clear appeal to patriotic sentiment in Ar. And, naturally, this sort of reference to Marlenus would scarcely be expected to tarnish the image of Talena, who was thus implicitly being characterized as the daughter of the ubar of ubars.

"And greetings, too," called Myron, "to our friends and brothers, the noble people of Ar!"

The crowd looked at one another.

"Today," said Myron, "you are free!"

"Hail Cos! Hail Ar!" cried a fellow in the crowd.

"The tyrant, our common enemy," cried Myron, gesturing to Gnieus Lelius, "has been defeated!"

"Kill him!" cried men in the crowd.

"To the walls with him!" cried a fellow.

"Fetch an impaling spear!" cried another.

"Peace, friendship, joy and love," called Myron, "to out brothers in Ar!" One of the members of the High Council, presumably its executive officer, who would have had been directly subordinate to Gnieus Lelius, the regent, in a civilian capacity, as Seremides would have been in a military capacity, stepped forth to respond to Myron, but he was warned back by Seremides. "I speak on behalf of Talena of Ar, daughter of Marlenus of Ar, Ubar of Ubars," called Seremides. "She, in her own name, and of the name of the people and Home Stone of Ar, gives thanks to our friends and brothers of Cos, for the delivery of her city from the tyranny of Gnieus Lelius and for the liberation of her people!" At this point, doubtless by a prearranged signal, the great bars of the Central Cylinder began to ring, and, in moments, so, too, did the other bars about the city, near and far. But it seemed, too, then, for a time, one could scarcely hear the bars, so loud, so unrestrained, so wild, so grateful, so elated and tumultuous, were the cheers of the crowd.

"Hail Cos! Hail Ar!" we heard.

The cries seemed deafening.

On the platform Myron then, and the fellows with him, now reached into the second package, seizing out handfuls of coins, even silver tarsks, and showered them into the crowd. Men seized them as they could. Taurentians stepped back from the crowd's perimeter. No longer was there danger of seething, ignitable surgency. I noted that while Myron and his fellows scattered these coins about, Seremides, waving to the crowd, and Talena, lifting her hand, too, and the High Council, withdrew from the surface of the platform. Also, almost unnoticed a squad of fellows from Cos ascended to the platform. The head of Gnieus Lelius was pushed down to the platform. A chain, about two feet Gorean in length, was put on his neck and attached to the short chain on his neck he could not stand upright, but must, rather, remain bent over, deeply, from the waist. A Taurentian then freed his neck of the heavy collar with the radiating chains, by means of which the children had conducted him to the height of the platform. Gnieus Lelius, then, former regent of Ar, in the motley rags suitable to a comedic mime, his ankles shackled, his upper body wrapped in chains, bent far over, held in this fashion by the short chain between his neck and ankles, trying to keep his balance, taking short steps, was dragged by Cosians from the platform on the leash. He fell twice in my view, after which incidents he was struck by spear butts and pulled rudely again to his feet, to be again hastened, with more blows, on his way south on the Avenue of the Central Cylinder. Some in the crowd, seeing him as he passed, so clad, so hobbled, so helpless, so conducted, pointed and roared with mirth; others cried out hatred and insults, shrieked imprecations upon him, spat upon him, and tried to strike him. "Fool!" cried some. "Buffoon!" cried some. "Tyrant! Tyrant!" cried others. Dressing Gnieus Lelius in the garments of a comedic mime, in effect, a fool, a buffoon, seemed to me a politic decision on the part of the party of treachery in Ar. This would almost certainly preclude not only his return to power, if he should manage to regain his freedom, but even the formation of a party that might favor this. Indeed, even his closest supporters were inclined to grant his dupery. Too, the party of treachery must have realized that many in Ar would know, or surely eventually come to understand, that Gnieus Lelius, whatever might have been his faults as a leader in a time of crisis, was a far cry from a tyrant. If anything, his faults had been on the lines of tolerance, compromise and permissiveness, policies which had allowed Cos and her partisans to operate almost unopposed in the city, policies which had allowed Ar to be taken from him, and from herself. No, they would be likely to say to themselves, he was not a tyrant, but, indeed, he was perhaps a fool.

"Tyrant! Tyrant!" cried men.

Lurius of Jad, of course, would know that Gnieus Lelius was not a tyrant. "Tyrant!" cried men. "Tyrant!"

I looked after Gnieus Lelius.

I assumed he would be taken to Cos.

Perhaps he would eventually adorn the court of Lurius of Jad, as a chained fool. Perhaps he might eventually entertain at banquets, pretending on his leash to be a dancing sleen.

The coins cast forth, Myron lifted his arms to the crowd.

Muchly he was cheered.

Then he, with his fellows, descended the ramp and were in a moment again, utilizing the mounting rings, in the saddle. They then wheeled their mounts and began to move south. His helmet bearer, on his own beast, followed him. showing his face to the crowd was judicious, I thought. It suggested openness, candor, trust, rejoicing. Too, the common Gorean helmet, with its "Y"-shaped aperture, of which his helmet was a variant, tends to have somewhat formidable appearance. He smiled. He waved. Peals of rejoicing rang from the signal bars about the city. The crowds, on both sides of the avenue, cheered. Then the musicians struck up a martial air, and the standards turned about. The forces of Cos, too, about-faced. Then they withdrew, south on the avenue, between cheering crowds. Girls rushed out to give flowers to the soldiers. Some of the men tied them on their spears. "Hail Cos! Hail Ar!" cried hundreds of men. "We are free!" cried others. "Hail our liberators!" called others. "Gratitude to Cos!" cried others. "Hail Lurius of Jad!" cried others. Children were lifted on shoulders to see the soldiers. Thousands of small Cosian pennons, together with pennons of Ar, appeared, waving. Both sides of the street were riots of color and sound. "Hail Lurius of Jad!" cried men. "Hail Seremides!" cried others. "Hail Talena!" cried others. "Hail Talena!"

I looked at Marcus.

Phoebe had her head down, her eyes shut, covering her ears with her hands, so great was the din.

But, in a few Ehn, with the passage of the Cosians south on the avenue, the crowd melted away from us.

Phoebe opened her eyes and removed her hands from her ears, but she kept her head down.

We could trace the withdrawal of the Cosians by the sounds of the crowd, even farther away.

I looked at the platform, deserted now. On that platform, barefoot, Talena had stood. She had worn the robe of a penitent or suppliant. She should have been by custom naked beneath that robe, but I doubted that she had been. I wondered what might have occurred had things turned out differently, and not as planned, say, had Myron removed that robe and found her clothed. I smiled to myself. She might have been killed. At the least she would have soon learned the lash of a man's displeasure, in detail and liberally. But I did not think that she, or Seremides, had feared that eventuality. Surely she was of more use to the party of treachery, in which she doubtless stood high, and to the Cosians, on the throne of Ar than as merely another woman, naked and in chains, gracing a conqueror's triumph. Seremides, too, and Myron, as well, I though, had played their parts well.

As I pondered these things some workmen came forth to dismantle the platform. It had served its purpose. Too, at this time the great bars in the Central Cylinder ceased their ringing. We could still hear the ringing of other bars elsewhere in the city, farther away. Too, far off now, like the sounds of Thassa breaking on a distant shore, we could hear the crowds.

I again considered the platform. On it Talena, of Ar, had stood barefoot. I trusted that she had not injured her feet.

Phoebe now knelt beside Marcus, her head down.

"It is strange," I said to Marcus. "The war betwixt Cos and Ar has ended."

"Yes," he said.

"It is done," I said. "It is over."

"With victory for Cos," said Marcus.

"Complete victory," I said.

Marcus looked down at Phoebe. "You have won," he said.

"Not I," she said.

"Cos has won," he said.

"Cos," she said. "Not I."

"You are Cosian," he said.

"No longer," she said. "I am a slave."

"But doubtless you rejoice in her victory," he said.

"Perhaps Master rejoices," she said, "that Ar, who refused to succor Ar's Station, the city of the slave's master, had now fallen?"

Marcus looked down upon her.

"Am I to be now slain?" she asked, trembling.

"No," he said.

She looked up at him.

"You are only a slave," he said.

Swiftly, weeping, she put down her head to his feet. She laughed and cried, and kissed his feet. Then she looked up at him, through her tears. "But am I no longer to be your little «Cosian»? she asked, laughing.

"You will always be my little Cosian," he said.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"Spread your knees, Cosian," he said.

"Yes, Master!" she laughed.

"More widely!" said he.

"Yes, Master!" she said.

"Slave," said he.

"Your slave, my Master!" she said.

I heard the sound of hammers as the workmen struck boards from the platform. "We should seek lodging," said Marcus.

"Yes," I said.

Phoebe rose to her feet beside her master, clinging to him, pressing herself to him, soft, her head down. He nestled her in his arms. How must she was his! "Tomorrow," said Marcus. "I would conjecture that Myron will have a triumph."

"More likely the Ubar of Cos, by proxy," I said.

"Doubtless its jubilation and pomp will dwarf the celebrations of this morning."

"Ar will do her best, I am sure, to officially welcome, and express her gratitude to, her liberator, the great Lurius of Jad," I said.

"Represented by his captain, and cousin, Myron, polemarkos of Temos," he said. This was Myron's exact title, incidentally. Temos is one of the major cities on the island of Cos. The crowd, of course, or many in it, regarded him simply as the polemarkos, or, say, understandably enough, and, I suppose, correctly enough, as the polemarkos of Cos.

"Of course," I said.

"Seremides will doubtless participate in the triumph," he said.

"He should," I said. "It is his, as well. He has doubtless worked hard and long to realize such a day."

"And Talena," he said.

"Yes," I said.

"You sound bitter," he said.

"Perhaps," I said.

"Myron did not accept the sword of Seremides," he said.

"That is understandable," I said.

"I suppose so," he said.

"Certainly," I said.

The acceptance of the sword would have constituted a public token of the surrender of Ar's forces, foot and cavalry, both tarn and tharlarion. That Myron had refused to accept it publicly on the platform was fully in keeping with the pretense of liberation.

"It is my speculation," I said, "that the sword was surrendered yesterday, in the tent of Myron, or, more likely, before his troops, outside the city, and then, later, privately returned."

"Yes!" said Marcus. "I wager you are right!"

"The troops of the polemarkos would expect such a thing," I said.

"Of course," he said.

"So, too, would Lurius of Jad," I said.

"Yes," he said.

"In any event," I said, "with or without such tokens, the surrender of Ar is complete. It has been clearly and indisputable effected. Resistance to Cos has been ordered to cease. The forces of Ar, such as remain of them, have laid down their arms. They will presumably be soon reduced in numbers, perhaps to handfuls of guardsmen subject to Cosian officers, if not completely disbanded and scattered. Weapons will presumable, in time, be outlawed in the city. Her gates have been burned. I would expect, eventually, that her walls, stone by stone, will be taken down. She will then be utterly vulnerable, dependent completely on the mercies of Cos or her puppets."

"It will be the end of a civilization," said Marcus.

"A civilization of sorts will remain," I said, "and arts of a sort, a literature of a sort, and such things."

"Perhaps Gor will be the better for it," said Marcus, bitterly.

I was silent.

"How will the men retain their manhood?" he asked.

"Perhaps they will manage," I said. I had great respect for the men of Ar. "And what will become of the women?" he asked.

"I do not know," I said. "If the men do not retain their manhood, it will be difficult, or impossible, for the women, at least those who are in relationships to such men, to be women."

"Yes," he said.

"Cos," I said, "is master on Gor." I recalled that Dietrich of Tarnburg had feared such an eventuality, the coming of sovereignty of a major power. Such might mean the end of the free companies.

"Only in a sense," said Marcus.

I regarded him.

"In many cities and lands, indeed, in most parts of the world," he said, "things will be surely much as they were before."

I considered such things as the difficulties of communication, the difficulties of maintaining supply lines, the lengths of marches, the paucity of roads, the isolation of cities, the diversities of cultures and such.

"I think you are right," I said.

It would be merely that Cos would now be the dominant force on the continent. Also, geopolitically, it did not seem likely that Cos could indefinitely maintain her power. Her seat of power was overseas and her forces were largely composed of mercenaries who were difficult to control and expensive to maintain. The recent campaigns of Lurius of Jad must have severely drained the treasury of Cos, and perhaps of Tyros, too, her ally. To be sure, her outlays might now be recouped here and there, for example, from conquered Ar. Cos had succeeded in defeating Ar. It was not so clear, I now realized, that she had managed to guarantee and secure her own hegemony indefinitely. Indeed, with Ar vulnerable and helpless, nullified militarily, if the power of Cos should collapse, a new barbarism might ensue, at least within the traditional boundaries of Ar, a lawless barbarism broken here and there by the existence of minor tyrannies, places where armed men imposed their will.

"I do not hear the bars any longer," said Marcus. "Nor the crowds."

"Nor do I," I said.

It now seemed quiet at the park of the Central Cylinder, save for the sounds of the workmen, striking apart the boards of the platform. Few people, too, were about. Some papers blew across the park, some of them tiny banners of colored paper, banners of both Cos and Ar.

Again I considered the platform. On it Talena had stood, barefoot.

"Look," I said to Marcus, indicating some of the boards removed from the platform and piled to one side.

"What?" he asked.

"The boards," I said, "on their upper surfaces, they are smoothed."

"And from the reflection of light, sealed," he said.

"Yes," I said.

"Doubtless prepared for the feet of the noble Talena," he said.

"Yes," I said.

"Unusual solicitation for a penitent or suppliant," said Marcus.

"Yes," I granted him.

"But we would not wish to risk her little feet, would we?" Marcus asked Phoebe. "No, Master," said Phoebe.

Although Marcus had spoken in irony, Phoebe's response was quite serious, and appropriately so. She did not even begin to put herself in the category of a free woman. An unbridgeable and, to the slave, terrifying chasm separates any free woman on Gor from a slave, such as Phoebe.

"It is regrettable, is it not," Marcus asked Phoebe, "that she was forced to appear degradingly unshod?"

"Yes, Master," said Phoebe, "for she is a free woman."

Indeed, I suppose that it had cost Talena much to be seen in public, barefoot. Phoebe, of course, was barefoot. That is common with slaves.

I watched another board being thrown on the pile.

For the most part the platform was held together by wooden pegs, pounded through prepared holes. In this way I supposed it might be easily reassembled. Perhaps there was some intention that it might be used again, perhaps, say, for the coronation of a ubara.

Then the portion of the platform nearest us was down.

I wondered how Talena might look on another sort of platform, say, on an auction platform, stripped and in chains, being bid upon by men. such a surface, would be likely to be quite smooth to her feet, too, presumably having been worn smooth by the bared feet of numerous women before her.

"Let us seek lodging," said Marcus.

"Very well," I said.

8 The Wall

"I have had the good fortune to be chosen for wall duty," said a youth to his fellow.

"I myself volunteered for it," answered the other.

"Such things are the least we can do," said the first.

"By means of them Ar will become great," said the other.

"Not all values are material," said the first.

"By means of such things we shall visibly demonstrate our love of peace," said the second.

"Without such things," said the first, "our protests of love and brotherhood would be empty."

"Of course," said the other.

"I am weary," said Marcus.

"It is the wagons," I said.

In Gorean cities it is often the case that many streets, particularly side streets, little more than alleys, are too narrow for wagons. Local deliveries in such areas are usually made by porters or carts. Similarly, because of considerations such as congestion and noise, and perhaps aesthetics, which Goreans take seriously, wagons are not permitted on certain streets, and on many streets only during certain hours, usually at night or in the early morning. Indeed, most deliveries, as of produce from the country, not borne on the backs of animals of peasants, are made at night or in the early morning. This is also often the case with goods leaving the city, such as shipments of pottery and linens.

We were walking in the Metellan district, and then turned east toward the Avenue of Turia. Phoebe was heeling Marcus.

This morning, some Ahn before dawn, a convoy of wagons had rattled past our lodgings in the Metallan district, in the insula of Torbon on Demetrios Street. Our room, like many in an insula, had no window there, overlooking the street. Below, guided here and there by lads, with lanterns, were the wagons. There had been a great many of them. Demetrios Street, like most Gorean streets, like no sidewalks or curbs but sloped gently from both sides to a central gutter. The lads with the lanterns, their light casting dim yellow pools here and there on the walls and paving stones, performed an important function. Without some such illumination it is only too easy to miss a turn or gouge a wall with an axle. Marcus had joined me after a time. The wagons were covered with canvas, roped down. It was not the first such convoy which we had seen in the past weeks. "Well," Marcus had asked, "what is being borne?"

"Who knows?" I had asked.

He laughed.

To be sure, we knew, generically, what was being borne. It was not difficult to tell. Normal goods, exports of bar iron, and such, do not move in the city in such numbers. It is true, of course, that sometimes wagons would congregate at meeting places near gates, the wagons, say, of various manufacturers and merchants, and then travel on the roads in convoys, as a protection against brigandage, but in such a case the wagons, having different points of origin, would not form their convoy until in the vicinity of the gates, and, indeed, sometimes outside them, in order to avoid blocking streets. But the formation of such convoys, too, are usually advertised on the public boards, this information being of interest to various folks, say, merchants who might wish to ship goods, teamsters, guards, and such, who might wish employment, and folks wishing to book passage. Sometimes, incidentally, rich merchants can manage a convoy by themselves, but even so they will usually accommodate the wagons of others in their convoys. There is commonly safety in numbers and the greater the numbers usually the greater the safety. A fee is usually charged for entering wagons in a convoy, this primarily being applied to defray the costs of guards. Too, in some cases, it may be applied to tolls, drinking water, provender for animals, and such. Some entrepreneurs make their living by the organization, management and supply of convoys. But these convoys, those of the sort now passing, were not such convoys. For example, they were not advertised. Indeed, many in Ar might not even be aware of them. Another clue as to the sort of convoys they were was that the wagons were not uniform but constituted rather a diverse lot. Some were even street wagons, and not road wagons, the latter generally of heavier construction, built for use outside the city where roads may be little more than irregular paths, uneven, steep, rugged and treacherous. Some Goreans cities, for example, perhaps as a military measure, in effect isolate themselves by the refusal to allocate funds for good roads. Indeed, they often go further by neglecting the upkeep of even those tracks that exist. It can be next to impossible to reach such cities in the spring, because of the rains. Besnit is an example. Beyond this, although many of the wagons were unmarked, many others, in the advertising on their sides, bore clear evidence of their origins, the establishments of chandlers, carders, fullers, coopers, weavers, millers, bakers, and so on, wagons presumably commandeered for their present tasks. As a point this convoy, and those which had preceded it on other days, seemed overstaffed, particularly for the city. Instead of having one driver, or a driver and a fellow, a relief driver or one to help with the unloading, and perhaps a lad to help through the city in the darkness, each wagon had at least four or five full-grown men with it, armed, usually two or three on the wagon box, and another two or three on the cargo itself, on the canvas, or, in some cases, holding to the wagon, riding on sideboards or the step below the wagon gate. Others, too, here and there, were afoot, at the sides.

"Ar bleeds," said Marcus.

"Yes," I had said.

"Where are we going?" asked Marcus, following me.

"I want to see what is going on at the walls," I said.

"The same thing," said he, "as was going on last time."

"I wish to see what progress is being made," I said.

"You merely wish to observe the flute girls," he said.

"That, too," I admitted.

In a few Ehn we were on the Avenue of Turia, one of the major avenues in Ar. It is lined with Tur trees.

"What a beautiful street!" exclaimed Phoebe. The vista, when one comes unexpectedly on it, particularly after the minor side streets, is impressive. Marcus turned about, sharply, and regarded her. She stopped.

"Are you in a collar?" he asked.

"Yes, Master!" she said.

"Are you a slave?" he asked.

"Yes, Master!" she said.

"Do you think," he asked, "that just because I did not slay you on the day of the victory of Cos, that I am weak?"

"No, Master!" she said.

"Or that you may do as you please?"

"No, Master!"

"I decided then to think of you as merely what you are, a slave girl."

"Of course, Master," she said.

"Do you think that any of the fellows of Cos about would free you because you were once of Cos?" he asked.

"No, Master," she said, "for I am now no longer of Cos. I am now no more than an animal, no more than a slave."

"Perhaps then," he said, "you will consider such matters before you next speak without permission."

"Yes, Master," she said.

We then continued on our way.

Marcus, enamored even as he was with every glance and movement, every word and wisp of hair, of his slave, was determined, I was pleased to note, to keep her under perfect discipline. To be sure, he had not beaten her. On the other hand, she had had her warning, and might, the next time, be taught the penalties for such an infringement, in a sense, a daring to exceed her station. Sometimes a girl will court the whip, and even provoke her master. After her whipping, reassured of the strength of her master, and that she will be kept in her place, where she belongs, and wishes to be, she curls gratefully, lovingly, at his feet, eager to serve in all way, his to command. To be sure, I think that Phoebe's outburst was genuinely inadvertent. I was now sure what I would have done in Marcus' place. Perhaps the same thing. Perhaps, on the other hand, I would have cuffed her. I do not know. There are, of course, inadvertences and inadvertences. Usually a girl can tell when she has an implicit permission to speak, that is, for example, when the master would not be likely to object to it, or would even welcome it, and when it would be wise to ask for such permission explicitly. When she is in doubt it would be wise to ask. I myself, incidentally, am occasionally inclined to encourage a certain inventiveness and spontaneity on the part of slaves. On the other hand the girl must always be clearly aware that she is subject, at any time. she is, after all, a slave.

"Did you notice the haircut of that young fellow we just passed?" I asked. "Yes," he said. "It is done in the style of Myron, the polemarkos."

"Yes," I said.

"Here are public boards," said Marcus.

Such are found at various points in Ar, such as the vicinity of squares and plazas, near markets, and on major streets and avenues.

"Is there anything new?" I inquired. I would prefer for Marcus to make out the lettering. He read Gorean fluently.

"Not really," said Marcus. "The usual things, quotations from various officials, testimonials of fidelity to both Cos and Ar, declarations of chagrin and shame by various men of not concerning the crimes of Ar under Gnieus Lelius."

"I see," I said. It was now some two months since the entry of Myron into the city and the subsequent triumph of Lurius of Jad, celebrated a day later in his name by Myron, the polemarkos, in which triumph he, Myron, acting as proxy for Lurius of Jad, was joined by Seremides and Talena, and several weeks after the ascension of Talena to the throne of Ar, as Ubara. Her coronation may have been somewhat less spectacular then Myron's entry into the city and Lurius' subsequent triumph, which may have grated upon her somewhat, but I think it had been impressive enough. The crown of Tur leaves was placed upon her head by Myron, but on behalf of the people and councils of Ar. Seremides and most members of the High Council were in attendance. Certain other members of the High Council were asserted to be indisposed. Some rumors had it that they were under house arrest. A medallion of Ar was also placed about Talena's neck but the traditional medallion, which had been worn by Marlenus, and which he had seldom permitted out of his keeping, and which he may have had with him upon his departure from the city long ago, had not been found. Too, the ring of the Ubar, which in any event would have been too large for the finger of Talena, was not found. But that ring, it was said, had not been in Ar for years. Indeed, it had been rumored in Ar, even before the disappearance of Marlenus, that it had once been lost in the northern forests, upon a hunting expedition. After the medallion, Talena had been given the Home Stone of Ar, that she might hold it in her left hand, and a scepter, a rod of office, signifying power, that she might hold in her right. Her coronation was followed by a declaration of five holidays. The triumph of Lurius of Jad, as I recall, had been followed by ten such days. The chief advisors of the new ubara were Myron of Cos, and Seremides, once of Tyros.

"Here is something," said Marcus, "though I do not gather its import."

"What?" I asked.

"There is a charge to the citizens and councils of Ar to consider how they might make amends for their complicity in the crimes of their city."

"Reparations?" I asked.

"I do not know," said Marcus.

"I would have thought that Ar had already made considerable amend," I said. I recalled the convoys of wagons which had passed by the insula of Torbon on the street of Demetrios.

"Be careful what you say," said a man near me.

"We are guilty," said a man.

"Yes," said another.

"It is only right," said another, "that we should attempt to make amends to our good friends of Cos and others whom we may have injured."

"True," said another man.

Marcus and I then, followed by Phoebe, continued on our way.

"The Home Stone of Ar's Station is no longer exhibited publicly," said Marcus, gloomily.

"I think it will be again," I said.

"Why do you say that?" he asked, interested.

"I have my reasons," I said. "Do not concern yourself with it now."

"The wall seems very bare there," said Marcus, as we passed a public edifice, a court building.

There were also numerous small holes in the wall, chipped at the edges.

"Surely you have noted similar walls," I said.

"Yes," he said.

"Decorative reliefs, in marble, have been removed from them," I said. "As I recall the ones here, they celebrated the feats of Hesius, a perhaps legendary hero of Ar."

"He for whom the month of Hesius is named," said Marcus.

"I presume so," I said. The month of Hesius is the second month of the year in Ar. It follows the first passage hand. In Ar, as in most cities in the northern hemisphere, the new year begins with the vernal equinox.

"Were the marbles here well done?" asked Marcus.

"Though I am scarcely a qualified judge of such things," I said, "I would have thought so. They were very old, and reputed to be the work of the master, Aurobion, though some have suggested they were merely of his school."

"I have heard of him," said Marcus.

"Some think the major figures profited from his hand and that portions of the minor detail, and some of the supportive figures, were the work of students."

"Why would the marbles be removed?" asked Marcus.

"They have antiquarian value, as well as aesthetic value," I said. "I would suppose that they are now on their way to a museum in Cos."

"The decorative marbles on the Avenue of the Central Cylinder, and those about the Central Cylinder itself, and on the Cylinder of Justice are still there," he said.

"At least for the time," I said. The building we had just passed was an extremely old building. Many in Ar were not sure of its age. It may have dated to the first ubarate of Titus Honorious. Many of the functions originally discharged within its precincts had long ago been assumed by the newer Cylinder of Justice, located in the vicinity of the Central Cylinder. Incidentally, many buildings, particularly public buildings, in this part of the city, which was an older part of the city, were quite old. Many smaller buildings, dwellings, shops, insulae, and such, on the other hand, were relatively new. I might also mention, in passing, if only to make the controversy concerning the "Auborbion marbles" more understandable, that many Gorean artists do not sign or otherwise identify their works. The rationale for this seems to be a conviction that what is important is the art, its power, its beauty, and so on, and now who formed it. Indeed many Gorean artists seem to regard themselves as little more than vessels or instruments, the channels or means, the tools, say, the chisels or brushes, so to speak, by means of diversities, in its beauties and powers, its flowers and storms, its laughters and rages, its delicacy and awesomeness, its subtlety and grandeur, expresses itself, and rejoices. Accordingly the Gorean artist tends not so much to be proud of his work as, oddly enough perhaps, to be grateful to it, that it consented to speak through him. As the hunters of the north, the singers of the ice pack and of the long night have it, "No one knows from whence songs come." It is enough, and more than enough, that they come. They dispel the cold, they illuminate the darkness. They are welcomed, in the darkness and cold, like fire, and friendship and love. The focus of the Gorean artist then, at least on the whole, tends to be on the work of art itself, not on himself as artist. Accordingly this attitude toward his art is less likely to be one of pride than one of gratitude. This makes sense as, in his view, it is not so much he who speaks as the world, in its many wonders, great and small, which speaks through him. He is thusly commonly more concerned to express the world, and truth, than himself.

"Let us turn right here," I said.

We then left the Avenue of Turia and were once again on a side street. Many Gorean streets, incidentally, do not have specific names, particularly from one end to the other, some being known by one designation here and another there. Indeed, sometimes a long, winding street will have several names, depending on its turns and so on. Others may have no names really, in themselves, but are referred to, for example, as the street on which Sabor has his smithy, and so on. This becomes more intelligible if one thinks of "alleys." For example, alleys seldom have names. So, too, many Gorean streets, particularly those that are smaller and much like alleys, may not have names. One may usually hire a lad from the district to direct inquiries of fellows in the area. In such inquiries, the male will normally speak to a male, and the female to a female. This has to do not only with matters of propriety, enshrined in Gorean custom, but also with common-sense security measures. For example, a woman would not wish to seem forward, nor, in effect, to be calling herself to the attention of a strange male, which can be dangerous on Gor, and a woman, a free woman, might be well advised not to respond to the accostings of a strange male. He might even be a slaver, or a slaver's man, interested in seeing if she had a pleasing voice, one suitable for a slave. Similarly if she responds to a strange male this may be taken as evidence that she is eager to please a man and obey, two attributes which suggest her readiness, even immediately, for his collar. One may, of course, make such inquiries of slave girls. In such a case they are expected to kneel immediately, being in the presence of a free man, or person, and be as helpful as possible. It is desirable, incidentally, for the girls of a district to know the district well, in case they are asked for directions and such. If they do not know the information desired, it is sensible on their part to keep their head very low, even to the stones, or even to belly to the interlocutor. This may save them a cuffing or kick. This street, however, had a name. It was Harness Street, apparently so called from long ago when it was once a locale of several harness makers. The "harness makers" on Gor, provide not just harnesses but an entire line of associated products, such as saddles, bridles, reins, hobblings and tethers. Presumably the harness makers on this street would not have dealt in slave harnesses. That product would have been more likely to have been, as it still was, available on the "Street of Brands," a district in which are found many of the houses of slavers, sales barns, sales arenas, holding areas, boarding accommodations, training facilities, and shops dealing with product lines pertinent to slaves, such as collars, cosmetics, jewelry, perfumes, slave garb, chains, binding fiber and disciplinary devices. In such a district one may have a girl's septum or ears pierced. There are many varieties of slave harness, incidentally, with various purposes, such as discipline, display and security. Many of them are extremely lovely on a woman, and many, by such adjustments as cinching, tightening, and buckling, may be fitted closely and exquisitely to the individual slave.

"Look," I said, "there is a woman in garments of Cosian cut."

"I wonder how she would look on her knees, in a slave rag," said Marcus. "I do not know," I said.

"Undoubtedly quite well," he said.

"I would suppose so," I said. After all, most women do.

"Talena of Ar, as you know," said Marcus, "now affects the garments of Cos."

"I have heard that," I said.

We now crossed the Alley of the Slave Brothels of Ludmilla, actually a reasonably large street.

"You need not look at the establishments on this street," Marcus informed Phoebe.

"Yes, Master," she said, putting her head down, smiling.

I recalled my first visit to one of the slave brothels on the street, the Tunnels. I recalled one of its slaves, a former Earth girl. She had been slight but well curved for her size and weight. She had had red hair. Her name, perhaps originally her Earth name, but now on her as a slave name, had been "Louise." In my arms, as I recalled, she had learned to be pleasing. I also recalled a blond free woman acquired later in the same place, the Lady Lydia, of the High Merchants, whose wealth had been in gems and land, a tenant even of the Tabidian Towers. I had sold her to a slaver. A few nights ago I had returned to the Tunnels but had learned that Louise had been purchased long ago by some sturdy young fellow who had been quite taken with her, finding her extraordinarily pliant, eager and exciting. The brothel mistress could not recall his name. On the other hand, she had speculated that he would prove to be an exacting, stern and strong master to the former Earth girl, such as she required. She did inform me that the girl had accompanied her new master joyfully. I hoped that my instruction to the girl had been of some use in bringing about this development, instruction primarily profitable to her with respect to her nature and its correct relationship to that of the male. The blonde, who had been highly placed in the society of Ar, would presumably have been sold out of the city long ago. In another city, of course, she would be only another slave.

We then continued east on Harness Street.

"Did you enjoy the performance at the great theater last night?" I asked. "Of course," said Marcus. "It was just the way to spend a long evening, prior to having one's sleep interrupted before dawn by a wagon convoy."

"I thought you might like it," I said.

The performance, a pageant, had been called "The Glory of Cos," and the famed Milo, the city's most famous actor, though a slave, had played the part of Lurius of Jad. The roofed stage of the great theater, usually called that, though technically, it was the theater of Pentilicus Tallux, a poet of Ar, of over a century ago, best known for his poems in the delicate trilesiac form and two sensitive, intimate dramas, was over a hundred yards in width, and some twenty yards in depth. This incredible stage, although only the center portions of it were used on many occasions, lent itself to large-scale productions, such as circuses and spectacles. It could easily accommodate a thousand actors. Too, given its strength, ponderous tharlarion, together with numerous other beasts, wagons and such, could appear on it, as they had last night, for example, in staged battles, in which Lurius of Jad, by personal intervention and at great personal risk, again and again turned the tide, and triumphal processions, as at the climax of the pageant.

"Did you enjoy the pageant?" I asked Phoebe.

"Yes, Master!" she said.

"I thought I heard you gasp when Milo first appeared on the stage," said Marcus. "He is very handsome in his costume, Master," she said.

"Undoubtedly," said Marcus.

"Surely master is not jealous?" inquired Phoebe, delightedly.

"No," he snarled.

"You may beat me tonight, if you wish," she said.

"I may beat you any night, if I wish," he said.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"By count," I said, "I think that some eleven free women were carried fainted, or helpless, from the theater."

"Surely no more than one or two," said Marcus.

"No, eleven," I said.

"Master is a thousand times more handsome than Milo," said Phoebe.

"Apparently you do wish the lash," he said.

"No, Master!" she said.

"Am I really so handsome?" asked Marcus.

"To me, Master," she said.

"Hmmmm," said Marcus, considering this, I speculate. He was, I think, a good-looking young chap. To be sure, he may not have been quite as handsome as I.

"Of course I am only one woman," she said.

"And only a female slave," he said.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"Still," he said, "you are a woman."

"But only a female slave," she said.

"True," he said.

Phoebe, I think, in her way, was having her vengeance. For example, when we had passed by various open-air markets, shelf markets, and such, many of the girls, nude in their chains, usually fastened by the neck or ankle to heavy iron rings, had clearly, to the fury of Phoebe, in posings, and by means of subtle glances, and such, attempted to call themselves to the attention of the young warrior. Only too obviously would they have welcomed being his slaves.

"Probably some women would regard me as being less handsome than Milo," he mused.

"Perhaps, Master," she said.

"Probably at least eleven," I said.

"I did not note women swooning over the sight of you," said Marcus.

"It was dark," I reminded him.

To be sure, as is well known, and doubtless fortunately for we who are not Milos, the attractiveness of a man to woman is seldom based on physiognominal regularities. For example, men who are not in any normal sense handsome, sometimes even grotesquely irregular men, often exercise an enormous fascination over beautiful women. Women tend to respond to a great variety of properties in a male, few of which are directly correlated with facial symmetries. Among such properties are initiative, will, command, intelligence, strength, and power, in short, with characteristics appropriate to a master. Too, of course, with women, who are enormously sensitive, complex, marvelous creatures, can hope for, welcome, and respond to, such things as tenderness, gentleness, and softness. Here one must be careful, however, to distinguish between the tenderness of the strong man, who is truly strong, and the softness of the weakling, who is merely weak. Tenderness, gentleness, and such, become meaningful only in the context of, and against a background of, a temporarily suspended, perhaps even momentarily suspended, strength and command. Only she who is truly at the mercy of a male, and his slave, and under his discipline, can truly appreciate the value of such things.

"We are coming to the Wall Road," said Marcus. This is the longest road, or street, in Ar. It follows the interior circumference of the wall. It is not only a convenience to citizens but it enables troops to be moved rapidly from point to point in the defenses.

I could hear the flutes.

In attending the great theater last night we had conceded to public opinion, or, more particularly, to the sensibilities of free women, clothing Phoebe modestly, or at least somewhat modestly. Indeed, had we not, we would probably not have been permitted within with her. First we drape a sheet about her. This, with a piece of cloth, we rigged a veil. After this we drew the sheet up in the back and put it about her head, that it might also serve as a hood. Phoebe herself, of course, held the sheet about her. When we were finished we thought it a job rather well done, an approximation to the robes of concealment, hood and veil. Little more than Phoebe's soft, dark eyes and the bridge of her nose could be seen, except of course, at the bottom, where one might detect her bared ankles and feet. We did not think that Phoebe could relax he vigilance in clutching the sheet about her. She was naked beneath it. Marcus did not want her to forget that she was a slave. Slaves, incidentally, may attend various such functions, particularly those intended for a general audience. Indeed, sometimes masters, with their individual slave or slaves, and even owners of feast slaves, (pg. 113) managers of slave house, taverns, and brothels, and such, will bring a chain of slaves to various events, such as races, contests, games or performances. Private masters, for example, often relish the company of their slaves at such events, and public masters, so to speak, recognize the value of such outings for slaves, as stimulation and recreation. Also the give the master more power over the girl. What girl wishes to be left behind, in her kennel, while her chain sisters enjoy an evening at the theater or games? Marcus had had a brief altercation with the taker of ostraka at the entrance, not wishing to pay an entrance fee, or at least the entire entrance fee, for a slave. The taker of ostraka, however, had been adamant, pleading policy and arguing cogently that even a sleen or verr would have to pay, as they would occupy space in the house. Too, what if a fellow were to bring in ten thousand free slaves? Then there would be little room even for free folk. Too, think of all the money the house would lose. For example, their presence is sometimes prohibited at certain song dramas and concerts. Similarly, they may not enter temples. In such cases, facilities are usually provided for their custody, usually a walled enclosure, sometimes adjoining the structure, or sets of posts or rings, for their chaining.

"Hold!" said a voice.

Marcus and I stopped, and Phoebe knelt beside Marcus, back a bit, in close heeling position.

"You are armed," said the voice. He was in uniform of a guardsmen of Ar, but his accent was Cosian. There were still guardsmen of Ar, native guardsmen of Ar, in the city, but their numbers had been considerably reduced and they were generally assigned duties of low responsibility. Even then they were under the command of Cosian officers. Putting Cosians in the uniforms of guardsmen of Ar, of course, did suggest that they were, at least in one sense or another, guardsmen of Ar. Surely, at least, they were guardsmen in Ar. Perhaps the folks of Ar found this sort of thing reassuring, or, at least, less objectionable then if the fellows seemed a foreign garrison force, clad openly in Cosian uniform. This is not to deny that there were Cosian regulars, in Cosian uniform, in the city, in numbers. Too, may Cosian mercenaries were in the city, with their identifying armbands, scarves, and such. Myron, probably intelligently, however, had limited the numbers of such mercenaries who might enter the city at any one time. some incidents had occurred nonetheless, such as the destruction of property in various taverns and the vandalization of certain buildings, for example, baths and libraries. Certain shops had apparently also been looted, though no mention of this had appeared on the public boards. The armed forces of Ar had been disbanded, of course, both foot and cavalry, both tharlarion and tarn. Not even border patrols had been retained. Beasts and equipment were acquired by Cos. Most of these men had left the vicinity of the city. I did not know what might become of them. Doubtless they would seek various employments. Perhaps some would become brigands. Some, of course, remained in the city, perhaps hoping to hire into the guardsmen.

"Yes," I said.

"Are you of Ar?" asked the guardsman.

"No," I said.

"What is your employment?" asked the guardsman.

"I seek employment," I said.

"You are not of Ar?"

"No," I said.

"Can you use that blade?" he asked.

"Passably," I said.

"There may be employment for such as you," he said. "Men are needed."

"May we pass?" I asked.

"What do you wish here," he asked, "if you are not of Ar?"

"To see the progress of the works," I said.

He laughed. "And the flute girls?" he said.

"Surely," I said.

"Pass," he said.

We then continued on our way. The carrying of weapons, and even their possession, was now illegal for citizens of Ar, exceptions being made for guardsmen and such. The populace of Ar, then, was disarmed. This was reputedly for its own protection. Compliance with the disarmament laws was also taken as a fitting token of good will on the part of those of Ar, and an indication both of their good intentions and of their zealous desire for peace. Too, it was called to their attention that arms were now unnecessary, given the blessings of peace, attendant upon the liberation.

"It will be only a matter of time," said Marcus, "before weapons will be altogether illegal in the city."

"Except for those authorized to carry them," I said.

"Cosians," he said.

"And such," I said.

"You noticed how he inquired into our employments?" said Marcus.

"Of course," I said.

"Soon," he said, "there will be regulations about such things, and papers, and permits, and ostraka, and such."

"I would suppose so," I said. To be sure, I had an idea that an employment, and in the fee of Cos, might fit in with my plans, and perhaps those of Marcus, as well.

"It will be worse than under Gnieus Lelius," he said.

"Yes," I said. I supposed that Gnieus Lelius was now on his way to Cos. Perhaps he was already there.

"Perhaps Milo can save Ar," he said.

"Do not be bitter," I said.

I myself had rather enjoyed the pageant glorifying Cos, or, as it actually turned out, Lurius of Jad. The production had been well designed, well staged, brilliantly costumed, and impressively acted. Indeed, it is hard to get a thousand actors on a stage without being impressive in one way or another. Too, I had to admit, in spite of misgivings on the subject, that Milo was a handsome fellow, and certainly played a part well. It was somewhat ironic to see Lurius of Jad, whom I had once seen, a corpulent slug of a man, portrayed by such a godlike fellow as Milo, but then that was probably in the best interests of the drama's intent, and artistic license, as I understand it, permits such occasional thespic peccadilloes.

"I think that drama must have lasted five Ahn," said Marcus.

"Probably no more than three," I said. "Did you enjoy the fellow who played the wicked, conniving Gnieus Lelius?"

"Of course," said Marcus. "I had not realized thitherto that even a demented sleen could be so wicked."

"You just did not have your mind on the drama," I said.

"That is perhaps true," said Marcus, perking up.

"You just did not realize that Phoebe could be so fetching, completely concealed," I said.

"But underneath the sheet naked," Marcus reminded me.

"You could not wait to get her home," I said.

"Perhaps," he said.

No sooner had he had Phoebe inside the door to our room in the insula than he had torn the sheet and veil from her and flung her on her belly on the straw-filled mat, then leaping upon her with a cry of joy.

"Do you think others knew she was naked?" he asked.

"From the glances, and expressions, I think a free woman to two suspected it," I said. One had sneered "Slave!" to Phoebe, to which Phoebe had put down her head saying, "Yes, Mistress." There had been little difficulty, of course, in folks knowing that Phoebe was a slave, given, for example, that her primary covering was a sheet and that her feet were bared. Too, during intermissions Marcus knelt her at his feet, with her head down.

"Let them crawl naked before a man, fearing his whip," said Marcus.

"Free women?" I said.

"Well," said Marcus, irritably, "collar them first."

"I would hope so," I said.

To be sure, it is pleasant to have free women in such a predicament. It helps them to understand that fate which is to be shortly theirs.

"I do not like Milo," said Marcus.

"You are angry because he is such a handsome fellow," I said.

"The drama was a poor one," said Marcus.

"Not at all," I said.

"It was a waste of money," said Marcus.

"Phoebe liked it," I said.

"What does she know?" asked Marcus.

"She is a highly intelligent, well-educated women," I said.

"A slave," he said.

"Now," I said. Many Goreans enjoy owning highly intelligent, well-educated women. It is pleasant to have them at your feet, yours, begging, eager to please you, knowing, too, that if they do not, they will be punished. To be sure, thousands of sorts of women make excellent slaves, each in their different ways. It had cost three full coppers for our admission to the pageant, and one of those was for Phoebe. The first performance of the pageant, several days ago, had been attended by Talena, the Ubara. I had not been able to obtain admission ostraka for that performance, as it was apparently restricted. I had lingered by her path to the theater, with others in a crowd, but I had been able to see only her palanquin, its curtains drawn, borne not by slaves but by stout fellows apparently of the staff of the Central Cylinder. The palanquin, too, was surrounded by guardsmen, either of Ar or Cos. It interested me that the Ubara, so popular in the city, presumably, should require so much security. Behind the palanquin, on tharlarion, side by side, had ridden Seremides, formerly high general Ar, now, in peacetime, first minister to her majesty, the Ubara, and Myron, the polemarkos of Temos. Seremides, to be sure, now as captain, high captain, retained command of the palace guard, the Taurentians. There were probably some twenty-five hundred of these fellows in the city. I had not seen Talena when she had left the palanquin, for she had done so within the theater's outer concourse, hidden from the street. That she now wore the garments of Cos I had heard, but I had not seen her in them.

We could now hear the flute music quite clearly.

"There!" I said, startled.

I had not realized that so much had been done since my last visit to this area. I hurried forward, to the Wall Road.

A gigantic breach, over four hundred yards in width, had been made in the wall. The bottom of the breach was still some forty or fifty feet high. The edges of is tapered up to the height of the wall on each side, in this area, some hundred to a hundred and twenty feet Gorean above the pavement. The breach swarmed with human beings. Stone after stone was being tumbled down from the walls, to the outside of the city. These, I had heard, on the other side, were being lifted to wagons and carted away. On the walls were not only men of Ar, and male youth, but women and girls, as well.

I stood on the Wall Road, back near Harness Street. Here I was about a hundred feet back from the wall. In moment or two Marcus was again beside me, and Phoebe behind him, on his left. The girl normally heels a right-handed master on the left, that she not encumber the movements of the weapon hand.

"Much progress had been made since last we came here," I said.

"About the walls, here and there, thousands apply themselves," he said.

This was not the only breach in the walls, of course, but it was that which was nearest to our lodgings. Here some hundreds, at least, were laboring. Others, of course, on the other side of the wall, would be gathering up tumbled stone, loading it and removing it from the area. The walls of Ar, in effect, had become a quarry. This would, I suppose, depress the market for stone in various cities, perhaps even as far away as Venna. There were many uses for such stone, but most had to do with materials for building, paving and fill. Much of the stone would be pounded into gravel by prisoners and slaves far from the city. This gravel was used mainly for bedding primary roads and paving secondary roads. There were, at present, nineteen such breaches about the city. These breaches, multiplying the avenues of possible assault on the city, were not randomly located. They were set at tactically optimum sites for such assaults and distributed in such a manner as to require the maximum dispersal of defensive forces. The pursued objective, of course, was to multiply and join breaches, until the razing of the walls of Ar was complete.

"Although I hate Ar," said Marcus, "this sight fills me with sorrow."

"You hate not Ar," I said, "but those who betrayed her, and Ar's Station."

"I despise Ar, and those of Ar," he said.

"Very well," I said.

We continued to regard the work on the walls.

Here and there upon the walls, among those working, were silked flute girls, sometimes sitting cross-legged on large stones, above the heads of workers, sometimes moving about among the workers, some strolling, playing, at other times turning and dancing. Some were also on the lower level, even on the Wall Road.

"Many of the flute girls seem pretty," said Marcus.

"Yes," I said. To be sure, we were rather far from them.

"It is a joke of Lurius of Jad, I gather," said Marcus, "that the walls of Ar should be torn down tot he music of flute girls."

"I would think so," I said.

"What an extreme insult," he said.

"Yes," I said.

"You will note," he said, "that many of the girls sit cross-legged."

"Yes," I said.

"They should be beaten," he said.

"Yes," I said.

On Gor men sit cross-legged, not women. The Gorean female, whether free or slave, whether of low caste or high caste, kneels. This posture on the part of a woman, aping that of men, is a provocation. I had seen panther girls in the north, in their desire to repudiate their own nature, and in their envy of men, adopt such a posture. To be sure, such women, reduced to slavery, quickly learn to kneel and usually, considering their new status, with their knees widely apart. The cross-legged posture of several of the flute girls was undoubtedly an insolence, intended as a further insult to the citizens of Ar.

"Why is it that the men do not punish them?" asked Marcus.

"I do not know," I said.

"Perhaps they are afraid to," he said.

"I think rather it had to do with the new day in Ar, and the new understandings."

"What do you mean?" he said.

"Officially," I said, "the music of the flute girls is supposed to make the work more pleasant."

"Who believes that?" asked Marcus.

"Many may pretend to, or even manage to convince themselves of it," I said. "What of the provocative posture?" asked Marcus. "Surely the insult of that is clear enough to anyone."

"It is supposedly a time of freedom," I said. "Thus why should a good fellow of Ar object if a flute girl sits in a given fashion? Is not everyone to be permitted anything?"

"No," said Marcus, "freedom is for the free. Others are to be kept in line, and exactly so. Society depends on divisions and order, each element stabilized perfectly in it harmonious relationship with all others."

"You do not believe, then," I asked, "that everyone is the same, or must be supposed to be such, despite all evidence to the contrary, and that society thrives best as a disordered struggle?"

Marcus looked at me, startled.

"No," I said. "I see that you do not."

"Do you believe such?" he asked.

"No," I said. "Not any more."

We returned our attention to the wall.

"They work cheerfully, and with a will," said Marcus, in disgust.

"It is said that even numbers of the High Council, as a token, have come to the wall, loosened a stone, and tumbled it down."

"Thus do they demonstrate their loyalty to the state," he said.

"Yes," I said.

"The state of Cos," he said, angrily.

"Many high-caste youth, on the other hand, work side by side with low-caste fellows, dismantling the wall."

"They are levied?" asked Marcus.

"Not the higher castes," I said.

"They volunteer?" he asked.

"Like many of these others," I said.

"Incredible," said he.

"Youth is idealistic," I said.

"Idealistic?" he asked.

"Yes," I said. "They are told that this is a right and noble work, that it is a way of making amends, of atoning for the faults of their city, that it is in the interests of brotherhood, peace, and such."

"Exposing themselves to the blades of strangers?" he asked.

"Perhaps Cos will protect them," I said.

"And who will protect them from Cos?" he asked.

"Who needs protection from friends?" I asked.

"They are not at Ar's Station," he said. "They were not in the delta."

"Idealism comes easier to those who have seen least of the world," I said. "They are fools," said Marcus.

"Not all youth are fools," I said.

He regarded me.

"You are rather young yourself," I said.

"Anyone who cannot detect the insanity of dismantling their own defenses is a fool," said Marcus, "whether they are a young fool or an old one."

"Some are prepared to do such things as a proof of the good will, of their sincerity," I said.

"Incredible," he said.

"But many youth," I said, "as others, recognize the absurdity of such things."

"Perhaps Gnieus Lelius was such a youth," said Marcus.

"Perhaps," I said.

"Perhaps he may reconsider his position, in his cage," said Marcus.

"He has undoubtedly already done so," I said.

"Much good it will do him now," said Marcus.

"Look," I said, "the children."

We saw some children to one side, on the city side of the Wall Road. They had put up a small wall of stones, and they were now pushing it down.

On the wall, in the trough of the breach, we saw four men rolling a heavy stone toward the field side of the wall. A flute gild was parodying, or accompanying, their efforts on the flute, the instrument seeming to strain with them, and then, when they rolled the stone down, she played a skirl of descending notes on the flute, and, spinning about, danced away. The men laughed.

"I have seen enough," said Marcus.

There was suddenly near us, startling us, another skirl of notes on a flute, the common double flute. A flute girl, come apparently from the wall side of the Wall Road, danced tauntingly near us, to our right, and, with the flute, while playing, gestured toward the wall, as though encouraging us to join the others in their labor. I, and Marcus, I am sure, were angry. Not only had we been startled by the sudden, intrusive music, which the girl must have understood would have been the case, but we resented the insinuation that we might be such as would of our own will join the work on the wall. Did she think we were of Ar, that we were the conquered, the pacified, the confused, and fooled, the verbally manipulate, the innocuous, the predictable, the tamed? She was an exciting brunet, in a short tunic of diaphanous silk. She was slender, and was probably kept on a carefully supervised diet by her master or trainer. Her dark eyes shone with amusement. She pranced before us, playing. She waved the flute again toward the wall.

We regarded her.

She again gestured, playing, toward the wall.

I had little doubt that she assumed from our appearance in this are that we were of Ar.

We did not move.

A gesture of annoyance crossed her lovely features. She played more determinedly, as though we might not understand her intent.

Still we did not move.

Then, angrily, she spun about, dancing, to return to her former post near the wall side of the Wall Road. She was attractive, even insolently so, at the moment, in the diaphanous silk.

"You have not been given permission to withdraw," I said.

She turned about, angrily, holding the flute.

"You are armed," she suddenly said, perhaps then for the first time really noting this homely face.

"We are not of Ar," I said.

"Oh," she said, standing her ground, trembling a little.

"Are you accustomed to standing in the presence of free men?" I asked.

"I will kneel if it will please you," she said.

"If you do not kneel," I said, "it is possible that I may be displeased." She regarded me.

"Kneel!" I said.

Swiftly she knelt.

I walked over to her and, taking her by the hair, twisting it, she crying out, turned her about and threw her to her belly on the Wall Road.

She sobbed in anger.

Marcus and I crouched near her.

"Oh!" she said.

"She is not in the iron belt," said Marcus.

"That is a further insult to those of Ar," I said, "that they would put unbelted flute girls among them."

"Yes," growled Marcus.

The tone of his voice, I am sure, did nothing to set our fair prisoner at ease. Flute girls, incidentally, when hired from the master, to entertain and serve at parties, are commonly unbelted, that for the convenience of the guests.

"She is not unattractive," I said.

"Oh!" she said, as I pulled her silk muchly away, tucking it then in and about the slender girdle of silken cord at her waist.

"No," said Marcus. "She is not unattractive."

"What are you going to do with me?" she asked.

"You have been an insolent slave," I said.

"No," she said. "No!"

"You have not been pleasing," I said.

"You do not own me!" she said. "You are not my master!"

"The discipline of a slave," I said, "may be attended to by any free person, otherwise she might do much what she wished, provided only her master did not learn of it." The legal principle was clear, and had been upheld in several courts, in several cities, including Ar.

I then stood.

"Lash her," I said to Marcus.

"Please no, Master!" she suddenly cried.

I was pleased to note that she, as she was a slave, had now recollected to address free men by the title of "Master'.

Marcus used his belt for the business, slipping the knife in its sheath, and his pouch, from it, and handing them to me. He also gave me his over-the-shoulder sword belt as well, that he might not be encumbered.

Then the disciplined slave lay trembling on her belly, her eyes wide, her cheeks tear-stained, her hands beside her head, the tips of her fingers on the stones. "I gather," I said, "that the discipline to which you have been recently subject has been lax. Perhaps therefore you should be further beaten."

"No, Master!" she cried. "Please no, master! Forgive me, Master! Forgive me, Master!"

"Are you sorry for the error of your ways?" I asked.

"Yes, Master!" she said. "Please forgive me, Master!"

Her contrition seemed to me authentic.

"What is your name?" I asked.

"Whatever Master pleases!" she sobbed.

"Come now," I said.

"Tafa, if it pleased maser," she said. That is a common slave name on Gor.

"Do you repent of the error of your ways?" I asked.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"Who repents of the error of her ways?" I asked.

"Tafa repents of the error of her ways," she said.

"Who is sorry, who begs forgiveness?" I asked.

"Tafa is sorry! Tafa begs forgiveness!" she said.

"I wonder if you should be further beaten," I said.

The belt, doubled, hung loosed in Marcus' hand.

"Please, no, Master," begged the girl.

I turned to Phoebe. "Are you distressed?" I asked.

"No, Master," said Phoebe, "certainly not. She was an errant slave. She should have been punished."

Tafa groaned.

"Indeed," said Phoebe, "it seems to me that she got off quite lightly. I myself believe she should have been whipped even more."

"Please no, Mistress," begged Tafa.

"I am not 'mistress', " said Phoebe. "I, too, am only a slave."

It was natural enough, in the circumstances, for Tafa to have addressed Phoebe as "Mistress." As Tafa was currently subject to us, and Phoebe was with us, this put Phoebe in a position of de facto priority to her. For example, in a group of female slaves, for example, in a pleasure gardens, a fortress or a tavern, there will usually be a girl appointed First Girl. Indeed, if there is a large number of slaves, there are sometimes hierarchies of "first girls," lower-level first girls reporting to higher-level first girls, and so on. The lower-level slaves will commonly address their first girl as "Mistress." Thus, in some situations, the same girl may be first girl to certain girls and be subordinated herself to another, on a higher level, whom she will address as "Mistress." Sometimes a hierarchy is formed in which girls are ranked in such a manner that each must address the girls above her as "Mistress." More commonly, it is only the lowest slave, usually the newest slave, who must do this with all the others, whereas the others will address only their first girl as "Mistress," and, of course, any free woman whom they might, to their risk, or peril, encounter. Technically the lowest of free women, of the lowest caste, is immeasurably above even the highest of slaves, even the preferred slave of a ubar. Sometimes a ubar will even had his preferred slave serve in a low-caste hovel one day a year, under the command, and switch, of a low-caste free woman, performing her labors, and such, that she may be reminded that she is truly, when all is said and done, only a slave, as much as the lowest of the kettle-and-mat-girls in the most wretched of hovels, crowded about the walls of a small city.

"The decisions as to the discipline of slave will be made by the masters," I reminded Phoebe.

"Yes, Master," said Phoebe. "Forgive me, Master."

Phoebe's zeal to see an errant slave punished, and suitably, was a quite natural one, of course. The girl was a slave, and had not been pleasing. Thus it was appropriate, even imperative, that she be punished, more broadly, order and structure in human life, stability in society, even, in a sense, civilization itself, depends upon sanctions, and to impose them reliably and efficiently. A lapse in such resolve and practice is a symptom of decline, even of impending disintegration. Ultimately civilization depends upon power, moral and physical, upon, so to speak, the will of masters and the reality of the whip and sword. It might be added, incidentally, that Phoebe, herself a slave, in moral consistency, fully accepted this same principle, at least intellectually, in her own case. She accepted, in short, as morally indisputable, the rightfulness of herself being punished if she should fail to be pleasing. Also, accepting this principle, and knowing the strength and resolve of her master, and the uncompromising reality of the discipline under which she herself was held, she was naturally disinclined to see others escape sanctions and penalties to which she herself was subject. Why should others be permitted lapses, faults and errors, particularly ones in which they took arrogant pride, for which she herself would promptly and predictably suffer? Accordingly, slave girls are often zealous to see masters immediately and mercilessly correct even small lapses in the behavior of their chain sisters. It pleases them. Phoebe herself, it might be mentioned, had very seldom been lashed, particularly since the day of Myron's entrance into the city when Marcus had finally accepted her as a mere slave., as opposed to a Cosian woman in his collar, to be sure, enslaved, on whom he could vent his hatred of Cos and things Cosian. The general immunity to the lash which was experienced by Phoebe, of course, was a function of her excellence as a slave. Excellent slaves are seldom beaten, for there is little, if any, reason to do so. To be sure, such a girl, particularly a love slave, occasionally desires to feel the stroke of the lash, wanting to feel pain at the hands of a beloved master, wanting to be whipped by him because she loves him, in this way symbolizing to herself her relationship to him, that of slave to master, her acceptance of that relationship, and her rejoicing in it. To be sure, she is soon likely to be merely, again, a whipped slave, begging her master for mercy.

"Look!" laughed Phoebe, looking toward the prone slave.

The slave, sobbing, had lifted her body.

"Scandalous slave!" laughed Phoebe.

The slave groaned.

"Apparently you do not wish to be further beaten," I said.

"No, Master," said the slave.

"You wish to placate masters?" I asked.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"Slave, slave!" laughed Phoebe.

"Yes, Mistress," whispered the slave.

"She is such a slave," said Phoebe.

"She is a female," I said.

"Yes, Master," said Phoebe.

I was amused by Phoebe's attitude. Indeed, I found it delightfully ironic. Many was the time I had seen her so lift herself to Marcus, hoping to avert his wrath.

I looked down at the slave.

She was tense, and hardly moved.

I handed Marcus his things, piece by piece, the sheath, with its knife, and the pouch, both for his belt, and the sword belt, with its scabbard and blade, to be slung over the left shoulder. I then crouched down beside the slave.

"Master?" she asked.

I pushed her down to the stones, so that her belly was flat on them.

"Master?" she asked.

"Do you beg use?" I asked.

"Yes, Master!" she whispered, tensely.

"Perhaps some other time," I said.

"Do not kill me," she said.

I took my knife and, from the back of her head, gathered together a large handful of her long dark hair, and then cut it off, close to the scalp. I then, using her hair, bound her hands together behind her back.

"You have not earned a use," I said.

I then cut another gout of her hair from the back of her head and used it to tie the flute about her neck. I did not crop the hair about her head with the knife, rather in the manner of shaving it off, as is sometimes done as a punishment for female slaves. I did no more than take the two gouts. To be sure, these two gouts, thick as they were, cleared an irregular space of several square inches of the back of her head. This cleared area, thought not evident from the front, was only too obvious from the back. it would doubtless occasion much merriment upon its discovery by her chain sisters, as she was a beauty, and might be envied by them. Too, given her personality, I suspected that they would be likely to find her plight even more amusing. Perhaps she could wear a scarf for a time, or have her hair shortened or tied in such a way as to conceal or minimize the rather liberal extent of this local cropping. One advantage of shaving a girl's head, incidentally, is the duration of the punishment. It is recalled to her, for example, every time she touches her head or sees her reflection. By the time it had grown out, and even by the time that it begins to grow out a little, she had usually determined to do all in her power to be such that her master will permit her to keep her hair. if he wishes, or thinks it judicious, of course, he may keep her with a shaved head. It might also be noted that certain slaves, rather as an occupational mark or precaution, for example, girls working in foundries and mills, often have their heads shaved. Too, it is common to have a girl completely if she it to be transported in a slave ship. This is to protect her against vermin of various sort, in particular, lice. I dragged the slave up to her knees and knelt her before us. She trembled, daring not to meet our eyes.

"Go to the other flute girls," I said, "to all those about whether on the street or on the wall. Inform them that their work for the day is finished."

"Master?" she said.

"Tell them to hurry home to their chains."

"Master!" she said.

"Do you understand?" I asked.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"Do you dally in the carrying out of a command?" I asked.

"No, Master!" she said, and leaped to her feet, running across the Wall Road, her hands tied behind her, wisps of silk fluttering about her waist, the flute dangling from her neck.

"She is very pretty," said Marcus.

"More so then I?" asked Phoebe.

"Is the slave jealous?" inquired Marcus, teasingly.

"Please, Master," begged Phoebe.

"Are you jealous?" he said.

"Yes, Master," said Phoebe, defiantly.

"You do not sound humble," he said.

"Forgive me, Master," she said, quickly, frightened.

"Who is jealous?" he inquired.

"Phoebe is jealous," she whispered.

"You are a thousand times more beautiful than she," said Marcus.

"Master sports with his helpless slave," pouted Phoebe.

"To me," said Marcus, teasingly.

"How shall I ever hold you, Master?" she wept. "I am yours, and only a slave. You may put me aside or keep me with others, s you might please. There are thousands of intelligent, pretty women who would be eager to serve you. You may have your pick. You may buy and sell as you please. How shall I ever keep you?"

"It is mine to keep you if I wish," said Marcus.

"Yes, Maser!" she wept.

I considered the unilaterally of the master/slave relationship. All power is with the master. This, of course, has its effect upon the slave. Let her strive to be such that her master will keep her.

"Look," I said, pointing to the foot of the wall, where the flute girl was together with others of her station. She seemed distraught, bound, turning about, to look at me. They all, excited, confused, looked in this direction. To be sure, several of them, and many on the wall, too, both flute girls and laborers, had paused in their various activities, to follow the sequence of events on the Wall Road. But Marcus and Phoebe paid me no attention. They were in one another's arms.

"I love you, Master," was saying Phoebe, looking up at him, "totally and helplessly."

"And I," he was saying, brushing back hair from her forehead, "fear that I might find myself growing fond of you."

"Use me, Master, use me!" she begged.

"Not here," said Marcus. "Perhaps in a darkened doorway, on the way back to our lodging."

Quickly she pulled from him, and hurried a few steps back, toward Harness Street, turning them to look back, pleadingly at him.

I was pleased to see that she was much in his power.

"I see," said Marcus. The flute girls at the foot of the wall, looking this way, knelt, putting their heads down to the stones, doing obeisance in our direction. The command of a free man had been conveyed to them. I then say the lovely brunet picking her way with difficulty up a path to the higher part of the breach. She was communicating my message, I gather, to the girls she encountered, on the different levels. I looked up toward the height of the breach. There, girl after girl, especially as she saw my eyes upon her, knelt, putting her head down. Those that were sitting cross-legged swiftly abandoned that position, also performing obeisance. Then, one by one, as the brunet hurried among them, they picked their way down the paths from the breach to the Wall Road and hurried away. In a few moments the breach was cleared of flute girls. Doubtless all of them, at one time or another, had been under an excellent discipline and now, fearful of an impending restoration of such rigors, would lose no time in recalling, and manifesting, suitable attitudes and behaviors. No woman who has ever felt the whip forgets it.

"Was that wise?" asked Marcus.

"No," I said.

"Tomorrow they will be back, and things will be the same," he said.

"Undoubtedly," I said.

"Nothing will be changed," he said.

"True," I said.

"Then why did you do it?" he asked.

"I felt like it," I said.

"I was afraid you might not have had a good reason," he said.

"Master," said Phoebe, pleadingly.

"It could be dangerous here," said Marcus.

"For whom?" I asked.

"I see," said Marcus.

"Master," begged Phoebe.

"The men of Ar, and the woman, and youth," he said, looking over to the wall, "remain on the breach."

"Yes," I said.

"Interesting," he said.

"Master!" said Phoebe, suddenly, again. But this time, from the note in her voice, we turned about, instantly.

"You there, hold!" cried an angry voice, that of a guardsman in the uniform of Ar, hurrying toward us. His hand was on the hilt of his sword.

We turned to face him, separating ourselves. This permits outflanking, the engagement by one, the death stroke by the other.

Instantly the guardsmen stopped. He was then some four or five yards from us. "You are armed," he said.

"It is lawful," I said. "We are not of Ar."

He drew his blade.

We, too, drew ours.

"You have drawn before a guardsman!" he said.

"Did you think we would not?" I asked.

"It is against the law," he said.

"Not our law," I said.

"What have you done here?" he asked. "The flute girls have worked enough today," I said. "We have sent them home."

"By whose authority?" he asked.

"By mine," I said.

"You are an officer?" he said.

"No," I said.

"I do not understand," he said.

"You are Cosian," said Marcus.

"I am a guardsman of Ar," said a fellow.

"You are Cosian," said Marcus.

"You have drawn a weapon against me," I said.

"You are of the warriors?" said the fellow. He wavered. He, too, knew the codes. "Yes," I said.

"And he?" asked the fellow.

"He, too," I said.

"You are not in scarlet," he said.

"True," I said. Did he think that the color of a fellow's garments was what made him a warrior? Surely he must realize that one not of the warriors might affect the scarlet, and that one who wore the grimed gray of a peasant, one barefoot, and armed only with the great staff, might be of the scarlet caste. It is not the uniform which makes the warrior, the soldier.

"There are two of you," he said, stepping back a pace.

"Yes," I said.

"Be off," said he, "before I place you under arrest."

"Perhaps you fellows should go about in squads of ten," I said.

"It is not necessary," he said.

"No," I said. "I suppose it is not necessary."

"Are you going to kill him?" Marcus asked me.

"I have not decided," I said.

"There are two of you," he said.

"You are a brave fellow," I said, "not to turn about, and flee." The odds, you see, were much against him, even were we mediocre swordsmen. One need only engage and defend, and the other strike.

"You dare not attack," he said. "It is day. Those of Ar watch."

"Is it true?" I asked Marcus, not taking my eyes off the fellow.

Marcus stepped back, shielding himself behind me. "Yes," he said.

"Interesting," I said.

"You see," he said. "There are many witnesses."

"They are not rushing for aid are they?" I asked Marcus.

"No," he said.

"I suspect they will have seen nothing," I said.

The fellow turned pale.

"You are cowards!" he said.

"Which of us will kill him?" asked Marcus.

"It does not matter," I said.

The fellow stepped back another pace.

"Why do you not run?" I asked.

"Those of Ar watch," he said.

"And not to show fear before them you would stand your ground against two?"

"I am Cosian," he said.

"Now," I said to Marcus, "perhaps the victory of Cos is clearer to you."

"Yes," said Marcus.

"Under the circumstances," I said to the guardsman, "I would nonetheless recommend a discretionary withdrawal."

"No," said the man.

"We are prepared to permit it," I said.

"No," he said.

"No dishonor is involved in such a thing," I said.

"No," he said.

"You need not even make haste," I said.

"I do not fear you singly," he said.

"On guard," I said.

He immediately entered readiness.

"Stay back," I said to Marcus.

I had scarcely uttered my injunction to Marcus when, Phoebe screaming, the fellow lunged. Our blades met perhaps three times and I was under his guard. He drew back, shaken, white faced. Again we engaged and, again, in a moment, I was behind his guards. Again he drew back, this time staggering, off balance. "Aii," he wept and lunged again, and then, tripped, scrambling about, pressed back with my foot, was on his back, my sword at his throat. He looked up, wildly.

"Strike!" he said.

"Get up," I said. "Sheath your sword."

He staggered to his feet, watching me, and sheathed his sword. I then sheathed mine.

"Why did you not kill me?" he asked.

"I told you earlier," I said, "I had decided not to kill you."

"I am an expert swordsman," he said, looking at me.

"I agree," I said.

"I have never seen such speed, such subtlety," he said. "It is like defending oneself against wind, or lightning."

I did not respond to him. In a way I felt sad, and helpless. In many ways I was an average man, if that. too, I have many lacks, and many faults. How ironic then it was, I thought, that among the few gifts which I might possess, those few things which might distinguish me among other men, were such as are commonly associated with destructiveness. Of what value is it, I asked myself, to have certain talents. Of what dreadful value are such skills? Of what value, really, is it to be able to bring down a running man with the great bow at two hundred yards, to throw the quiva into a two-hort circle at twenty paces, to wield a sword with an agility others might bring to the handling of a knife? Of what use are such dreadful skills? Then I reminded myself that such skills are often of great use and that culture, with its glories of art, and music and literature, can flourish only within the perimeters of their employments. Perhaps there is then a role for the lonely fellows on the wall, for the border guards, for the garrisons of far-flung outposts, for the guardsmen in the city treading their lonely rounds. All these, too, in their humble, unnoticed way, serve. Without them the glory is not possible. Without them even their critics could not exist. "Are you all right?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

I recalled, too, the games of war. They, too, in their awesomeness, must not be forgotten. Why is it that some men seek wars, traveling to the ends of the earth to find them? It is because they have a taste for such things. It is because there, where others fear to tread, they find themselves most alive. He who has been on the field of battle knows the misery, the terror, the tenseness, the racing of the blood, the pounding of the heart, the exhilaration, the meaningfulness. In what other arena, and for what lesser stakes, can so much of man be summoned forth, man with his brutality, his cruelty, his mercilessness, his ruthlessness, his terribleness, these ancient virtues, and man with his devotion, his camaraderie, his fellowship, his courage, his discipline, his glory? In what other endeavor is man, in his frailty and strength, in his terribleness and nobility, so fully manifested? What is the meaning of war to the warrior? Surely it is not merely to be found in the beholding of flaming cities and the treading of bloody fields. Surely it is not merely to be found in silver plate and golden vessels, nor even in women lying naked in their chains, huddled together, trembling in the mud, knowing that they are now properties and must please. It is rather, I think, primarily, the contest, and that for which all is risked, victory. To be sure, this is a war of warriors, not of technicians and engineers, a war of men, not of machines, not of explosives, not of microscopic allies, not of poisoned atmospheres, wars in which the tiny, numerous meek, in their swarms, crawling on six legs, will inherit the earth.

"You are not of Ar," said the guardsman.

"No," I said.

"I did not think so," he said.

I shrugged.

"Cos," he said, "can use blades such as yours."

"I seek employment," I said.

"Go to the barracks of guardsmen," said he.

"Perhaps," I said.

"I would now leave this area," he said. "Too, I would not attempt to interfere with the work on the walls."

"I understand," I said.

"That is a pretty slave," he said.

"She belongs to my friend," I said. Phoebe shrank back a bit, closer to Marcus. Female slaves on Gor must grown used to being looked upon frankly by men, and assessed as the properties they are. They know they can be acquired, and disposed of, and bought and sold, and traded, and such, with ease, even at a moment's notice.

"Is she of Ar?" he asked.

"No," said Marcus.

"Are you sure?" asked the guardsmen.

"Yes," said Marcus.

"Many women of Ar look well in slave tunics, barefoot and collared," he said. "Undoubtedly," I said.

"They should all be slaves," he said.

"So should all women," I said.

"True," he said.

To be sure, it did amuse me to think of the proud women of Ar, of "Glorious Ar," as slaves. Such a fare seemed to me fully appropriate for them, and in particular for some of them.

"Let us return to our lodgings," I said to Marcus.

"I wish you well," said the guardsman.

"I, too, wish you well," I said.

"I must now put these tame cattle of Ar back to work," he said.

"One man alone?" I asked.

"No more are needed," he said.

Indeed, there were no guardsmen on the walls themselves. We had encountered one on the way to the wall, on Harness Street, who had detained us briefly, apparently primarily to determine whether or not we were of Ar.

"We shall leave now," said Marcus.

"Yes, Master," said Phoebe.

We then turned about, and left the vicinity of the Wall Road. Near the entrances to Harness Street, off the Wall Road, I turned about.

"Continue your work for peace!" called the guardsmen to those on the wall. The men on the wall then, and the youth, and women, returned to their labors. "Incredible," marveled Marcus.

"Master," moaned Phoebe.

Things were then much as they had been before. Nothing had changed. To be sure, the work was not now being performed to the music of flute girls. Tomorrow, however, I did not doubt but what the flute girls would be back, and numerous guards in attendance, at least on the street.

"Is your sword for hire?" I asked Marcus.

"It could be," he said.

"Good," I said.

"You have some plan?" he asked.

"Of course," I said.

"Master," whimpered Phoebe.

Marcus stopped and looked at her.

She, too, stopped, and looked up at him.

"Strip," he said.

She looked at him, suddenly, wildly, and then about herself. "This is a public street," she said.

He did not speak.

She squirmed. "Is there no doorway? No sheltered place?" she asked.

He did not respond to her.

"I was a woman of Cos," she said, tears springing to her eyes. "This is a public street in Ar!"

His expression remained impassive. He maintained his silence.

"Cos has defeated Ar!" she wept.

He did not speak.

"Am I to suffer because you are angry with the men of Ar?" she asked.

"Does the slave dally in her obedience?" he inquired.

"No, Master!" she said, frightened.

"Must a command be repeated?" he inquired.

"No, Master!" she cried. Her tiny fingers began to fumble with the knot of the slave girdle, on her left. Then she had the knot loose and pulled away the girdle. She then, hastily, struggling a little with it, pulled the tunic, a light pullover tunic, off, over her head. "The slave obeys her master!" she gasped, frightened, kneeling before him. He then tied her hands behind her back with the slave girdle and thrust the tiny tunic, folded, crosswise, in her mouth, so that she would bite on it. He then pushed her head down to the stones. "Are you now less angry with the men of Ar?" I asked him, in an Ehn or two. Marcus stood up, adjusting his tunic.

"Yes," he said.

Phoebe turned about, from her knees, the tunic between her teeth, and looked back at us.

"This had little to do with you," I told her. "Too, it is immaterial that you were once of Cos. A slave, you must understand, must sometimes serve such purposed." Her eyes were wide. But one of the utilities of a slave, of course, is to occasionally serve as the helpless object upon which the master may vent his dissatisfaction, his frustration or anger. Too, of course, they may serve many other related purposes, such as the relief of tensions, to relax oneself and even to calm oneself for clear thought.

"Do you understand?" I asked.

She nodded.

I regarded her.

She whimpered, once.

"Good," I said.

One whimper signifies "Yes," and two signifies "No." This arrangement, at any rate, was the one which Marcus had taught to Phoebe long ago, quite early in her slavery to him, at a time when she had been much more often kept bound and gagged then now.

Marcus then snapped his fingers that she should rise.

She leaped to her feet.

We turned our steps once more toward our lodging. Phoebe hurried behind. Once she tried, whimpering, to press herself against her master. She looked up at him, tears in her eyes, her hands tied behind her, the tunic between her teeth. She feared that she might have now, because of her earlier behavior, lapsed in his favor. Too, compounding her misery, was doubtless the fact that Marcus, in his casual usage of her, had done little more than intensify her needs, the helpless prisoner of which, as a slave girl, she was. He thrust her back. we then continued on our way, Phoebe heeling her master. I heard her gasp once or twice, and sob. She was now, I was sure, much more aware, in her own mind, of what it was to be a slave. I do not think, then, she thought of herself any longer, really, as a woman of Cos, or even one who had once been of Cos, but rather now as merely a slave, only that, and one who had perhaps, frighteningly, to her trepidation and misery, failed to be fully pleasing. I did not doubt that later, when we had reached the room, and she was unbound and freed of the gag, that she would crawl to Marcus on all fours, the whip between her teeth, begging. Too, though he loved her muchly, I did not doubt but what he would use it on her. She was, after all, his slave, and he, after all, was her master.

9 The Plaza of Tarns

"She," said Talena, Ubara of Ar, "she is chosen"

The woman uttered a cry of anguish.

There were cheers, and applause, the striking of the left shoulder, from the crowd standing about the edges of the huge, temporary platform, the same which had earlier served near the Central Cylinder for the welcoming of Myron, in his entrance into the city.

The woman, held now by the upper left arm, by a guardsman, was conducted to a point on the platform, erected now in the Plaza of Tarns, a few feet from a rather narrow, added side ramp, where she was knelt, to be manacled. This smaller, added ramp would be on the left side of the platform, as one would face it. My own position was near to, and rather at the foot of this ramp, such that I would be on the right of a person descending the ramp. Talena, with certain aides and counselors, and guardsmen and scribes, was on a dais, it mounted on the surface of the platform, a few feet away, rather to its left, as one would face it. There was a similar added ramp on the other side, by means of which the women, barefoot, and clad at that point in the robe of the penitent, would ascend to its surface.

The manacles were closed about the wrists of the kneeling woman, one could clearly hear the decisive closure of the devices, first the one, then the other. She lifted them, regarding them, disbelievingly.

"Have you never worn chains?" asked a man.

First with one hand and then the other, suddenly, frenziedly, first from one wrist, and then from the other, sobbing, she tried to force the obdurate iron from her wrist.

Then, again, she lifted the manacles, regarding them, disbelievingly.

"Yes, they are on you," laughed a fellow.

"You cannot slip them," said a man.

"They were not made to be slipped by such as you," said another.

There was much laughter.

The woman sobbed.

"Do not blubber, female," said a man. "Rejoice, rather, that you have been found suitable, that you have been honored by having been chosen!" the woman, then, conducted by another fellow, with an armband, signifying the auxiliary guardsmen, the first fellow, a uniformed guardsman, returning to the group on the platform, was conducted down the ramp. She was knelt before me. "Wrists," I said. She lifted her chained wrists. I then, by means of the chain, pulled her wrists toward me. I inserted the bolt of a small, sturdy, padlocklike joining ring through a link in the coffle chain. This would hold it in a specific place on the chain, preventing slippage. I then snapped the ring shut about her wrist chain. She looked up at me, coffled.

"On your feet, move," said another auxiliary guardsman.

She rose to her feet and moved ahead, to the first line scratched in the tiles of the plaza. There were some one hundred such lines, each about four or five feet apart, marking places for women to stand. As she moved ahead, so, too, did others. Beyond these hundred spaces the chain moved to the side, and was doubled, and folded back upon itself, again and again, in this fashion keeping its prisoners massed., different lines facing different directions, and all in the vicinity of the platform.

"It angers me," said a fellow nearby, "that these women should complain. It is as simple enough duty to perform, and a worthy enough act, as female citizens, given the guilt of Ar, her complicity in the wicked schemes of Gnieus Lelius, to offer themselves for reparation considerations.

"Few enough are chosen anyway," said a fellow.

"Yes," said another, angrily.

"Are all burdens to be borne only by men?" asked a man.

"What of the work levies and such?" said another.

"Yes," said another.

"And the taxed and special assessments," said another.

"True," said a fellow.

"They are citizens of Ar," said another. "It is only right that they, too, pay the price for our misdeeds."

"And theirs," said another.

"Yes," said a fellow.

"They supported members of councils, and members to elect members of councils," said a man.

"Yes!" said another.

"Look at noble Talena," said a man. "How bravely she performs this duty."

"How onerous it must be for her," said a man.

"Poor Talena," said a fellow.

"She, too, it might be recalled," said a man, "appeared in public barefoot, in the garb of a penitent, prepare to offer herself to save Ar."

"Of course," said a man.

"Noble woman," breathed a man.

Auxiliary guardsmen do not wear helmets. I had, accordingly, covered my head and, loosely, the lower portion of my face with a scarf, rather in the manner of the fellows in the Tahari. This fitted in well with the motley garbs of auxiliary guardsmen who, on the whole, had little in common except that they were not of Ar. Regular guardsmen of Ar were, as I have suggested, fellows of Ar under Cosian command, or, often, Cosians, in the uniform of Ar. Too, as mentioned, there were regulars of Cos in the city, and, at any given time, various mercenaries, usually on passes. Some mercenaries, it might be mentioned, had been transferred into the auxiliary guardsmen. Some others, discharged, had enlisted in these units. A good deal of the sensitive work in Ar, work which might possibly produce resentment, or even enflame resistance, was accorded to auxiliary guardsmen. Their actions, if necessary, could always be deplored or disavowed. If necessary, some units might even be disbanded, as a token of conciliation. Such units are, after all, difficult to control. In this I saw further evidence of attention on the part of Myron, or his advisors, to the principles and practices of Dietrich of Tarnburg. A similar device, incidentally, though not one employed by Dietrich of Tarnburg, at least to my knowledge, is to recruit such forces from the dregs of a city itself, utilizing their resentment of, and their hatred for, their more successful fellow citizens to constitute a vain, suspicious and merciless force. This force then may later be disbanded, or even destroyed, to the delight of the other citizens, who then will see their conqueror as their protector, not even understanding his use of, and sacrifice of, such instrumentalities as the duped dregs of their own community, first making use of them, then disposing of them.

"No," said Talena, "not her."

A guardsman, on the surface of the platform, before the dais, draped the robe of the penitent about the shoulders of the woman before Talena. He did this deferentially. She was shuddering. Another guardsman quickly ushered her to the rear and down the large ramp at the rear of the platform. She would now return home.

"No, Talena!" called a fellow from the crowd, a few feet away.

Talena regally turned her head in his direction.

"Be silent!" said a man to he who had called out.

"Hail, Talena!" called a man from the vicinity of the fellow who had called out before.

"Glory to Talena!" called another.

"Glory to Talena!" cried others.

She then returned her attention to her duties on the platform.

"How merciful is Talena," said a fellow.

"Yes," said another.

At a gesture from one of the guardsmen on the platform, another woman in a white robe came forward, leaving the long line behind her, one extending across the platform to the small ramp on the other side, down the ramp, across the far side of the Plaza of Tarns, and thence down Gate Street, where I could not see its end.

"Lady Tuta Thassolonia," read a scribe.

Lady Tuta then, unaided, removed her robe and stood before her Ubara. Then she knelt before her.

Men gasped.

She knelt back on her heels, her knees spread, her back straight, her head up, the palms of her hands on her thighs.

"It seems you are a slave," said Talena.

"I have always been a slave, Mistress," said Lady Tuta.

Talena turned to one of her counselors, and they conferred.

"Are you a legal slave, my child?" asked one of the counselors, a scribe of the law.

"No, Master," said the woman.

"You are then a legally free female?" asked the scribe.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"It is then sufficient," said the scribe to Talena.

"You are chosen," said Talena, graciously.

"Thank you, Mistress!" said the woman.

Cheers commended the decision of the Ubara.

Another of Talena's aides, or counselors, one in the garb of Cos, then spoke to Talena, shielding his mouth with his hand.

Talena nodded, and he then addressed himself to the kneeling woman.

"Rise up," said he, in a kindly fashion, "and do not address us as Master and Mistress."

She rose up.

"Do you wish, as a free female, before you join your sisters to our right, to say anything?"

"Hail, Talena!" she cried. "Glory to Talena!"

This cry was taken up by hundreds about. Then she was conducted to the side, to be manacled.

"It will be a lucky fellow who will get her," said a man.

"She is already a slave," said another.

"She will train speedily and well," said another.

"I would like to get my hands on her," said a fellow.

"She will go to some Cosian," said another.

The woman was then drawn to her feet by an auxiliary guardsmen and conducted down the ramp.

The auxiliary guardsman on the other side of the ramp, then, who was working with me, said to her, "Kneel, slut."

She knelt.

"You were rich, were you not?" he asked her.

"Yes," she said.

"Yesa€”what?" he said, angrily.

"Yes, I was rich!" she said, frightened.

"Do not strike her," I said to the fellow. "She is not yet a slave."

"She is a slut of Ar," he said.

"Yes," I said.

He lowered his hand.

"Wrists," I said to her.

She lifted her chained wrists, and I attached her to the coffle with a joining ring.

"Why is he angry with me?" she asked.

"It might be wise to accustom yourself, even though you are legally free now," I said, "to addressing free men as «Master» and free women as "Mistress."

"He is only an auxiliary guardsman," she said.

"He is a man," I said, "and you are female."

"Yes!" she said.

"You see the fittingness of it?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

"You used such expressions on the platform," I said.

"But to my Ubara," she said, "and to men of high station."

"Accord such titles of respect to all free persons, even the lowliest of free persons," I said, "for you will be more beneath them than the dirt beneath their sandals."

"Forgive me, Master," she said to the other fellow. "Forgive me, Master!" He regarded her, his arms folded, somewhat mollified.

"It seems the slut of Ar learns rapidly," I said.

"Get up," he said to her. "move!"

"Yes, Master," she said. Then she looked back. "Thank you, Master," she said. The line moved to its next position.

I them put the next woman on the chain, and she, too, was ordered to her feet, and moved to the next position.

"Nor she," said Talena of another, who had been announced. "Nor she," said she of another.

As I have mentioned, there were scribes on, or near, the dais with Talena. Lists were being kept, and referred to. One list, for example, had the names of the women upon it, in the order in which they ascended the platform. It was from this list that one of the scribes announced the names. Another list, presumably a duplicate list, was kept as a record of the results of Talena's decisions. The most interesting lists, however, seemed to be lists referred to as the various names were called. There were at least five such lists. Three of them, I think, are worth mentioning. One of these was held by a member of the High Council. Another was held by a Cosian counselor. Another was held by one of Talena's aides, at her side.

There was suddenly a scuffle near the far ramp and a guardsman seized a woman who had suddenly turned about and attempted to run.

"Bring her forward," said Talena.

The guardsman, who now had her well in hand, holding her from behind, by the upper arms, literally lifting her off the surface of the platform, carried her forward, before Talena. The woman's small bared feet were five inches off the wood. She was held as helplessly as a doll. The guardsmen then put her down. "Strip her," said Talena.

This was done, and the woman was flung to her knees before the Ubara of Ar. "Mercy, my Ubara!" cried the woman, lifting her hands, clasped, to Talena.

"What is your name, child?" asked Talena.

"Fulvia!" she wept. "Fulvia, Lady of Ar!"

"We are all ladies of Ar," said Talena.

"Mercy, Ubara!" she wept, lifting her clasped hands. "Spare us! Spare your sisters of Ar!"

"Alas, my child," cried Talena, "we are all guilty. All of us are implicated in the iniquities of the infamous Gnieus Lelius. Why had we not adequately opposed him? Why did we follow his heinous policies?"

"You opposed him, beloved Ubara!" cried a man. "You tried to warn us! You did what you could! We would not listen to you! It is we, the others, who are guilty, not you!"

This sort of cry was taken up elsewhere in the crowd, as well. There were numerous protests concerning Talena's apparent willingness to accept, and share, the guilt of Ar.

"No," cried Talena. "I should have acted. Rather than witness the shame of Ar. I should have plunged a dagger into my own breast!"

"No! No!" cried men.

"It would have been a tiny, if futile, symbolic gesture," she cried, "but I did not do it. Thus I, too, an guilty!"

Roars of protest greeted this remark on the part of the Ubara. I saw several men weeping.

"You chose to live, to work for the salvation of Ar!" cried a man.

"We own everything to you, beloved Ubara!" cried another.

"And now," said Talena, "in spite of all, and the most outrageous provocation, our brother, Lurius of jad, Ubar of Cos, has spared our city. The Home Stone is safe! The Central Cylinder stands! How shall we make amends to our Cosian brother? What gift would be great enough to thank him for our Home Stone, our lives and honor? What sacrifice would be too much to express our gratitude?"

"No gift would be too great!" cried men.

"No sacrifice would be too great!" cried others.

"And now, my child," said Talena to Lady Fulvia, "do you begin to understand why you have been requested to come here this day?"

Lady Fulvia, it seemed, could not speak. She looked up, frightened, at her Ubara.

"Surely you regret the crimes of Ar," said Talena. "Else why would you have come here, as a penitent?"

Lady Fulvia put her head down.

The women, of course, had been ordered to report. Indeed, they had been ordered to report yesterday afternoon to the great theater, from whence, to their surprse, they had been transported in cage wagons, actually locked, to the Stadium of Blades more than a pasang away. Beneath the stands of the Stadium of Blades were numerous holding areas, suitable for wild beasts, dangerous men, criminals, and such. In such areas, the women, having been checked, arranged and counted, were incarcerated for the night. They had also, at that time, been given the robes of penitents, that they might spend the night in them. They had then, this morning, been transported to a location on Gate Street, in the vicinity of the Plaza of Tarns. Some women who had failed to report to the great theater were brought later that evening to the Stadium of Tarns by guardsmen, both regulars and auxiliaries. I myself, with some other auxiliaries, had brought in two of these women. One we had had to tie and leash, almost like a rebellious slave girl, save that slave girls are seldom rebellious more than once.

"Surely you wish to do your best to expiate the crimes of Ar?" said Talena to the kneeling woman.

Her interlocutor was silent.

"Are you not eager to atone for the crimes of Ar, to make amends for her inquities?" asked the Ubara, kindly.

Lady Fulvia was silent.

"Do you not wish to do what you can to set these things right?" asked the Ubara. Silence.

"Speak, you slut!" cried a man from the side, angrily.

"Please!" cried Talena, holding forth her hand. "Desist, noble citizen! You speak of a free woman of Ar!"

"Yes, my Ubara," said Lady Fulvia.

"You do not wish to be selfish, do you?" asked the Ubara.

"No, Ubara," she wept.

"And is this sacrifice we ask of you, in the name of the city, and its Home Stone, any more than that which I myself was prepared to make?"

"No, my Ubara," wept the Lady Fulvia.

Talena, with a small, reluctant, almost tragic gesture, indicated that lady Fulvia might be taken to the side.

"Next," called a scribe.

The small wrists of Fulvia, now kneeling near me, her knees about at my chest level, on the platform, were locked in manacles. In another moment she was pulled down the ramp and knelt before me. She seemed numb, in shock.

"Wake up," said a fellow.

"The cut of the whip is excellent for waking them up," said a man.

I added her to the chain with a joining rope.

She looked at the ring, and the chain to which she was now attached.

"And when they awaken they find themselves in their place," said another. "Yes," said another.

"Stand, move," said the auxiliary opposite me.

"I would like to have her," said a fellow.

"She will go to a Cosian," said a fellow, bitterly.

"I wonder if the women of Cos are so desirable," said another.

In my opinion, though I did not speak, not having been addressed, they were. I had, from time to time, used, rented or owned various women of Cos, or former women of Cos. I had found them superb. Phoebe, of course, had been Cosian. What the women of Ar and those of Cos have in common, of course, despite their numerous political, cultural and dialectical differences, is that they are all females. Stripped in a slave market it is hard to tell the difference, one from the other. But this is true of all women. Any woman, properly mastered, makes an excellent slave.

"No," said Talena, again. She had now, in the three or four Ehn which had passed since the selection of the Lady Fulvia, rejected four women. I gather that this may have been to compensate, before the crowd, for the selection of the Lady Fulvia, to indicate that in spite of the Lady Fulvia's concerns and protests, how very few women, actually, all in all, were being selected.

Talena seemed then prepared to dismiss another woman, for she had her hand half lifted, as though, with the customary small gesture, to do so, when one of her counselors, a Cosian, near her, in the uniform of a high captain, bent quickly toward her, his eyes glinting on the female in question, she standing before the Ubara, the robes of the penitent about her ankles. I saw the female stiffen, suddenly, almost in disbelief. At the same time a guardsman seized her from behind by the upper arms. She moved a little bit but found herself helpless in his grasp. Then, as she gasped, her arms were pulled back a little, rather behind her, this accentuating her figure.

"You are chosen," said Talena.

The woman uttered a small noise, as of disbelief or protest, but was quickly conducted to the place of manacling.

In what the Cosian had said to the Ubara I had made out the expression "slave curves'.

Manacles were put on the woman.

I saw the Cosian's eyes still on her as she was manacled. I suspected she would not long remain on the chain, after I had added her to it. When she was before me, having descended the ramp and being knelt in place, I considered her. Yes, she had excellent slave curves. She would doubtless soon learn that those curves were such as would be muchly exploited by masters. Then I had added her to the chain, and she had been ordered to her feet, and moved to the next position. "No," said Talena, again and again.

I began to suspect then that the quotas, whatever they might be, had perhaps been reached for the day. But then another woman was selected, and subsequently manacled and, in due course, added to the coffle.

Several other women were then passed over.

Then a slim woman took her place gracefully before the Ubara.

"Claudia Tentia Hinrabia, Lady of Ar," read the scribe.

A stir, a thrill of recognition, coursed through the crowd. Men pressed more closely about the platform. "Claudia!" said men. "The Hinrabian!" said others. I myself moved closer to the platform, pressing even against it. Claudia Tentia Hinrabia was the daughter of a former Administrator of Ar, Minus Tentius Hinrabius. She had figured as a pawn in the dark games of Cernus of Ar, to bring down the house of Portus, his major economic rival in the city. Later, the machinations of Cernus had brought him even to the throne of the Ubar, which he held until his deposition by Marlenus of Ar. Claudia, at the time of the deposition of Cernus, had been a slave in his house. Marlenus, upon his return to the throne, had freed her, even arranging for her support at state expense. For several years, she had been a resident of the Central Cylinder. She was the last of the Hinrabians.

Claudia, with a toss of her hair, freed her hair of the hood. She had long black hair, swirling and beautiful. It cascaded behind her. I remembered it that way from the house of Cernus, the first time I had seen her. When I had seen her later in the house of Cernus, it had been much shorter, as, in the intervening time, he had had it shaved off, and then, later, it had regrown somewhat. In her freeing herself of the hood she had, too, bared her face. She, as the others, had not been separately veiled. I well remembered the dark eyes of the Hinrabian, and the high cheekbones.

She then, gracefully, slipped the robe of the penitent back from her shoulders, letting it drop behind her.

"Ahhh," said several men.

She was slimly beautiful. She stood very straight before her Ubara, it seemed defiantly, it seemed insolently.

"See her," said a man to others.

Claudia smiled. She knew that she was unusually beautiful, even on a world where beauty is not rare.

Talena seemed displeased.

To be sure, if she were stripped and put beside the Hinrabian, I did not think she would need to fear, or much fear, the comparison.

Claudia looked up at Talena, on the dais.

"You will choose me," she said.

"Perhaps, if you are suitable," said Talena, in fury.

"You have waited long for this day," said Claudia, "to have me, the daughter of Minus Tentius Hinrabius, in your power, your rival."

"I," said Talena, "am the daughter of Marlenus of Ar!"

"You are not!" cried Claudia. "You are disowned. You have no more right to the throne of Ar than a sleek, pretty little she-urt!"

"Treason!" cried men. "Treason!"

"Your father sent men to the Voltai, to seek out and destroy Marlenus of Ar!" cried Talena.

"I do not deny that my father was enemy to Marlenus of Ar," said Claudia. "That is well known, and so, too, at the time, were many in Ar!"

"Cernus!" cried Talena.

"Yes," said Claudia.

"To whom you were a slave!" said Talena, scornfully.

"She-urt!" cried Claudia.

"Turn about, slowly," said Talena.

Men gasped.

Angrily, Claudia complied. Then she again faced Talena. "I stood higher in the Central Cylinder than you," she said. "I was the daughter of a former Administrator of Ar! You were nothing, a disowned disgrace, rescued from the norht. They brought you back in a sheet, with not even a tarsk bit to your name, and dishonored. No longer had you even citizenship! Because of what you once had been, the daughter of Marlenus of Ar, you were permitted to live in the Central Cylinder. But you were kept hidden there, sequestered, that you not bring further embarrassment upon Marlenus of Ar and the city! Do not compare yourself with me. You are nothing! I am the daughter of Minus Tentius Hinrabius!"

"Do not listen to her, beloved Talena!" called a man.

"You are an upstart," said Claudia. "You are a Cosian puppet!"

"I am your Ubara!" cried Talena.

"You are a Cosian puppet!" said Claudia.

"Treason!" cried men.

"You even wear Cosian garments!" cried Claudia.

"In this fashion we may demonstrate our respect for Cos, out gratitude to her, our friendship with her," said Talena.

"Dance on their strings, puppet!" screamed Claudia.

"Perhaps it is you will dance," cried Talena, "and as a slave, before my officers!"

"And I would do so more excitingly than you!" said Claudia.

I rather doubted that. To be sure, Talena was not trained. I supposed that both might look quite well, in a jewel or two, writhing as slaves before strong men. "Slave! Slave!" cried Talena.

"Marlenus of Ar freed me of bondage!" said Claudia.

"I am not Marlenus of Ar!" cried Talena.

"He treated me with honor," she said, "and gave me support and residence!"

"I am not he," said Talena.

"Nor are you, disowned and disgraced, any longer his daughter!" cried Claudia. "Treason!" cried men.

Talena turned to the crowd. "Should this woman's caste, and her lofty birth, and that she was the daughter of an administrator, permit her to shirk her duties to the state?"

"No!" cried men. "No!"

"To the state of Cos?" inquired Claudia.

"Treason!" cried men.

"Do you think you should be shown special privileges?" asked Talena.

This took Claudia aback.

"Hah!" cried a fellow. "Look, she is silent!"

Claudia, of course, was of high caste, and a member of the aristocracy. Gorean society tends to value tradition and is carefully structured. Accordingly, it would never have occurred to her that she was not, in fact, in virtue of her position, entitled to customary privileges. Such privileges, of course, in theory at least, are balanced by duties and demands far beyond those devolving on others. The Cosians, as many conquerors, made a point of enlisting class jealousies in their cause, utilizing them to secure their ends, for example, the replacement of a given aristocracy, or elite, with one of their own, preferably in as covert a fashion as is possible. This had to do with structure in human society, without which such society is not possible.

"Do you think you are better than other women of Ar?" asked Talena.

"I am better than at least one," said Claudia. "Talena, who would be tyraness of Ar, save only that her Cosian masters will not permit her such power!"

"Treason!" cried men. "Kill the Hinrabian! Death to her! Let her be impaled! Weight her ankles!"

"And at night, do you serve your masters in the furs?" inquired Claudia. It seemed that Talena might swoon at the very thought of this. She was supported by two of her aides.

"Death to the Hinrabian!" cried men.

A guardsman behind Claudia had his sword half drawn from its sheath.

"No! No!" cried Talena to the crowd. "Do not cry out so, against a woman of Ar!"

"Merciful Talena!" wept a man.

The guardsman sheathed his sword.

The crowd was then silent.

"I regret that I cannot," said Talena, "despite my love for you, exempt you from your duties to the state."

"Hail Talena!" wept a man.

"Nor in this matter treat you differently from other women of Ar."

"Glory to Talena!" cried a man.

"For I, too, have my duties to perform, for I am Ubara,"

Here the Plaza of Tarns rang with the cheering of men.

"Be done with your farce!" cried Claudia. "Here I am before you, naked and in your power! Have you not waited for his moment? Is my name not first on your list? Relish the triumph! Do with me as you will!"

"My decision will be made," said Talena, "as it would be in the case of any other woman of Ar. You will be treated with absolute fairness."

Talena then seemed to ponder the matter of Claudia, assessing her fittingness to be included among items to be accorded to Cos, in atonement for, and it reparation for, the crimes of Ar.

"Turn about, again, my dear, slowly," said Talena, musingly.

Men laughed.

Once again the Hinrabian turned slowly before her Ubara, as might have an assessed slave.

Talena then seemed to hesitate. She turned to her advisors as though troubled, as though seeking their council. Would the Hinrabian be suitable, did they think, as a conciliatory offering, or a partial reparation payment, to the offended Cosians? Would she be acceptable? Would she be adequate? Or would such an offering insult them, or offend them, in its lack of worth, in its paltriness? I smiled. I did not doubt what their opinion, that of men, would be, in the case of the lovely Hinrabian.

Claudia stood in fury before the dais, her fists clenched.

With no other woman, of all of them, had such consultation been deemed necessary.

Brilliant insult thusly did Talena to the Hinrabian.

Talena then turned again to face her.

"The decision had been made," said Talena.

Claudia drew herself up proudly.

"The matter was an intricate one," said Talena, "and required the weighing of several subtle factors. Against you, as you might imagine, were the defects of your face and figure."

The Hinrabian gasped.

"In virtue of them alone I would have disqualified you. yet there was also the matter of your treachery to Ar, which only now, with reluctance, do I make public."

The Hinrabian looked at her, startled.

"What treachery?" cried men.

"Conspiracy, seditious assertions, betrayal of the Home Stone, support of the wicked regime of Gnieus Lelius, former tyrant of Ar."

"I am innocent!" cried Claudia.

"Did you not support the regime of Gnieus Lelius?" asked Talena.

"I did not oppose him," said Claudia. "Nor did others! He was regent."

"In not opposing such wicked policies, you betrayed the Home Stone of Ar," said Talena.

"No!" wept Claudia.

"But your political ambitions are soon to be at an end," said Talena.

"Citizens, I implore you not to listen to her," cried Claudia.

"You even slept at his slave ring!" cried Talena.

"No!" cried Claudia.

"In the future," said Talena, "perhaps you will grow accustomed to sleeping at such rings."

Claudia seemed about to faint. She was supported by the guardsman behind her, and not gently. Then she was stood again, wavering, on her small feet.

"And, citizens," called Talena to the crowd, "have you not heard her, even here, on this very platform, in my very presence, utter shamelessly seditious discourse!"

"Yes!" cried men.

"Kill her," cried others. "Kill her!"

"But," said Talena to the horrified Hinrabian. "I am prepared, on my own responsibility, and in spite of your crimes, in recollection of our former affection for one another, which I still entertain for you, and in respect of your exalted lineage, and the contributions of your family in Ar, before the accession of your father, the infamous Minus Tentius Hinrabius, to the chair of Administrator, to permit you, instead, to make amends to us all, by permitting you the honor of serving your city."

"I am innocent!" wept Claudia.

"Kill her!" cried men.

"Prepare to hear yourself sentenced," said Talena.

"No!" cried Claudia.

"It is with a heavy heart and tearful eyes that I utter these words," said Talena.

"Marlenus of Ar freed me from bondage!" cried Claudia.

"We have observed you before us," said Talena, "carefully and closely, how you move and such."

"He freed me!" cried Claudia.

"That was a mistake," said Talena.

"Perhaps!" said Claudia.

Men regarded one anotehr.

"Speak," said Talena, amused.

"Twice I have a slave," said Claudia. "I have had my head shaved. I have felt the whip. I have worn the collar. I have served men."

"Doubtless such experiences will put you in good stead," said Talena. "Perhaps they will even save your life."

"In the Central Cylinder," said Claudia. "I have been lonely, more lonely than I ever knew a woman could be. My life was empty. I was unhappy. I was miserable. I was unfulfilled. In those long years I remembered my time in bondage, and that it had been, in spite of its terrors and labors, the most real, and the happiest, of my life. I had learned something in the collar that I was afraid even to tell myself, that I, Claudia Tentia Hinrabia, of the Hinrabians, belonged at the feet of men.

"You will not object then when I return you to your proper place," laughed Talena.

But there was little laughter from about her, for the men attended to the Hinrabian.

"I confess," wept Claudia, "now, publicly, and before men, that I am in my heart and belly a slave!"

"The rejoice as I order you imbonded!" said Talena.

"No!" wept Claudia. "It is one thing to be captured by a man and taken to his tent, and put to his feet and made to serve, or to be sentenced by a magistrate in due course of law to slavery for crimes which I have actually committed, and another to stand here publicly shamed, before my enemy, a woman, in her triumph, to be consigned by her to helpless bondage."

"What difference does it make?" asked a man.

"True," wept Claudia. "What difference does it make!"

"Put the slave to her knees!" cried Talena.

"I am a free woman!" wept Claudia. "I am not yet legally imbonded!"

"Thus," said Talena, "will you learn to kneel before free persons!"

Claudia struggled, but, in a moment, her small strength, that of a mere female, availing her nothing, by two guardsmen, was thrown to her knees.

"You look well there, Hinrabian!" said Talena.

"False Ubara!" screamed Claudia, held to her knees.

Talena made an angry sign and a guardsmen withdrew his blade from its sheath. In a moment Claudia's head was held down and forward by another guardsman.

"She is to be beheaded!" said a man.

I tensed.

Talena made another sign, and the fellow who held Claudia's hair pulled her head up, that she might see Talena.

Talena's eyes flashed with fury, and Claudia's eyes, then, were filled with terror.

"Who is your Ubara?" asked Talena.

"You are my Ubara!" cried Claudia.

"Who?" asked Talena.

"Talena," she cried. "Talena of Ar is my Ubara!"

This response on the part of Claudia seemed to me judicious, and, indeed, suitable. Talena of Ar was her Ubara.

"Do you confess your faults?" inquired Talena.

"Yes, my Ubara," sobbed Claudia.

"And do you beg forgiveness of your Ubara?" asked Talena.

"Yes, yes, my Ubara," sobbed Claudia.

"Who begs forgiveness?" asked Talena.

"I, Claudia Tentia Hinrabia, of the Hinrabians, beg forgiveness of Talena of Ar, my lawful Ubara!" she wept.

"I am prepared to be merciful," said Talena.

The guardsman with the drawn blade resheathed it. The guardsman holding Claudia's hair released it, angrily, pushing her head down. The other two guardsmen, one holding each arm, retained their merciless grip on the Hinrabian. "Talena, Ubara of Ar," announced a scribe, "will now pronounce judgment on the traitress, Claudia Tentia Hinrabia."

"Enemy of Ar, enemy of the people of Ar, enemy of the Home Stone of Ar, Claudia Tentia Hinrabia," said Talena,you are to be imbonded, and before nightfall." Claudia's body shook with sobs.

"Send her to the chain," said Talena.

Claudia was pulled up to the side and rudely manacled. She, on her knees, looked back at Talena.

"You look well in the chains of men," said Talena.

"You, too, Talena of Ar, my Ubara," wept the Hinrabian, "would doubtless look well in the chains of men!"

Men gasped, in fury.

"Take her away," said Talena.

"Beware the chains of men!" cried the Hinrabian. Then she was pulled down the ramp and, men jeering her and striking at her, buffeting and bruising her, was thrown to her knees before me, to be added to the chain.

"As she is poor stuff," said Talena, loudly, "let a silver tarsk be added to the reparations, to compensate, if it can, for her inadequacies of face and figure." There was much laughter.

The Hinrabian put down her head, and I took her wrist chain and, in a moment, with the joining ring, had attached her to the coffle chain.

She looked up at me, tears in her eyes. She gasped. My eyes warned her to silence. Doubtless she remembered me from years before. She turned back then, and looked toward the platform. She looked at me then, again, woneringly. "Stand, slut of Ar," said the auxiliary guardsman opposite me. "Move to the first position."

"Yes, Master," she said, obeying.

"No, my dear," Talena was saying to another woman on the platform. "You are too young."

That woman was conducted to the rear of the platform. Earlier in the morning, it might be noted, Talena had consigned woman as young, or younger than that one, to the chain.

"No, not she," said Talena, as the next woman was presented. "We must keep some beauty in Ar," she explained.

The woman looked at her, gratefully, and quickly pulled the proferred robe again about herself, and hurried from the platform.

Men expressed approval of the decision of their Ubara.

"Master," whispered Claudia to me, standing about a yard behind me, and to my right.

I went to stand beside her. "Yes," I said, She looked up at me, her cheeks stained with tears. "Am I beautiful?" she asked, frightened.

"Yes," I said.

"Thank you, Master," she said.

"Years ago," I said, "even in your time of power and cruelty, you were beautiful."

"Such things are behind me now," she said.

"Yes," I said.

She smiled.

"Thank you, Master," she said.

"Never doubt your beauty," I said.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"You are still free," I said. "You need not address me as Master."

"Surely," she said, "it would be well for me to accustom myself, once again, to the utterance of such appropriate deferences."

"True," I said.

"Not she, either," said Talena.

"How merciful is Talena," marveled a man.

"Cornelia, Lady of Ar," said the scribe.

"Do not bare me to men, I beg you," said the woman to Talena, clutching the robe about her.

Talena consulted a list held by a scribe near her. It was not one of the copies of the master list, so to speak, which contained the full list of names. "Please," begged the woman.

Talena looked up from the list. "Strip her," she said.

The woman cried out with anguish as the single garment was removed from her. She put down her head. She blushed, to totally, from the roots of her hair to her toes.

I did not think the woman would be chosen. Like many free women, she had not taken care of her figure. Perhaps that was why she had not wished to be bared before men. to be sure, if she were imbonded it was likely that masters would remedy her oversights in this area, enforcing upon her exact, even merciless, regimens of diet and exercise. They would see that she was soon brought into prime condition, both with respect to physical health and sexual responsiveness. "It seems," said Talena of the woman, "that two years ago, in the great theater, you were overheard making a remark concerning your future Ubara, one in which you expressed disapproval of her restoration to citizenship." The woman regarded her, aghast.

"You are chosen," said Talena.

The woman was dragged to the side, to be knelt and manacled. In a moment or so I had added her to the chain.

"No," said Talena, "not that one, dismissing the next woman.

I looked after the woman who had just been added to the chain, who had now been ordered to her feet, and moved to the first scratch mark on the tiles. In three or four months, if not sooner, I suspected she would have become a hot, obedient, excitingly curved slave.

"No," said Talena, "not this one either."

Talena was then ready to dismiss another woman but something was called to her attention from the list held by the representative of the High Council, and that woman, too, was consigned to the chain. I gathered that she, or perhaps some relative of hers, had offended some member of the current council. Another woman, similarly, later, whom Talena seemed prepared to dismiss, she reconsidered and selected, apparently at the request or suggestion of one of the Cosians on the dais. As he was not likely to be a party to the internal intrigues in Ar, and such, I supposed it was merely that the woman had appealed to him. Perhaps he regarded her as the sort whom Cosians would enjoy having serve their banquets, moving among the tables, bearing platters of viands, or pouring wine, or such, or perhaps merely lying on their bellies or backs beside their small tables at such banquets, ready, too, to serve.

"No," said Talena, apropos of the next female, "not she."

The free, native population of Ar, though there are no certain figures on the matter even in the best of times, and, given the flight of many from the city, conjectures have become even more hazardous, is commonly estimated at between two and three million people. Itinerants, resident aliens and such would add, say, another quarter million to these figures. It is, at any rate, clearly the most populous city of known Gor, exceeding even Turia, in the southern hemisphere. Slaves, incidentally, are not counted in population statistics, any more than sleen, verr, tarsks and such. There were perhaps a quarter million slaves in Ar, the great majority of which were female.

"Nor she, either," said Talena.

What was going on on the platform was of great interest to me. As is probably well known, females on Gor, like gold and silver, and domestic animals, and such, commonly count as legitimate loot. Certainly there is no doubt about this in the case of the female slave, who is a property, a domestic animal, to begin with. On the other hand, it should also be understood that the free women of a conquered city, or territory, if spared, are also commonly understood as, and ranked as, in their own minds and in that of the conquerors, as loot. It is one thing, of course, for a fellow in a flaming city to throw a woman against a wall and tear off her clothes and then, if her likes her, keep her, and quite another for the women of a conquered city, levied, and in the name of reparation, atonement, and such, to line up for their assessment. "Yes," said Talena, "she is chosen." Another woman then, a blonde, was manacled, brought down the ramp and, by me, added to the chain.

The rumor was that Cos had set the first levy on free females from Ar at only ten thousand. If one supposes, as a conservative estimate, that there were now some two million native citizens of Ar, and that half of them, say, are female, then the levy on free females in Ar was thus only about one in every one hundred. To be sure, this was merely the first levy. It was difficult to estimate the numbers of female slaves seized by Cos, just as the number of verr and such. There were apparently levies for such slaves but, as certain forms of looting and taxation, they were not much publicized. Such slaves, like jewelry, Torian rugs, silver plate, verr, and such, tended to be seized largely as a result of house-to-house searches. More than once I had seen a begging, tearful slave town from the arms of a beloved master, to be bound and led away on a Cosian leash. Similarly there were numerous confiscations of slaves.

"Ludmilla, Lady of Ar," called the scribe. "Ludmilla, Lady of Ar!"

Guardsmen looked at one another.

"No," said Talena. "Ludmilla, Lady of Ar, had been excused, because of her contributions to Ar, because of her service to the state."

The two scribes, holding the copies of the master list, made appropriate notations. The guardsmen relaxed.

I wondered if the Ludmilla in question was the woman who owned several slave brothels on the street known as The Alley of the Slave Brothels of Ludmilla, the street receiving its name, of course, from the fact that several of its slave brothels were hers. They are, or were, I believe, the Chains of Gold, supposedly the best, or at least the most expensive, and then, all cheap tarsk-bit brothels, the Silken Cords, the Scarlet Whip, the Slave Racks and the Tunnels. I had once patronized the Tunnels. That was where, as I have mentioned, I had met, and improved, the Earth-girl slave, Louise. I had also once resided in the insula of Achiates, which is located on the same street.

At that point the bar for the fifteenth Ahn sounded from the Central Cylinder, across the city.

"I am weary," said Talena.

"Such work is trying," said the representative of the High Council, solicitously.

The scribes put their marking sticks away. They closed their wood-bound tablets, tying them shut. The women yet to be assessed looked at one another. "Turn about," said a guardsman. "Am I to be selected or not?" asked the second woman in the line, anxiously. "Doubtless, given your position in line," said the guardsmen, "you will learn tomorrow."

"I must wait?" she asked. "Yes," he said. "Now turn about, do not look back." The assessments, of course, would continue for several days. "Oh!" said she who had been the next to be assessed, then the first in line, now, turned about, at the rear of the long line, stretching still across the platform, down the ramp, and across the Plaza of Tarns. "Oh!" said the woman who had spoken to the guardsman, who had been second in line, and now, turned about, was second to last in the long line. The light cord, little more than twine, but strong enough not to be broken by a woman's strength, had been knotted about her neck, and then carried forward to the woman before her, where it was tied similarly, and thence forward again, being unwound from a long spool. It is common to coffle women from the back of the line forward, to minimize the temptation to bolt. I did not know if the women were to be marched back to the Stadium of Blades or only to a rendezvous with cage wagons, to be thence transported to the stadium's holding areas. I did not think, at any rate, that the Cosians would send cage wagons for them in dull daylight to the Plaza of Tarns, in the view of a crowd. After all, these were free women of Ar, not female slaves. An additional security in which the women were held, aside from the coffling and guardsmen, auxiliary and regular, was the fact that they were barefoot and clad only in the robes of penitents. In this way was their status well marked out. More women, tonight, incidentally, and doubtless for the next few nights, at least, would be reporting to the great theater. Thence I supposed they would be transported to the Stadium of Tarns, as had been the first batch of women, in their turn to be incarcerated, given the robes of penitents and assigned their place in line.

"Captain," said Talena, "in the room of the Ubar, in the Central Cylinder, we are planning a small supper this evening. I do hope you will honor us with your presence."

The Cosian regarded her.

"There will be delicacies from as far away as Bazi and Anango, she said, "and we shall open vessels of Falarian from the private stores of the Ubar."

"A sumptuous supper, indeed, he commented.

"Nothing pretentious," she said, "but nice."

"There is hunger in the city," he said.

"Unfortunately," said the Ubara, "there is not enough for everyone."

"I see," said he.

"Let them suffer for their crimes against Cos," she said.

"Of course," said he.

"Shall we expect you?" she asked.

"Is there to be entertainment?" he asked.

"Czehar music," she said, "and, later, the recitation of poetry by Milo, the famed actor, to the music of the double flute." The instrument which is played by the flute girls is a double flute, too, but I had little doubt that the player involved would not be a flute girl but someone associated with one or another of the theaters of Ar. Similarly the instrument would undoubtedly be far superior, in both range and tone, to those likely to be at the disposal of flute girls.

"I was referring," said he, " to entertainment."

"Whatever, Captain, could you have in mind?" she asked.

"I have duties," he said.

"Surely you do not mean "entertainment' in which females might figure?" she said.

"Is there another sort?" he asked.

"You have free woman in mind," she asked, "perhaps lute players."

"No," said he. "Females, female slaves."

"I see," she said.

"Dancers," he said.

"I see," she said.

"Or perhaps such as might figure as contestants in games, or as prizes, and such."

"Of course," she said.

"Perhaps Earth-girl slaves," he suggested.

"That would not do at all," said Talena. "They are the lowest of the low."

"Some are rather nice," he said.

"Perhaps we could find some girls from Turia," she said.

"Or Ar," he said.

"Captain!" she exclaimed.

"Ubara?" he asked.

"The women of Ar," she said, "are not suitable for such things."

"What of the women you consigned to the chain?" he asked.

"Well," she conceded, "such as thosea€”"

"I assure you," he said, "that the women of Ar, imbonded, grovel and lick and kiss, as well as other women."

"Undoubtedly," she said.

"It is necessary only to put them in their place," he said, "the place of females. The woman of Ar, in her place, the place of a female, is as hot and helpless, as eager and obedient, as devoted and dutiful, as any other slave."

"Undoubtedly," she said, angrily.

"Forgive me, Ubara," said he, "if I have offended you. I am not a courtier, not a diplomat. I am a soldier, a plain man, and I speak bluntly."

"I take no offense of course," said Talena, Ubara of Ar.

"I meant only to suggest," said he, "that there are women in Ar who are marvelously beautiful and exciting."

"I understand," she said.

"Ubara?" he said.

"I was thinking," she said. "What you say is undoubtedly true, that there must be some women of Ar at least, in all Ar, who are not only suitable for the collar, but belong in it."

"Of course," he said.

"I can think of some entertainment in which you might be interested," she said. "Ubara?" he asked.

"By nightfall," she said, "Claudia Tentia Hinrabia, of the Hinrabians, will be a collared slave."

"Yes," he said.

"Would you not be curious to see her dance?" she asked.

"She is not a dancer," he said.

"Surely she could be put through slave paces, and made to perform under a whip," she said.

"Of course," he said.

"And do you men not say that any woman can dance?" she laughed.

"To one extent or another," he said.

"And to the extent that her performance is unsatisfactory, she may be whipped," she said.

"Of course," he said.

"And perhaps I myself shall reserve the judgment on that matter," she said. "As is your prerogative, Ubara," he said.

"I think that will be amusing," she said, "to have the Hinrabian brought as an entertainer to my supper party, and have her perform as a slave, before men, in my viewing."

"Quite amusing," he said.

"When you return to your headquarters," she said, "please request your polemarkos, Myron, to also honor us with his presence."

"Your wish," he said, bowing, "is my command."

"I wish to have her perform as a slave before him, as well," she said.

"Your vengeance on the Hinrabian is profound indeed, Ubara," he said.

She laughed.

"The performance of the Hinrabian will be reserved for late in the evening, I gather?" he said.

"Yes," she said. "To accompany dessert."

"That seems fitting," he said.

"Superbly fitting," she laughed. "But come early. You would not wish to miss the czehar music nor the performance of Milo."

"You are retaining the czehar player and the actor then," he asked.

"Yes," she said. "I promised him."

"I shall come early," he promised, "and I do not doubt but what I shall be accompanied by Myron, my polemarkos."

"I shall look forward to seeing you both," she said.

"By the way," said he, "how will the supper be served?"

"By slave girls, of course," she said.

"Good," he said.

"Decorously clad," she said. "In long, white gowns."

"I see," he said.

"But their arms will be bared," she said.

"Oh, excellent," he smiled.

"Do not fret, Captain," she laughed. "The decorum of their attire will contrast nicely with that of the Hinrabian."

"Which will consist of a collar and a brand?" he asked.

"Precisely," she said.

"Excellent," he said.

"Let her see the contrast between herself and higher slaves," said Talena. "Superb," he said.

"After I withdrew for the evening, you may, of course," she said, "do what you wish with the serving slaves, and the Hinrabian."

"Our thanks, Ubara," said he, "those of myself and my polemarkos, and, too, of course, those of our staff members, guards and accompanying officers."

"It is nothing," said Talena.

The captain bowed once again, and then withdrew.

In a few moments the dais, and then the platform, was cleared. The crowd had long ago drifted away.

The long chain of women had been permitted to kneel after the last additions had been made to it. An auxiliary guardsman had come back up the line making certain that the women knelt with their knees widely apart. The heavy chain came to the belly of each, and then lay over the right leg of each, as she knelt, passing back then to the woman behind her. Their wrists, held closely together, were before their bodies. When they were to move out they would pass through a certain station where a Cosian slaver's man, with a marking tape, would measure them for their collar size. This number then would be written by another fellow, with a grease pencil, on their left breast, for the convenience of the fitter. The left breast is the usual place for the temporary recording of such information, presumably because most men are right-handed. In the Street-of-Brands district over a hundred braziers would be waiting, from each of which would project several irons. They were all to be marked with the cursive Kef, as common girls. That is the most common brand for female slaves on Gor. Claudia Tentia Hinrabia had already been branded, of course, long ago, so she needed only be recollared. Her brand, if it is of interest, was also the cursive Kef. It had amused Cernus to have that put on her, such a common brand, she a Hinrabian. But I did not think she objected to it. It is not merely a familiar brand, but, more importantly, a particularly lovely one.

I heard, from several yards away, perhaps fifty yards away, the sound startling me even so, the crack of a whip. Several women in the chain cried out, and some wept. Yet I did not think the leather had touched any of them. To be sure, the fearsome sound of it undoubtedly informed them of what might befall them later, hinting clearly of the rigors of discipline, and the attendant sanctions, to which they were to be soon subject. The women then, with the sounds of chain, began to get to their feet. It was interesting to see the varying alacrities of their response to this signal. Judging by those nearest to me, those who seemed to be the most female were the quickest to respond. It was almost as though they, somehow, in some hitherto untapped portion of their brain, or in some hitherto concealed, or suspected but perhaps not explicitly recognized, (pg. 160) portion of their brain, were prepared for, and understood, certain relationships, relationships which might be exemplified by, or symbolized by, such things as the chains on her wrists, or the sound of the whip. By contrast certain others of the women, who seemed to me simpler, or more sluggish in body, or perhaps merely, at this time, less in touch with themselves, were reactively slower. Slavery, of course, is the surest path by means of which a woman can discover her femininity. The paradox of the collar is the freedom which a woman experiences in at last finding herself, and becoming herself. She is a woman, really, you see, not a man, and not something else, either, also different from a woman, and she will never be fully content until she finds her personal truth, until she becomes, so to speak, what she is.

"What is to become of us?" asked the blonde of me, she who had been the last to be added to the chain.

I stayed my hand. She shrank back.

"You may beg forgiveness," I said.

She looked at me wildly.

I had not struck her, at least yet. She was, after all, a free woman.

The whip then, again, further ahead, down the line, cracked.

"I beg forgiveness!" she said.

"You beg forgivenessa€”what?" I asked.

"I beg forgiveness, Master!" she said.

I lowered my head.

I thought it well for her to accustom herself to such uterances.

She still had her hands lifted. She had lifted her wrists, as she could, in the manacles, to fend the blow which I had not struck.

"Put your hands down," I said.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"Stand Straight," I said. "Shoulders back."

"Yes, Master," she said.

I regarded her.

She had tiny, fine hair on the back of her wrists. One could see it, in its golden fineness, extending toward the dark, clasping iron, beneath which it vanished. She was nicely curved. I thought she would bring a good price. I continued to regard her and she became acutely aware of my scrutiny. She stood even straighter, and more beautifully. Yes, I thought to myself, she is starting to understand. Doubtless in time she will do quite well at a man's slave ring. The whip cracked again, this time quite close, as the fellow with the device had been approaching, stopping here and there. Another fellow with him was checking the manacles and joining rings.

"The beads are on the string," said the second fellow, he who was checking the security of the chain. This was an oblique allusion to the "slaver's necklace," as a coffle, of female slaves is sometimes called. To be sure, the women on this chain, as they were merely free women, had only been referred to, in rude humor, as «beads» and not "jewels. I did not doubt, however, but what in a few months time these same women, properly disciplined, trained and brought into touch with their most profound and fundamental realities would also, in the same fashion as other female slaves, become "jewels."

"Bring the extra chain back through the coffle," said the fellow with the whip. There was coil of unused chain near my feet, left from the coffling. We could probably have added forty or fifty more women to the coffle had we wished. My fellow guardsman lifted the far end of the chain and threaded it through the arms of the blonde. I then drew it forward and put it through the arms of the next woman. Then, in time, with the help of three or four other fellows, locating themselves along the coffle line, most of the weight being shortly borne by the wrist chains of the lovely «beads» themselves, we had doubled the chain, bringing it forward. In this way we distributed the weight of the unused length of chain over the wrist chains of the last forty women or so, this constituting no unusual burden to any one of them. We did not wish to cut the chain. Moreover it would be needed the next day. Coffle chains are usually adjusted, of course, to the number of women to be placed in it. To be sure, women can be spaced more or less closely on such a chain. A slaver's joke, one which free women are likely to hear with apprehension, has it that there is always room for another female on the chain.

In a few Ehn I had returned to my place at the end of the line.

The chain, ahead, to the crack of a whip, began to move. The blonde, however, at the end of the chain, given the length of the chain, did not move until at least two Ehn later.

Some of the women at the front of the chain had probably had to be informed that the first step taken in coffle is with the left foot. Later, of course, such things would become second nature to them.

As we moved from the Plaza of Tarns the streets seemed muchly deserted. Among the people we did pass, or who were passing by, few seemed to take much interest in the coffle. Many even looked away. It now had little, or nothing, to do (pg. 162) with them. Its contents, in effect, were no longer of Ar. Some fellows in Turian garb did stand by a wall, their arms folded, considering the coffle, much as might have assessing slavers. Twice some children addressed themselves to the coffle, jeering its captives, spitting upon them, stinging them with hurled pebbles, rushing forward, even, to lash at them with switches. Already, it seemed, to these children, the women were no more than mere slaves.

When I had threaded the chain back through the arms of Claudia Tentia Hinrabia, incidentally, I did not mention to her that she had been selected to entertain at a late supper to be given by Talena of Ar, her Ubara, in the room of the Ubar, in the Central Cylinder. She would find out, soon enough.

10 The Sword is Thirsty

"I can remember when the men of Ar, those I saw of them in the north, walked proudly," said Marcus.

The city was subdued, save for some idealistic youth, who seemed to take pride in its downfall.

"Yes," I said.

It was now some months after the entry of Myron, polemarkos of Temos, into Ar. The systematic looting of Ar had proceeded apace. More levies of women, free and slave, had been conducted. Work on the destruction of the walls had continued. Marcus and I were on the Avenue of the Central Cylinder, the major thoroughfare in Ar.

"The major blow," said he, "was doubtless the movement of the Home Stone to Telnus."

This had been admitted on the public boards at last. Originally it had been rumored, which rumors had been denied, that only a surrogate for the stone had appeared in the Planting Feast. Later, however, when the ceremony of citizenship, in which the Home Stone figures, was postponed, speculation had become rampant. There had been demands by minor Initiates, of smaller temples, outside the pomerium of the city, first, for the ceremonies to be conducted, and, later, these ceremonies not taking place, for the Home Stone to be produced. In the furor of speculation over this matter the secular and ecclesiastical authorities in the city had remained silent. At last, in view of the distinct unrest in the city, and the possible danger of riots and demonstrations, a communication was received from the Central Cylinder, jointly presented by Talena, Ubara of Ar; Seremides, captain of the guard; Antonius, executive officers of the High Council; Tulbinius, Chief Initiate; and Myron, polemarkos of Temos, to the effect that Ar might now rejoice, as in these unsettled times Lurius of Jad, in his generosity and wisdom, at the request of the governance of Ar, and in the best interests of the people and councils of Ar, had permitted the Home Stone to be brought to Telnus for safekeeping. A surrogate stone was subsequently used for the ceremony of citizenship. Certain youth refused then to participate in the ceremony and certain others, refusing to touch the surrogate stone, uttered the responses and pledges while facing northwest, toward Cos, toward their Home Stone.

Marcus and I, with the armbands of auxiliary guardsmen, saluted a Cosian officer whom we passed.

"Tarsk," grumbled Marcus.

"He is probably a nice enough fellow," I said.

"Sometimes I regret that you are a dear friend," he said.

"Why is that?" I asked.

"It makes it improper to challenge you to mortal combat," he said.

"Folks have occasionally slain their dearest friends," I said.

"That is true," he said, brightening up.

"Just because someone is your mortal enemy," I said, "does not mean that you have to dislike him."

"I suppose not," said Marcus.

"Of course not," I said.

We walked on.

"You are just in a bad mood," I said. Such moods were not uncommon with Marcus. "Perhaps," he said.

"Does Phoebe have her period?" I asked.

"No," he said.

"You were out late last night," I said.

"Yes," he said.

"Frequenting the taverns?" I asked.

"No," he said. "I was wandering about."

"It is now dangerous to walk the streets of Ar at night," I said.

"For whom?" he said.

"For anyone, I suppose," I said.

"Perhaps," he said.

"Where did you walk?" I asked.

"In the Anbar district," he said.

"That is a dangerous district," I said, "even formerly." It and the district of Trevelyan were two of the most dangerous districts in Ar, even before the fall of the city.

"Oh?" he said.

"Yes," I assured him. "It is frequented by brigands."

"It is now frequented by two less than yesterday," he said.

"Why do you do these things?" I asked.

"My sword," he said, "was thirsty."

"I am angry," I said.

"I made a profit on the transaction," he said.

"You robbed the brigands?" I asked.

"Their bodies," he said.

"We do not need the money," I said. Indeed, we had most of a hundred gold pieces left, a considerable fortune, which we had obtained last summer in the vicinity of Brundisium.

"Well, I did not really do it for the money," he said.

"I see," I said.

"Not all values are material," Marcus reminded me.

"You should not risk your life in such a way," I said, angrily.

"What else is there to do?" he asked.

"I am sure you could think of something," I said, "if you seriously put your mind to it."

"Not it is you who seem in an ill humor," he remarked.

"If you find yourself spitted in the Anbar district that will not much profit the Home Stone of Ar's Station," I said.

"You told me that the Home Stone of Ar's Station would be exhibited again," he said.

"I am sure it will be," I said.

"That was months ago," he said.

"Be patient," I said.

"I do not even know where it is," he said. "It may be in Telnus by now."

"I do not think so," I said.

"At least those of Ar know where their Home Stone is," he said.

"Do not be surly," I said.

"You do not think it is in Telnus?" he asked.

"No," I said. "I think it is still in Ar."

"Why?" he asked.

"I have an excellent reason," I said.

"Would you be so kind as to share this reason with me?" asked Marcus.

"No," I said.

"Why not?" he asked.

"You are too noble to take it seriously," I said.

"Thank you," said her, "perhaps."

We paused to drink, from the upper basin of a fountain.

"Listen," I said.

"Yes," he said.

We turned about.

Some twenty men, stripped, in heavy metal collars, these linked by heavy chains, their hands behind their backs, presumably manacled, prodded now and then by the butts of guards' spears, were approaching. Behind the line came a flute girl, sometimes turning about, playing the instrument. It was this sound we had heard. Some folks stopped to watch.

"Political prisoners," said Marcus.

That could be told by the fact that the ears and noses of the prisoners had been painted yellow, to make them appear ridiculous.

"Interesting," said Marcus, "that they would parade them so publicly down the Avenue of the Central Cylinder."

"It is to be expected," I said. "If they were conducted out of the city in secret there would be much inquiry, much resentment, much clamor, much objection. It would be as though the Central Cylinder wished to conceal the fate imposed upon them, as though they were afraid of its becoming public, as though it might not be legitimately defensible. In this way, on the other hand, it performs its action openly, without special attention but, too, without stealth. It says, thusly, the action is in order, that it is acceptable, even trivial. Too, of course, it hopes to enlist public approbation by the painting of the ears and noses, thus suggesting that any who might disagree with its policies must be mad or dunces, at best objects of caricature and ridicule."

"Those in the Central Cylinder are clever," said Marcus.

"They may miscalculate," I said.

"Whence are these fellows bound?" asked Marcus.

"Probably the quarries of Tyros," I said.

"There must be many in Ar who will have scores to settle with the Ubara," he said.

"I suspect," I said, "that these arrests are more the work of Seremides, and Antonius, of the High Council."

"You would defend Talena of Ar?" he asked.

"I would not blame her for more than that for which she is responsible," I said. "Surely her complicity is clear," he said.

I was silent.

"She is an arch conspirator in the downfall of Ar," he said.

"Perhaps," I said.

"What does she mean to you?" he asked.

"Nothing," I said.

The men were now filing past, with their guards. Their hands, indeed, were manacled behind their backs.

"Some of those men may have been high in the city," said Marcus.

"Undoubtedly," I said.

"Some even have signs about their necks," said Marcus.

"I am not familiar with the politics of Ar," I said, "so I do not recognize the names."

"I know the name of the last fellow," said Marcus. "Mirus Torus."

The sign about his neck had that name on it, and also the word, "Traitor."

"Who is he?" I asked.

"I assume," said Marcus, "that he is the Mirus Torus who was the executive officer of the High Council before Gnieus Lelius, and later held the same office under the regency of Gnieus Lelius."

"I think I have heard of him," I said.

"For some months he was under house arrest," said Marcus.

"The Central Cylinder," I said, "seems now to be very sure of its power."

"Doubtless it was encouraged by its success in the matter of the Home Stone," said Marcus.

"Undoubtedly," I said.

"You seem troubled," he said.

"It is nothing," I said.

We watched the coffle of prisoners move away, south on the Avenue of the Central Cylinder. For a long time we could hear the music of the flute girl who brought up the rear.

"What is it?" asked Marcus.

"There seems nothing to arouse Ar," I said.

"Forget Ar," said Marcus. "The men of Ar have become spineless urts."

"These men," I said, "were once among the strongest and finest in the world."

"Ar dies in the delta," said Marcus.

"Perhaps," I said. There seemed much to the sobering suggestion of the young warrior.

"What is Ar to you?" he asked.

"Nothing," I said.

"Cos loots with impunity," said Marcus, "tearing even the marbles from the walls. She disguises her depredations under absurd, meretricious rhetorics. It is as though the sleen pretended to be the friend of the verr. And what do the men of Ar do? They smile, they hasten to give up their riches, they beat their breasts, they lament their unworthiness, they cannot sufficiently praise those who despoil them, they rush to sacrifice at the great temples. They burn their gates, they dismantle their walls, they hide in their houses at night. They cheer while women who might be theirs are instead marched to Cosian ports. Do not concern yourself with them, my friend. They are unworthy of your concern."

I looked at Marcus.

He smiled. "You are angry," he said.

"Ho! One side, buffoons of Ar!" said a voice, that of a mercenary, one of two, with blue armbands.

We stepped to one side as they swaggered past.

"I am not of Ar," I said to Marcus.

"Nor am I," he said.

"Thus they could not have been speaking to us," I said.

"We could kill them," said Marcus.

"In broad daylight?" I asked.

"Perhaps they are nice fellows," said Marcus.

"Perhaps," I said.

"But then one cannot always permit oneself to be deterred by such considerations," he said.

"True," I said.

"They think they own the street," he said.

"Doubtless an impression they have gathered from those of Ar," I said.

"Surely," he said.

"There is nothing to arouse Ar," I said.

"No," he said.

"If Marlenus were alive, and might return," I said, "that might bring Ar to her feet, angry and mighty, like an awakened larl."

"If Marlenus were alive," said Marcus, "he would have returned to Ar long ago."

"Then there is no hope," I said.

"No," said Marcus. "There is no hope."

I regarded him.

"Ar died last summer," he said, " in the delta."

I did not respond to him. I feared he was right.

We walked on then, not speaking, with rage, a helpless warrior's fury irrepressibly welling up within me.

A passer-by regarded me, startled, and hurried quickly past.

"You are angry," said Marcus.

"Are you not angry?" I asked.

"Perhaps," he said.

We heard then, behind us, running feet, laughter, a tearing of cloth, and a woman's cry. A group of young fellows was running past. We, too, were buffeted but I seized one of the lads by the wrist and, drawing him quickly across and about my body, and over my extended right leg, flung him to the stones, where I held him, my grip shifted now to the palm of his hand, his wrist bent, far back. He screamed with pain. Another fraction of a hort, the least additional pressure, and his wrist would be broken. Almost at the same instant I heard Marcus' sword leave its sheath, warning back the other lads, some six of them. Marcus, I noted, was suddenly, relievedly, in an eager, elated mood. He hoped for their advance. He was quite ready, even eager, for the release of shedding blood. I felt my own nostrils flare as I suddenly, excitedly, drank in the air of Ar, exhilarated, fiercely alive. The six lads backed away. I had little doubt he would have cut them down had they come with the compass of his blade. One of the lads, the leader it seemed, clutched the woman's pouch, torn from her belt, and another held her veil. I looked back tot he woman, who had been struck to her knees. She had drawn her hood about her face, that her features not be exposed publicly. Her eyes were wild in the opening within the hood.

"Do not hurt me!" screamed the lad on his knees.

I paid him little attention. He was going nowhere. At least two of the other lads had knives.

"You are "Cosians"?" I said to them.

They looked at one another.

Certain gangs of youths, young ruffians, roamed the streets, affecting Cosian garments and haircuts. These were called "Cosians." Such things are common where an enemy is feared. They ape the feared enemy, and hope thereby, as though by some alchemy, to obtain his strength and success. Such charades serve, too, as a form of cowardly camouflage. Knowing they have nothing to fear from their own people, they pretend they are like the enemy, perhaps in the hope that then they will have nothing to fear from him, as well. Too, such postures, costumes and mannerisms provide an easy way to attract attention to oneself, a welcome feature to one who may otherwise be unworthy of attention. Similarly, such charades provide, in more serious cases, a way of expressing one's alienation from one's own society, one's repudiation of it, and one's contempt of it. From this point of view then, such things may constitute a comprehensible, if somewhat silly, or ineffectual, from of protest. Too, of course, such costumes can intimidate weaklings, which some would undoubtedly rate as an additional advantage.

"Do not hurt him!" said the leader.

"You are "Cosians"?" I asked.

"No," said their leader, "we are of Ar."

"I can probably reach at least two of them," said Marcus.

The six stepped back further, preparing to take to their heels.

"We are only lads!" said the leader, keeping his distance.

I gestured with my head back toward the woman behind us. She had risen to her feet. She still clutched the folds of her hood about her face, to conceal her features.

"Do you think she is some slave girl," I asked, "that you may strip her on the street, for your sport?"

"No," said one of the lads.

"She is a free woman, of your own city," I said.

"There is no Home Stone in Ar," he said.

"That is true," said Marcus.

"Do you make war on boys?" asked the leader.

"Now you are "boys," I said.

They were silent.

"Sheath your knives," I said.

They did so. I was now pleased that they did this. I was not certain, really, of the responses of Marcus. He was not a fellow of Earth, but a Gorean. Too, he was of the Warriors, and his codes, in a situation of this sort, their weapons drawn, entitled him, even encouraged him, to attack, and kill. Moreover I thought he could really reach at least three of them, the first with a thrust, and the second too, each with a slash to the neck, first to the right, the blade withdrawn, and then to the left, before they could adequately break and scatter. Marcus was very fast, and trained. In this way I was encouraging them to protect themselves. They were, after all, as their leader had pointed out, a bit plaintively, and somewhat belatedly, only lads. To be sure this would not mean much to Marcus, who was probably not more than three or four years older than they were.

"And bring forward the pouch and veil."

"Release Decius," said the leader.

"I am not bargaining," I said.

The leader brought forward the pouch and put it down on the stones. He then signaled to the lad with the veil. That fellow then brought the veil forward, too, and put it on the stones. Both of them then backed away. I then released the hand of the other lad, Decius, it seemed, and he scrambled away, holding his wrist.

"Give me my veil!" demanded the woman, coming forward.

I handed it to her.

She turned about, adjusting it.

"Pick up my pouch," she said, her back to us. "Give it to me."

I picked up the pouch. The lads had now withdrawn some forty yards or so away. They were gathered about the fellow whom I had had down on his knees, his arm behind him, the wrist bent. He was still undoubtedly in pain.

"Give me my pouch!" she demanded.

I looked at the group of youths.

The fellow's wrist had not been broken. I had not chosen to do that.

One or another of the lads, from time to time, looked back at us. I did not think they would return, however. To be sure, Marcus might have welcomed that. His sword was still unsheathed. Too, I did not think they would be interested in causing the lady further inconvenience.

I felt the woman's hand snatch at the pouch and my own hand, almost reflexively, closed on the pouch.

Her eyes flashed angrily over the veil, an opaque street veil, now readjusted. "Give it to me!" she said.

"It was our mistake to interfere," said Marcus, dryly. He resheathed his blade. "Give it to me!" said the woman.

"You are rude," I said.

She tugged at the pouch.

"Are you not grateful?" I asked.

"It demeans a free woman to express gratitude," she said.

"I do not think so," I said.

"Are you not paid for your work?" she asked.

"Are you not grateful? I asked.

"I am not a slave!" she asked.

"Are you not grateful?" I asked, again.

"Yes," she said. "I am grateful! Now, give it to me!"

"Ah," I said. "Perhaps you are a slave."

"No!" she said.

"What do you think of this free woman?" I asked Marcus.

She reacted angrily, but did not release the pouch.

"Do you think she might be more civil," I asked, "if she were stripped?"

"Yes," he said, "particularly if she were also branded and collared."

"She would then learn softness, as opposed to hardness," I said.

"It would be in her best interest to do so," said Marcus.

"Yes," I said.

She released the pouch and stepped back a little.

Her eyes were now wide, over the veil.

"Perhaps she is the sort of woman who is best kept in a kennel," I said, "to be brought forth when one wishes, for various labors."

"Such women are all haughty wenches," he said. "But they quickly lose their haughtiness in bondage."

"Please," she said. "Give me the coins."

I did not release them.

"Give them to me!" she said, angrily.

"Would you not like to learn softness, as opposed to hardness? I asked. She looked at me, angrily.

"Women learn it quickly in bondage," I said.

"It is in their best interest to do so," said Marcus.

"Yes," I said.

"Surely you have wondered what it would be, to be a slave?" inquired Marcus. She gasped. Only too obviously had she considered such matters.

"But then," I said, "you may not be attractive enough to be a slave."

She did not speak.

I put the pouch inside my tunic.

"Oh!" she said, for I had then reached up and taken her hood in my hands. "We shall see," I said.

"Oh!" she said, startled.

Marcus held her from behind, by the arms.

I pushed back her hood and thrust it down. I then jerked away the veil, and surveyed her features.

"I think you, like most women, would make an adequate slave," I said.

She squirmed.

"Hold her wrists together," I said. I then tied them together, behind her back, with her veil.

She moaned.

She could not now readjust the veil.

"Please," she begged. "Let me veil myself. Slavers might see me!"

"You were not pleasing," I said.

I then took the pouch of coins in my hands and lofted it to the group of lads some forty yards away. Their leader caught it. They then turned about, and ran. The woman looked at me, astonished, aghast.

"Your lips are pretty," I said. "They could possibly be trained to kiss well." Tears sprang to her eyes.

"And lest you return home too quickly," I said, "we shall do this." I then crouched down and tore off a bit of the hem of her robes, but not enough to offend her modesty, for example, revealing her ankles, and, using the cloth as a bond, fastened her ankles together, leaving her some four or five inches of slack, rather like a slave girl's hobble chains.

"She might even bring a good price in a market," said Marcus.

"I am sure of it," I said.

"Sleen!" said a free woman, bundled in the robes of concealment, heavily veiled, hurrying by. Doubtless she had witnessed, from a distance, the fate of her compatriot.

"The woman of Ar should be slaves," said Marcus.

"Yes," I said. I could think of one in particular.

"It would much improve them," he said.

"Yes," I said. Slavery, of course, much improves any woman. this is because of the psychological dimorphism of the human species, that the female's fulfillment lies in her subjection to, and subjugation by, a strong male.

"But do not confuse the men of Ar with the women of Ar," I said.

"I do not feel sorry for them," he said.

"I do," I said. "They have been confused, misled and robbed."

"And not only of their goods," said Marcus.

"No," I said, "but of their pride, as well."

"And their manhood," said Marcus, bitterly.

"I do not know," I said. "I do not know."

"Their women belong at the feet of men," said Marcus.

"So, too, do all women," I said.

"True," said Marcus.

Women taken in a given city, incidentally, are usually sold out of the city, to wear their collars elsewhere. In this fashion the transition from their former to their subsequent condition is made particularly clear to them. They must begin anew, as a new form of being, that of a lovely animal, the female slave. Also, given the xenophobia common on Gor, often obtaining among cities, the distrust of a stranger, the contempt for the outsider, and such, there is a special ease in a master's relating to a foreign slave, one with whom he has never shared a Home Stone. Similarly, of course, there is a special urgency and terror on the part of the slave, in finding that she now belongs helplessly to one of a different polity. She understands that it may be difficult to please such a master, one likely to be harsh and demanding, who may despise her, who may think nothing of subjecting her to cruel punishments, and that she must accordingly, if she would even live, strive desperately to be pleasing to him. They can thus, the girl's antecedents, like her name and clothing, stripped away, and his unknown to her, begin as pure master and slave. What, if anything, will then, from this basic fiat of their relationship, develop between them? Will she, in and of herself, alone, aside from the trivia of her now-irrelevant history, become his special, unique slave? Will he, on his part, in and of himself, alone, aside from his antecedents, his station, caste, and such, become to her a very special, very individual master, perhaps even her master of masters?

We then continued on.

"You are still troubled," said Marcus.

"It is like seeing a larl tricked into destroying himself," I said, "as though he were told that the only good larl is a sick, apologetic, self-suspecting, guilt-ridden larl. It is like vulos legislating for tarns, the end of which legislation is the death of the tarn, or is transformation into something new, something reduced, pathological and sick, celebrated then as the true tarn."

"I do not even understand what you are saying," said Marcus.

"That is because you are Gorean," I said.

"Perhaps," he shrugged.

"But you see such things occurring in Ar," I said.

"Yes," he said.

"The larl makes a poor verr," I said. "The tarn makes a pathetic vulo. Cannot you imagine it hunching down, and pretending to be little and weak? Is the image not revolting? Why it is not soaring among the cliffs, uttering its challenge scream to the skies?"

Marcus looked at me, puzzled.

"The beast who was born to live on flesh is not to be nourished on the nibblings of urts," I said.

"It is hard to understand you," he said.

"It is long since I have heard the roar of the larl, the cry of the tarn," I said.

"In Ar," he said, "there are no larls, there are no tarns."

"I do not know if that is true or not," I said.

"There are only women there," he said, "and men pretending to be like women."

"Each should be true to himself," I said.

"Perhaps neither should be true to himself, or to the other," said Marcus. "Perhaps each should try to be true to those who can be true to neither."

"Perhaps," said Marcus.

I drove my fist into the palm of my hand.

"What is wrong?" he asked.

"Ar must be roused!" I said.

"It cannot be done," he said.

"Ar lacks leadership, will, a resistance!" I said.

"Lead Ar," suggested Marcus.

"I cannot do that," I said. "I am not even of Ar."

Marcus shrugged.

"There must be another!" I said.

"Marlenus is dead," he said.

"There must be another!" I wept.

"There is no other," said Marcus.

"There must be a way," I said.

"There is no way," said Marcus.

"There must be!" I said.

"Do not concern yourself," said Marcus. "Ar is dead. She died in the delta."

"In the delta?" I said.

"In the delta," said Marcus. "Indeed, we were there."

"That is possibly it," I whispered. "The delta!"

Marcus looked at me, a little wildly. Perhaps he suspected that I had gone mad. Indeed, perhaps I had.

"That may be the key," I said. "The delta!"

"I do not understand," he said.

"Are you with me?" I asked.

"Has this anything to do with the recovery of the Home Stone of Ar's Station?" he asked.

"Oh, yes," I said. "Yes, indeed!"

"Then I am surely with you," he said.

"Is your sword still thirsty?" I asked.

"Parched," he said, smiling.

"Good," I said.

11 The Delka

"Stop babbling, man!" ordered the guardsman, an officer in the scarlet of Ar, though his accent proclaimed him Cosian.

"It was so quick!" wept the merchant. "My shop, my wares, ruined!"

"Aii," said another of the guardsmen with the officer. There were four such men with him. They were, I think, of Ar. They were looking about the shop, one of ceramics. There were many shards about. Shelves had been pulled down. Among the shards and wreckage, by count, there were seven bodies, all Cosian merchants. "Who are you?" asked the officer, looking up.

"Auxiliaries, Captain," said I, "in the vicinity."

"See what carnage has been wrought here," said the officer, angrily.

"Looters?" I asked.

"Explain now," said the captain to the merchant, "what occurred. Control yourself. Be calm."

"I am sick!" wept the merchant.

"I am not of the physicians," said the officer. "I must have an account of this. There must be a report made."

"It was at the ninth Ahn," said the merchant, sitting on a stool.

"Yes?" said the officer.

"These fellows entered the shop," he said. "They claimed to be tax collectors."

"These fellows presented their credentials?" asked the captain.

"They are not tax collectors" said one of the guardsmen. "They are fellows come in from the camp, on passes. They are well known on the avenue. They pose as tax collectors, and then, in that guise, take what they wish."

"What did they want?" asked the captain of the merchant.

"Money," he said.

"You gave it to them?" asked the officer.

"I gave them what I had," he said, "but it was little enough. The collectors had come only five days earlier. They leave us destitute!"

"You murdered these men?" inquired the captain, skeptically.

"I did nothing," said the merchant. "They grew angry at not receiving more money. To be sure, had I any, I would have given it to them readily. Glory to Cos!"

"Glory to Cos," growled the officer. "Continue."

"Angry at the pittance they obtained they began to wreck the shop."

"Yes?" inquired the officer.

"My shop! My beautiful wares!" he moaned.

"Continue!" said the officer.

"It was then that two fellows entered the shop, in silence, like darkness and wind, behind them," he said.

"And?" inquired the officer.

"And this was done!" said the merchant, gesturing to the floor.

"There were only two who entered behind them?" asked the officer.

"Yes," said the merchant.

"I do not believe you," said the officer. "These fallen fellows are swordsmen, known in the camp."

"I swear it!" said the merchant.

"There appears to be only one mark on the body of each of these fellows," said one of the guardsmen, who had been examining the bodies.

"Warriors," said another of the guardsmen.

"I do not even know if they realized what was among them," said the merchant. "It seems to have been professionally done," said the captain.

"Yes, Captain," said one of the men.

"Whose work could it be?" asked the captain.

"Surely there is little doubt about the matter," said another of the guardsmen. The captain regarded the guardsmen.

"See, Captain?" asked the guardsmen. He rolled one of the bodies to its back. On the chest was a bloody triangle, the "delka." That is the fourth letter in the Gorean alphabet, and formed identically to the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet, the "delta', to which letter it doubtless owes its origin. In Gorean, the delta of a river is referred to as its, "delka." The reasoning here is the same as in Greek, and, derivatively, in English, namely the resemblance of a delta region to a cartographical triangle.

"It was the same five days ago," said one of the men, "with the five brigands found slain in the Trevelyan district, and the two mercenaries cut down on Wagon Street, at the second Ahn, only the bloody delka left behind, scrawled on the wall."

"In the blood of the brigands, and of the mercenaries," said one of the men. "Ar takes vengeance," said one of the guardsmen.

"Sooner could a verr snarl!" snapped the officer.

"We are not all urts," said one of the men.

"Your swords are pledged to Ar," said the officer, "Ar under the hegemony of Cos!"

"Is that other than to Cos herself?" asked a man.

"We obey our Ubara," said another.

"And whom does she obey?" asked the fellow.

"Silence," said the officer.

"Glory to Cos," I said.

"Let an auxiliary teach you your manners, your duties to the alliance," said the officer.

The guardsman shrugged.

"Good fellow," said the officer.

"Thank you, Captain," I said.

The officer turned to the tradesman. "Those assailants who slew these poor lads and wrecked your shop, surely several of them, not two, could you recognize them?"

"There were but two, as I said," said the tradesman, "and it was not they but those who now lie about, drenched in their own blood, who disturbed my wares."

"I see," said the officer, angrily.

"I would follow Marlenus," said a guardsman.

"Follow his daughter," said the officer.

"One whom he himself repudiated?" asked the man.

"False," said the officer.

"She was disowned," said the man.

"False!" said the officer.

"As you say, Captain," said one of the guardsmen.

"In following his daughter, you follow him," said the officer.

"Never would his footsteps have led to Cos unless there were an army at his back," said another.

"Hail Talena, Ubara of Ar," I said.

"Well said," said the Captain.

"Glory to Ar," said on the men.

This sentiment was echoed by those present with the exception, I think, of the captain, myself and, if I am not mistaken, Marcus.

"Search the shop," said the officer.

Three guardsmen then went into the back of the shop, and one climbed the ladder to the second floor.

"Two many things of this sort have occurred," said the captain to me, looking about himself.

"Captain?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "More than the men know of."

There was at that moment a girl's scream, coming from the back room.

The shopkeeper cried out in misery.

"Captain!" called a man.

The captain then strode to the rear room. The shopkeeper, Marcus and myself followed him.

In the back there were many ceramic articles about, vessels of numerous sorts, on tiers, and stacks of shallow bowls. The ruffians who had assaulted the shop had not reached the rear room. Further it seemed likely the merchant was not as poorly off as might have been supposed.

"See, Captain?" said one of the men, lifting up the lid of a narrow, oblong chest. Within it, huddled there, looking up, over her right shoulder, terrified, there crouched a girl. Her veil had become somewhat disarranged, and in such a way that one could see her lips and mouth.

"Cover yourself, immodest girl!" scolded the shopkeeper. She pulled the veil more closely about her features. "She is my daughter," said the shopkeeper. She was probably not more than sixteen or seventeen years old.

"Do you always keep her in a chest?" asked the captain, angrily. Keeping female slaves in small confines, of course, in properly ventilated chests, in slave boxes, and such, is not that unusual, but this girl, as far as we knew, was free. Apparently the chest had not been locked, and, too, of course, she was clothed, rather than naked, as slaves are usually kept in such places. To be sure, they are sometimes granted a sheet or blanket for comfort or warmth. "Of course not," said the shopkeeper, frightened. "But when the ruffians came to the shop she was in the back and I told her to hide in the chest."

"Ruffians?" asked the officer.

"Yes, Captain," said the man.

"And yet you did not have her emerge from the chest when the danger was past," observed the officer.

"It slipped my mind," said the shopkeeper.

"Of course," said the captain, ironically.

The shopkeeper was silent.

"You feared us, your defenders, your neighbors and allies," said the captain.

"Forgive me, Captain," said the shopkeeper, "but there are the levies, and such."

"And have you concealed your daughter from the authorities, in such matters?" asked the captain.

"Of course not, Captain," he said. "I am a law-abiding man. She is on the registries."

"There is nothing upstairs," said the man who had come down the ladder from the second floor.

The girl made no attempt to leave the chest. I did not know if this was because she was mature enough, and female enough, to understand that she had not yet been given permission to do so, or if there were a deeper reason.

"Turus, Banius," said the captain, addressing two of the men, "clear the front of the shop, remove the bodies, put them on the street."

"May I submit, Captain," I said, "that it might be preferable to leave the bodies in the shop until they can be properly disposed of. If they are displayed on the street, the power of those of the delta might be too manifestly displayed."

"Excellent," said the officer. "Desist," he said to the men.

"I am considering my report," said the officer to the merchant. "It seems that some good fellows of Cos, esteemed mercenaries, in the service of her Ubar, with all good will and innocence, entered this shop, to purchase wares for loved ones, and were treacherously set upon by assailants, some twenty in number."

"They came pretending to be collectors," said the merchant, "to rob me under this pretense, and dissatisfied with my inability to fill their purses, set out to destroy the shop and goods, and then two fellows whom I did not know, their features concealed in wind scarves, entered and did what you see in the front of the shop."

"I like my version better," said the captain.

"As you will," said the merchant.

"I do not care for what occurred here," said the captain, "and I find you uncooperative."

"I will cooperate in any way I can," said the merchant.

The captain then went to the sides of the back room and suddenly, angrily, kicked and struck goods about, shattering countless articles.

"Stop!" cried the merchant.

The captain swept kraters from a shelf.

In futility did the merchant wring his hands.

"I suspect," said the captain, overturning a stack of bowls, treading upon several of them, "you are in league with the brigands, that your shop served as a trap!"

"No!" cried the shopkeeper, anguished. "Would I have myself ruined. Stop! I beg you, stop!"

"Impalement would be too good for you, traitor of Ar!" said the officer. "No!" wailed the merchant.

"If your story is true," said the officer, thrusting over a rack of ceramics, and a cabinet, "why were these goods, not destroyed, as well?" He hurled a kylix to the wall. In his anger, his destructive fury, doubtless the belated eruption of precedent frustrations, he kicked articles about, and trod even on bowls. Even his ankles and legs were bloodied.

"They did not come so far," said the merchant. "But you, it seems, are determined to complete their work."

"Do you have rope, or hammers and nails?" asked the officer.

"Of course, Captain," said the man.

"Strip her," said the captain to one of the men.

"No!" cried the merchant. He was restrained by two guardsmen.

The girl, crying out, shrieking, pulled half from the chest, had her veil and clothing torn from her.

She was then thrust down again, now naked, trembling, in the chest.

"No!" wept the shopkeeper, throwing himself to his knees before the officer. "This will teach you to put her on the registries," said the officer.

"She is on the registries!" wept the merchant.

"I have found hammers, and nails," said the other of the guardsmen.

"Please, no!" cried the merchant.

"Is this where free men of Ar belong, asked the captain, "at the feet of Cos?"

"Get off your knees!" said one of the guardsmen.

The merchant could not move, but sobbed helplessly.

"Nail shut the chest," said the officer.

"I will say anything you want," said the shopkeeper, looking up piteously at the officer, "anything! I will render whatever testimony you desire. I will sign anything, anything!"

The room rang with the blow of the hammers.

"It will not be necessary," said the officer. The merchant collapsed.

The lid was no hammered shut on the chest.

The officer left the fellow on the floor of the rear room, and signaled for two of his men to pick up the chest and follow him.

He then, followed by the rest of us, including the two fellows with the chest, threaded his way through the front of the shop and to the street outside.

"Captain!" said one of the men outside, pointing to the exterior wall of the building.

There, on the wall, scratched on the stone, was a delka.

The captain cried out with rage.

"I am sure that was not there when we entered, Captain," said one of the guardsmen.

"No, it was not," said the captain.

That was true. As it might be recalled, Marcus and I had entered the shop after the captain and his men, having been on our rounds in the neighborhood.

Some men were about, but seeing the captain and his men, and Marcus and myself, hurried away, perhaps fearing that the delka might be blamed on them.

I did not doubt but what some of these folks had peeped within the shop and seen the bodies about. That would have been easy enough to do when we were in the back of the shop.

The two fellows carrying the chest put it down.

"I fear they are everywhere," said the captain.

"Who?" I asked.

"The Delta Brigade," he said.

I myself, in a paga tavern or two, some days ago, had dropped this expression, mentioning it as though it were one I had heard somewhere, and was curious to understand. I was pleased to note that it was no common currency in Ar. Such are the wings of rumors.

"You think the afternoon's attack was the work of this Delta Brigade?" I asked. "Surely," he said.

"Who are they?" I asked.

"Dissidents, or renegades, doubtless," said the captain, "traitors to both Cos and Ar."

"I see," I said.

"I suspect veterans of the delta campaign," he said, "or scions of disaffected cities, such as Ar's Station."

"I am from Ar's Station," said Marcus.

"But you are an auxiliary," said the captain.

"True," said Marcus.

"Perhaps Marlenus of Ar has returned," I said. I thought that an excellent rumor to start.

"No," said the captain. "I do not think so. Marlenus was not, as far as we know, in the delta. I think it is more likely to be veterans of the delta, of which there are many in the city, or fellows from the north, from Ar's Station or somewhere."

"Perhaps you are right," I said. The captain was a shrewd fellow, and thusly an unlikely candidate to enlist in my efforts to initiate rumors, or at least this particular one. To be sure, even a fellow of genuine probity, one who is unlikely to nourish, reproduce, transmit, or credit a rumor in its infancy, may find himself uncritically accepting it later on, when it becomes "common knowledge," so to speak. Are we not all the victims of hearsay, even with respect to many of our most profound «truths»? Of our thousands and hundreds of thousands, of such "truths," how many have we personally earned? How many of us can determine the distance of a planet or the structure of a molecule?

"I will have a wagon sent for the bodies," said the captain.

"Yes, Captain," I said.

The captain regarded the delka, scrawled on the wall, with anger.

"It is only a scratching, a mark," I said. "No," he said. "It is more. It is a defiance of Cos, and of Ar!"

"Of Ar?" I asked.

"As she is today," he said.

"But perhaps not of the old Ar," I said.

"Perhaps not," he said.

"You have met men of Ar in battle?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "And it is a mark of the old Ar, the Ar I knew in war, the Ar of spears and standards, of rides and marches, of dust and trumpets, of tarns and tharlarion, the Ar of imperialism, of glory, of valor, and pride. That is why it is so dangerous. It is a recollection of the old Ar."

"The true Ar?"

"If you wish," he said. Then he exclaimed, angrily. "They have been defeated! She is dead! She is gone! How dare they remember her?"

He looked up and down the street. It now seemed deserted. I did not doubt but what word of what had occurred had spread.

"How dare they resist?" he asked.

"There seem few here now," I said.

"They are there, somewhere," he said.

"Perhaps," I said.

"Guard yourselves," he said.

"Thank you, Captain," I said.

"They may be anywhere," he said.

"Surely there are only a few," I said, "perhaps a few madmen who cannot understand the barest essentials of the most obvious realities, political and prudential."

"They are verr," he said. "But not all of them. Some pretend to be verr. Some are sleen, disguised in the skins of verr."

"Or larls," I said, "patient, unreconciled, dangerous, capable of action."

"Cos, too, has her larls," said the captain.

"I do not doubt it," I said.

"Had I my way," he said, "we would have finished Ar. She would have been done with then, forever. There would be nothing here now but ashes and salt. Even her name would be excised from the monuments, from the documents, from the histories. It would be as though she had not been."

"It is hard for a man to be great who does not have great enemies," I said. "And so Cos and Ar require one another, that each may be greater than they could otherwise be?" he asked.

"Perhaps," I said.

"There was no glory here," he said. "We did not win this victory in storm and fire, surmounting walls, breaching gates, winning Ar street by street, house by house. It was not we who defeated Ar. It was her putative own who betrayed her, in jealousy and intrigue, in ambition and greed. Ideas and lies defeated Ar. It was done through the sowing of confusion, the propagation of self-doubt and guilt, all suitably bedizened in the meretricious rhetorics of morality. We taught them that evil was good, and good evil, that strength was weakness, and weakness strength, that health was sickness, and sickness health. We made them distrust themselves, and taught them to believe that their most basic instincts and elemental insights, the most essential and primitive promptings of their blood, were to be repudiated in favor of self-denial and frustration, in favor of vacuous principles, used by us as weapons against them, in favor stultifying verbalisms, to cripple and bleed them, and entrap them in our tolls. And thus, betrayed by those who sought advancement in the destruction and dissolution of their own community, abetted by the well-intentioned, the simpleminded, the idealists, the fools, they put themselves at our mercy, at that of another community, one not so foolish, or not so sickened, as theirs. I saw strong men gladly setting aside their weapons. I saw citizens of Ar singing as their gates burned, as they tore down their walls with their own hands. That is no honest victory for Cos, won at the walls, at the gates, in the streets. That is not a victory of which we can be proud. That is a victory not of steel but by poison."

"You are a warrior," I said.

"Once," he said.

He turned and looked at the shop. "When the bodies are removed," he said. "I think I shall have this shop burned."

"There are adjoining buildings," I said.

"Ah, yes," he said. "We must avoid incidents. We must keep the verr pacified, lest they learn how they are milked and shorn."

"Surely you do not believe the merchant is involved with the Delta Brigade," I said.

"No," he said. "I do not really believe that."

"And the slain men?" I asked.

"Well-known brigands," he said, "insults to the armbands they wear."

"And what report will you make of this?" I asked.

"Heroes, of course," said he, "slain by overwhelming odds."

"I see," I said.

"There is a game here," he said, "which I shall play/ I have no wish to lose my post. You see, the sickness of Ar infects even her conquerors. We must pretend to believe the same lies."

"I understand," I said.

"And even if I did not make such a report I do not doubt but what it would be something to that effect which would eventually reach the tent of Myron, my polemarkos."

"He is a good officer," I said.

"Yes," said the captain/ I had always heard this of Myron. To be sure, I had gathered that he had once been too much under the influence of a woman, a mere slave, who had been named Lucilina. She had been captured and was now owned by a common soldier in the retinue of Dietrich of Tarnburg. No longer was she a high slave, pampered and indulged. She was now a low slave, and among the lowest of the low, and was worked hard. She must often kneel and fear whipping. It was said, too, that in the arms of her master, well handled and mastered, she had discovered her womanhood. I doubted that Myron, for his part, would again make the mistake he had made with her. I did not doubt but what his women would now be well kept in their place, at his feet. They would kneel there, I did not doubt, in all trembling and subservience, and be in no doubt as to their collaring.

Again the captain looked angrily at the furrowed wall, the tracing of that triangle, the delka.

"Captain?" I said.

"How many do you think are in the Delta Brigade?" he asked.

"I do not know," I said. "Surely no more than a few."

"A few today may become a regiment tomorrow, and after that, who knows?"

"The merchant spoke of only two men," I reminded him.

"There had to be more than that," said the captain, "though how many it is difficult to say, perhaps ten, perhaps twelve."

"Why do you say that?" I asked.

"The victims were not civilians, not tradesmen, not potters or bakers. They were skilled swordsmen," he said.

"Perhaps then there are ten in the Delta Brigade," I said.

"I am sure there are many more," he said.

"Oh?" I said, interested.

"This sign turns up frequently in the city, and more often from day to day," he said. "It is a symbol of resistance, smeared on a wall, scratched on a flagstone, carved into a post, found inscribed on an unfolded napkin."

I had not known these things. I myself had not seen much evidence of this sort of thing. To be sure, Marcus and I usually prowled in the darkness, protected from suspicion by our armbands, as though we might be on duty. And during the day we had normal duties, guarding portals and such, or, when assigned them, rounds, usually in public areas, as today, where the inscribing of the delka would be more likely to be noticed. I suspected these delkas were mostly to be found in the alleys and the back streets of Ar.

"The scratching of the delka," I said, " might even be permitted, as an outlet for meaningless defiance, as a futile token of protest from those too helpless or weak to do more."

"I am sure you are right, for the most part," said the captain.

"Then I would not concern myself with them," I said.

"Four soldiers were found murdered this morning," said the officer, "off the Avenue of Turia. The delka was found there, too."

"I see," I said. I had certainly known nothing of this. Marcus and I, it seemed, had allies.

The officer's men, the guardsmen, looked at one another. I gathered that this was information to them, too.

"Do you wish for us to remain on duty here, my fellow and myself," I asked, "until the arrival of the wagon?"

"No," he said.

"Is there any way we may be of service?" I asked.

"We have our rounds," said the officer. He glanced at the chest on the street, outside the door of the shop.

"Yes, Captain?" I said.

"What do you think of the contents of this chest?" he asked.

"A pretty lass," I said, "although young."

"Do you think she would look well in slave silk and a collar?"

I thought about it. "Yes," I said. "But perhaps more so in a year or so."

"Did you not see how, when the lid of the chest was held open, her veil had been disarranged, that her lips and mouth might be visible?"

"It was impossible not to notice it," I said. I recalled her father had chided her about this. Such a lapse I was sure, had not been inadvertent, not on Gor, with a free woman. If it had not been overtly intentional, consciously arranged, so to speak, it had surely been covertly so, unconsciously so, a pathetic sign manifested outwardly of a dawning sexuality and an innate need whose first powerful promptings were doubtless felt even now.

"Do you think she would make a slave?" he asked.

"I assume you do not mean a child might be a slave," I said, "carried into bondage to be trained as a mere serving girl or page, to be in effect held for true bondage later, say, to be auctioned as a pleasure object, if a female, or say, to be sent to the fields or quarries, if a male."

"No," he said.

"Yes," I said. "I suppose she is ready for the block now."

"Do you think she is on the registries?" he asked.

"Probably," I said.

"But it does not really matter one way or another," he said, "as she is a girl of Ar."

"True," I said. Ar, and its contents, belonged to Cos.

"Do you know where the loot area is," he asked, "that in the district of Anbar?"

"Yes," I said.

"I would be obliged if you would see to the chest, and the slave."

I suppose the young woman within the chest could hear our conversation. I would have supposed that she would then have pounded and wept, and scratched at the inside of the chest, begging mercy, but she did not. Slaves, those fit by nature for this elegant disposition, and whose minds and bodies crave it profoundly, and will not be happy without it, pretending that they are actually free women, commonly do such things. They are often among the most express in their protestive behaviors, the most demonstrative in their lamentations, and such, believing such things are expected of them, fearing only that they will be taken seriously. But this girl was actually very quiet, lying like a caressable, silken little urt in the chest. Indeed, for a moment, I feared there might be insufficient air in the chest and that she might have fainted, or otherwise lost consciousness. But then I noted that the chest was well ventilated, as made sense, considering it had probably been prepared to conceal her days ago, if not months ago. She had doubtless not, however, expected to have its lid nailed shut, and to find herself helplessly, nakedly, at the mercy of strong men, imprisoned within it, and perhaps timidly, fearfully, trying to understand her feelings.

"My fellow and I," I said, "if you wish, will see to the chest, and the girl."

"The slave," he said.

"Yes," I said, "the slave."

"I wish you well," said the captain.

"I wish you well," I said.

He then, and his men, took their leave.

"Why did you not wish the bodies placed outside the shop?" Marcus asked of me, when the officer with his small squad had departed.

I motioned him to one side, that the girl in the chest might not overhear our conversation.

"Surely it would have been better if the bodies had been put outside," said Marcus, "that the strength of the Delta Brigade, as it is spoken of, and the effectiveness of its work, might seem displayed."

I spoke softly. "No, dear friend," I said. "Better that the carnage wrought within the shop should seem that those of Cos feared it to be known, that they were concerned to conceal it from the public."

"Ah!" said Marcus.

"But, too," I said, "do not fear that it is not known. The shop is muchly open. The door was ajar. I am confident men have spied within and see what lies strewn upon its tiles. And even if they had not, the bodies will presumably be removed and be seen then. And, too, if not this either, surely we may depend upon the tradesman to speak of such things."

"That the bodies were not put outside," said Marcus, "makes it seem as though Cos feared the Delta Brigade, and did not wish that the effectiveness of its work be known, and that is much more to the advantage of the Brigade."

"Yes," I said. "I think so."

"Accordingly," said Marcus, "its work is known, or likely to be known, but it is also made to seem that Cos fears the making broadcast of such intelligence."

"Precisely," I said.

"Thusly increasing the reputation of the Delta Brigade," he said.

"Yes," I said.

"It is a form of Kaissa, is it not?" he asked.

"Of course," I said.

"Well played," he said.

"Perhaps," I said. "But it is difficult to foresee the continuations."

"I do not like such games," he said.

"You prefer a fellow at sword point, in an open field, at noon?" I asked. "Of course," he said.

I was sympathetic with his view. The board had a thousand sides, and surfaces and dimensions, the pieces were of unknown number, and nature and value, the rules were uncertain, often you did not know whom you played, or where they were, often the moves must be made in darkness, in ignorance of your opponent's position, his pieces, his strengths, his skills, his moves.

"Perhaps, I too," I mused. Yet I had known men who enjoyed such Kaissa, the games of politics and men. My friend, Samos, of Port Kar, was one such.

"You enjoy such things," said Marcus.

"Perhaps," I said. "I am not sure." It is often easier to know others than ourselves. Perhaps that is because there is less need to tell lies about them. Few of us recognize the stranger in the shadows, who is ourself.

"I am a simple warrior," said Marcus. "Set me a formation, or a field, or a city. I think I know how to solve them, or set about the matter. Let things be clear and plain. Let me see my foe, let me meet him face to face."

"Subtlety and deception are not new weapons in the arsenal of war," I said. "They are undoubtedly as ancient as the club, the stone, the sharpened stick." Marcus regarded me, angrily.

"Study the campaigns of Dietrich of Tarnburg," I said.

Marcus shrugged, angrily.

"He has sowed silver and harvested cities," I said.

"More gates are opened with gold than iron," he said.

"You pretend to simplicity," I said. "Yet you quote from the Diaries." These were the field diaries attributed by many to Carl Commenius of Argentum. The reference would be clear to Marcus, a trained warrior.

"That I do not care for such games," said Marcus, "does not mean I cannot play them."

"How many are in the Delta Brigade? I asked him.

"Two," he smiled. "We are the Delta Brigade."

"No," I said, "there are more."

He looked at me, puzzled.

"This morning," I said, "four soldiers, doubtless Cosians, were found slain in the vicinity of the Avenue of Turia. The delka was found there."

Marcus was silent.

"We have allies," I said. "Too, I have learned that the delka appears elsewhere in Ar, presumably mostly in poorer districts."

"I do not welcome unknown allies," he said.

"At least we cannot betray them under torture, nor they us."

"Am I to derive comfort from that thought?" he asked.

"Why not?" I asked.

"We cannot control them," he said.

"Nor they us," I said.

"We began this," said Marcus. "But I do not know where it will end."

"Cos will be forced to unsheath her claws."

"And then?" he asked.

"And then we do not know where it will end," I said.

"What of the Home Stone of Ar's Station?" he asked.

"Is that your only concern?" I asked.

"For all I care, traitorous Ar may be burned to the ground," he said.

"It will be again publicly displayed," I said.

"That is part of your Kaissa?" he asked.

"Yes," I said.

"You see far ahead," he said.

"No," I said. "It is a forced continuation."

"I do not understand," he said.

"Ar will have no choice," I said.

"And if the Home Stone of Ar's Station is again displayed, what then?" he asked. "It was displayed before."

"I know a fellow who can obtain it for you," I said.

"A magician?" he asked.

I smiled.

"The Delta Brigade," he asked, "the two of us?"

"I think there are more," I said.

He looked at the delka, scratched on the exterior wall of the shop.

"You are curious as to its meaning, and its power?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

"So, too, am I," I said.

"I am afraid," he said.

"So, too, am I" I said.

"And what of this?" asked Marcus, indicating the chest on the street, near us. "Bring it along," I said.

"What are we going to do with it?" he asked.

"You will see," I said.

"You saw her mouth was uncovered," he said. "She belongs with other lewd women in the loot pits of the Anbar district, awaiting their brands and collars."

"With other needful women," I said.

"She is a slave slut," he said.

"And will perhaps one day find her rightful master," I said.

"What are we going to do with her?" he asked.

"You will see," I said.

We then went to the chest. "Help me lift it," I said.

In a moment we had it in hand. It was a bit bulky to be easily carried by one man, but it was not heavy.

We felt its contents more within it.

12 The Countries of Courage

"Put it down here," I said.

We were in a deserted alleyway, about two pasangs from the shop, rather between it and the Anbar district. It might well appear that we had been on our way to that district.

"Over her, more," I said. Marcus and I put the chest against one wall, that it might not move further in that direction. I then stepped back a bit and forcibly, with the flat of my foot, with four or five blows, kicked back the side of the chest, forcing it some inches inward, breaking it muchly from the ends, tearing it free of the nails and the lid. I delivered similar blows to the two ends of the chest, splintering it loose of nails and the back. the girl within cried out in misery. I then, with my hands, seizing it, now muchly freed, flung up the lid, revealing her within, and she cried out again, and hid her head, putting her hands over it. She lay there, terrified, among the splinters and nails, the sides and ends muchly loosened, collapsed about her. I then turned to the shambles of the chest to its side, spilling her to the stones of the alley. Shuddering she was on her belly to us and crawled to my feet, pressing her lips to them.

"She desires to please, as a slave," observed Marcus.

"Do you object?" I asked.

She now pressed her lips similarly upon the feet of Marcus.

"No," he said. "She is obviously a slave, and is both comely and desirable. Too, she is of Ar, and all of the women of Ar should be slaves."

She then knelt before us, the palms of her hands on the stones, her head down to them, as well.

"Doubtless she has seen slaves kneel in such a way," said Marcus.

"Probably," I said. It was a common position of slave obeisance.

"She is a slave," he said.

"She is frightened," I said.

"She is a slave," he said.

"That, too," I granted him.

"Look up, girl," said Marcus.

She looked up, frightened.

"Are you a slave?" asked Marcus.

Her lip trembled.

"She is legally free," I pointed out.

"Are you a slave?" pressed Marcus.

"Yes," she whispered.

"Yes, what?" he asked.

"Yes, Master," she whispered. I suspected she had used that word to men before only in her imagination, or speaking it softly to her pillow in the night. "Legally free," he said, "but still a slave, and rightfully so?" he asked. "Yes, Master," she said.

"Lacking only the legalities of the brand and collar?" he asked.

"Yes, Master!" she said.

"Yet she is young to be a slave," I said.

"Do you think we cannot be slaves?" she asked.

"Some men enjoy them," said Marcus, "squirming in the furs, panting, begging for more."

The girl closed her eyes, and sobbed. I wondered if she understood these things. "She is young," I said.

"Do you scorn me for my youth?" she asked. "Do you think we do have feelings? Do you think we are not yet capable of love, that we are not yet women? You are wrong! How little you understand us! We are young and desirable, and ready to serve!"

"You are young," I said. "Your surrender cannot be the full surrender of the mature woman, the woman experienced in life, the woman who has come to understand the barrenness of the conventions by which she is expected to abide, who has discerned the vacuity of the principles to which she is expected to mindlessly subscribe, who has learned the emptiness of the roles imposed upon her by society, roles alien to, and inimical to, the needs of her deepest self. You are not such a woman, a full, mature, knowledgeable, cognizant woman, a woman profoundly in touch with her passion and deepest self, one who has come to understand that her only hope for true happiness and fulfillment lies in obedience, love and service, one craving the collar, one yearning for a master."

"No, no, no!" she wept. "I am young, but I am a woman, and alive! Do you think that intelligence and maturity are prerogatives only of such as you! No! I am quick at my studies! I am alert! I think much! I am dutiful! I want to make a man happy, truly happy, in the fullest dimensions of his being, not a part of him, leaving the rest to hide, or shrivel and die! I cannot know my bondage if he does not learn his mastery! Why should his birthright be denied to him, and mine to me? As the master needs the slave so, too, the slave needs the master! I was taken aback by her words. I recalled how quietly she had lain in the box, that her veil had been disarranged when first the guardsmen, and Marcus and myself, had looked upon her. She was undoubtedly of high intelligence. Such is valued considerably, of course, in a slave. It makes them much better slaves. How much more tactful, sensitive and inventive are intelligent slaves! Indeed, the intelligence of some slaves blossoms in bondage, seemingly at last finding the apt environment for its flowering. To be sure, when a girl knows she may feel the lash for a mistake, she tends to become considerably more alert. "What have we here," asked Marcus, "a little scribe?"

"I am no stranger to scrolls," she said.

"You are still young," I said.

"That does not mean I cannot feel," she said. "That does not mean I am stupid." I had no doubt that in time she would make an excellent slave. Indeed, I could well imagine her, even now, serving in a house, deferentially, with belled ankles.

"I heard one speaking earlier," she said, "of the loot area in the district of Anbar."

"Can you not wait to be shackled and thrown into the loot pits with other women, to await the collar and brand?" inquired Marcus.

"Take me there!" she demanded.

Instantly, appropriately, he lashed her head to the side with the back of his right hand.

She was struck to the ground with the force of the blow and at a snapping of his fingers, and his gesture, she struggled again to her knees before us, her mouth bloody. Her eyes were wide. It was perhaps the first time she had been cuffed. Marcus glared down at her. He did not have much patience with slaves. Phoebe had often learned that to her dismay. To be sure, she was scarcely ever struck or beaten now. She had become a superb slave in the past few months, under Marcus' tutelage.

"Forgive me, Master," she said. "I was not respectful. It was appropriate that I be cuffed."

In her eyes there were awe and admiration for Marcus. She saw that he would not hesitate to impose discipline upon her.

"It is common," I said, "for a slave to request permission to speak."

"Forgive me, Master," she said, putting down her head.

"You said you were no stranger to scrolls," I said.

"To some, Master," she said. "I did not mean to be arrogant. If I have not been pleasing, lash me."

"Have you read," I asked, "the Manuals of the Pens of Mira, Leonora's Compendium, the Songs of Dina, or Hargon's The Nature and Arts of the Female Slave?"

"No, Master," she said, eagerly. Such texts, and numerous others, like them, are sometimes utilized in a girl's training, particularly by professional slavers. Sometimes they are read aloud in training sessions by a scribe, a whip master in attendance. Most girls are eager to acquire such knowledge. Indeed, they often ply one another for secrets of love, makeup, costuming, perfuming, dance, and such, as each wishes to be as perfect for her master as it lies within her power to be. Also, of course, such diligence is prudential on her part. She will be lashed if she is not pleasing. Also, her very life, literally, is in his hands. Perhaps a word is in order pertaining to the Songs of Dina. Some free women claim that this book, which is supposedly written by Din, "a slave", which continues to appear in various editions and revisions, because of its intelligence and sensitivity, is actually, and must be, written by a free woman. I suspect, on the other hand, that it is truly by a slave, as is claimed on the title page. There are two reasons for this. First, "Dina' is a common slave name, often given to girls with the "Dina' brand, which is a small, roselike brand. Second, the nature of the songs themselves. No free woman could have sung of chains and love, and the lash, and the glory of masters as she. Those are songs which, in my opinion, could be written only by a woman who knew what it was to be at a man's slave ring. As to the matter of the poetess' intelligence and sensitivity, I surely grant them to the free women, but maintain that such are entirely possible in a slave, and even more to expected in her than in them. I suspect their position may even be inconsistent. When a women is enslaved, for example, surely they do not suppose that her intelligence and sensitivity disappear. Surely they would not expect theirs to do so, if they had them. No, she still has them. Also, it has been my personal experience, for what it is worth, that slaves are almost always more intelligent and sensitive than free women, who often, at least until taken in hand, tend to be ignorant, smug, vain and stupid. Also, it might be noted that many women are enslaved nto simply because it is convenient to do so, the ropes are handy, so to speak, or because they are beautiful of face and figure, but actually because of their intelligence and sensitivity, qualifies which appeal to many Gorean men. indeed, as I have suggested, the intelligence and sensitivity of many women actually tends to blossom in bondage, finding within it the apt environment for its expression, for its flowering. This may have to do with such matters as the release of inhibitions, happiness, fulfillment, and such. I do not know. "What of the Prition of Clearchus of Cos?" I asked.

"A Cosian?" said Marcus.

"Yes," I said.

"That will not be found in Ar," he said.

"It used to be," I said, "at least before the war."

"Yes, Master," she beamed. "I have read it!"

"You, a free girl, have read it?" I asked. To be sure, the book is a classic. "Yes, Master!" she smiled.

"Does your father know you have read it?" I asked.

"No, Master," she said.

"What do you suppose he would do to you, if he found out?" I asked.

"I think he would sell me, Master," she said.

"And appropriately," I said.

"Yes, Master," she smiled.

"Stand," I said. "Turn about. Cross your wrists behind you."

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

"Oh!" she said, bound.

"Turn about," I said.

Swiftly she did so, and looked shyly up at me. She tested the fiber on her wrists, subtly, attempting to do so inconspicuously, trying its smugness and strength, its effectiveness. She put down her head and suddenly, inadvertently, shuddered, with pleasure. I had used capture knots. She knew herself helpless. I supposed it was the first time she had ever been bound.

"May I speak?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.

"I am tied as a slave is tied, am I not?" she asked.

"As slaves are sometimes tied," I said.

This comprehension was suddenly reflected, or exhibited, in her entire body, in fear, and desire and pleasure, she flexing her knees, twisting, her shoulders moving, and then, again, she stood before me, looking up at me, but now trembling.

"It is appropriate, is it not?" I said.

"Yes, Master," she said.

I regarded her.

She looked away.

She was trying to deal with her helplessness, to understand it, and its import. I wondered what her feelings would have been had she been a legal slave, and known herself totally at our mercy.

"Will it be necessary to leash you?" I asked.

"No," she said.

I then leashed her. "Now you will not run away," I said.

"I will not run away," she said.

"I know," I said. I looped the long end of the leash three times. She looked at the swinging loops, apprehensively. Most slave leashes are long enough to serve not only as a leash but also as a lash. The length, too, permits them to facilitate a binding, both of hand and foot. A common technique is to run the leash through a slave ring and then complete the tie as one pleases, simply or complexly. Many leashes, such as the one I had just put on the girl, are cored with wire. This prevents them from being chewed through.

"Tarry here a moment," I said to Marcus. To the girl I said, "Precede me." She went ahead of me some paces down the alley before I stopped her. "Do not turn about," I said.

I then turned back to Marcus. I pointed to the remains of the chest and touched the knife at my side.

He nodded and drew his knife. On the lid of the chest he carved a delka, and then set the lid against the remains of the chest, that the sign might be prominently displayed. As we were not in the officer's chain of command, he in charge of the guardsmen of Ar whom we had earlier encountered. I did not (pg. 196) think he would be likely to follow up the matter on the girl's disposition. He would presumably take it for granted, that she might even now be in the loot pits of the district of Anbar, awaiting the technicalities of her enslavement. Had he been interested in the matter he would doubtless have seen to it himself, or had his men see to it. Perhaps, on the other hand, he did not trust them, as they were of Ar. I did not know. If an investigation were initiated, which seemed to me unlikely, as many women were delivered on one pretext or another to the loot pits, and there would not be likely to be much interest in any particular one of them, Marcus and I could always claim that she had come into the power of the Delta Brigade, and we had thought it best not to gainsay their will in the matter, and indeed, I suppose, in a sense, that was true, as Marcus and I, were, or were of, as it seemed better to put it now, given the most recent information at our disposal, the Delta Brigade. Too, even if the matter were not perused further, there would now be at least one more delka in Ar. In a few moments we were out on the streets. Even though such sights were not rare in Ar, in the past months, a free woman, leashed, in the custody of guardsmen or auxiliaries, presumably having been appropriated for levies, or perhaps merely having been subjected to irrevocable, unappealable seizure at an officer's whim, yet men turned to regard her as we passed. In spite of her youth she was well formed. In four or five years I had no doubt she would constitute an extraordinary luscious love bundle helplessly responding in a master's arms. A fellow made a quick noise with his mouth as he passed her. She lifted her head, startled, in the leash collar. The meaning of the sound would be unmistakable, even to a girl, signifying as it did the eagerness and relish which the mere sight of her inspired in him. her face was soft and lovely, gently rounded. Her hair was long and dark.

"She moves well," commented Marcus.

"Yes," I said.

"I think she has just begun to sense how men might view her," mused Marcus. "I think so," I said.

"It is interesting," he said, "when a women first begins to sense her desirability."

"True," I said.

"And hers is such that a price can be put on it," he said.

"Yes," I said. Her desirability was so exciting that it could only be that of a slave.

"Look at her," he said.

"Yes," I said.

"She is ready for the block now."

"Perhaps," I said.

"I am sure she would perform well," said Marcus. "And if she were reluctant to do so, or hesitated for a moment, I am sure any lingering scruples would be promptly dissipated by the auctioneer's whip."

"Undoubtedly," I said. I had seen such transformations take place many times at the sales. It is not so much, I think, that the lash, in such a situation, as a punishment, changes the woman's behavior, that she obeys because she does not wish to be whipped, but rather that the whip convinces her that she is not free to be sensuous, sexual, marvelous creature which she is in herself and has always desired to be. In this sense the whip does not oppress the woman but rather liberates her to be herself, wild, uninhibited, free in a sense, even though she may be bound in chains, and sexual. To be sure, the whip is also used to punish women, and they do fear it, and mightily, for such a reason. Sometimes it is used too, of course, merely to remind them of what they are, slaves. "How graceful she is," he commented.

"Yes," I said.

I suspected that a perceptive master might have a woman such as she trained in slave dance, that she might please him also in this way. I could imagine her, even now, in the floor movements of the slave dance. I wiped sweat from my brow. How beautifully walked the girl, how conscious now, how proud, how pleased, she seemed, in the abundance of her beauty, her desirability and power. How different she was from many of the free women we had seen earlier being led through the streets, piteous, overfed, stumbling creatures following behind on their leashes, their heads down, loudly bemoaning their fate. But even those, I suspected, given diet, exercise and training, could in time, be transformed into dreams of pleasure.

"Slave!" hissed a free woman to the girl. Then she was behind us. Her voice fraught with hatred.

"She thinks you are a slave," I said.

"Yes," laughed the girl, delightedly.

For some reason free women hate female slaves. They are often quite cruel even to those whom they themselves own. I am not certain of the explanation of this seemingly unreasoning, inexplicable hatred. Perhaps they hate the slave for her beauty, for her joy, her truth, her perfections, her desirability, her happiness. At the root of their hatred, perhaps, lies their own unhappiness and lack of fulfillment, their envy of the slave, joyfully in her rightful place in nature. In any event, this attack on the part of the free women, which happily had been only verbal, as they often are not, and the abused slaves in any event dare not protest or object, as they are at the mercy of free persons, was in its way a profound compliment. So beautiful and exciting was the girl that the woman had naturally assumed she was that most marvelous, helpless, lovely and degraded of objects, the female slave.

"Turn left here," I said to the girl.

"Masters?" she asked, stopping.

"Left," I said. As she was free I did not demur to repeat a command. Also, punishment for having to repeat a command is always at the option of the master. For example, a command might not be clearly heard, or might not be clear in itself, or might appear inconsistent with the master's presumed intentions. Whether punishment is in order or not is then a matter for judgment on the master's part. In this case, of course, as we were on Tarngate, at Lorna, she has every reason to question my direction.

"Masters," said the girl, "may I speak?"

"Yes," I said.

"This is not the way to the district of Anbar," she said. Perhaps she thought we were strangers, brought in as auxiliaries, and did not know the city. To be sure, there were many areas in Ar which I did not know.

"That is known to me," I said.

"Where are we going?" she asked.

"We are taking you home," I said.

"No!" she cried, aghast.

I regarded her.

"You are to take me to the loot area in the district of Anbar!" she said. "When I was within the chest I heard it so said!"

"You are going home," I said.

"We could sell her," said Marcus.

"Yes!" she said. "Sell me!"

"No," I said. "You are going home."

She tried to back away but in an instant was stopped, the inside of the leash collar tight against the back of her neck. "Perhaps you have forgotten that you are leashed, female," I said.

She approached me and fell to her knees before me, the leash looping up to my hand. She put her head to the stones, at my feet. I think she then, better than before, understood her helplessness, and the meaning of the leash, and why I had put it on her.

"I thought you said you would not run away," I said.

She lifted her head. "I cannot run away," she said. "I am leashed!"

"Yes," I said.

"I am in your power," she said. "You can do with me as you wish. I beg to be taken to the loot pits. I beg to be taken there, or sold?"

"No," I said.

"Keep me then for yourselves!" she said, looking from me to Marcus, and back again.

"No," I said.

"Surely you do not doubt that I am a slave, and need to be a slave!" she wept. "I do not doubt that," I said. "But I think it is a bit early to harvest you."

"Surely that is a matter of opinion," said Marcus.

"True," I granted him.

"Surely you have seen such slips of girls chained in the loot lines of conquered cities," he said.

"Yes," I admitted.

"They do no discriminate against them there, do they?" he said.

"No," I said.

"And surely you have been pleasured in various taverns by such," he said. "Yes," I said. "Even though they do not yet have the full perfections of their femaleness upon them."

"What scruple then," asked he," gives you pause?"

"She is rather young," I said. "Also we owe something to her father."

"What is that?" he asked.

"He is a brave man," I said.

"Brave?" asked Marcus. "Did you not observe his wringing of hands, his wailing unmaniless, his terror, his obsequiousness, not see to what extent he would go to accommodate himself to Cosian will?"

"It is true, Masters," said the girl, "if I may speak, as I gather I may, as you seem to insist upon treating me as a free woman. My father is a negligible coward."

"No," I said. "He is a brave man."

"I believe I know him better than you," she said.

"Surely Marcus," I said, "you would not begrudge the fellow a certain dismay over the destruction of his shop and the grievous impairment of his means of livelihood."

"His reaction was excessive," said Marcus.

"Exaggerated, you think?"

"If you wish," he said.

"For the benefit of whom, do you suppose?" I asked.

"I do not understand," said Marcus.

"What would you have done?" I asked.

"I would have scorned the Cosian openly," said Marcus, "or set upon him, and the others, with my sword."

"Are you a tradesman?" I asked.

"No," said he. "I am of the Scarlet Caste."

"And what if you were a tradesman?"

"I?" he asked, angrily.

"Do you think that in castes other than your own there are no men?"

"I would have scorned them even if I were a confectioner," said Marcus.

"And hurled sweets at them?"

"Be serious," said he, irritably.

"And presumably, by now," I said, "You would have been beaten, or maimed or slain, and your property confiscated. At the least you would have been entered on one of the lists of suspicion, your movements subject to surveillance, your actions the objects of reports."

"This is more of your Kaissa," said he, distastefully.

"As a warrior," said I, " surely you are aware of the virtues of concealment, of subterfuge."

"No," said he girl. "My father is a coward. I know him."

"You have mistaken concern for cowardice," I said.

"My father does not understand me," she said.

"No fathers understand their daughters," I said. "They only love them."

"You saw to what an extent he would go to accommodate himself to Cosian will," said Marcus.

"To protect his daughter," I said. "Surely you, in his place, in his helplessness, lacking you sword, your skills, would have done as much, or more."

"I do no want his protection," said the girl. "He keeps me from myself!"

"He see you in terms of one ideal," I said, "while it is actually another, one more profound, which you manifest."

"I do not want to go back to him," she said.

"He loves you," I said.

"I despise him!" she said.

"It is true that sometimes strangers understand a woman better than those closest to her, and see what she is, and needs. They see her more directly, more as herself, and less through their own distorting lenses, lenses they themselves have ground, lenses which would show her not as she is but as they require her to be."

"I hate him!" she said.

"And love him," I said. "You will always love him."

"He is a coward!" she cried.

"No," I said.

"I know him!" she said.

"You do not," I said.

"Surely you do not claim he is a brave man?" said Marcus.

"He did not identify us," I said.

"He did not recognize us," said Marcus.

"But he did," I said.

Marcus looked at me, angrily.

"Yes," I said.

"Our features were concealed," said Marcus.

"Do you think he would not recognize our builds," I asked, "our clothing, our sandals? Do you think this would be so hard to do, within moments of having seen us before?"

"If you feared this," he asked, "why did you reenter the shop?"

"Because of the patrol," I said. "I feared they might kill him, in vengeance for the carnage wrought in the shop. Too, we were in the vicinity, and it might seem unusual, surely, if we did not add our presence to the investigation. That might have attracted comment and inquiry, had it been noticed. Too, who knows, perhaps there could be more swordplay within."

"But you did not attack the patrol," he said.

"They were, as it turned out," I said, "mostly lads of Ar, and thusly it would have been not only impolitic but, in my opinion, actually objectionable to have done so. After all, we are, in our way, acting in support of Ar, the old Ar, the true Ar, and the officer, through obviously a Cosian sleen, was not a bad fellow. We cannot blame him for being angry that the carnage was wrought within his precinct, almost under his nose, and he could, at least, recognize, as her father could not, the true nature of this little slave slut before us."

The girl put down her head.

"You think the tradesman recognized us?" asked Marcus.

"Yes," I said.

"How do you know?" he asked.

"I saw it, in a flash, at first, in his eyes," I said.

"But he did not betray us."

"No," I said.

"He might have won much favor with Cos has he done so," said Marcus.

"Undoubtedly," I said.

"He is a brave man," said Marcus.

"And only a tradesman," I reminded him.

"There are brave men in all castes," smiled Marcus.

"Look," I said, pointing to a wall on Lorna, near where we stood. I had not seen it before. "The delka," I said.

"We did not put it there," said Marus.

"And Lorna is a muchly frequented street," I said.

"Interesting," he said.

"Yes," I said.

I looked down at the kneeling, leashed girl.

"I want to be forced to fear, and serve, and yield, totally to my master," she said.

"And undoubtedly in time it will be so," I told her.

"I am not ready, you think?" she said.

"No," I said.

"Perhaps in a day or two," grumbled Marcus.

"Why will you return me to my father?" she asked.

"Because you are young," I said.

"And?" she asked, skeptically.

"Because we owe your father something," I said.

"And you owe me nothing?" she said.

"No," I said. "We owe you nothing." Then I added, "Nothing is owed a slave."

"Yes, Master," she said.

"On your feet," I said.

"I will get my collar!" she said. "If necessary I will slacken my veil. I will lift my robes in ascending a curb, that my ankles may be glimpsed. I will dare to walk the remote districts, and to tread high bridges!"

"Must a command be repeated?" I asked.

"No, Master," she said, quickly, rising.

"I will get my collar!" she repeated.

"I wonder if you will be as eager to wear it," I said, "when it is found on your throat and you cannot remove it, when you find that you are truly a helpless slave."

She turned white.

"I will try to serve my master well," she whispered.

"Let us hope he is a kind one," I said.

She looked at me, frightened.

"You could be bought by anyone," I said.

"Yes, Master," she whispered.

"Precede us," I said.

She went left, as I had directed, on Lorna.

"Walk well," I cautioned her.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"Surely it is an error to let such a lovely slut go free," said Marcus.

"One as attractive as she will probably not be permitted to go free for long," I said.

We would keep to the main streets for a time. it would attract more attention, I feared, to march our captive between buildings, through backways and alleys, as though we wished to hide her. As it was, she was, in her way, well disguised, as her clothing could not be recognized nor, as she would customarily, at her age, be veiled, her face. When we reached the vicinity of delivery. In the meantime I thought it would do the exciting little chit good to be marched naked through the streets. Too, it was not unpleasant to walk behind her.

In time we had come to the vicinity of the shop and I directed her to the alley behind it.

We paused before the rear door of the shop.

I took up some of the slack in the leash and she turned and faced me, defiantly. "So I am rejected as a female," she said, "and you return me here?"

I handed the leash to Marcus.

I turned her about and freed her hands. The leash was still on her neck. "Do you think I am not beautiful enough, or intelligent enough," she said, angrily, not facing me, "to be a slave?"

"Oh!" she gasped, suddenly, turned about, rudely, forcibly, by me, and held helplessly before me, by the upper arms. She was frightened. "You're hurting me," she whispered. "Oh!" she said, wincing, as I tightened my grip. She knew herself helpless. "Yes, Master," she suddenly breathed, her eyes closed. I saw that she understood masculine power, and would respond well to it.

I then, reluctantly, with some force of will, removed my hands from her. "You are both beautiful enough and intelligent enough to be a slave," I said. She looked at me. The prints of my grip lingered on her arms.

"Yes," I assured her.

"Then do not bring me back here," she whispered. "Take me to the loot pits, or keep me, or sell me, but do not bring me back here. No longer is this my home. My home I now know is in my master's house, or, if he will have it so, in his kennels."

I regarded her.

"Shall I knock?" asked Marcus.

I looked at the girl. She looked well, leashed.

"Yes," I said.

"If it were not for what you owed my father." She asked, "would you have brought me here?"

I considered the matter, and regarded her. "No," I said.

She smiled, through her tears, almost defiantly.

I suddenly seized her by the hair, and twisted her head back, and regarded her, her lovely throat and face. "No," I said.

"Then I am beautiful enough and intelligent enough to be a slave," she said. "Yes," I said.

She sobbed.

"Beauty and intelligence are well and good," I said, "but the best slave is she who loves most deeply."

"My master will be all to me," she said. I regarded her. She would never be truly happy until she was in her place, at a man's feet.

"Someone is coming," said Marcus.

I released her.

"So it is all the will of men?" she said, through her tears. "All the debts, all the owing, all the payments? And nothing is owed to me?"

"No," I said. "Nothing is owed to you. You are a slave."

"Yes, Master!" she said.

We heard a fumbling with the bolts and chains on the door, and a lifting of the two bars. Gorean doors are often firmly secured.

"Remove the leash," I said to Marcus. In a moment he had freed her neck of it. "Kneel here," I said to the girl, "head down, and cover yourself."

"Yes, Master," she whispered.

The door opened.

"Hurry inside," said the tradesman to the girl. She rose up and sped within, covering herself as she could. She turned once, inside the threshold, cast a wild glance at Marcus and myself, and hurried further within.

"I have been waiting for you," said the tradesman.

"How did you know we would return?" asked Marcus.

"You are men of honor," he said.

"I think it would be well," I said, "if you changed your name, and set up your business elsewhere."

"I have already considered the arrangements," he said.

We heard the girl cry out, startled inside.

"They have not yet come for the bodies," said the tradesman.

"They are sending a wagon," I said. "Doubtless it will not arrive until after dark." The girl, of course, would have only a very imperfect idea of what had occurred, as her father had doubtless hurried her to the chest upon the entry of the brigands. The details of the afternoon, however, would presumably be made clear to her by her father. He too, would presumably be interested in her afternoon. I suspected that her account to him would not be accurate or, at least, complete, in all aspects.

Marcus and I turned to go.

"Warriors," said he.

We again faced him.

"My thanks," said he.

"It is nothing," I said.

"Warriors!" said he.

"Yes?" I said.

"Glory to the Delta Brigade," he whispered.

"Glory to Ar," I said.

"Yes, to Ar!" he said, though naught but a simple tradesman.

"Glory, too, to Ar's Station," said Marcus, angrily.

"As you say," said the tradesman, puzzled. "Glory, too, then, to Ar's Station!" We then took our leave. It was time to report back to our headquarters, after which we would return to our own quarters in the Metellan district.

"He does not even know that his daughter is a slave," said Marcus.

She is legally free," I reminded him.

"A mere technicality," he said.

"It is not a mere technicality to those who fine themselves in legal bondage," I said.

"I suppose not," he granted me.

"Of course not," I said.

"But she is a slave anyway," he said.

"Yes," I said.

"Do you think he knows?" he asked.

"I do not know," I said.

"But she knows," he said.

"Obviously," I said.

13 A Difference Seems Afoot in Ar

"There is another delka," I said to Marcus.

"Bold that it should be in such a place," said Marcus.

Marcus and I, some days after the incident of the shop, were strolling on the Avenue of the Central Cylinder, which is, I suppose, in a sense, the major thoroughfare in Ar. It is at any rate her most famous, if not busiest, avenue, and it gives access to the park of the Central Cylinder, which edifice is itself, of course, located within the park of that name. It is a long, shaded, wide, elegant avenue, with expensive shops and fountains.

"A barracks was burned last night," said Marcus. "I heard that."

"If it is true," I said, "I do not think it will be found on the public boards."

"Does there not seem a new spirit in Ar?" he asked.

"It seems quiet here," I said.

"Nonetheless," he said. "Things are different."

"Perhaps," I said.

"There, listen!" said Marcus.

We turned to look at the street. Approaching, singing, was a group of youths, in rows, a sports team, marching together. Their colors were of both Ar and Cos. Such teams, drawn from various parts of the city, competed in various games, in hurling the stone, in hurling the thonged javelin, both for distance and accuracy, in races of various sorts, in jumping, in wrestling, and such. There were meets, and local championships, with awards, such as fillets of the wool of the bounding hurt, dyed different colors, and for champions, crowns woven of the leaves of the mighty Tur tree. Eventually various teams, in their respective age brackets, would become city champions. Such sports as there were familiar to Goreans, and had for years been privately practiced at numerous palestrae throughout the city. Indeed, such palestrae, upon occasion, would compete with one another.

"That is different," said Marcus.

"There used to be such teams," I said.

"They have been revived," said Marcus.

"You see in this something of significance?" I asked.

"Of course," he said. "Why would Cos revive such things? "To help them rule?" I asked. "To appear noble, well disposed, benevolent? To give the public baubles and toys, items of interest with which to beguile themselves? To create diversions, to distract Ar's attention from her defeat and sorry state?"

"They did not do this before," he said. "Why just now?"

We watched the youths as they passed us and continued on, down the street. "Why?" I asked.

"To counteract the Delta Brigade," he said. "To lessen its influence!"

"Cos does not even know we exist," I said.

"The Ubara knows," he said, "and Seremides, and the Polemarkos."

"I think you are mad," I said.

"This time," he said, "I think my Kaissa is more subtle than yours."

"I should like to think so," I said.

"What of the new art center?" he said.

"What of it?" I asked.

"That is the same thing," he said.

I laughed.

"No," he said. "I am serious! That is the same thing, but for the intellectuals, the scribes, the high castes!"

"And will they bring back the marbles from Cos for the art center?" I asked. "I am serious, Tarl," he said.

"Perhaps you are right," I said. "I hope so."

"I tell you things are changing in Ar now," he said. "They are becoming different."

"Perhaps," I said.

"The Initiates do not seem as welcome in the streets now," he said. "Men avoid them. Even some women avoid them. Some even demand they remain in their temples where they belong, away from honest, healthy folk."

"Interesting," I said.

"Now they often ring their bells and swing their censers to deserted streets," said Marcus. "In vain they chant their litanies to indifferent walls."

"I am sure it is not so bad as all that," I said.

"Are you so fond of the unproductive, parasitic caste?" he asked.

"I do not think much about them," I said.

"Surely you regret the minds they have stunted and spoiled," he said.

"If there are any such, of course," I said.

"They prey on credulity, they exploit fear, they purvey superstition," he said. "It is their way of making a living," I said.

Marcus grunted angrily.

"And doubtless many of them, or at least the simpler ones, do not even understand what they are doing. Thus it is hard to blame them, unless, say, for stupidity, or a failure to undertake inquiries or, if undertaking them, a failure to pursue them in an objective manner."

Again Marcus made an angry noise. He was one of those fellows who had not yet wearied of denouncing hypocrisy and fraud. He did not yet see the roll which such things served in the complex tapestry of life. What is some folks required lies, as the price of mental security? Should they be nonetheless denied their comforts, robbed of their illusions? Is their happiness worth less than that of others? Is it not better to tell them, if they are capable of no more, that the illusions are reality, that the lies are truth? If many desired such things, and cried out for them, is it any wonder that fellows would be found, perhaps even from noble motives, to sell them such wares, keeping the truth to themselves, as their burden and secret? I pondered the mater. I knew, as Marcus did not, of many civilizations which were unnatural, which had taken wrong paths, which were founded on myths and lies. Perhaps that is why Marcus disproved so sternly of the Initiates. To him, they seemed anomalous in the world he knew, pointless, dangerous and pathological. In the end few things are real, perhaps the weight and glitter of gold, the movement and nature of weapons, a slave at one's feet, and, too, perhaps in spite of all, if we will have it so, defiant, honor, responsibility, courage, discipline, such things, such baubles, such treasures. "Do you believe in Priest-Kings?" asked Marcus.

"Certainly," I said.

"I do not," he said.

"As you will," I said.

"But how are we to explain the Weapons Laws, the Flame Death?" he asked. "That would seem to be your problem, not mine," I said, "as I accept their existence."

"Something exists," he said, "but they are not Priest-Kings."

"That is an interesting thought," I said.

"It is only that they possess the power of Priest-Kings!" he said.

"That is a second interesting thought," I said. "But if they possess the power of Priest-Kings, why not call them Priest-Kings?"

"Do you think they would mind, if I did not?" he asked, somewhat apprehensively. "Probably not," I said. Indeed, provided men kept their laws the Priest-Kings were content to let them do much what they wished. The major concerns of Priest-Kings with men, it seemed, was to have as little to do with them as possible. That had always seemed to me understandable.

"But what is the relation of the Initiates to the Priest-Kings, if there are such?" he asked.

"One which is rather remote, I suspect," I said, "if it exists at all."

"You do not think the Priest-Kings are on intimate terms with the Initiates, do you?"

"Would you wish to be on intimate terms with an Initiate?" I asked.

"Certainly not," he said.

"There you are," I said.

"Look at that fellow," said Marcus, indicating a baker striding by. The fellow fixed a fearless gaze upon us.

"He is only one man," I said.

"There is something different in Ar these days," he said.

"He is only one man," I said.

"Who walks proudly," said Marcus.

"He will not walk so proudly if he is beaten by a Cosian patrol," I said. "In any event," said Marcus, " the power of the Initiates is certainly less now than before in the city."

"At least for the time," I said.

"For the time?" he asked.

"If men should become again confused, and fearful, and lose confidence in themselves, if they should again begin to whine, and to beg for authority and reassurance," I said, "the white robes will again appear in the streets."

"Initiates are not needed for such a purpose," he said.

"True," I said. It could be a caste, the state, a leader, many things.

"The Initiates might have provided a core of resistance to Cos," he said. "Cos saw to it, with offerings, and hetacombs, and such, that they would not do so."

"So they preached their passivity, their resignation?"

"Of course," I said. "But to reduce their offerings, threaten their coffers, imperil their power, and it will not be long before they locate their patriotism."

"Cos is very clever," said Marcus.

"Clearly," I said.

"I hate Initiates," he said.

"I had gathered that," I admitted.

"I despise them," he said.

"Perhaps it is merely that you find yourself reluctant to rejoice in dishonesty, and to celebrate blatant fraud and hypocrisy," I said.

"Do you think it could be so easily explained?" he asked.

"Possibly," I said.

"I do have my limitations," he said.

"We all do," I said.

"And yet," he said, "the world is very mysterious."

"True," I said.

"What is its nature?" he asked.

"I am sure I do not know," I said.

He suddenly struck his fist into the palm of his hand. It must of stung. A fellow turned about, looking at him, and then continued on his way. "But it is here I am," he exclaimed, looking about himself, at the street, the avenue, the buildings, the trees, the fountains, the sky. "And it is here I will live!"

"That seems to me wise," I said.

"I have enjoyed this conversation, Tarl," he said. "It has meant a great deal to me."

"I haven't understood it in the least," I said.

"Some folks are so shallow," he said.

"But perhaps you are right, I said. "Perhaps, things are different in Ar."

"Certainly!" he said, observing her.

"Hold, female!" said I.

The slave stopped, apprehensively.

"And surely she is not the first such you have seen of late," he said.

"No," I said. "Do not kneel," I told her. I wished the better to consider her legs.

Marcus and I walked about her.

"Consider the brevity of her tunic," he said, "its cleavage, its sleevelessness, the slashes at the hem of her skirt.

"Yes," I said.

The girl blushed crimson.

"This is a sign," he said, "that the virility of the men of Ar is reviving."

"Yes," I said.

"And surely you have not failed to notice that in the last few days many slaves, many, indeed, are scantier garmented than before," he said.

"Yes," I said.

"I think it is clear that the men of Ar are beginning to recollect their manhood," he said. "They are becoming more dangerous."

"Yes," I said.

Several weeks ago in Ar there had been some hints of an attempt on the part of the Ubarate, as a social-control procedure, to facilitate its goverance, a venture doubtless emanating from Cos, which had reason to fear an alert, healthy foe, to reduce the vitality and virility of the men of Ar, to further crush and depress them. This was to be done under the initial guise of sumptuary laws, ostensibly to limit the adornment and display of slaves, as though there could be much of that sort of thing in the defeated city. This was to be followed by legislation encouraging, and then apparently to later require, more modest garmenture for slaves. There were even suggestions of attempting to regulate the relationships obtaining between masters and slaves. There was some talk of greater «respect» for slaves, that they might be permitted to drink from the higher bowls at the public fountains, even the insanity that one might not be able to make use of them without their permission, thus turning the master into a slave's slave. Naturally the motivation of this, putting aside the standard camouflage of moralistic prose which may be conveniently invoked for any purpose whatsoever, even those most antithetical to nature, health, reason, truth and life, was no concern for slaves but rather a desire to diminish the men of Ar, to make them easier to manage and exploit. Naturally they were expected to accept their own castration, so to speak, as a cause for rejoicing, as a long overdue improvement of their condition. How glorious things were to be, once men had succeeded in achieving their own destruction. On the other hand the first straws testing the winds of Ar, cast in the streets, in the baths, in the taverns and markets, had been blown back with such fierceness that these castrative proposals had been almost immediately withdrawn. Indeed, a small announcement had even appeared on the boards, in the name of Ubara herself, that slave girls should obey their masters and try to be pleasing to them.

Revolution, I do not doubt, would have occurred in the city. The men of Ar would have died rather than give up at least the retained semblance of their manhood. They had experienced the dominance, the mastery. This, once tasted, is never relinquished. The mistake of the Central Cylinder in this case, of course, was in attempting to impose such reductionism on adult males, even defeated ones, who actually understood what was involved. The best prospects for the success of such policies are to implement them among men who have never tasted the mastery or, ideally, on innocent children who, if the programs are successful, will lead the child to suspect and fear himself, to experience shame and guilt at the very promptings of his own body and nature. It is a question, of course, as to the feasibility of these distortions, and the long-range consequences of them, if they prove feasible. Irreparable damage would result to the gene pool and the human race might actually, interestingly, eventually, for lack of will and joy, cease to thrive, as well, for if the human being cannot be a human being, why should it be anything else? Indeed, there is more than one way for a race to become extinct. The prehistoric wolf hunts now only in the corridors of the past. The poodle survives. Does the poodle remember? Does the wolf live in the poodle yet? I do not know. Would it not be interesting if the wolf were not dead but sleeping, and returned. Does this fear disturb the sleep of sheep?

"Kneel," I said to the female, "now."

Swiftly she knelt.

"You are pretty," I said.

"Thank you, Master," she said, frightened.

"Head to the pavement," I said, "palms on it."

She compiled, losing no time. She looked well, in this position of obeisance. "You seem fulfilled," I said.

"My master handles me well," she said.

"What would occur if you were not pleasing?" I asked.

"I would be beaten," she said.

"Stand," I said.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"Put your head back, your hands clasped behind it," I said.

"Oh!" she said.

"She is in the iron belt," I said to Marcus.

"Excellent!" he said. This, too, in its way, was a sign that manhood, or the suspicion of it, might be reasserting itself in the streets of Ar, that masters, or some of them at least, would no longer take for granted the safety of their girls in the streets. Naturally self-pride and health stimulates sexual vitality. Contrariwise, of course, as sexual vitality is stunted and crippled, so, too, will be masculine pride and health. One cannot poison a part of an animal without poisoning the whole animal.

"Speed off!" I said.

The girl sped away.

"I envy the fellow his slave," said Marcus.

"And he would probably envy you yours," I said.

"I would not trade Phoebe for her," he said.

"And he might not trade her for Phoebe," I smiled.

"Perhaps not," he said.

I wondered if a man could be a man without a slave. I supposed that he might be a strong fellow, and a good fighter, and such, without a slave. Similarly, one might have lived I supposed, without having eaten meat, without having heard music. I wondered if a woman knew what it was to be a woman without ever having had a master. It did not seem to me likely.

"Surely Cos will take note of these changes in Ar," I said.

"I have heard that there are fights among youths in Ar," he said, "that the gangs of youths called «Cosians» are now set upon by others, who speak of themselves in eccentric names, such as "The Ubars," "The Larls," and such."

"I have heard that," I said.

"And, too, interestingly," he said, "it seems that some of those lads who were «Cosians» now wander about under quite different colors, not affecting beards and hair styles reminiscent of those once associated with veterans, hirsute and shabby, returned from the delta."

"I have heard that, too," I said.

I could recall when I had first come to Ar months ago that these veterans had not been welcome in the city. In spite of the hardships they had endured and the risks they had taken on behalf of Ar, both for the Home Stone and city, they had been held in contempt. They had been insulted, spat upon, ridiculed, and despised. Emotions which might better have been spent on the enemy were ventilated on one's own brothers. Some had scorned them as embarrassments and failures, as defeated men and fools, tricked, humiliated and decimated in the north, me who had dared to return to Glorious Ar without the crown of victory. Better, said some, that they should have died in the marshes or remained in the north then return home in defeat and disgrace. But those who said that had perhaps not themselves been in the delta, or even held weapons. Others, adopting the political ruses of Cos, had scorned them as little better than criminals, and as purveyors of imperialism, as though the ambitions of Cos were not the equal of those of Ar. Many of these men were confused and bitter. Was it for this that they had done their duty, was if for this that they had faced the delta, the tracklessness, the tharlarion, the insects, the hunger, the arrows of rencers, the blades of Cos?

"Some of these lads, former, «Cosians» and others," I said, "are apparently little better, still, than vandals, but, others, interestingly, it is rumored, track troop movements, shadow Cosian patrols and record the rounds of watchmen, reporting to the Delta Brigade."

"If so," said he, "that is a dangerous game for boys. I do not think Cos, in spite of their youth, will hesitate to impale them or have them at the ends of ropes."

"Others set themselves to different tasks," I said, "such as the supervision and protection of their own neighborhoods."

"A hopeful sign," said he, "if Ar, if only in her youth, should once again begin to look after herself."

"There is the Delta Brigade," I said.

"We are not of Ar," he said.

"But others, whosoever they may be, must be," I said.

"That cannot long continue."

"No," I said.

"And it she who holds the sword," he said.

"Gross Lurius of Jad, Ubar of Cos, and many of his ministers," I said, "are doubtless in favor of wielding it. Until now they have doubtless been restrained only by the general effectiveness of their political warfare, the policies of spreading guilt, confusion and self-doubt in the enemy, pretending to be not the foe but the concerned friend and ally."

"Let those beware," smiled Marcus, "who are invited to dine with the sleen."

"There is a crowd ahead," I said, "at the public boards."

"They seem angry," he said.

"Let us see what is afoot," I said, and together we hurried forward, toward the boards.

14 In the Vicinity of the Public Boards

Before the boards, rather in a circle before them, there was a crowd. Whereas, there may have been unwelcome information on the boards, the immediate attention of the crowd was not at this moment upon them.

"Here is the insolent slut!" cried a fellow.

We pushed in, toward the center of the circle.

"Make way," I said. "Guardsmen! Guardsmen!"

Men cried out with anger, but drew back.

Marcus and I had our armbands, those of auxiliary guardsman, a band of red beneath one of blue, Ar under the supervision of Cos.

"Cosian sleen," I heard. But the fellow did not make himself prominent.

"One side!" I said.

I glimpsed the face of a girl, white and frightened, in the center of the crowd. She was standing, being held by two fellows, on wrist in the care of each. To one side, quite close, there knelt four other girls, three in tunics of the wool of the bounding hurt, one in silk.

"Guardsmen!" I repeated, angrily, and forced myself forward.

The face of the standing, captive girl manifested sudden relief.

"Would you not know?" said one of the men, disgustedly.

One of the kneeling girls, too, cried out with joy.

"We are saved!" said another.

"What is going on here?" I demanded, not pleasantly.

"First the curfew," grumbled a fellow to another.

"Now this!" exclaimed another.

I resolved I must learn more of what was on the boards. Marcus could read them much more rapidly than I.

"Release me," said the standing girl, angrily. The two fellows who had seized her wrists let them go, and she rubbed her wrists, as though to push away even the memory of their grip.

"Greetings and welcome, noble guardsmen of Cos!" said she, delightedly. "I think you have arrived in time!"

The other four girls made as though to rise, righteously, but a glance from Marcus put them back instantly on their knees. This, I think, was not noticed by the girl who was standing, who was, I take it, a sort of leader amongst them. "What is the difficulty?" I asked.

"We caught her drinking from the top bowl of the fountain," said one, pointing to a nearby fountain.

"You are not kneeling," I said to the girl in the center.

"I am a woman," she said, "why should I kneel?"

This seemed to me a strange response. I would have supposed it an excellent reason to kneel, being in the presence of men, if one were a woman. If she were a free woman, of course, fitting or not, there would be no legal proprieties involved. A free woman, as long as she remains free, can stand to the fullness of her short, graceful height before men.

"What is your status?" I asked.

"Slave," she said, tossing her lovely head, her hair swirling.

To be sure, my question was somewhat rhetorical, as her neck was appropriately banded.

I considered her.

She met my eyes for a moment, and then, angrily, looked away.

She was rather modestly garbed, I thought, her tunic coming to her knees. Too, it was not belted. This was presumably to conceal her figure. On the other hand, I conjectured that beneath that garment, woven of the wool of the bounding hurt, her figure might not be without interest. She wore no makeup. She had been given sandals. I considered her mien. I did not doubt but what she had a weak master. "As you are slave," I asked, "how is it that you are not kneeling?"

"A strange question," she said, "coming from a guardsman of Cos."

"Yes," said a man, angrily.

"Tell me of your master," I said.

"He is liberated," she said, "and of the times! He knows my worth!"

"You would not be insolent in Cos, or Anango, or Venna!" said a man.

"I am in Ar!" she laughed. "Cos' Ar!"

"Hold!" I said angrily to the men, holding them back.

"Let her be punished," said a fellow.

"No!" she laughed. "You do not dare touch me now! There are guardsmen of Cos present! I am safe!"

Inwardly I smiled, wondering what her attitude might be, had she found herself anywhere but where she was, and in the presence of the power of Cos, in the form of Marcus and myself. What if she had found herself, for example, tied with wire in an alcove in Brundisium, almost concealed in ropes on a submission mat in the Tahari, wearing a body cage in Tyros, bound to the wheel in the land of the Wagon Peoples, shackled on a sales platform in Victoria, fearing the auctioneer's whip, or prone and chained on one of the swift ships of the black slavers of Schendi?

"Is it true that you have drunk from the higher bowl of the fountain?" I asked. "Yes!" she said.

"How is it that you have done such a thing?" I asked. Slaves, of course, like other animals, are expected to drink from the lower level of a fountain, and, generally, on all fours.

"My master permits such things!" she said. "He is noble and kind!"

"A weakling and a fool," said a man. "I know him."

"And he celebrates them! He grabs me modestly! He accords me sandals! He respects me!"

There was laughter.

"He accords me an allowance, and my own hours, and my own room!" she said. "And does he require your permission before he puts you to use?" I asked. "Of course," she said.

There was a reaction of amazement from the men present.

"And does he receive this permission when he wishes it?" I asked.

"Sometimes," she laughed.

"I can well imagine his anxiety," I said, "as to whether or not it will be granted."

She laughed. "Glory to Cos!" she said.

But neither Marcus nor myself, nor any other there, echoed this sentiment. "You are not always in the mood," I said.

"Of course not," she said.

"Sometimes you are weary," I conjectured, "or are afflicted with a headache?"

"Yes," she laughed. "But I do not need an excuse!"

"I see," I said.

"Sometimes," she said, "I deny him, to win my way, to punish him, to teach him a lesson." She laughed, and threw a meaningful look at the other girls kneeling near her. One or two of them looked up at her, smiling.

"I understand," I said. "Does your master trouble you often in this regard."

"Not so much now," she said, angrily.

"You are aware that he can sell you," I said.

"He would not dare to do so," she said.

"But you know he has this legal power?"

"In a sense," she said.

"In the fullest of senses," I said.

"Yes," she said, drawing back a little.

"And you know that he can do with you as he pleases?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

"Interesting," I said.

"Do you forget the proposed laws of respect!" she said.

"They were never enacted," I said.

"They should have been!" she said.

There was an angry mutter in the crowd.

"My master," she said, "is a kind, liberated, noble, enlightened master! He accepts such laws, or laws much like them, as much as if they had been proclaimed by the councils and promulgated by the Ubara herself!"

"The actual words of the Ubara," I said, "or at least as reported on the boards, where to the effect that slave girls should be obedient and try to please their masters."

"It is well," said a man," or Ar would have gone up in flames."

"I do not know of such things," she said.

"Are you pleased with your master? I asked.

"He is noble, and kind, and liberated and enlightened," she said.

"You seem deprived, and unfulfilled."


"Yes," I said. "Are you content and happy?"

"Of course!" she said, angrily.

"How long have you been a slave?" I asked.

"Two months," she said.

"How came it about?" I asked.

"I was taken in the suburbs," she said, "by mercenaries, collected with others. The levy was unannounced."

I nodded. There had been many such, the soldiers appearing with their ropes, often late at night, bursting into houses, bringing their catches forth, in various states of undress and night wear, to the waiting wagons.

"You have had only one master?" I asked.

"Yes," she said. "He was one who had sought my hand in the free companionship but whose renewed suits I had consistently scorned."

"And now you are his slave?" I said.

"Yes," she said.

"Or he is yours," laughed a fellow.

"If you say so," she said.

Again anger coursed about the circle.

"What is your name?" I asked.

"Lady Filomela," she said, "of Ar."

"You are a slave," I said.

"Filomela, then," she said, "of Ar."

"Of Ar?" I asked.

"Simply Filomela then," she said, angrily.

"And you may be given any name your master pleases," I said.

"Yes!" she said, angrily.

"Why are you not happy?" I asked.

"I am happy!" she cried.

"I see," I said.

"I am going now," she said.

"Really?" I said.

She turned about, to leave, but the men did not move to let her pass. Then she turned about, again, to face me.

"May I go now?" she asked.

"Come here," I said.

She regarded me.

"Now," I said.

She did not move.

I snapped my fingers.

She hurried angrily to stand before me. She was now close to me, and I had good feelings, feelings of energy, possessiveness and manhood, good feelings, powerful feelings, at her closeness, and she, on her part, looked up at me, and then, looking quickly away, trembled a little. Then she blushed. There was some laughter.

"You sense in yourself slave feelings?" I asked.

"No!" she said.

"Turn about, and keep your hands at your sides," I said.

With two hands I brushed her hair forward, putting it before her shoulders. I then checked her collar. It was a standard collar, of a sort familiar in the north, flat, narrow, light, sturdy, close-fitting. I did not bother reading the engraving on the collar, as it would be of no interest, her master being a weakling. The collar was closed at the back of her neck with a small, heavy lock. This is common. It was attractive on her, as such things are on any woman.

"You are collared like a slave," I said.

"I am a slave," she said.

"Clasp your hands on the top of your head," I said.

She trembled.

"Common kajira brand," said a fellow.

"Yes," I said.

"Please," she said.

"You are branded like a slave," I said.

"I am a slave!" she said, angrily.

I permitted the hem of her rather-too-long tunic to fall again into place. She was left-thigh-branded, high on the thigh, a bit below the hip, like most girls. I glanced to the four other girls kneeling to the side. They were apprehensive, frightened.

"Are you the leader of these others?" I asked her.

"We are friends," she said, evasively.

This was surely not impossible. Slaves girls have much in common, such as their brands and collars, their typical garmentures, their entire condition and status, the sorts of labors they must perform, and the problems of pleasing masters. It is natural then, given such commonalties, and abused and despised by free women, that they should often seek out one another's company. It is not unusual to see them together, for example, laundering at the stream side or long basins, or sitting about a circle, mending and sewing, or polishing silver. Sometimes they arrange their errands so that they may accompany one another. Sometimes, too, in the abundance of free time enjoyed by most urban slaves, they simply wander about, seeing the city, chatting, exchanging gossip, and such. To be sure, it would be remiss not to remark also that, as one would expect, some of the pettiest of jealousies, the most absurd of resentments, the vilest of acrimonies and the most inveterate of hatreds can obtain among these beautiful, vain, vital creatures, within the same house, where contests often rage, sometimes subtly and sometimes not, for the favor of the master, on which contests, needless to say, considerable shiftings in rank and hierarchy may hinge. And there can be intense competitions, it might be mentioned, not only for such treasures as the master's attentions and affections but for articles as ordinary as combs and brushes and prizes which, whatever may be their symbolic value, are often as small in themselves as a sweet or pastry. In this case, however, I suspected this was no typical grouping of slaves, of the normal sort, but a tiny covey of girls either with a natural enough suspicion in an Ar where the men of the city, betrayed and defeated, helpless and confused, were for most practical purposes, at least until recently, prostrate before the might of Cos. If one is in effect a slave oneself it is hard to be a strong master to one's female. It is much easier to rationalize one's weaknesses and struggle to view them as virtues.

"Is she your leader?" I asked one of the girls kneeling to the side, one of those in a tunic of the wool of the bounding hurt.

"Yes," she said.

"No!" swiftly said another, one also in a tunic of the wool of the bounding hurt. "Our masters are our leaders!"

"Leaders?" I asked.

"Owners!" she swiftly said.

"What are you?" I asked the first kneel girl, sternly.

"Properties!" she said. And she added quickly, seeing my eyes still upon her. "And animals!"

"Yes!" said the girl beside her, she who had spoken second earlier.

"And what are you?" I asked the slave, Filomela.

"A slave," she said, not turning around, standing facing away from me, her hands clasped on her head.

"Turn about," I said.

She obeyed.

"And?" I asked.

She was standing quite close to me, in the posture I had dictated.

"A property, and animal!" she said.

I looked upon her, savoring her. She looked away. I also observed, carefully, her tension, the tonicity of her body.

"Straighten your body," I said.

She did so.

The line of her breasts was lovely under her simple garment.

"You seem uneasy," I said.

She did not respond.

One of the kneeling girls gasped.

It was not difficult to detect her discomfort, her uneasiness, attendant on the proximity of a male. I looked over her, letting this closeness work upon her. Others, too, now had moved in more closely about her.

"You are a slave?" I asked.

"Yes!" she said, tensely.

"Perhaps now you sense in yourself slave feelings?" I said.

She cast a frightened, pathetic, shamed glance at the other girls, those kneeling to one side.

"No!" she said. "No!"

"Spread your legs," I said.

"Please!" she said.

"Keep your hands as they are," I said.

"Ah," I said, "you are a lying slave girl."

She cried out in misery.

I stepped back from her.

"You may stand straight again," I informed her.

Quickly she stood straight. She kept her hands on her head.

"And what of you others?" I asked, looking to the other four. "Perhaps you sense in yourself slave feelings?

They did not meet my eyes but clenched their knees closely together, as though by this means to suppress and control their sensations. They hunched down, they made themselves small. I did not think that there was one there who, in proper hands, would not squirm well, yielding herself up in grateful joy to a master. "You may put your hands down," I informed Filomela, their leader.

"May I go now?" she said.

"You are charged," I said, "with drinking from one of the higher levels of a fountain."

"That fountain there," said a fellow, pointing back.

"Is it true?" I asked her.

She was silent.

"It is true," said a fellow.

"Yes," said another.

Assent to this was added, also, by others.

"Do you deny this?" I asked her.

She was silent.

"She is a slave," said a man.

"Let her testimony be taken under torture," said another.

The testimony of slaves is commonly taken under torture in Gorean law courts. "Let us find a rack," said another.

The girl turned white. Perhaps when she was a free woman she had seen girls on the rack, though, of course, they would have been mere slaves.

"I drank from the high bowl," she said.

"Although you are a slave?" I said.

"Yes," she said.

"Why?" I asked.

"I was thirsty," she said.

"Speak truthfully," I said.

"I was thirsty!" she said.

"Thirst may be quenched at the lower bowl as well," I said.

She looked at me, angrily.

"Perhaps you forgot?" I said. "You were, after all, recently a free woman." She did not answer.

I did not seriously consider the possibility, of course, that she might have forgotten the matter. Too, slaves are not permitted to forget such things. It is up to them to remember them. Too, obviously one could claim to have forgotten the most elementary duties, tokens of respect, and such. Accordingly, forgetfulness does not excuse the commission of such acts. A slave seldom forgets them more than once. The whip is an excellent mnemonic device. I did, of course, wish to accord her the recourse of pretending to forgetfulness, if she cared to take advantage of it. It might serve to mitigate the wrath of the men about, at least somewhat. After all, she did not seem to realize that her life was in danger.

She threw a look at the other girls.

"You did not forget then," I said. "And you must have known that free men were about. Your act then was intended as some sort of provocation, or insult, or insolency or challenge?"

"She knew herself observed," said a fellow, "and then with intent, and deliberation, drank from the third level."

"My master would permit it!" she cried.

"That is probably true," laughed a fellow, contemptuously.

"Kneel, errant slave," I said.

She knelt, in terror.

I looked down at her, and pointed the first two fingers of my right hand to the ground, and then opened them. "You do not know the meaning of that sign?" I asked.

"No," she said, trembling.

"Her master is indeed weak," said a fellow.

I supposed her master must be a low-drive male.

"Spread your knees, widely," said another.

Frightened, the girl complied.

"Take her in hand," I said.

A fellow on either side of her then held her, each by a lifted wrist.

I looked at the other girls.

They, too, at my glance, knelt with their knees spread, widely.

"See!" said the one in silk. "My master has silked me!" He has put me in silk, as the slave I am! Do not hurt me! I am only a silked slave! That is all I have been given to wear. He is a man, a man!" The first girl in line, one of the three clad in the wool of the bounding hurt, did not dare to meet my eyes but drew the hem of her tunic up and back, higher on her legs, that more of her beauty might be bared. She, too, did not wish to face the wrath of masters. The other two in the wool of the bounding hurt quickly followed her example. They then all adjusted their tunics further in one way or another, one pulling down a bit on the «V» at her neck, the others pushing up the sleeves of their tunics to reveal more of their gracefully curved upper arms.

"Slaves!" chided the girl before me. She saw herself losing her grip upon them. "And what are you? I inquired.

"A slave!" she said.

I regarded her.

"a€”Master," she added.

"It is a serious thing you are charged with," I said.

She looked at me, angrily.

"You have drunk," I said, "from the wrong level of a fountain."

"What difference does it make," she asked, "what bowl of a fountain I drank from? It is a small thing!"

Anger coursed through the men present.

"It is not a small thing," I said. "Such things are symbols of rank and hierarchy, of difference and distance. They like at the foundation of a natural society, one in accord with the aristocracy of nature, a society in which there are places for both heroes and slaves. They speak of ordered arrangements. All are not the same. All are not leveled, nor must they pretend to be. Such a flat, crushed world, without difference and meaning, lies to the ruled and makes liars of the rulers. It imposes fraud upon one and hypocrisy upon the other. In an unnatural world, the same, as all cannot be the best, there is no alternative, if all are to be the same, then to reduce the best to the level of the worst, at least in pretense. Do you not think the intelligent, the strong, the aggressive, even the evil, will rule, under whatever forms are convenient? The larl, as a larl, must survey verr, or sleen will tend them, pretending to be themselves verr."

She looked up at me.

"You did not truly think it a small thing," I said, "otherwise you would not have done it."

She struggled a little, but could not, of course, free herself from the grip of the men. then, under my stern gaze, she again spread her knees, so that they were again in the position, precisely, in which I had instructed her to have them.

"You challenged the men of Ar," I said. "But you did not expect the challenge to be accepted. You expected them to yield to their defeat, perhaps pretending not to notice it."

She struggled again a bit, and was then again as she was before.

"But it has been noticed," I said.

"I saw girls drinking from the high bowls last month!" she said.

"That was last month," I said.

"You cannot punish me!" she cried. "You are not my masters!"

"Any free person can punish an errant slave girl," I said. "Surely you do not think that her behavior fails to be subject to supervision and correction as soon as she is out of her master's sight?"

"Take me to my master!" she begged. "Let him punish me, if he wishes to do so!"

"We will attend to the matter," I said.

"No!" she wept.

I looked at the others. "And you, too," I suggested, "are errant slaves."

"No, Master!" they wept. "No, Master!"

"You cannot seriously intend to punish me!" said Filomela. "I was a free woman!"

"That is where most slaves come from," I said. I turned to the other slaves. "Were you not all once free women?" I asked.

"Yes, Master!" they said.

"But I was of high caste!" said Filomela.

"What was your caste?" I asked.

"The Builders!" she said.

"But you are not now of the Builders, or of any other caste, are you?" I asked. "No," she said.

"What are you?"

"A slave," she said.

"Accordingly," I said, "you may be punished as what you are, a slave."

Suddenly she laughed, in hysterical relief.

"What is wrong?" I asked.

"It is a joke!" she said. "It is a game you are playing, to turn about and trick these fools, to humiliate these defeated, bedraggled beasts!"

"I do not understand," I said.

"You, and your fellow, are of Cos," she said. "I see it on your armbands! It is your business to pacify the men of Ar, to keep them down, to suppress them, to keep them helpless, futile, confused, domesticated, tamed, subdued! Surely you have your orders to that effect. You can succeed in this, Ar is defeated. She is helpless. She is crushed. The entire might of Cos backs your authority! Grind down the men of Ar, as you should. Continue to keep them, as they have been kept, intimidated herds of prisoners incarcerated in their own city, encouraged to view the wretchedness of their lot as the evidence of some new triumph. And it is your intention to use me to help you in this, by permitting me to insult them, by permitting me to mock their manhood, to reduce their virility. Of course! I now understand! So now disband this rabble and release me!"

She made as though to rise.

"Remain on your knees, slave girl," I said.

"You must let me go, you must order my release, you must take me from these brutes, you must scold them, speak to them of laws and such, or something, anything!" she cried. "Defend me, us! I demand it! Release me! You must! I beg it! The men of Ar have been defeated! No longer are they men! No longer are they mighty and masters! They are now nothing, they are all weaklings! You are of Cos! You must keep them that way! It is important to you to keep them that way! Arrest them if they dare think again of pride and manhood, tangle them in rulings, trip them with laws, lie to them, confuse them, put them in prison, do not let them understand themselves, or become themselves, if necessary, put them to the sword! Burn Ar! Destroy it! Salt its ashes! Do you not understand how dangerous might probe to be manhood in Ar? You must not permit it! And you can use women like us to help you in your schemes, protecting us, and using us to diminish men! Let us be your allies in the conquest and subjugation of Ar! Surely you understand me? You are of Cos! You are of Cos!"

"But I am not of Cos," I said.

"Aiii!" cried several of the men about.

"You have drunk from a high bowl," I said, "and more than once you have spoken untruthfully, for example, in denying you sensed slave feelings in yourself."

"Forgive me, Masters!" she cried.

"Too," I said, "you have demeaned the men of Ar."

"Forgive me, Masters!" she wept. "You are men! You are men! A slave begs forgiveness!" Her concern was certainly not out of place. The demeaning of men, whereas it is permitted to, and not unknown among, free women, is not permitted to female slaves. Such, on their part, can be a capital offense. "More importantly," I said, "you have not been pleasing."

She looked at me, wildly.

"Remove her tunic," I said.

She was then amongst us, on her knees, a stripped slave. She was comely. I then turned away from her. "What is new on the public boards?" I asked a fellow.

"Master! Master!" cried the girl, behind me.

"What of the slave?" asked a man.

"You are men," I said. "Doubtless you will know what to do with her."

One of the fellows looked at me.

"For example," I said, "she was thirsty. Perhaps you can see, then, that her thirst is quenched."

"That we will," said a fellow, taking charge of the matter.

"What of these others?" asked another man.

"Read their collars," I said. "And then instruct them to return to their masters and give them such a night of slave pleasure as they would not have conceived possible. Then be certain to follow up the matter the next day, to make certain they complied fully."

"We shall," said a fellow.

"What of the next day, and the next?" asked a man.

"I would expect," I said, "that the masters, seeing what their slaves are truly capable of, and what may be obtained of them, will not be shortchanged in the future. On the other hand, if they are not strong enough to obtain the best and finest from their properties I am sure the girls themselves, they then needing true masters, will in one way or another soon obtain a new disposition. Perhaps the weak masters, unable to satisfy them, will weary of seeing the bondage knot in their hair, will weary of their importunities, their moans and whinings in the night, their beggings for use, and either give them, or sell them, to another. Or perhaps the weak masters, whether unable to satisfy them, or merely unwilling to do so, will simply yield to their entreaties to be given away or sold, that they may receive an opportunity for their love, service and beauty to be put at the mercy of someone who can appreciate it and knows what to do with it."

"You heard?" inquired a fellow of the kneeling slaves.

"Yes, Master!" said one of them. "We will give our masters such a night of slave pleasure as they never knew could exist."

"Read the collars," said another fellow.

Names were read, and domiciles. Men were assigned to follow up on each slave, the next morning and report back to a certain metal-worker's shop. "Speed off!" said a fellow.

Quickly, released, the four girls leaped up and hurried away.

Tonight, I thought, there would be at least four astonished fellows in Ar, and four slaves who, by morning, if only by teaching themselves, by their own actions, would have a much better conception of the profoundities, and sensations involved, and significances, of their condition.

"What is new on the boards?" I asked Marcus. I did not really wish to make it clear to the men about that I did not read Gorean as well as I might.

Men crowded happily about me.

"There is to be curfew," said Marcus. "It begins tonight. The streets are to be kept clear between the eighteenth and the fourth Ahn."

"What is the reason for that?" I asked a fellow.

"To limit the movements of the Delta Brigade," he whispered.

"Is there such a thing?" I asked.

"Seremides thinks so," said a man.

"I heard a barracks was burned last night," said a fellow.

"I heard that, too," said Marcus.

"Is it on the boards," I asked.

"No," said a man.

"No," said Marcus. "I do not think so."

"Then it must not have happened," said a fellow, grimly.

"Of course," said another.

I heard the slave, some yards off, at the fountain, crying out. She had been taken to the lower bowl of the fountain. There she was sputtering and gasping, and crying out for mercy. Again and again was her head, held by the hair, forced down, held under the water and then jerked up again. "Please, Masters! Mercy, Masters!" she wept.

"The delka has been forbidden!" said Marcus. "It says so, here!"

"Interesting," I said.

"That is the first public recognition of the Delta Brigade," said a fellow. I now heard the sound of a lash. The girl had her head down, her wet hair forward. She was held on her knees by the fountain, a wrist in the hands of each of two fellows. She shook under each blow. Then, when they had finished, she was on her hands and knees, head down. Her entire body was trembling. She slipped to the pavement. Her hair was about. She lay there. It seemed she could hardly believe what had been done to her. I supposed this was the first time she had been lashed. It is something no slave forgets. A fellow then drew her up again, by the hair, to all fours and, looming over her, pointed to the fountain. She now, slowly, painfully, crawled to the fountain, between the men, and then, putting her head down, and as was fitting for her, and as she should have done earlier in the afternoon, drank from the lower bowl. She was then pulled back and put prone on the pavement. Her hands were pulled behind her and fastened there, with a short thong.

"Is there more on the boards?" I asked Marcus.

"I think those are the main items of interest," he said.

I saw the girl placed on her belly over the stone lip of the lower bowl of the fountain. She cried out. Her small hands twisted in the thongs, behind her back. Men crowded about her.

"Glory to the Delta Brigade," said a man.

"Who are of the Delta Brigade?" asked a man.

"Who knows?" said another.

"They must be veterans of the delta campaign," said a man.

"Perhaps others, too," said a fellow.

"A fellow was asking me where he could join the Delta Brigade," said a man. "Perhaps a spy," conjectured a fellow.

That seemed to me likely.

"I heard that they tried to take in a veteran for questioning," said a man. "What happened?" I asked a fellow.

"He drew a sword from beneath his cloak," said a man.

"Swords are forbidden," said a fellow.

"Doubtless there are some about," said a man.

"What happened?" I asked.

"He slew two Cosians and disappeared," said the man.

"It may be dangerous to try to take in the veterans of the delta," said a man. "Probably they will leave the city," I said.

"Why?" asked a man.

"They will be suspect," I said.

"There are warriors and guardsmen in the city," said a man, "who are not veterans of the delta."

"That is true," I said. Also, of course, it was not only in the delta that blood had been shed.

"Ah," said Marcus, glancing over toward the fountain, "here comes the insolent little slut now."

"She does not look so insolent now," said a fellow.

The girl, her hands still bound behind her, her head down, her hair about her face,