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

Prize of Gor

John Norman

Ellen is a beautiful young slave girl on the planet Gor. Yet she was not always thus. For nearly sixty years she was a woman of Earth, but life had largely passed her by. Then, following an apparently chance encounter at the opera with a strangely familiar young man, an echo from her past, she finds herself transported from Earth to Gor. Here she discovers the true identity of her kidnapper and his sinister motives. She is given a strange drug that reverses the aging process, turning back time itself, and once again she’s the beautiful young woman she remembers from years before, so long ago. Now her adventures really begin. Ellen finds herself a slave in the mighty Gorean city of Ar, where the harsh rule of the occupying forces of Cos and their mercenary allies is being challenged by the mysterious Delta Brigade. Surrounded by intrigue, rumors, plots, and betrayal, her adventures bring her face to face with strange and terrifying beasts, and sickeningly familiar weapons. Men challenge one another to own her. To the victor the spoils, but who will that victor be? Her fate is decided in this latest thrilling installment of John Norman’s best selling Gorean Saga.

PRIZE OF GOR

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

by John Norman

Chapter 1

SHE PONDERS HOW TO TELL HER STORY, AND ATTEMPTS TO PROVIDE SOME UNDERSTANDING OR GUIDANCE FOR A POSSIBLE READER

I do not know how exactly to express these thoughts.

Yet I have been commanded to ruthless honesty. And I fear that if I did not comply, somehow they would know, as always it seems they do, perhaps from some small cue, perhaps some slight movement, or cast of feature, or shading of complexion, or tremor, or reluctance, unbeknownst even to myself. We are so helpless, so vulnerable. They seem to know so much. I seem to be transparent to them. I am not permitted to hide, even within myself. I do not know if you understand how terrifying that is, to have one’s most intimate emotions, feelings and thoughts, one’s soul, one’s innermost being, so to speak, bared, exposed, even to a casual, even indifferent, scrutiny. How trivial, how inconsequential, compared to this is the mere baring of the body. Only they have known how to make me naked to myself, truly, and to them, sometimes to their amusement, and to my consternation and amazement, my shame, and my misery, as well.

I must decide how to tell this story. They have permitted me that much. It is my story, a very personal story, and so, it seems, one might most naturally use first-person discourse, and say, for example, “I did this,” and “I saw that,” and so on, and yet I am reluctant, afflicted with a certain timidity, to affect this voice. Perhaps I could speak more straightforwardly, more candidly, if I saw myself as another might see me, and yet, at the same time, saw myself, as well, from within, candidly, openly, hiding nothing, as one within, as I myself, might know me. So then I might say “She did this,” and “She saw that,” knowing that the “she” is myself, my own sentient, so much, sometimes so painfully so, self-aware self. How shall one speak? Perhaps I shall shift my modality of discourse, as seems appropriate, given what I must say, what I must tell. I do not know. How foolish to hesitate before such a small matter you might suppose, but to me it does not seem so small at all. It might seem a simple thing, how to tell a story, but it is not so easy for me. You might, of course, I do not know you, find no difficulty in this. But had you had my experiences, and were you I, were you faced with yourself, and frightened, or disconcerted, or shamed, you might, too, seek to distance yourself from that most sensitive, usually most zealously concealed, of subject matters, yourself. So I thought that I might begin, at least, by speaking in the third person, by considering myself, by seeing myself, from within and without, rather as an object, a particular object. Too, this is, I conjecture, in my current reality, not altogether unfitting; indeed, it is altogether appropriate, for you see that is what I now am, categorically, explicitly, an object, and not merely in the eyes of the law, but such irremediably, incontrovertibly, in the very reality of this world. So perhaps then I should write of myself as an object, for that is what I now am, as a simple matter of fact, an object, no longer a person, that no longer, if I were once that, but an object, to be sure, a very particular object, but one of countless hundreds, perhaps thousands of such, I do not know, in many cities, and towns, and camps and villages, like me, a vital, sentient, so much alive, so vulnerable, essentially helpless, beautiful I am told, object.

Perhaps the next problem that she must solve is how to speak frankly, honestly, of her age. In one world, in one reality, she was in her fifties. It does not make much difference, of course. She might have been in her forties, or in her sixties, or seventies, or such. Such matters, recorded in the routes of a world about a star, calculated in the increments of calendars and clocks, constitute no more in themselves than the memoranda of convenience, taking their true significance only in their application to changes which might be noted with interest, the germination of the seed, the blind struggle from the earth, the response to the lure of light, the birth of the anxious bud, the bursting into beauty of the flower, the glory of the unfolding, exultant petals, and then the loss, the drying, and casting away, of the petals. We count these things in hours, in days, in seasons, in years and years of years. But the clock is indifferent to what it counts; it considers with equanimity the antics of the foolish, the ecstasies of saints, the sweet, lovely nonsense of dreamers, the delusions of realists, the comings and goings of nations and empires, the passing of immortal faiths and eternal truths, life, and death, and suffering, the contumely of armed, belligerent error, the division of cells and the birth of stars. But if these things should begin again time would take no notice. It makes nothing happen; it only watches. You see, the calendar does not determine the flower; it only watches; and it will see what the flower does, and will not, indeed cannot, interfere. I suppose that these things are mysterious, or, perhaps, rather, so simple that it is difficult to speak of them. Obviously time counts the rock and the flower, the atom and the molecule, similarly, and yet the rock may witness the passing of several calendars, and the atom may in itself remain much the same as it was long ago, in the fiery midst of some distant, exploding star. Too, one would suppose that the theorems of geometry have not aged. They are doubtless as young, as fresh, as lovely, as new today, as they once were in a study in Alexandria. And should any beings anywhere, of whatever appearance, or shape, or chemistry, or origin, even after the dissolutions and births of countless worlds, devise such a system, the same, with its definitions and postulates, these theorems will await them, as pristine, as irresistible as ever in their austere, apodictic beauty. They do not hear the tickings of clocks. Too, if things, if processes, were to begin again, or go back, and begin again, or remain much as they were, save for small differences, the clock of time, so to speak, would simply observe, perhaps bemused, but would not interfere. What is being suggested here, or better, I think, noted, is that time does not dictate reality, or life or death, or change, but measures it, and that it is indifferent to what it measures, that it is independent of what it measures. Time imposes no inevitabilities. It guarantees nothing. This may be hard to understand but only, one supposes, because of a habit of mind, in virtue of which, because of natural associations, common experiences, general expectations, and such, one tends to link the thought of process and time together. Even if the clock does not presuppose time as the object it measures; even if one were to think that the clock somehow created time, inventing it ab ovo, on the spot, still that clock would determine only itself, nothing else. She, she of whom I speak, is led into this disquisition, this tiny, uncertain, timid, troubling venture into metaphysics, for a particular reason. What is it, for example, to be of a given age? If one measures years, for example, by the peregrinations of a planetary body about its primary, then the year would obviously differ from body to body. To be sure, these diverse years might be transformed into equivalencies, for example, the year of planetary body A being understood as being twice the year of planetary body B, and so on, but that is not really to the point one would wish to make. Let us suppose, rather, as a matter of speculation, if nothing more, that a given physical process normally, or customarily, takes a given amount of time, say, that it normally proceeds in a given amount of time through phases A, B and C, and so on. Then, let us suppose, as all physical processes are theoretically reversible, that this process is altered in such a way that it moves from phase C back to phase B, where it appears to be stabilized. The question, then, is what is the age of the process, or, better, one supposes, what is the age of that which exhibits the process? Obviously, in one sense, the entity exhibiting the process continues to age according to the calendar, or any clock, just as, in a sense, the theorems of Euclid continue to age, or, better, just as the ebb and flow of tides, the many cycles of nature, the recurrent orbits of planetary bodies, and such, continue to age. In another sense, of course, the entity in question is stabilized in phase B, or something indistinguishable from, and identical to, phase B. In one sense, then, it is x years of age, and, in a more revealing, practical sense, setting aside calendars, which are now for all practical purposes pointless, and simply irrelevant to the facts of the case, it is B years of age, so to speak. Perhaps more simply put, though perhaps too abstractly, it is stabilized in its B phase, or something identical to its B phase, or, perhaps, in a renewed, or different, B or B-like phase.

So it is difficult for her to speak simply and clearly of her age, not because of any personal embarrassment or vanity, which she might once have felt, and would not now be permitted, but because the matter put in one way would be extremely misleading and put in another way might appear at least initially surprising. Her age now then, one supposes, would be least misleadingly, and most informatively, understood as that which it seems to be, and that which, in a very real sense, it actually is. Her age, then, is that which you would suppose, were you to look upon her, were you to see her as she is now. Perhaps, better, it is that which it is, in actuality, biologically and physiologically, in all respects. It is that which it would be determined to be, after a thorough and careful examination by a qualified physician, of any world, even the terribly thorough physicians of this world.

That is the age she is, for better or for worse, on this world.

But it was not so, on another world.

Now let her note that this document is composed with a certain guarded anonymity. The name she bore is, of course, unimportant, and certainly so now, on this world, and it might have been any name, perhaps yours or another’s. So we will not give her a name, not until later, when one was given to her. Too, in accordance with the admonitions to which she has been subjected, she will attempt to conceal the names of institutions, and references to streets, and localities, museums, theaters, parks, shops and boulevards, and such things, which might serve to identify or reveal, even tentatively or remotely, the venue of this story’s beginning. The purpose of this injunction is not altogether clear to her, as it seems to her that they have the power to come and go, and do, much as they please. Who could stop them? But certainly she will honor it in detail. Doubtless they have their reasons. Perhaps they do not wish you to be on your guard. She does not know. What difference would it make, if you were on your guard? What difference would it have made, had she been on her guard? Would anything, truly, have been different? Perhaps they do not wish you to know the areas, or locales, in which they work. But it is her impression that their doings, their functions or operations, if you prefer, are not limited to a particular city or town, or even nation, or hemisphere, or season, or year. There seem many reasons for supposing that. But she knows, actually, very little of these things. She, and those like her, are commonly little informed, commonly kept much in ignorance. Such things are not their concerns. Their concerns are otherwise, and are commonly supposed, they are told, to be more than ample to occupy their time and attention. Still, of course, they wonder, not that it makes any difference in their own cases. That is the sort of entities, or objects, that they are. So she will speak with care, concealing details which, in the fullness of the case, may not much matter anyway. Too, she dares not be disobedient. She has learned the cost of disobedience, and she shall obey, as she must, instantly, in all things, and with perfection. Yet she would suppose, from her narration, that some will understand more than she has dared to write. She would surmise that the city involved, and such, may be sufficiently obvious, even concealed beneath the cloak of an imposed discretion.

But that, of course, is left to the reader, if there eventually should be such.

She adds that this manuscript is written in English. She was literate, quite so, on her first world. On this world, however, she is illiterate. She cannot read, or write, any of its languages. She can, however, speak what seems to be this world’s major language, or, in any event, that spoken almost exclusively in her environment, and she can, of course, understand it. These things are needful for her.

Lastly she might call the reader’s attention to what has seemed to her an oddity, or anomaly. On her first world she understood, or knew, little or nothing of this world. She was familiar with, at best, allusions to this world, seldom taken seriously, and most often, it seems incredible to her now, lightly dismissed. She has now wondered if various authorities on her old world did not know something of this world, at least a little something. It seems some of them must have. How could they not know of it? But perhaps they did not. She does not know.

The oddity, or anomaly, has to do in its way with law.

The state, or a source of law, it seems, can decide whether one has a certain status or not, say, whether one is a citizen or not a citizen, licensed or not licensed, an outlaw or not an outlaw, and such. It can simply make these things come about, it seems, by pronouncing them, and then they are simply true, and that, then, is what the person is. It has nothing to do, absolutely nothing to do, with the person’s awareness or consent, and yet it is true of the person, categorically and absolutely, in all the majesty of the law. It makes the person something, whether the person understands it, or knows it, or not. The person might be made something or other, you see, and be totally unaware of it. Yet that is what that person, then, would be. It is clear to her now that she must have been watched, and considered, and assessed, perhaps for months, utterly unbeknownst to her. She had no idea. She suspected nothing, absolutely nothing. But her status, her condition, had changed. It seems that decisions were made, and papers signed, and certified, all doubtless with impeccable legality. And then, by law, she, totally unaware, became something she had not been before, or not in explicit legality. And she continued to go about her business, knowing nothing of this, ignorantly, naively, all unsuspecting. But she had become something different from what she had been before. She was no longer the same, but was now different, very different. Her status, her condition, had undergone a remarkable transformation, one of which she was totally unaware. She did not know what, in the laws of another world, one capable of enforcing its decrees and sanctions, one within whose jurisdiction she lay, she had become. That she finds interesting, curious, frightening, in its way, an oddity, and anomalous. She did not know what she had become. She wonders if some of you, too, perhaps even one reading this manuscript, if there should be such, may have become already, too, even now, unbeknownst to yourself, what she had then become. Perhaps you are as ignorant of it as was she. But this reality was later made clear to her, by incontrovertible laws, and deeds, which did not so much confirm the hypothetical strictures of a perhaps hitherto rather speculative law, one extending to a distant world, as replace or supersede them, in an incontrovertible manner, with immediate, undeniable, unmistakable realities, realities not only independently legal, and fully sufficient in their own right, but realities acknowledged, recognized and celebrated, realities understood, and enforced, with all the power, unquestioned commitment and venerated tradition of an entire world, that on which she had found herself.

That world did not long leave her in doubt as to what she was.

Chapter 2

SHE BEGINS HER STORY

She was not a particularly bad person, nor, one supposes, a particularly good person. She was perhaps rather like you, though perhaps not so good. Have we not all been upon occasion petulant, selfish, careless, arrogant, sometimes cruel? Have we not all upon occasion behaved disgracefully, unworthily? Have we not ignored others? Have we not, in lesser or larger ways, injured them, and enjoyed, if only briefly, the smug gratifications of doing so? What happened to her might happen to anyone, one supposes, to those gentler, kinder and deeper than she, and to those more shallow, more petty, nastier than she. It is true however that such as she, and her sisters, so to speak, under discipline, are quickly brought into line, the gentlest and the sweetest, and those who hitherto, perhaps in their unhappiness and lack of fulfillment, in their vanities and impatience, and haughtiness, were not only permitted but encouraged by an androgynous society to abuse their liberties. We are brought into line. Our lives are changed, profoundly. We are taught many things, all of us, including ourselves.

We do not know, in full, what their criteria are, for such as she, and others, not at all why such as she, and others, are selected.

It does seem clear that their criteria include high intelligence. If one’s intelligence is high, they seem to find that arousing, literally arousing, perhaps unaccountably to one accustomed to the criteria prized on my first world. It seems to considerably increase our value. In virtue of it they seem to relish us all the more, and then dominate us all the more imperiously and ruthlessly, making us all the more helpless and at their mercy. Perhaps, too, they are pleased to know that we understand clearly, and in the depths of our very being, more than might some others, what is being done to us, what we have been made, what we now are, helplessly, fully, incontrovertibly. Our intelligence then, like certain other properties, is sought; it is a desideratum. It gives them pleasure, and, of course, in virtue of it, as perhaps a not negligible pragmatic consequence, we train more swiftly and surely. They tend to be demanding and impatient. Little time is wasted on us. Too, if we are selected, or often are, at least in part, on the basis of our intelligence, one supposes that we would be more likely to be more alert, more sensitive, more inventive, more attentive than might otherwise be the case; we would be likely to be better, for example, one supposes, at reading the subtlest of expressions, the brief, shadowed flicker of a mood, perhaps a sign of danger. One quickly learns to apply one’s intelligence, per force, to new ends, in new spheres. No choice is given us. Their intelligence, incidentally, seems to us to be dimensions beyond ours. Intelligent as we are, our intelligence does not begin to compare with theirs. I do not know why this is. Perhaps it is a matter of genetic selections, or a simple result of an honest, freer, less debilitating acculturation. I do not know. Forgive this lapse into personal discourse.

It came as a great shock to her, after the performance, following the curtain calls, the lofting of roses, of bouquets, of so many flowers to the stage, to see the male in the audience.

The house lights were on now.

Others about her were discussing the performance.

He looked the same, absolutely the same. But surely thirty, or better, years had passed.

She rose from her seat; she stood still, almost unable to move, her eyes on him. Others desired to press past her. “Please,” someone said, not pleasantly. She moved, not steadily, trembling, toward the aisle, unable to keep her eyes from him. He was chatting, it seemed, with a companion, a charming, but, she thought, a surely stupid looking female. She felt, unaccountably, a wave of anger. Surely he could do better for a woman. And he was so young. “Please,” said someone, irritably. She moved into the aisle, unable to take her eyes from him. She backed up the aisle. Others, impatiently, moved about her. She then stopped, and, in a moment, stepped back into an empty row, the next closer to the exit, still not taking her eyes from him.

He looked the same. But it could not be he, of course. The resemblance was remarkable, the build, so large, so muscular, the carriage of the head, insolently, as she recalled it, the shock of carelessly unmanaged hair.

It was like seeing again something she had seen long before, and had not forgotten. Many of those memories remained as fresh today in her mind as they had in that time before, so many years ago.

She was then again, it seemed, in the aisle, near the exit, at the edge of the empty row. Somehow she was again in the aisle.

“Excuse me,” said someone.

Why was she in the aisle? Why had she left the empty row? Why had she not exited the auditorium?

Was she putting herself before him?

Did she want him to see her?

Surely not.

If so, why?

How strange is memory!

She was tempted to approach him. Surely he must be a relation, perhaps even the son, of he whom she had known, so many years before.

It could not be a simple, merely uncanny coincidence, surely not.

There must be some relationship with the other, he from long ago, a cousin, a son, a brother’s son, something.

To be sure, her relationship to him, that of his teacher, she then in her late twenties, in a graduate seminar on gender studies, in which he was one of the few males in the class, had been a strained one. He had failed to conform. He had not seemed to understand the nature of the class, which was to selectively and unilaterally propagandize a view, or, better, to raise the consciousness of such as he. She had failed him, of course, for his consciousness had not been raised. That could be told from a number of perspectives. He had not accepted her pronouncements without question, though they were, for the most part, merely being relayed by her, almost verbatim, from the dicta of various scholar activists in the movement, women who had devoted their lives to the promulgation of a political agenda. He had pointed out the weaknesses and failures of a number of studies she had favorably cited, and had, worse, brought to the attention of the class a considerable number of other studies of which she would have preferred to have had the class remain in ignorance. Too, she herself had been unfamiliar with many of these other studies, not having encountered them in approved gender literature, which, also, it seemed, had ignored them. The tenor of these various studies, or of most of them, clearly inveighed against the simplicities and dogmatisms of the propositions to which the students were expected to subscribe. His questions, too, were unacceptable, inviting her to explain the universal manifestation in all cultures of embarrassing constants, such as patriarchy, male status attainment and male dominance in male/female relationships. When she tried to cite cultures in which these properties were allegedly absent, he would inquire into the original source materials, the original ethnological accounts, and show how the constants were indeed acknowledged, even insisted upon, in the primary sources, though that might not have been clear from a sentence here and a sentence there, a paragraph here, and a paragraph there, judiciously excised from its context. The semester was a nightmare. Even militant young women eager to hear men criticized and denounced, who had taken the course to be confirmed in their ideological commitments, who had anticipated having a ritualistic quasi-religious experience, were confused. What they had enrolled to hear, and wanted to hear, and demanded to hear, was not what they heard. Some of them blamed her for not replying adequately. They had been angry. It had been humiliating. She had little with which to respond to simple, clear points having to do with fetal endocrinological hormonalization studies, hormonal inoculation studies, animal studies, and such, let alone the overwhelming cultural evidence with which she was confronted. She insisted, of course, on the irrelevance of biology, the insignificance of human nature, if it might, in some trivial sense, exist, the importance of ignoring millions of years of evolutionary history, the meaninglessness of genes, of inherited behavioral templates, and such. But the semester, by then, was muchly lost. How she hated a student who thought, who criticized, who challenged! Did he not know he was there not to question but to learn, or subscribe? He could have had at least the courtesy of pretending a hypocritical conversion to the prescribed doctrine. Others did, surely. One supposes he could have done as much, but he had not. Politeness, if not prudence, would have seemed to recommend such a course. She insisted on the importance of social artifacts, for example that men and women were not natural beings, but mere social artifacts, the manufactured products of culture and conditioning, that that was all. He had then asked for an explanation, or speculation, as to why all cultures, without exception, had designed their social artifacts in exactly such a way as to produce the various constants at issue. Since the most obvious, simplest, uniform, universal explanation for this fact would seem to be congruence with biological predispositions, with human biogenetic templates, she had dismissed the question as naive and pointless. She had declined to clarify why the question had been naive or pointless. Lastly, she had insisted, in anger and confusion, on fashionable postmodernistic analyses, on the alleged social aspect of, and role of, “truth,” as a weapon of ideological warfare, on the right of the scholar activist to alter, conceal, suppress, invent and falsify in order to comply with political requirements, that “truth” must be politicized, that propaganda must have priority, that one must practice the pragmatics of intimidation, that reality, objectivity, truth, and such, were only deplorable inventions, manufactured by men to oppress women, and such. He then asked her, if this were her view, if her earlier assertions, and such, had surrendered any possible claim to objective truth, and might be dismissed as mere propaganda. She refused to respond to the question. He then asked her if her general views on truth itself, its alleged subservience to political ends, its relativity, subjectivity, or such, were themselves true, or not. Did she claim that her theory of truth, that there was no objective truth, was itself objectively true, or not? Again she ignored the question. She looked away from him, dismissing him, and his questions, and addressed herself to others in the class, inquiring into their views of an assigned reading. After the class she detained him, to speak with him alone. “Why have you taken this class?” she asked. He had shrugged, looking down upon her. Now, it seemed, it was his turn not to answer her question. How she then hated men, and him! He was so large, she felt so small, almost insignificant, almost intimidated, before him. She was older than he, of course. She, at that time, was in her late twenties. He may have been in his early twenties. This difference in age, as well as her status as the instructor, should have given her dominance in this encounter. That she knew. But, oddly, it did not seem to do so. He seemed muchly different from other students. Suddenly, unaccountably, before him, she felt strange, unusual sensations, which seemed to swell upward through her body, permeating, suffusing it. She had never felt exactly this way before. She felt suddenly weak, delicious and helpless. She put her head down, and she knew that her face and under her chin, and the very upper part of her throat, and her hands, and the exposed parts of her body, all of it not covered by the tight, severe, mannish, professional garb she affected for teaching, the dark suit, and the severely cut white blouse, buttoned rather high, closely, about her neck, had suddenly turned crimson. Heat, and confusion, welled within her. She drew herself up, angrily. “You may leave,” she informed him. He turned away, and left. He had not taken the midterm examination, and he did not, of course, take the final examination. With a clear conscience, and with not a small sense of pleasure, she filled in the grade report at the end of the semester with a failing grade for him. She was pleased that he had taken no examinations. She did not think that he had been afraid to do so. Perhaps, she wondered, from time to time, to her irritation, if he had not regarded her as competent to examine him. There were certainly many facts indicating that he deserved to fail the course, his questions and recalcitrance, for example. Too, clearly, he had failed to meet the most important requirement of the course, the adoption of its ideological viewpoint. Certainly his consciousness had not been “raised.” That could be told from, if nothing else, how he had looked at her in class. How uneasy he had made her feel, though his face was almost expressionless. She suspected that that was why he had registered for the class, why he had taken the course. It was not because of the subject matter, which he doubtless found less than congenial, and with which he had little brief, but because of her. He had come to see her, she. That had been most clear, though suspected constantly throughout the semester, that day she had called him forward to the desk after class, the last day he attended class. No, his consciousness had not been “raised.” That could be told from the way he had looked at her. She had never been looked at like that before.

It was with great satisfaction, and with no small bit of pleasure, that she had assigned him his failing grade.

So many years ago!

It could not be he, of course, seemingly so young, after all these years. But the coincidence was unsettling. The resemblance was remarkable.

It had been a performance of Richard Strauss’s Salomé, based on a short story by Oscar Wilde. The lead role had been sung by a famous Italian soprano, a visiting artist. The performance had been by the older, and most famous, of the two major opera companies in the city. Both are fine companies, and either, in her view, would have been capable of mounting splendid productions of the work performed. She wonders if the preceding few sentences will be excised from the manuscript, as perhaps too revealing, or if they, perhaps in their amusement, will permit them to remain, perhaps as an intriguing, almost insolent detail. She does not know.

She was alone, as she often was, not that she did not have friends, colleagues, professional associates, and such. She was invited to parties, occasionally, her academic post assured that, and was the recipient of various academic courtesies, received reprints, invitations to participate in colloquia, and such. She had never married, and had never had a serious relationship with a male. Her background, training and scholarship had not been conducive to such relationships. She was regarded as severe, inhibited, cool, intellectual, professional. She no longer found herself attractive. The beauty she had once professed to scorn, and had upon occasion demeaned, was faded, if not gone, and was missed. She was idolized by young feminists, and regarded by some in the “movement” as an ideal, as presenting a superlative role model for young women. She feared men, for no reason she clearly understood, and distanced herself from them. When younger she had repelled the occasional advances of men, partly by habit, partly by disposition, sometimes because of a sense of the inferiority of the sort of men, professed male feminists, for example, who were most likely to approach her, plaintively assuring her of their profound sense of guilt for their maleness and their wholehearted support for her ideological commitments. And she was terrified by virile men, but few of them had seemed to find her of any interest; some such, who might have found her of interest, she had fled from in a sense, discouraging them, treating them with contempt, trying to chill and demean them. She had sensed, you see, that their intentions might have been physical, at least in part, and thus to be resisted and deplored. It was rather as though, if they were interested in her as a woman, their intentions could not be honorable, and she rejected, and feared, them; and if they were such that she had little doubt of the honorableness of their intentions, she had found them inferior, despicable, repulsive, hypocritical and boring. She had, through the years, thus, dutifully preserved the independence and integrity of her personness. As her body grew older, and began to dry, and wither, and tire, and began to regard her ever more reproachfully, and sadly, in the mirror, and she went through her change of life, which had been a terrible and troubling time for her, in her loneliness, and in her lack of love and children, she remained aloof, severe, unsexual, professional, virginal. She realized she was growing old, and was alone. She was disappointed with her life. And she saw nothing much before her to look forward to. She insisted to herself, naturally, that she was happy, content, and had no regrets. She insisted on that, angrily in her privacy drying gainsaying tears. What else could she dare to say to herself? What else could such as she tell themselves, in private, grievous, insistent moments? One could scarcely acknowledge an emptiness, a whole frightening, oppressive, looming reproach on a misspent life; it was not well to look into the emptiness, the threatening abyss, the void, and, too, she assured herself, such things, the void, and such, being nothing, could not even exist. And yet few things existed more obdurately, more outspokenly, more terribly, deeply within her, than that silent, vocal, unrepudiable, proclamatory, denunciatory nothingness. It seems clear that she, despite what she would tell herself, despite the lies, the carefully constructed, defensive fabrications with which she sought to delude herself, had many regrets, a great many sources of sadness, that there was in her much that was only half articulated, or scarcely sensed, much that was hidden, much concealed and put aside as too painful to be recognized, so much that she refused to face, and yet which, upon occasion, would visit her in the loneliness of her night, as her head lay thrust against its pillow, whispering in her ear that what might have been could now no longer be, or, upon occasion, it would reveal itself to her, in her mirror, as she looked upon the image of a weeping, aging woman. But she did not suppose, really, that she, in such respects, was much different from many others. What was there, truly, for she, and others, such as she, to look forward to? Another honor, another paper published, another conference attended, another point made, another small dinner, prepared by herself, another lonely evening in the apartment?

He was getting up now, and assisting his companion with her wrap. How she hated that young woman for some reason, the blond-haired, simple, surely stupid-looking one, how could he be interested in her, and yet there was a certain something about her, in the fullness of her lush, painted lips, how frightful, she used make-up, the sweet width but suggested softness of her shoulders, the roundedness of her bared forearms, something animal-like there, and, in her way of carrying herself, even sensual, primitive. Doubtless she granted him sexual favors, the whore, the slut! And he so naive and undisciplined as to accept them, to permit her to be such, not to call her to her higher self, had she one, and reform her, if it were possible with such as she! She had no right to be with one such as he! She was not an intellectual! Surely she knew nothing! Yet there was a vitality, and sensuousness, about her, and consider that vital, well-curved figure, even buxom, so animal-like, one of the sort which might attract lower men, or perhaps even excite unwary, better men in moments of weakness, men were so weak, and note that movement of the shoulders, just then, and, there, now, that way of looking about, over her shoulder, that cunning motion which might deter them from noting the absence of cultivated, worthy personness.

How she hated the woman!

When the woman turned about, she seemed for a moment surprised to find herself the object of such a regard, one so disapproving, so severe. Then the lips of the younger woman curled and her eyes flickered for an instant with amusement. Perhaps she had met such gazes before from such as the older woman, gazes, and stares, and such, perhaps of envy, hatred, and hostility, the cold, fixed gazes and stares of women whose youth and beauty were behind them, and who seemed to wish to do little now but resent and castigate, and scorn, the possessors of the treasures now forever lost to themselves, the pleasures, fruits and ecstasies of which they, in their own time, had been denied, or had denied themselves; perhaps they had been the unwitting victims of politically motivated secular asceticisms; perhaps they had been tricked out of their own birthright, having been led to accept a voluntary unrealized incarceration, taught to make themselves miserable, grieving, self-congratulating prisoners, required to pretend to contentment within the bars, within the cold walls, of an inhibitory value system; perhaps they were merely the unhappy, cruelly shaped, psychologically deformed products of an engineered apparatus, one designed to take natural organisms, bred for open fields, and grass and sunlight, and force them into the prepared, procrustean niches of a pervasive, self-perpetuating, invisible social mechanism, into a titanic, neuteristic architecture of human deprivation, and social expediency.

The younger woman was then coming up the aisle, toward the exit.

How their eyes had locked together for that moment, the eyes of the older woman bright with hatred, and cold hostility, the eyes of the younger woman sparkling with a secure, insouciant amusement.

The older woman had seen in that moment that the eyes of the younger, those of the charming, stupid-looking slut, as she saw her, were blue. Her hair then might be naturally blond, not that that mattered in the least. She was a low sort. Her hair was long, rich, and silky, the sort in which a man’s hands might idly play. It was probably dyed, false, dyed! She had no right to be with such a man!

The young man had followed his companion into the aisle.

Their eyes met, and the older woman shrank back. She trembled. She almost fell. She turned and seized the top of a seat, with both hands, to steady herself. It seemed the same! He was so close! The resemblance was uncanny, shocking, indescribable.

He looked at her with no sign of recognition.

“Excuse me,” he said, and moved about her.

The voice, she thought. It is the same! The same! But it could not be the same, of course. Yet it seemed so much the same!

He was moving away.

Unaccountably, unable to restrain herself, she hurried after him, and pathetically seized at his sleeve.

He turned about, seeming puzzled.

She stammered. “Did you enjoy the performance? I thought I once knew someone like you. Long ago!”

“Do I know you?” he asked.

“Do you, do you?” she begged.

“Are you well?” he asked.

“Yes, yes,” she stammered. “I just wondered if you enjoyed the performance.”

“Why?” he asked.

“I thought I knew you,” she whispered, “I mean, someone like you, once, long ago.”

“It was adequate,” he remarked. “I must be going now. My friend will be waiting.”

“I thought the performance was powerful,” she whispered.

He shrugged, the same shrug, it seemed!

“Do you attend the opera often?” she asked, pressingly.

“Sometimes,” he said. “Next Saturday we may see the new staging of La Bohème.”

A husband and wife, interestingly, were to sing Rodolfo and Mimi in that production.

“Good-day,” he said, and turned away, moving toward the exit.

She felt herself a fool, and how annoyed he must have been, though his demeanor was the image of forbearance and courtesy itself. Perhaps, she thought, she should run after him, to apologize, she, in her fifties, and despite her status as an academician, one not unknown in her field, surely one with suitable publications, one with, too, impeccable credentials. But that would not do, of course. She should not run after him.

It was only an oddity, a coincidence, something to be forgotten by tomorrow.

But she did hurry after him, not to approach him, of course.

That would not have done, at all. But, somehow, she did not want to lose sight of him. She did not understand the importance of this to her, or fully, but doubtless it had to do with the oddity of the resemblance, so remarkable, to the student, from so many years ago, he who was never forgotten, he who was recollected with ever fresh humiliation and anger, but, too, invariably, with fascination. This was at least, she told herself, a small mystery, whose denouement, however predictable and disappointing, might prove to be of interest.

In the outer lobby she was momentarily disconcerted, even frightened, that he was gone. But then she saw him to one side, waiting to buy an opera book, an account of the history and staging of the piece. His companion was waiting some yards away, looking toward the exit.

She approached the younger woman. It did not seem courageous to do so, but, somehow, necessary. She would have been terrified to approach the young man again, after their first interlude, for beneath the facade of his politeness there had seemed a subtle severity and power in him, but the other was merely a woman, and she did not much care what transpired between them. It was as though the blond woman did not really matter in these things, save in so far as she might prove useful.

She would later revise her view on these matters.

“Excuse me,” said the older woman, approaching the blond, younger woman, she holding her wrap about her. How well she stood, how well-figured she was, thought the older woman, with a touch of envy. That was doubtless the sort of body that men might seek. She herself, the older woman, in her youth, had not been so large, so buxom. She had been small, and delicate, and exquisitely, but not amply, figured. She had been sometimes thought of as “dainty,” but she hated that word, which seemed so demeaning, so minimizing. It had suggested that she might be no more than a biological, sexual confection of sorts, a bit of fluff, of interest perhaps, but unimportant, negligible in a way, as a human being. She had once thought of ballet, when she was quite young, before being brought in her young majority into the higher, sterner duties and understandings of the movement. But, too, she had been, in her way, interestingly, though not buxom, or obtrusively so, a bit too excitingly figured for that. Small as she was, and slim as she had been, there had been no doubt about, in its lovely proportions, the loveliness of her bosom, the narrowness of her waist, the delightful, flaring width of her hips, the sweetness of her thighs. She was, as thousands, and millions of others, though perhaps a bit short, and a little slim, a normal human female, of a sort greedily selected for in countless generations of matings and prizings. So, it seems, she was neither excessively buxom, nor, neither, tall, linear, flat-chested and boyish, a variety often praised and recommended for imitation in cultures which encourage the denial or blurring of sexual differences. Rather, she was much like most women, the normal human female, though perhaps a little shorter, and a tiny bit slimmer, that of course on the brink of her early womanhood and beauty.

The fact that she might have bit a little shorter, and a little lighter, a little slimmer, than many women had given her from a very early age a deep, internal understanding, more than that of many other women, of the size and power of men. To be sure, this can be brought home to all women, and with perfection.

The blond woman turned about, surprised.

“I am very sorry to disturb you,” said the older woman. “I didn’t mean to stare in the theater. Please forgive me. But I am sure I have seen your friend before, or, rather, I mean I am sure that I have seen someone very much like him, long ago. There must be, there might be, it seems possible there might be, a relationship. Perhaps he is a son of my former friend, of many years ago, or such. I am sorry to trouble you about this, but I am very curious about this matter.”

The blonde regarded her, coldly.

“I’m sorry,” said the older woman, “but I wonder if I might trouble you for his name?”

“I do not know you,” said the blonde, and turned away.

“I’m sorry,” said the older woman, “very sorry.”

The older woman backed away, chagrined, embarrassed, and mingled in the crowd, trying to be unobtrusive, mixing in with milling patrons, with those dallying in the lobby, with those waiting for friends, or perhaps for arranged transportation.

The young man returned to his companion, and she must have said something to him, doubtless annoyed, for he looked in the direction of the older woman, who instantly looked away, pretending to busy herself with nearby posters, that their eyes not meet.

The couple then made their way through the exit to the sidewalk outside.

As they left, the older woman watched them, shaken. Then she noticed that, about the left ankle of the blonde, there was a bandage, wrapped tightly there, in several layers. Doubtless she had sustained an ankle injury, though her gait did not seem affected. Oddly, it seemed that something like a ring, or ridge, might lie beneath the bandage. That was suggested by the closeness of the bandage to the ankle at the top and bottom and its widening out, or bulging a little, in the center. The ring, or ridge, seemed to encircle the ankle, and, whatever it was, it was fully concealed by the bandage. Doubtless it was a medical device of some sort, designed to strengthen, to lend support to, the injured ankle.

The older woman followed the couple from the theater discretely, hovering near them, hoping to hear an informative remark, or an address given to the driver of a cab. But the couple stepped into a limousine, a long, dark limousine with darkened windows, which drew near with their appearance outside the theater, its door then opened by a deferential, uniformed chauffeur. The young woman ascended into the dark recesses of the limousine. She did so with a subtle, natural elegance. The older woman saw again the bandage on her ankle, it in odd contrast with the class and quality of her couture. The young man followed her into the vehicle. He must be rich, she thought. Suddenly she feared that they might be married. But there had been no ring on her finger. But then perhaps, in accord, with her own ideology, and such, the blond woman might have scorned to accommodate herself to such demeaning, restrictive and obsolescent conventions. Then she wondered if she might be rich, and not he. But that could not be. She had seen him, and how he looked upon her, and, in his way, gently, but with an undercurrent of iron, had sheltered, commanded and guided her. There was no doubt that he was dominant in the relationship, totally dominant, powerfully so, unquestioningly so, even frighteningly so.

The driver politely closed the door, took his place in the vehicle, and they drove away.

She looked after them, and then hurried to the ticket window, to buy a ticket, as near as possible to the same seat as she had had today, for the performance of La Bohème next Saturday.

Chapter 3

HOW SHE AWAKENED IN A STRANGE ROOM;

SHE FINDS THAT SHE HAS BEEN ANKLETED

She stirred, uneasily.

She kept her eyes closed, fearing that if she opened them the room might turn slowly, surely, patiently, mockingly, about her. She lay there, under the covers, for the moment, half conscious, not feeling well, utterly disoriented, groggy, lethargic, affected as though with some indefinable, eccentric, disconcerting malaise. This was doubtless an aftereffect of the chemical which had been taken into her system, though that was not clear to her at the time. She twisted about, a little, softly moaning, a tiny whimper, protestingly. Surely she was in her own bed. But it seemed oddly deep, somehow too soft, for her simple bed. Her head ached, dully; she still felt tired; she was weary; she was unwilling to awaken. She lay there for a time, trying not to move, wanting to again lose consciousness, she felt so miserable. She desired to return to the favoring, understanding, redemptive kindness, the supposed security, of sleep. But, after a bit, despite what would have been her choice, her deeper subjectivity, anxiously, frightened, seemingly more informed than she herself, calling out, began to make itself heard; it seems then that her consciousness, patiently, insistently, responding, began little by little to overcome her resistance, the misery and weariness of her fifty-eight-year-old body, and reassert itself, groping ever nearer the doors of awareness.

She opened her eyes and cried out, suddenly, in consternation.

Clearly she was not in her own bedroom, in her apartment.

She sat up, abruptly, gasping, in the deep, soft, luxurious, strange bed, and put her hands swiftly to her own body. She wore what must be, or was similar to, a hospital gown, such as that with which patients are familiar, or those awaiting examinations in the offices of their physicians. It was all she wore, save for one unimportant, negligible exception of which she, in her consternation, in her immediate concerns, was unaware at the time.

From the bed, sitting upright upon it, half under the covers, she looked about, wildly, for her clothing. There was no sign of it.

The room itself seemed elegant, almost rococo, with a high ceiling. There were carved moldings, a marble floor, a sparkling chandelier, lit. There were no windows. There was one door, paneled, flanked by pilasters. There was a chair in the room, surely an antique, or similar to such, delicate, elegant, richly upholstered. There was a mirror to one side, in which she saw herself, beside herself with consternation, in the simple, severe, white, starched garment. She put her hand to her head swiftly. Her hair had been loosened and, it seemed, trimmed, and shortened. She had been thinking of having it trimmed, but not shortened to that extent, but had not had it attended to. She had tended to be a bit careless, and a little dilatory, in matters pertaining to her appearance. But later that would not be permitted to her. Commonly she wore her hair up, tightly bound in a bun at the back. That had suited her professional image, and had been a part of her strategy to proclaim and make manifest her independence, and personness, and to distance herself from males, to chill them, and warn them away, to show them that she did not need them and despised them, those insensitive, boorish, lustful others, her enemies. She had not worn her hair in this fashion, that short, rather at her nape, since she was a girl. Against the wall there were a highboy, and two chests. She considered the bed in which she seemed so improbable an occupant. It was large, deep and luxurious, the sort of bed on which a sovereign might have sported with concubines, or a virile king with his pet courtesans. It had four sturdy, massive posts. The first thought which flared into her mind, though she forced it away immediately, in terror, was that it was a bed on which might be spread-eagled a woman, wrists and ankles bound to their respective posts. To be sure, they could not, for the size of the bed, have had fair limbs fastened directly against the dark wood of the posts themselves. The ropes, fastened to the posts, would have to lead to, say, a yard away in each case, the wrists and ankles of their captive.

She hurried in horror from the surface of that great bed, from the whispering of its softness, the intimations of its posts, from its decadent suggestions of ecstatic, unbelievable pleasures imposed mercilessly, perhaps even curiously, or indifferently, on helpless, writhing victims.

She felt the shock of the cool marble floor on her feet, and realized that she was, of course, barefooted. She looked about for slippers, or footwear of some sort, but detected none.

She moaned, angrily.

Then, suddenly, she cried out in dismay, and backed toward the bed, until she felt its obdurate, solid frame against the back of her thighs, beneath the gown, which could be opened from the back. She sat back, disbelievingly, on the bed, on the discarded, unruly covers.

She looked down at her ankle, her left ankle.

On it there was a narrow, but sturdy band, or ring. Swiftly she drew her feet up on the bed, and sat there, at its edge. She reached to the object, to unclasp it from her ankle. To her amazement she could not open it. She turned it, as she could, a little, on her ankle, searching for the simple catch, or spring, which, at a touch, would release it. There was clearly a hinge, and a catch, but, too, there was a locking area, with an aperture, for a tiny key. She jerked at the device, trying to remove it from her ankle. She could not do so. She realized, with anger, and a sinking feeling, that its removal was not in her power, that the device had been closed, and locked. It was locked on her.

Irrationally she thrust down at it, trying to force it from her ankle. She wept. Her ankle was bruised. The grasp of the device was close, obdurate and perfect. She realized that such a device had not been designed to be removed by its wearer. The wearer of such a device has no choice in these matters. The wearer must await in such matters the pleasure of another.

There seemed to be some marks on the band, or ring, tiny marks, marks intentionally inscribed, clearly, but they were in no script with which she was familiar.

She saw herself in the mirror, her image reflected from across the room, she sitting on the bed, with her knees drawn up, her left ankle toward the mirror, the gown up about her knees.

Hurriedly she drew down the gown, though not so much as to cover the ring on her ankle, which she continued to regard in the mirror, and herself.

In the instant before she had drawn the gown down she had seen her calves in the mirror, and, to her surprise, to her fear, and with perhaps an unwilling, sudden moment of apprehensive pleasure, she realized that there was still there in her body, even now, a turn of roundedness, and softness, about them. They were still, even now, even in her present age, obviously the calves of a female, and perhaps those of one once not altogether unpleasant to look upon, even in the deplorable physical sense, and she did not think them unattractive.

She sat there, then, for a moment, regarding herself, the gown now modestly drawn downward, but the steel still visible in the mirror.

Then she drew the gown upward a tiny bit, the better to see the device, she told herself.

Then, hurriedly, she drew it down again.

She regarded herself in the great mirror.

She saw herself.

She did not understand where she was, or what had been done to her. She did know that she was in a strange bed, in a strange room, and in a strange garment.

She regarded herself in the mirror.

She was ankleted.

Chapter 4

HOW CERTAIN THINGS WERE EXPLAINED TO HER,

BUT MUCH REMAINED STILL UNCLEAR

“I thought you were awake,” he said, looking up from the desk. “I thought I heard you cry out, a bit ago, from within.”

She stood in the threshold of the bedroom, having emerged from it, now facing the room outside.

“Where am I?” she cried. “What am I doing here? What is the meaning of this? Where are my clothes? Why am I dressed like this?”

“Did you enjoy the performance of La Bohème?” he asked.

She looked about the room, frightened, tears burning in her eyes. The room seemed rather officelike, and there were shelves of books about the walls, and certain curios here and there, and occasional meaningless bric-a-brac, or so one supposes, and some filing cabinets, some office machinery, diverse paraphernalia, some chairs.

There was no window in the room, but it was well lit, indirectly.

“I want my clothes!” she said.

“You may inquire later about your clothing, but not now,” he said.

The blond-haired, blue-eyed woman, to whom the older woman had taken such an instant dislike, whom she had scorned as so simple, so unworthy of the male, the one who had accompanied him to the performances, and had been his companion in the limousine, she who seemed so vital, so alive, so sensuous, who was so insolently, so excitingly figured, who was so primitive, so sensual that she seemed little more than a luscious, beautiful, well-curved animal designed by nature to stimulate and satisfy with perfection the lowest, the most basic and the most physical needs of powerful, inconsiderate men, was also in the room. Oddly, in spite of the fact that there were chairs in the room, she was kneeling, beside the desk. She wore a brief, silken, scarlet, diaphanous gown. It left little to conjecture of, concerning her beauty. The older woman enjoyed looking down upon her, seeing her there on her knees, so garbed. Hostility, like cold wire, was taut between the women.

The young man rose from behind the desk, and drew a chair toward the desk, placing it before the desk.

“Please seat yourself,” he invited the older woman.

“You will let her sit?” cried the woman kneeling beside the desk.

He turned a sharp glance upon the speaker, and, suddenly, her entire demeanor changed, and she trembled, shrinking down, making herself small, and holding her head down.

“Tutina, it seems, forgot herself,” said the young man. “I apologize. Do not fear. She will be disciplined.”

So ‘Tutina’, then, thought the older woman, is the name of that stupid tart! It seemed an odd name, an unfamiliar sort of name, but it did not seem inappropriate for one such as she, one who was so elementally, so simplistically, so reductively female. The older woman did not understand the meaning of the reference to “discipline,” but something in that word, seemingly in its very sound, terrified her. Did it suggest that the woman’s femininity, the very principle of her femininity, was somehow uncompromisingly subjected to his masculinity, to the very principle of his masculinity?

The young man then turned again, affably, toward the older woman, indicating the chair.

Clearly the blonde was frightened.

The older woman, too, was frightened, for she had seen his glance. She looked about, wildly.

“There is no telephone in the room,” he said.

“I shall scream,” whispered the older woman, knowing she would not do so.

“It would do you no good,” the young man said. “We are in an isolated dwelling, on a remote estate.”

There was another door in the room, other than that which led in from the bedroom. Suddenly, awkwardly, she fled toward it, and flung it open. Outside two men, large, unpleasant looking men, one of them the chauffeur, rose suddenly from chairs, blocking her way.

She shrank back.

“Do you want her stripped and bound, and thrown to your feet?” inquired the chauffeur.

“No,” said the young man, agreeably.

“She wears the anklet,” said the chauffeur.

“That will be all,” said the young man to the chauffeur, and then the chauffeur and his companion drew back, chastened, deferentially closing the door behind them. “Please,” said the young man to the older woman, gently, indicating the chair he had placed before the desk.

She stood before the chair.

“I searched in the all the drawers, and the chests, in the bedroom,” she cried, “and my clothes were not there! Then I came out.”

“Dressed as you are,” said the young man.

“Yes,” she whispered.

“I had thought you might have wrapped yourself in a sheet, or comforter, or such,” he smiled.

“I shall go back and do so,” she said.

“You have chosen to present yourself as you are, and you will remain clad as you are,” he said.

The blond woman looked up from her knees, a tiny smile on her lips.

“I want my clothing,” said the older woman.

“I told you that you might inquire later about your clothing, not now,” said the young man, evenly.

“This is all I have on!” protested the older woman, indicating the starched, white, stiff gown, so simple, so antiseptic, in its appearance. It was substantially open in the back, save for two ties, one at the back of the neck and another at the small of the back.

“Not all, actually,” said the young man.

She looked down at her left ankle. “Remove this horrid thing from my ankle!” she demanded.

“It is certainly not horrid,” he said. “It is actually quite attractive. It sets your ankle off very nicely. Indeed your ankle looks as though it might have been made to be encircled by such a ring. Do not concern yourself with it. The steel, circling closely about the flesh, is indisputably lovely, as well as, independently, of course, quite meaningful.”

Tears sprang to her eyes.

“You are not alone,” he said. He turned to Tutina, who was now, as he stood, to his left. “Anklet!” he snapped.

Instantly she turned about, sinuously, and, half lying, half kneeling, extended her left leg, gracefully, toward the older woman, her knee slightly bent, her toes pointed, extending the line of her well-curved calf. There, on her ankle, there was a similar ring.

The older woman gasped, in misery. Did this mean that she, somehow, now shared some status, or condition, with that other woman, that trivial, simple, stupid, hated, beautiful Tutina? Surely not! Too, she now understood the meaning of the bandage which had been worn by Tutina to both performances. It was to conceal the device on her ankle, which had not been removed. It seemed that Tutina might be no more capable than she of removing the device, and, too, that she might be kept within it much as a matter of course. Too, the older woman was alarmed, and troubled, by the sudden, prompt, immediate, graceful response of Tutina to the utterance “Anklet!” It was as though she had been trained to present the device for easy view, and immediately, gracefully, beautifully, upon the utterance of that word, which, it seemed, constituted an understood, familiar command. Lastly the older woman sensed, from the sharpness with which the command had been issued, that the young man was not pleased with Tutina. That doubtless went back to Tutina’s protest when the young man had invited her to seat herself. The older woman suspected that the young man might recall this lapse, if lapse it was, to Tutina when they were alone. Certainly, after the incident, Tutina had appeared to be uneasy, and perhaps apprehensive.

The older woman recalled that the young man had made a casual reference to “discipline.” She had not understand the reference, but, somehow, it had frightened her. She recalled that the reference had been made easily, almost in passing, treating it as though it might be something unimportant, something trivial, a mere matter of course, something to be simply taken for granted.

But the blonde, Tutina, had not taken the matter so lightly. She had been clearly frightened. Even now she was clearly frightened.

The young man snapped his fingers, and Tutina swirled back to her original position, and kept her head down.

“There is some sort of marking on the thing,” said the older woman, looking down, to her own ankle.

“Do not concern yourself with it,” he said. “It is a reference number, yours, in our records.”

“Who undressed me? Who put me in this gown?” asked the older woman, frightened.

“Tutina,” said the young man.

She glanced at the blond woman, who then, lifting her head, smiled up at her, knowingly, scornfully. No longer then, at that moment, did Tutina seem timid. To be sure, she was then relating to the older woman, not to the young man.

The older woman flushed, and then, in embarrassment, closed her eyes briefly, and then opened them, looking down, angrily, toward the rug. Vaguely she recognized that it seemed to be an oriental rug, and might, she speculated, be of considerable value.

How amused must the blond woman, Tutina, have been, she thought, when she removed her clothing and would then compare her own abundant, vital, provocative riches with the worn, slack, tired, withered, pathetic, impoverished form which, helpless and unconscious, lay before her. She would then presumably, turning the old form about, have proceeded to see that it was once again concealed, though now perhaps, to her amusement, in such a reductive, simple, thin, single, embarrassing, uniform, meaningless, dehumanizing cover.

“I want my clothing,” said the older woman. She touched the gown. “I do not want to wear this,” she said.

“You would not think twice about it, if you were in the office of an examining physician,” said the young man.

“I do not want to wear it!” she said.

“You may remove it,” said the young man.

“No!” she said, frightened.

The young man smiled.

“I have no money, no wealth, I have no family, no loved ones, nothing, you can get no ransom for me! I mean nothing to anyone! I am a mature, middle-aged, woman. You can have no interest in me. It is not as though I were young and lovely! What can you want of me? There is nothing I can do for you!”

Again he smiled.

“I do not understand!” she said.

He did not respond to her.

“Monster!” she wept.

“Perhaps, perhaps more than you know,” he mused.

“Release me!” she begged.

“Please be seated,” he said.

“Release me!” she said, imperiously, coldly, drawing her small frame up to its full height, summoning all the rigor, all the severity, of which she was capable.

How she would have terrified weak men, administrators, colleagues, and such, by the presentation of such a fierce mien, suggesting implacable resolution, and full readiness to have instant and embarrassing recourse to various devices, procedures, pressures, laws and institutions engineered to impose the will of such as she, with the full force of the coercive apparatus of a captured state, upon the community at large.

“Do not try my patience,” said the young man. “Sit there.”

“No!” she said.

“You will sit there, clothed,” he said, “or you will kneel here,” he indicating at the same time a place to the side, on the rug, “naked, before me.”

“I have a Ph.D.,” she quavered. “In gender studies!”

“You are a stupid bitch,” he said. “The choice is yours.”

She sat down, quickly, and turned a bit to the side, keeping her legs closely together, moving the gown down, as she could, to protect herself.

“I am not stupid,” she said weakly.

“No, I suppose not,” he said, irritably. “Indeed, in some respects, you are extremely intelligent. If you were not, you would not be of interest to us. But, in other respects, it seems you are incredibly stupid.

“But I suppose,” he said, “you will prove capable of learning.” He glanced down at Tutina, kneeling to his left. “What do you think, Tutina?” he asked.

“I am sure she will learn quickly,” said Tutina, her head down.

The young man returned his attention to the older woman. “Interesting, how you sit,” he said.

She looked at him, puzzled.

“I thought that subscribers to your ideology methodologically affected bellicose facades of what they mistakenly believe to be masculine body language, for example, leaning back, and throwing the legs apart, indicating, supposedly, their masculinity, and openness, their lack of inhibitions, and such, their repudiation of femininity, for feminists seem to seek to be the least feminine of all their gender. And yet you sit there in a manner undisguisedly, and, I suspect, naturally feminine.”

She held her knees the more tightly together, and trembled. She felt so open, and vulnerable. She did not care what he thought! Perhaps it was because the gown was all she had to shield her body from his gaze. Too, it was muchly open in the back. Or, perhaps, it was because she now had a different, frightened sense of herself. She now wore an anklet.

“How did you enjoy La Bohème?” he asked, rather as he had, earlier.

“I thought it was beautiful,” she whispered.

“I, too,” he said. “Beautiful!”

She regarded him, helplessly, pathetically.

“There are other forms of song dramas, elsewhere,” he said. “They, too, are very beautiful. Perhaps, suitably disguised, or unobtrusively positioned, in order not to produce offense, you might be able to see one, or another, of them.”

“What do you want of me?” she begged. “Why am I here? What are you going to do with me?”

“I shall explain a small number of things to you,” he said, “a portion of what I think you are, at present, capable of understanding. Later, of course, you will learn a great deal more. Some of what I say may seem surprising to you, even incredible, so I would encourage you, despite your possible impulses to do otherwise, not to interrupt me frequently or inopportunely. If necessary, I will have Tutina tie your hands behind your back and tape your mouth shut. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“First,” he said, “you have been unconscious, for better than forty-eight hours.”

She regarded him, startled.

“That is partly a function of your age,” he said. “Younger individuals recover considerably more quickly.”

Then there are other individuals, she thought.

She remembered the performance of La Bohème. As she had planned she had arranged to have a seat for that performance as close as possible to the seat she had occupied for the earlier performance, that of Richard Strauss’s Salomé. To her delight, the couple, the young man and his companion, too, had had seats comparable to those of the first performance. Though she had scarcely managed to take her eyes from the couple during the performance, and had sat there, breathing quickly, heart beating rapidly, tense, nervous, excited the whole time, she had had no intention of approaching them again. She recalled, smartly, her rebuff, earlier, at the hands of the blonde and the civil tolerance, no more than that required by simple courtesy, surely, of the young man. But, interestingly, to her delight, and alarm, the couple, after the performance, seeming to see her for the first time, had smiled at her, rather as if acknowledging that they had met her before, and pleasantly. Thus encouraged, feeling almost like a young girl, timid, shy, bashful, almost stammering, she had dared to approach them, ostensibly to chat, inconsequentially, about the performance. They had permitted her to apologize for her forward actions of some days ago, not that such actions really required any such apology, and had expressed interest in her small observations, and speculations, particularly the young man. The blonde, though attentive and pleasant, had tended to be somewhat reserved, and, on the whole, had lingered in the background. That had suited the older woman very well, who did not care in the least for the young man’s companion, whom she viewed as obviously far beneath him, profoundly unworthy of him. Did he not know that? The older woman, then pleased with the reticence and, for most practical purposes, the disappearance of the blonde, addressed herself delightedly to the young man, realizing that she was now somehow the center of his attention. She felt a wondrous warmth, and a strange animation in his presence. Seldom, it seemed, had she been so voluble, and witty. Her various allusions, and subtle references, to various matters, performers, and composers, demonstrating how well informed, and how well read, she was, seemed to be instantly understood, and appreciated, by the young man. His smiles, his expressions of understandings, his tiny sounds, of amusement, and such, at exactly the right moments, encouraged, and thrilled, her. She found herself basking in his approval, and she wanted, more than anything, it seemed, to please him. She was elated to be before him, being found pleasing. How she wanted to win his smile, to impress him! She hoped that no one who knew her, particularly ideological colleagues, would see her thus, before this large, powerful male, trying to please him. It was true; she desperately wanted to please him, to be found pleasing by him, despite the fact that he was a mere male, a mere insensitive, boorish, rude male, an enemy. It was almost, she had felt, as though she were preening herself before him, turning about, showing her feathers, impressing him, and delighting herself in doing so. It was almost as though she were slyly courting him, and even, though the thought should surely be abhorrent, and offensive, to her, attempting to show herself before him as an attractive member of the opposite sex. How abhorrent, at her age, at her age, and he a man, the enemy! And she remembered vaguely, scarcely with full consciousness, and fighting, even in her animation and delight, to keep the insistent glimmerings from rising forcefully and undeniably before her, how, many years ago, she, then in her late twenties, had been the teacher of such a young man, one whom this young man so remarkably resembled. She recalled, unwillingly, yet with an odd delight, how that young man had troubled her, and how he had watched her, and how she had, she sensed it now, moved before him, and presented herself before him. She had prepared herself for the classes, eagerly, looking forward to being before him, wanting to impress him, wanting to perform for him. She had attended to her prim appearance, to her polished, severe mien, to her coiffure. She had even considered applying lipstick on the days of the class, but had, of course, thought the better of it. Lipstick was so daringly sensual, worthy of only unworthy women. But once, daringly, she had worn two light, narrow, golden bracelets on her left wrist, that might sometimes strike together, making a tiny, provocative sound. He made her terribly uneasy, and yet she was thrilled, undeniably, with the way he watched her, almost without expression. Many times, as though inadvertently, with no intent, of course, she had turned in such a way as to display the slim, provocative delights of her figure before him. Once, after such a display, she had seen him smile, knowingly, and he so young! How furious she had been! He had misunderstood! It was inexcusable! Were there only two in the class? She sensed now how she had been before him, how she, as a female, had tried to attract him, though, of course, not admitting this in any obvious way to herself, and, indeed, on a fully conscious level, she supposed she might have denied it, doubtless vehemently, except perhaps, in quiet, private moments, when she was alone, when she might perhaps, tears in her eyes, softly kiss her pillow. She had tried to resist these things, and scorn him, and, upon occasion, demean and defeat him, and humiliate him before the class, utilizing the full authority of her position to do so. But she had had little success in such endeavors. Indeed, in exchanges with him, she had often found herself confused, and reeling, almost as though from physical blows. It was almost as though he had seized her, and thrown her to her belly at his feet, and bound her hand and foot, and then stepped away from her, to look down upon her, she helpless at his feet, no more than a female captive, his to do with as he might please. She had dreamed, more than once, that he had torn away her prim garmenture and put her on her back on the desk and raped her, while the class looked on, bemused. Finished, he had thrust her from the desk to the floor, where she had then knelt naked before him, her head down, kissing his feet in gratitude.

“Perhaps you would like to have a drink with us?” he asked.

“Oh, that would be lovely,” she said. “But perhaps your friend would mind?” She had supposed that the blonde would indeed mind, of course, but that she would have no choice but, in the situation, to acquiesce with the pretense of graciousness. This gave the older woman no little pleasure.

“You don’t mind, do you?” asked the young man of his companion.

“Certainly not,” she assured them.

She had not seemed as dismayed as the older woman had hoped she would be.

Outside the theater the young man, not entering the waiting limousine, spoke briefly with the waiting chauffeur, and it drew quietly away from the curb.

In a secluded, upholstered booth, rather toward the back of a nearby, small restaurant, convenient to the theater, the young man ordered. He ordered a Manhattan, a sweet Manhattan, for the older woman and a Scotch for himself. “You will have water,” he told his companion. She looked down, toward the table. The older woman assumed that she might have some medical condition, or perhaps an allergy to alcohol. In any event she was to be given water. The older woman was surprised, too, when the young man had simply ordered for her, too, without asking her what she might prefer. But she did not question him. It was he, after all, who was the host. She might have preferred a tiny glass of white wine, as she scarcely ever drank, but she did not object to his choice. She found that she desperately wanted to please him. Too, she sensed in him a kind of power, and will, which might brook no question or test. Although he seemed to be gentle, thoughtful, and courteous, she was not sure that this was truly he. She wondered if such things were natural to him. She wondered if he might not, perhaps in the interest of some cause, be merely concerned to project a semblance of solicitude. There seemed something frightening about him, something powerful and uncompromising about him. She could imagine herself naked before him, frightened, on her belly, he with a whip in his hand. In retrospect she had supposed that he had ordered the dark, sweet drink for her in order that the traces of any unusual ingredient it might contain would be concealed. But that now seems unlikely to her. Tassa powder, which was presumably used, as it commonly is in such situations, though doubtless most frequently with younger women, is tasteless, and, dissolved in liquid, colorless. She now believes that he ordered that drink for her for different reasons, first, to simply impose his will upon her, and that she might, on some level, understand that it was so imposed, and, secondly, that he might, in his amusement, cause her senses to swirl, thus producing a calculated, intended effect within her, and putting her thusly more in his power. He knew many things about her, many things, she now realizes, and among them he doubtless knew that she drank seldom, if ever, and thus his joke of having her, of her own will, imbibe, to please him, for he knew she desired to please him, for nothing could have been more obvious, a drink much too strong for her.

“Are you well?” he had inquired.

“Yes, yes,” she had smiled.

“I have been thinking,” he said, “about your interest in, your question concerning, my supposed resemblance to someone you once knew.”

“Yes?” she said. She smiled. She felt unsteady.

“I may be able to shed some light on that matter,” he said. “Indeed, perhaps I can introduce you to the individual you have in mind.”

“I knew — knew — it!” she said. “You must be the son, or a cousin, some nephew, something, some relative!”

“Are you all right?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“I think I can introduce you to him,” he said.

“Oh, I would not want to meet him,” she said. “I was only curious. I was just asking.”

“Are you afraid of him?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “Of course not!”

“Perhaps you should be,” he said.

“What?” she asked.

“Nothing,” he said.

“I will introduce you to him,” he said.

“No, no,” she smiled. Then she felt him lift her to her feet, and draw her from behind the table, and away from the booth. She had no intention of resisting and, in any event, it seemed she could not do so. She recalled the waiter asking after her. “She is all right,” said the young man. “We have the car waiting.” She recalled seeing a bill, of large denomination, several times the amount of the bill, left on the table. Then she was aware of being helped outside, and, a bit later, she felt herself being placed gently, solicitously, into a long, dark car, the limousine, which had apparently been waiting in the vicinity. She remembered little more after that, until she awakened, considerably later it seemed, in a strange bed, clad in what seemed to be a hospital or examination gown, and wearing, on her left ankle, a locked steel ring.

****

“Do you feel well enough for me to continue?” asked the young man.

“Yes,” she said.

“Perhaps a little to eat, and some strong coffee?” said the young man. “You must be very hungry.”

She held her legs closely together, turned a bit away from him. She drew the gown more closely about her. She was pathetic, frightened.

“Tutina!” said the young man.

Swiftly Tutina rose to her feet and hurried from the room.

“Doubtless, as an informed, intelligent person,” said the young man, “you are aware of the existence of many worlds, and the overwhelming statistical probability that many of these, indeed, given the numbers involved, millions of them, are suitable for life as we know it, and that, further, given the nature of chemical evolution, and organic evolution, and natural selections, and such, that there is an overwhelming statistical probability that not only life, but rational life, would exist on many of these worlds, indeed, once again, given the numbers involved, on millions of them.”

She nodded.

“I ask you to believe nothing now,” he said. “But consider the possibility of alien life forms and exotic, alternative technologies, life forms of incredible intelligence, say, far beyond that of the human, with, at their disposal, enormous powers, the power even to influence, and manipulate, gravity. With this power, they could, for example, move their planet from star to star, as it seemed appropriate to them, and, when they wished, if they wished, they might conceal its presence gravitationally, by affecting certain fields involved. Do you understand this, at least as a logical possibility?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Suppose then that human beings might exist, too, on such a planet, perhaps originally brought there for scientific purposes, say, as specimens, or perhaps as curiosities, or perhaps merely in the interests of aesthetics, much as one might plant a garden, putting one flower here and another there, or perhaps as one might stock an aquarium, such things. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she said.

“But this seems quite fantastic to you?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“On such a planet,” he said, “presumably the dominant life forms would supervise, to some extent, the technology of human beings.”

“I suppose so,” she said.

“They would not wish, for example, to allow human beings to develop a weaponry which might threaten them, or to develop in such a way as to impair the viability of the planet for organic life, such things.”

“I suppose not,” she whispered.

At this point Tutina, carrying a tray, in her brief silk, and anklet, followed by one of the two men who had been outside, entered the room. The man behind her carried a small table, which he put down, before the older woman. Tutina, then, placed the tray on the table. On the tray, tastefully arranged, with napkins, was a plate of small pastries, a saucer and cup, some sugars and creams, some spoons, and a small pot of coffee.

The man who had brought the table withdrew.

Tutina regarded the older woman with hatred, unseen by the young man, as her back was to him.

The older woman returned her stare, coldly.

Tutina, of course, must await the consent, the signal, of the older woman.

The older woman made her wait, for several seconds. Then she said, sweetly, “Yes, please.”

Tutina then poured the coffee, carefully, and then replaced the small container on the tray.

Then Tutina waited.

“Thank you,” said the older woman, politely dismissing her.

Tutina then backed away, gracefully, her head down, humbly. She knew that she was under the eye of the young man. The older woman smiled inwardly. She suspected that that serving, and humble withdrawal, had cost Tutina much. Tutina then knelt again, as she had before, at the side of the desk. The older woman did not neglect to look down at Tutina where she knelt, and smile upon her, sweetly.

“One does not know the full nature or extent of the technology at the disposal of the alien life forms on such a world,” said the young man, “but it is doubtless not only powerful but sophisticated and widely ranging. For example, they may have, we might suppose, unusual, though it seems not perfect, surveillance capabilities. Should they detect a breach of one of their ordinances, say, one forbidding certain varieties of weapons to humans, it seems they are capable of imposing swift, unmistakable and effective sanctions.”

“I do not understand any of this,” said the older woman.

“You understand it on some level, surely,” said the young man.

“Yes,” she admitted.

“On such a world what do you conjecture would be the nature of human culture?” he inquired.

“I do not know,” she whispered.

“Please eat something,” he said.

She looked at the plate before her. Her lower lip trembled.

“It is perfectly all right,” he said. “It is not poisoned. It is not drugged. When we wish to drug you in the future, it will usually be done with your full awareness. A syringe will be used.”

“Let me go,” she begged.

“We did not bring you here to release you,” he said. “Too, you are now ours, literally ours, in a sense far fuller, far deeper, and far more perfect, than you can even begin at present to comprehend.”

Her dismay was obvious.

“Please,” he said.

Under his gaze she obediently lifted one of the small pastries to her mouth, and began to eat. Then she sipped the coffee. Then, in a moment, so hungry, she began to eat voraciously. Angrily she noted Tutina regarding her, and smiling. To be sure, the desperation, the eagerness, with which she ate seemed scarcely compatible with the dignity of a Ph.D., particularly in one with a degree in gender studies.

“On such a world,” continued the young man, “being subjected to externally imposed limitations, those of the alien life forms, for example, various limitations on weaponry, transportation and communication, human cultures would exist, and develop, and express themselves rather differently, at least in some respects, than they have on this world, the one with which you are familiar. For example, on such a world, on this supposed other world, instead of adjudicating differences with, say, bombs and bullets, or thermonuclear weaponry, destroying life indiscriminately, irradiating soil, poisoning atmospheres, and such, points at issue might be adjudicated rather with the fire of torches, the bronze of spearheads, the steel of unsheathed swords.”

“It would be so primitive,” said the older woman.

“In some respects, yes, in others, not,” said the young man.

She continued to eat greedily. She now realizes that much of her earlier malaise, her headache, and such, if not associated with the alcohol she had imbibed, which seems unlikely, was presumably associated with her lack of nourishment. To be sure, her age might have had something to do with her condition. Tassa powder, which she later learned was used on her, allegedly has few, if any, lingering aftereffects, or at least, she was assured, on younger women. And it is on such women, of course, considerably younger women, that it is most often used.

“With respect to understanding the cultures of such a world,” he said, “it is helpful to keep various considerations in mind. First, human beings were apparently brought to such a world from many different areas and over a period of many hundreds, indeed, presumably even thousands, of years. Accordingly they would have brought with them certain native customs and cultures. Thus it is natural to suppose that on such a world many cultures would bear obvious signs of their origins. The languages of this world, too, would be expected to exhibit similar traces of their antecedents. Secondly, it is useful to keep in mind that the cultures of this supposed world have not been affected by the development of certain vast, far-reaching, centralizing, reductive, dehumanizing, mechanistic technologies; they have not been affected by, for example, global industrialization, socially engineered mass conditioning programs, and gigantic nation states, removing freedoms and powers, one by one, bit by bit, from their victims, hastening to disarm their populaces lest they resist, retaining for themselves alone the means, and tools, of coercion and violence, reducing their supposed citizenries to implicit serfdom. Accordingly, in many respects, not being afflicted by these processes, the human beings of our supposed world, that on which I am inviting you to conjecture, might tend in many ways to be healthier and happier, and to find their lives more rewarding and meaningful, more worth living, than many of their numerous, aimless, confused, unhappy, reduced counterparts on the world with which you are most familiar. The supposed world is then, one supposes, given the evolutionary heritage of the human animal, likely, on the whole, at least, to be much more congenial to human nature, and its fulfillment, than the world with which you are most familiar.”

She wiped her lips with a napkin.

“Would you like more?” he asked. “I can have Tutina fetch you more, or something else.”

The older woman enjoyed seeing Tutina, as she knelt, stiffen slightly, in anger. Was that almost a slight hint of resistance? But when the young man turned to Tutina, her manner underwent an instant transformation, and she shrank down a little, making herself smaller, and, trembling, averted her eyes, not daring to meet his. It pleased the older woman to see the sensuous, hated, beautiful blonde so much in his power.

“No,” said the older woman.

“Thirdly,” said the young man, “consider the following. Incidentally, these are only some simple general things, out of thousands, which I might tell you about this supposed world. I have selected only three, thinking that these might be most helpful to you at this moment.”

The older woman nodded.

“Thirdly,” said the young man,” I would like to call your attention to certain medical, or biological, advances, or, at any rate, capabilities, which exist on this supposed world.”

“I thought your supposed world was primitive,” said the older woman.

“In certain respects, so, in others, not,” said the young man. “The particular advance, or capability, I have in mind may be of some interest to you. Let me begin, first of all, by reminding you that certain areas of technology, of investigation, and such, were denied to humans on our supposed world. The energies then which might have been plied into certain channels, those of weapons, electronic communication, mass transportation, large-scale industrial machinery, and such, were diverted into other channels, for example, into the medical, or biological, sciences. In short, the supposed world, whose existence I should like you to entertain for the moment as a possibility, is, in some respects, far advanced over that with which you are most familiar. For example, on the supposed world aging was understood over a thousand years ago not as an inevitability but, in effect, as a disease and, accordingly, it was investigated as such. Clearly it is a physical process and, like other physical processes, it would be subject to various conditions, conditions susceptible to manipulation, or alteration, in various ways.”

“I do not understand what you are saying,” whispered the older woman, frightened.

“I did not mean to upset you,” said the man. “Forgive me. Let us briefly change the subject. Doubtless you have seen old examples of the film-makers’ art, silent films, for example. Or perhaps even talkies, but dating back perhaps fifty or sixty years?”

“Of course,” she said.

“In the silent films might be seen many women of incredible loveliness and femininity, films made in a time in which these precious, marvelous attributes were celebrated, rather than castigated and belittled by an envious potato-bodied self-proclaimed elite of the plain and politically motivated. Too, even in old talkies, how beautiful, how feminine, were so many of the actresses! How poignant then to realize that these luscious, marvelous creatures would, by now, have so sadly changed, would by now have been mercilessly humiliated, ravaged, eroded into almost unrecognizable caricatures of their once fair, wondrous selves. It is sad. Too, there were women in those days, true women, and two sexes, real sexes, not one blurred, androgynous pseudo-sex, and they were harmoniously interrelated, fitted closely and beautifully to one another as male and female, each inordinately unique and precious, not set at odds by the disappointed, the greedy and rancorous. In those days the pathological virago would not have been a role model but a poor joke, as she is in actuality today, though a joke it is unwise to recognize. Then the forty-nine natural women would not have been belittled, twisted, and commanded to behave like the unnatural “fiftieth woman,” the authentic, disturbed malcontent, consumed with envy, intent on working her vengeance and will on an entire community. If one is to be sacrificed, why not the fiftieth, she alone, why the forty-nine?”

“Let each be as she wishes,” said the older woman.

“But it does not work in that fashion, does it?” he asked.

“No,” she whispered. Then she said, angrily, “We know our values! Let the forty-nine be sacrificed!”

“Perhaps men will not permit it,” he said.

She drew back in the chair, behind the small table, frightened, and put her legs more closely together, and gathered the white gown more closely about her slender body. It had never occurred to her before, perhaps oddly, that men might not permit the transmogrification of her gender. That had never occurred to her, that men might take a hand in such things. Men had always been so stupid, so simple, so weak, so easily confused, so easily influenced, so easily controlled and manipulated. Those, of course, were the men of Earth.

“I have upon occasion,” he said, “seen photographs of older women, sometimes very old women, taken when they were much younger, in the bloom of their youth and beauty. One realizes then, suddenly, that once they were young, and so beautiful. How hard it seems to believe that sometimes, knowing them as they are now. But if one had known them then! Ah, if one had known them then! Then would one not have found them terribly attractive? Would one not have wanted then to know them, to approach them, to touch them?”

“Everyone grows old,” said the older woman.

“I promised you that I would introduce you to the individual whom you remembered from long ago,” he said.

“Is he in the house?” she asked, suddenly.

“Yes,” said the young man.

“Please be merciful!” she begged. “If I am to see him, give me clothing to wear! Do not let me appear before him like this!”

“Was he a lover?” asked the young man.

“No!” she cried. “Of course not!”

“I shall introduce you to him now,” he said.

“Please, no,” she begged. “Not while I am like this!”

“But you have already appeared before him, so clad,” he said.

She looked at him wildly, in confusion.

“I am he,” he smiled.

“No,” she said. “You are too young, too young!”

“I am he,” he repeated.

She shook her head, disbelievingly.

“It will all become clearer later,” he said. “Let us now simply inform you, and you may believe this or not, it makes no difference at this point, that our “supposed world,” as we spoke of it, does exist, in actuality. It lies within our very solar system. I have been there. I have seen that world. I have adopted it, and its hardy, uncompromising, fulfilling ways, as my own. I will not recognize the pathologies of this world any longer. I repudiate them. The world is called, after one of its cultural artifacts, “Home Stone.” In the language most commonly spoken on that world the word is “Gor.” Perhaps you have heard of Gor?”

“You are mad!” she wept.

“Have you heard of it?” he asked.

“Of course,” she said. “But it does not exist!”

“Later you will be in a better position to make a judgment on that,” he said.

The older woman looked to the kneeling blonde, if only to corroborate her own consternation, her own disbelief, but Tutina stared ahead, not meeting her eyes.

“Tutina,” said the young man, “is from Earth, like you, but she was taken, let us say, as a guest, to Gor. I bought her there.”

“Bought her?” asked the older woman.

“I, on the other hand,” said the young man, “was, in a way, recruited.”

“You are not the young man I knew,” said the older woman.

“I am,” he said. “Let us return briefly to those medical advances I mentioned earlier, those developed on Gor, or, as it is sometimes spoken of, the Antichthon, the Counter-Earth. Among these advances, or capabilities, if you prefer, are the Stabilization Serums. These ensure pattern stability, the stability of organic patterns, without degradation, despite the constant transformation of cells in the body. As you probably know, every seven years or so, every cell in your body, with the exception of the neural cells, is replaced. The continuity of neural cells guarantees the viability of memory, extending back, beyond various seven-year periods. The Stabilization Serums, in effect, arrest aging, and, thus, preserve youth. Further, the Stabilization Serums also freshen and rejuvenate neural tissue. In this way, one avoids the embarrassment of a declining brain incongruously ensconced in a youthful body. That feature represents an improvement over the original serums and dates from something like five hundred years ago.”

“You said you bought Tutina?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Can you think of any simple way in which I might convince you that I am who I claim to be? I probably remember some of our exchanges in class, some of my fellow students, some of the reading assignments, such things. Would anything like that help?”

“You might have researched such things,” she said.

“True,” he admitted. “What if I described your clothing, or manner, or such?”

“Such things were muchly the same,” she said. “I know!”

“What?” he asked.

“Once, and only once,” she said, “I wore jewelry to class. You could not know what it was. You would have no way of knowing what it was. Your data, your records, the roster, the familiarities of my garb and demeanor, could not give you that information.”

“You wore two narrow bracelets, golden bracelets, on your left wrist,” he said.

The older woman was aghast, stunned. The bracelets were precisely as he had stated. She had never forgotten that class. She had only dared once to wear them, to that class and none other. And she remembered how she had sometimes moved her wrist, as though in the most natural and apt of gestures, in such a way that they would make that tiny, provocative sound.

“They contrasted nicely with your prim couture,” he said. “They reminded me of slave bangles. They made small sounds, sometimes, as you moved your wrist. I suppose you know you did that on purpose, to present yourself before me, as a female slave.”

“No!” she cried.

“I recall thinking that it would be pleasant to have you remove those severe garments, slowly and gracefully, and then kneel naked before me, except for the two bracelets on your left wrist.”

The older woman cried out in misery, and hid her face in her hands.

“There has been a new development in the Stabilization Serums, or, better, I suppose, serums rather analogous to the Stabilization Serums, a development which has occurred in my own lifetime, indeed, within the last few years,” he said. “In this development, though there are dangers associated with it, and it is not always effective, it is often possible to reverse the typical aging process, to an earlier point, and then stabilize it at that point.”

“You are mad,” she said.

“I had never forgotten you,” he said, “and so, naturally, when I learned of this possibility, I thought of you, and, indeed, several others, in this regard.

“You may now ask about your clothing,” he said.

“Where is it?” she said.

“It was destroyed,” he said. “You will not be needing it anymore. You are going to be taken to Gor.”

“You are mad,” she whispered.

“Not at all,” he said.

“You never forgot me?” she said.

“Do not mistake our intentions here,” he said. “This is a business venture. We are interested in profit. There is a rich harvest to be had now, with this new development, only recently available to us for commercial exploitation. There is now, suddenly, an entirely new, rich, untapped area which is ripe for our endeavors, an area which we may now use to supplement our routine work.”

“You remembered me,” she whispered. “You were interested in me.”

“A nice word,” he said.

“You found me of interest —?”

“Certainly.”

She was in sudden consternation.

Interested?

Surely she had misspoke herself. Surely she had gone too far!

Was she feminine?

She must not be feminine!

Surely it would be wrong for her to be such, to be so female, so simply, so radically, so vulnerably female!

Was such not a mere social artifact?

But what if it were not a mere social artifact?

What if it were something very different, what if it were something very real, something natural, precious, important, and beautiful, something utterly independent of her wishes and indoctrinations, something which, whether she or others approved or not, or wanted it to be or not, she was?

And could it be wrong to be what one was?

And what might be the consequences of becoming what one was, truly?

Could it be so terrible?

Or might it not be the most welcome and glorious of liberations?

She looked at the wall, to her left, at a picture, a landscape. It seemed a strange landscape, in its way, with gentle yellow trees nestled in a valley, and, in the distance, a range of scarlet mountains. One could almost smell the breeze, the freshness of the air.

A strange picture!

Surely there was no such place.

But what if there were?

What would it be to be in such a place?

Would not things be different?

Perhaps very different?

She looked away from the picture.

“But how could that be?” she asked, lightly. “In what possible way?”

“You are not stupid,” he said. “Do not pretend to be stupid. In precisely the sense you had in mind when you used the word ‘interesting’.”

“— As a female?” she said.

“Of course,” he said.

“How horrid!” she said.

“You are actually quite pleased,” he said.

“I decry the very thought,” she said. “I reject it as insulting and repulsive!”

“No, you do not,” he said. “You are very pleased. And I assure you that you will come to hope, and soon, with all your heart, and every fiber of your little body, that men will find you interesting as a female — for your very life may depend on this.”

“I do not understand,” she said.

“In a few days, perhaps weeks,” he said, “you will understand.”

“I think you are mad,” she said.

“Perhaps,” he smiled.

She drew the pristine, starched white of the hospital or examination gown more closely about her.

“How lovely you were,” he said, “and how lovely you will be again, when you are what you should have been, from the very beginning.”

“I do not understand,” she said.

He laughed, and she felt frightened.

She trembled in the small, starched gown. It was too short! On her left ankle was a puzzling, inexplicable ring of metal; it was a stout, sturdy little ring, and it closely encircled her ankle; it was closed and locked in place; she could not remove it; it was fastened on her, snugly, effectively, inescapably; it was warmed now from her body.

She had never worn such a device.

She did not understand such a device.

What could it mean?

There was writing on it.

He had spoken of records.

Such a device, she thought, in its obduracy and beauty, is inappropriate for me. It is the sort of thing which should be on the body of a young woman, a coveted, desirable female, one who must wait fearfully to learn its significance, a significance already half suspected, and in what plans she might figure.

“I do not understand,” she thought to herself. “I do not understand!”

“Yes,” he said, “I was interested in you. Certainly I was interested in you. But you must clearly understand that I was interested in you in only one way, in one way alone. I thought of you with only one purpose in mind, the only purpose in terms of which you could possibly be of any value. And you must understand, too, that that is the only way in which you are of any interest or ever will be of any interest whatsoever. That is the only interest, and the only meaning, you will have, ever, for any man.”

“I do not understand,” she whispered.

“In what other way might one be interested in one such as you?” he asked.

She looked at him, wildly.

He smiled.

“No,” she said, “no, no!”

“I wonder what color cords would look well on you,” he said. “White, yellow, red?”

“I do not understand,” she cried. “I do not understand!”

“Doubtless any,” he said. “They are all nice. I think you will be very pretty, later, of course, not now, later, when you are luscious, helplessly bound in them.”

“Luscious, I?” she said. “Cords? Bound?”

He then drew from the center drawer of his desk a small, rectangular leather case, from which he withdrew a syringe, and a vial. “You are going to be given an injection,” he said, “which will, in a few moments, produce a lapse of consciousness. I would rather that you did not resist. If you choose to do so, I will have Tutina, who is considerably younger and larger, and stronger, than you, hold you.”

The older woman said nothing, but wept.

Meanwhile, Tutina had, from a cabinet to the side, to the right of the desk, as one would face it, taken what appeared to be a bottle of alcohol, and, from a small white sack which had been beside the bottle, what seemed to be a cotton swab.

“Lie down there,” said Tutina, “on the rug, before his desk, on your right side, with your knees drawn up.”

Awkwardly, and with unsteadiness, and some pain, the older woman, tears in her eyes, humiliated, went to her hands and knees, and then to the position to which she had been directed.

“Hereafter,” said Tutina, “when you hear the command ‘Injection position’, in whatever language, you will instantly, and unquestioningly, assume this position.”

The older woman whimpered.

“Be quiet,” said Tutina.

The older woman cried out, softly, in sudden protest, as the gown was thrust up, rudely, above her waist. She felt the cool touch of alcohol, applied from the swab, at her waist, on the left side, above the hip, a swabbed area of some two square inches. Then, a moment later, as Tutina withdrew, taking with her the alcohol and swab, she sensed the young man crouching beside her. Then she felt the entry into her body of the syringe, sharply and precisely penetrating the alcohol-cooled area, and there was a small, growing, painful, swollen fullness in her side, as the liquid was forced under the skin.

Chapter 5

THE YOUNG MAN VISITS HER,

PRIOR TO THE FIRST PHASE OF HER TRANSFORMATION

“Do you find your quarters pleasant?” he asked.

The room, or what one might even think of as an apartment, was large, comfortable, attractive, and well-appointed. There was furniture not too much unlike furniture with which she was familiar from her first world, an attractive rug, two easy chairs, a small table, a chest at the side, for clothing and small articles, such things. She might have preferred that there had been a separate bedroom, as she did not much care for her bed to be visible when the room was entered, but that, as it was, was not the case. There were no pictures on the wall, or tapestries, or representations of any sort, which might inform her more accurately as to the nature of her larger surroundings, those beyond the room. There was a large mirror, in which she could see, not that she much cared to, her small, frail, wrinkled, flattened, aged, tired body. The furniture, including the bed, was fastened in place. She could not change its position. It was thus impossible, for example, to try to barricade the door, to protect her privacy, or move it to the wall and attempt to use it to obtain a glimpse outside, through the small window, high there in the wall, well over her head. She could see the sky, and occasional clouds, and, at night, the darkness and some stars, through the window, which views, though reassuring, were not particularly informative. More informative, perhaps, was the fact that the window was barred. That detail seemed somewhat incongruous, given the pleasant, genial, comfortable nature of the room, but it does, she believes, warrant mention. It was barred. There was one door. It was a heavy door, of some dark wood. Oddly, it lacked a handle on her side. When it was opened, as it frequently was, usually to admit respectful young ladies, who seemed incredibly beautiful to her, who wore long, sedate gowns, who brought her food and drink, she could see the hallway outside, which, contrasting with the pleasures of the room, seemed quite dismal. It was walled and floored with heavy stone; it might even be damp; it was surely dark and forbidding. There was a man outside sometimes, a doorman, or guard, who attended to the admittance, and egress, on a signal, of the young ladies. She did not see much of him, but he apparently wore some sort of short robe, and bootlike sandals. His mien frightened her. Something about it made her feel unusually vulnerable, and feminine. The young ladies would not speak directly to her of this world in any detail but she had gathered something of it from the lengthy, intensive language lessons, hours in length, which they administered to her, lessons in a language whose name she did not even know. There were five young ladies. Two of them, happily, spoke English, one with a French accent, the other with a German accent. The other three, she suspected, did not know English. She did not know what might be their native language. She suspected that they were native to this new world. The language apparently contained no words for hundreds of the most common objects on her former world, such as automobiles and radios. On the other hand, it contained many words for implements; artifacts, items of apparel, botanical forms, comestibles, and such, with which she was unfamiliar. In such a way she had begun to suspect something of the nature of the world which must lie beyond the enforcements of her current horizon, a horizon limited by four walls, a patch of sky detected through an inaccessible window and an occasional glimpse into a forbidding corridor. To be sure, her most widely ranging, and far-flung, and ambitious speculations and conjectures, of necessity under the circumstances, must fail to prepare her for the reality without. They could not even begin to scratch at the foot of a high, majestic wall, beyond which there lay a world. The realities of such a world, at the moment, understandably, were simply beyond her ken. The young ladies were barefoot, and their sedate gowns, while long, were sleeveless. She was dressed better than they, which perhaps suited her age. Her own ankle-length gown was of finer material, came high, modestly, about the neck, and had long sleeves. Too, unlike her fair visitors, she wore soft, attractive, embroidered slippers. She did have at least one thing in common with them. Each, they and she, on her left ankle, wore a closely fitting, closed ring. All, she and her visitors, were apparently ankleted. She wore the same anklet the discovery of which on her body had so disconcerted her on her first world. The encirclements of the ankles of her fair visitors were various in nature and appearance, but all were sturdy, and, she conjectured, locked. Although her garmenture was lovely, and modest, one detail troubled her. She had been given nothing in the way of panties, or pantyhose. Curious, after the first few days, and apprehensive concerning this presumed oversight in the inventory of her issued garmenture, she had tried, delicately, to inquire whether her visitors had been permitted the trivial modesty which she, apparently, doubtless due to some oversight, had been denied. When the two young ladies who spoke English had finally discerned the nature of her inquiry, they had laughed merrily, and translated it delightedly for their companions, who, too, then, looking from one to the other, two clapping their hands with pleasure, burst into laughter, the older woman having apparently made some fine joke.

“The room is lovely,” she responded to the young man. They sat in the two easy chairs, facing one another.

“You have been indoors,” he said, “but perhaps you can tell the difference in the air.”

She nodded. Perhaps it was more highly oxygenated than the air of her first world. Or perhaps, more likely, it was simply not as contaminated, not as fouled and poisoned as the air of her first world. How alive it made her feel. When the world was young, she had thought, it must have been like this; the air must have been like this.

“The food is acceptable?” he inquired.

“Yes,” she said. It was plain, but delicious. It was fresh, not shipped or stored, she supposed, for days or weeks, and frozen and such. For all she knew it had been picked or gathered that morning. Sometimes it was almost as though the dew was still upon it. Too, she doubted that it had been saturated with preservatives, or coated with poisons, to discourage the predations of insects. It did not have the stale, antiseptic reek of alien chemicals. The bread might have been an hour from the oven. She had been given only water to drink, but it had seemed to her water such as might have gushed forth from secret woodland springs in classic groves or might in remote days have been dipped by kilted herdsmen from rushing mountain streams.

“Are you still aware of the difference in the gravity?” he asked.

“No longer,” she said. “I was aware of it at first. Now I am no longer aware of it.”

“Good,” he said, rising from the chair.

“When am I to be returned to Earth?” she asked.

“What were the first words you were taught to say on this world?” he asked.

“‘La kajira’,” she said. “But I was not told what they meant.”

“Say them, clearly,” he said.

“La kajira,” she said. “What do they mean?”

“This is the last time I will visit you in these quarters,” he said. “Your treatment will begin within the hour. Hereafter, as your treatment progresses, it is you who will be brought before me.”

“That seems rather arrogant,” she said.

“Not arrogant,” he said, “— fitting.”

“What is the nature of this treatment?” she inquired.

“You will learn,” he said.

“What is its purpose?” she asked.

“You will learn,” he said.

“How long does the treatment take?” she asked.

“It varies,” he said. “But it will take several days. Such things take time. Indeed, much of the time, while the changes take place, you will be unconscious. It is best that way. I have decided, in your case, incidentally, that we will think of the treatment as consisting of four major phases, and each will be clearly demarcated for you, for your edification and my amusement. To be sure, the division is somewhat arbitrary.”

“I think you are mad!” she said.

“Let us hope the treatment goes well,” he said. “Sometimes it does not.”

She shuddered.

“Look into the mirror, deeply, and well,” he said.

She regarded her image in the mirror.

“It may be the last time you see yourself,” he said.

“I do not understand,” she said.

“It is not necessary that you do,” he said.

“Please stay! Do not leave!” she begged.

She watched him in the mirror.

He went to the door, and called to the man outside. The door opened. When he took his leave, another man entered, one she had not seen before, who wore a green robe. He carried a small case, as of implements.

She turned to face him, frightened.

“Injection position,” he said.

Chapter 6

SHE IS PRESENTED BEFORE THE YOUNG MAN,

FOLLOWING THE FIRST PHASE OF HER TRANSFORMATION

“The female,” said the man, indicating that she should stand within the yellow circle, on the marble floor, in the lofty room, before the curule chair.

Light fell upon her, from a high window.

The young man, in a robe, she had never seen him before in such garb, leaned forward in the curule chair.

Then he leaned back, continuing to regard her.

She was angry.

The curule chair was the only furniture in the room, and it was on a dais. There was no place for her to sit.

He had not, as he had warned her earlier, come to see her, but, rather, it was she who was brought to him.

She had recalled awakening, some days ago, slowly, groggily, on some hard, narrow, tablelike surface. But she had scarcely had time to orient herself, to understand where she was, to understand the white walls, the shelves of instruments and vials, before a dark, heavy, efficient leather hood was thrust over her head, pulled down, fully, and buckled shut, beneath her chin. She then, within the hood, was in utter discomfiting, confusing, helpless darkness. She was then drawn from the tablelike platform, apparently by two men, placed on her feet, and, between them, taken from the room, each grasping an arm. She surmised she was being hurried down a corridor. Abruptly the men halted her, and turned her, rudely, to her right. The hood was then unbuckled, and, as it was jerked away, she was thrust stumbling forward. Behind her, as she sought to keep her balance, hands outstretched, she heard a sound, as of the closing of a gate. She whirled about, and rushed forward, only in an instant to find herself to her dismay grasping heavy, narrowly set bars. She was in a cell.

“I have not been treated well,” she told the young man before whom she stood.

“How do your lessons proceed?” he asked.

“Twice,” she said, “I was denied my evening meal!”

“On the whole,” said he, “I gather that you have been doing well with your lessons.”

“I am not a child!” she said.

“But you must try to do better,” he told her.

When she had assured herself that she was indeed in a cell, and that it was locked, a cell abutting on a dismal, stone-flagged, dark corridor, much like the one she had glimpsed from her room, or apartment, perhaps even the same, she discovered that she was clad differently from what she had been before. Instead of the long, long-sleeved, ankle-length, white gown of fine material, coming high, modestly, about the neck, she now wore a simpler white gown, of less fine material, with half sleeves, and its hem came midway upon her calves. The garment had a rounded neck, which permitted her throat to be seen, in its entirety. Her slippers were gone and she wore instead sandals. She cried out, angrily, and shook the bars, and demanded to be returned to her former quarters, and her earlier finery. The material of the gown she wore was from the wool of the bounding hurt, which is distinguished from the common hurt not only by its gazellelike movements, particularly when startled, but by the quality of its wool. It is raised on this world for its wool. The cell was not really uncomfortable. It was large, and its floor was covered, for the most part, with a woven fiber mat. In it there was a cot, and a stool.

There was also a mirror in the cell, to her right, on the wall, as she would face the cell door.

It was not, however, the sort of mirror with which she was familiar, for it was rather more in the nature of a polished metal surface, set well within the wall. There was no way it could be removed from the wall, at least without tools, or shattered, perhaps to produce fragments of glass.

Since her image was not so instantly and clearly available to her as it would have been in a more familiar sort of mirror, she approached it more closely, puzzled, and peered into it.

She then gave a soft cry of surprise, for she did not immediately recognize her image in the surface.

To be sure, it was she, but she as she had not been for perhaps ten years. The woman who regarded her, wonderingly, from the metal surface might have been in her late forties, not her late fifties.

She put her hand gently to her face. Certain blemishes to which she had reconciled herself were gone. There seemed fewer lines in her face. Her throat seemed smoother to her. Her entire body felt differently. It seemed somewhat more supple. Certainly the occasional stiffness in the joints was not now afflicting her, not that it always did. It was not so much that her body did not ache, or that she was not in pain, as that she had the odd sense that something might now be different about her, that her body might not now be so likely to hurt her, in that way, as it had in the past. To be sure, that conjecture, that intimation, that timid hope, might, she supposed, prove illusory.

She was not long left to ponder her surprising situation before her lessons began again. This time there were only three young women, and they were not the same as before. Too, whereas they treated her with respect, they did not seem as deferential, or concerned to please, as had been their predecessors. She did not seem to have the same easy familiarity with them as with the others; they did not, for example, seem to see her in the role of a dignified older woman, one entitled to respect in virtue of her years, and weakness. Clearly they did not regard her as obviously superior to them. These new instructrices were less patient with her, too, than had been the others. They were garbed rather like her, in plain white gowns, of similar material and length, except that their gowns were sleeveless. The necks of their gowns were rounded like hers. Given the mid-calf length of their gowns there was not the least difficulty in instantly detecting that their left ankles, too, like hers, were closely encircled with steel rings. Two of them spoke English.

She now began to be instructed in what is known as the First Knowledge, which is that level of understanding common to most individuals on this world, a knowledge of myths, stories, and popular lore. Too, they spoke to her of animals and plants, and their properties, and values and dangers. Pictures, and samples, were often adduced. In the case of certain of the animals she dismissed the accounts and pictures as a portion of the mythical background of the world to which she had earlier been exposed. Such beasts, she was confident, could not exist in reality, serpents nearly a hundred feet in length, six-legged, sinuous, nocturnal predators, gigantic hawklike birds, and such. They also gave her some understanding of the social arrangements common in what were called the “high cities,” in particular, the caste system, and the existence of codes of honor, and such, apparently taken seriously on this world. They did not, incidentally, explain to her one aspect of the social structure, or perhaps better, of the culture, in which she would have been almost certain to have taken a great interest, that condition, or status, which was irremediably hers on this world, that category, so to speak, to which she herself belonged. Perhaps this was because they had received instructions in this matter, or perhaps it was because they thought that she, an obviously intelligent woman, was already aware of such things, her status and condition, and such, or, more simply, what she was, what she, simply, absolutely and categorically, was. But, in fact, at that time, she was not aware of what she was.

“How many words is she learning a day?” the young man asked the attendant, he who had conducted her into his presence.

“One hundred,” said the man.

“Let it be two hundred and fifty,” said the young man.

She gasped, lifting her hand in futile protest.

“Too,” said the young man, “let her grammar be sharpened, for it is allegedly in need of much improvement, and see to it that her phrasings become more felicitous, certainly better than they reportedly are. One does not object to a certain amount of ignorance and fitful illiteracy in such as she, an occasional misuse of words, and such, which can be charming, even amusing, but it is important that she attain a considerably high level of fluency, in order that she may understand, instantly and perfectly, all that is required of her.”

“Do you want her accent improved?” asked the attendant.

“That will come in time,” said the young man. “At the moment her accent is useful. It will instantly serve to mark her out to native speakers.”

She determined to work zealously on her accent. She sensed that it might be in her best interests, for some reason, to conceal her origins. Perhaps there was something about her origins which might make her special on this world, at least to some, and special in a sense in which she might not care to be special. What she did not understand was that there were traces in her own body which would continue to betray her origin, in particular, fillings in the teeth, and an inoculation scar on her upper left arm. Too, of course, there were things which a native of this world would know, which she would not. Shrewdly questioned, her ignorance would soon be apparent. Too, though such things tend to be of no real consequence on this world, there would be, at least in this city, papers on her.

“There is no chair here for me to sit on,” she said to the young man in the curule chair. She said it coldly, in order that he might be shamed, and thus recalled to the simple amenities of courtesy.

“In four days,” he said, to the attendant, “let her treatment be resumed.”

She regarded the young man with fury.

He waved his hand, dismissing her.

The attendant indicated that she should precede him from the room.

Angrily she turned on her heel and strode away. In a few moments the door of her cell again closed behind her. She turned about, and, angrily, grasped, and shook, the bars of her cell.

“The arrogance of him! The arrogance of him!” she thought. Then she went and sat down, determinedly, on the stool.

When the attendant with the cart of food, for there were other cells, too, it seemed, in the corridor, passed her cell he did not stop.

“Feed me!” she had called.

But he had gone his way.

Grasping the bars then she realized that she did not have control over her own food. What she was fed, and, indeed, if she were fed, was no longer up to her, but to others. She had complained about the loss of two meals, as a punishment, presumably, for not doing well in her “lessons.” Now the attendant had simply passed her by.

She went to bed, on the hard, narrow cot, hungry that night.

The next morning the cart did not stop, either.

“Please!” she begged.

She was extremely attentive in her lessons that day. And she was extremely cooperative with, and pleasant to, and deferential to, even desperately deferential to, her lovely ankleted instructrices. It was almost as though they were the adults and she a timid, frightened, disciplined child, trying desperately to please them, to win from them even the tiniest of smiles.

She was miserable with hunger that night.

The attendant, in passing her cell, threw a roll into the cell, which she ran to, seized up and, on her knees, devoured in haste.

Tears rolled down her cheeks.

Some days later her treatment was resumed.

Chapter 7

SHE IS PRESENTED BEFORE THE YOUNG MAN,

FOLLOWING THE SECOND PHASE OF HER TRANSFORMATION

“The female,” said the man, announcing her presence.

She took her place within the yellow circle, in that lofty room, before the dais, on which reposed the curule chair.

The light, as before, from a high window, fell upon her.

“Ah!” said the young man, he robed, leaning forward.

She then stood a little taller, a little more gracefully. Stirrings in her, subtly sensed, informed her that she was before a male, causing her some uneasiness. In her lifetime, of course, she had been before thousands of males, in the sense of standing within their vicinity, and such, but this seemed muchly different. Here she was rather alone, in a special situation, being looked upon, in a particular way. In this way she could not recall having ever been before a male before, in this particular way, the way that she now sensed she was.

When she had stood before him some days ago, she supposed it had been some days ago, perhaps as long as two weeks ago, it had not been the same. She had been before him, so to speak, but not in this way before him.

“Do you enjoy your present accommodations?” he asked.

“They are doubtless as you have decided they will be,” she said.

She felt stronger now than she had before. She suspected that she could now better withstand, and resist, the lack of food, at least for a longer time. She did not think that he could now so easily bring her to helpless futility before him. She was stronger now. She did not care, of course, to put the matter to a test. She accepted that he could change her diet, or limit her intake of food, or deny it to her altogether, as he might please. That lesson had been learned. She understood that, sooner or later, he could bring her to her knees, or belly, whimpering, begging, groveling for a crust. But, still, she was stronger now.

This time, too, she had been hooded, and dragged from a narrow table, but she had been placed in a different cell.

Her new cell was quite different from the former cell. It was much smaller, some seven feet by seven feet. There was no mat of woven fiber on the floor; the floor was bare, and hard, consisting of heavy blocks of fitted stone, such as those in the corridor. There was no furniture in the cell, no cot, no stool. There was a flat mat, on which she might sit, or sleep. She had a blanket.

“Your curves have now reappeared,” he said, casually, idly.

She stiffened.

He had not seen her, as far as she knew, since their last interview in this room.

“You bled, as I understand it,” he said.

“Yes,” she said.

When this had happened she had cried out, and had been alarmed, not understanding what had occurred, it had been so long, and so unexpected. But the women who were now her teachers, three of them, different from before, only one of whom spoke English, and that a broken English, had laughed at her, thinking she must be very stupid. But they had found her water and cloths, that she might clean her leg, and a rag which she might insert into her body. They made her clean the floor of the cell. After all, it was she who had soiled it. Perhaps, surprisingly, the flow had not been negligible, at all, as one might have expected, it beginning again, but had been abundant. She wondered if, while she had been unconscious, it, or things associated with it, had begun again, only she would not then have been aware of such changes in her body.

“While we are on such matters,” he said, “I would suppose that it was explained to you that you will later be given a particular drink, the name of which is unimportant now, which will temporarily, but indefinitely, preclude any possibility of biological conception on your part?”

“Yes,” she said. “But I fail to understand the need for such a drink. I myself can manage such things. I am the mistress of my own body.”

He smiled.

“Was it also explained to you that there is another drink, one which one might think of as a releaser of sorts, which will not only restore your possibility of conception, but ready you for it, indeed, prime you for it, so to speak?”

“Yes,” she said, embarrassed.

“And thus make you available, if one wishes, for utilization.”

“I do not understand,” she said. “No, no one said anything about “utilization.”

“I see,” he said.

“What do you mean by that?” She regarded him, apprehensively. “What do you mean by “utilization”?”

“Forgive me,” he said. “I have been unnecessarily obscure. You are, of course, available for a large number of diverse utilizations, in theory, I suppose, for an infinite number of utilizations. The utilization I had in mind was “stock utilization.”

“Stock utilization!” she said.

“Yes,” he said.

“I do not understand,” she said.

“As in “livestock,” he said.

“I do not understand,” she said.

“Some men cannot be blamed for wishing to increase their holdings,” he said.

“Holdings!”

Again, he smiled.

“Please!” she said.

“Your ankle looks well in its ring,” he said.

She looked down at the steel cuff on her ankle. It was on her as fixedly as ever, as efficiently, as perfectly, as it had been on her former world, in the house where she had worn the white hospital or examination gown, in the house where she had been given the first injection, while lying on her right side before his desk.

She regarded him. “I see you do not choose to clarify these matters,” she said.

“Your perception is correct,” he said.

“You cannot mean!” she whispered.

“Such things will be decided not by you, but by others,” he said.

She turned white.

“Yes,” he smiled.

It was perhaps at that moment that she began to suspect what she might be, and what might be done to her.

She recalled a remark he had made of the hated Tutina, whom she had not yet seen on this world, that he had “bought her.”

“No,” she cried. “This cannot be!”

“What?” he inquired.

“What am I?” she asked. “What is my status here?”

“Can you not guess?” he asked.

“There is still no chair for me here,” she said.

“You are being permitted to stand,” he pointed out.

“Please!” she begged, her momentary pretense to strength and resolution gone. She felt confused and weak.

“You have seen yourself in your cell mirror, of course,” he said.

“Yes,” she said. There was a mirror in the new cell, rather like that in her former cell, on the right, of polished metal, as one faced the gate.

“How old would you say you were?” he asked.

“I do not know,” she whispered.

“If I were to see you on the planet Earth,” he said, “I would conjecture that you were somewhere in your late thirties, say, thirty-seven or thirty-eight. I would say thirty-eight. When you were acquired, you were fifty-eight.”

“Fifty-five,” she said.

“Fifty-eight,” he said.

She put down her head. It was true.

“I see that you retain something of what must once have been considerable beauty,” he observed. “Certainly many men would find you of great interest even now.”

She blushed, brightly and hotly, all of her body, that exposed, bursting into uncontrollable, involuntary flames of outrage, resentment, embarrassment, and pleasure. She was not dismayed to learn that she might be, once again, after so many years, found attractive.

“Do like your new garmenture?” he inquired.

“It is that in which you have seen fit to put me,” she said.

Her new garment was relatively modest as such garments go. Certainly a younger woman would have been likely to have been put in less. It was a tunic, but rather reserved for such. It was simple, plain and white, its material again, as that of her former garment, of the wool of the bounding hurt. Its hemline now came a bit above her knees. It had a rounded neckline, rather like that of her former garment, but it was, scooped somewhat more deeply, perhaps a bit less reluctant to hint at concealed delights. Interestingly, it was the first garment she had been given which was sleeveless. The baring of a woman’s arms, on the world on which she now was, was normally regarded as revealing and sensuous. Indeed, women of a status, or station, above her own commonly veiled themselves when appearing in public, particularly those of the high castes. She did not know this at the time, of course. Men on this world, it seems, tended to find the short, rounded, lovely arms of women attractive. It might be mentioned that in her new quarters, she was no longer permitted sandals. They had been taken from her. She now went, as had her various instructrices, in her various quarters, barefoot. Bared feet on women, on this world, are also regarded as sensuous, and provocative.

He regarded her.

She was attractive in the tunic.

It was all she wore, except, of course, the anklet. That device now, due to the absence of footwear and the shorter nature of her new garment, appeared even more striking, more meaningful and lovely, on her ankle. Aesthetics were surely involved here, but, too, other matters, matters having to do with deeper things, meanings and such. In any event, there was the softness of her small foot and then, above it, close about her slim ankle, the encircling, locked steel, and then the beginning of the delightful curve of a bared calf. It all went together, he thought, beautifully, and meaningfully. He did not find this surprising, of course.

“How are your lessons progressing?” he asked.

She shrugged, angrily. “Doubtless you have your reports,” she said.

She was not much pleased with the turn that her lessons had taken, save for her continuing instruction in the language. She was now being taught to do things, many things, rather than, primarily, to learn things, to apprehend and understand facts, lore, and such. Her education, of late, did not seem fitting for an intellectual.

“I am a not a wife,” she said, angrily.

“No,” he granted her.

Taken from her cell and instructed in special rooms, she had been given lessons in cooking, in cleaning, sewing, laundering, and such, domestic labors, labors such as were vehemently denounced and eschewed by scions of her ideology as demeaning, degrading, boring, repetitive and meaningless, who then hired other women, either directly or indirectly, to perform them for them. With respect to cooking she had prided herself on “knowing only the basics,” but it seems that here, on this world, her skills did not extend even so far. Most of the cooking seemed to be done in small ovens and over open flames, attentively, almost a serving at a time. Cooking, here, involved cooking, actually, and not, for example, the simple heating of tasteless materials extracted from colorful packages. She discovered that cooking was an art, and required mastery, as any other art. She had never thought of it in that fashion before. Similarly, she learned that the skills of needlework of various sorts were indeed skills, and not at all easy to acquire. How often her instructrices despaired of her, as being ignorant, stupid and hopelessly inept. Finally, in misery, in tears, she had denounced them as low, vulgar, stupid women, far beneath her, women who, unlike herself, might aspire to labors no higher than the menial and servile, labors unfit for such as she, an educated, highly intelligent woman, a woman important on her own world. “Ignorant, pretentious barbarian!” cried one of the instructrices, angrily. Then to her consternation she was seized by her other two instructrices and dragged to the side of the room, where she was thrown down, on her back. There was a low, horizontal wooden bar there, raised some six inches above the floor, by means of metal mounts at each end. She had not understood its meaning. She would now find out. Her ankles were placed on the bar, and lashed to it. Her hands were held on each side of her, and she could not rise. “No!” she cried. The first instructrix had fetched a supple, springy, flat stick, about a yard long, some two inches in width, and about a quarter of an inch thick. “No, no!” she cried. Then she squirmed, and writhed in misery, bound and held, crying out, weeping, begging for mercy, while the first instructrix, again and again, angrily, struck the bare soles of her exposed, fastened feet, stinging them until they burned like fire.

When the first instructrix had finished she put the stick away in a nearby cabinet but then fetched forth from the same cabinet three long, supple, leather switches, giving one to each of her fellow instructrices, and retaining one for herself.

Lying on her back, no longer held but her ankles still bound to the wooden bar, unable to rise, she looked up, apprehensively, at the switches.

“We have been forgiving, and tolerant, of you,” said the first instructrix, “because of your ignorance, and stupidity, but that is now at an end. No longer do you deserve our patience, and lenience.”

She looked up from her back, tears in her eyes, questioningly, her ankles still bound to the bar.

“Yes,” said one of the instructrices, “in this phase of your training the bastinado, the switch, is authorized.”

Training?” she asked.

“Yes, training, little fool,” said the third instructrix, not pleasantly.

“In the next phase, and thereafter,” said the chief instructrix, “the whip, close chains, torture, anything.”

“Will you now attempt to be pleasing?” asked the second instructrix.

“Yes,” she said.

“Say it,” snapped the second instructrix.

“I will attempt to be pleasing,” she wept.

“Fully?” she was asked.

“Yes, yes!” she wept.

“Release her,” said the first instructrix.

She drew her legs, painfully, from the bar, the straps untied. “I cannot walk,” she moaned.

“Crawl,” said the second instructrix.

“Be pleased we are not men,” said the third instructrix, “or you would not only walk, but you would dance, dance, frenziedly, and to switches!”

She crawled back to her lessons.

Later in the day she could rise to her feet and walk, awkwardly, painfully.

When it came time to return her to her cell she was muchly returned to normal, and the pain, though still there, as a burning when she put the soles of her feet down, was not excruciating.

“Cross your wrists, before your body,” she was told. Her wrists were then tied together, in the center of some fiber, and the two ends of the fiber were then taken behind her, and knotted behind her back, so that her wrists were held pinioned before her, at her waist.

“Now, proud, noble barbarian woman, woman so important on your own world,” said the first instructrix, “return to your cell.”

No sooner had she turned about, to make her way to the cell, than she cried out in pain for the first instructrix had struck her a sudden, sharp stinging blow across the back of the right calf. Then, laughing, pursuing her, running behind her, taking turns, striking one calf and then the other, the other two joined in the sport, and she fled weeping before them, on burning feet, crying out in misery, in shame, frequently and muchly stung. She ran stumbling, weeping, into her cell, through the opened gate, and even pressed herself desperately, piteously against the opposite wall. They desisted then, untied her, and left, closing the gate behind them, it automatically locking with its closure.

She rubbed her wrists, and hobbled to the metal mirror at the right side of the cell. She regarded the image in the mirror. It revealed less the image of a dignified, mature woman than that of a frightened captive. She put her face closer to the polished surface. Her hair now, she noted, was mostly dark. She stepped back and regarded the figure in the rude mirror. It wore a tunic. How outrageous! Yet she did not think it unattractive. Suddenly she trembled, though not altogether in fear. Doubtless there were dangers on a world such as this. She had considered many possibilities of such, as her instruction had progressed. But now, for the first time, she realized that there might be special dangers on such a world for such as she, for lovely, vulnerable, perhaps even beautiful, creatures such as she saw reflected in the mirror. Might they not, she feared, stand in some special jeopardy. What if, say, they were desired by powerful, mighty men, and she had little doubt there were such men on this world. What might then be their fate on such a world?

Her lessons became somewhat more troubling later. For example, she was taught, in theory at least, how to bathe a man, the oils, the strigil, the sponges, the deferences, the touchings, the beggings, the handling of the towels, the words to be spoken at different times, the final grateful prostration of herself following the honor of having been permitted to bathe him, and such. A block of wood served as a surrogate for the male figure. But, even so, she felt herself frightened, and aroused, tenderly and gently ministering to it, following the instructions of her instructrices.

“You will be better at bathing a man than cooking for him,” observed one of the instructrices, wryly.

She also learned how to brush clothing, and clean, soften and polish leather.

The duties she was taught were common to most women of her sort, of whatever variety, but tended to be especially associated with such as served in the towers, in the high cities, in the cylinder cities.

Needless to say there were many other sorts of duties, too, in which women such as she were expected to be proficient, duties, and services, in which, indeed, they were expected to excel. Indeed, these other duties, at least for such as she, were duties commonly regarded as far more interesting and important than less exotic, homelier labors, such as cooking and laundering.

At this point, however, she knew nothing of that further aspect of her instruction, or training.

Her teachers, incidentally, were changed with each phase of her education, so to speak. Some may have had diverse aspects of expertise. Certainly not all of them could speak English. But, she suspects, they were more likely frequently changed in order to preclude the formation of closer associations with her, associations which might lead to friendship, and, consequently, a possible diminution of the professionalism, the rigor, of the instruction.

One might also mention that, from her new, smaller cell, she was occasionally able to see other women, often in custody, sometimes even hooded, in the corridor. Some, with those she could tell, she thought might be in their forties, others, as she had been, in their fifties. She saw at least one woman who must have been in her sixties, and one who seemed pathetically older, frail, unconscious, being gently carried past in the arms of an attendant. She also saw, but turned away immediately, in horror, several younger women in the corridor, perhaps in their teens or twenties, not instructrices. Their hands were tied together behind their backs. They were incredibly beautiful. They were naked. They did not wear anklets. Rather there were narrow metal collars on their necks. One group of such were literally chained together by the neck, and their hands, behind their backs, were not tied, but held in metal cuffs.

“What manner of place is this?” she asked. “Why am I being taught what I am being taught? What are you going to do with me?”

“You have many questions,” he said.

“Please!” she begged.

“I have planned two more phases in your treatment,” he said.

“Two?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Two.”

He then lifted his hand, indicating that she was to be removed from his presence. The attendant took her by the left arm, which was bared, as you may remember, and pulled her beside him, from the room. He had never handled her in this way before. She whimpered in protest, but was hurried along.

He soon put her in her cell, and closed its gate.

She turned about, to see him standing there, outside the bars, looking at her. He had not stood there before, and looked at her like that. She backed away, until she was stopped by the back wall of the cell.

On Earth there might have been many ways to respond to such attentions, a sneer, a chilling stare, a look of contempt, a scornful dismissal, a demeaning question, a nasty, caustic word, a haughty, supercilious shrug and a turning away, many ways to respond, and to all of these she had had recourse at one time or another, but here, somehow, she sensed that the entire force of society and an armed state might not stand visibly, menacingly, behind her otherwise meaningless little stare or word. So she stood against the back wall of the cell, frightened, and said nothing to him. After a time he left. She looked at the image in the metal mirror to her right. She supposed that, perhaps, on this world, women, or at least women such as she, women such as she who was revealed in that mirror, in the tunic, she so interestingly curved, might be looked upon in that way, and with impunity. Perhaps it was acceptable to do so; perhaps it was done without thought, as a matter of course. What of the young, naked women, those whom she had seen sometimes in the corridor, those who had been bound, or cuffed, or chained by the neck, those women, she asked herself, those women, their necks in collars? How could a man not look upon them, she wondered, without feeling interest or desire?

Later a man in green robes entered the cell.

“Injection position,” he said.

Immediately she lay down on her right side, drawing her knees up.

Chapter 8

SHE IS PRESENTED BEFORE HER MASTER,

FOLLOWING THE THIRD PHASE OF HER TRANSFORMATION

“A slave girl,” announced the attendant.

She knelt within the yellow circle, on the marble floor, before the curule chair on which he, robed, reclined. Her back was straight, but her head was down. The palms of her hands were on her thighs.

This time there were several individuals in the room other than she, the attendant, and he. There were several men there, in robes and tunics of various cuts and hues, and some women, in a variety of tunics or gowns. The women were all ankleted or collared.

She had heard exclamations of pleasure from the men as she had entered, and knelt. Too, there had been some soft cries, it seemed of admiration, and surprise, from some of the women. She dared not look, but wondered if some of her instructrices might not have been there. She wondered if they were pleased with her, with their work, how she had turned out. She hoped so, fervently. She had learned the importance of pleasing them, her ankleted superiors.

“Lift your head,” he said.

She did so, and looked into the eyes of her master.

She wore a tiny slave tunic. It was light, white, and silken. It came high on her thighs. At the left shoulder, where it would be convenient to a right-handed man, there was a disrobing loop. She was, of course, barefoot. The anklet was still on her, as it had been, even since her first world.

He suddenly clapped his hands with pleasure. “Yes!” he said. “She is the same, the same! That is how she was, and now that is how she is!”

She doubted that she had ever been before as what she was now, a barefooted, half-naked slave on an alien world.

Still she did not doubt that she looked now much as she had when she first knew him, he then merely a student, among others, not her master.

“Splendid!” he said.

She wondered if he had, even then, as a student, she feared he had, while she taught, sitting at her desk, behind its modesty screen, or moving before the class, she was sure of it, speculated upon her, stripping her in his mind, considering what she might look like as a female slave, his.

And she now knelt before his chair, on the cold marble, a slave girl, his.

“That is exactly,” he said to the assembled throng, “how she was when I first knew her!” He turned to some men in the room who wore green robes. “You have done well with her,” he said, “as you have with the others.”

They bowed courteously.

He descended from the curule chair, for the first time in their encounters in this room, and walked about her, scrutinizing her, perhaps appraising her. She kept her head up, her back straight, maintaining position. One can be punished terribly for breaking position without permission.

He then, again before her, crouched down before her. “You are twenty-eight again,” he whispered to her. “You are the same, the same, again!”

She was silent.

She remembered back, so long ago.

Her hair had been dark and glossy. She had worn it high on her head, in a severe bun. She recalled studying her figure, critically, approvingly, in her apartment, standing before the mirror in brassiere and panties. It was so long ago.

“You are the same,” he whispered.

Her hair was now loose, as women such as she must commonly wear it.

She had known that she would be brought before him today.

No longer was she kept in a cell but was housed now in a slave kennel, on the sixth level of an entire wall of such kennels, reached by steel steps and grilled walkways. Her kennel was the same as the others, uniformly so. It was something like four feet by four feet, with a depth of some ten feet. To the right of its small gate, rather as in the cells, there was a mirror of polished metal, a large mirror for the size of the kennel. It occupied a part of the wall to the right, as one faced the gate, extending from the floor of the kennel to its ceiling. It had that location, near the gate, presumably that the light might better reach it.

The kennel was furnished, for amenities, with some loose straw and a small, short, torn, thin, threadbare blanket. It was enough for slaves such as she. Such are seldom spoiled.

After having made certain, as she could, that the attendants were not on the grilled walkways giving access to the tiered kennels, she had removed her tunic and knelt before the polished metal surface at the side.

Her figure now, she was sure, was superior even to what it had been so long ago. In a way this pleased her, but, too, it frightened her because she realized that it made her more desirable, considerably so, and on a world where female desirability was, it seemed, approved and prized. She remembered the young women in the corridor, naked and bound, some chained. She was sure that her figure was superior now even to what it had been so long ago. Perhaps, she thought, this might be due to some subtle, benign, ameliorative effect of her treatment. But, more likely perhaps, it had to do with her diet, that diet imposed upon her, and, presumably, the variety of exercises she had recently been taught, and in the zealous, stressful performance of which she was closely supervised. She heard a step on the steel ladder outside, some yards below her kennel. Quickly she slipped into the tunic again. She lay down, her legs drawn up, very closely together, pretending to sleep. Through half-closed eyes, she saw the attendant pass. When he had gone, she rose up again to her knees. She then regarded herself again, now in the tunic. She straightened her body, and shrugged. She was not displeased with the slave she saw. One who knew women, she thought, as these men seem to, would have little difficulty, she in such a tunic, in conjecturing her most intimate and delicate lineaments.

Then she had lain down to sleep.

Tomorrow she knew she was to be presented before her master.

****

“Yes,” he whispered. “You are now the same, the same.”

She did not break position.

He then stood up and, approvingly regarding her, stepped backward a pace, and then turned and ascended the dais, and resumed his place in the curule chair.

It seemed he could scarcely bear to take his eyes from her.

Could he like me, she wondered suddenly, frightened.

He turned to one of the men near him, a tall fellow in white robes trimmed with gold, the dress robes, she had learned, of the Merchants. “What do you think of her?” he asked.

“A pretty little piece of collar-meat,” he said. “A standard property-girl. Typical flesh-loot. There are thousands like her in the markets. She is meaningless.”

“I remember her from long ago,” said the young man.

“Perhaps she is special then in some way to you,” said his interlocutor.

“No,” said the young man, “except insofar as her flanks are of some interest.”

She understood little of their exchange. Some of the expressions seemed clear enough, but she did not, truly, register them in their full import, as they applied to her. It was rather as though she heard them, but would not understand them.

In particular she was puzzled by, and vaguely alarmed by, the reference to markets.

So I am of no concern to him, she thought, except insofar as my flanks might be of some interest! But then, suddenly, she feared it was true. Indeed, of what other interest could she, or such as she, on this world, be to any man? Again she remembered the bound, naked beauties in the corridor. Here, on this world, she feared that men were the masters and would simply, as they wished, have their way with women, doing as they pleased with them, as is the wont of masters; she feared that everything would be on their terms, on the terms of the men, on the terms of the masters, fully, precisely.

Surely, she thought, there must be some way to trick them out of their power! But she feared that these men were not so stupid.

No, in no particle, manner or facet, in no way, would they give up their power.

They were not stupid.

She dared not break position.

“How do your lessons proceed?” he inquired.

“Well, I hope,” she said, adding softly, “— Master.”

He smiled. She saw that he was pleased to hear that word on her lips, addressed to him. Never before had she used this form of address to him, save, of course, in her dreams and thoughts. She felt warm, beautiful, stirred, helpless, so much more aware then of the reality of her enslavement. How weak he is, she suddenly thought, angrily, that he would wish to be so addressed! Is he so pathetic, she thought. Does he really need that, she thought. Is he so weak? But then she realized that these were merely the automatistic, defensive, frightened, programmed responses, the mindless, inculcated reflexes, of her culture’s conditioning program, with its reductive, leveling, negativistic agenda, the outcome of centuries of resentment, denial, hatred, sacrifice, and fear. It was only weak men, she now understood, who would fear to accept, wield, and relish the mastery, the birthright of an ancient biological heritage. How she would hate and despise men who were too weak for the mastery, who would fearfully seek to avoid its privileges, powers and responsibilities! No, he, and others like him, were far from weak! They were strong, much stronger than the timid, boring weaklings so endemic, like bacteria, on her former world. He, as others on this world, was strong enough, mighty enough, to expect, require, and enforce the deference due them, to require and enforce the submission of the principle of femininity, in all its wondrous softness, desirability and beauty, to a more severe, more dangerous principle, that of their masculinity.

On this world men were the masters, at least of women such as she. That was the simplicity, and the terror, of it.

“Does that word cost you much?” he asked.

“No, Master,” she whispered.

“Slave,” he sneered.

“Yes, Master,” she whispered, putting her head down. She felt that this was true, but that there was nothing wrong with it, that this was nothing to be ashamed of, certainly not if that was what one truly was, if one were a slave, truly.

Some people undoubtedly were, she thought, and she had learned, in the last few days, that she was one of them.

She was thrilled to address this word to him, and, too, to other males.

She had learned, incidentally, that she must address all free men as ‘Master’ and all free women, though she had not yet encountered one on this world, as ‘Mistress’.

She was uneasy at the thought of free women. How would they regard her, she only a slave?

Her training, in this last period, that in which she had come to understand that she was most perfectly and naturally a female slave, had been quite different, on the whole, from her former lessons, save of course, for the continuing instruction in the language. She had been taught how to kneel, and move, and lie down, and remove her clothing, and present herself for binding, and enter and leave rooms, and greet masters, many such things. She had also learned various forms of deference and obeisance. She could now dress and undress a man. She could do it with her teeth, with her hands tied behind her. She had been taught uses for various aspects of her body, for example, her tongue and hair. She had learned how to move on all fours, and fetch a whip in her teeth. She had learned how to beg to be beaten, but she trusted earnestly that she would be spared that for which she was trained to beg. She could now lick and kiss a whip in such a way that it would drive a man wild. She had learned how to put chains on herself from which, once closed, she could not free herself. She had learned how, kneeling before a man, to take food from his hand. She had learned how to eat from pans on the floor, forbidden to use her hands. She was taught how to lie provocatively on furs, on the floor, at the foot of a master’s couch, chained there by the neck to the slave ring. She was taught how to beg prettily to be permitted to ascend the couch itself, to serve. She was taught, even, how to bring sandals to a man, head down, on all fours, carrying them in her teeth. She had learned which sandal was to be placed first on which foot, and in what order they were to be tied, and the kisses, expressing her gratitude that she was permitted to perform this service.

“What is your name?” he asked.

She looked up, startled. It was a test, of course.

“Whatever Master pleases,” she said. “I have not yet been named. I am now only a nameless slave.”

He leaned back.

She caught her breath a little. She wondered if she had had a name since the time, on her former world, when she had been ankleted. From one point of view, of course, though she must be forgiven for not understanding this at the time, she had lacked a name for months before she had even seen the young man again, after a hiatus of so many years, at the opera. It had been taken from her when a certain document, in its turn, among others, had been signed, and rudely stamped. From that time forth then, from at least one point of view, she had been a nameless slave, though naturally, at the time, quite unaware of this.

She wonders now, as she writes this, if you, reading this, if you are there, reading this, if you might unwittingly be now as she was then. Perhaps you, similarly unbeknownst to yourself, have been scouted, and selected. Perhaps you were noted at work, say, in an office, or shopping in a supermarket, or on the street, or driving. Perhaps you should not have worn those shorts, or bared your midriff, or worn your hair in that fashion, or worn that svelte, mannish suit, or moved in such a brusque manner, or spoken sharply to the cab driver. Perhaps it was a small thing. Perhaps in the cocktail lounge, in your short, lovely outfit, with the chiffon, you should not have been so animated, so charming, should not have worn those three strands of pearls about your neck, so closely, so much like a slave collar. Perhaps it was merely your appearance, suddenly striking someone with a telling import, nothing you could have anticipated, or prevented, or how you moved, or how you spoke a given word, or phrase. Who knows what is meaningful to them? Perhaps you were noted with interest, and jottings made. Perhaps you were filmed, perhaps more than once, say, at different times of day, in different lights and such, and the films reviewed in secret screening rooms. And so, perhaps, unbeknownst to yourself, you are now as I was then, one designated for harvesting, and for transportation, to an alien world. Perhaps you are now, as I was then, now, at this very moment, no more than a nameless slave.

She wondered if she were now to be named. The name, of course, like an anklet, or a collar, would simply be put on her. It would be merely a slave name, hers by the decision of the master, a name subject to whim or caprice, subject to change at any time. Yet it would be her name. It would be her name as much as any such name, for example, one put on a pig or dog.

But he did not name her.

She remained, for the time, a nameless slave.

She wondered why there were so many people in the room.

He spoke to the assembled throng. He spoke in the language she had been learning and he did so fluently. Kneeling, she struggled to follow him. She was sure that she figured somehow in what he was saying. Sometimes, as he spoke, one or another of the men, or women, looked at her and laughed. This made her uneasy. He had a slight accent in the language. She thought that she would, even if she had not known him, have been able to conjecture with plausibility that his native tongue might be English. To be sure, there were many different accents in the house, and even, as far as she could tell, among those who natively spoke the language she had been learning. Doubtless they came from different areas, or walks of life, or such.

His remarks, to her uneasiness, had been greeted with much amusement.

When he finished, all eyes turned upon her. She was now the focus of attention. She felt very vulnerable, in the tiny garment, all she wore, save for the anklet, kneeling on the marble floor, before the dais. She trembled. Surely it was more common, she thought, for slaves to be simply kneeling to one side, inconspicuously, unobtrusively, waiting to serve.

“Did you follow what I said?” he asked her, in English.

“A little,” she said, in her new language.

“I told them,” he said, “of the pathological world from which you derive. I told them how you were once a teacher. I could not explain to them very clearly how you had, when I first knew you, been a proud, young, new Ph.D., with a degree in gender studies. That is not an easy concept to convey in Gorean.”

Gorean, she thought, of course! That is the name of the language. But there are other languages, as well, doubtless, spoken on this world.

“I am afraid their concept of gender studies is not yours. Their concept of gender studies would have more to do with the care, feeding and training of slave girls, how one puts them through their paces, and such, but I did give them some idea of the matter, of your certification, its ridiculously pretended importance, the eccentric, warped, and politically laden subject matter, such things. And now, you are going to perform for us.” He clapped his hands, sharply. “Tutina!” he called.

She looked up, wildly. Perform? Tutina? She, here, on this world? Yet it was only that she had not seen her here. She had no reason for supposing that she was not on this world, and, indeed, many reasons for supposing that she would be here. Surely she was too desirable to have been left behind. And, after all, had her own master not once “bought her”?

She was suddenly dismayed. Then her master must have at least two women!

She heard sharp commands in a female voice, coming from behind her and to her left. They were in the language she had now learned was called Gorean. For an instant they seemed just inarticulate, angry noises to her. Why could they not have been uttered in English? Then, suddenly, after a moment’s delay, she understood them.

“Here, slave girl, here, to me, hurry!”

Swiftly she leaped to her feet, turned, and ran to Tutina, who stood near the entrance to the room. Even had she not been trained she might have fallen to her knees before that stern, looming figure.

It was indeed Tutina! But it was a Tutina far more formidable, and terrifying, than the one she had scorned on Earth. Her figure was even more striking than on Earth. Doubtless she, too, perhaps after some unavoidable leniencies or lapses on Earth, had, on this world, been subjected to the discipline of a prescribed diet and a regimen of exercises. Tutina was more fully clad than she, but rather as she herself had been in her former presentation before the young man whom she had recently learned owned her, in a sleeveless tunic which came just above the knees. Tutina, as she, was ankleted. Tutina’s blond hair was bound back with a woolen ribbon, or fillet, which went completely about the head, across the brow, and was knotted behind the back of the head, two ends then dangling downward, each about six inches in length. It was a talmit, indicating some authority among slaves, rather as “first girl.” In her right hand she carried a long switch. The young Ph.D. in gender studies feared that implement. She had felt it frequently enough from impatient instructrices. Tutina’s eyes flashed like blue flame. With a gesture she indicated the opened door, and her terrified charge quickly rose to her feet and went through the door, which Tutina closed behind them.

Chapter 9

SHE PERFORMS BEFORE HER MASTER,

AND CONCLUDES THE PERFORMANCE SUITABLY

There were cries of interest, and pleasure, when she reappeared in the marbled audience chamber. She stood just within the doorway, timidly, uncertainly.

“How oddly she is garbed,” whispered one of the women.

She was prodded forward by Tutina’s switch, until she stood within the yellow circle. It did not seem appropriate, somehow, to kneel, as she was dressed.

How strange she felt, to be dressed in this manner, in this place.

She felt that, dressed as she was, it might be permissible to speak, but she did not dare to do so.

“You are going to perform,” said her master.

“How?” she whispered.

“To be sure,” he said, “you cannot play the kalika, nor do you know the dances of the yearning, begging slave girl.”

She began to suspect how, on this world, slaves might perform for men, how men might use them for their entertainment.

“That is how,” said the young man to those gathered about him, “she appeared in her classroom, when I was a student, and she a teacher.”

“So strangely garbed?” inquired a man.

“The garb is not so strange for her world,” said the young man, “but the intent of her particular garb is to act as the banner of a disposition. It is proclamatory; it speaks a message. Its intent is to present a formal, tidy, cool, businesslike, professional, rather severe image, not simply one demanded by a conformist, socially prescribed ideology, one in accord with politically recommended proprieties, but, beyond that, one she felt it important, interestingly, to impose upon herself. The garb bespeaks her pretensions, of course, certain delusions, and such. But, too, in a way it bespeaks her fear. It is a defensive facade, just like the ideology she adopts for a similar purpose.”

“Her fear?” inquired a fellow in blue and yellow robes. At that time she did not know the significance of blue and yellow robes.

“Her fear of her own sexuality, which she is terrified to recognize, and insists on hiding.”

“Yet the excitement of her body is not altogether concealed,” said the fellow in blue and yellow robes, appraisingly.

“She is at war with herself,” said the young man. “She has deeply ambivalent feelings about her own body, its beauty and needs, her own emotions, the true meaning of her sex.”

“That war can be ended here,” smiled a man in yellow robes, those of the Builders.

She felt herself again the center of attention, as she stood in the circle.

When Tutina had closed the door behind them she had ordered her to her knees before her, near three packages on the floor. Her kneeling young charge, to her amazement, noted that these packages, sealed with tape, bore names and slogans with which she was familiar on Earth. She herself was familiar with these stores, and had shopped in them several times. She remembered the aisles, the counters, the crowds. Attentive to the injunctions placed upon her in connection with this narrative the names of these stores are omitted. Certainly they would be immediately recognized, at least by many familiar with a certain city.

The young charge looked up at Tutina, questioningly.

Tutina raised her switch menacingly, and the young charge put down her head, quickly, and cringed, but Tutina did not strike her.

“With moneys given to me by the master,” said Tutina, “I made these purchases, according to his instructions.”

Her young charge put out her hands and, with the tips of her fingers, touched the crinkling paper of one of the packages.

Then the young charge felt Tutina’s switch beneath her chin, lifting it. She looked into Tutina’s blue eyes.

“You are not now sitting on a chair, are you?” asked Tutina.

“No, Mistress,” said her charge. She addressed Tutina as “Mistress” because Tutina, obviously, was in authority over her. She had learned, in the last few days, to address her instructrices similarly.

Rank, distance and hierarchy are ingredient in Gorean social arrangements. The intricate stratification of society tends to produce social stability. The myth that all are equal when obviously they are not tends to ferment unrest. Each desires to climb the invisible ladder he claims does not exist. In Gorean society, with its emphasis on locality and neighborhood, with its diverse Home Stones, each with its own history and traditions, with its many castes and subcastes, each with its acknowledged privileges and rights, and obligations, respected by all, political upheavals, social disruptions, are not only rare, but to most Goreans almost incomprehensible. There is little cause for such things, little interest in them, little place for them. They just do not fit. In Gorean society there is no nameless, faceless, anonymous, ponderous, swarming many ruled by a secret few. Too richly formed, too proud, too self-respecting, too intricately structured, too much like nature herself, is Gorean society for that. Too, there are the codes, and honor.

“It was because of you,” said Tutina, “that I was beaten.”

Her charge remembered her outburst, on a far world, it seemed long ago now, objecting to the fact, it seemed so strange at the time, that a frightened woman in a white gown had been permitted to sit on a chair.

“I was beaten!” hissed Tutina.

“I am sorry, Mistress,” whispered her charge.

She did not doubt but what Tutina, for that lapse, had been put under discipline. She did not doubt but what the young man was fully capable of taking a whip to a woman who did not please him.

“And how I was forced to serve you, and you acting so superior to me,” exclaimed Tutina angrily, “you treating me with such contempt, and you then only an ignorant, nameless slave!”

“Forgive me!” begged the frightened, kneeling charge. “I did not know, Mistress!”

“I now wear the talmit,” said Tutina, indicating the fillet on her brow, binding back her long, luxurious blond hair. “So fear, stupid little slut. Know, ankleted little slave bitch, that upon the least provocation you will feel my switch, richly!”

“Yes, Mistress,” wept her charge, cringing, putting her head down. Like any low girl, she feared the wearer of the talmit.

“Now,” said Tutina, seemingly somewhat mollified, “remove your tunic. Open the packages. Dress.”

****

And so she stood now in the circle, before the curule chair.

The garments she wore were really muchly as they had been, so many years ago.

She wore a black, jacketed, skirted suit, with a cool, front-buttoned, rather severe, rather mannish white blouse, buttoned high about her neck. Her hair was drawn back severely, bound tight, and bunned, at the back of her head. She wore black, figured stockings, rather decorative, and shiny, black pumps, with a narrow two-inch heel.

“One thing is missing,” said the young man in the curule chair. He motioned her forward.

Into her hand he placed two small, plain, lovely golden loops, bracelets.

“Put them on,” he told her.

She slipped them on her left wrist. He knew, of course, that that was where they went. She did not wish to be beaten.

“Return to the circle,” he said, “and, hands at your sides, turn slowly for us.”

She did as she was commanded, and then again faced him, and the others.

She knew herself displayed.

She wondered if a nude slave girl on an auction block could feel more acutely conscious of her exhibition.

She did not know these people, even these sorts of people. How different they were from what she knew, in their naturalness, in their laughter and assurances, in their colorful robes and miens, all this so different from the tepidities, apathies, lethargies, and gray conformities of her old world! She had not known such people could exist. To her they were alien, not only linguistically but, more importantly, more frighteningly, culturally. This is what human beings can be, she thought, so different from those of Earth! She was not on her own world. And she was in a very different culture, one with different laws, customs, and values. Things were so unfamiliar. What could she, given no choice, brought helplessly here, be to these people?

What could one such as she be on this world?

She feared she knew.

How strange it is, she thought, to be fully clothed, according to one’s culture, so decorously, even primly, and yet, here, in a different culture, in an identical garmenture, being presented, being put on view, to feel so exposed, to feel oneself an eccentric object of curiosity.

She would have preferred her tunic, however brief. Then she would at least have better fitted in with her surroundings; she would then have felt less anomalous, less conspicuous, more congruent with her lovely milieu. There were others of her status in the room, and surely they, at least, were appropriately garmented, were accorded the simple, natural garmentures, so brief, so clinging, so revealing, which seemed to be culturally prescribed for those of their station, which station she had no doubt was hers, as well. They were attractively, and suitably, garbed, at least for what they were.

So why not she?

Why not she?

Too, she knew, and this did not displease her, at all, that she was quite attractive, perhaps even extremely so, in the tunic. That had been evident from the appraisals of guards.

In their eyes she was clearly a female.

She had no doubt about that.

And one of great interest.

That, too, had been clear.

Sometimes the guards had bound her, with colorful cords, sometimes in exotic fashions, and had then ordered her to free herself, but she had been unable to do so. But how their eyes had glinted upon her, as she had twisted, and reared up, and fell back, and squirmed and writhed, in her unsuccessful attempts to elude her constraints! To see her so before them, bound so helplessly, so predictably and absurdly futile in her commanded struggles, had given them much pleasure. Once she had intended to defy them, to remain quite still, but she was then switched, and so, again, she had addressed herself, now stung and weeping, desperately to efforts she now realized were foredoomed.

She recalled the words of the young man, on Earth, now her master on Gor, that he had thought she would be very pretty in such cords, later, when she would be luscious, helplessly bound in them.

Certainly she had been helpless in them, in those so simple, so soft, so attractive, so colorful bonds.

Am I, she asked herself, “luscious”?

She well remembered the eyes of the guards.

Perhaps, she thought.

And she was not displeased.

What female, and particularly one such as she, on this world, would not wish to be attractive, even luscious?

She shuddered.

She recalled that the young man on Earth, now her master, had suggested to her that her very life might depend on such things.

How often in history, she thought, it had been only a woman’s beauty which stood between herself and the sword. How grateful she might be then when she felt her hands roped behind her and a leash put on her neck!

The other girls in the room, those such as she, were in their tunics!

Why was she not then in her tunic?

Long ago she had ceased to feel such a garmenture was inexcusable and insufferably improper, that it was scandalously outrageous. To be sure, she supposed in some sense it was still all these things, and by intent, but now, too, it seemed appropriate, delicious, provocative, maddeningly exciting, sexually stimulating to the wearer and doubtless, too, to the bold and appraising onlooker beneath whose gaze its lovely occupant found herself without recourse. But even on Earth she had, she was now aware, viewed such garmentures rather ambivalently, perhaps even hypocritically, viewing them, or pretending to view them, on the one hand with the prescribed indignation and rage, and, on the other, wondering curiously, and excitedly, what she herself might look like, so clad. And she wondered, too, if some of the cumbersomely clad free women in the room, several even veiled, might not envy the others, their sisters, the freedom of their simple garmentures. And, too, what woman, in her heart, does not desire for her beauty to be displayed, does not desire to be seen, and understood, and openly relished, as the special and exquisite treasure she is? Are we not all forgivably vain? In any event, it was such as men would have for them. They were dressed as men would have them dressed, such as they, if they were to be permitted clothing. But why then not she? Most were kneeling, some not. They did not wear anklets. About their throats, rather, closely fitting, locked, were flat, slender metal bands, slave collars.

She envied them their collars. Not all animals, you see, are collared. The collar is for special animals. It was a visible statement that they were worth something. They had been found of interest; they had been found worthy of being purchased and owned. The collar, thus, in its way, is a visible acknowledgment of value. A terrible insult, on this world, to a free woman, is to tell her she is not worth a collar. To be sure, how would one know that, if one had not seen her? But she herself had only an anklet, the role of which, it seems, was more notational than anything else, little more than a way of keeping track of her in this house, whatever sort of house it might be.

Why did they not let her, too, kneel, or stand, inconspicuously aside, scarcely noticed, deferent, ready to be summoned, at so little as a snapping of the fingers of the free?

“Girl!” snapped her master.

She looked up, frightened.

“Now,” he said, “you will perform. How is your Gorean?”

“Not good enough, Master!” she said.

“You will use it,” he said. “There are very few present who can understand English.”

“What am I to do?” she asked.

“We are your students, we are your class,” he informed her. “You will lecture to us. Tell us all about men and women, and social artifacts, and roles, and such things, how conventional everything is, and political and capricious, and how the human species, alone of all the other species, has no nature, and how genetics is meaningless, and biology false, and endocrinology irrelevant, and so on, and how anything can be anything, and everything is nothing, and nothing is everything, and how the true is false, and the false, true, and such. Raise our consciousnesses, indoctrinate us, convert us.”

She was silent, in consternation.

He had spoken to her in English, of course.

“Those garments,” said the fellow in the blue and yellow robes, “do not really conceal her figure. Surely her loveliness is detectable within them.”

“As I am sure she knew,” said the young man.

“The things on her feet are pretty,” said a fellow.

“How can she keep her hair up like that?” asked another.

“She has a very pretty face,” said another.

“She has a small, trim, excellent figure,” said another.

The young man lifted his hand for silence. These brief remarks just preceding had all been in Gorean, of course. They had been spoken casually, with no particular intent in mind that she should understand them. But, of course, by now her Gorean was sufficient to follow them. She heard them with mixed feelings, and apprehensions. It is a strange thing to hear oneself referred to in such a fashion, so objectively, so casually. Did they not know she was a person? Did they think that she was an object, an animal on display?

“Begin,” said the young man.

Hesitantly, frightened, she began.

“As I told you,” warned the young man in English.

She moaned. He would have nothing less than that she attempt to honestly and forthrightly make clear to those in the room what she had taught for many years, what her colleagues in the movement expected of her, what she had been commended for, the views on which her standing, reputation and prestige had been founded, the sorts of things she had abundantly published, in journals created specifically to accommodate and broadcast such views, the ideology to which she had, in effect, given her life.

Occasionally he helped her with a word in Gorean; occasionally he prompted her, reminding her of this or that, for clearly he wanted her to express her position as forcibly and plausibly as the subject matter might admit.

He asked her upon occasion to move about. She did so, now acutely conscious of her figure within her clothing. Never on Earth had she been so much aware of the movements of her body within her garments, or how they rested upon it, or clung about it. But here she was much aware of such things. How frighteningly, how vulnerably soft and beautiful it was, shielded within her garments, she sensed. Twice he asked her to gesture, in such a way that he might hear the tiny sound of the two bracelets striking against one another, as though so accidentally. That sound was very meaningful to her, particularly under the circumstances, and she did not doubt but what it was similarly meaningful to him.

“Thank you for the lecture, slave girl,” he said, when she was done. “Now remove your garments.”

She first removed the jacket, and put it on the floor beside her. She then removed her pumps, and put them side by side, beside the jacket.

She then regarded him.

At a small gesture, she continued.

She unbuttoned the blouse, beginning with the high collar, and then slipped it from her shoulders.

More than one of the men present struck their left shoulders with the flat of their right hand.

She looked at the young man.

“They are expressing approval,” he informed her, in English.

She wore a white brassiere, which hooked in the back, and had two narrow shoulder straps.

She then unfastened the black skirt, and dropped it about her ankles, then stepped away from it, and lifted it to the side.

Interest was expressed in the garter belt. She freed the stockings from it, unfastened it, put it to the side, and then, sitting on the marbled floor, rolled the stockings down, and removed them.

As she removed the stockings, there could be no mistaking the loveliness of her thighs, the sweet bend of her legs at the knees, the turn of her calves, these lovelinesses each, slowly, in turn, being bared.

She then, again, stood. She was clad now in only brassiere and panties, except, of course, for two bracelets, and a locked ring, on her left ankle.

“Loosen your hair,” he said.

She did so, and shook it loose. It was very beautiful, dark brown, and glossy. She swept it back behind her with two hands, with a lovely gesture.

There were expressions of pleasure, of admiration, from several of those in the room.

She was clearly a lovely slave.

She went to slip the two golden loops from her left wrist, but the young man shook his head, almost imperceptibly, negatively.

She stiffened, but obeyed.

Those it seemed would be left her, at least for the time.

She slipped the shoulder straps of the brassiere over her arms, where they hung for a moment, and then she pulled the brassiere down.

“Excellent,” said the fellow in the blue and yellow robes.

She blushed.

Even had she not known the word, she would have understood him, from his tone, and expression, only too well.

Some of the men struck their left shoulders. Some of the women present uttered small sounds of admiration.

She realized suddenly that that of which they approved, her body, was not hers, that her body, and, indeed, she herself, was another’s property.

She turned the brassiere about, until the hooks were before her, at her belly.

She then unhooked it and dropped it with her other garments.

Suddenly tears sprang to her eyes and she looked piteously to the young man in the curule chair, that he might leave her some sop to her modesty, that he would not be merciless with her, not publicly, not before this throng.

But his eyes were stern.

Then she stood bared before him, a naked slave, save for two loops of gold on her left wrist, and an anklet of steel.

“Now,” said he to her, “my lovely young instructor with your Ph.D. in gender studies, you may crawl to me, naked, on your belly.”

She went to all fours, and then lowered herself to her belly. Then, inch by inch, she approached the dais, ascended the steps, and was then before him.

“More closely,” he said, “and spread your hair over my feet.”

She brought her hair forward, and put her head at his sandals, her hair about his feet.

“This, now,” he said, “is truly you. This is how I wanted you, and how you wanted to be, even then, so long ago, at my feet, a slave.”

She looked up at him tears in her eyes.

He removed the two golden loops from her wrist. She now wore only the steel anklet.

“Lick and kiss my feet, slave,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“And thus,” said he, “you are the living refutation of your own ideology.”

“Yes,” she whispered, “— Master.”

After a time, to her consternation, he pulled his feet away from her soft tongue and lips, her tears and her hair.

“Guard,” said he, “take this slave away, and see that the last phase of her treatment is concluded.”

“Surely there is no more, Master!” she cried.

“Oh yes,” he said, menacingly, “I have something very special in store for you, slave girl.”

She was dragged naked from the room.

Outside the door she, still held, was permitted to bend down and seize up her tiny tunic, that which she had left in this place, when she had donned the other garments. The paper wrappings, the tape, the cardboard boxes, were still there, where she had left them.

She was then drawn naked, rudely, through the corridors, her upper left arm, hurting her, in the powerful grip of the hurrying guard. She clutched her tiny tunic in her right hand, but could not put it on. She was taken through the corridors much as she had seen other naked beauties, save that she was not bound or chained.

Faces, some of them frightened, of young women, peered at her from behind bars.

In a short time she was in her kennel area and was urged up the steel ladder until she reached her tier, at which point she was forced to crawl painfully on all fours over the steel grille work until she reached her kennel.

In a moment she was locked within.

She tried, hysterically, to thrust the anklet from her, but could not do so.

She began to weep.

She turned about, kneeling, and clutched the bars, crying.

After a time she drew on her tiny tunic, and moved some straw about in the kennel. She then lay down, wrapping herself, as she could, in the short, thin blanket.

She wept.

He had had the fullness of his vengeance on her, surely. It seemed that she could not have been more thoroughly reduced and humiliated.

And yet she knew that she had been thrilled to be at his feet, a helpless, subdued, submitting, dominated slave.

It was what she was, she realized, and what she most profoundly wanted to be, and had always wanted to be, a slave.

What did he have in mind for her?

She did not know.

All she knew was that he would do what he wished with her, and that she was his slave.

Chapter 10

SHE IS PRESENTED BEFORE HER MASTER,

FOLLOWING THE FOURTH AND FINAL PHASE OF HER TRANSFORMATION

She wept, trying to hold the guard’s wrist, where it was fastened so deeply, so cruelly, in her hair, she bent over, her head at his hip, hurried forth, into the room, in a common Gorean leading position.

She was then thrown to her belly within the yellow circle, before the curule chair. Hastily, fearfully, she struggled to her knees, lifted her arms, tried to smooth and straighten her hair, and brushed it back, behind her shoulders, and knelt, before her master.

Though he was the same, clearly to her, now, he seemed older, more mature, certainly now older than she, more frightening to her.

“Are you in a suitable position, for what you have been told you are?” he inquired.

She knelt in the beautiful position that had been taught her, back on her heels, back straight, head up, palms of the hands on her thighs.

He continued to regard her.

Tears sprang to her eyes.

She widened her knees. It was the last, small adjustment that had been taught to her, and that most recently. It was a position appropriate for her type of slave, the Gorean pleasure slave.

He continued to regard her.

Sobbing, she widened her knees still further before him. She wore the same tiny tunic she had been given before, except that now it had been slit at the sides, from the hem on both sides, to both the left and right hip, so that a flash of hip might be bared as she moved, and so that, when she knelt, it might fall between her thighs, as it now did. And so she knelt before her master, in the one of the common positions of the Gorean pleasure slave, her knees spread widely, she vulnerably opened then, save for the tiny veil of cloth, before him. The same position, of course, is commonly used by naked slaves.

She looked up at him, tears burning in her eyes.

“Has Tutina been nice to you?” he asked.

She shuddered. It was a test. “She has treated me precisely as I have deserved, Master,” she said.

He smiled. His smile told her how clever he understood her to be. Could she conceal nothing from him?

No love was lost between herself and Tutina. She had hated Tutina from the first, even from the moment she had first seen her at the opera, so long ago, probably because she had seemed simple, stupid and so beautiful, but, more likely, as she was, in fact, neither simple nor stupid, because she was beautiful and was with the young man. Too, Tutina now held authority over her. Tutina wore the talmit, and was to her and, indeed, to several others, it seemed, “first girl.” And that authority was exercised over her charges, and particularly over her, it seemed, with a malicious pleasure. She, as the others, had learned to fear her switch.

Tutina, who derived from Earth, and, indeed, had once a been a native of her own nation, and city, was abundantly, natively, fluent in English. But Tutina would speak only Gorean to her. In this way Tutina, who was fluent in that language, put her, at this time, at a considerable disadvantage. Her young charge must then tensely strain to understand, struggling to apprehend the subtleties of an unfamiliar tongue, trying desperately not to miss a word. How uncertain, frightened, and ignorant her young charge so often felt. How cleverly Tutina had her then at her mercy.

But, as Tutina perhaps had not realized, she was thereby rapidly improving her charge’s Gorean.

The young charge was jealous of Tutina, of her power, her beauty, and her standing closer to the master. The young charge would have preferred to be her master’s only slave, lying contentedly, curled, licking, at his feet. But he had at least two slaves, and perhaps more. She did not know. So she knew why she feared, and resented, and hated Tutina. What she did not understand was why Tutina should seem to hate her so. After all, what had the beauteous Tutina to fear from her? What had Tutina to fear from such as she, a low slave?

Then his gaze became harder.

“Have you seen yourself, as you are now,” he asked, “in the large mirrors in the training room?”

“Yes,” she said.

Those mirrors were as fine as any she had known on Earth.

“Naked?”

“Yes,” she said, putting her head down. She had been forced to look, stunned, taken aback, by the incredible, youthful, vulnerable loveliness she had seen there.

“How old are you, or would you say,” he asked, “looking upon yourself as you are now?”

“I do not know,” she whispered.

“I would say,” he said, “that you are something like eighteen or nineteen years of age.”

She nodded. She could remember photographs of herself at that age, or near that age, and what she had seen in the mirror was the same, or much the same, save, of course, for the nudity, and, she suspected, some present superiority of figure, that from the serums, or perhaps the diet and exercise. The background reflected in the mirror had been quite different, of course, that of a training room on an alien world, with its painted lines on the floor, its rings, and whips and bars, and such, from the background of the photographs.

“Have you had your slave wine?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said. She shuddered. She had been knelt and held, her head forced back, and cruelly held so by the hair, and her mouth forced open, and the spike of the wooden funnel forced between her teeth. Then the wretched, foul stuff was poured into mouth, her nostrils at the same time being pinched tightly shut. When she had to breathe she must imbibe the slave wine. Afterwards her hands were tied behind her, that she might not induce its vulgar emission.

“You cannot now conceive,” he told her. “If a releaser, as one speaks of it, is later administered, which is a quite sweet, flavorful drink I am told, you will again be able to conceive. Conception in slaves, of course, is closely supervised. They are crossed, mated, and bred only as, and precisely as, masters desire.”

She nodded.

Masters must be careful of their stock.

“Sometimes, in rural areas,” he said, “there is a breeding festival, and slaves from miles about, hooded and bound, carefully selected, of course, on leashes behind wagons, in crates, and so on, are brought to the breeding grounds.

He could breed me, she thought.

“It is a time of much feasting and merriment,” he said, “much like a fair.”

He could literally breed me, she thought. I wonder if he will breed me.

She looked at him. Before he had been as he was now, much as he had been as a student, at least physically, but she had been, say, in her late twenties. She knew now, of course, given their last encounter, that he could own, dominate and master her, even were he as he was now, and she older, she in her late twenties. The principle of her femininity had been helpless before, and overwhelmed by, the principle of his masculinity. She would have obediently writhed at his feet and obeyed him in all things. He would, even then, have been the total and categorical owner of, and master of, her womanhood. She had sensed that even in the classroom, so long ago. She knew how she would have been, on any terms he might have set, helplessly his. But now she was only, say, eighteen or nineteen, and he, surely, somewhere in his early twenties. Now he was older, and even more mature, than she. She was now no more than a girl before him.

Could he like me, she wondered.

Has he plans to keep me for himself?

I love him, she thought.

“How do your lessons proceed?” he asked.

“I trust, well,” she said. “But there is something I do not understand.”

“What is that?” he asked.

“I sense that there are many things I do not know, that there are many things that I am not being taught.”

“That is true,” he said.

“I am still very naive, very ignorant,” she said.

“True,” he said.

“Would I not be more valuable if I knew them?” she asked.

“Certainly,” he said.

“Why am I not taught them then?” she asked, puzzled.

“Think,” he said.

“In order that I remain naive and ignorant, in order that I remain negligible, in order that I remain meaningless, that I remain nothing, that I not be more valuable?” she asked.

“Do you like your present accommodations?” he inquired.

“Doubtless they are in accord with the directions of Master,” she said.

“Certainly,” he said.

“Master is cruel to his slave,” she said.

“You could have been put in close chains, or in a slave box, or a slave pit,” he said.

Her new accommodations were a tiny slave cage. It was some four feet, by four feet by four feet, formed of closely set metal bars, a half inch or so in thickness, except for the floor, which was of metal. She could not stretch out her body fully within it. The bars were somewhat narrow, one supposes, with that half inch or so in thickness, but they were fully and perfectly adequate for holding a female. It was not unlike the sort used by many hunters in the field, in their base camp, for the temporary confinement of their catches. There was no straw in the cage, but she had been permitted to retain her blanket.

“Each time,” she said, “you have treated me more cruelly, granted me fewer privileges, been harsher with me!”

“The better to accustom you to your bondage,” said he, “slave girl.”

“Do you not like me, Master?” she asked.

She looked at him, trying to read in his visage some glimmering of emotion, some small sign of his feelings.

He had brought her to this world, he had remembered her, he had made her his slave.

Surely then he must have some feeling for her.

I am his, I love him, she thought.

How could he have known that I wanted to be owned, and ravished, and mastered? Why else would he have ankleted me, and imposed his will upon me? She realized, as many professedly sharing her ideology, how foolishly naive it was, how little account it took of the biotruths of human existence. Men, if they were not crippled, were ambitious, jealous and possessive. She knew that her sex, by nature, belonged to them. They did not wish to relate to their women as contractual associates, but as masters. They wanted to own them. Men truly loved only that which they owned, that which was fully theirs. They treasured their possessions, their dogs, their tools, their books, their homes, their cars, their women. How can what does not belong to a man wholly be treasured by him? When his heat is upon him does he wish to fence and banter with a contractual associate? Nay, he wishes in covetous, exultant lust to bind and master a slave! She wondered in how many marriages, in the secrecy of their homes, wives were the slaves of their husbands. But here on Gor, she thought, slavery is explicit, acknowledged, sanctified in tradition and law, and here men are the masters, at least of women such as she. And the women, she thought, how many there must be, as she, who longed to be owned, who longed to obey and serve, who would give all, all their beauty and devotion, all their helpless, surrendering love, to the man they longed to meet, who would put them at his feet, and make them his, their master.

She looked up at him.

He looked much as he had before, robed, and such, save that now, as he reclined in the curule chair, across his knees there lay a whip.

She spread her knees a bit more widely, as she feared that she had, inadvertently, let them close a bit.

She was deeply stirred, so kneeling before him, so clad, with no nether shielding, with her knees so spread.

She needed no one to tell her that bondage was sexually arousing to a woman. Frigidity she knew was not acceptable in a female slave. Inertness was forbidden to them. Passivity was not tolerated. Inhibitions were not permitted. If necessary, such culturally inculcated impediments to the flames of love could be lashed from their bodies. They would be given no choice but to become their natural, hot, animal, yielding female selves. They would have absolutely no choice. They must become what they were, the female to the male, the slave to the master.

“May I speak?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said.

It is not uncommon for a slave girl to ask permission to speak. She is, after all, a slave. To be sure, there is a great deal of variation in such matters, among masters and slaves. Delicate considerations are sometimes involved, and much depends on a given context, the occasion, the location, who is present and such. The slave, particularly after a cuffing or two, tends to develop a great sensitivity to such things. Some slaves are permitted a liberty of speech by their masters which is not obviously inferior to that enjoyed by a free woman, until a stern look puts them to their knees, reminding them of what they are. And it is a rare slave who has not, upon occasion, her master’s patience at an end, been put upon her knees, facing a wall, gagged, her hands tied behind her back, or perhaps, bound hand and foot, her mouth taped shut, thrown naked on a bed. Too, the Master may gag his slave “by his will,” and then she must serve in silence.

“I do not understand fully what has been done to me,” she said.

“In what way?” he asked.

“Am I — immortal?” she asked.

“Certainly not,” he said. “You are quite mortal. I might, if I wished, for example, feed you to sleen, or cast you to leech plants.”

She did not believe that the animals called “sleen” existed, thinking them part of the mythology of the world, and she had not heard of “leech plants,” but the tenor of his remarks was sufficiently clear.

“You have been returned to a former condition of your body, and have been stabilized at that point,” he said. “That is what has been done to you.”

“Will I stay like this?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said, “unless your nose and ears are cut off, or such,” he said.

She looked at him with horror.

“You will try to be a good little slave, won’t you?” he asked.

“Yes, Master!” she said. “Master,” she said.

“Yes?” he said.

“Why did you make me this age?”

She was surely, as one would think, were one to look upon her, something like eighteen years of age, perhaps nineteen, at most.

“Why do you think?” he asked.

She resolved to speak boldly before him.

Her belly flamed before him. He was her master.

“I think, Master,” she said, “that you cared for me, that you remembered me, that you had never forgotten me, that you came for me, that you carried me away by force, that you made me your slave because you wanted me, because you desired me, and loved me. And that you have made me this age in order that you would now be more mature than I, that I might now be no more than a girl to your man, a most fitting object for your chains.”

“No,” he said. “I brought you here because I hate you, because I despise you, because I scorn you, because I hold you in utter contempt. That is why I have brought you here and made you a slave.”

“No!” she cried.

“But you said that you found my flanks of interest!” she said.

“That is the only thing about you which could be of the least interest,” said he, “slave.”

She buried her face in her hands, weeping.

“Knees,” he said.

Quickly she spread her knees again.

“But there are two reasons I have had you made the age you are,” he said. “First, I was curious to know what you would have looked like at this age. Now I know, and I acknowledge that you are a pretty little slave, a well-curved, youthful, little slave. The second reason I have had you made the age you are is because you will now be, though you are admittedly pretty, a meaningless, negligible little slave to almost anyone. You will not bring a high price in markets. You will be poor goods. You will be purchased, presumably, by low, ignorant fellows, for small coins, who will put you to repetitive servile labors. Most slave girls are as in their twenties. Even they will look down upon you, as no more than a pretty girl, one who need not be taken seriously, one unimportant and largely worthless.”

She sobbed, holding her face in her hands, not looking at him.

“This, too, is the reason that I have not had you taught more, the reason I have not had you more thoroughly trained. I want you to be largely ignorant and valueless. And thus I will cast you into the terrors and realities of a world which will seem utterly strange to you.”

“You hate me?” she asked.

“Stand,” said he. “Disrobe.”

She stood, her eyes burning, tears streaming down her face. She reached to the disrobing loop at the left shoulder and tugged it, dropping the garment about her ankles. She stepped from it, it lying then beside her, a small atoll of cloth on a calm marble sea. She stood before him, weeping, but erect, gracefully, as she had been taught. She knew how to stand before a man.

He took the whip, which had lain across his knees, and cast it the floor before her.

She looked down at it.

He then stood, rising from the curule chair. He put aside his ornate robes, as of state or office. He stood then above her on the dais, in a simple, belted brown tunic.

She had not realized how large he was, or exactly in this way, as he was now revealed before her, or how formidable he was, how fine, how supple and muscular he was, how sturdy were his legs, how long and powerful his arms. He had large hands. She had realized before, of course, that he was large and strong, but now she gasped, looking upon him. She had not seen him like this before, revealed in this way, in a tunic. It was a simple garment, but how revealingly, how casually, how splendidly it displayed the mighty frame it housed. She was terribly uneasy then, stirred profoundly, these thoughts disturbing her deeply, by the sturdy legs, the width of the shoulders, the strength of the arms. He was disturbingly physical and she, to her horror, found herself thrilled to the quick by the very sight of his body. How wonderful to wear the chains of such a man, she thought. How wonderful it would be to lie embonded in his arms, will-less, ravished, yielding helplessly. She looked at him, and trembled. She had not seen him this way before. She saw him now as Gorean, a scion of this world, and herself as what only such as she could be on such a world, a slave.

“Fetch the whip,” he said.

She went to her hands and knees, and, putting down her head, picked the whip up, delicately, in her teeth.

She looked up at him, the whip between her teeth.

He motioned that she should bring it to him.

Slowly, head down, she crawled to him, and then, after crawling up the steps of the dais, she lifted her head to him.

He took the whip from her and held it before her. Obediently, delicately, she began to lick and kiss the whip. There were the gentle kisses, some prolonged, some as light and quick as the shiftings of sunlight and shadow among stirring leaves, some as bright and unexpected as the pattering of momentary, shimmering drops of rain, some as tender as the falling of the petal of a flower, and the other kisses, the swirling, begging, meaningful kisses, the kisses almost beside themselves, uncontrollable, and the petitionary kisses, reluctant to draw away from the shaft; and there were the movements of the tongue, the tiny dartings, the teasings, the supplications, the tastings, the long, and the short, and the circular caresses, the placatory caresses, the caresses of yearning, and begging and total submission; and she moved her hair about the whip, and thrust the side of her face lovingly against it, rubbing against it, and then looked up, tears in her eyes, at her master.

Angrily he pulled the whip away from her.

“Position!” said he.

She backed down the steps of the dais, crawling, and then went, crawling backward, to where her garment lay on the floor and then knelt beside it, in position, looking at him.

Is he afraid, she asked herself.

He has nothing to fear from me. I am only a slave, his, and I love him with all my heart.

“You do well with the whip,” he snarled.

“Thank you, Master,” she said.

Some have suggested that there is more to the kissing of the whip, and many such things on this world, than may be readily visible on the surface, that such things, in their way, are meaningful, that they, in their way, have symbolic dimensions, that they, in their way, express truths, relationships, acknowledgments, and such. I leave such speculations to the reader.

Her belly flamed before him.

How grateful she was to him, that he had permitted her to kiss his whip.

Without symbols, she wondered, would it not be difficult to live on more than the surface of our being.

He walked about her, whip in hand. She had no doubt that she was being appraised for her value as a naked slave.

She held position, beautifully.

“Common position of obeisance,” he said.

Immediately, kneeling, she put her head to the floor, the palms of her hands on the floor, beside her head. In this position the knees are closed. It is a position commonly assumed by a slave when a man enters a room. To be sure, this varies from city to city. In some cities all that is required is the common kneeling position, instantly assumed. In other cities, a complete bellying, instantly assumed, is required. Such things may differ, of course, from master to master. The girl is, after all, his.

“You look well in a position of obeisance,” he said.

She was silent.

She was frightened.

She felt the coils of the whip lightly touch her left side, at the waist, and move lightly on her back.

Is he going to have me, she wondered. Oh, please, not like this! Surely not like this! Do not take my virginity from me in this fashion!

She remained in the position of obeisance. He stepped away from her, a little. She sensed he was standing before her.

“I think I will beat you,” he said. She sensed that the blade of the whip was shaken free.

“Please do not beat me, Master,” she begged.

She sensed now that he was behind her.

“Please, Master,” she said. “Please do not beat me, Master!”

“I think I will name you,” he said. “I have thought of names, ‘Filth’, ‘Feces’, ‘Fecal Matter’, such names.”

She moaned.

“But I think I will call you ‘Ellen’,” he said. “That is a pretty name for a pretty slave.”

“That is a beautiful name, Master!” she breathed, her head down, touching the floor.

“You are Ellen,” he said.

“Have I been named?” she asked, frightened.

“Yes,” he said. “What is your name?”

“‘Ellen’,” she said.

And so that is the name by which we may now refer to her, for it is her name. The other name, that which she bore long ago, has been concealed for the purposes of this narrative. And such things would matter little anyway. Such things are now gone, meaningless; they are irrelevant to, and far from, her current reality, that of a slave, that of the slave girl, Ellen.

“Thank you for giving me such a beautiful name, Master,” she said, not raising her head.

“It might improve your price a little,” he said.

“Surely Master has no intention of selling his slave,” she said. Surely not after having given her such a beautiful name, she thought. He must like me, she thought. He has given me such a beautiful name!

“I had thought, as long ago as the class room,” he said, “that ‘Ellen’ would make a lovely name for a slave, and, as I watched you, moving before the class, I thought of you as a slave, for that is what you are, and were, you know, and I thought of you, too, as one who might well be named ‘Ellen’. Indeed, I decided then that if I were one day to own you, be your master, that that is what your name would be, ‘Ellen’. What is your name?”

“‘Ellen’, Master,” she whispered.

“To be sure,” he said, “aside from the fact that ‘Ellen’ is a suitable name for a meaningless, pretty little slave like yourself, that name, as many similar names, has other connotations, connotations and suggestions of which I am aware but you in all likelihood are not. And I welcome those other connotations and suggestions. They fit in nicely with my plans for you.”

“Master?” she asked.

“Do you enjoy participating in a conversation while you are in a position of obeisance?” he asked.

“It is as Master has decided,” she said.

“‘Ellen’, you see,” he said, “is an Earth-girl name. An Earth-girl name. And such names are regarded here, on this world, as slave names, and names fit for the lowliest and most worthless slaves. Goreans who know of Earth, and many now do, hold it in great contempt, and enjoy having its women as their slaves. Sometimes an Earth-girl name is given to a Gorean girl to reduce, demean and punish her. An Earth-girl’s bondage on Gor is often a particularly uncompromising and harsh one.”

“Why?” she asked.

“I am not sure,” he said. “Perhaps it is because they are regarded as being pretentious. Perhaps it is because they are blamed for having collaborated in the reduction and degradation of the males of Earth.”

He was still behind her, with the whip.

“Yet,” he said, “interestingly, they are often prized and sought in the slave markets. Do you know why that is?”

“No, Master.”

“Because they make superb slaves,” he said. “In their world they have been denied their womanhood. They have been kept in a sexual desert. They have been starved for sex. On Gor, in a collar, and under the whip, meeting true men, many for the first time, they find themselves taken in hand, and taught their womanhood, at the feet of a master. They yield themselves up in joy, choicelessly. They become the helpless, obedient, zealous, flaming slaves of their masters.”

“‘Tutina’ is not an Earth-girl name, is it?” she asked.

“No,” he said, “it is Gorean. If she displeases me sometime, however, I might give her an Earth-girl name. That would terrify her. Can you imagine her fear, bearing such a name on this world?”

Still the slave kneeling head down in the position of obeisance was not displeased, even so, to have been given the name ‘Ellen’.

Besides, what had she to fear from Gorean males? Did she not know who had brought her to this world, doubtless to have her here, as his slave?

I love him, she thought. I love him so.

It had begun, of course, with anger and dismay, irritation, consternation, fascination, and then fear, when he had cuffed her about intellectually in the classroom, when he had indifferently and decisively refuted her again and again, when he had had her reeling from blows of logic and fact, until she had wanted to kneel before him and acknowledge him as her master. Many times she had dreamed that he had put her to his pleasure, mercilessly, publicly. And her fear, and fascination, had gradually turned to love and the desire to submit herself selflessly to his will. He had proved to her that he was her master. She loved him. She suspected she had always loved him. And now she was his slave, truly, on an alien world! It must be clearly understood, of course, that the relationship of master and slave, in its legal aspects, is totally indifferent to, and completely independent of, matters such as affection, caring, or love. Many masters, for example, never see the slaves they own, who may be employed in distant shops or fields, and, of course, the slaves may never see the masters who own them. So emotional relationships, of any sort, are inessential to, and immaterial to, the institution in question. What concern had the law, in all its power and majesty, with such matters? Whether he loved her or he did not, whether she loved him or she did not, did not matter. Their institutional standing was clear. They stood related as master and slave. He owned her, and she was owned. He could do with her as he wished. And so, too, of course, could any master into whose possession she might come, whose property she might find herself.

“I think I will beat you,” he said.

“Please, no!” she said.

The thought suddenly came to her, however, taking her off guard, to her surprise, perhaps to her horror, that she wanted to be whipped.

She wanted that attention, the meaningfulness of that pain. Would that not show that she was of some interest or importance to her master, that he would put the whip to her? Would that not be reassuring, that he correct her behavior, that he teach her the limits that she must not exceed, that he might take a moment now and then, whether she required it or not, to remind her, with some strokes of the leather, that she was a slave, that she was owned.

As a slave she knew she was subject to such things. They could be done to her.

Too, I deserve to be whipped, she thought. I have richly deserved many times to be whipped. Doubtless thousands of times. But no man has whipped me. There are so many things for which I should have been punished, but never was. On Earth, she thought, a woman is never punished, no matter what she has done, no matter how cruel and nasty, how vicious and petty, she has been, no matter how much hurt she has brought about, no matter how much injury she has inflicted, no matter how much misery and pain she has caused, no matter how many lives she may have ruined or destroyed. But here, on this world, she suspected, it might be different, at least for women such as I. Here, I have learned, she thought, I might be whipped for dropping a plate, or not having responded instantly to a command. For such tiny things I could be put as a slave under the leather.

I am your slave, she thought. Prove to me that you are my master. Whip me. The slave may be beaten by her master. Let me learn that I am a slave. Beat me, that I may truly know I am a slave!

He stood behind her, not speaking.

“Master?” she asked.

“To your belly,” he said.

She was then prone, before him.

“I had thought, often,” he said, “of having you before me as you are, a naked slave at my feet.

“The war is over, for you,” he said.

“War?” she asked.

“Do not those of your ideology dare to use that sacred, holy, terrible word, that word for nature’s last and fiercest arbiter, that maker and unmaker of states, that creator and destroyer of cultures, singing songs of armies, and blood and steel, that ultimate and terrifying tribunal, with all the marches, the charges and rides, and the sacrifices, all the horror, all the triumph, all the glory and the shame, the tenderness and cruelty, the best and the worst, the highest and the lowest, the grandest and the most despicable, the most loved and most hated, that moment when beasts and gods look into mirrors and each sees the other, do not those of your ideology dare to use that word, that name for the most fearsome and terrible of all institutions, for its trivial, pretentious, absolutely safe, risk-free, puerile machinations, for your petty political threats, your jockeyings and maneuverings, for your sneakings about, and trickery, and burrowings from within to deprive an entire sex of its birthright?

“Well,” said he, “if it is a war, it is one that is over for you. You have lost. You have been conquered. You have been taken and in an ancient, time-honored tradition of true war you have become the slave of the victor. You are spoils, pretty girl, understand that, and to the victor belong the spoils!

“Fear, feminist,” said he.

“I am not a feminist!” she cried. “Such things are behind me!”

“They are more behind you than you can possibly now understand,” he said. “Where are you?”

“I am on the planet Gor!” she cried.

“Know then that you are on the planet Gor, slave girl,” said he.

Then the whip began to rain blows upon her.

She screamed and scratched at the marble, and turned from her stomach to her side, and back, and tried to fend the blows, weeping.

“So,” said he, pausing, “the little feminist beneath the whip.”

“No!” she cried. “I am not a feminist. I am a slave, your slave. Please do not strike me further, Master! Please be merciful to your slave!”

Then, again, as she screamed, and cried, and writhed before him, he put the leather upon her.

“Know yourself owned,” he snarled.

“Yes, Master, yes, Master!” she wept.

She was now a beaten slave. She had no doubts now that she was owned. She had been beaten by her master.

He threw the whip to one side.

“The beating was nothing,” he said, angrily. “It was not the five-bladed Gorean slave lash. You were not even tied at a ring.”

She looked up at him in horror, from her side, bright stripes upon her body.

“Were you given permission to break position?” he asked.

Instantly she went again to her belly, being then as she had been before.

“Do you think you will soon beg to give pleasures to a man?” he inquired.

She put her cheek down to the marble, sobbing.

“I have made you the age you are,” he snarled, “so that you will be no more than a bit of fluff in the markets.”

He looked down upon her.

The anklet was on her.

“To be sure,” he said, “a bit of pretty fluff.”

“Guard!” he called.

The guard came forward, from near the door, where he had kept his post.

The young man, he in the brown tunic, he who had wielded the whip, the girl’s master, indicated the slave at his feet. “This is Ellen,” he said. “Her anklet may now be removed. But first, of course, see that she is branded and collared.”

The guard reached down and then lifted the youthful slave to her feet. She seemed dazed, and in disbelief. He permitted her to bend down and retrieve her small tunic, but not to put it on. Then he indicated she should precede him from the room, and she did so, uncertainly, stumbling sometimes, sobbing, returning to her cage.

Chapter 11

A SUPPER IS SERVED, IN AN UNUSUAL APARTMENT;

SHE IS SPOKEN WITH BY HER MASTER

“What a pretty little thing she is!” laughed the woman. “Is she to serve us?”

“Yes,” said Mirus.

“What monsters you men are!” laughed the woman.

Ellen, crouching down, set forth the plates of hors d’oeuvres and the tiny glasses of sherry on the coffee table before her master, Mirus, and his guests, a man and a woman. Tutina sat nearby, in an arm chair, with purple upholstery.

It had been explained to Ellen how she was to serve, how to speak, if spoken to, and how to conduct herself throughout the evening. In the adjoining room there were two guards, with their own supper. That room gave access, as well, through a short corridor, to the kitchen. A serving cart was used to bring the food from the kitchen, through the corridor and adjoining room, into the apartment.

Ellen had been quite startled to see the apartment, entering it for the first time, for it might well have been one on Earth, in the house or mansion of some leisured, comfortable, wealthy individual. Surely it was tastefully and elegantly appointed, and the quality of the rug, the furnishings, and such, was, without being obtrusive, obvious. The oddity of it was that it was on Gor. She had been reminded, entering it for the first time, of pictures in large, glossy magazines, the sort claimedly and pretentiously devoted to the arts of gracious living, those magazines intended to supply apparently desperately desired and much-needed instruction to the ignorant affluent, informing them in what ways they might most appropriately expend their abundant resources, what should be the nature and location of their residences, how they were to be landscaped and furnished, what automobiles they should buy, the type of music and artwork which should be in evidence, what books and how many, how their pantries were to be stocked, the arrangements of tennis courts and pools, many such things. Doubtless, she supposed, serving, there must be some reason this room has been designed as it has. She wondered if it were some subtle joke, some irony. But, if it was, it had apparently been lost on the woman in the room whom she did not know. Perhaps that woman was used to such surroundings, and took them for granted, not really seeing them any longer. Generally one does not see, really see, one’s familiar surroundings. One takes them so much for granted. Perhaps, on the whole, that is just as well. But sometimes she supposed that even husbands and wives, on her old world, did not really see one another any longer, either, but simply took one another for granted, much like the walls, the furniture. Such things would be muchly different, of course, she supposed, if their relationship were to be changed, radically, for example, if the husband were to make his wife, at least in the secrecy of his own home, an obvious, explicit slave. Is that not what many vociferous proclaimers of her former ideology maintained that wives were, anyway, slaves? How silly that was, what infantile semantic slight of hand! Is there no better way to abolish the family and surrender children to the centrally designed, and centrally directed, conditioning programs of the state, the state they expected to put to their own purposes, using it, with its legal monopoly on violence and coercion, to promote their own self-serving agendas? So saying, they seemed to believe that they had manufactured an argument against marriage, refuted matrimony with a lie. But, she wondered, suppose men believed that lie. It did not follow from that, that if they should take it seriously, that they would immediately forgo their genetically conditioned proprietary inclinations, selected for in millions of years of primate evolution, and promptly terminate long-term, intimate relationships with desirable women and abolish families. Rather, might they not choose to accept that view of the matter, the feminist view, so to speak, and rearrange the institutions of society accordingly?

Mirus, her master, indicated that she might withdraw, and so she stood to one side. For some reason she was not to kneel.

The woman at the coffee table bantered lightly with the two men, her companion and Mirus. Tutina sat to one side, smiling. Ellen made certain she did not meet the eyes of Tutina. She stood to one side, keeping her head down. If she were to be summoned, a word would suffice.

But suppose the husband did make the wife, within their marriage, his slave, explicitly. Then, surely, their relationship would have changed, considerably. No longer might they not really see one another. No longer could they overlook one another, so to speak. No longer could they take one another for granted. The slave cannot take the master for granted because he owns her, and she must be diligent in his service, and be desperate to please him. And the master does not take the slave for granted for he now owns her; she has now become to him a source of delight and pleasure. And if she prove momentarily troublesome she may be disciplined as the slave she is. Let her beg naked to enter his bed and serve his pleasure. And if he does seem to take her for granted, it is only that she may zealously, piteously increase her efforts to be even more pleasing.

She supposed, serving, that such an arrangement would not merely freshen a stale marriage, not simply renew a flagging relationship, but that it would alter it utterly, transform it beyond recognition, catapult it into hitherto unsuspected, astonishing dimensions, replacing the wearying familiarities and tepid placidities of accustomed rounds and routines with a new, moving, exciting, dramatic, startling reality, replacing them with an altogether new life, one incontrovertibly meaningful, as the participants suddenly found themselves the inhabitants of a newer, deeper, more natural world, one of intense emotion and unbelievable feelings, one of perfectly clear identities and relationships, one of abject obedience and strict command, one of absolute submissiveness and uncompromising mastery.

She wondered what might be the reactions of her former feminist colleagues if society were to take seriously their effusive, tiresome, repetitive, propagandistic allegations pertaining to matrimony as slavery, and the general position of women in society as one of being held in bondage, and decide to make them true. What would they think if they were to suddenly find it necessary to be licensed to men, or simply owned outright, as women?

Mirus, her master, suggested that the group rise and go to table.

The table, long, with sparkling linen, polished silver, candles and flowers, was in the same room.

Mirus indicated that Ellen might ready herself to pour wine at the table.

‘Mirus’ is an extremely common male name on Gor. It is doubtless the name of thousands of individuals. Indeed, that consideration might have figured in its selection. It was the Gorean name, so to speak, of her master. His Earth name is not to be included in this narrative, no more than that name which had once been Ellen’s on Earth. The ‘us’ ending is the most common ending for a male name on Gor. The most common ending for a Gorean female name is ‘a’. There are, of course, numerous exceptions.

Ellen poured the wine, beginning with the woman, and then Tutina, and then the man she did not know, and then her master. The order had been prescribed. The woman, surely, did not know Tutina’s status. The woman had speculated that the bandage on Tutina’s left ankle must be the result of some earlier injury, and Tutina, smiling, did not disabuse her of this plausible surmise.

The new woman, whom Ellen did not know, had glanced at her at various times during the evening, curious, interested, but Ellen had kept her head down, serving silently, deferentially.

After a time Mirus indicated that Ellen might serve the soup, which, she began to do, ladling it from a large tureen on a serving cart, filling the bowls one by one, and placing them on the table, in the order prescribed.

Once, on her former world, in an officelike room, Ellen had relished being served by the hated Tutina, coffee and pastries, and had, in her manner, subtly and abundantly exploited the situation in such a way as to make abundantly clear to Tutina the servile nature of the task, and her own implicit superiority to her.

Now, of course, Ellen must suffer before Tutina, whom she must struggle to please with her serving.

And Tutina was not easily pleased.

Ellen was in misery, but she had no alternative but to serve with all the perfection of which she was capable. She was in the presence of her master. Too, later she knew, she might have to face the switch of Tutina. She feared that even a drop might be spilled upon the tablecloth. The subtleties between Ellen and Tutina doubtless escaped the attention of the guests, though, one supposes, from his amused expression, not that of their master.

Masters are often amused by such things, the small rivalries, altercations, frictions and tensenesses among their properties.

As the meal continued Ellen continued to serve the various courses, bringing them to the table.

At one point her master indicated the coffee table, and said, “You may clear, Ellen.”

“Yes, Sir,” she said, and went to clear the glasses, the plates and such, left earlier from the hors d’oeuvres and the sherry, from the coffee table. She referred to him as ‘Sir’, as she had been told.

She supposed that the room might have been arranged, as it was, in order that the new woman would be pleased, and feel more comfortable, more at home. It was certainly not Gorean in style, appointments, furnishings, and such. Gorean decor varies from latitude to latitude, from city to city, and home to home, but, in general, it tends to simplicity and openness, this presumably a heritage deriving from some remote tradition.

Ellen, quietly, deferentially, soon returned to the larger table, with its sparkling linen and elegant appointments, and, as appropriate, resumed her duties there, continuing to attend unobtrusively to the various courses. It was a lovely supper, surely, in its stateliness, gentility and sophistication, and might have been pleasantly, congenially served in almost any affluent, elegant home on her former world.

When spoken to she would quietly and respectfully respond with titles she had been told were to be used, ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’. She used ‘Ma’am’ also to Tutina.

She had now come to the fourth meat course.

It might be mentioned that the diners’ clothing was elegantly congruent with their surroundings. The two men wore tuxedos. The two women wore evening gowns. It was apparently a celebration of some sort, perhaps one at the conclusion of some piece of business brought to a successful conclusion, or some piece of work that was now finished, and with which they might be well satisfied.

In all the appointments and furnishings, in all the garmentures of the diners, and such, in all that seemed so elegant, so nicely arranged, so well fitted together, there was only one oddity, or anomaly, in the room.

“You men are monsters,” laughed the new woman, she unknown to Ellen.

“How is that” smiled her benign companion.

“Come now!” she laughed. “I have been silent long enough!”

Ellen’s master indicated that she should continue serving.

“No, no,” said the woman. “Your name is ‘Ellen’?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” said Ellen.

“Stop what you are doing,” said the woman, “and come here, and stand beside me.”

Ellen looked to her master, who indicated she should comply, and so, in a moment she had come about the table, and was standing beside the chair of the new woman, she unknown to her.

The one oddity, or anomaly, in the room was Ellen, for she was naked. She wore only a narrow band on her neck, a slave collar.

“You’re very pretty, Ellen,” said the woman.

“Thank you, Ma’am,” said Ellen.

“Why have you not been given clothing?” she asked.

“I am to serve as I am, Ma’am,” said Ellen, head down. She fought to hold back tears. Why, indeed, wondered Ellen, had her master had her serve in this fashion, naked, before strangers, before his guests, one of them a woman? Surely this could not be a common thing. Then she feared that it might be a common thing, or that it would be a common thing, at least for her. Can he hate me so much, she asked herself. Does it please him, she wondered, to treat me so ignominiously, to so unmitigatedly subjugate me, to so completely and absolutely humiliate me in this fashion, forcing me to serve as a naked slave? Then the thought came to her that of course it pleased him, and richly pleased him. He would derive from it much pleasure. She remembered their past. Yes, he would indeed enjoy having her serve guests as his naked slave! And then she had a sense of the powers and pleasures of the master.

But then she wondered, and this frightened her even more. Perhaps her master had had her serve so for no particular reason that had to do with her personally. At least in the one case, she would have some importance to him. At least in that case, she would have his attention, and interest. But perhaps he had merely had her serve naked in order to show her off, to display her, much as any lovely object one owns might be displayed. And if that were the case there was nothing particularly personal in his decision. Perhaps she was in no way special to him, but was now only another of perhaps several properties.

But then she thought, no, he wanted me here, me, exactly. He is doing this to me, personally. He wants me to feel the power and might of his will, and what he can have of me, what he can, if he wishes, make me do.

How he must hate me, she thought.

But I would rather have him hate me than ignore me, she thought. I love him. I love him!

“At least you have been given a piece of jewelry,” said the woman. “It sets you off nicely. It is extremely attractive. It is a collar of some sort, is it not?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” said Ellen.

“Bend down, here, near me,” said the woman, “so that I may have a closer look.”

Ellen complied, and the woman, then turned about in her chair, began to examine the flat, close-fitting, narrow band on her neck.

“Lower,” said the woman.

“Yes, Ma’am,” said Ellen.

Ellen felt her hair, at the back of her neck, brushed aside.

“There is a lock here,” said the woman, surprised.

“Yes,” said Mirus.

“Can you remove the collar, Ellen?” asked the woman.

“She cannot remove it,” said Mirus. “To be sure, it may be removed by means of the key, or by means of appropriate tools.”

The woman indicated that Ellen might straighten up, but did not dismiss her. Accordingly, Ellen must remain where she was, beside her.

“Shame on you, Mirus,” smiled the woman, “for not giving this pretty little thing clothing, for making her serve us naked.”

“Do not concern yourself,” said Mirus.

“And for putting her in a locked collar!”

“It is a slave collar,” said Mirus.

“A slave collar?” asked the woman.

“Yes,” said Mirus. “She is a slave girl.”

“You have female slavery on Gor?” said the woman.

“And male slavery,” said her companion, lifting his wine glass to her, as though toasting her.

“At least you are consistent!” she laughed.

“Male slaves,” said Mirus, “are less in evidence. It is not unusual for them to be kept chained, and put to heavy labors, in the fields, the quarries, the galleys, such places.”

“Female slaves, on the other hand, like our pretty little Ellen here,” said her companion, “are usually set to less arduous labors, though perhaps to tasks commonly more repetitive and servile. They are useful for domestic labors. Too, of course, they can be used with great frequency for purposes which comport with their beauty.”

“You can’t be serious,” said the woman.

“They are slave girls,” said her companion.

“They must do as they are told?” she asked.

“Yes,” said her companion, “absolutely, and instantly.”

“Are you a female slave, Ellen?” asked the woman.

“Yes, Ma’am,” said Ellen.

“Then you must obey in all things, absolutely and instantly?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” said Ellen.

“I thought that slaves were branded,” said the woman to Mirus.

“Not all,” said Mirus, “though it is recommended by Merchant Law. Turn your left thigh to our guest, Ellen. Look high, just under the hip.

“She is branded!” said the woman.

“Yes,” said Mirus.

“What a beautiful mark!” said the woman.

“It is the most common brand for a female slave on Gor,” said Mirus. “It is the cursive kef. ‘Kef’ is the first letter in the Gorean expression ‘kajira’, which means ‘slave girl’.”

“How beautifully it sets her off,” said the woman.

“It is recognized throughout Gor,” said Mirus. “It instantly, anywhere on this world, identifies its wearer as a female slave.”

So, thought Ellen, I have been given a common brand, that appropriate for any low girl! So that is how he thinks of me! That is how he rates me! But it is beautiful! And it is doubtless, if it is indeed the most common brand, worn by thousands, at least, of girls on this world. A common brand! But, of course, she thought, that is exactly the brand he would see to it that I would have!

He is that sort of master!

Ellen recalled that the first words she had been taught on Gor were ‘La kajira’ —’I am a slave girl.’ She had not understood at the time what they meant. How she had cried out with terror and misery when she had learned! It had occurred in the lesson where she was learning to bring a switch to a man in her teeth. She had had, of course, little doubt as to her nature and condition before that, but it had never been made so simply, so explicitly, clear to her. Perhaps it had been best left unsaid? Perhaps she was only being trained to be some sort of intimate servant? But surely that seemed unlikely, that the young man would have accorded her so exalted a status as “servant.” Not as his eyes had feasted upon her! Perhaps it was all a joke, or a dream? But then she heard the word, explicitly, and realized that slave was what she was, that that was now her absolute and incontrovertible identity, and that this identity, mercilessly imposed upon her, had behind it the full force of law.

It was interesting, she thought, that these words had been required of her so early, so soon after her arrival on Gor. Even then, it seemed, despite her reputation, her professionalism, her credentials, her achievements, her years, even then, it seemed, they had thought of her as no more than a slave girl.

So, thought Ellen, not all slaves are branded. But she supposed that most were, doubtless the overwhelming majority of them. Certainly in her case, it was easy to note, indeed, one had but to look in the mirror, that her master had not seen fit to exempt her from that apparently optional mercantile and social convenience, from bearing, it burned nicely into her thigh, that lovely, small, simple token of her condition. To be sure, it has its effects on the slave, as well. It impresses upon her that she is a slave, no more than a marked property, and this understanding profoundly affects her concept of herself, that she is only, but exactly, slave, giving it, perhaps to her terror and misery, structure, identity, depth, substance and meaning. She is no longer something vague, uncertain, confused, free-floating, unanchored, intangible, a nothing, a troubled, unhappy cipher, humanly meaningless, something without purpose, without definition, without direction. She is now something, and very precisely so. It informs her sense of her own body, its richness, vulnerability and beauty; it affects her thoughts, her feelings, her needs, her emotions, her entire existence. She now knows herself, in the very depths of her heart, something — slave.

How routinely she had been branded and collared!

To be sure, he had waited until he had had his fill of amusement, or vengeance, exploiting her, humiliating her, commanding her, exhibiting her before his guests, having her perform before them.

Then she had been routinely branded and collared.

Is it so obvious, she had asked herself, that I am a slave, that I should be a slave?

But on a world such as this what could a woman such as I be but a slave?

Is that not the purpose for which women such as I are brought to this world, to be the helpless, rightless slaves of absolute and sovereign masters?

But had he not, apart from such things, aside from all such considerations, such general things, simply looked upon me long ago, personally, individually, uniquely, and seen that I was a slave, and should be a slave?

Had he conjectured me then, I wonder, stripped, perhaps bound helplessly, hand and foot, lying before him, at his feet, his?

Certainly there had been little ceremony about it. It was rather as though it were to be expected, as though it were something to be taken for granted, something obvious, something to be accomplished in the normal course of things, at least with one such as she. She had been taken to a room, where she had been stripped and had had her hands braceleted behind her; she had then been placed in the rack, in which her left leg had been held immobile. The marking itself took only a few moments. While she was gasping, and sobbing, and crying, shuddering, trying to comprehend the enormity of what had been done to her, the collar had been put on her neck, and locked. The anklet was then removed. It was apparently no longer needed. Her tunic had then been put in her mouth and she had been returned, bent over, in leading position, a guard’s hand in her hair, to her cage. In the hall a girl laughed and said, “You are now no different from us!” Another said, “See the one who was the pretentious little Ubara, now only another marked slut!” “Are you humbled now, Collar Meat?” inquired another. “Put the little Ubara up for sale!” said another. “She is well ready!” “Beat her and throw her to a master,” called another. “Mind them not,” called another. “You are exquisite!” “The sleek little beast has been well marked,” said another. “It is high time,” laughed another.” “Why did they wait?” asked another. “Who knows?” “Do not question masters,” said another. “They do as they wish!” “You have a lovely brand!” called another. “Do I, Master?” begged Ellen. “Yes,” he said. “You are now no different from us,” cried another. “See the collar! See the collar!” laughed another. “More collar meat!” cried another. “For the masters!” added another. “See the collar!” “How nicely it fits!” “Slip it, slut!” “Oh, you cannot, can you?” moaned another in mock sympathy. “Poor kajira!” “It looks well on you, little Ubara!” “It looks nice on you!” “Get used to collars, Earth slut! You will doubtless wear dozens!” “Your collar is pretty,” said another, “but not so pretty as mine!” “Master?” asked Ellen. “No,” said the guard. “Yours is quite as pretty, perhaps more so.” Ellen could not even feel the collar on her neck, but she turned her head, and moved it, as she could, the hand so tight in her hair, to feel it. It was there. Her thigh still stung, but that would pass in a day or two. “How beautiful she is,” said a girl, from within a cell. “She should bring a high price,” commented another. “No,” said a third, “she is too young!” “And she is too stupid and ignorant,” said another. “She is from Earth, no more than a little barbarian!” “But she is pretty!” said another. “A very pretty girl!” “Men will prefer a woman,” said another. “She is a woman,” said another, “and men will find her delicious.” “She will writhe well beneath their whips,” said another. “See yourself, see yourself!” called another. “See yourself as you are now, pretentious little Earth slut!” “Kajira! Kajira!” called another. “May I see, Master? May I see, Master?” she had begged. “No,” he had said. So she must wait. The bracelets would not be removed until the next morning. At her first opportunity, the next day, she hurried to her training room, to take advantage of the mirrors there. And she beheld in one of the great mirrors — as she gasped, as she stood there, stunned, even disbelievingly — a startlingly beautiful young female slave. The Gorean culture, with its penchant for naturalness and beauty, and with skills doubtless honed in slave houses over generations, had learned well how to dress and adorn its lovely chattels, so natural, and essential, and beautiful a part of its rich and complex world. There would be no mistake about such things. She regarded herself in the mirror, taken aback, almost in awe. Could it be she? It was she, she realized, it was! It could be no other! It was she! How the collar enhanced her beauty, in a thousand ways, aesthetically and psychologically, and how delicately, unmistakably, and beautifully, too, was her status, condition, and nature made clear, fixedly and absolutely, by the tiny, tasteful mark placed in her body, in her thigh, just beneath the hip, a site recommended by Merchant Law, a mark proclaiming her the most exciting and beautiful of women, kajira.

And so Ellen was now in attendance at table, waiting on her master and his guests in an unusual room. The linens, crystal and tableware, the tasteful appointments and gracious furnishings, the general decor, were all very much, as we have noted, as though of Earth. Surely as far as she could tell, they were indistinguishable in quality and nature from the finest which her former world might have offered. It would not have been surprising to have found such a room in the suburban mansion of a man of wealth and position. She wondered if it might not be a reconstruction of such a room. Perhaps its furnishings, and such, had been brought from Earth? Everything was much as it might have been on Earth. There was one anomaly, of course, as we recall, she, herself. Ellen, amongst fully clothed, elegantly attired guests, serving, was naked, and branded and collared.

This was doubtless as he wanted her, as it amused him to have her, as it pleased him to have her.

To be sure, men are fond of looking upon their properties, their houses, their works of art, their collections, their lands, their gardens, their forests, their dogs and horses, their women.

Too, men, the vain beasts, enjoy showing off their possessions.

Oh, she had little doubt that her master enjoyed showing her off, but his pleasure, she was sure, extended well beyond the simple pleasures and vanities of displaying a possession. It involved, as well, she was sure, a sense of exultant triumph, that had much to do with their biographies. It was not then simply a matter of display, but of triumph, of the sweet taste of total victory, as well. She was being paraded, if only the two of them understood that, rather as a subjugated antagonist, a conquered foe, a former fair opponent now vanquished and helplessly enslaved. Conceive, if you will, the analogy of a once-haughty, once-vain princess, her armies now scattered and crushed, chained naked to the chariot of a general, being led in triumph through jubilant crowds. How soon she would hope that this noise, this pressing and raucous clamor, might end and that she then, a lowly, unimportant slave, might be permitted to simply lose herself amongst other slaves, and become what she, in her chains, has now discovered herself to be, a female, and the rightful property of a man.

She wondered if he had sometimes, in the classroom, so long ago, pondered what she might look like, nude, so marked, so collared. Perhaps he had imagined her, long ago, in the classroom, as she moved about before the class, as being so, as being naked, and branded and collared. She no longer wore the anklet. But it had not been removed until she had been branded and collared. Thus, there had remained, at all times, some token of bondage on her body.

“Then, Ellen,” laughed the woman, “you are nothing but livestock, nothing but a pretty little piece of livestock, nothing but a domestic animal, nothing but a pretty little branded domestic animal!”

Tears sprang to Ellen’s eyes. But she must stand in her collar where she was. She flung a piteous, begging look at her master.

“Answer our guest, Ellen,” he said, kindly.

“Yes, Ma’am,” Ellen sobbed.

“Please forgive Ellen,” said Mirus, her master. “She has not been so long in the collar. Much is new to her. She may not yet fully understand the meaning of the band on her neck, the mark on her thigh.”

“But is it not unusual that you would have her serve naked?” asked the woman.

“Gorean feasts are often served by naked slaves,” said Mirus.

“Why?” demanded the woman, angrily.

“It improves the appetite,” said Mirus, smiling.

“Of course!” she said, angrily.

Her formally dressed companion, who had been muchly silent, but muchly, too, intent upon her, laughed.

“Do not encourage him,” she chided.

“If you were a man,” he said, “you would understand how it is very pleasant to be served by a naked slave.”

“I do not doubt it,” she said, coldly.

“It can be very pleasant for the slave, as well,” said Mirus. “It can give her many warm and delicious feelings, the honor of being permitted to approach and serve masters, the understanding that she is wanted, and desired, and owned, the gratification of being enabled to display herself, in the order of nature, as an acknowledged and total female before strong men, and so on.”

“Undoubtedly,” said the woman, angrily.

Ellen noted that the woman was very beautiful. She wore an off-the-shoulder evening dress, and her shoulders were sweetly wide and soft, perhaps alluringly so. The charms of her bosom were amply but subtly, not vulgarly, suggested. She was doubtless a woman of high intelligence and exquisite taste. Her companion seemed unable to take his eyes from her. About her throat there was a tasteful, close-fitting, single strand of pearls.

Ellen thought to herself, somewhat reluctantly, that she had perhaps not minded so serving as much as she might have supposed. To be sure, there had been an intense sting of humiliation as she understood what she was to do, and that she must obey unquestioningly, and that her helpless service and abject obedience would amuse and gratify her master, but, after her initial confusion, shame and blushings, and stumbling once, and almost dropping a plate, she was aware, bit by bit, that she did not mind, so much, what she was doing. She had begun to feel warm sensations, and a sense of her place in these things, and her specialness. She was pleased, too, to be naked before her master, and she did not doubt that he “found her flanks of interest,” and the gaze of the other man had certainly been, at the least, warmly approbatory. After their eyes had met once, fully, she had not dared to look at him again, not so openly or directly. But several times during the evening, when his attentions were not completely absorbed by his charming companion, she had sensed his eyes, those of a powerful male, on her youthful, well-turned, stripped body. So she did have some sense of what it might be to serve masters thusly, and she found herself, in her way, appreciated and prized. And so she served shyly, sometimes fighting strange sensations in her body. She could not deny that serving men as a naked slave called up from deep within her strange, surprising, unfamiliar feelings. It disturbed her in some very unsettling, but warm and pleasant, and deliciously troubling, way. It made her feel terribly feminine, helplessly and beautifully feminine. She wondered if this might be an erotic experience for her. What a strange thing, she thought, and so surprisingly beautiful, to begin to feel the warmth and wonder of one’s own sex. How few women, she feared, felt their femininity. It had been denied to them for centuries by one sort of fanatics and now it was again being denied to them, on her own world, by a new form of fanatics, building on the insanities, cruelties and envy of their predecessors, utilizing the poisons of the past in the interests of unnatural, self-serving political objectives. What are these strange feelings, she wondered, which I am beginning to feel, these enticing, delightfully tormenting feelings? Will I be able to resist them? Will they take me over, will they conquer me, will they put a rope on my neck and drag me zealously, helplessly, eagerly, panting after them? Am I to become their captive, their victim and prisoner? Am I to wear their leash, their bonds, as a helpless slave? Am I to become one of those low girls who whimper and scratch at the sides of their kennels? She was beginning, she feared, to feel sensations sometimes referred to vulgarly in Gorean as the burning, or the fires, in the slave belly. If she had been alone with her master, so serving, she would have begged for his least caress. Even had he impatiently cuffed her to the side, she felt that she might, in gratitude, have crawled back, begging to lick and kiss the hand that had administered the blow.

She loved him. He was her master. She was his slave.

“Surely you are aware,” said Mirus, her master, to the woman whom she did not know, she in the lovely off-the-shoulder gown, “that in the history of Earth, for thousands of years, slavery was an accepted, approved, and prized institution.”

“No longer,” she said.

“In certain parts of the world it still is,” he said, “but, more to the point, the intelligence of the ancients and medievals, and such, was not inferior to our own, and, in many respects, most would grant, many of them, perhaps the majority, were morally superior to large numbers of our lying, cheating, thieving, greedy, envious contemporary representatives of manufactured “mass man.” Most of them had no objection to slavery, and, indeed, saw its values. Certainly you can understand how it might alleviate many social problems, one among many being that of expanding, uncontrolled populations intent on transforming a once verdant, lovely planet into arid, sterile ecological garbage. To be sure, there are many ways of solving social problems, and Earth is clearly moving to imperialistic centralization, to statism, collectivism and authoritarianism, in which, to control matters, human beings will become in fact, if not in name, slaves of the state. An alternative to both a lying world in which it is claimed that all are free, when they are not, a world hastening to disaster, and a world in which all are slaves, would be a world in which masters are masters and slaves are slaves.”

“Such things are not possible on Earth,” she said.

“They were,” he said, “and may be again. Propaganda mills, as you know, may be quickly adjusted. Reality occasionally intrudes. Houses of cards do not well withstand the winds of a changing world. Obvious historical imperatives may dictate policy, at least to those capable of understanding them, and with the power to act upon them. The media will run like dogs to the whistles of their masters, whether it be their audiences, their advertisers or the state. What is seen as necessary will be adopted. Falsity and absurdity can be defended, so why not truth and practicality? If certain words are offensive, those particular words need not be used; I prefer them because I like to speak plainly; I prefer ‘master’ and ‘slave’ to ‘servant of the people’ and ‘citizen’.”

“You have never spoken to me like this before,” she said.

“This is a memorable night,” he said lifting his wine glass to her. “I do not think you will ever forget it.”

“For me?” she asked.

“For all of us,” said her companion, he, too, lifting his glass to her in a pleasant salute.

“Putting aside deeper matters,” said Mirus, “you expressed interest in Ellen and in the fact that she must serve naked.”

The woman looked at him. She, too, had lifted her glass of wine, though, to be sure, merely to take from it a tiny, dainty sip.

“We are all familiar with war,” he said. “In war, it is a familiar practice for the victors to despoil the conquered. They take from them what they desire, whatever seems of value. For example, in this fashion, it has been a familiar practice of victors to take the women of conquered men from them and make them their slaves. Surely you are aware of this.”

“Of course,” said the woman.

Ellen wondered if the woman was aware of her companion’s gaze, of how his eyes seemed to glitter upon her.

Would she not have screamed in terror, and fled?

“You are perhaps also aware that at the victory feasts of conquerors not unoften the women of the enemy, the women of the conquered, and, ideally, those formerly of the highest station, the most aristocratic of the enemy’s women, those of the richest and most exalted blood, the noblest and the proudest, the most envied, as well as the most beautiful, all now embonded, must serve their new masters.”

“I knew something of this, vaguely,” she said.

“But did you know,” he asked, “that they must serve their new masters naked?”

“Yes,” she said, reddening, “I knew something of that.”

“Well,” said Mirus. “That is much what is the case with our little Ellen here.”

“You have taken her from conquered men?” she asked.

“In a sense, I suppose so,” he said. “For the men of her world have for the most part been conquered by their women. Thus they are conquered men, or many of them. And all I have done is to take one of those “conquering women” and bring her here, to return her, for my amusement, to her place in the order of nature. I thought I might let her see what it is like to be among true men.”

Ellen trembled.

She was a slave — utterly — and on Gor.

“Ellen, of course,” said he, “is not of the upper classes, or such, such as yourself, though we occasionally take in such, but she makes an excellent example of a type. She was a feminist, and was accordingly, in a sense, engaged in a war with men. To be sure, not an open war, not an honest, war. That war, however, for her, is over. And so she is for me a prize of war. She lost. To the victor belong the spoils. I have made her mine, as a slave. Thusly, compatible with historical precedent, I have her serve at my feast, my victory feast, naked.”

“Bravo!” said the other man.

“Have we not business to attend to?” asked the woman.

“But supper is not yet over,” said her companion. “Surely you would not deprive us of further courses, nor of our dessert?”

“No,” she laughed. “Of course not!”

“Ellen,” said Mirus.

“Sir?” said Ellen.

“You will continue to serve,” he said. “After dessert, we will have the coffee and liqueurs at the coffee table.”

“Yes, Sir,” said Ellen.

****

“It is beautiful,” said the woman, she in the off-the-shoulder white gown, admiring the twenty weighty double ingots of gold.

They had been carried in, ingot by ingot, and stacked on the rug, near the coffee table, by two guards.

“These, too,” said the woman’s companion, “were, as I recall, a part of our arrangement.” He produced a small leather pouch and, loosening its draw strings, opened it. Into the palm of his hand he poured a small shower of scintillating diamonds.

“Lovely!” she exclaimed.

He returned them, carefully, to the pouch, and handed them to her. She put them into her small, white, matching dress purse.

“Thusly are you paid,” said her companion.

“Even were you not heretofore a rich woman,” said Mirus, “you would be now.”

“You are surely generous,” laughed the woman.

Tutina stood nearby, smiling.

Ellen was to one side, standing. She had not yet been given permission to clear. She had struggled, during the evening, to understand the conversation. It was in English and so there was no difficulty in her following the words, only the meanings. It was not as though they took care to speak guardedly in her presence, for she was only a slave. It was rather that they understood so much among themselves, and took so much for granted, that to the uninitiated, to the outsider, such as the slave, Ellen, it very little made sense. Too much was implicit. Ellen did gather that clandestine business arrangements of considerable scope were afoot. The concerns, or tentacles, of whatever combine or conglomerate, or organization, was involved seemed to have far-reaching ramifications, ramifications affecting worlds. Surely it had its representatives, or outposts, or offices, on her former world as well as on this, her new world. Many highly placed individuals on both worlds, it seemed, for example, on Earth, in government and business, were not only apprised of, but implicated in, these matters. They extended far beyond the trivia of harvesting lovely women for vending in Gorean markets. The business of capturing, transporting and selling well-curved, helpless living flesh might, she suspected, be little more than a byproduct of more serious enterprises. To be sure, it doubtless had its at least minimally significant place in the economy of their schemes. There was doubtless money to be made in such matters. Her collar, for example, was quite real. She accepted that she was property, and could be sold. There was no gainsaying that. On the other hand, she was confident that her master would not sell her. Surely he had not brought her here to sell her, not after their relationship of long ago. She suspected that he must somehow love her, though perhaps in his own hard, severe, uncompromising, possessive way. Surely she loved him, and, doubtless, even from the first, though such things had not been so clear to her then, as a vulnerable, submissive slave. I think he loves me, she thought, though this may now be unbeknownst to himself. And even if he did not love her, she had little doubt that he “found her flanks of interest.” And this did not dismay her. Rather she welcomed it. She, his slave, wanted to be an object of commanding, unabashed lust to him, wanted to be to him an object of powerful, violent sexual desire. On this world she had become so aware of the stirrings in her own blood, confronted with his physicality, that she, in her own complementary, soft, vulnerable, beautiful physicality, longed to be taken in his arms, longed to yield to him as the property he owned, longed to be put ecstatically, in rapture, to the ruthless pleasures of her beloved master.

“But as you know,” laughed the young woman in the white, off-the-shoulder gown, “I never joined you as a mercenary. I am not the sort of person who would work for mere pay. On Earth, I am quite amply provided for, independently. Your riches, marvelous as they may be, were not the lure that brought me to your endeavors.”

“We understand,” said her companion, “that it was not mere gain, worthless pelf, which brought you into our service.”

“Into your endeavors,” she smiled. “No,” she said, “it was for the adventure of the thing. Life was so boring for me. I had everything, and so it held so little. But here I found excitement, intrigue. I require stimulation. I thrive on danger.”

“Oh?” said her companion.

“Yes,” she said. “It was to escape boredom that I joined your cause, that I became a secret, unsuspected agent in your cause.”

“Your contacts were useful,” said her companion. “They were of great value to us.”

“I also appreciated your attention to some small details,” she said.

“The women, the debutantes, certain women who had dared to be critical of your life and behavior, certain gossips, certain rivals you disapproved of, those you called to our attention?”

“Yes,” she said. “You did not hurt them, I trust.”

“They would not be hurt by us,” he said.

“Not by you?” she asked.

“At least in no way that was not in their new long-term interest.”

“What did you do with them?” she asked.

“Guess,” he suggested.

She then caught sight of Ellen, standing to the side, unobtrusively awaiting the command to clear. Ellen looked down, immediately. Something in her belly, which she did not entirely understand, made her apprehensive in the presence of a free woman. A free woman, in her status, in her loftiness and power, in her glory and might, was another form of being altogether, quite different from herself.

“No!” exclaimed the woman, delightedly.

“Yes,” smiled her companion, “we made them slaves. Some changes had to be made in some of them, as you would suppose, recourse had to certain serums, and such, to make them acceptable for the markets, but it was all taken care of, in good order.”

“What of Annette?” she asked.

“She wears her collar on the island of Cos.”

“Annette in a collar!” she said. “How delightful!”

“She is fetching in it, as other desirable slaves.”

“And Marjorie?”

“Sold south to Schendi, where she now serves a black master.”

“Allison?”

“To the Barrens, for two hides.”

“Michelle?”

“To Torvaldsland, as a bondmaid, for a keg of salted parsit fish.”

“And Gillian?”

“The columnist?”

“Yes.”

“The serums worked well for her. She became quite comely.”

“Do you know her disposition?”

“She was sold south to Turia, but the caravan was ambushed by Tuchuks, a fierce nomadic people. I would not worry about her. She will doubtless show up, eventually, in one of the southern markets.”

“Perhaps one of Turia’s markets itself,” said Mirus.

“I would not doubt it,” said the woman’s companion. “And have no fear but what the others were judiciously distributed, as well.”

“Did you let them know my role in this, that it was I who designated them for their fates?”

“Certainly,” he said, “and you may well conjecture their dismay, their wild cries, and tears, their helpless rage, how they pulled at their chains, trying to rise, or seized and shook, in futile fury, the bars of their tiny cages.”

“Wonderful! Wonderful!” said the woman. “Jeffrey, you are such a dear!” She then gave him a quick, affectionate kiss on the left cheek. “You are a darling!” she said.

This was the first time Ellen had heard the name of her companion.

“I will arrange to have the gold delivered to your chamber,” said Mirus, “where you will spend the night.”

“I must thank you for your hospitality,” she said to Mirus, warmly. “It was a lovely supper. It is a beautiful room. I am so pleased to make your acquaintance.” She turned to Tutina. “You have been terribly quiet all evening, my dear,” she said. “I feel so terribly guilty. But the men and I had so much to talk about. You understand. But still you should not have allowed us to monopolize the conversation.”

Tutina smiled.

“I hope your ankle improves quickly,” said the woman.

“Thank you,” said Tutina.

“You may clear, Ellen,” said Mirus.

“Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir,” she said. She set about clearing the table, putting the various utensils, vessels and plates on the serving cart. She would later clear the coffee table.

“Good-bye, Ellen,” called the woman in the off-the-shoulder gown, sweetly.

“Good-bye, Ma’am. Thank you, Ma’am,” said Ellen.

Happily, the woman’s pleasant, dismissive tone of voice had been absolutely clear. Else Ellen might have been terribly frightened. But the utterance had clearly involved no suggested recognition of Ellen as a person, suggesting that she might be a human being in her own right, instead of the animal she was, for that would have been improper, and would have frightened Ellen, particularly as she was in the presence of her master. But, happily, the utterance had been no more than a casually generous, almost thoughtless, unbegrudged gift from a superior to an inferior. And surely it was. For Ellen knew herself as her absolute inferior, as the woman was free, and she, Ellen, was bond. Ellen cast a quick, frightened glance at her master but his gaze reassured her that her response had been apt. Indeed, she saw, with mixed feelings, that he regarded her as a quick, bright slave. She feared that that might put him more on his guard against her. But surely he must understand that the intelligence of a woman did not disappear in the searing moment her flesh took the iron, or the instant that her small neck felt clasped upon it a steel band.

Ellen, head down, continued to clear. She made as little noise as possible.

“It has all been so exciting,” said the woman. “I have been so stimulated. I used to be so bored, but now I am not bored, at all!”

“Excellent,” said her companion.

“I have enjoyed the intrigue, being a secret agent!” she laughed.

“And you have done well,” said her companion. “Because of you the politics of two worlds are now subtly different from before. The Kurii are grateful to you. In their wars with Priest-Kings you have served them well.”

“Served?” she smiled.

“Let us say then that you have proved yourself a useful, valuable agent.”

“That is better,” said the woman.

This puzzled Ellen.

She had heard of Priest-Kings, but did not believe they existed. Supposedly they were strange men of some sort, and lived in a remote area called the Sardar Mountains. She understood them to be a part of the mythology of this strange world, nonexistent, like sleen, tarns, and such. Kurii she had never heard of, at all. Perhaps they were another sort of strange men, who lived somewhere else. Since they were mentioned in connection with Priest-Kings, she thought that perhaps they did not exist either. Such expressions, she surmised, might be code names for competitive organizations or factions. That hypothesis pleased her, though she was not clear why free persons should have recourse to code names before a mere slave.

“Alas, now,” smiled the woman, “I fear I must return to my daily, boring round of parties, and such.”

“Surely there must be uses to which you could still be put,” said her companion.

“I hope so,” she said, warmly.

“I am sure of it,” he said.

“I do crave excitement,” she said. “I want stimulation. I hate being bored.”

“I suspect,” said her companion, “that there is more excitement in store for you, and I doubt that you will, in the future, lack for stimulation. And whatever your problems might prove to be in the future, I doubt that boredom will rank high amongst them.”

“You are such a dear, Jeffrey,” she smiled.

“Surely I can be rewarded with another kiss,” said her companion, as though plaintively.

“Naughty boy!” she chided.

“Please,” he wheedled.

“Very well,” she said. Again she touched him briefly on the left cheek, a flick of a kiss, a tiny peck. “There!” she said.

How beautiful and white her shoulders, thought Ellen. How she must excite a man. I wish I were so beautiful. I wonder what a man would pay for her, a great deal I would suppose.

“I fear it is late,” said her companion, the man called Jeffrey.

“Yes,” she agreed.

The woman then bid good-night to Mirus and Tutina.

“The gold will be delivered to your chamber, where you will be spending the night,” said Mirus.

“Thank you,” she said.

Various leave-taking pleasantries were exchanged. Ellen, in this leave taking, to her relief, was ignored.

“On the way to your chamber,” said her companion, “there is another chamber, too, which I would like to show you.”

“Very well,” she said.

A moment later, Tutina, too, with a glance at Mirus, left.

Then Ellen and her master were alone.

He went to the long table, and took the chair at the head of the table, which he had occupied during dinner, and pulled it a bit away from the table. He then sat within it, seemingly lost in thought.

Ellen supposed that he had drawn the chair away from the table, before reposing in it, to enable her the more easily to clear the table. It only became clear to her later that he had wanted the chair more in the center of the room, for a different reason, that there might then be a cleared space before it, on the rug.

When the guests had departed the two guards returned and, ingot by ingot, picked up the gold, and, slowly, carefully, carried it into the next room. A broad, flat wagon was there, too large to fit flat through the smaller door, that leading from the room to the corridor and kitchen. There was another portal, one wider and more auspicious, in the room, a double door of some dark wood, that through which the guests and Mirus had originally entered. Ellen had, of course, used the smaller door in her serving, that giving eventual access to the kitchen. Interestingly, the woman’s companion, conducting her, had exited with her through the smaller door. That led to the corridor, and thence to the kitchen, and various other corridors, and to several areas more in the back of the house.

Ellen worked to clear the table.

She did not rush to do this.

At times, at least, she was sure that her master’s eyes were upon her.

Whereas a slave may be forced to humiliating haste, perhaps crawling in terror before the strokes of a whip, unseemly hurryings, the industrial frenzies, so to speak, of technological cultures, are generally alien to the Gorean consciousness. Theirs is not a clock-ridden culture; on Gor life tends to be genially paced, regulated more by the season of the year and the position of the sun; it is not conceived of in terms of metaphors drawn from factories, in material terms, in terms of input and output, in terms of units of product processed over units of time. Its rhythms are less the periodic turbulences of rush hours, the blinkings of colored, regulatory lights, carefully timed, the staccato clickings and hammerings, the stops and starts, of the assembly line, than those of tides, and winds, and clouds and rain, the appearance and disappearance of stars, the comings and goings of light and darkness, the cycles of hunger, the cycles of desire, those of the beating of the heart and the circulation of the blood.

Ellen did not hasten in her work but took care, rather, to do it well. To be sure, she knew that clumsiness was not tolerated in a female slave. If she should drop a plate or break a glass, or spill a beverage, or even move awkwardly, she knew she might expect to be tied to a ring and beaten.

Above all, though this may seems strange to some, the female slave is not permitted to move with the abruptness, the clumsiness, the awkwardness, the gross, unconscionable, offensive, mannish motions permitted to a free woman. As a female slave she is expected to be muchly aware of her very different, very lovely, very special body, so exciting and wondrous, and to carry it, and present it, beautifully. She is not a free woman. She is a female, and must move as such. The female slave is a female, and thus femininity is required of her. She is trained to be aware of her body and to move well. Sometimes men do not know why they are so exciting, but sense, somehow, that each movement, each nuance of expression, bespeaks subtly their profound, released femininity.

And so Ellen worked, muchly aware that she was a slave, muchly aware that she was in the presence of her master.

She had never felt so beautiful and feminine as she had on Gor.

Never before had she even begun to sense the depths of her sex. There had been nothing of this, surely, in the courses she had taught, in the texts she had read.

Strange, she thought, how those who on her world made so much of women were oblivious, as far as she could tell, of these things, to these sensations, and feelings. Perhaps they had never met a true man, she thought.

She wondered if women of her own world, or many of them, realized that they might be graceful and beautiful, and feminine. Did they understand that even small labors, like clearing a table, might be performed beautifully, gracefully? Did they understand that anytime, at their various activities, even, say, during their day, at their various forms of work, or play, or whatever, they might be beautiful, and graceful, and women?

Or did they fear the scorn, the ridicule, the cruelty, of the female haters of their own sex?

She hoped that her sisters on a far world might one day become conscious of themselves, truly, despite what might be the consequences attendant upon such an awakening.

“You move well, slut,” snarled Mirus.

She had not doubted that he was watching her.

“Is master aroused?” she asked.

“You will rue that,” he said.

“You have had me trained,” she said, “at least to some extent. I find that I move unconsciously now in certain ways. I do not even think of it any longer. Given my training, how could I help but move as I do now? Surely you do not object. And did I not move in this way now, did I not now move in a way natural for my body, would I not be beaten?”

“Continue your work,” he said.

“I shall be finished shortly,” she said.

She did not know this at the time but many Goreans can tell the difference between free women and female slaves, even when the latter are clothed in the garments of the former, so internalized, so ingredient, so manifest is femininity in the female slave. Sometimes fleeing female slaves, runaways, attempting to escape hated masters in the clothing of free women are simply stopped, unceremoniously, and stripped, their brands and collars then revealed. They are then returned to the dreaded mercies of their masters. The garmenture of free women and slaves, of course, differs considerably, that of the slave tending to be far briefer and more revealing. Incidentally, a slave can be slain for putting on the garment of a free woman. It is permissible, though frowned upon, for a free woman to put on the garb of a slave. Also, it is quite dangerous to do so. Many free women, so garmenting themselves, as an adventure, thinking to have the run of the city, to go into areas forbidden to free women, to see the insides of paga taverns, and such, have, to their horror, found themselves, gagged and blindfolded, struggling futilely in the tight ropes of slavers.

A slave may also be slain for touching a weapon.

She did not doubt but what her master found her of interest.

No longer, of course, did she feel it incumbent upon her to pretend to indignation or dismay, such hypocrisies and dishonesties, when she sensed a man’s interest in her. She now, as a slave, was well aware that she might be found of interest. Indeed, given her beauty, and her current status and condition, she took it as a matter of course that she would be found of interest. Who would not find a slave of interest, particularly one such as she? How boldly and with what pleasure men now looked upon her! Too, she now expected to be so viewed and hoped that she would be so viewed. Indeed, she might fear that she might not be so viewed, that she might not be found of interest. Her very life, as she now knew, might depend on such things.

Perhaps long ago,” she said, “you imagined what I might look like, as a naked slave, yours, obeying, doing your bidding, as I am now, knowing that I had no choice, too, but to move as a female slave before you.”

“You have not yet finished your work,” he said.

“To be sure,” she said, “Master could not have known what I would have looked like at the age of eighteen.”

“It seems the slave is garrulous,” he said.

“I trust that Master is not disappointed with the body of an eighteen-year-old slave,” she said.

“You are a pretty eighteen-year-old slave, Ellen,” he said.

She finished the table, putting the last plates on the serving cart. How strange, she thought, that I should have this eighteen-year-old body. And yet it is mine, or, better, I suppose, it is now what I am. To be sure, its neck is in a slave collar. Or, better, I, I myself, am in a slave collar. I myself, what I now am, am in a slave collar. She dared not tell him that she loved to be in a slave collar, to be a slave. She dared not tell him that she had now come to recognize herself as a natural slave, who should, in all propriety, and in view of all rights whatsoever, wear a collar. She loved her new condition, and her collar. How could she tell him that? How could he respect her, if he knew that? She wanted his respect. Thus, surely she must pretend to be a lamenting free woman inappropriately subjected, however categorically, to an unfortunate fate.

“It is customary for a slave to thank a free person for a compliment,” he said. “You may thank me,” he said. His remarks were not really critical; rather, they seemed instructional, their intent seeming to be merely to help an ignorant girl to better understand her collar.

“I should thank you for making me an eighteen-year-old slave?” she asked.

“For pointing out that you are a pretty eighteen-year-old slave,” he said.

“Thank you, Master,” she said. She had blushed, totally, suffused with warmth and pleasure, when he had commended her. She hoped that it had not been obvious, in the subdued light of the room. Then she had pretended, of course, to be reluctant to acknowledge the compliment.

She must keep from him what she was in her heart, a natural slave, a rightful slave.

She would later learn to live for such things, a kind word, an approving glance, a crust cast to the floor before her, a caress.

She had now moved the cart about the long table, and to the front of the coffee table. There, bending down, crouching gracefully, under her master’s eye, she cleared the smaller table.

He enjoys seeing me do this sort of work, she thought. He enjoys seeing me perform such small, trivial domestic labors. I was once his teacher. Now I must clear his tables, and such. He is having an erotic experience, watching me do this, she thought. Surely she, herself, was having an erotic experience, so serving. She understood then something of the subtle, radiating, profound, pervasive eroticism of female bondage. It was an ambiance, a condition, in its way, of her life.

“You have now reverted, I note,” said he, “to the normal modalities of discourse, the use of ‘Master’ to the master, and such.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“You are a bright slave, Ellen,” he said.

“Thank you, Master,” she said.

It had seemed to her that ‘Sir’, and such expressions, for whatever reasons they were used during the supper, would not now be appropriate, and might even be offensive, if not inexcusable. It was her sense that she should return to the normal, appropriate modalities of discourse, those normal and appropriate for such as she. That she did so without explicit permission she trusted would not be an occasion for the imposition of discipline. To have asked would have seemed to her, in the circumstances, stupid, and she did not wish to appear a stupid slave before her master. There are many delicacies, many subtleties, in the relationship in which she found herself, that of abject slave to total master, and slaves, as you may suppose, come very quickly to appreciate them. Commonly the slave will ask permission to speak, but not always; she may behave in one way before her master if a free woman is present, in another way if only another man is present, and in yet another way if she and the master are alone; sometimes she knows her master delights to hear her speak eloquently and lyrically before him, even for Ahn at a time, and is eager to attend to, share and relish, the smallest of her thoughts and feelings; at other times she knows that so little as a raised head may bring her a stroke of the lash; at times the master will wish to be alone; at other times she knows it will be acceptable for her to crawl to him and whimper, beggingly, of her needs. She soon learns, or suffers for the failure to do so, to read the whims and moods of the master. This is common, of course, in a variety of other domestic animals, as well.

“You have finished with the clearing,” he said. “Take the cart back to the kitchen.”

“Yes, Master,” she said. “When I have done so, should I report back to my cage?”

“You want the leather, don’t you?” he asked.

“No, Master!” she said.

“You will return here, and kneel before me.”

He indicated the place on the rug before his chair.

“Yes, Master!” she said. Then she put down her head, quickly, that he might not see how elated she was.

In a moment she had wheeled the cart to the smaller of the two doors, and worked it through, and was soon in the hall outside.

There were two guards outside.

She knelt and put her head to the stones of the floor. “I am expected to return, Masters,” she said. When she looked up she saw the expressions of the guards. Had she not expected to return?

Quickly she leaped up and sped the cart down the corridor. Then she slowed her pace, as she heard the guards laugh. She was embarrassed to show herself an eager slave, hurrying to return to the master’s presence. But as soon as she rounded a bend in the corridor, she once again began to hurry. Are you an eager slave, Ellen, she asked herself, for she was now Ellen, and thought of herself as such. Of course not, she told herself! I would not run to him like a common, amorous slave, a helpless, panting bitch beside herself with heat! But she did not slow her pace. It would not do to keep the master waiting, she told herself. Indeed, it might not be wise to do so. If I dally in my return, he might give me the leather! This thought, that she might be beaten if she were late, thrilled her. It was not that she wished to feel the leather, certainly not now, but rather that she was thrilled to be such, a slave, that she must fear it. He is so strong, so commanding. I must obey him, she thought. Over me he is totally dominant. Before him I can be only what I am, a helpless, submissive slave! I wonder, she thought. I wonder if I am in heat? Could I, given what I was on Earth, that lofty, respectable, cool, remote, formal, inert, frigid thing, now be in heat, be simply in heat? Could I now be only another low girl, another common, amorous slave, another bitch beside herself with heat! Not I, surely. But perhaps I am in heat! In any event it will be wise for me to return to my master soon. It charmed her that she thought of him so simply, so directly, as her master. But then she shuddered, for she knew that in truth, in reality, he was her master. He owned her.

****

She knelt naked before him, on the rug before his chair.

She knelt before him, in her collar, in the basic position of the Gorean pleasure slave, back on her heels, her back straight, her head up, the palms of her hands on her thighs, her knees spread, widely.

A rather different sort of slave, familiar in the “high cities,” in the “cylinder cities,” one more domestically oriented, is the “tower slave.” She is permitted to kneel with her knees closed. On the other hand, when her master, perhaps one evening, orders her to spread her knees, she understands that the scope of her duties has been enlarged. Ellen was under no delusion as to the sort of slave she was. Her duties would doubtless include those of the tower slave, but would, given the sort of slave she was, a spread-knees slave, so to speak, extend well beyond them. Even before Ellen had been told that she was a pleasure slave, it had not been difficult to gather from the nature of her training the sort of slave she was intended to be. It is hard for a girl to kneel with her knees spread widely before a man and be in the least doubt as to this point. Too, she recalled the young man from class, so long ago, and how he had looked at her. She had little doubt as to the nature of the slavery he would have from her.

And now he owned her.

Now she knelt before him, in basic position.

“How did you like serving, as you did this evening,” he asked, “naked, in such a room, the men in tuxedos, the women in evening gowns.”

“May I speak with some freedom, Master?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said, “at least for the moment.”

“You truly own me, don’t you?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Certainly.”

“I was humiliated,” she said.

“You must learn to serve naked,” he said. “You are a slave.”

“Did you enjoy having me so serve?” she asked.

“Certainly,” he said.

“You enjoyed making me do that?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Seeing you serve naked gave me a great deal of pleasure. There are many satisfactions connected with the mastery. Such things, my dear former teacher, are amongst them.”

“You are hateful!” she exclaimed, tears welling into her eyes. She wanted to cover her eyes with her hands and weep, but was afraid to break position.

“Is my pretty little slave upset?” he asked.

“Yes!” she cried. “Your pretty little slave is upset!” She moved her head wildly, lifting it, seeing the ceiling, throwing it back and forth, but dared not lower it.

“I see you are under some stress, pretty Ellen,” he said. “Accordingly I permit you some latitude in position.”

Immediately, uncontrollably, she put her head down and buried her face in her hands, weeping.

“Knees,” he cautioned, gently.

With a cry of misery she widened her knees.

“I gather,” he said, “that you found your service humiliating, but did you find that it had other aspects, as well?”

She looked at him, through her hands, as though she would cry out some hysterical denial, but did not do so.

“I see that you found your service welcome, warming, elating, reassuring, fitting, even delicious,” he said.

“Master!” she protested.

“You enjoyed serving as a naked slave,” he said. “You enjoyed, so subtly, so deferentially, so seemingly involuntarily, so seemingly helplessly, exhibiting your beauty.”

She sobbed.

“You are very beautiful,” he said. “You know that, don’t you?”

“Perhaps,” she whispered.

“So it is very natural that you would wish to show your beauty,” he said. “It is natural that it would give you great pleasure to do so. Surely, too, you must rejoice in the happiness, and pleasure, that the sight of it brings to others.”

“But it could also bring me into great peril, could it not, Master?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said, “particularly on this world. It makes you an object of enormous interest, of almost uncontrollable desire. This is particularly dangerous for you, inasmuch as you are only a slave. It is not as though you were a free person, and had a Home Stone.”

“A Home Stone, Master?”

“Commonality of Home Stone extends beyond concepts with which you are familiar, such as shared citizenship, for example. It is more like brotherhood, but not so much in the attenuated, cheap, abstract sense in which those of Earth commonly speak glibly, so loosely, of brotherhood. It is more analogous to brotherhood in the sense of jealously guarded membership in a proud, ancient family, one that has endured through centuries, a family bound together by fidelity, honor, history and tradition.”

“I see,” she whispered.

“So do not concern yourself with Home Stones,” he said. “They are beyond your ken. You are only a slave.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Surely,” said he, “you are not only aware of your beauty, but you must be excited by it, happy with it, and proud of it, and love it.”

She thought it well not to respond to his words.

She put her head down.

“And you must, too, begin to suspect what power it might give you over men.”

“I have little power,” she said.

“More than you know,” he said. “But remember this, slave. Ultimately all power is with the master. It is he who holds the whip.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

This, incidentally, is exactly and perfectly true on this world, as I have learned, forgive me, as she has learned.

“And, too,” he said, “you are growing intrigued by, and pleased with, your sexiness.”

“My sexiness, Master?” she asked.

“Do not play your silly Earth games with me,” he said, angrily. “Do not pretend to be stupid. On this world there are two sexes. Here one need not pretend to celebrate androgyny or make it a point to flourish pompous, hypocritical puritanical platitudes. Let those who are now as you once were mouth bromides in their classes and ignore realities under their very noses. The pretense to blindness must ultimately fail in a world where sight persists. To be sure, most people will see what they are told to see. So many people blindfold themselves with words; so few look upon the world as it is, radiant and real, with its own nature. The sight of a woman like you, and thousands like you, will enflame a man. Let those of Earth denounce and castigate straw for burning when it is set afire. Goreans do not. They would find that incomprehensibly stupid. You are very well aware, slave, of your sexiness. Do not feign ignorance. You are well aware that you are beautiful and desirable, that you are, whether this pleases you or not, but I do not doubt but what it pleases you, and well pleases you, excruciatingly sexually stimulatory, that men will see you and want you, that your neck calls for the collar, your flank for the brand, your wrists for slave bracelets, your ankles for the shackles of masters!”

She cried out in terror, and misery, and, shrinking down, covered her breasts with her arms, crossed before her body.

“Palms on thighs,” he said.

Then she was again in position.

As her treatments had progressed she had become aware that she had become of considerable sexual interest to men. She did not think it made much difference, really, whether she had been stabilized at thirty-eight years of age, or twenty-eight, or eighteen. In each of these ages, she knew, she was lovely, and of considerable interest. In each of these ages, she had little doubt that men, thousands of men, would have enjoyed having her before them, rendering slave obeisance. She thought that many men might have preferred her at twenty-eight, the age when she had first met her master, he then a student in one of her courses. On the other hand, most Gorean slave girls, she had gathered, were as though in their early twenties. Most of the older women, she gathered, had been returned to that point and stabilized there. On the other hand, there was also doubtless something to be said for a virginal, dewy, youthful eighteen, not so much perhaps from the point of view of the slave herself, as she would tend to be looked down upon, and be regarded as relatively inconsequential, even by her sister slaves, but from the point of view of masters, who tend to be less exacting, less demanding, in such matters, generously not tending to hold her youthfulness against her, provided, of course, it is lovely and helplessly responsive to their touch, as should be the body of any slave. In any event, it was where her master had chosen to have her stabilized, and so that is exactly where she was stabilized. Perhaps he wished her so, as he had suggested, as a part of his vengeance upon her, that in virtue of her youth she might be rendered negligible, inconsequential, and thus demeaned. In any event, whatever may be the truth in these matters, she found herself by his will made a young slave, one who could be no more than a girl to his man.

“Cease your hysteria, your silliness, you narcissistic little bitch,” he said.

She regarded him, from position, tears in her eyes.

“Women are narcissistic,” he said. “Even on Earth, consider their obsessive concern with their appearance, with their ever-present desire to present themselves attractively before men, their concern with the right make-up, the right jewelry, the right earrings, the correct, fashionable clothing, their concern with their hosiery, their shoes, their concern even with the nature and lovely delicacy of their undergarments. And there is nothing critical affected in this. They should be narcissistic. They are beautiful. They are women. They wish to allure, to be attractive prey to men, the predator sex. The true woman should be pleased with her beauty, proud of it, and desirous of showing it off. My criticism of you, little slave, is not that you are narcissistic, for that, as a female, you should be, but that you are a little bitch.”

“I am sorry, Master,” she whispered.

“Surely you were aware this evening,” he said, “that our guest, Jeffrey, admired you.”

“He had eyes mostly, I thought,” she said, “for his friend.”

Mirus laughed, and she did not understand his laugh.

“But you must have noticed, sometime,” he said, “that he was looking at you.”

“It seemed so, Master,” she said.

Indeed, who could have doubted it?

“He was regarding you with desire, sexual desire, if you can understand that, you stupid little bitch,” he said.

I am not a stupid little bitch, she thought. Have I not seen desire in the eyes of the guards? Does he think I do not know I am a slave, and how slaves are seen by men? Does he think, truly, I am a stupid little bitch? I fear so. But I am not a stupid little bitch. Must I admit everything? Must I be so open? I am from Earth! What does he want? The collar has not been long on my neck!

“Bitch?” said he.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Do you think you are sexually desirable?” he asked.

“It is not for a slave to say,” she said.

“Do you know you are in a collar?”

“Yes, Master!”

“Speak,” he said.

“It is a slave’s hope that she will be found pleasing to masters,” she said.

“Excellent,” he said.

“Thank you, Master.”

“You are intelligent,” he said, “actually quite intelligent.”

“Thank you, Master.”

Gorean men, she had learned, prize high intelligence in a woman, and seek it in their slaves. The intelligent woman, taken in hand, overwhelmed, subdued and mastered, taught her womanhood, wholly submitted, understanding now what she is, fully, makes an excellent slave. Certainly they sell for more.

Had she claimed she was sexually desirable, she might have been reprimanded for conceit; had she denied it she might as easily have been punished for lying.

“But in many respects,” he said, “you are quite stupid.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Do you think you are sexually desirable?”

“I do not know, Master!” she sobbed.

“You are,” he said.

“Thank you, Master.”

“As any slave,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” she whispered.

“Had his friend not been present, he might have seized your ankle and dragged you under the table.”

“So simply?”

“It was a Gorean feast,” he said. “Surely you do not think that those women of whom we spoke earlier, serving their conquerors naked, simply returned that evening with impunity to their kennels and cells.

She lowered her head.

“They would be seized, ravished, and enjoyed,” he said. “They would be seized by the hair, knelt, wine poured down their throats, spilling over their breasts and bodies, forced to dance drunkenly, put to their bellies, their lips to the feet of men, and ordered to beg for use. Then, huddled together, kept in place with the lash, they might be gambled for. And the evening might then end pleasantly as they, the winnings of men, caressed into supplicatory beasts, thrashed on the carpets and rushes. And then, toward morning, when the fires had burned low, and the room was gray, damp and cold, when those who had won them would be asleep, sated with the repast of pleasures derived from their winnings, their hands tied behind their bodies, their necks roped to the left ankles of their new masters, they might rest. Later, bent over, held in leading position, by groggy, stumbling masters, they would be conducted to their new dispositions. They are the women of a conquered foe. Thus, as prizes, they belong to the victors.”

“Yes, Master,” whispered the slave.

“In a sense,” he said, “as I suggested earlier, it is similar with you.”

“Master?”

“I am the victor here, am I not?” he asked.

“Master?”

“And you were a woman of the enemy?”

“The enemy?”

“Of Earth,” he said, “but in a sense larger than you know.”

“Master?”

“Surely you remember my earlier remarks,” he said, “when I was explaining the lack of attire in a charming waitress.”

“Yes, Master,” she whispered.

“Your lies, your ideology, your manipulations, your slynesses, your schemings, your trickeries, your agendas, your subversions.”

“Yes, Master,” she whispered, tears in her eyes.

She wondered if the indoctrinated, servile men of Earth were even worthy to be accounted enemies.

They were so manipulable, and weak.

It was embarrassing for her to think of herself as a woman of them.

But would most not wish weak foes? Only Goreans, she supposed, desired strong foes, perhaps that they might be the better tested, that an ensuing victory might be the more worth winning.

She thought of so many of the men of Earth, such mindlessly herded dupes, taught to deny their blood, hastening sellers of birthrights, so whiningly eager to win a smile from those who despised them for the very weakness they sought to promote in them.

She wondered if it might not be better for such a subverted, betrayed world to perish.

No, she thought. Wait. Mayhap one day it will awaken, rise up, shout, and be reborn. Let it be reborn, she thought. Let it be reborn!

“Have you, woman of the enemy, been defeated?”

“Yes, Master,” she said. The answer to that was obvious, as obvious as the gleaming, snug, obdurate band encircling her throat. What she did not tell him was that she had wished, in her deepest heart, to be defeated.

“So,” said he, “should I have you slain, or kept as a slave?”

“It is my hope,” she said, “to be kept as a slave.”

He looked her over, carefully.

She reddened.

“Perhaps,” he said. “You are well-curved.”

She was silent.

“Those are slave curves,” he said.

“It is my hope,” she said, “that Master will find me pleasing.”

He laughed. “Long ago, on Earth,” he said, “in your classes, in the corridors, in the cafeteria, in your office, on the streets, on the avenues and boulevards, in the library, I suspect you did not anticipate that one day you would kneel before a man and express such a wish.”

“No, Master,” she said. She had not anticipated that. She had, however, longed for it.

He laughed, again, and leaned back in the chair.

“How did you feel, to know that you were the object of Jeffrey’s interest, in that way?”

“Please, Master, have mercy on a new slave!” she begged.

“Speak,” he said.

“It pleased me!” she wept.

“Of course it did,” he snarled, “for you are a slave!”

“Is it true?” she asked. “Did Master Jeffrey desire me?”

“Yes,” he said, angrily.

She looked down.

It pleased her that he was angry. Could he be jealous of another man’s interest in her? Surely she hoped so.

“And you might be sent to him,” he added.

She lifted her head, to regard him with fear.

“Yes,” he said.

She knew more then, in that moment, of what it could be, to be a slave.

It could be done to her.

She was slave.

“May I speak?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“Might Master Mirus desire me, as well?” she whispered.

“What?” he asked, disbelievingly.

“Nothing, Master,” she said, quickly.

“You, me?” he asked.

“Forgive me, Master! It is well known, the contempt in which Master holds his slave!”

“Are you now begging, you, with all that you were, now begging as an amorous slave to be used?” he asked.

“No, Master,” she said, quickly.

She resolved that she must not let him know the depth of the slave she was.

How could he then respect her?

But how absurd was such a concern!

Dignity, respect, and such, were not for slaves. Did she not know that? One did not respect slaves; one commanded them, worked them, ravished them, perhaps loved them.

She might demand respect from weaklings of Earth; before Gorean men she would kneel, and hope to be found pleasing.

She was in torment.

She must remember she was of Earth!

Did she truly desire the tepidities and formalities of respect, she wondered. Perhaps, rather, she wished something else, say, a radical fullness of life, wished rather fulfillment, wished, rather, to be coveted, prized, and relished, owned.

No, she must insist on respect!

“I think, Ellen,” he said, “that you have not been lashed enough.”

“Forgive me, Master,” she said.

“Perhaps you think that you may be a saucy slave,” he said.

“Forgive me, Master,” she said.

“Sometimes,” said he, “a slave girl needs the whip.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“It is good for their behavior, and their comprehensions.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“You are a virgin, are you not?” he asked.

“Yes, Master,” she said. Surely that was clear from her papers.

“But,” said he, “of the many things that may be done to a female slave, whipping is only one.”

“Oh?” she said.

“You tread a thin line, slave girl,” he said.

“Oh?” she asked.

“You are a bright, pretty little slave,” he said.

The monster, she thought. I was his teacher. To be sure, what am I now, with my eighteen-year-old body, but a bright, pretty, little slave? It is true, true! That is what he has made me!

“Thank you, Master,” she said.

“Are you prepared to beg to please a man, any man?” he asked.

“I am a slave,” she said. “Surely Master can force me. He can bend me to his will. A mere snapping of the fingers will suffice. I must obey, with all the perfection with which I am capable, and instantly.”

“I am awaiting a response to my question,” he said.

“Is the man my master?” she asked.

“You have heard the question,” he said.

I am of Earth, she thought. I am of Earth!

She decided that this would be the moment to convince him of her value, of her nobility, of her loftiness, of her worthiness, the moment to earn his respect. She must lead him to believe that she was essentially a free woman who unfortunately, inexplicably, astonishingly, found herself in a collar. That way he would doubtless respect her. She now wanted his respect, desperately. She must never let him know that there knelt before him on the rug a woman who in her deepest heart of hearts was a helpless, vulnerable, submissive, craving, begging slave girl.

“Master may of course order me to beg,” she said. “Then I must beg, as I am a slave.”

“Then you would not choose to beg?” he asked.

“Certainly not,” she said, tossing her head.

She was frightened by the sternness of his gaze.

“I may, of course, be subjected to slave rape,” she said, quickly. Indeed, she hoped that he would simply take her and work his will upon her, a will she longed to satisfy. She desired desperately to be taken in hand and put to his purposes, to be ravished by him, uncompromisingly, thoroughly, ruthlessly, as befitted her slaveness, by him, her master.

I love him, she thought.

He brought me here. He must want me. Perhaps he loves me. No, that could not be. But he must like me a little. Oh, I hope that he likes me, if only just a little! Please, Master, like me, if only a little!

Take me, she thought. Take me! I am your slave! You are my Master! We are your slaves, oh Masters. Do you not use us as you wish, ravishing us whenever, and however, it might please you to do so?

Oh, take me, beloved Master, she thought. I am yours! I am ready! Be merciless! Be ruthless! Take me! Take me!

“Perhaps you were curious,” he said, “as to the modalities of discourse required of you at supper this evening,” he said.

“Master?” she said.

Inwardly she reeled, in shock.

She had expected, at any moment, to be thrown back, to feel the rug’s harsh nap on her back, to feel her ankles seized and her legs, he laughing with exultation, spread cruelly, widely.

Why had he not, at least, issued the “Sula!” command? That was one of several commands she had been trained to respond to instantly. Upon hearing this command, the slave immediately assumes a supine position, her hands at her sides, palms up, her legs open.

“You understood very little of what transpired this evening, I would suppose,” he said.

“Yes, Master, very little,” she said.

“These are matters of war,” he said. “Involved are the fates of two planets, Earth and Gor.”

“Master?” she asked.

“You are a slave,” he said. “It is no concern of yours.”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“No matter how things turn out you will still be in a collar.”

“Yes, Master.”

“You are of no more account in these things than a pig or a horse.”

“Yes, Master.”

“Perhaps you are curious as to why the room is as it is, and why you were required to use certain forms of address to myself, and our guests, and Tutina, this evening.”

“Certainly, Master,” she said, eagerly.

“Curiosity is not becoming in a slave girl,” he said.

“Please, Master!” she begged.

“You silken little beast,” he said.

“Please, Master!”

“You are all the same,” he said. “The room was to reassure, and comfort, our fair guest, whose name is to be ‘Evelyn’.”

“Whose name is to be ‘Evelyn’?” she asked.

“Too, in a way, it is to put her off guard, psychologically, of course, for there is no way she could guard herself now, at this point, in any practical fashion.”

“I do not understand,” she said.

“In its way, too, it is a joke on Jeffrey’s part, for he has had to put up with her for several months, rather on her terms. His role, I fear, has been rather an embarrassing, frustrating one, much like that in which many Earth males spend their lives, but he is patient, and knew that his patience would be eventually rewarded.”

“I understand nothing of this, Master,” she said.

“Surely you noticed that she was strikingly beautiful?”

“Yes, Master.” There was no gainsaying that.

“And quite bright?”

The slave nodded.

“But perhaps a bit bitchy,” he said.

“Master?” she asked.

“The whip can take that out of a woman,” he said.

“The whip?”

“The Kurii, in whose service I labor,” he said, “tend to be quite tolerant of the interests and dispositions of their human agents.”

“The Kurii are not human?” she asked.

“I gather not,” he said, thoughtfully. “To be sure, I am not clear on the matter. I have never met one in person. At least to this time. That may change in the future. I do not know.” He then returned his attention lightly to Ellen, who knelt before him, his stripped chattel. “In any event, they allow their human agents a considerable amount of latitude in their work, at least in matters in which they feel it unimportant to involve themselves. As a result we, and those akin to us, tend to seek out, and recruit, as female agents women who are on the whole unusually beautiful and desirable. It pleases us to work with such. To be sure, with the developments in the serums over the last few years, our options have been multiplied. For example, if, through photographs, or such, we can determine that a woman was once beautiful and desirable, she may still be of considerable interest to us, for we may always return her to her former youth and beauty. One might add, as well, that while beauty is of great importance, desirability is not always linked with beauty. For example, some women, for no reason that is fully clear to us, are not beautiful, but are extremely desirable. Just to look at them is to want them naked at your slave ring. And desirability is surely most important. On the other hand, if one can conjoin such desirability with remarkable beauty, then that is so much the better for the markets.”

“For the markets?”

“Yes.”

“Are you not speaking strangely of Mistress Evelyn, Master?” she asked.

“The female agents, who are commonly egotistical, petty, vain, self-seeking and mercenary, need not be informed of their eventual disposition. They will discover it in good time.”

“Master?”

“The female agents, thus, do not really consume our resources, so much as, in the end, add to them. You seem frightened. You seem dismayed. She whom you referred to judiciously as Mistress Evelyn, you must understand, has served her purpose. No longer do we need her. She was exceedingly helpful, particularly because of her connections, her many affiliations, in the worlds of society, business and finance. But we have now absorbed, and profited from, and will continue to profit from, those connections and affiliations. She is no longer needed. Too, Jeffrey wanted her.”

“You are betraying her?”

“Not really,” he said. “It is merely that the entire arrangement was never fully explained to her.”

“But the gold, the diamonds!” she said.

“We kept our word,” he said. “She was paid for her work.”

“She will soon with her treasures then be returned to Earth?”

“Sometimes I think that you are very stupid, Ellen.”

“Forgive me, Master.”

“The gold and diamonds were hers,” he said. “That is true. That was our part of the bargain.”

“I understand so little of this,” said Ellen.

“Surely you recall that he whom you judiciously refer to as Master Jeffrey, you see, you are learning, Ellen, informed our fair guest that, on the way to her chamber, that in which she would spend the night, there was another chamber which he would like to show her.”

“Yes,” she said, uncertainly.

“And she will indeed be shown that chamber.”

“And what manner of chamber might that be, Master?”

“It is, of course, a slaving chamber,” he said. “There our fair guest will be stripped, fingerprinted and toeprinted, measured with care, and papers prepared on her. She will then be branded and collared, following which the final certifications will be placed on the papers. She will then be taken in chains to the chamber where she will spend the night, a cell. The gold will be waiting in the cell, all the twenty double-weight ingots of it, carefully stacked. Too, after she has been chained to the wall, she may notice that, dangling from the ceiling, before her, just out of her reach, is the sack of diamonds We do not want her to be able to reach them lest she should attempt something foolish, such as trying to hide some of them in her body. It will be soon enough tomorrow for her to learn that she belongs to Jeffrey.”

“How could you do this to her?” she asked.

“I do not understand the difficulty,” he said.

“Master!” protested the slave.

“It is appropriate for her,” he said. “She is a female. All females should be slaves.”

“Yes Master,” moaned the slave.

“It is right for them.”

“Yes, Master,” said the slave.

She shuddered, kneeling naked before him, in his collar. She knew that she was a slave, in the deepest heart and belly of her. But could what was so obviously right for her, so obviously true of her, she wondered, be right, or true, for all women? Already, in her heart, she had begun to fear free women. They must be so proud, so wondrous, so lofty and formidable, she thought. But then she wondered if they could, truly, be so different from she. Did they not bear in every cell in their bodies, those billions of cells, the same genetic heritage, going back to thongs and caves? She suspected that perhaps they were not so different from her, really. Would they be so different from me, she wondered, if they were, too, as I, on their knees, naked and collared, owned, before an uncompromising, powerful, virile master.

“Did you see how pleased she was to learn that certain selected female rivals, enemies, and such, women she had listed, had been abducted, brought to this world and embonded?”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Now she is simply following them in her turn.”

“Yes, Master,” said Ellen. She could well imagine the horror, the dismay, the consternation, which might be felt by the fair guest when her disposition, what men had decided for her, was made clear to her. How her misery would mingle with the viselike grasp of the opened, then closed, spun shut, tightened, then locked-closed branding rack on her thigh, the meticulous, brief, carefully controlled, searing fury of the marking iron, the futile pulling at the light, attractive bracelets that held her hands confined so perfectly behind her, and the sudden awareness of the clasp of a metal band snapped shut, locked, about her neck!

“But you promised her the gold, the diamonds,” said the slave.

“And, for a time,” said he, “she possessed them. To be sure, now, she does not, for a slave owns nothing. Rather it is she, herself, who is owned. She does not even own her collar, or the pans on the floor from which, tomorrow, we will have her eat and drink.”

The slave nodded.

“Certainly you see that she would make a beautiful and desirable slave,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” she said. There was no doubt about that. The fair guest would make a most beautiful and desirable slave, a luscious bit of collar-meat, a veritable prize of flesh-loot. She would doubtless attract much attention in a public cage.

“So all is in order,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Who knows?” said he. “Perhaps, in time, Evelyn, for that is the name Jeffrey has selected for her, and she will learn her name tomorrow, that will be soon enough, may eventually serve naked in this room, as you did this evening.”

“Yes, Master,” whispered the slave.

“And now, Ellen,” said he, “do you beg to serve the pleasure of a man, any man?”

She determined to convince him of her worthiness, that he would respect her, that she was worthy of attention, of consideration, perhaps even of love, that there was a great deal more to her than he might be aware of, that she was not merely a small, well-curved, owned, despised little animal which must squirm helplessly in rapture, writhing within the chains of a master.

“What do you think I am?” she asked.

“I know what you are,” he said. “What is your response to my question?”

“Certainly not,” she said.

“Very well,” he said. “Return to your cage.”

“Master?” she cried, in dismay.

But with a small gesture he dismissed her.

She leaped up and, in consternation, hurried to her cage.

Chapter 12

SHE DECIDES TO BEG

She feared her hands and arms might be ruined forever, from the heat, the suds and water. How reddened, how rough, how wrinkled, they seemed to be. How could a master care for them? She and the other girls, you see, in this terrible place, were not permitted lotions. How hard and rough were her hands. How hard and rough they might be on his body, not soft, silken, as should be the hands of a slave. Would a master not recoil from contact with such hands? Surely we should have at least lotions, she thought. That is not so much. Are we not slaves? Surely the touch of a slave should be as soft as the timid pressing of her lips on the master’s chest or thigh, as gentle, as stimulating, as caressing as the flow of scented slave silk drawn across his belly, as piteously sweet as a tender whisper in the night, at his feet, from the slave ring, begging for his touch.

Suddenly she cried out in pain, for the whip had struck her back.

She wept, and plunged her arms down again, to the elbows, into the hot water. Though she was still within the house the laundering went clearly beyond what might be the needs of the guards, trainers, servants and slaves. She had little doubt, as the gigantic bundles, bulging with tunics, blankets, himations, veils, shawls, robes and scarves, were brought in that most of the work had its origins on the outside.

Most of the slaves at the tubs were naked, save for their collars. She, too, was naked, except for one device, other than her collar, which had been locked upon her.

She knelt on her mat, beside her tub.

She was a slave laundress.

She could not leave her mat without permission. Too, at the command “Mat!” she and the others must scurry to their mats and kneel upon them. Failure to do this promptly was cause for discipline. She had seen two of the girls tied to rings and lashed. She herself had always gone quickly, obediently, to her mat.

She lifted the garment she was washing, dripping and hot, from the suds. It was a garment doubtless of a free woman. The material was of high quality, and so the woman must be of reasonable station, if not of high caste. She herself did not even know how to put on such a garment, how to drape it, and such. Such women, she supposed, were above menial chores. They would not, for example, do their own laundry. High-caste women, in general, or those of the Merchants, she supposed, would not do their own laundry either, but they might have a slave, or slaves, in their own domiciles to attend to such work. Perhaps this woman had fallen on hard times and had had to sell a slave, and must now send her robes and veils to a commercial laundry. But perhaps she lived alone and thus chose to have the work sent out. Certainly the work came back well-aired, clean-smelling, bright with sunlight, pressed and folded. Ellen, sweating, almost fainting with the heat, the hot, dripping garment in her hands, knelt back for a moment, and, in the hot, moist, close, steaming atmosphere of the low-ceilinged room, gasped for breath. The cost of the laundry work, she conjectured, would be minimal, even negligible, to the laundry’s patrons, particularly given its volume. Certainly on such as she the laundry lost little money. She, like the others, was fed on slave gruel and, on all fours, must drink from a pan on the floor.

“Do you dally in your work, little Ellen?” asked a voice.

“No, Master! No, Master!” she cried, and returned the garment to the tub, frenziedly rubbing its folds together.

She had seen the shadow of the legs of Gart, the work-master, on the side of her tub, and the shadow of his whip.

He was a short, gross, blocklike man with a massive bared chest and heavy legs. He wore a half tunic, and bootlike sandals. He had often had her kiss his feet.

She put the back of her hand to her forehead. She gasped, and moaned. She was afraid she might pass out, from the heat, the steam. Her body was soaked with sweat. She could not see it, for there were no mirrors in the laundry, but she supposed that her face, as that of many of the other girls, particularly the fair-complexioned ones, such as she, was red, blotched with red, grossly mottled with red patches, irregular patches painfully, roaringly scarlet, from the heat, from the closeness of the laundry, the oppressive, tropical atmosphere of the cemented, low-ceilinged room.

I do not want to faint, she thought.

I must not faint.

I might be beaten.

A girl who had fainted at her tub was commonly lashed back to consciousness, recalled by the impatient, implacable leather to her labors.

She lifted the garment a bit again from the water.

It was the garment of a free woman. How different it was from the small tunics, the camisks, common and Turian, the scandalous ta-teeras, or slave rags, the slave strips, little more than a shred of cloth and a string, so frequently allotted to slaves, assuming that they were permitted clothing.

She herself did not even know how to wear the garment of a free woman.

One of the girls had, two weeks ago, stood and held such a garment before her, posing, in play. “See!” she had called. “Look here! I am a free woman!” We had laughed in relief, at the delight and farcicality of this, but, unfortunately, Gart, unbeknownst to us, had returned. “We shall see if you are free!” he had roared. “No, no, Master, please, no, Master!” she had cried. “Mat!” had cried Gart, and we all fled to our mats. He then took the slave by the hair and drew her sobbing, and crying out, beneath the high ring. In a moment she was on her tip toes, extended painfully, her wrists crossed and bound, tied to the ring. “It was a joke, Master!” she cried. “Have mercy! Have mercy!” “It is not for kajirae to make sport of free women!” he told her. “Never forget that they are a thousand times, an infinite amount of times, your superiors! Now we will see how the joke turns out.” “Mercy, Master!” she pleaded. “Beg the whip to forgive you,” he suggested. “Perhaps the whip will be merciful.” “Oh, dear whip!” she cried. “Please forgive me, dear whip! It was a joke! Be merciful, dear whip! Please forgive me, dear whip!” “What a stupid girl you are,” said Gart. “Do you not know that a whip cannot hear you, that it has no ears?” And he then put the leather to her, and not pleasantly. She spun in her bonds, weeping, lashed. When he had finished he released her and she fell to his feet. “You may now thank me for your beating,” he informed her. She licked and kissed his feet. “Thank you for beating me, Master,” she said.

Gart had then had her crawl back to her tub.

Ellen did not want to be beaten.

She feared that if she fainted she might be beaten.

Surreptitiously Ellen viewed the garment of the free woman. She hoped she had not been too rough with it, in her fear of Gart. It must, above all, not be rent. Even a tiny tear at a seam, she knew, could earn her a beating, but a real beating, not just the two or three strokes that might awaken a girl from a faint.

She heard a girl crying out, a few tubs from her, and, looking over, she saw blond, blue-eyed Nelsa flung on her belly over the water, she gripping the sides of the tub, desperately, to keep from falling into the water. Behind her, Gart had lifted and spread her legs. Ellen shuddered, and looked away.

Ellen was thankful for the device she wore, though sometimes she felt like crying out in misery, because of discomfort, its weight and heat.

She had seen her master only once since the evening in the special room, that so like a room on Earth, in which she had suitably, properly served a lovely supper, stripped.

It had been the morning following that supper, when he had come to her cage, released her, and had her stand, bent forward, gripping the roof of the cage, her back to him, her legs widely spread.

He had been carrying an object whose nature was not immediately clear to her.

Facing away from him, her legs widely spread, she had become aware of him reaching in front of her, and then of two circular, hinged, straplike bands being put about her waist, and then being brought together, front to back, behind her. Another piece of the apparatus dangled before her, but it was, in a moment, on its hinge, drawn up between her legs. She felt the object being jerked about, and, with two hands, being adjusted on her. These three parts of the apparatus were then fitted together, the two side straps over a staple welded to the central portion of the device which had been lifted up between her legs and was now at the small of her back. She then felt the bolt of a heavy padlock thrust through the staple and snapped shut, this holding the pieces of the apparatus together, at the small of her back. When she moved she was conscious of the padlock, its weight, and how it moved, against the three parts it secured in place. Again the object was moved about, and adjusted, with two hands, on her body.

“A good fit,” said a guard.

“Yes,” had said her master.

“Master?” she had asked.

“You have not been given permission to speak,” he said.

“Forgive me, Master,” she had said.

Because of the narrowness of her waist, and the natural flare of her hips, she could not hope to elude the device.

She wore the iron belt.

“Send her to the laundry,” had said her master.

****

When she had been presented to Gart, and performed obeisance before him, had kissed his feet and had begged to be permitted to serve in the laundry, he had growled in rage, regarding her. He had thrown her to her side and examined, in detail, the device she wore.

“What is this?” he had snarled.

The guard had merely shrugged.

Ellen, lying frightened on her side, locked in the device, at his feet, had no delusions with respect to the work-master’s displeasure.

A glance at the room, as soon as she had entered, she almost suddenly overcome, almost suddenly fainting, from the heat and the steam, had shown her, almost as through a hot fog, that there were several girls in the room, that they were naked, that many were apparently lovely, and that all were kneeling, sweating, their hair streaming down, limp, working at tubs.

Ellen had been struck with horror at this environment. Then she had knelt down, performing obeisance.

“How am I to tub this one?” asked the work-master.

“Tub the others,” suggested the guard.

“A virgin?” asked the work-master, incredulously.

“I think so,” said the guard. “As you can see, she is quite young, little more than a girl.”

“Kneel up,” ordered the work-master.

Ellen assumed position.

“I do not like virgins,” the work-master informed her.

Then Ellen cried out, cuffed, struck to the side. She could not maintain her balance, but fell to her right side. She could taste blood in her mouth, from her lip.

“To my feet,” said the work-master. “Beg my forgiveness for being a virgin.”

Ellen went to her belly before him, her lips over his feet. “Forgive me for being a virgin, Master,” she said. “Please forgive me for being a virgin!” Then, fearfully, terrified before this man, she kissed his feet.

He stepped back then, angry, but mollified.

“We will get her a mat and put her to a tub,” he said.

****

Ellen drew back, suddenly, crying out, for a stream of hot water, poured from a ewer, streamed into her tub, almost scalding her.

“Please, Mistress!” protested Ellen. She was the least in the laundry, because of the youth of her body, and that she was newest at the tubs. Accordingly, she must address her sister laundresses with such respect, though they, too, were but slaves.

“Why did you look when Gart put me to his pleasure?” demanded Nelsa.

“I looked away, Mistress!” cried Ellen.

“Not soon enough!” said Nelsa. “Do you think I like being put to the pleasure of such a brute?”

“Perhaps, Mistress,” said Ellen. “Surely I have seen you wriggle well, lifted at the tub, his arms about your legs.” Nelsa was certainly one of Gart’s favorites.

“I hate him!” said Nelsa.

“Is that why you whimper, moan and cry out as you do?” asked Ellen.

“I cannot help it if he masters me,” said Nelsa, angrily.

“Then you must be a slave,” said Ellen. “No!” cried Ellen.

Nelsa had lifted the ewer of boiling water.

“Stay on your mat!” said Nelsa.

“Please, no, Mistress!” cried Ellen.

“You will not be so pretty when you are a mass of scar tissue!” snarled Nelsa. “Stay on your mat!”

“Please, no, Mistress!” cried Ellen.

“Do not be stupid, Nelsa,” said a shapely redhead, kneeling at a nearby tub. “Let the child alone!”

“Do your work,” snapped Nelsa.

“If you damage her you will be boiled alive,” said the redhead.

“Look,” said Nelsa. “She has moved part way from her mat. Gart must hear of this!”

Ellen scrambled back, that she might be on her mat, fully. For once she wished that Gart was in the room. She looked upward, apprehensively, at the poised ewer.

Then Nelsa lowered the ewer.

“You think you are so special, little she-urt,” said Nelsa to Ellen, “because you are belted! Well, there are many ways in which a slave can give pleasure to a man. And you are not in lock-gag!”

Ellen did not know what an urt was.

There are several varieties of lock-gags. One common variety consists of a short, leather-sheathed metal chain which, at its center, passes through a heavy ball-like packing. The packing is thrust back in the slave’s mouth, over the tongue, filling the oral orifice, making it impossible for her to do more than moan or whimper. The two ends of the short chain are then drawn back, tightly, back between the teeth, this holding the packing in place. The ends of the chain are then taken back about the sides of the neck and brought together behind the back of the neck where they are fastened together with a small padlock. The gag’s dislodgment must then, since it is locked on the slave, await the master’s pleasure. Another common variety of lock-gag involves a pair of narrow, rounded, curved, hinged rods, the hinge embedded in a heavy, leather, ball-like packing. This packing, as before, is inserted into the slave’s mouth and thrust back, over the tongue, denying her any capacity to speak. The rods, which are back, between the teeth, holding the packing in place, curve back about the sides of the face and meet behind the back of the neck, where the ends may lock together, or, if a padlock is used, be locked together. An advantage of a lock-gag is, of course, that the slave, while totally unable to speak, may yet attend to whatever other duties her master may set her. To be sure, a simple tie gag, which the slave is forbidden to remove, has the same effect. Too, of course, her mouth may be simply taped shut. Similarly, more mercifully, and at greater convenience to the master, she may be “gagged by the master’s will.” In that case she is simply forbidden to speak, save perhaps for moans and whimpers. She may, of course, speak later, once she has received permission to do so. If the slave is in lock-gag, one understands, there are certain pleasures she is unable to give the master. Doubtless it was with respect to these pleasures that the remark of Nelsa had reference.

“I do not think that master would approve,” whispered Ellen, frightened.

She would have loved to have pleased her master in this intimate fashion, and had dreamed of begging to do so, but Gart, or another, would surely be a different matter.

Giving the master such pleasures, and many others, is fitting for a slave.

“So you think I wriggle well?” said Nelsa.

“It seemed so to me, Mistress,” said Ellen.

“And how do you wriggle, little belted pudding?”

“I have never wriggled, Mistress,” said Ellen.

“Men can teach you to wriggle,” said Nelsa.

Ellen put down her head.

“So you think I am a slave?” asked Nelsa.

“Yes, Mistress,” said Ellen, shyly.

“Do you think I can help how I now am?” asked Nelsa.

“I am sure I do not know, Mistress,” said Ellen.

“Do you not understand, you stupid little virgin, how men can enflame a woman, can make her helpless, can make her crave their least touch?”

“Perhaps if she is a slave,” said Ellen.

Nelsa’s hands tightened on the handle of the ewer.

“Do not hurt her,” said the redhead.

“She was off her mat,” said Nelsa. “I will tell!”

“You, too, have been off your mat when Gart was not in the room,” said the redhead. “And if you tell, we, too, can tell!”

There was assent to this from several of the slaves at the tubs.

One was an auburn-haired beauty who claimed to have once served the pleasure of Chenbar of Kasra, Chenbar the Sea-Sleen, Ubar of Tyros. More likely, some said, she had served in a prison on Tyros, and had been periodically cast to the prisoners, and handed about, amongst them, to reduce their unruliness. Ellen supposed both stories might be true. Perhaps the woman, who was very beautiful, had once served in the pleasure gardens of Chenbar, but had then in some small way displeased him, or perhaps he had merely tired of her. Later, as others might replace her in her prison duties, she might be sold on the mainland, and thence south. Another was a lovely slave of mixed blood, whose eyes bore the epicanthic fold. Another was a black woman with a chain collar and disk. It was said she had already been spoken for by a black merchant. Two others were sisters from a city called Venna, taken when returning from a pilgrimage to the Sardar Mountains. They would presumably be separated in the markets.

“You, too, will learn to beg and scratch, little tasta,” said Nelsa to Ellen.

Ellen did not know what a tasta was. Later she learned that it was a confection, a small, soft candy mounted on a stick.

Ellen pulled back, suddenly, softly crying out, shielding her face as Nelsa, in a sudden, plunging stream, too close to her, water splashing and hissing, emptied the ewer into the tub.

“Get to work, slave,” sneered Nelsa.

“Yes, Mistress,” said Ellen. Then she cried out with pain. “It is too hot, Mistress,” she said. “I can not put my hands in the water!”

Nelsa had turned away.

Another slave, an exotic, bred for stripes, put more laundry beside her.

Ellen looked up in misery. There was so much!

She shrank down beside her tub, on her mat. She wished it was night so that she might be alone in her bin, with her blanket.

She supposed that women of low caste must do their own laundry.

Why had her master put her here, in this terrible place, she wondered. Perhaps she was being punished, but for what? Had she been put here for instructional purposes, that she might better understand her bondage? Why did he hate her so? Or did he hate her? Or could there be another reason? I must be special to him, somehow, she thought, that he has done this to me. Then she thought, fearfully, but perhaps I am not special to him, at all. Perhaps he does not even think of me. Perhaps I am here because I am not special at all. Perhaps I am to him only another meaningless slave. No, she said, I am here because it amuses him to put me here, his former teacher, one he perhaps found, to his irritation, troublesomely, even disturbingly attractive, to put me here in this terrible place, here in the laundry, miserable, sweating, no more than a naked work-slave, set to the meanest and lowest of duties. But he brought me to this world, she thought. He remembered me. I think he wants me! Yes she thought, wants, as a man wants a woman, or rather, she thought, thrilled, as a master wants a slave. Oh, I hope so, I hope so! I love him so! He is my master! She lay on her side, on the mat, beside the tub. She felt the heavy device locked on her body. She lightly traced with her finger the narrow curved plate between her legs, with its curved, long, slender, saw-toothed opening. The saw-toothed edges were sharp. Twice, in cleaning herself, she had cut herself. Then she had learned to go above and behind the edges, pulling the belt down and away a little. This can be managed by pulling it down an inch or so at the waist, but then, of course, it can go only so far, being stopped by the width of the hips, which she had, more than once, abraded. He put the belt on me, she thought, happily. Oh, I hate it, for its weight, its clumsiness, its bulkiness, its embarrassment, its inconvenience, but does it not show that I am special to him? Is he not keeping my virginity for himself? Or, to use the vulgar Gorean expression, at least as applied to slaves, does he not wish to be the first to open me?

At this point she pauses briefly in the narrative.

The saying is given more fully, commonly, as “open for the uses of men.” She adds this, it occurring to her that some who read this might feel that she was overly delicate, or insufficiently explicit or informative, at this point. She fears she might be chided for a lack of candor, and perhaps with the leather.

She was glad Gart was not in the room.

There was much laundry beside her tub, but he would have no way of knowing, upon his return, that it had not been just placed there.

Surely Kiri, the exotic, would not volunteer this information. If explicitly questioned, of course, she must, kneeling, head to the floor, tell the truth.

She wished that it was night and that she was in her cement bin. It was so much cooler there. The blanket gave her some protection from the cement. The bins had no gates or ceilings. Their walls were about four feet high, but one could not see over them once one had been chained by the neck to the ring at the back. The chain was about two feet in length. One could do little more than rise to one’s knees, perform obeisance, and such things. The girls were forbidden to speak to one another when in their bins. This rule tended to be scrupulously kept, for it was difficult to tell, chained low as one was, when a guard might be in the vicinity, behind the bins. One would dread, looking up and back, seeing the sight of his upper body and angry frown suddenly appearing, looming, over the back wall of one’s bin. Soon he would appear in front of the bins, with his whip, and the errant slaves, to their dismay, their pleas for mercy unheeded, would be appropriately admonished. In the laundry Gart was more tolerant, though he did not encourage frivolous discourse. When he was absent, of course, the frenzy of work slowed and the buds of conversation, warily, timidly, began to open.

She thought again of the garments of the free woman. She did not even know how to arrange such garments on her body. Too, she had no footwear. Too, there was no place to hide such garments, the tubs being turned and emptied at night. Too, such garments were counted, and would be soon missed.

Although Ellen had never been outside the house she understood that there was no escape for the Gorean slave girl, even outside. There was the brand, the collar, the garmenture. More importantly, there was no place to go, no place to hide, no place to run. The legal rights of the masters were everywhere acknowledged, respected and enforced. At their back was the full power of custom, tradition and law. The most that a girl might hope for would be a change of masters. If she managed to elude one master, and were not, when captured, returned to him, perhaps for mutilation and hamstringing, she would soon find herself in the power of another, and doubtless one far less likely than the first to treat her with trust and lenience, to mistakenly indulge her with abusable privileges. It is not pleasant to wear close shackles or a double-padlocked six-inch chain joining one’s ankles. The Gorean slave girl has no way to free herself or earn her freedom. She is simply and categorically slave. Her freedom, if she is to be accorded freedom, is always in the hands of another. Too, there is a Gorean saying that only a fool frees a slave girl.

Ellen thought, again, of the garment of the free woman.

She shuddered.

Even to put on such a garment, she knew, could be a capital offense for such as she.

No, Ellen did not think of freedom, for she knew that on this world that was not possible for her.

But more significantly she knew herself slave.

It was what she was, and wanted to be. It was right for her.

Too, for many years she had been free. Certainly she knew, and understood, and had enjoyed all that that condition could possibly bestow upon anyone. There was nothing in that condition which was unknown to her, or unfamiliar to her. Freedom, in itself, while undeniably precious, and doubtless a value, and doubtless appropriate for males, whom she now understood, having met true men, were the natural masters of women, tended, in itself, to be an abstraction, a possibility, an emptiness, in its way. It might be no more than a rootless boredom, in itself an invitation to nothing. Certainly those on her former world who most shamelessly exploited the rhetoric of freedom did not lack freedom, but rather wanted to use such rhetorics, and allied pressures and subterfuges, in order to have goods, unfair advantages, special privileges, and such, given to them, such as economic resources, prestige, and power. Their test for freedom was the receipt of ever-greater amounts of politically engineered unearned benefits. She had been free, and had not been fulfilled, or happy. Now, as a female slave, she suspected that her true fulfillment, her true happiness, might lie in a totally different, unexpected direction. The question, you see, was one of simple, empirical fact. Its solution was not essentially a consequence of a particular conditioning program, one of a possibly infinite number of such, or the inevitable result of some supposedly self-evident, axiomatic proposition, or some supposedly a priori theory, but of the world, the nature of things, of simple, empirical fact. Perhaps freedom was not the ideal for everyone. Was that so impossible to conceive of? Perhaps people, perhaps the sexes, were really different. Certainly they seemed very different. One had to struggle not to see that. What if what might be best for one was not truly the best for the other? What was best for one, it seems, might depend, really, not on politics and conditioning, not on cultural accidents and the idiosyncrasies of an ephemeral historical situation, but on other things, say, nature, truth, fact, such things. Perhaps human beings had a nature, like other species. If so, what was her nature? Presumably, whatever it was, it would be a fact about her. She did recognize, of course, that freedom was not an absolute, and that even the most free, so to speak, were subject to countless limitations. At best, freedom was relative, even for the free. But these considerations were not germane to what concerned her most. She had been free. She knew what it was like. She had tried it, and found it wanting. She had been free, and had been free and lonely, free and unwanted, free and unnoticed, free and undesired, free and terribly miserable. Something within her had begged to belong, actually, to be overwhelmed and owned, something within her had cried out to love and serve, totally and helplessly, to give herself unreservedly, totally and helplessly to another. But her world had denied that freedom to her. It had denied the cry of her deepest heart. It had told her, rather, not to listen to her heart, but to deny it, told her, rather, to be different, and mannish. One freedom had been denied to her, the freedom not to be free. That freedom had been denied to her. Freedom had been imposed upon her, socially, legally. She could not have given up her freedom even if she had wished to do so. Freedom was doubtless precious. But, so, too, she thought, was love. And she did not desire the tepidities which might exist between contractual partners. The notion of a democracy of two was absurd. One might pretend that absolute equality could be imposed upon absolute unequals, but it could never be more than a pretense. That myth would have to be hedged about with so many conventions, sanctions, rules and laws as to be a biological joke. It is a farce to claim that absolute sameness, for that is what equality means, could be imposed rationally on creatures as unlike as a man and a woman. To speak as though absolute equality, save doubtless in merit, or value, each marvelous in their own very different way, could exist between absolute unequals, things as diverse as a male and a female, was at best an idle social ritual, and, at worst, a pathological lie which, if taken seriously, if acted upon, would have, by its deleterious effects on the gene pool, wide-spread, devastating consequences for the inclusive fitness of a species. But such far-flung considerations were far from Ellen’s thoughts at the time. She did know enough sociology, and enough history, to know, though she would not have dared to mention it in her classes, that human happiness, statistically, bears no essential relationship to freedom whatsoever, but is rather a function of doing what one feels like doing, with the reinforcement and support of social expectations. Ellen wondered if she were a terrible woman, because she wanted love, because she wanted to serve, wholly and helplessly, because she was eager to be devoted and dutiful, because she wanted to make a man happy, to please a master, because she wanted to literally be his, to be owned by him, to be his complete property, to belong to him, in every way. She wondered if it were such a terrible thing, to desire to surrender herself inextricably, wholly to love. In her heart, it seemed, there had begun to burn, even then, in a small way, small at first, like a tiny glowing flame, not fully understood, the longing to know the deepest and most profound of loves, the most complete of loves, the most helpless and self-surrendering of all loves, a slave’s love.

And, too, even in the iron belt, she had begun to sense what might be the nature of a slave’s passion.

She wondered if she, too, as Nelsa had put it, would learn to beg and scratch. To her terror, she feared she might.

She squirmed a little in the belt. It seemed heavy on her. And yet how vulnerable she would feel, as she was, naked and collared, without it.

I must not let myself be a wicked woman, she thought. No, no, she thought. I cannot mean exactly that. She had long ago abandoned, at least in her official views, the acknowledgedly obsolescent category of “wicked,” with its suppressive, grotesque historical antecedents, but, on the other hand, it was difficult for her to clear her mind of the fumes, the noxious residue, of the past, particularly as these residues had been carefully encouraged, propagated, utilized and exploited by ideologues to advance their own political projects. And such was the victim, she, of years of lingeringly puritanical enculturation. And thus, so to speak, are the sins of the fathers, and of the mothers, visited upon succeeding generations.

To be sure, already on Gor, perhaps because of the air, or the water, or the simple, decent, nourishing food, or perhaps, primarily, because of the simple differences in this world, so fresh, natural and innocent, the immersion in a different culture, so very different from her own, with its different values and ethos, she had begun to suspect the existence of psychological freedoms and possibilities, of opennesses, which would have been forever beyond her ken on her former world.

But she was still, in many ways, a creature of that strange world.

I must keep myself above sex, she thought. I must not let myself become sexually aroused. I must never let myself become like Nelsa. I have seen her in Gart’s grasp. How terrible that would be if I should become like that! How terrible that would be if I should become sexually helpless in a man’s arms! I must never let myself become like that. I must never beg and scratch!

But, she thought, squirming in the belt, beside the tub, I am a slave girl! Passion will be required of me. I must yield, and wholly. If I am displeasing, I will doubtless be beaten, or slain. They will give me no choice! I must not keep myself above sex. It will not be permitted. I must let myself become sexually aroused. It will be required of me! I must become like Nelsa! I must become such that I am helpless in a man’s arms. Then, when they have made me such, when they have triggered and ignited my needs and, by their decision, and perhaps to their amusement, made me the helpless victim of them, those profound, terrible, wonderful, overwhelming, irresistible, ecstatic needs, when I must weep, and go half mad with desire, then perhaps I, too, will beg and scratch.

Could I, Ellen, learn to beg and scratch, she wondered.

Yes, she thought. I dimly sense that I, too, might learn to beg and scratch.

She lay beside her tub, thrilled, considering the sexual freedom of the Gorean slave girl. She felt a twinge of regret for free women. How unfortunate they are, she thought. How they must envy us, she thought. It is no wonder that they hate us as they do, or as I have been told they do.

She fingered her collar. How strange, she thought. I am naked, and in a collar, and yet I feel so free! I sense that I may be the freest and happiest, the most liberated, of all women. But then she shuddered, recalling that she was a slave, and subject to the whip and chains. She was an animal. She must obey. She could be bought and sold. It is strange, she thought. I seem to be the most free, and the least free, of all women.

She suddenly heard a small knock at the side of the tub. “Gart,” whispered Laura, the redhead.

Quickly Ellen scrambled up and thrust her hands into the soapy water. It was hot but she could now keep her hands and forearms submerged. She seized, and began to rub and work, the clothes in the tub.

She did not look up, but wished to seem intent on her work. All about her, too, she could sense the slaves return to their tasks. Ellen was pleased that there was no way, apparently, that the girls could be observed when Gart was out of the room.

She sensed him walking about, up and down the aisles, between the tubs. Then he had stopped, a bit behind her and to her left. She kept her head down, laundering, as though unaware of his presence. Then she felt his massive hand in her hair, tight, and he pulled her up to an erect kneeling position. His grip was painful in her hair but, as a slave, she dared not protest. Too, though the grip was painful, she sensed he was not trying to her hurt her, just hold her. It struck her as strange, in a way, that she should be so handled. On Earth, had a man so gripped her, she would have been affrighted and would have resisted; she would have screamed, and struggled, and, in a moment, doubtless a number of good fellows would have rushed to her succor, or surely a policeman, if one were in the vicinity. Here, on the other hand, she must submit uncomplainingly. It could be done to her, and she had no recourse. She was slave. In her training she had learned that slaves could be handled casually, and with assurance, and roughly, and brutally. They could be turned from side to side, flung to their belly, thrown to a wall, forced to assume any number of positions, sometimes their bodies being seized and literally placed, limb by limb, in the desired position, handled with an imperious handling, sometimes conjoined with a sharp word of instruction or admonishment. The slave’s body, for example, does not belong to her. It, like the entirety of her, belongs to the master. She then felt her body, her hair in his grip, his left hand on her left knee, bent backward, until she was helpless before him; the “slave bow,” as the expression is, of her vulnerable, owned beauty thusly exhibited for his attention, or assessment. “Yes,” he said, rather more to himself than to her, or another, “you are pretty.” She was thrilled, but a little frightened, to hear this. Someone must have said something to Gart, perhaps one of the guards, one who might have observed the girls at night, sleeping, chained by the neck, in their bins. Or perhaps one of the kitchen staff, who ladled gruel into the shallow depressions in the bins.

Gart released her and stood up.

Instantly Ellen went to first obeisance position.

“May I speak, Master?” she asked.

There were gasps from the girls about her. But she was not, she was sure, imperiling herself. She had sensed that this was a moment in which an opportunity to speak might be granted to her. Surely Gart seemed to be in a good, if somewhat bemused, mood. Too, a slave girl quickly learns how to use her body, to produce a mood, or to attempt to entice or encourage one, to stimulate, to placate, to lure, to arouse, and so on. To be sure, Ellen supposed that she had not intended to have any particular effect on Gart, at least fully consciously, certainly not, and, indeed, she had been helpless in his grip, had she not, but she realized, even then, even when she was so new to the collar, that the sight of her beauty must have some sort of effect upon men, and she might have, it seems possible, though she was not sure of it, and doubtless would have denied it at the time, and doubtless it did not take place, struggled a little, a tiny bit, pathetically, futilely, gasped plaintively, submissively, looked up, pathetically, permitted her lips to tremble slightly, and, bent back, drew in her gut, and quickly lifted her bosom, thus accentuating the line of the “slave bow.” She heard the auburn-haired slave gasp. Two other slaves laughed. What are they laughing about, Ellen had asked herself, angrily. In any event she had determined to profit from this moment, that won for her through no intent of her own, and despite her complete innocence and modesty, by her beauty. It is not unusual for a slave girl, incidentally, to capitalize upon, utilize and exploit her own beauty, making use of it for her own ends. Indeed, she has little else to use for such purposes. This is, of course, in no sense an admission that Ellen had put her beauty before Gart, that brute, the work-master, he who ruled the laundry and to whom she was fearfully subject, in any way that might have been intended to appeal to him, in any way that manifested her slaveness. How could she have done so? Would it not have been the act of a frightened slave? She was a woman of Earth! To be sure, she had by this time been collared. There are many ambiguities, many opacities, in human experience. So let us suppose that the surmises of her chain sisters were mistaken. Could she then, so long ago, have been such a slave? Surely not!

Forgive me, dear reader!

Forgive me, too, Masters!

I have been instructed to leave the above passage as it is, for purposes of comparison, but now to speak the truth. I must obey. How merciless they are!

Yes, Masters, Ellen put herself before Gart — as a slave! There, it is said!

I dare not lie. The masters will have the truth of me. The free woman may lie. I may not. I am slave. Is this so hard to understand, my terror in these matters, dear reader, that I dare not lie? I assure you that you will understand it, dear reader, and very well, should you one day find yourself in the collar.

The use of their sex, and desirability, to achieve their own ends is, of course, common with women generally, whether bond or free. One supposes, accordingly, in that sense, that all women are prostitutes. And men, it seems, do not object to this. Indeed, it seems to be one of the things they find most charming and endearing about the truly opposite sex. The slave girl, of course, is far less capable of profiting, certainly in a commercial manner, from her prostitute inclinations than is the free woman. The free woman, being free, can sell, barter or trade her beauty for favors or gain. The beauty of the slave girl, on the other hand, like she herself, is owned, and can thus be commanded by the master for his pleasure, at any time, in any way he may desire. Thus, though the slave girl has, like any other woman, her charming, delicious, ingrained, biologically selected-for prostitute tendencies, she is scarcely in a position to use them in order to garner for herself rich gifts, economic privileges, appointment preferences, status, prestige, advancements, power, and such; rather she might hope to have a pastry cast to the floor before her, to win a smile from her master, to be granted the modesty of a slave strip, to be permitted to elude, at least for a time, the whip. But despite sharing with her free sister her charming prostitute tendencies the slave is, in a more serious sense, not a prostitute. The prostitute is a thousand times above the slave. The prostitute is a free woman, and the slave is bond.

“Yes,” said Gart.

Ellen lifted her head a little and threw a glance at Nelsa, who turned white.

“While in the laundry I have seen girls come and go, Master,” she said. “Some stay longer, some less. How long, if I may ask, am I to work here?”

One of the sisters from Venna uttered a small inadvertent noise, one of shock, startled at the boldness of the young slave.

But Gart did not strike the young slave.

“I do not know,” he said. “Perhaps a day, perhaps a week, perhaps a month, perhaps a year, perhaps ten years, perhaps the rest of your life.”

Ellen, head down, moaned.

“Your master is Mirus, is it not?” he asked.

“Yes, Master,” said Ellen. That information, she was sure, was on her collar.

“Perhaps he has forgotten about you,” said Gart.

“Could you not remind him that I am here, Master?” said Ellen.

“Do not be silly,” said Gart.

“Forgive me, Master,” said Ellen.

Gart made as though to turn away.

“Master!” called Ellen.

“Yes,” he said, turning about.

“If you should see him, tell him that Ellen is ready to beg!”

“What does that mean?”

“He will understand, Master.”

Gart fingered the whip at his belt.

“Please do not make me speak, Master,” pleaded Ellen.

“Is this the standard begging?” asked Gart.

“I do not know what the standard begging is, Master,” said Ellen.

“To please a man, any man,” said Gart.

“Yes, Master,” whispered Ellen, head down.

“And you are now ready to so beg?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Then you are not only truly a slave, which is obvious, but you are prepared to acknowledge that you are truly a slave,” said Gart.

“Yes Master,” said Ellen.

Gart removed his hand from the whip.

“If I see him, I will mention it,” said Gart. “But I doubt that it will be of much interest to him.”

“Yes, Master. Thank you, Master.”

“Return to your work, slave.”

“Yes, Master.”

Ellen had arrived at a bold plan. That she was in the iron belt must be meaningful, an indication of her master’s interest in her, his solicitude for her, his reserving of her deflowering, or her “opening for the uses of men,” for himself alone. He must want her, as a special slave, perhaps even a preferred slave! He had put her in the laundry, why? He must be waiting for her to respond affirmatively to the question put to her that evening after supper, an affirmative response that would indicate her interest in, and desire for, sexual experience, in and for itself. What could that response mean, other than the fact that one was at last brave enough, courageous enough, to break through the shackles of Earth conditioning, to admit explicitly to oneself and others that one was a sexual creature, a human female with genuinely human female needs. Surely it could mean no more than that. Too, he presumably wanted her before him naked and kneeling, and uttering such a formula, to further humiliate her, to further pursue his program of vengeance upon her. That would give him an opportunity to again subject her to scorn, another opportunity to exhibit his contempt for her, another opportunity to force her to recognize the debasement, the degradation, to which he had brought her. She must, before him, confess herself the lowest of slaves. She must acknowledge freely what she had now become, make clear to herself, and others, her own abjectness. Very well, she thought. So be it! If that is what he wants I shall give it to him, and meaningfully, and freely. I am a slave. Why should I not admit it? Apparently I must stay where I am, in the laundry, as a naked, sweating work-slave, until I do this. I acknowledge that his will is stronger than mine. Of course it is. My will is nothing. It is that of a slave. He is master, I am slave. I do not want to remain another minute in this place. I will do anything he wants, anything to escape the misery of this room, the tubs and the heat! But, she told herself, smiling inwardly, I think this is in the nature of a test. He must like me. Perhaps he loves me! Once I beg to serve a man, any man, he will be satisfied, and then, of course, keep me for himself, for himself alone. I love him so! I want to be his slave and serve him. Even from the first time I saw him, so many years ago, something in me wanted to be his slave!

Later that day Gart was again out of the room.

Nelsa was now working at a nearby tub. The black woman, with the chain collar and disk, who was awaiting her consignment to a black merchant, was now carrying the ewer.

“So the little slave is now ready to beg?” asked Nelsa.

Ellen pretended not to hear.

“Slave,” sneered Nelsa.

“I did not tell on you, for nearly scalding me this morning,” said Ellen. “Perhaps I will do so when Gart returns.”

“Thank you for not telling on me,” said Nelsa, turning white.

“Perhaps I will do so when Gart returns,” said Ellen.

“Please do not do so,” said Nelsa.

“I understand,” said Ellen, “that if I had been damaged, you might have been boiled alive. As I was not damaged, I gather that your actual punishment may be less severe.”

“Please do not tell on me,” pleaded Nelsa.

“I think Gart likes me,” said Ellen.

“Please do not tell on me!” begged Nelsa.

“Please, what?” asked Ellen.

“Please — Mistress,” said Nelsa.

“I shall give the matter thought,” said Ellen, tossing her head.

“Thank you, Mistress,” whispered Nelsa.

“Now, get back to your work, slave,” said Ellen.

“Yes, Mistress,” said Nelsa.

“You are a stupid little slave, Ellen,” said Laura, the redhead.

“I think that Gart likes me,” said Ellen.

“Do not speak his name!” warned one of the sisters from Venna. “You could be beaten. One refers to free men as “Master” and free women as “Mistress,” unless given permission to use their names.”

“And that permission,” said the other sister, “is almost never granted. What free person would want their name soiled by the tongue of a slave? I never let my slaves refer to me by my name.”

“I think that Gart likes me,” said Ellen. “I have never been out of the house. Tomorrow I think will ask him to let me be one of the girls who airs and dries the washing, on the roof.”

“Bold slave!” said Laura.

“I think I can have men do what I want,” said Ellen.

“Beware,” said Laura. “Do not forget you are a slave!”

“Men are the masters,” said one of the sisters from Venna.

“They are the masters,” said the other sister, pleadingly.

“Perhaps,” said Ellen, lightly, tossing her head. “But we shall see, shan’t we?”

“Have no fear but what you will see, you stupid little slave,” said Laura.

“But I am a pretty slave, and a clever slave,” said Ellen.

“You are a pretty slave, yes,” said Laura. “You are a very pretty slave. But you are not a clever slave. You are a stupid slave.”

Ellen smiled, and tossed her head, dismissively.

When Gart returned to the room, the slaves, including Ellen, returned to their work.

Chapter 13

THE ROOF;

SHE IS SUMMONED BEFORE HER MASTER

“How beautiful!” exclaimed Ellen.

The wind swept about her, whipping the long, white, ankle-length, sleeveless gown she wore about her body. She was barefoot.

She looked out, over the city.

Above her there raced white clouds in a bright blue sky.

“I have never seen anything like this,” whispered Ellen, touching her collar.

“Do not go too near the edge,” said Laura.

There was no railing.

“This world is so beautiful, and so fresh, and so marvelous,” said Ellen, “and here I am a slave.”

To tread such a world, thought Ellen, is worth a brand and a collar, a thousand brands and a thousand collars. What a privilege and joy to be brought here! Do those who are native to this world understand how wonderful it is? I did not know such a world could exist! She reveled in the freshness of the air and the beauty of the sky, and city. How different this was from the gray, crowded, unkempt, polluted, unloved, filthy, squalid city with she was most familiar from her former world.

“How beautiful it is,” she called to Laura.

Laura came to stand beside her. “It is beautiful,” said Laura.

“It is so much more beautiful than most of the cities of my former world,” said Ellen.

“Perhaps those cities have no Home Stones,” said Laura.

“You two had best be attending to your work,” called Nelsa.

On the broad, circular roof, some fifty yards in diameter, there were numerous, sturdy, tiered racks of poles on which levels of laundry might be dried, and, between these racks, were numerous swaying lines, from which a great deal more wash, like flags, shook, flapped and fluttered in the wind, held to the lines with simple, numerous, wooden, hand-carved clothespins.

Gart, when he had acceded to Ellen’s request to work on the roof, had assigned several of the girls close to her the same duty. Perhaps he thought they were friends. He would not know that Nelsa hated Ellen, fearing that she might tell her secret, about the threatened scalding. Nor would he know that Ellen, in Laura’s opinion, was little more than a petty, vain, stupid, self-important, ignorant, scheming, meaningless little bit of slave fluff. On the other hand, as an astute work-master, well accustomed to dealing with female slaves, he may have assigned the group as he did in order to reduce jealousy, diminish resentments, and such. After all, he could not always be in the laundry. Perhaps, too, he recognized Ellen’s youth and vulnerability, her newness to the collar and such, and thought he might as well do what he could, within reason, to protect her. Too, there was no denying that she was an extremely pretty little slave, and this may have had something to do with it. This is not to say that she did not feel his whip when she shirked her work. It is one thing to be very pretty; it is quite another not to be fully pleasing. Another possibility, of course, is that this would be Ellen’s first venture to the roof, and he thought it well to have some of her associates, slaves she knew, slaves with whom she would be expected to be able to communicate, for whatever reason, in her vicinity.

Ellen stood rapt on the roof, the wind moving her long, sleeveless garment about her, gazing across the city, in awe, tears in her eyes.

“You had best return to your basket and begin to hang the clothing,” said Laura, turning away, going back to her own basket.

Ellen lifted her arms gratefully to the city, the sky, the world. “I love you, planet Gor,” she cried. “You are so beautiful. Here the world is new. Here one begins again. What an honor, what a privilege, what an incredible gift, just to be able to see you, just to be permitted to be here! How unworthy are the women of Earth to know your glory and beauty! What could a woman such as I be on a world such as this but a slave? On such a world what else could we be? Oh, thank you, Masters, for bringing us here, if only for your own purposes, if only to have us as slaves, if only to have us in our collars, abjectly serving, licking and kissing, naked at your feet! I thank you, oh Masters! I thank you, I thank you!”

“Ellen!” called Laura, impatiently, from back amongst the lines of swaying, fluttering clothes.

“Yes, yes!” said Ellen.

She looked out across the city. The building on whose roof she stood, and it had been a long climb to the roof from the laundry, bearing the heavy basket, was very similar to most of the other buildings she saw in the city. It was one of the “high cities,” a forest of cylinders, a city of towering, spaced cylinders, many of them in bright colors, and, joining these cylinders, at various levels, like light curving, colored, rail-less traceries in the sky, were numerous bridges. She could see individuals on many of the bridges. Too, there were individuals in the streets below. In the distance, too, between the cylinders, many of which must have been twenty or thirty living tiers, or stories, high, she could see walls. She thought they, too, must be very high. Too, their tops seemed almost like roads. She did not doubt but what two wagons might pass on them. Though it was far off, she thought she could see, like specks, some individuals here and there on the walls. Occasionally there was a flash, as might have resulted from the sun’s being suddenly reflected from a metal surface, perhaps a helmet, a spear point, a shield. There must have been parapets, and, discernibly, here and there, there were small towers, which may have been guard stations. Some of these towers jutted partly out from the walls, which would expose the sheer declivity of the architectural escarpment to view. Why would a city need walls, she asked herself. Ellen, who at that time was not only new to her collar, but largely ignorant of the nature of the world on which she found herself, did not understand the darker or more problematic meanings of what she saw, or, perhaps better, the full implications of what she saw. She saw little more than the beauty of the city, its style, its color, its grace, its splendor. She did not understand at that time that the considerations which had been involved in the design of the city were not merely aesthetic, and such, but military, as well. Most of the towers were, in effect, keeps. They were stocked, fortress towers. Many could not be entered at the ground level. The bridges amongst them were narrow and could be successfully defended by a handful of men against hundreds. And the bridges, given their construction, could be easily broken, thus isolating the individual fortresses from other, similar fortresses, which might have fallen to an enemy. To reduce such a city, with primitive weaponry, tower by tower, might well require an army, and, conceivably, an investment of years of effort and expense.

“This is now my world,” cried out Ellen. “I am only a slave, but I am here, and now this world is mine, too! It is mine, too! You are mine, too, dear world, and I love you, though on you I am but a slave! But on such a world what could a woman such as I be but a slave? On such a world a woman such as I could be only, and am worthy to be only, a slave!” Ellen then knelt down, at the edge of the roof, knelt down in gratitude, before the world of Gor. “You are now my world,” she said. “You are beautiful. I love you. I rejoice to be here.” She put her hands on her collar, lifting it a little on her neck, almost as though offering it to the world on which she found herself. “Thank you, world, for existing. Help me to be a good slave!” She looked out over the buildings. “Oh, world,” she said, “understand me, and be kind. You are the world of which I have always dreamed! On you, beautiful world, let me fulfill the deepest and most wonderful, and most hidden, of my needs, those needs I was always forced to deny on Earth. Here I can be, and must be, the slave I have always longed to be. Oh, give me virile masters who will own me, powerful men whom I must fear, and whom I must obey instantly and with perfection, subject to them in all things, men who will take my womanhood in hand and see to it that it is fulfilled, to its fullest most helpless measure, men who will dominate me without mercy, who will exact ruthlessly and choicelessly from me all that I long to give!”

Ellen then rose up, and, standing, looked out over the panorama of the city and the hills and fields beyond.

She thought she saw a bird in the distance, and watched it for a moment. Yes, it was a bird, clearly. It was difficult to judge its distance. Something seemed awry with the perspective. She thought it must be some hundred, or two hundred, yards away, but, oddly, too, it seemed as though it might be as far away as the walls, perhaps even further. She was puzzled.

“Ellen!” called Laura, sharply.

“Yes!” said Ellen, and, turning about, she ran to the large wicker basket of laundry she had carried to the roof. It was back among the lines and flapping clothes. She reached into the basket and took out the small clothespin bag, lying on the damp laundry, and slung this over her right shoulder, so that its opening was at her left hip, so that she, being right-handed, might easily reach into it. Then, one by one, she began to lift up and shake out the washed, damp garments, and hang them on the line, fastening them there, carefully, with the lovely hand-carved clothespins, for Goreans are prone to lavish attention even on small things, spoons, knives, cooking prongs, and such, anything to make the world more beautiful. It would not do, of course, to allow a garment to fall to the surface of the cylinder. She felt like singing, but, in a collar, slave, was not certain that it would be permitted.

Many times, she knew, one must even ask permission to speak. One, after all, was slave. Having to ask permission to speak, when it seemed such permission was likely to be required, thrilled Ellen. She loved having to ask permission to speak. Few things brought more clearly home to her her bondage, that she was a mere slave, owned, and subject to the domination of masters. She loved this power of men over her, this very clear insignia of her servitude, this standing evidence that she was helplessly subject to the mastery, that she belonged to men. She might be denied speech; she could be silenced at a word. How different from free women, she thought, certainly those of Earth, and, doubtless, those, as well, of this world! But she loved this token of her condition. How well it reminded her that she was what she wished to be, slave.

How often on Earth she had entertained, however guiltily, the secret, fascinating, delicious thought of being owned, of being the helpless, rightless slave of a powerful, uncompromising master! How fearfully, and eagerly, she would have tried to please him, in all ways! She might have hoped for a caress. Certainly she did not wish to be whipped! And now she belonged to a category of females susceptible to such strictures, a category of females who might be bought and sold, bartered or bestowed, without thought, as the sleek, shapely beasts they were.

She was thrilled to be categorically subject to men, and this small thing, that she might speak only with permission, as few other things, especially as she was a woman, for we so desire to speak, and so delight to speak, spoke to her of the reality of her sometimes-resented, but fundamentally longed-for subjugation. How she resented at times being silenced, but how much more precious then was the opportunity to speak when it was seen fit to be granted. Too, interestingly, she found that being denied speech, being frustrated, and such, excited her sexually. Perhaps this was connected with male domination, which elicits female submissiveness, and an eager, petitionary, receptive readiness that can be almost painful. The sexes are not identical, and each becomes most itself when it refuses to betray or misrepresent itself to itself. Perhaps this has to do with nature, and its nature.

In any event, Ellen was not discontented in her collar. It belongs on me, she thought. And I love it! I belong in a collar! I love it! I love it!

She wished she knew some Gorean songs. Surely some masters would permit her to sing, if she were happy! Some masters, she supposed, would enjoy having their girls singing about their work. She hoped soon to serve a master, and that it would be Mirus. Some girls, she knew, were taught to sing, others to entertain with instruments such as the lute and lyre, and others, it seemed, many, were trained in the dances of slaves. Her own training, she understood, though it had seemed extensive to her, had been almost minimal, quite basic. She wondered if there were some special reason for this. “We will teach you a little,” had said one of her instructrices. “Hopefully you will then be able to survive at least the first night at a master’s slave ring.” Ellen wondered if Mirus, her master, would be pleased, if she were to dance before him as a slave. Had he wondered what she would look like, long ago, when she was his teacher, she wondered, if she were to so dance before him, barefoot, in a bit of swirling silk, in necklaces and coins, in armlets, with bracelets on her wrists and bangles on her ankles, to the flash of ringing zills, summoned, commanded, fearful, begging to please, his. Had she hinted at that, or her slaveness, when she had worn the two small bracelets? Perhaps, she thought. I would like to dance before masters, she thought. It is my hope that I would please them. But, alas, I cannot dance! I cannot even dance the social dances of Earth, let alone the dances of the displayed female slave. The sunlight was pleasant, the air was cool. She thought it must be early spring, assuming this world had a periodicity of seasons.

“Laura,” she said, “someone has hung up some of the things from my basket.”

“I did,” said Laura, irritably. “Perhaps I should not have done so. What if the work-master should come to the roof and find your work not even begun! How soon do you think you would come again to the roof? Or perhaps any of us? Perhaps you would enjoy being tied to the high ring and having your pretty little hide lashed? And the rest of us might be lashed as well, all of us!”

“I am sorry,” said Ellen. “Thank you.” She decided that Laura might not be as unpleasant or stupid as she had supposed.

Laura looked at her, suddenly, sharply. “You are sorry, aren’t you?” said Laura.

“Yes,” said Ellen.

“Let us hurry,” said Laura.

“Yes, Mistress,” said Ellen.

“Get to work, slave!” called Nelsa.

Ellen looked at her, angrily.

“You were dallying,” said Nelsa. “Now I, too, have something to tell!”

“Yes, Mistress,” said Ellen.

Nelsa laughed and continued to hang her wash.

“There are many more baskets below,” said Laura.

One of the girls, clambering on one of the tiered racks, some ten or twelve feet above the surface of the roof, called out, “Look!” She was pointing out, toward the distance, toward one of the towers on the wall. The other girls shaded their eyes and looked in the direction she had pointed. Ellen did, too. She could see nothing in the distance but a flock of birds.

“They will never get past the walls,” said Nelsa, who had climbed up one of the racks, and was now some seven or eight feet above the surface of the roof, her feet on one pole, she clinging to another.

“Let us return to our work,” said another of the girls, glancing warily at the hatchlike opening to the roof.

One did not know when Gart, or another, perhaps some guard, might appear on the roof.

Ellen, with the simple clothespins, attached a sheet to the line. All about her flapped the rows of suspended clothes. She, and the other girls were almost invisible amongst the laundry and the lines.

She found that she enjoyed doing this simple work.

It seemed fitting for her.

She wondered if she were happy.

“May I speak?” Ellen asked Laura.

Laura grunted in response, a pair of clothespins between her teeth, others in her left hand, which also held a corner of a robe.

“Why have we been given gowns?” asked Ellen.

Ellen waited until Laura had finished with the robe.

“To better conceal you,” said Laura. “But do not fear, they are sleeveless, and thus make it likely that you are bond.”

“I do not understand,” said Ellen.

“It is spring,” said Laura, “and that is a popular time for the hunts of tarnsmen, not that those monsters need any seasonal excuse for their predations.”

“What are tarnsmen?” asked Ellen.

“Those of the Warriors, or sometimes mercenaries, or outlaws, or raiders, or bandits, whoever mounts, masters and rides tarns.”

“What is a tarn?” asked Ellen.

“Surely you are apprised of at least the first knowledge?” said Laura.

“But,” said Ellen, “those are only in stories, they are mythological creatures, like the hith, the sleen.”

“I have never seen a hith,” said Laura, “but I have spoken to those who have. I have certainly seen sleen, and tarns. There are sleen in the house, in pens. They are useful in hunting slaves.”

“I have never seen a sleen,” said Ellen.

“You might ask to do so,” said Laura. “Normally a slave girl is only brought into their presence when she is put in close shackles and has her hands braceleted behind her back. Thus she cannot break and run, an action which might prompt the beast’s pursuit behavior.”

“You are teasing me,” said Ellen. “Sleen are supposed to have six legs.”

“They do,” said Laura. “That is efficient, given the length and low, sinuous structure of their body.”

“Oh, Laura!” protested Ellen.

“There are many sorts of sleen,” said Laura. “Most common are the forest sleen and prairie sleen. The forest sleen are larger, and are solitary hunters, or, if mated, pair hunters; the prairie sleen are smaller, and commonly hunt in packs. Some sleen are bred and trained for certain purposes, hunting slaves, and such. The forest sleen commonly buries its dung, thereby tending to conceal its presence; the prairie sleen, running in packs, and more widely ranging, commonly, does not. Sleen have a strong, unmistakable odor. A forester or plainsman, or a sleen hunter, or one trained, can sometimes detect their scent more than two hundred yards away. Caravans in forests often keep verr or tabuk with them, tethering them in the camp at night, as the agitation of such animals sometimes gives warning of the presence of sleen in the vicinity. Sleen, of course, like larls, commonly hunt with the wind blowing toward them. Thus they have your scent and you do not have theirs.”

“Why, really, have we been given gowns?” asked Ellen. “We might as well be naked. There is no one to see us here.”

“Do not be too sure,” said Nelsa, from the rack, still looking outward. “They are circling the city,” she said.

“It is daylight,” said another girl. “There is no reason to fear.”

“Laura, please,” prompted Ellen.

“It is a pleasure for a tarnsman to have his tarn seize in its talons a woman and carry her off, or he may prefer the use of a slave net or a capture loop. She later then, in a safe place, may be suitably secured, say, stripped and roped, and put across his saddle, or simply chained naked to a saddle ring. The ideal, of course, is to catch a free woman, for such is the most prestigious game. Surely that would be more prestigious than picking up someone like you or me, who are merely domestic animals, livestock. Some claim that that is the reason that free women are so cumbersomely and concealingly garbed, and that slaves are so lightly and revealingly clad. Supposedly the tarnsman might thus be lured to the pursuit of an identifiably delightful quarry, something obviously worth owning, as opposed to a free woman who might, when stripped, prove to be as ugly as a tharlarion.”

Tharlarion, Ellen had been told, were reptilian creatures, some of which were allegedly quite large, and domesticated. Supposedly different varieties were used for various purposes, such as war, haulage and racing. She was not sure, at that time, that such things existed, no more than larls, sleen, tarns, and such.

“There may be something to that,” said Laura, “but I suspect that men dress their slaves as they do, if they dress them at all, because they find them exciting to look upon, and wish to call attention to their beauty, and enjoy displaying them as their properties. Men are so vain. You should see how some of them lead naked, painted, bejeweled slaves about on leashes, put them through slave paces publicly, make them dance in the open for tarsk-bits, put them up as stakes in the dicing halls, and marketplaces, and such. And so, perhaps, free women insist on some compensatory distinction, to make it clear that they are not to be confused with such flesh-trash. On the other hand, it is said that beneath all the clothing, the veils, the Robes of Concealment, and such, of a free woman there is still, after all, only the body of a naked slave.”

“But there are no tarnsmen here,” said Ellen.

“Sometimes they break through,” said Laura. “And that is why you have been put in the long gown, and not, say, a tunic. There are two differences here. If the choice is between you and a free woman, the tarnsman will almost certainly notice that you, as your gown is sleeveless, are almost certainly slave, and will thus, presumably, go after the free woman. If the choice is between you, lengthily gowned, and a briefly tunicked slave, whose lovely legs he can take in at a glance, he will presumably go after the briefly tunicked slave. It is difficult to make judicious assessments, as you might suppose, given the brief amount of time at his disposal, time enough for little more than a glimpse, given the distance, the swiftness of the flight, the press of pursuit, and such. To be sure, sometimes women are scouted. It is known when she will be on the bridge, and so on. And so, Ellen, that is why you are dressed as you are.”

“I see,” said Ellen, skeptically.

“To be sure,” said Laura, “if a tarnsman did settle for you, I do not think that afterwards, when he had you squirming naked in his ropes, bound hand and foot, he would be at all disappointed with the nature of his catch.”

“Do tarnsmen exist?” asked Ellen. “Really?”

“To be sure,” said Laura, “you are only a slave. And yet, what is the first thing they do with their exalted, aristocratic, noble, precious, prestigious free woman? They brand her, put her in a collar, and make her a slave, too!”

“You are teasing me,” said Ellen. “Tarnsmen do not really exist.”

“If a tarnstrike should be upon us,” said Laura, “and you cannot get below, just throw yourself to your belly on the roof. That makes it hard to get you, hard for the tarn, hard for the net, hard for the capture loop.”

I shall certainly keep that in mind,” smiled Ellen.

“They have broken through!” cried the girl on the height of a nearby rack, she who had originally called their attention to the agitation in the distance. Ellen looked up at her, wildly. The girl’s hair streamed behind her, the wind whipping her gown back against her body. She clung to the rack, fiercely.

“They will have the wind behind them!” said Laura. “The defenders must fly against the wind. They may be easily eluded, and then they must turn to pursue. They will have lost the tempo of the passage. Intruders may be through and beyond the city in a matter of Ehn!”

“I want to see!” said Ellen.

In the distance one could hear the ringing of a great metal bar, struck repeatedly.

“Get below!” called Laura.

“It is locked!” cried a girl, tugging at the ring that might otherwise have lifted and opened the hatchlike portal that led to the interior of the cylinder.

Another girl joined her, trying to lift the ring.

“There are prize slaves below, and riches,” said Laura. “They do not want to risk them! Stay down, everyone! Stay down!”

Ellen, standing among the flapping clothes, amongst the lines, between racks, shaded her eyes, straining to see into the distance. She could see, in the distance, what appeared to be a flock of birds. It seemed, again, that the perspective was oddly awry. They should be no more than a hundred yards or so away, and yet, at the same time, it seemed they were scarcely within the distant walls. Other birds seemed to rise from her side of the wall, lifting momentarily against the darkness of the wall and then suddenly appearing in the sky, hastening specks, the hills and fields beyond.

“They are coming this way!” called Nelsa, pointing, she, too, on a rack, but lower than the other girl.

“Get down!” cried Laura.

The first girl, she who had first alerted the slaves to the phenomenon in the distance, climbed down from the rack, and crouched near it, amidst the flapping clothes. Nelsa, in a moment, had joined her.

Most of the girls were crouched down. Some lay on their stomachs under the racks, their hands covering their heads.

“I can’t see,” said Ellen, brushing aside clothes, which had blown before her. She fought the laundry shaking and snapping in the wind about her.

“Get down!” called Laura.

“I want to see!” said Ellen.

Then suddenly she flung her hands before her face and screamed, and the world seemed madness about her. There was a wild cry, piercing, at hand, not more than fifteen feet above her, surely the loudest and most terrifying sound she had ever heard, as of some living, immense, monstrous creature, and she was in shadow and then not in shadow, in a shadow that moved and leapt and was shattered with bursts of sunlight, and then darkness, and clothing was torn from the lines by the blasts of wind from the smitings of mighty wings, and one of the racks, seized in monstrous talons, broke into a thousand pieces, and, lifted, fell in a shower of sticks, raining down to the roof. Ellen could not believe what she saw. Above her, now darting away, was a gigantic bird, an enormous bird, a saddlebird, its wings with a span of thirty or more feet, and, seemingly tiny on its back, was a helmeted man!

Ellen had heard an angry cry from the man above her, and words in Gorean she did not recognize, words that had certainly never been taught to her, a slave girl. She had no doubt that the man was cursing, and richly, the failure of his strike.

Then they were away.

To be sure, how could he have hoped to make a catch when the girls were hidden by the laundry, protected by the lines, could take refuge under the racks, and such?

Ellen was now on her knees amidst the lines, her hands lifted, as though she might fend away blows.

Nelsa sped past her, laughing, and clambered to the height of the nearest undamaged rack. She went to its very height, and stood there, balanced, outlined against the sky, her hair shaken in the wind, her gown whipping about her body.

“Clumsy oaf!” she screamed after the retreating rider. “Who taught you your work? Go home and play with vulos! You have the skill of a tharlarion!”

“Come down!” called Laura.

“Down with Treve!” cried Nelsa, shaking her fist after the rider in the distance. “May her walls be razed and her wealth plundered. May her women be put in collars! May they, and her other slaves, be herded away! May her towers be burned and salt cast upon their ashes!”

The approach of the second tarn, soaring, borne on the wind, its wings still, was silent.

Nelsa, of course, did not see it, as she was facing away from it, crying out, shaking her fist at the retreating figure of the other rider, now muchly in the distance.

It was, accordingly, a simple thing, to drop the capture loop about her standing body.

She must, suddenly, her fist still in the air, angry, shouting, have become aware of it, light and soft as a whisper, dropping about her. Then the tarn was past her and the resistance of her own body to the loop caused it to tighten about her. It took her beautifully, and skillfully, at the waist. It might have snared even a man, so neatly and quickly it was slipped on its quarry, before he could thrust it from his straight, muscular, linear body, but, positioned as it was on Nelsa, a woman, nicely centered, between the flare of her hips and the swelling of her bosom, she could not even have begun to hope to elude its grasp, nor could any beautifully bodied female, no more than Ellen, for similar reasons, could slip the iron belt from her body, whose outline was visible, even now, beneath her gown. In this sense, some Goreans speculate that the bodies of women were designed for bonds. And, perhaps in some minor, contributory evolutionary sense, in addition to more obvious biological considerations, this is true, given selections and such, women with bodies unable to elude such constraints being more susceptible to capture, mating and mastering. Certainly the females of many animal species, and even of many primate species, do not have such hip structure, such fullness of bosom, and such. Regardless of the interest or value of such speculations, the truth of which would in any event be veiled in the mysteries and darkness of the past, the fact of the matter was obvious, the fact of the congeniality of such bodies to the convenience of binding and tethering, as obvious as the perfection of the bond on Nelsa, who, clutching at the air, kicking, frantic, screaming and crying out in terror, was now being drawn rapidly away from the roof, swinging, dangling, wildly, twenty feet below a speeding tarn, between the towers, hundreds of feet above the streets of the city.

“It is the strategy of the second strike,” said Laura. “The first apparently bungles his strike and then, silently, the derisive, or unwary, quarry off guard, revealing herself, thinking herself safe, the cohort approaches, and makes the actual play for the game. Nelsa, it seems, is not as clever, or wise, as she thought.”

“Look,” said Ellen, pointing away, in the direction to which the wind was blowing, that in which the tarn had flown.

“Yes,” said Laura, “the two of them, the monsters, are having their rendezvous. Now they are fleeing, together.”

The alarm bar was still ringing.

“Doubtless they will split her price,” said Laura, or perhaps they will keep her and gamble for her.”

“She was shouting about Treve,” said Ellen.

“Yes,” said Laura. “They were tarnsmen of Treve. That was their leather. It is said those of Treve know well how to handle women.”

“So, too, does any man,” said a girl, trembling.

“True,” smiled Laura.

The only men they knew, Ellen conjectured, were Gorean males.

“Sometimes I am so afraid to be a slave,” said another girl, touching her collar.

“We all are,” said Laura.

“Tonight I wager Nelsa will dance naked before a campfire,” said a girl.

“The whip dance, I hope,” said another.

Nelsa had not been popular with the other girls.

“The work-master will now want a new favorite,” said one.

“I am glad I am not blond-haired and blue-eyed,” said another.

Several of the girls turned to look at Ina, who was blond-haired and blue-eyed. She shrank back, shaking her head, negatively.

“Learn to hold firmly to the sides of the tub,” said a girl.

“Perhaps you will get a candy in your bin,” said another.

“Look out!” cried a girl.

The slaves shrank down. Some flung themselves prone to the roof.

“No!” said a girl. “That is one of ours!”

They stood up, again, amidst the laundry. Sticks from the shattered rack were strewn about.

“Some of this laundry will have to be washed again,” said one of the girls.

“Look!” said one of the other slaves.

“That is one of them!” said another.

Another tarn was streaking by, a hundred yards to the left.

The slave who had cried out clapped her hands with pleasure. “See!” she cried. “He has a free woman!”

Clutched in the talons of the tarn, fearing to struggle lest she fall, but nonetheless helplessly held, held as though gripped with iron, was a human figure, though it seemed little more now than a pathetic bundle, trailing shreds of robes and veils.

“Good for you!” cried one of the girls to the speeding tarnsman.

“Put the iron to her!” cried another.

“Collar her!” cried another.

“Teach her to kiss the whip!”

“Make her jump and squirm!” cried yet another.

“I speculate that her life is going to change,” said Laura to Ellen.

“Doubtless,” said Ellen, touching her collar, frightened.

Two tarnsmen of the city snapped by in pursuit of the fellow with the free woman. They terminated their pursuit at the city walls. Doubtless they had their orders, and there might well be other Treveans within the city.

In a few moments the alarm bar had stopped ringing.

“The raid is over,” said a girl.

“Now a pursuit will be organized,” said another.

“Wait,” said one of the girls. “There is another!”

“The clever monster!” said another.

“He waited until the bar had stopped ringing.”

“Where was he?”

“Below.”

“Help! Help!” cried the woman in the net.

“He is going to land on the roof,” said one of the girls, frightened.

“Stay back, keep away from him!” warned Laura.

The tarn came down, wings beating, hovering, and then alit on the roof. The rider leaped from the saddle, and pulled the net to the side. It contained a lovely young woman in a slave tunic and collar. She reached out, through the heavy mesh of the net. “Help me! Help me!” she cried. “Summon guardsmen!”

“He is clever,” said Laura. “Here the guardsmen may take him for a defender. If he is of Treve, he does not wear their leather.”

The tarnsman then regarded the cluster of slaves on the roof.

“We are in the presence of a free man,” said Laura. “Kneel. He may be of the city.”

The slaves knelt.

“Kneel as the slaves you are,” whispered Laura.

Knees then were spread, and widely, beneath the long gowns.

The tarnsman grinned.

“What do you think of my slave?” he called.

“I am not a slave!” cried the woman in the net.

“She is beautiful, Master,” said Laura.

“Call guardsmen!” screamed the woman in the net, holding to its mesh.

“There are no guardsmen to call,” said Laura.

“I am a free woman!” cried the prisoner of the net. “He took my clothing! He tunicked me! He put a collar on me!”

“He is clever,” said Laura to the others. “If it is thought she is a slave the pursuit will be pressed less vigorously.”

“What do you think of the legs of my slave?” inquired the tarnsman.

“They are well revealed, Master,” said Laura.

“They are lovely enough to be the legs of a slave girl, surely, Master,” said one of the slaves.

“It was not I who revealed my legs!” cried the woman in the net. “It was he who put me in this scandalous tunic. It was he who revealed them!”

The woman in the net tried to force the brief tunic she wore down further on her body. She did not have much success in this, as the tunic, perhaps by intent, was quite short.

“Save me!” demanded the woman in the net. “Get this collar off my neck!” She pulled at it, angrily, futilely. She was unsuccessful, of course, as such devices are not designed to be removed by their wearers.

One of the girls laughed, at the absurdity of the behavior of the net’s occupant.

“Whip her! Whip her!” cried the net’s occupant.

The tarnsman looked about, studying the sky.

“In a few moments the pursuit, organized, will depart, following the raiders,” said Laura. “He will then go in another direction.”

“I wish I belonged to such a master,” said one of the girls.

Laura looked at her, sharply, with interest. “Yes,” she then said, “so do I.”

“I am from Brundisium,” said the tarnsman, pleasantly. “I asked this woman to be my free companion, but she refused. Accordingly I decided I would make her my slave.”

“Excellent, Master,” said one of the girls.

“Free me! Free me! Call guardsmen!” cried the woman in the net.

“I have waited for days, for there to be a raid I could use for cover, a raid I could turn to my own advantage,” he said.

“Master is strong and clever,” said Laura.

“You are a pretty slave,” he said.

Laura spread her knees more widely, but subtly, seemingly shyly, beneath her gown. Ellen gasped. She had not seen Laura like this before, so before a man.

So, she thought, Laura is indeed a slave girl. I wonder if I would ever behave so before a man.

Surely not I!

Ellen did not think this behavior on Laura’s part was unnoticed by the stalwart figure on the roof. The tarn shifted, restlessly.

“Get me out of this sack!” demanded the free woman.

“May I present Lady Temesne?” inquired the tarnsman.

“That is a Cosian name,” said a girl. Ellen made little of that.

“Mistress,” said Laura, respectfully.

“Mistress,” said several of the girls, bowing their heads.

“Mistress,” said Ellen, bowing her head, as the others. This was the first free Gorean woman Ellen had ever encountered. She began to sense the awe with which such were to be regarded by such as she, and the deference that would be expected of her in the presence of such. To be sure, this one was in a slave tunic and collar.

“Get me out of this sack!” cried Lady Temesne.

Her accent did seem different from that of many of the other girls, Ellen thought.

The tarnsman then, to the gratification of Lady Temesne, opened the sack, and she began to crawl hurriedly from it, but her gratification was short-lived, as he took her by the hair, when her feet were still tangled in the mesh, and pressed her down on her stomach on the roof, and then knelt across her body. “What are you doing?” she cried. “Put your hands behind you,” he told her. “Now.” Weakly she put her small hands behind her. He pulled them together and, in a moment, they had been encircled with binding fiber, and were lashed together. She cried out, softly, in protest, as she was gagged. She whimpered in misery, as she was blindfolded. He then drew her from the net, crossed her ankles, bound them together, and looked down upon her. There was no denying that she was a lovely catch. He then thrust her back in the net, her knees pulled up under her chin, and tied the net shut, close about her. He then fastened the net on short ropes close to the belly of the tarn. It would then be less obvious.

He then returned to watching the sky.

“Laura,” whispered Ellen.

“Yes,” said Laura.

“He is waiting for tarnsmen to leave the city?”

“Yes,” said Laura.

“What of Nelsa?” asked Ellen.

“Do not concern yourself about her,” said Laura. “She is merely a captured slave.”

“Will they hurt her?” asked Ellen.

“I do not think so,” said Laura. “Probably no more than to occasionally remind her that she is a slave and, of course, to see to it that she is perfect in her service.”

“But the whip dance?”

“True, that will hurt her,” said Laura, “but it will teach her, too, who her masters are.”

Ellen shuddered.

“Is Treve a city?” Ellen asked.

“Yes,” said Laura. “And little love is lost between those of Treve and this city.”

“What is the name of this city?” asked Ellen.

“You do not know?”

“No.”

“Ar,” said Laura.

At that moment several flights of tarnsmen, dozens in each flight, swept overhead.

The tarnsman raised his hand, saluting the flights as they passed.

“He is magnificent!” breathed Laura, in awe. “He will well know how to keep a woman!”

He was now ready to ascend the rope ladder to the saddle, several feet above the surface of the roof. That ladder is then pulled up and tied to the saddle. There are normally two or four rings fastened at the sides of a tarnsman’s saddle, one or two on each side.

“Master!” called Laura suddenly.

He turned to look upon her.

“May I speak?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“May I rise?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said.

She quickly ran to him and, as slaves gasped, she knelt before him, bending over, her head down between her arms, which were lifted, the wrists crossed.

“How dare you submit yourself as a free woman?” he asked.

“Forgive me, Master!” wept Laura, lowering herself humbly to her belly before him, and pressing her lips to his bootlike sandals. She looked up, tears in her eyes. “Perhaps Master would care to capture a worthless slave?”

The occupant of the net, tied close to the belly of the tarn, squirmed, whimpering, angrily.

“She wants to be the only one,” whispered a girl to Ellen.

The tarnsman crouched down beside Laura and, with a length of binding fiber, crossed her wrists and bound them together before her body. He then, similarly, crossed her ankles, and bound them, as well. He then carried her to the saddle, over his shoulder, and laid her gently on her back, across the saddle, on the large plain surface before the pommel, perhaps a surface prepared for just such a purpose. It was then but a moment’s work to fasten her bound wrists to the forward ring on the left, and her bound ankles to the forward ring on the right. In this fashion she was bound before him, belly up, stretched over the saddle. He then considered her for a moment, and then took a knife from his belt.

Slaves gasped, thrilled.

Laura’s gown, in a moment, cut from her, cast aside, had fluttered to the roof.

“I am yours, Master!” said Laura.

“You tell me nothing I do not know, slave,” he said.

He then freed the rolled blanket from behind the saddle, opened it, and threw it over the slave, concealing her.

The tunicked, collared free woman, bound in the net, gagged and blindfolded, squirmed and whimpered.

“I suspect,” whispered the girl to Ellen’s right, “our noble little tunic-wearer will be sold in Brundisium.”

“Perhaps he will keep them both,” said another girl.

“Perhaps,” said another.

“She does have pretty legs,” said another.

“The tunic displays them well,” said another.

“Surely,” said another.

The tarn then smote the air, leapt from the roof, soared for a moment, and then, wings beating, rose higher, leveled in its flight, and then streaked from the city, in a direction other than that taken by those in pursuit of the Trevean raiders.

“We may now rise,” said one of the girls, watching the tarn disappear in the distance.

Ellen stood up, uncertainly.

“They take women,” she said, in awe. “They bind us. They steal us. They carry us off. They think nothing of this. They make us theirs. They make us slaves. They use us as they please. We are nothing to them. They buy and sell us. They do as they wish with us!”

“They are men,” said one of the girls.

“I fear you,” she whispered to herself, “beautiful world on which I am a slave.”

“The hatch is now open!” called one of the girls.

“We must clean up things and get back to work,” said another.

Nelsa was gone. Laura, too, was gone. Tonight Nelsa might be performing the whip dance for masters. Ellen did not know what the whip dance was but she was not displeased that it, whatever it was, might be required of Nelsa. She did not think that Nelsa would be a bother or a nuisance to her new masters. The whip takes that out of a woman. She did not know what Laura’s fate might be. Whatever it was, it was in the hands of the tarnsman from Brundisium.

“Have you no work to do, slave girl?” inquired one of the girls.

“Forgive me, Mistress,” said Ellen, and drew toward her, across the roof, under a line, her large basket, and then reached into it for another damp garment, to shake out, smooth and hang.

“There are many more baskets below,” said a slave.

Ellen, with the wooden pins, hung a garment on the line. It was a male’s work tunic. It was large. Ellen wondered what its wearer might look like, and what he might be like, and what it would be like to be owned by him.

“Man!” called a girl.

Instantly the slaves fell to their knees and assumed first obeisance position.

“Is Ellen, who is the slave of Mirus, here?” asked the man.

Ellen was too frightened to respond.

“Who is first girl?” asked the man.

“We have lost two slaves, to tarnsmen, Master,” said blond-haired, blue-eyed Ina. “We could not return to the interior of the cylinder. The hatch had been secured from within. Nelsa and Laura, slaves of the house. Of those upon the roof, Laura was first girl.”

“Last week, our lads took eight from Treve, three of whom were free,” said the man.

“Glory to Ar!” said Ina.

“Glory to Ar!” said several of the others.

“All three were put up for sale yesterday,” he said.

“Excellent, Master,” said Ina.

“Our warriors did well,” said the man.

“Yes, Master,” said Ina.

“I trust the brigands from Treve bagged little or nothing.”

“Let us hope so, Master,” said Ina.

Ellen was certain that the raiders had captured at least one free woman, as she had seen her helpless in the grasp of a tarn’s talons. This was not to take account of the fate of the Lady Temesne, for her abductor had been a spurned suitor from Brundisium. The Lady Temesne, who had regarded herself as too fine to accept his suit, might this very night be at his feet, begging to please. But she might be sold in favor of Laura. But then Ellen did not know. The Lady Temesne did have pretty legs. It might be noted that the guard had paid little explicit attention to the slaves involved in these transactions, though he had kept track, noting that five slaves had been taken from Treve recently. One does, in that sense, one supposes, count or “keep score,” as one might do with kaiila or tharlarion. The free woman is in theory priceless. Thus she is not comparable with the female slave. As she is priceless, there is a sense in which even thousands of female slaves would not be as valuable as one free woman. On the other hand, reality often embarrasses argument, and it must be admitted that a single female slave, particularly if trained, is often preferred to dozens of free women. But men are that way, she supposed. Ellen did not know what her own value was. It would depend of course, on conditions in the market, and what men were willing to pay. That was an odd, but charming, in its way, thought, that she would now, in a sense, literally for the first time in her life, have value. It is interesting, this sort of thing, she thought. At one moment a woman is free and priceless, and then, in another moment, suddenly, she becomes a very practical, tangible commodity, something very real and very factual, something with a specific value, like any other piece of merchandise. In this sense a woman is without specific or actual value until she becomes a slave; it is then that she acquires specific or actual value. To be sure, these considerations are based largely on legal fictions, for, in fact, free women do have tangible values, the higher born being valued better than the lower born, the upper castes over the lower castes, the more intelligent over the less intelligent, the more beautiful over the less beautiful, and so on. To be sure the slave block commonly introduces a radical common denominator. Stripped of all conventional and social dignities and merits, as well as of their clothing, bereft of all artificialities, what is for sale there is, generally, assuming that there is nothing special about the item, that it is not the daughter of a Ubar, or the daughter of one’s worst enemy, or such, is the intelligence, sensitivity, beauty and personness of the item herself.

It would not be known for a day or two presumably how the Trevean raiders had fared within the city.

Ellen was curious as to her market value, and the thought that she must now have one charmed her. That gave an entirely new dimension to her self-concept. She, earlier, being free, had never had such a value. Now she knew she had one, whatever it might be. She knew that girls were often very vain, about the prices they would bring, and such. She thought that that was silly, but she hoped that she would bring a good price, and, certainly, one superior to that which might have been garnered by Nelsa. But she did not fear that her master would sell her. It thrilled her, of course, to know that he had this power, and that he had this power made her feel so much more a slave, but she was certain he would never choose to exercise it. I am sure he loves me, thought Ellen. Or, at least, that he wants me. Surely he thought that my “flanks were of interest.” I love him!

“Where is Ellen, the slave of Mirus?” asked the guard.

“There,” said Ina. And something about her tone of voice suggested that she had pointed Ellen out.

Ellen looked up a little, and saw the bootlike sandals of the guard before her.

“You are Ellen, the slave of Mirus?”

“Yes, Master,” said Ellen, head down, to the surface of the roof.

“Why did you not identify yourself?” he asked.

“I was frightened,” said Ellen. “Forgive me, Master.”

“You should speak up, instantly,” he said.

“Yes, Master. Forgive me, Master.”

The guard turned to his left. “What is your name?” he asked.

“Ina,” said Ina.

“You are first girl on the roof,” he said. “The work-master can arrange matters differently later, as he might please.”

“Yes, Master,” she said. “Master!” she said.

“Yes?” he said.

“I can keep the guardroom tidy and clean, and make the beds. I can bring food and drink to the guards, and other pleasures,” she said.

One of the other girls made a scarcely suppressed angry noise.

There was a silence, and Ellen gathered that the guard might be looking at Ina. It was difficult to tell, as one’s head was down.

Ellen supposed that Ina wanted out of the laundry, and that she did not relish taking Nelsa’s place as the favorite, or one of the favorites, of the work-master. She was, as we have noted, blond-haired and blue-eyed, and Gart, it seemed, preferred putting such slaves to his pleasures. Certainly she could not blame Ina on either score, though she, like several of the other girls, was shocked by Ina’s boldness, and her apparent audacity in seizing this opportunity to shamelessly prostrate her slave beauty before the guard. On the other hand, there might be much more to it. Doubtless, in being addressed, and such, she had lifted her head, and met his eyes. Doubtless something had passed between them. Perhaps she saw in his eyes that he was a fitting master for her and he, looking into her eyes, saw that she was a fitting slave for him, indeed, perhaps even a very special and vulnerable slave for him. Eccentricities and subjectivities, seeming anomalies, often enter into such matters. In such cases a man may bid all his resources, his wealth, his possessions, his life, anything, to obtain she whom he sees at his feet as his own perfect slave.

“Perhaps,” said the guard. “First girl,” he said.

“Yes, Master!” said Ina, quickly.

“The slave Ellen,” said the guard, “is summoned into the presence of her Master, Mirus of Ar, to appear before him in the audience chamber at the eighteenth Ahn. Until supper she is to continue her work on the roof. Instructrices will call for her at the sixteenth Ahn, to bring her to the Chamber of Preparation. A guard in the Chamber of Preparation will have the key to remove the iron belt. In the Chamber of Preparation she is to be washed, combed and perfumed. She is to be presented brief-tunicked and back-braceleted.”

“Slave cosmetics, Master?” inquired Ina.

“None,” said the guard.

Ellen, her head down, trembled with joy.

“You are a pretty slave, Ina,” said the guard.

“Thank you, Master,” said Ina.

“You will see that the slave, Ellen, is ready for the instructrices at the sixteenth Ahn.”

“She will be ready, Master,” Ina assured him.

“The guardroom could use some tidying up,” he mused.

“Ina is well-versed in domestic tasks,” said Ina.

“And others, as well, I trust,” said the guard.

“Master must be the judge of such matters,” she said, shyly.

“I am Varcon,” he said. “My private quarters are on the seventh level.”

“Perhaps Master has a slave ring at the foot of his couch?”

“It is now empty,” he said.

“Might not Ina be privileged to wear a neck-chain there?” she asked.

“Bold slave,” he said.

“Needful slave,” she said.

“We shall see,” said he.

He then turned and went to the hatchlike opening, through which he descended.

“Rise up,” said Ina. “Continue your work.”

The girls obeyed.

“You are a forward she-urt,” said one of the girls to Ina.

“I would watch my words, if I were you,” said Ina, pleasantly, “or you will be subjected to the bastinado.”

“Forgive me, Mistress!” said the girl.

“Return to your work, slave girl,” said Ina.

“Yes, Mistress,” said the girl, hurrying away.

It is common to set a first girl over others, to see that work is done, to see that discipline is kept, and such. Whereas this is not always done, it is sometimes done even when two slaves leave the house, as on an errand, one then being designated as “first girl.” In this way authority is clearly defined. Goreans like this. And woe to the other girl if she should gainsay the first, prove troublesome or be in any way displeasing. Goreans, you see, tend to be great believers in rank, distance and hierarchy. These things stabilize society. One might, of course, if one’s taste ran that way, prefer a society founded on a hypocritical denial of obvious differentiation, on concealments of power, on group conflict, on greed, on propaganda, on confusion, uncertainty, machinations, character assassination, spying, slander, and such.

“You heard, Ellen?” asked Ina.

“Yes, Mistress,” said Ellen.

“The sixteenth Ahn,” said Ina.

“Yes, Mistress,” said Ellen.

“There is much work to be done before supper,” said Ina.

“Yes, Mistress,” said Ellen.

Ellen seized up her basket by the side handles and, struggling, lifting it awkwardly, resting it against her abdomen, moved it a few feet to her right, further under the line.

“You do not carry your basket properly,” said Ina. “You are from the world called ‘Earth’, are you not?”

“Yes Mistress,” said Ellen.

“They are so ignorant. It is a wonder they make such good slaves.”

“Mistress?” asked Ellen.

“It is easier to carry it in this fashion,” said Ina, crouching down behind the basket and, lifting it up, she placed it on her head, steadying it with her two hands. “This way, you can take some of the weight on your arms, if you wish, or use your head and spine, carrying your body erectly, gracefully. That distributes the weight nicely, and is easier on the back. You can also steady it with one hand, and, if you become skilled, balance it on your head alone, without using your hands.”

“I do not think I could do that,” said Ellen.

“Some girls use a folded cloth, folded in a circle, between the basket and the head. That provides a cushion, and seats the burden with greater security.”

“Even so,” said Ellen, dubiously.

“Lift it up. Use two hands. No, stand straighter. Good. Hands up. Put your hands up. Higher. Higher. Oh, yes, the men will like that! You are indeed pretty, Ellen. Now walk. Away. Down the line. No, no, not that way. Not as a free Earth woman. That is behind you. You are now a female slave. Here, stop. Let me show you.”

Ellen stood back.

“Like this,” said Ina.

“Oh, Mistress!” exclaimed Ellen.

“Walking away, turning, approaching. Like this. See?”

“You are so beautiful!” said Ellen.

“And they, the silly beasts,” laughed Ina, “may not even know what you are doing to them. They may not even understand why they are ready to kill for you.”

“I do not know if I could do that,” said Ellen.

“Walking away, turning, approaching,” said Ina, “you seem perhaps no more than a burdened slave, but you can drive them mad with passion, and the wanting of you.”

“Oh, Mistress,” breathed Ellen.

“We are slaves,” said Ina. “If we are to please, and thrive, we must make do with the little that is permitted us.”

“Yes, Mistress,” said Ellen.

“What weapons have we, we, in our collars? Our weapons are our intelligence, our beauty, our body. If you would have a good life as a female slave, you must learn to use them well.”

“What of passion, Mistress?”

“Strange that an Earth female would even think of that,” said Ina. “Passion we will have little control over. They will enforce it. They will imperiously enrapture us, and, as it pleases them, take us outside of ourselves with ecstasy. They will make us begging, needful, at their feet.”

“I have never experienced such ecstasies,” said Ellen.

“You will be taught,” said Ina.

“Is it wrong to long for such ecstasies?” asked Ellen.

“No, of course not,” she said. “You are a female slave.”

“I fear I long for them, Mistress,” said Ellen.

“That is understandable,” said Ina, “but remember that for such as you, slave girl, they are also obligatory.”

“Yes, Mistress,” whispered Ellen, scarcely hearing herself speak.

Ina smiled at her. Ellen must have seemed to her so young, so ignorant, so naive. And yet both their necks were encircled with slave collars.

Ellen looked at her, plaintively.

“Yes?” said Ina.

“I have heard,” said Ellen, cautiously, whispering, “of the slave orgasm.”

Ina suddenly closed her eyes, gritting them shut, forcibly, and her teeth seemed clenched. Then she opened her eyes, and smiled. “Yes,” she said, “there is that. And once you have felt that, little Ellen, you will never want to be anything other than what you are, a female slave.”

Ina then gently placed the basket on Ellen’s head, and Ellen held it there, with two hands.

“Walk away,” said Ina. “That is far enough. Turn. Hands high, remember. Surely you know what that does for your figure. How naturally then, how helplessly do you seem to display it. What choice have you? Suppose, too, you were in a brief side-slit tunic. Can you imagine what it would be then for a man to see you, in that fashion? And knowing you slave! Approach. Good! Now go back, and turn again, and look at me, suddenly, as though you first noticed me. Good. Now approach. Your expression! Are you humble? Does your expression say that you know that you are owned and must obey? Are you timid? Are you fearful? Are you apprehensive that you may be insufficiently pleasing? Are you joyful to see the Master? Are you hoping he will take you in his arms? Do you wish to be ordered to disrobe in his presence? Remember you are a female slave! Approach. Did they not teach you how to walk? What of your love cradle! Turn, go back, then return, again, down the aisle. Good. Remember you are a female slave. You are owned. You must be beautiful. So little as the movement of a hand, or the sight of a bared forearm in the pouring of wine, can be beautiful, provocative, stimulatory to the master’s desire.”

I am a slave, thought Ellen. Why should I fear to move as one? It is what I am. And might I not be beaten if I am not pleasing?

To be sure, she knew that already her bondage had irremediably infused her entire being. Even now she was sure that a slaver, without regard to her brand or collar, could pick her out from free women.

“Good, good, little she-urt,” said Ina. “Now get to work!”

Ellen put down the basket and knelt before Ina. She put her head down to Ina’s feet. “A slave expresses her gratitude to Mistress,” she said.

“Back to work, slave girl,” said Ina, who seemed in a fine mood.

“Yes, Mistress,” said Ellen.

Ellen reached into the basket and removed another damp garment from it, and took up a handful of clothespins. She looked about herself. It is so beautiful, she thought, this lovely, perilous, fearful world on which I am a slave. She attached the garment to the line and then stepped back a little, and looked out over the city. It was as though she would embrace it all, all of this fresh, clean, rushing, windswept, sunlit reality.

“Do not forget, after supper, the sixteenth Ahn,” called Ina.

“No, Mistress,” said Ellen.

Chapter 14

SHE WAITS, BEFORE BEING PRESENTED BEFORE HER MASTER

“Stand still,” said one of the instructrices.

“Oh!” said Ellen, as the comb was pulled through her hair yet again, and again. The other instructrix then began to brush the hair, yet again.

“Hold still,” said the second instructrix.

“She is fine,” said a guard.

“What do men know of such things?” asked the first instructrix.

Ellen felt her hair smoothed and arranged carefully about her shoulders. “There,” said the first instructrix. “Now hold still, little she-urt.”

“She is a pretty one,” said the second instructrix.

“I think so,” said the first.

“You were not to paint her lips, her eyelids, you were not to enhance her with cosmetics?” said the guard.

“No,” said the first instructrix.

“She is pretty,” said the guard.

Ellen was brief-tunicked.

This garment was cut at the sides, to the waist. In this way the brand can be occasionally glimpsed and, when the slave kneels, if she is a pleasure slave, a bit of cloth may fall between her spread thighs.

She had been cleaned thoroughly in the Chamber of Preparation, her body scrubbed and her hair washed.

She was sparkling.

“Do you like the perfume?” asked the first instructrix.

“It is a slave perfume,” said the guard.

“Of course,” said the first instructrix. “She is a slave.”

“Do you like it?” asked the second instructrix.

“Yes,” said the guard. “It must be a good one. It is hard for me to keep my hands from her.”

“Do not disarrange her, please,” said the first instructrix.

Ellen edged away from the guard a little.

She pulled a little, futilely, against the bracelets, which held her hands confined behind her back.

“How does it feel, little tasta, to be out of the iron belt?” asked the first instructrix.

“Good, very good, Mistress,” said Ellen.

“Such things are so weighty, so bulky, and unpleasant,” said the first instructrix. Ellen gathered that the instructrix must once have had first-hand knowledge of what it was to be locked within such a thing, to be fastened in such an apparatus.

“Yes, Mistress,” said Ellen.

“But you now feel very vulnerable, don’t you?” asked the first instructrix.

“Yes, Mistress,” said Ellen. She inched a little further from the guard. It was he who, in the Chamber of Preparation, had removed her long gown, and had then removed the iron belt. She wondered if it had been necessary for him to feel her waist, and her hips, and thighs, as he had, when he had done so. The apparatus had been discarded, dropped to the stones of the floor of the Chamber of Preparation, with a clatter. She had then, after a moment, after having been examined by him, as a Gorean master considers a slave girl, been drawn by the hair across the room and plunged bodily into a tub.

“Bracelets,” said the first instructrix.

Ellen turned her back to the first instructrix, and lifted her wrists a little, so that her bracelets might be checked.

She felt her wrists lifted a bit, and the steel checked. There was a tiny sound of metal links.

The steel was tight on her small wrists.

That was not necessary, but it left her in no doubt that she was helpless.

She also did not doubt but what the tightness was intentional, and responsive to some instruction.

Slave bracelets were usually snug, but seldom tight.

Sometimes they were even rather loose, suggesting to a foolish girl the possibility of slipping them. But shortly, to her frustration, she learns she is held perfectly. The master, for his amusement, has been playing with her, and, in his way, instructing her.

Such small things help the new girl, in particular, to realize she is a female slave.

A girl who has better learned her collar is never in any doubt about such things.

Bracelets, chains, and such, incidentally, induce a sense of helplessness and vulnerability in the female, which sensations, whether she wishes it or not, increase her receptivity.

To be sure, they also hold her with perfection.

Her master had apparently decided that the bracelets would be tight, that it would please him to have her brought before him extremely conscious of her utter helplessness.

How faraway was the classroom!

There were six tiny links joining the bracelets, one for each letter in the Gorean spelling of ‘kajira’.

The key to the bracelets was on a tiny string looped about her collar, not that this did Ellen any good.

“They are pretty bracelets,” said the guard.

“We think so,” said the first instructrix.

Slave bracelets, designed for women, are often light and pretty, and are sometimes matched to outfits and such. Some, for high slaves, are bejeweled. Some might be worth the ransom of a Ubar. They can be matched to collars, as well, and shackles, and such. Some bracelets are fitted with lock rings, which can be snapped into one another, if and when desired. This resembles the leather slave cuffs worn by some girls in paga taverns. Similarly, some collars, leather or otherwise, have rings to which such snap rings may be conveniently fastened. To be sure, something as simple as leather binding fiber, such as commonly belts the common camisk, well serves for the general purposes of ready tethering. Common, too, are leashes. The style, grace, attractiveness, and lightness of slave bracelets does not detract from their utility. They are more than adequate to hold a female, and with perfection. Not all slave bracelets are pretty, and such, of course. Some are quite plain, and these might be preferred by some men for their slaves, perhaps for reasons of instruction, or economy, or to avoid an appearance of ostentation, or such. Too, warriors, tarnsmen, slavers, and such, might prefer plainer custodial devices for early captures, transportation, simple holding, and so on. Sometimes no more than a string, nose-ring and thumb cuffs are used. Men, on the other hand, as one would suppose, are commonly held in heavier gear, for example, in heavy manacles.

“This tunic is certainly very short,” said the first instructrix. She tugged a bit at the cut sides of the tunic, to draw it further down the thighs. Ellen stood very still. The first instructrix had little success.

“You must be careful how you move, Ellen,” said the first instructrix.

“Yes, Mistress,” said Ellen.

Ellen was barefoot, as female slaves are often kept.

“Is it not past the eighteenth Ahn?” asked the first instructrix, timidly.

“I do not think so,” said the guard. “I have not heard the bar sound.”

“You may kneel, Ellen.” said the first instructrix, “but do not disarrange yourself.”

“Thank you, Mistress,” said Ellen.

She then knelt on the hall side of the door to the audience chamber, near the wall, and back a little, that she might not block the entrance. Several times she had been presented to her master in that chamber. But that had been before she had been made a work-slave, before she had been sent to the laundry.

She knelt there in the shadowed half darkness, in the light of a pair of flickering wall lamps. She pulled against the bracelets that held her hands behind her back. She did not want to go back to the laundry.

Surely anything would be better than going back to the laundry.

Or that is what she thought at the time.

I have informed the work-master, she thought, that I am ready to beg. How kind was the work-master! How grateful I am that this information has been brought to the attention of my master. Am I ready to beg? Surely I must beg, no matter how shameful, how demeaning, how revealing, this may prove to be! I pretended not to be willing to beg, and I was sent to the laundry. My master is so strong! He has conquered! I am now ready to beg!

He must love me.

He remembered me, he brought me to this world, he restored me to youth and beauty, for I know that I am beautiful, though perhaps not so beautiful as countless others; and he gave me a beautiful name; surely that means something; and he made me property, and he owns me, now literally owns me; surely then he must desire me, and want me, for his very own! He must then want me in the strongest, fiercest, most commanding, most complete, most possessive sense in which a man can want a woman, want me as his uncompromised property, his slave.

And that is what I am, his slave.

I love my master. I want to serve him, and please him, with my whole being, with my whole body, with my whole heart and soul. The master is the meaning of the slave’s life, and she rejoices in her collar, that she belongs to him. What an incredible privilege, what an incredible honor, to be the slave of such a man! What an incredible joy to be fulfilled by him, to be owned and mastered by him! How pallid by comparison are boring and meaningless lives; how tepid the quotidian familiarities of contractual partners, each taking the other for granted; how fragile the regimens of arguable legalities; how delicate the cobwebs of convention, sunderable upon a whim; how wearying the tiny testings and battles of implicit competitors, the specified, adjudicable relationships of explicit contractees, each suspicious of, and concerned to outdo, the other. I can understand, she thought, how the same woman might be one man’s wife and another’s conquered, mastered, loving slave. Let such husbands, such weaklings, cry out in misery, she thought, learning that their pampered, bored, spoiled, troublesome, nagging wife is another man’s kneeling licking, begging slave. Another, at the mere snapping of fingers or an imperious gesture, receives from she whom he has never taken the time or interest to truly know, she whom he has never questioned as to her depths and needs, she to whom he has never intimately and truly spoken, she whom he has never attempted to understand, but has insisted upon seeing only from a distance, through the distorting prisms of convention, frequent, delicious, loving, abject services, services of which he has feared even to dream.

Let him, if he will, in defense of his failures and futility, denounce and castigate her, she whom he has never had the strength to own. Or, alternatively, let him buy a whip, put her to her knees and claim her.

But here, on this world, thought Ellen, unlike such a woman, I am a slave not only by nature, and appropriately, but under explicit, recognized law. I can be legally bought and sold, and given away, and such. Here I am simple, categorical, uncontested property not merely in the secrecy of a chamber, hidden away from an ignorant, uncaring, complacent, insensitive world, but in the full daylight of the cultures of a planet. Here, on this world, my brand, my collar, my mode of being, are everywhere accepted, acknowledged, recognized and understood. On this world I am, in the full sense of the law, explicitly and perfectly, slave.

It must be near the eighteenth Ahn, she thought. How can I conduct myself within?

It seems that I must beg, and shamefully beg. It seems he must have that of me. For some reason it seems he must have me so humiliated, so reduced, so baring myself before him, as no more than a piteous, worthless begging slave. But he must know, aside from that, aside from the idle repetition of a formula, that I am fully, and only, a slave. Surely that cannot make me more a slave than I am. Surely no woman could be more a slave than I. But surely no slave wants to serve just any man. Surely I am not unique in that. Surely we are entitled to find some masters preferable to others. And even if, in some sense, we are not entitled to find some masters preferable to others, it is surely a fact, which we cannot help, that we would prefer some masters to others. One cannot help that. Surely the slave who must, to her misery, in fear of her very life, proffer perfectly the most delicious and intimate of services to the most hated of masters knows that. Why then must we beg thusly? But, perhaps, she thought, it is not that we would not choose our masters, were it in our power, but, alas, it is the masters who choose us. It is rather that they would have us beg contrary to our deepest wishes, thereby acknowledging their power over us. Or perhaps it is merely a way of them having us acknowledge our reality as sexual beings, that we, as women, want, desire and need sexual experience, in a pervasive, general, organic, biological manner. Or perhaps it is a test which, once passed, is done with, and we may then enter the arms of our beloved master as no more than a surrendered slave, nothing held back, a slave now confessed as needful in general but, in the specific case, blissful within the arms of a beloved master.

The eighteenth bar then began to sound, ringing out its strokes.

“On your feet, little kajira,” said the first instructrix.

What does he want of me, wondered Ellen, wildly, struggling to her feet. Whatever he wants, I want to give him, but I do not know what he wants! Does he want me to again refuse to beg, and will he then, proud of me, I having then proven my worth before him, that I am still much like a free woman, keep me for himself, or does he want me to beg? If I do not beg, will I then be returned to the laundry, perhaps for ever, perhaps to be never again given a chance to please him? Or does he want me to beg, that he will then have evidence of his power over me, and that I explicitly acknowledge myself a worthless slave, or that in begging I will have acknowledged that I have sexual needs or is it that my begging is merely a test for my suitability to wear a neck-chain at his slave ring?

The bar continued to ring.

Ellen felt the comb, and then the brush, at her hair, and her hair was again, hurriedly, arranged about her shoulders. The cut hems of her tiny tunic were drawn down a little, but sprang back when the second instructrix released them. She felt her wrists drawn back, and together, in the bracelets. This, she suddenly realized, much as in placing the hands behind the back of the head or the back of the neck, accentuated her figure; and so, too, of course, might other things as well; she recalled the manner in which she had been instructed to carry the basket of laundry, particularly if two hands are used. The erect, graceful posture of the slave, too, as she commonly carries herself, as a dancer, has a similar effect.

The bar continued to ring, the notes carrying throughout the house.

“Are you a virgin?” asked the first instructrix.

“Yes, Mistress,” said Ellen.

The instructrix laughed.

The expression the instructrix had used, if it were to be translated literally into English, was ‘white-silk’. The complementary expression is ‘red-silk’. These are expressions used, incidentally, only of slaves, not of free women. It would be a great insult to refer to a free woman as either “white-silk” or “red-silk.” That would be terribly vulgar. Duels might be fought about such things. Expressions more suitable to free women, in Gorean, are ‘glana’ and ‘metaglana’, or ‘profalarina’ and ‘falarina’. But even these latter expressions have Gorean connotations, reflecting the views of a natural world. In the first case, the condition of virginity is regarded as one to be superseded; and, in the second case, it is regarded merely as something which comes before something else, something of greater importance, as an antecedent phase or prologue, so to speak.

“And your master has summoned you before him this night!” she laughed.

“Yes, Mistress,” said Ellen.

“And you are out of the iron belt!”

“Yes, Mistress,” said Ellen, apprehensively.

“Do not be surprised, little virgin,” she laughed, “if you are red-silked this night!”

The other instructrix laughed, as well.

Ellen regarded them, despite herself, reproachfully, offended, shocked, scandalized.

Her expression much amused them.

“See the little barbarian!” laughed the first instructrix.

“Do you think you are a free woman?” laughed the second. “You are not! You are a little she-urt, a little she-tarsk!”

“Yes!” said the first.

Ellen looked down, angrily.

Ellen’s virginity was important to her. She had thought to award it, if ever, only in some lovely and romantic context of her own choosing. But now she realized that it, as she, belonged to a master. She was now an animal, a domestic animal. Her virginity, accordingly, was of no more interest or importance to society, or an owner, than would be that of a pig.

She struggled futilely in the bracelets.

The last stroke of the bar rang out, and the eighteenth Ahn had been announced in the house.

The guard took her by the left, upper arm, and, opening the door to the audience chamber with his left hand, drew her within.

Chapter 15

SHE BEGS;

What Occurred After She Begged

Ellen was drawn forward a bit, into the room.

Then the guard released her arm, and stepped back.

The room seemed much as before, except that now there was a long, narrow red carpet leading toward the curule chair.

Ellen gasped, and trembled, seeing her master. She stood still, and fought to keep her breath, and to control herself. Her legs felt weak. She feared she might fall. It was he who held all power over her. It was he who owned her.

“The slave, Ellen,” said the guard, from behind her. The instructrices had not entered the room. She did not know if they were waiting outside or not. She supposed they had returned to their cells.

Ellen’s master, Mirus, had apparently been reading a scroll. One portion of the roll was in his left hand, and the other in his right. There were two lamps behind the curule chair, one on each side. To the left of the curule chair was a small table, on which there was a decanter of colored glass. Beside it there was a small glass, also colored, matching the decanter. On the table there was also a whip. The whip, like the chain, is a symbol of the mastery.

Mirus indicated that the slave might approach.

Ellen walked down the long rug, approaching the chair. She walked as a slave. She bit her lip. She saw a small smile playing about the corners of his mouth. But she did not change her walk. She was a slave.

“Stop,” he said.

She was a few feet before the dais.

“Remain standing,” he said. Commonly, when a girl is told to stop, she kneels. That is common when the slave is before a free person.

“Turn, slowly, before me,” he said.

She turned, slowly, before him.

She was in a slave tunic, and her wrists were braceleted behind her. She had been scrubbed, brushed, and combed. She had been perfumed, a slave perfume, of course, one appropriate for her.

“Again,” he said.

Again the slave turned, slowly.

Men, she did not doubt, enjoyed seeing a woman display herself before them, particularly when commanded to do so, and in a particular fashion. Masters are lustful, appraising brutes, and slaves must hope to be found pleasing. Too, she did not doubt but what men enjoyed seeing a woman’s hands braceleted behind her. This bespoke the woman’s helplessness, and how at their mercy she was. Such things appeal well to natural glories, their sense of power and pleasure. And it would be superficial, of course, to overlook the effect of such impediments upon the woman herself, how they, like lipstick or eye shadow, accentuate the dichotomies of nature, call attention to the disparities of a radical sexual dimorphism, and deliciously enforce upon her an almost overwhelmingly welcome sense of her own sex, its desirability, beauty and weakness. It is little wonder that women welcome bonds on their body, collars, tunics, camisks, and such. In them they feel most man’s, and thus most woman. Such things heat their thighs and ready them for the embrace of masters.

This is what they want, to be so desired that they will be made a man’s slave.

Ellen knew she had a sweet figure, and lovely legs. And the tunic, in its brevity, did little to conceal her charms. Too, she knew, she had a lovely, sensitive, expressive face.

Too, she supposed she was intelligent.

Certainly she hoped so.

Gorean men, she had learned, prized intelligence in women. Such women they valued most on their knees before them. There is nothing hard to understand in that. Such women tend to be reflective and introspective, and tend thus to be in closer touch with their needs, desires and emotions than simpler women. They are commonly much aware of their slave, and long for her liberation. Thus, much of the master’s work has already been done, even before they are ankleted and brought to Gor. No wonder they learn the collar quickly. In their dreams they have often worn it. In such women refractoriness is short-lived, particularly as they learn it is not permitted, which is, of course, what they desire. Too, such women are usually lovely and, given the complexity and sophistication of their nervous systems, are easily ignitable, and can shortly be made the prisoners of their passions. It is little wonder then that intelligent women are sought for the collar, and bring good prices in the market. Too, they on their tethers and such, one can talk with them.

I am acceptable as a slave, surely, she thought.

In some respects, at least.

Certainly that had seemed the assessment of the guards.

She hoped Mirus was pleased with her.

“Approach,” he said.

Before the dais, before the chair, she knelt and put her head down to the rug, in obeisance. This lifted her braceleted hands high behind her.

She did not doubt but what this sight, her obeisance, and that of her wrists braceleted high behind her as she knelt, had its effect upon her master, Mirus. Indeed, she did not doubt but what the sight of a woman’s braceleted wrists, either behind her or before her, had its effect on men. She wondered, however, if men realized the effect of her braceleting on the woman herself, its feel and look, how it made her feel helpless, and female, and slave, and desired and beautiful, and ready, and needful. Sometimes the mere thonging or braceleting of a woman, even one hitherto reluctant or inert, is all that is required to release and ignite her slave.

But perhaps men know this, she thought, at least the men of this world, of Gor.

“You are perfumed,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

Surely he had specified that.

She kept her head down to the carpet.

“An excellent scent,” he said, “for a slut.”

“Yes, Master,” she said. “Thank you, Master.”

He had doubtless specified the scent, as well. She thought it was a beautiful perfume, but here, on Gor, she had no doubt but what it was common and cheap. It was a slave perfume, as she had been informed, and it was doubtless not an expensive one, but one which might be accorded to low slaves.

Still she had the sense that on her old world it might have been costly.

“Thank you, Master,” she said, keeping her head down.

The guard had followed her, staying a step or two behind her.

“Whip,” said Mirus, taking the implement from the small table to his right.

The slave then rose gracefully to her feet, ascended the dais, and knelt before the chair. There, her hands pinioned behind her, she licked and kissed the whip for several seconds.

Her master then put the whip to the side again, on the small table, and indicated that she might withdraw. She backed down the stairs and then knelt again before the dais, as she had before, in obeisance.

“You are pretty in slave bracelets, Ellen,” he said.

“Thank you, Master,” she said.

“You wear them well,” he said.

“Thank you, Master,” she said.

“You wear them as though you might have been a born slave.”

She was silent.

“But you are a born slave, aren’t you?” he said.

“Yes, Master,” she said. “I am a born slave.”

“Now properly embonded?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Remove her bracelets,” he said to the guard.

“Kneel up,” said the guard.

Ellen went to first position, as nearly as she could, braceleted, the cloth of the cut tunic falling between her widely spread thighs. The guard freed the key from her collar and, crouching behind her, removed the bracelets. As soon as the bracelets were removed Ellen, unbidden, went to first obeisance position, head down to the rug, the palms of her hands now on the rug, on either side of her head. She heard the guard replace the bracelets, and, presumably, the key, in his pouch. She supposed that he must have received some signal from her master to do this. The guard then withdrew, apparently having received some signal to do this from her master. She knelt in first obeisance position, excited, apprehensive, thrilled, alone with her master.

“Position,” said Mirus.

Immediately she knelt in the first position before him, the first position of the pleasure slave.

Their eyes met.

Some Gorean masters do not permit their girls to look into their eyes unless bidden to do so, but this is rare. More often the discipline or punishment is not to permit the girl to look into the eyes of the master, which increases her apprehension and, of course, severely limits her capacity to read his moods. That is somewhat analogous to denying her food, or a particular food, taking something away from her. In standard first position the Gorean slave girl kneels with her head up, unless forbidden to do so. One of the great pleasures of the master/slave relationship is the unparalleled intimacy which obtains between the participants, an intimacy which is naturally much enhanced by the ability to see and react to one another’s expressions, body language, and such, these things so indicative of thoughts and feelings. Men desire complete slaves, it seems, and this means total, vital, feeling, thinking females at their feet; that is apparently what one wants there; few if any men, it seems, desire a mere body, a puppet, a doll, an empty slave; who could be satisfied with such? Where would be the triumph, the pleasure, the value? What then, in such circumstances, could be the master’s joy in owning us? Ellen had been told that she had very beautiful eyes. They were gray. Her hair was a very dark brown. The hair and eyes of Mirus, as those of most men, were brown.

Ellen looked into the eyes of Mirus. His expression seemed severe. She averted her gaze.

One reason to look into the eyes of a slave girl is to see if there is welcome in them, happiness, anticipation, shyness, mendacity, slyness, deception, joy, confusion, uncertainty, apprehension, fear. If one cannot look into the eyes of a slave, how can one well read her, how can one adequately master her? To be sure, much can be gained from body language. But then more can surely be gained from both her face and body. And from the slave’s point of view, how can one best please a master, if one cannot truly see him?

Ellen was certain that her master had seen fear in her eyes. She looked past the chair, frightened.

“Do you enjoy the laundry?” he asked.

“No, Master,” she said.

“What is your impression of Gart?” he asked.

“He to whom you refer, our work-master,” she said, “is efficient. He is severe, but firm, and in his way, I think, kind. He has been good to me.”

“You did not use his name.”

“It is not fitting that the name of a free person should be soiled by the tongue of a slave,” she said.

“You are clever,” he said.

It had been a test.

“Has he whipped you?”

“I have felt his lash four times, in single strokes,” she said.

“When you were lax in your labors?”

“Yes, Master.”

“It is then appropriate that you were lashed?”

“Yes, Master.”

“You then redoubled your efforts?”

“Yes, Master.”

He lifted the scroll, which he had laid across his lap. He rerolled it, toward the center, saving his place.

“This is the Prition of Clearchus of Cos,” he said.

“Master?”

“You have not been taught to read, have you?” he asked.

“No, Master,” she said. Surely he knew that.

“You are illiterate,” he said.

“Yes, Master.”

“Would you like to learn how to read?” he asked.

“Oh, yes, Master!” she exclaimed.

“The proper answer,” he said, “is ‘Only if Master pleases’.”

“Yes, Master,” she said. “Forgive me, Master.” Tears came into her eyes. She should have been more alert. She had failed that test.

“Most Earth females brought to Gor are not taught to read,” he said.

“For what purpose are most Earth females brought to Gor?” she asked.

“Surely you can guess,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” she whispered.

“For the collar, for the markets,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“We keep them as low slaves, uneducated and illiterate, fit at best for the simplest of tasks.”

“Yes, Master.”

“Considering their status on Earth, their machinations, and such, that seems to me both amusing and fitting.”

“Yes, Master.”

“And that is how I see you,” he said. “As a low slave.”

“As Master wishes,” she said.

“Do you aspire higher?”

“No, Master!”

“Good,” he said. “That will make your life easier.”

She did not understand this.

“I understand,” he said, “that you are now ready to beg.”

Ellen, I fear, turned white.

“Before you beg, if, indeed, you are going to beg, is there anything you would like to say to me, or ask me?”

“May I speak freely, Master?”

“For the moment,” he said.

“First, allow me to thank you for bringing me to this beautiful world, be it only to have made me your slave. And thank you, too, for giving me back my youth, my suppleness, my appetite, my health.”

“And your slave beauty,” he said.

“My slave beauty?”

“Yes.”

“Am I beautiful?” she begged.

“Did I not assure you of that before?” he asked.

“Yes, Master. Forgive me, Master.”

“But there are many,” he said, “who are far more beautiful.”

“Of course, Master,” she said. Surely she had seen enough women in the pens, in their collars, to accept that, to realize that.

“I could, of course,” he said, “have demeaned your beauty, disparaged it, caused you to doubt your own value, put you in consternation concerning your worth, and such, but I did not do so.”

“Thank you, Master.”

“I prefer to let you know how beautiful you are, not to inflate your vanity, pretty slut, which is doubtless already excessive, but to increase your sense of vulnerability.”

“Master?”

“As a Gorean slave girl, and one of unusual beauty, I want you to realize clearly the peril in which you stand.”

“Peril, Master?”

“Certainly,” he said. “You will be as hot, fresh meat, juicy and steaming, amongst ravenous wolves!”

“And that is part of your vengeance upon me, to see that I am so placed, Master?”

“Of course.”

“I do not care, Master.”

“Consider yourself on a street, barefoot, collared, tunicked, not amongst the men of Earth, but amongst Gorean males.”

“It is my hope that masters will find me pleasing.”

“You are a slave girl,” he said.

“Yes, Master.”

“Slut,” he said, “slut.”

“Yes, Master.”

He regarded her, moodily.

“And you have grown more and more beautiful.”

“Master?”

“And what woman is truly beautiful until she is in a slave collar?” he asked.

“Surely Master jests.”

“Not at all,” he said.

“Was I not beautiful before, Master, if I was, long ago, when I was a free woman?”

“I assure you, my dear, that you are a thousand times more beautiful now, with that collar on your neck, than you ever were, or could be, as a free woman.”

“Master!”

“Surely you understand its meaning.”

“Yes, Master. I think so, Master.”

“Then you can sense how, in it, you are more beautiful.”

“I think so, Master,” she whispered.

She had begun to sense how men might now view her, as a slave.

“And this goes far beyond the mere aesthetics of the collar. In it you are not simply seen differently, you are different, in a thousand ways.”

“Yes, Master.” She sensed how this was true. She was aware of the startling transformation which had taken place, and was taking place, within her. A slave girl, you see, is not a free woman.

“To be sure, you were very beautiful,” he said, “but the beauty of a free woman, you must understand, is no more than the promise, the hint, of what her beauty would be as a slave. A slave is a thousand times more beautiful than a free woman.”

“You saw me even then, as a slave.”

“Yes,” he said, “for you were a slave. It was obvious, slut. How stupid of the men of Earth to permit you and others like you your charade of freedom! Your life as a free woman is behind you. On Earth you were worthless. Here you are no longer worthless. Here on Gor, I assure you, you will be good for something!”

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“You may now thank me,” he said, “for your slave beauty.”

“Thank you, Master,” she said, “for my beauty.”

“For your slave beauty.”

“Master?”

“It is no common beauty,” he said. “It is a slave beauty.”

“Yes, then,” she whispered, “I thank you, Master, for my beauty, be it only a slave beauty.”

She recalled how she had seen herself before the great mirror, on the morning after her branding and collaring. How startled she had been. In the mirror she had seen what had so startled her, an exquisitely beautiful young slave.

What would men pay for me, she wondered.

“A girl is grateful,” she said, “that her master finds her beautiful, if only as a slave.”

He smiled.

How could a man find a woman more beautiful than as a slave?

“Thank you, Master, thank you, Master,” she said.

He shrugged.

What, after all, is the gratitude of a girl, and of one who is only a slave?

But she herself was elated. Her master had admitted that he found her beautiful, if only as a slave. But how could a woman be more beautiful, she asked herself, delighted, than as that most exquisite, perfect and feminine of all creatures, the female slave?

“You have given me a second chance at life,” she said.

He shrugged. Again, this seemed of little interest to him.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“Is this trivia all you wish to speak of?” he asked.

“How is it trivia, Master,” she asked, “that I have been made again a young woman!”

“Do not flatter yourself,” he said. “You are not a woman. You are a girl. I have seen to that.”

“And I have lost some money on that,” he said.

“I do not understand,” she said.

“But it pleased me.”

“Master?”

“Have you heard of the Prition of Clearchus of Cos?” he asked, placing the scroll on the table to his right, her left, near the glass and decanter.

“No, Master.”

“It is a reasonably well-known treatise, one of several in fact, dealing with the ownership and domination of the human female.”

“There are manuals for such things?” she asked.

“Certainly,” said he, “as there are manuals for agricultural practices, military tactics, cartography, navigation, kaissa and such.”

“Kaissa?”

“A board game,” he said.

“Is there anything in the Prition, Master,” she asked, “pertaining to a woman — a girl — such as myself?”

“You are all alike,” he said.

“Oh,” she said.

“Before you are granted an opportunity to beg,” he said, “is there anything else of which you would care to speak?”

Ellen’s mind raced. How could she speak of the deepest things in her heart to this man? Her thigh was branded. Her throat was locked in his collar. She wanted to tell him that she loved him, that she had longed to be his slave even from the first time she had seen him, so many years ago. But how could a lady reveal her most intimate thoughts and feelings, particularly if they were of such a kind? What would he think? Must he not then hold her in contempt? Must he not then be shocked? Must he not then despise her? How could he respect her if he knew she wanted to kneel, that she loved to kneel, as a helpless slave at his feet? He must never know that! He must never know that she was so helplessly his, that she loved her brand, his collar on her neck, that she longed to be pinioned helplessly in his bracelets, that she wanted his shackles, that she longed to be neck-chained at the foot of his couch, that she hoped even, sometimes, for the admonitory, flashing bite of his whip.

I love strong sensations, she thought. And I now know that they can exist.

I love being a woman, she thought.

I want to be owned, and dominated, she thought. Only here, on this beautiful, natural world have I understood, for the first time, my body, my mind, my feelings, my deepest being, my very soul, my sex.

No, I cannot even hint at such things!

I do not want to lose him forever.

I cannot reveal to him what a woman is, truly.

I dare not!

“Well?” said he.

She began to speak, but could scarcely understand what she was saying, so confused, so overwrought she was. It seemed she heard herself, as though it were not she herself, but another who was speaking.

“I am your slave,” she said. “You can do with me what you want. You can order me as you please. You remembered me. You brought me here. You gave me back my youth, and my beauty, if beauty it be. You have made me young again. You have given me a second chance at life. Why? I think you like me! I am sure you want me. Are my flanks not of interest? Perhaps you love me. Certainly you desire me. You have given me a lovely name, ‘Ellen’. You had me put in the iron belt, doubtless to save me for yourself. Admit to me that you love me! You have done all this! Surely you love me! Surely you love me!”

“Do not speak stupidities,” he said.

“Master?”

“Do not dare to jest with your master.”

“Master!”

“Do not presume to flatter yourself, worthless slave.”

“Do you not love me?” she asked.

“‘Do you not love me’ what?” he asked.

“Do you not love me — Master?” she whispered.

“Love, for a slave?” he asked.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

He threw back his head and laughed. She shrank back, disconcerted, dismayed.

“You poor, little, stupid, arrogant piece of flesh-trash,” he said.

Tears sprang into her eyes.

“Forgive me, Master,” she said.

She dared not meet his eyes, his gaze was so fierce.

“Is there something you fear, Master?” she asked.

“What?” he said.

“Do you fear me, Master?” she asked.

He regarded her, angrily.

“Surely you do not fear me, Master,” she said, “a half-naked, collared slave girl.”

He reached for the whip, but drew back his hand.

“Can it be that you fear yourself, Master?” she said.

“As I understand it,” he said, “you are now ready to beg.”

“Can we not speak further, Master?” she begged. She wanted to cry out that she loved him, with all the helpless, vulnerable love of a female slave, that she wanted to serve him, to love him, to live for him.

But of course she dared not do so. How he would then hate her, despise her, understand the lowly, groveling, needful thing she was!

He had laughed at her. And how preposterous it was, indeed, that any man might love such as she, might love a mere, worthless, abject slave!

She must not let him know that she was such.

And yet she must beg!

Or would she beg?

Not the laundry again, not for days, or weeks, or months, or years, or life, not that, she wept to herself. What does he want of me, she asked herself. I want to give him whatever he wants. I am his slave! He is my master!

“Are you ready to beg?” he asked.

“Surely you do not wish me to beg!” she cried.

“You may do as you wish,” he said.

“Surely you would want me as a free woman!” she cried.

“What makes you think I might want you as anything?” he asked.

“Forgive me, Master,” she said.

“Men, you should understand,” he said, “are lustful and possessive. You may like this or not, but it is the way they are. Those who do not seem so are glandular defectives, less than men, or are liars and hypocrites. Any man who truly desires a woman, who truly wants a woman, who wants her in the robust, vigorous fullness of powerful masculine desire, wants her wholly, all of her, wants to possess her, totally, wants to have her all to himself, wants to literally own her. Thus, what a man wants in a woman is the most precious, coveted and treasured of all possessions, the female slave.”

“Surely such things dare not be said,” whispered Ellen, frightened.

“You are not now on your old world of falsities and convention,” he said. “On this world the truth may be spoken.”

“I am a slave,” said Ellen.

“That is known to me,” he said.

“How can you respect me if I am a slave!”

“You are goods,” he said. “I do not respect you.”

“If I do not beg, what will be done with me?”

“You will be returned to the laundry,” he said.

“Please, please, no, Master!” she wept.

“Yes,” he said.

“And if I beg?”

“Then, too, you may be returned to the laundry,” he said.

“Of course,” cried Ellen, “it will be as Master decides!”

“Are you ready to beg?” he asked.

“Yes, Master,” she whispered.

Could he so humiliate her, having her perform this act, and then, amused, satisfied, simply return her to the misery of the laundry?

Yes, he could. He was master.

But I love him, she thought. I love him!

But of what interest or importance might that be, the foolish love of a helpless slave, to one such as he, a master?

“You understand,” he said, “that this begging has nothing to do with whether you are a slave or not. That is a matter of indisputable fact. Similarly, personally and psychologically, your condition is well-established and well understood. You are a natural slave.”

“Yes, Master.”

“That was apparent the first moment I saw you.”

“Yes, Master.”

“And now you have been fittingly embonded.”

“Yes, Master,” said Ellen.

“The begging then is for your benefit, slave girl. It is admonitory, and instructional. Still it will be amusing to hear you so beg.”

“You have such power over me!” she wept.

“Such is the relationship in which you find yourself,” he said, “slave girl.”

“Is it not a way, simply, for me to confess that I am a sexual creature, that I have sexual needs, and,” and here Ellen put down her head, and lowered her voice, “— and that I desire sexual experience?”

“You have not yet begun to understand your sexuality,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“And do you, little Ellen, desire sexual experience?”

She was silent, in consternation.

“Speak up, now, loudly, clearly!”

“Yes, Master,” cried Ellen. “I desire sexual experience!”

In that moment it seemed as though a great burden had been lifted from her. She regarded her master, in terror.

“You need not fear you will be a stranger to sexual experience,” he said. “You are a slave girl on Gor.”

“Is the begging not some sort of test, Master?” asked Ellen.

“Perhaps, in a way,” he said.

He wants me, she thought. He wants me to beg, and then, when I have been so reduced, so humiliated, have so degraded and debased myself, he will be satisfied and keep me for himself. He will then keep me as the slave he wants and as the slave I long to be, worthless but helplessly his, helplessly devoted, helplessly loving. He will then, this test passed, keep me for himself, put me to his slave ring and own me, completely. At his slave ring, chained there by the neck, he will teach me undreamt of dimensions of my collar and begin the fuller mastering of a surrendered, conquered, helpless slave.

Perhaps, she thought, suddenly, wildly, I could pretend to be his slave; I could merely let him think that he is my master! Could I not keep myself a free woman, though branded, though in my collar? But then she almost choked with the silliness, the absurdity, the meaninglessness of this. How foreign to her reality would be such a pretense, how irrelevant to fact would be such a silly inward game! It would be a falsification of truth. Who cared if a dog or a pig pretended not to be owned? Reality remained unchanged. Too, how dishonorable to deny truth! How unworthy, as well as stupid, in the face of facts, to lie to oneself! No, she knew she was owned, owned in fact, owned in perfect, clear, indisputable fact. That was what she was, slave. And she knew, too, that that was what she had always wanted to be, to be owned, and to serve. She acknowledged that she was a natural slave, and that she had now been, as her master had called to her attention, fittingly embonded. Too, she did not believe that she could, even if she wished, even if it were possible, even if it were permitted, keep a corner of herself to herself. The masters seemed capable of looking through a woman, of understanding her better even than she understood herself. They seemed to have an uncanny sense of her emotions, of her thoughts and feelings. Could she hide nothing from their gaze? This had been brought home to her even in her training. Why could Gorean men not be more like the men of Earth, and look at a woman and not really see her? Perhaps that was because they did not own their women. It is hard to hide from men when one is stripped before them and fiercely questioned. Gorean men seemed interested, as Earth men were not, in paying attention to their women, in spending time with them and listening to them, and, in virtue of delightfully prolonged intimacies, understanding them, learning them, knowing them, truly understanding them, learning them, knowing them. Perhaps that is because they own them, and it is well known the attention and care, and the devotion of sorts, which men lavish on their possessions. Who does not wish to know everything there is to know about his property, about his treasure? Too, of course, this makes it much easier to master the female. The skilled master can read a woman like a book. One cannot hide from him. It seems there is no nook or cranny in a woman’s soul into which the master, whip in hand, cannot enter.

They make us slaves, and we are slaves.

Ellen, for whatever reason, because of her intelligence, or her dispositions, or whatever it might have been, had made the transition from freedom to slavery with relative ease. That is perhaps because she had been sensitive to the appropriateness of slavery for her, on some level or another, since puberty. On Earth she had been, in effect, like countless others, a slave without a collar.

In some women, of course, their slavery is more suppressed, more deliberately concealed, more desperately denied and hidden, than it is in others. They are perhaps more frightened of themselves, and more in ideological and cultural bondage, than an emotionally freer woman, more in touch with her deeper self and feelings. But it is said that even in such women there eventually comes a moment in their bondage when the emotional cataclysm occurs, when the breakthrough takes place, when the depths of the unconscious open up, when the surgent, rising earthquake of the liberated spirit totters and collapses the fragile, brittle walls of their psychological prisons, when the moment of truth blazes before them like sunrise, and shuddering and sobbing with gratitude and misery they understand themselves for the first time in their lives, understand that they are women, and belong to men, men who will see to it that they fulfill their natures. They must then accept what they are, with all its marvels, beauties and vulnerabilities. They are not men. They are quite different, quite wonderfully different. They can then no longer hide, either from themselves or others. How unfortunate that this insight comes so late for some women, say, as they lie sobbing, beaten, their wrists bound to a whipping ring anchored in heavy planks, or as they lie cold and hungry, curled up, clutching a tiny blanket about themselves, on the cement flooring of a kennel, or as they are drawn by the hair to the height of an auction block and find themselves displayed as an object for sale, displayed, and fully, to frenzied, bidding men.

“Are you ready to beg, slave girl?” he asked, severely.

“Yes, Master,” said Ellen.

He then turned to the side, where, some yards away, across the room, there was a narrow ancillary door.

“Ho!” he called.

In a moment or two there proceeded through the door two men, clad in blue robes. One carried a small rectangular board on which he held some papers. At his belt there hung a small case, containing at least pens, and a tiny horn, which, as Ellen later realized, was an inkhorn. Ellen had seen such papers before, when she had been examined in great detail, apparently partly to ascertain identifying marks, subjected to numerous measurements, and fingerprinted and toeprinted. She had little doubt that they were her slave papers. Such papers, as may have been mentioned, are unnecessary and are not kept on the vast majority of slaves. They can provide a convenience to buyers and sellers, however, as they will provide a good deal of information, with respect to background, caste, education, languages, training levels, physical descriptions, collar sizes, ankle-and wrist-ring sizes, and such, on the slave in question. Sometimes brochures and sales sheets for public postings are compiled from them by judicious selections. Such papers assume greater importance, of course, in the case of pedigree slaves or exotics. The bloodlines of some pedigree slaves go back several generations. Collectors, too, tend to be interested in the background of exotics, for example, who bred them, and where they were bred, and such.

Ellen had scarcely a moment to note the two entering men, in their blue robes, before she was ordered to first obeisance position.

She was then kneeling on the rug before the dais, on which reposed the curule chair, her head to the rug, the palms of her hands on the rug, too, on either side of her head.

“Are you eager to beg?” he asked.

She almost lifted her head but did not dare to lose contact with the rug. She wanted so much to look into his eyes, but she did not dare. She was aware of the two blue-robed men, to the left of his chair, to his left, as he was facing her.

“Yes, Master,” she said.

“Speak up,” he said.

“Yes, Master!” she said.

“Identify yourself, and your master, clearly, and specify, clearly, what you are doing,” said one of the blue-robed men.

“I am the slave girl, Ellen. My master is Mirus, of Ar. I kneel before him. I am eager to beg.”

“You may beg,” said her master.

“I am Ellen,” she said, “the slave girl of Mirus of Ar. I beg to please a man, any man.”

Tears burst from her eyes. She trembled. It was done! She had begged to serve a man, any man! How shamed she felt, how humiliated, how debased, how degraded. How worthless she was, she thought. How could she now be anything but the lowest and most worthless of slaves, in the eyes of her master, in the eyes of the witnesses, in her own eyes, in the eyes of anyone? She heard the pen moving on the paper. That she had so begged was now on her papers. The second man in blue robes added a note, or signature, or certification, to the papers.

This is what he wanted, she told herself. What more could he want? Scorn me now, Master, she thought. Now, she thought, you can hold me in contempt to whatever degree might please you. How could I be such now that you might despise me more? You have made me nothing! Your vengeance on me, my Master, if vengeance it is, is surely now complete!

“Thank you,” said Mirus to the two men who, shortly, withdrew.

“Position,” said Mirus.

Ellen struggled to first position, sobbing, her body shaking with misery. She wanted to throw herself to the floor, covering her face, sobbing.

First position, she thought. I must hold my head up.

He wants to see my face, she thought.

It must be red, and tear-stained. Does that please him?

She dared to look at her master. His expression seemed noncommittal. It was hard to read.

“I have begged,” she sobbed.

“As I knew you would, slave girl,” he said.

“Please be kind to a slave!” she wept.

“Why?” he asked.

She choked back a sob, and looked past him, past his shoulder, past the curule chair, to the wall several yards behind.

“May I speak, Master?” she sobbed.

“For the moment,” he said.

“I have begged,” she said. “Now I beg to please my Master.”

“In what way?” he asked.

“In any way he may desire,” she said.

“Oh?”

“I beg to be permitted to enter your arms.”

“You wish to please me — sexually?” he said.

“Yes, Master.”

“Second obeisance position,” he said.

Ellen went prone, before him, her hands at the sides of her head.

“You may now speak, and speak clearly, slave girl,” he said.

“I am Ellen, the slave girl,” she said. “I belong to Mirus of Ar. I belly before him, my master. I beg to please him — sexually.”

“But you are a virgin,” he said. “That would lower your price.”

“Master?” said Ellen, startled.

“To be sure,” he said. “It does seem a bit silly. Why should some men want to be the first to open a slave? What difference does it make? The slave will probably have very little feeling the first time. It may even cause her pain. Later she may jump and juice, and scratch, and beg for the least caress. Why should one not pay more for that, since it is the enjoyment of a much more delicious, more helpless, more eager pudding, and yet when one locks one’s chains on such a one and thrusts her back to the furs, one simply takes her responses for granted, giving it not another thought. It is all very strange.”

“Master?” asked Ellen.

“To be sure,” he said, “I have already lost money on you, for had I had you returned to, say, your early twenties, you would doubtless bring a better price. You would be taken more seriously as block-meat.”

“Please do not speak of a slave as such,” she wept.

“But, as it is, you are something like eighteen. Who could take you seriously? You are no more than a pretty girl.”

“But even so, perhaps master finds me of interest,” she said.

“Oh you are learning to be a slave,” he growled.

“Forgive me, Master,” said Ellen. She feared something in his voice. The work-master’s voice had occasionally taken on such a tone, usually shortly before he had rudely seized, and tubbed, or put to his pleasure, one of his charges, often the now-abducted Nelsa.

“No, no,” he said. “You are learning. It is perfect.”

“Thank you, Master,” she said, hesitantly. She knew that she had aroused men in her training, but they had not been, she gathered, authorized to seize her, and make use of her, to assuage the passions and tensions she may have aroused in them. They must seek out other slaves. The other slaves had not seemed to mind. She wondered if she might ever become like that, so grateful for the touch of a man, even if it were not she in the first place who had aroused his passions. It was said that young men enamored of free women, perhaps having glimpsed an ankle, or a bit of throat or chin as the wind indiscreetly lifted a veil, sometimes sought out the girls in the paga taverns to lessen the pangs of love, to lessen their miseries. Many times clutching, grateful, gasping slaves heard the names of women they did not know cried out as free men used them to climax their pleasures. Briefly there flashed through her mind the tarnsman from Brundisium who, apparently enamored of a free woman, had taken a different action, seizing the woman, to make her his slave, she then to be herself perhaps no more to him than a paga girl. And later she, Ellen, had even been put in the iron belt, probably as she had progressed in her lessons and had become, if only unconsciously and inadvertently, far more desirable, far more provocative, feminine, and sensuous. She was pleased, of course, but a little frightened, to know that she had this effect on men. But now she was alone with her master. No longer was he her defense and shield. And there is none to defend or shield the slave, you see, from the master. She was utterly vulnerable. Anything might be done to her. She was his.

“But it pleased me,” he said, “to have had you made as young as you are, to give you such a meaningless, trivial age, a mere lovely eighteen, though I cost myself some coins in the business. It was a delicious part of my vengeance upon you.”

“Vengeance, Master?” she said.

“Yes,” he said.

“Master?” she asked.

“And so,” said he, thoughtfully, as though pondering some matter, “what would be the loss of a coin or two more?”

“I do not understand what you are saying, Master,” whispered the slave.

“Yes,” he said, apparently having come to some decision. “Why not? Yes, what is a coin or two, measured against the pleasure of teaching you what you now are, a worthless slave, of instructively demeaning you even further, of reducing your value yet again, even in a market, and thus exacting an even sweeter, richer, more delicious vengeance upon you?”

“Master?” cried the slave, frightened.

“Turn about,” he said. “Face away from me, kneeling. Put your head to the rug. Clasp your hands behind the back of your neck!”

“Please, no, Master!” she wept.

“Good,” he said. She heard him, she now facing away from him, head down, hands clasped behind the back of her neck, rise from the curule chair. She heard, too, the fall of garments upon the chair, dropped to the side, the robes heavier, the tunic almost inaudible.

He crouched behind her.

She felt the tunic pulled up and thrust forward, and down, until it was about her head and clasped wrists.

“Please, no, Master!” she begged.

“So,” said he, “here we have our little feminist, poised for the penetration of her master.”

“I am no longer a feminist!” she wept. “I have learned that I am a woman!”

“A girl?” he asked.

“Yes, Master, a girl! A girl! You have done that to me!”

“So here we have my former teacher then,” he mused, “prettily positioned. You look well, former teacher. I like you like this. What former student would not like you like this?”

“Please be kind, Master!”

“And, too, of course, here we have our little Ph.D., with her doctorate in gender studies, kneeling down obediently, facing away, awaiting the penetration of her master. Did they teach you of this in your gender studies?”

“No, Master.”

“Such studies were then incomplete, were they not?”

“Yes, Master,” she sobbed.

“And, of course,” he said, “we have here, too, our pretty little slave girl.”

She felt his hands seize her, about her narrow waist. He was extremely strong, and she did not doubt but what there would be marks on her body, from where he held her.

“Please, no, Master!” she begged. “Not like this, not like this, Master! I beg you! Not like this, my Master!”

“Who begs?” he asked.

“Ellen, Ellen, the slave, begs!” she wept.

“Whose are you?”

“Yours, Master!”

“Speak more clearly,” he said.

“Ellen, the slave, your slave, the slave of Mirus of Ar, begs her master, begs you, her master, Mirus of Ar, for mercy!” she wept.

“You have a pretty ass, slave girl,” he said.

“Please do not speak so, Master!”

“You have been complimented,” he said.

“Thank you, Master,” she wept.

Strangely she had never really thought of herself in such a way. She was, of course, pleased, perhaps inordinately so, with the fresh, lissome contours of her new figure. But how vulgar had seemed his compliment. To be sure, the young, slim, sweet curvatures of her body were of a piece, of a whole, an indissoluble, coherent delight, from her small feet and ankles, to her calves and thighs, her hips, her love cradle, her narrow waist, and sweet bosom, to her soft, white shoulders and lovely throat, all a melody of softness, texture and line, and surely no part of her was without its role and portion in the new and exquisite she of her. She recalled, briefly, fashions of centuries in which clothing itself had been designed to call attention to, and emphasize, just such features. She recalled the pleasure with which she had regarded herself in the mirror, her trimness, her excitements.

But how vulgar had been his compliment!

Yet could she deny that she was pleased?

But in what a shameful position she had been placed!

She thought of the rude, efficient, coital positions of many animals. Was it so different?

And, she realized, too, she was now an animal, a slave, and an attractive one.

But he could not be serious!

What could he have in mind!

Surely he could not be doing this to her, not to her, not to her!

Had he no respect for her? What of her dignity?

Was he not of Earth?

Could he not remember Earth?

“Please, Master!” she wept. “Not like this! Not like this!”

“Please, no!” she cried.

“We are of Earth,” she cried, “we are both of Earth!”

“No longer,” he said.

“Mercy, Master!” she begged.

“You are going to be red-silked, girl,” he said.

“Not like this, Master,” she begged. “Please, no! No! Not like this, not like this! Please, Master, not like this!”

“Oh!” she cried, suddenly.

“You are now “red silk,” he informed her.

“Do not break position,” he growled. His hands were on her like iron.

In a few moments she lay on her right side on the rug, at the foot of the dais, sobbing.

He had drawn on his tunic, but not his robes, and was sitting in the curule chair, looking down upon her.

“You are a tight, cold little thing,” he said.

Her body was wracked with sobs.

“Remove your garment,” he said.

Crying, she half sat up, and pulled her slave garment, the tiny, cut tunic, over her head, from where it was, about her neck and shoulders, and put it beside her. Then again she lay on the rug, on her side, trying to control her tears. There was a bit of blood upon her, and a smeared stain of blood on the interior of her left thigh.

“Taste your virgin blood,” he said.

She looked at him, red-eyed, not comprehending.

From within his tunic, from what may have been an interior enclosure there, he drew forth a ribbon and what seemed to be a length or two of binding fiber. He came down from the dais and crouched beside her.

She shrank back a little.

“Oh!” she said.

“Here,” he said, putting two fingers to her mouth. “Taste it, the blood of a virgin slave.”

Obediently, sobbing, she did as she was told. It was thick, sticky, warm from her body, a little salty, and bore more than a tiny hint of the oils of her nether intimacies. It was not a moment she would ever forget.

“Sit up,” he said. And so she sat up on the rug, before him. He was now kneeling beside her.

He held up the ribbon before her. It was about eight or ten inches long, an inch wide, and of red silk.

“You have been had,” he said, in English. And then he added, in Gorean, “You have now been opened for the uses of men, for the pleasures of men.”

“You are now a red-silk girl,” he said.

He then doubled the ribbon, looped it about her collar, and jerked it tight. There seemed something definitive about that, the way he did it.

“Bara!” he said.

She instantly responded to his command, as she had been trained to do. She was now on her belly, her wrists crossed behind her, her ankles, too, crossed.

She felt her wrists tied with one length of the binding fiber, and then, a moment later, her ankles bound with a second length. The pieces of binding fiber might have been each eighteen inches in length. Each, thusly, could be looped more than once about her wrists and ankles.

She was then lying before him, prone, a naked, bound, red-silk girl.

He then turned her to her side. Could it have been to give himself pleasure? Certainly he scrutinized her with care, and seemingly appreciatively. Doubtless he noted how she drew up her knees, and pointed her toes, accentuating the curve of her calf. Perhaps he wondered if she even knew she had done that. She had not even thought of it, at least not in the sense of carefully planning it, but had rather done it naturally, naturally, as a slave. He smiled. Her eyes stung afresh with tears. But she knew how she must be before a man, and wanted to be before a man. She was slave.

He lifted her in his arms and carried her to the height of the dais, where he put her down, gently, on her knees, to the left of the curule chair, as one might look out from it, to the right of the curule chair, as one would face it.

One may recall that on the small table to his right there reposed a decanter of colored glass with its small, matching glass.

He took the stopper from the decanter, and poured a tiny bit of its contained liquid into the glass.

“You may speak,” he said.

“What you did to me!” she wept.

“You may not complain,” he said. “You are a slave.”

“Yes, Master.”

“You may now thank me for using you,” he said.

“Thank you, Master,” she said.

“For what?” he asked.

“For using me, Master.”

“As what?” he asked.

“As a slave, Master,” she said.

“You’re crying,” he said.

“Forgive me, Master.”

“Perhaps you understand a little better now what it is to be a slave?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Later,” said he, “when you have discovered more of yourself, and of your sexuality, you will beg such usages.”

“I doubt that,” she said.

“No,” he said. “The time will come when you will crawl backward to a master, naked, whimpering, elevating your lovely posterior, begging.”

She regarded him, aghast. Could she ever have such depths within her? It seemed impossible. Yet, to be sure, she had heard some of the girls in the cells and cages, and kennels, crying out, and moaning, and scratching. She had heard of the depths of, and intensity of, “slave needs.”

He held the glass toward her lips, and she shrank back, in her bonds.

“What is wrong?” he asked.

“That is not a “releaser,” is it?” she asked.

“No,” he smiled. “It is ka-la-na.”

“Slave wine,” which, as administered to slaves, is terribly bitter, from the sip root, found in the Barrens, precluded conception. The “releaser,” which is commonly syrupy, and sweet, nullifies the effects of the “slave wine.” It is commonly administered to a slave after masters have agreed upon a crossing, and she is to be bred.

“Ka-la-na?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said. “A wine.”

There are many ka-la-nas, but the one in the colored glass, if it had been in a clear glass, would have been golden in color. The reddish color of the glass infused its contents with something of its own hue.

“From the wine trees of Gor,” he said.

She straightened up, as well as she could. She knew she was helpless. He had bound her well, surely as well as any Gorean might have, tightly, but not excessively tightly. There would be no danger of damaging the slave, of impairing her circulation, or risking possibilities of nerve or tissue damage, and, in the psychological dimension, she would have just enough latitude to tease her, and then frustrate her, as she might struggle, and then, eventually, realize she was, when all was said and done, utterly helpless, a slave girl bound by her master.

“You would have me drink wine, and from a glass?” she asked. “How is it that it is not water, put in a pan on the floor, which I must lap from the pan, forbidden to touch the pan with my hands?”

“You speak boldly, for a naked, bound slave,” he said.

She tossed her head.

“You have spirit,” he said. “That can be taken from a girl, if one wishes.”

She moved a little closer to him, and then, suddenly, beggingly, impulsively, as if she scarcely knew what she was doing, put her head to his right knee, turning her head and resting the side of her face, her left cheek, on his knee.

“It is not that I mind a bit of spirit in a slave,” he said. “It makes it all the more pleasant to bring them again to their belly, at your feet, kissing and begging.”

“Yes, Master,” she whispered, softly.

“But there must be not the least impairment in perfect discipline,” he said.

“No, Master,” she whispered.

He put the tiny glass on the table. She heard the small sound.

“You may speak,” he said.

“I love you,” she said, “my Master.”

“I have brought you here, that you might hate me, for what I have done to you,” he said.

“How could I hate you, Master?” she asked, her head to his knee. “You have rescued me. You have saved me. You have given me my rightful bondage. I have always been a slave, but now, at last, you have given me my brand, and my collar. You have given me to myself, in a world where I can be myself, and need not hide myself, even from myself. I am inordinately grateful to you, my Master.”

She whimpered, for she felt his hand clench in her hair, tightly, she feared angrily.

“Continue to speak,” he said, seemingly controlling his voice, keeping it calm, with an effort.

As he was holding her, she could not lift her head, to look into his eyes, to try to understand him.

She was frightened.

“Go on,” he said, quietly.

“I wanted to kneel to you,” she said, “even when you were a student. I sensed in you power, and virility, and uncompromised manhood, and, too, I think I sensed in you even then, surely on some level, then only dimly understood, the splendor and force of the mastery. Do you understand how devastating, how irresistible, how overwhelming this is to a woman? In you was manifested the very principle of masculinity to which all women, in virtue of their principle of femininity, long to succumb.”

His hand tightened even more in her hair. She winced.

“I love you, Master,” she said. “And I want to be your slave.”

“Oh!” she cried, in pain.

“Surely,” she wept, her head held down, cruelly, “you must have some feelings for me. You remembered me, after many years. You never forgot. You have brought me here. You have given me a second chance at life. You have rescued me. You have saved me. You have restored my youth, and beauty, if I be beautiful. You put me in the iron belt, that I might be protected in a house where men may do much what they please with the women at hand, where the use of slaves is little restricted. You keep me for yourself. You gave me a beautiful name. You have even inflicted peremptory and degrading usage upon me. Surely, then, you must have feelings for me. If you do not love me, Master, do you not like me, if only a little? Surely, at the least, you must find me of interest, as a master a slave. Surely you must want me. Surely you must desire me, if only as an object to rape, punish and abuse. You must find my body of interest. Look upon it, Master. You own it!”

“I own all of you,” he snarled.

“Yes, Master,” she gasped, wincing.

He released her hair, and she drew back, gratefully, her hair twisted and tangled, in disarray, kneeling before him.

She then saw his eyes rove her, her hair, her face, her throat, her shoulders, her bosom, her waist, her love cradle, her thighs.

She put her shoulders back a little, that her figure might be accentuated.

She turned a little to the side, and lifted her head.

“Brazen slave,” said he.

She knelt very straightly. She was very conscious of the steel circlet clasping her throat.

“Surely my flanks are not without interest, Master,” she said, timidly. She moved her hands a little in their bonds, futilely.

“It is true, your flanks are not without interest, slave girl,” he said.

“Thank you, Master,” she said.

“You are a lovely slave,” he said.

“Thank you, Master!” she said.

“But there are thousands in the markets as lovely, or lovelier, than you,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” she said. She did not doubt but what he said was true. Indeed, in this very house, she had seen many women with whose beauty she would not have dared to compare hers. She became aware that tears had sprung afresh to her eyes.

He reached to her and put his hand in her hair.

“Please do not hurt me more,” she begged. “I am a bound slave. My neck is in your collar. Please do not hurt me more!”

But he drew her closer to him, not cruelly, but firmly. Then, without removing his hand from her hair, he lifted the small glass of ka-la-na.

He swirled the wine a little in the glass, and held it before him, inhaling the bouquet. He then held the small glass before her.

“It is lovely, Master,” she said, breathing in the wine’s bouquet.

“It is a nice ka-la-na,” he said.

He then held it before her, the rim of the glass to her lips, and tipped it, slightly, that she might sip it.

“It is wonderful, Master,” she breathed. “The smoothness, the flavor, the fragrance, the body.”

“I thought you would like it,” he said.

“Thank you, Master,” she breathed.

He is kind to me, she thought. He gives me wine. He is gentle. He is tender. He loves me. My Master loves me! I want to be a wonderful slave to him! I want to be the most wonderful and loving slave on all Gor! Let him do with me as he pleases. Let him kick and beat me. I will rejoice! I will beg to lick the boot that kicks me, I will beg to kiss the hand that strikes me! Oh dominate me, and own me, my Master! I am yours, my Master!

Then suddenly it seemed the blood froze in her veins, as she met his eyes.

“Master?” she asked.

“You will now finish your bit of ka-la-na,” he said.

She felt his hand tighten in her hair, and pull back, lifting her head and bending it backward.

She saw the tiny glass before her, her head bent back.

His eyes were hard. In them there was no longer any hint of kindness, of tenderness, of gentleness. In them she now saw only severity and anger, even fury.

“Master?” she asked, frightened.

“Open your mouth,” said he. “Widely. Do not spill a drop.”

He slowly poured the residue of ka-la-na into her obediently lifted, opened mouth.

“Swallow,” said he. “Carefully, swallow. Swallow.”

Then he released her hair and replaced the tiny glass on the table.

She looked at him. She ran her tongue over her lips. She could taste the ka-la-na.

Already she thought she could feel its effects.

He was sitting in the curule chair, in the tunic, watching her.

“Master?” she said.

“I had thought,” he said, moodily, “it might take you years, and a hundred masters, to learn your slavery, my little feminist and ideologue. I had thought that you would cry out and rage against me for years in your chains and collars for what I had done to you. How that would have pleased me, your anger, your hatred, your misery, your frustration, your suffering, until, of course, eventually, perhaps years from now, in the arms of some master, a leather worker, a peasant, a sleen-breeder, your last psychological defenses would shatter and your womanhood, released, would cry out and claim you, reducing you to the welcomed, surrendered abject glory that is the right of your sex. But, instead, after but a moment, I find you an exquisite little slab of collar-meat, a willing, content, obedient little piece of flesh-trash, no different from thousands of other meaningless, silken little she-urts. Already you grovel at the snapping of fingers, and lick and kiss the whip with not only skill, but eagerness. Almost instantly you have begun to move as a slave girl. Already, at the sight of you, guards cry out in anger, and in need. Already you kneel with perfection and have become excruciatingly, inordinately, maddeningly, marvelously feminine.”

“But I am a slave, Master,” she whispered. She was kneeling. She felt a little unsteady. She shook her head. There seemed to be a bright, hazy glow about the lamps.

“Perhaps you rushed to your ideology in order to hide your deepest feelings and needs from yourself, the ideology constituting in its way a defense mechanism, as the expression is, a hysterical denial of inwardly sensed biotruths.”

“I do not know, Master,” she said, confused. “I feel faint, Master.”

“You may break position,” he said.

She sank to her side on the steps, before the curule chair.

“It is not simply ka-la-na which you have imbibed,” he said. “It was mixed with tassa power. You had some weeks ago, on Earth.”

She shook her head, trying to retain consciousness. She looked up at him, tears in her eyes.

“You have wondered why I brought you to Gor,” he said. “I will tell you. I brought you here because I hold you in contempt, because I despise you, because it amuses me to bring you here and make you a meaningless, youthful slave. Surely in your bracelets and chains you must understand how amusing that is, particularly given your subject matter, your teaching, your publications, your ideology. Here, in a collar, you can at last learn something true about men and women. You can at last learn your proper place in nature. You can learn it with a branded thigh, and an encircled neck, kneeling before masters.”

“Do you not love me, Master?” she gasped.

“No,” he said.

“Do you hate me?” she wept.

It seemed to be growing dark, about the edges of her vision.

“No,” he said. “You are not worth hating.”

“I love you!” she wept.

“Lying slut!” he said, in English. Then, rising angrily from the chair, with his bootlike sandal, he thrust her forcibly, rolling, down the steps of the dais to the floor at its foot.

He came down the steps, and, it seemed, was ready to spurn her yet again with the bootlike sandal.

She crawled, squirmed, as she could, to his feet, and, summoning what little strength remained within her, pressed her lips to the bootlike sandal which had spurned her.

She looked up at him, tears in her eyes. “What are you going to do with me?” she asked.

“What am I going to do with you — what?” he snarled.

“What are you going to do with me — Master?” she whispered.

“What I planned to do with you from the beginning,” he said.

“Master?”

“Complete my vengeance upon you.”

“Master?” she whispered.

“Can you not guess?” he said.

She put her head against the rug. She pulled a little against her bonds. Then she lost consciousness.

Chapter 16

THE SUNLIT CEMENT SHELF

For a time she could make nothing out of the sounds about her. It seemed for the moment an indiscriminate babble, and, one supposes, from one point of view it was, as the sounds were then unintelligible to her, as she lay there, only dimly, distantly, vaguely conscious. She was trying to hear them with a different ear, so to speak. She was trying, we may suppose, to hear in English, but it was not English, you see, that was about her. It was a quite different language. So her puzzlement, her vague unease, her half-conscious consternation, was not really difficult to understand. Indeed, at first she did not really think of the sounds as of a language, at all, but only as human sounds, and then, gradually, she realized they must be in a language. The streams of sound bubbling about her like water, sometimes breaking forth, sometimes soothing, rippling, sometimes rushing, must be intentionally formed. There was something articulate and precise in the music, in the sounds. These were not the sounds of animals, the roars, and growls, the bleating, bellowing, shrieking, howlings, and hissings of animals, nor the sounds of nature, nothing like the dashings of branches against one another, lashed by the wind, nothing like the pattering of rain, the tumbling of rocks, the drums of thunder, the shattering proclamations of lightning. So why did she not understand them? Doubtless she was very tired, and wanted to sleep. Why could they not be quiet, these voices which must be in her dream? What a strange dream! It crossed her mind that she might complain to the building superintendent. How vigorous and remarkable, and diverse, and expressive, seemed that strange tongue, at once so lively, bright and fluent, even delicate, and then suddenly so explosively rude and brutal, at one moment loud, at another soft, at one moment rapid, even careless, at another measured and stately, at one moment melodious, at another almost inarticulate and fierce, and the dozens of voices speaking, conversing, crying out, calling out, whispering, proclaiming, announcing, arguing, haggling, querying, all this sound, rapid, torrential, swift, slow, then quick again, loud, soft, which, like flowing, sometimes rushing, water, bubbled about her, seemingly everywhere, was surely incongruous in the vicinity of her apartment.

Gradually she became apprehensive, because it began to seem to her that if one thing or another were a little different, if there were a small adjustment, a willingness, a readiness, a slight shifting of attention or awareness, the smallest acceptance or openness, that that inexplicable cacophony of sound about her might suddenly become intelligible, and this suspicion, for no reason she clearly understood, frightened her.

She continued to listen, dimly, determinedly, in English, and, in this way, reassuringly, she understood nothing, or, perhaps better, nothing she would admit to herself.

She was on her stomach, doubtless on her bed in her apartment. On the other hand, the surface seemed very hard, unpleasantly hard, even rough. I must get a new mattress, she thought. She reached for her pillow, but could not find it. It had doubtless fallen to the floor. The bed was hard, much too hard. It also seemed very warm, where she was. It was almost as though she lay on a hot surface, in direct sunlight, in the heat of a blazing summer. The sunlight must be streaming through the window in her apartment. But there was so much of it. And the angle seemed wrong, and it was so hot! How terribly unpleasant, she thought. She was uncomfortably warm, but did not want to awaken.

She reached for the covers, to press them down, and away, but she could not find them. She must have discarded them already.

She sensed redness, radiance and heat through her closed eyelids.

It was hot. There seemed to be bright sunlight.

Was there something on her neck? Had there been a tiny sound, as of the touching of one piece of metal upon another, or a tiny scraping sound?

Something seemed subtly different about her body.

She hoped that it was Saturday, for on Saturdays she had no classes.

She reached down to touch her nightgown. She knew that she should have, given her ideological commitments, affected mannish nightwear, to be more like men, the enemy, but she had not wished to do so, and her fellow ideologues, her colleagues, and such, need never know that she wore a gown to bed, one that might be thrust up, revealing her. It was of cotton. She had not dared to purchase, let alone wear, a subtle, rustling silken gown, or one of those tiny, revealing short gowns, one of those scandalous little things presumably eschewed even by prostitutes, who might wish to have a bit of respect from their clients, the sort of garment in which a master might put a slave girl.

An old dream vaguely touched her consciousness.

No, no, she murmured.

But he had emerged from his seat in the classroom, taken her in hand, and, despite her mild, weakly plaintive protests, almost ritualistic protests, expected of her, quietly, methodically, garment by garment, even to her shoes, stripped her before the class. He had then lifted her to the surface of the desk. She had squirmed beneath him, plaintively protesting, trying weakly to push him away, and then, kissing him and grasping him, had wept her surrender. The class had applauded.

No, she thought. Oh, yes, yes, yes! No! Yes! Yes!

She reached down to touch her cotton nightgown, but touched, rather, her thigh. She feared that in the intensity of her dream she had drawn it up, about her waist, or bosom. She reached to draw it down, but could not find it. She did not sleep nude! She would never do that! She was not that kind of woman! She would never permit herself to be so vulnerable!

She became more aware, then, of the sounds about her, the hardness of the surface on which she lay.

She also became more apprehensive.

She fought consciousness.

She felt her body, and was terrified. It did not seem hers, or not as it had been, when she had retired, surely. She lightly touched her breasts. How sweet and full, and delightful and felicitous, they seemed. She was embarrassed. She touched her waist which now seemed small, firm and slim, and beautifully rounded, even delicate, and she touched her hips and sensed the contrasting flare of a sweet love cradle. She sensed then, to her misery and terror, not the figure she thought she had, but one quite different, one of those figures which draws vulgar whistles and obscene catcalls from rude men, from moved, uninhibited, rude, excited men.

It is not my body, she thought!

But of course it was her body.

She moved to draw up her legs and cover herself with her hands and arms, but, suddenly, was aware of some sort of impediment on her left ankle. It was not that she could not move as she wished; it was only that there was something on her left ankle, something heavy. Too, now there seemed more clearly something on her neck. She tried to thrust the thing from her ankle with her right foot, but could not do so. It clearly was metal, and heavy, and round, and was closed, and closed closely, about her ankle. She could not slip it. Too, she heard a sound, when she moved her foot, as of heavy links of chain, drawn perhaps over a cement surface. The weight seemed to pull at the object on her foot. It seemed to be attached to the object.

She touched her neck. There seemed something there, something heavy. She jerked away her hand.

The noise about her, the sounds, the language, the speech, now seemed even more obtrusive.

She was terrified to awaken.

Yet on some level, doubtless, she was already awake, and fearfully awake.

“Buy me, Master!” she heard, the soliciting, piteously begging call of a woman, from not more than a yard or two away. The call had not been in English, as she suddenly, almost simultaneously, realized, but yet, as she also suddenly realized, as in a moment of blazing comprehension, she had not only understood it perfectly, but understood as well that she had understood it perfectly, immediately, and naturally. It was not in English, but it was in a language she spoke, and with some fluency. Most of the words she heard about her, now, though not all, made perfect sense to her. The tiny shift, the adjustment, had been made.

All this seemed to take place at the same time, and she opened her eyes wildly for an instant but, drawing back from the painful stabbing of sunlight, shut them in pain, but, in that moment, she had glimpsed a world about her, movements, colors, robes, stalls across the way, displayed goods, awnings, shouting vendors, children, men, women, hurryings, groups in converse, peddlers, some with baskets on their heads.

She rolled to her side, and sat up, with a clatter of chain, and clenched her legs together, and covered her breasts with her hands and arms, and screamed in misery.

Girls on either side of her drew back.

Some passers-by paused for a moment, some close enough to reach out and touch her, and then moved on.

She opened her eyes a little, fearfully.

She was on a narrow, sunlit cement shelf at one side of a small plaza, or square. Across the square were numerous stalls, where vendors displayed their goods. Too, here and there in the square, blankets had been spread on the stones, and other vendors, sitting at the blankets, displayed goods spread before them. There were also stalls on her side of the square. Across the way, behind the stalls, and also behind her, on her side of the square, were brick, tenementlike buildings, some seven or eight stories in height, very different from the tall cylinders she had seen before. At one end of the square she could see two of these cylinders in the distance. At the other side of the square, down a narrow street threading its way between buildings similar to those about the square, she could glimpse what seemed to be a high, broad wall.

She began to sob, shielding her body as she could.

She was on a narrow cement shelf, backed by a building on which it abutted, rather like a porch. The shelf was something like five feet in depth, and thirty feet, or so, in length. It was about a yard high. There were steps at either end, giving access to its surface. To the left of the shelf, as one would face it, there was a door at the ground level, through which access to the building was obtained. It was through this door that women could be brought to and from the shelf. Behind that door there was a hallway, with cramped, dark, narrow, cement stairs leading down for some thirty feet. At the foot of those stairs there was a basement level, and on this level there were several basement rooms, some with stout, security doors. It was within one of these basement rooms, ill-lit, musty, damp and straw-strewn, that the women were housed when not on the shelf.

There were seven sockets behind the shelf in the wall of the building, overhead, in which horizontal poles might be fixed, and there were matching sockets near the front of the shelf, into which vertical poles might be placed, from which arrangements of poles, joined together and reinforced by additional, overhead, horizontal poles near the front of the shelf, awnings might be suspended. At present, however, the poles, with their awnings, were not set, reposing rather in a storeroom of the low brick building, the tenement, or insula, as the shelf, without the awnings, rented for a lower price.

Instantly the flood of her memories had returned to her, the house, the training, the laundry, the tassa powder.

She looked down at her left thigh.

Could these things be true?

Could she have gone mad?

But there, high, just below the hip, was the tiny, graceful, cursive kef.

It was true!

She was branded! Literally, actually branded! That lovely mark was literally in her. It had been burned into her with a hot iron! She was branded, clearly and unmistakably marked!

On her right side there was a bruise. That was surely where Mirus had angrily spurned her from the dais, with a thrust of his bootlike sandal, and she, helplessly bound, turning and rolling, twisting, in pain, had tumbled rolling to the rug at the foot of the dais.

He had not been gentle with his slave.

She looked at her left ankle. About it there was a heavy shackle. Attached to a ring on this shackle was a stout chain. It was some five feet in length, and was composed of heavy links. The chain was, in turn, fastened to a large, heavy metal ring which was anchored in the cement. She was, accordingly, by the left ankle, chained to this ring.

There were five such rings on the shelf.

The shackle was hammered shut about her ankle. A large padlock, snapped about the dangling shackle ring, attached the chain to her shackle; another large padlock, at the other end of the chain, completed her securing, fastening her to the heavy ring in the cement. The shackle, as it was hammered shut about her ankle, could not be removed, save by tools.

She looked about. On the shelf there were seven girls, including herself. Each was chained as herself. Two rings had two girls fastened to them.

She put her fingers to her throat. No longer did it wear the thin, flat, light, graceful, lovely metal band with which she had become familiar, which she had scarcely been aware she had worn, until perhaps a sharp word or a stroke of the switch had recalled to her attention its significance.

She looked at the other girls.

On their throats were heavy collars of black iron, the perforated ends of each curving about the neck to come together in front, in such a way that the collar curved closely about the neck behind the two perforated ends, and the two perforated ends extended forward. These jutting ends then, with their matching apertures, were hammered flat together. Through the matched apertures a dangling iron ring had been closed. Thus, in a sense, the collar was doubly closed, having not only been hammered shut, but also secured with the ring joining the two ends of the metal. Either closure is sufficient, of course. This collar-and-ring arrangement is simply and inexpensively wrought, not requiring the fusing of metals in welding. Ring mounts, and such, on the other hand, are usually fused into, welded into, thus becoming part of, the shackle or manacle. For example, the shackle on her left ankle had a common ring mount, welded into the metal, through which the ring was inserted and closed.

The heavy metal collar on her throat was uncomfortable, quite different from the light band with which she had been familiar. Further, it was a high collar, and it was not easy for her to put her head down.

It was exactly the same sort of collar, she was sure, as that worn by the other girls. She could feel it, trace with her finger the closure, feel the extended ends, touch the heavy, dangling ring which had been put through the apertures and closed.

Such a collar, with its size and weight, perhaps four or five pounds, its discomfort, she was sure, in the house would have been used only as a punishment collar. Yet, here, all the girls wore it.

But surely they were not all being punished!

Could it be then that they were all merely the least of slaves, the cheapest of slaves, the lowest and the most meaningless of slaves?

Doubtless such girls would all be eager to be freed of such collars, and have their throats returned to the lightness, if inflexible perfection, of a master’s collar.

Could that be why the girl had called out so beggingly, so piteously, “Buy me, Master!”

Where am I, she wondered.

What bondage is this?

She looked at the other girls. They did not seem interested in her. One had regarded her with surprise, and then scorn, when she had screamed, and had then looked away. She wondered if they knew she was a barbarian, a girl from Earth.

They, too, as she, were stripped, utterly, given not a thread to wear.

On the collars of the girls closest to her, on her left and right, she could see numerous scratches, some things seemingly scratched in, and others scratched out. She was illiterate, as we may remember, but she could recognize script, both cursive and printed, and what was on the collar, that was not scratched out, was partly written, but mainly printed. The printing seemed uneducated, and crude. She touched her own collar lightly, just barely touching it, with her finger tips, and detected scratches, too, on her collar. She wondered what was written there. She was sure that numerous girls, before her, had worn that collar, and she supposed that others, after her, might do so, as well. It was very different from the neat engraving which, in a mirror, she had seen on her former color. She had been told by one of the instructrices that that collar had said, ‘I am Ellen, the slave of Mirus of Ar’. But now that collar was gone. Both brand and collar mark the woman as slave, but both do so in a somewhat different fashion. The brand stays on her; the collar may change. Not all masters brand and collar their slaves, but branding and collaring is strongly recommended in Merchant Law, and it would be a rare slave girl who was not both branded and collared.

“Buy me, Master!” called out a girl, to her right, kneeling on the cement, holding out her hands to a handsome fellow in leather, who had paused near the shelf.

“Put down your hands,” said the girl to her left. “Show yourself to the men.”

“No, no, no!” said Ellen.

“Kneel facing forward, and spread your knees,” said a girl further to the right.

“No, no!” said Ellen, sitting, trying to cover herself. She did not know what posture to assume. Certainly she feared to assume the provocative posture of a kneeling female, particularly one spread-kneed, with its devastatingly shocking acknowledgment of surrender, helplessness, bondage, and submission, and she feared, too, to lie down, facing forward, covering herself, for some might look upon her face, and see her fear, or, in puzzlement, or amusement, order her to reveal herself, even if they did not put her through slave paces, commanding her to perform on the shelf. But, if she turned about, and lay down, on her side, facing away, pretending to sleep, she knew that the posterior curves of her new figure would not be likely to pass unnoticed. She considered lying on her back, but that, too, to her helpless misery, would present a perspective perhaps even more likely to be relished by any hormonally normal male, even one of Earth, let alone the untamed men of Gor.

“Targo will be returning from his tea,” said the girl to her left. “I do not know where Barzak is. I think you had better be displaying yourself, and calling to buyers by then.”

“No, no!” said Ellen.

She lay then on her stomach, rather as she had slept. Perhaps then, she thought, that would conceal most of her. To be sure, then the loveliness of her figure, so extended, would be revealed in other dimensions, the tininess of her feet, the slimness of her ankles, which took shackles so nicely, the swelling of her calves, her thighs, one bearing a slave brand, the curves, now so beautifully and subtly interrelated, of her new figure, of her fundament, her waist and bosom, her white shoulders, the slim neck, the well-shaped head, the lustrous dark hair strewn on the sunlit cement, the small, rounded forearms, the tiny wrists, seeming to call for slave bracelets, the small hands and delicate fingers, which might bring such joy to a master, in such dimensions, and in a thousand others, as small as the subtlety of her diaphragm as she breathed, the trembling of a lip, the timidity of a glance, the tense way in which the merest tip of a finger might touch a metal collar, would she be revealed, in all these ways and others would she be revealed. How could she, a beautiful stripped slave girl, not be revealed, and as the delight she was?

She covered her head with her hands.

“Targo is coming,” whispered one of the girls, she closest on the left.

Ellen kept her head down, pretending to be asleep.

“Man!” suddenly said the girl to her right.

Instantly, without really thinking, and not really understanding, at least for the first instant, why she did what she did, Ellen went to the first obeisance position. It was, you see, a matter of an instant response, one consequent on her training. She heard the girl to her right laugh. Ellen was going to break position angrily, and speak crossly to the girl, thinking herself the victim of a joke, when it occurred to her that the “Man” command might have been appropriately motivated. She looked, subtly, to her right and left and found the others girls, too, in first obeisance position.

She therefore remained as she was.

Perhaps the girl to her right had had her joke, but, too, it was not impossible that, in the joke, the girl had had her best interests in mind. Perhaps the girl had saved her a beating, or at least a tense moment. She had not really been asleep, and a master might have understood that. There were probably differences in the rhythms of breathing, and such. She had not really wanted to deceive anyone, so much as she had been afraid. Perhaps a master might have understood that, and been forgiving, but then again he might have understood it and, nonetheless, saw fit to correct her behavior, admonishing her with the leather.

She heard someone mount the cement steps to her right.

“Kneel up,” said a voice.

Instantly the chained slaves, including Ellen, went to first position.

“New girl,” said a voice, “remain as you are. The rest of you worthless she-urts may be as you wish.”

There was the sound of various chains moving, as the other girls broke position.

Steps approached Ellen, who had, of course, supposing herself the “new girl,” remained in position.

The steps seemed short, and a bit ponderous.

Then she was aware of someone standing near her, perhaps a short, heavy man. She had a glimpse of blue and yellow robes.

She was frightened for she knew herself a slave girl who was now doubtless in the presence of a free man.

He might not be a formidable man, as so many of those she had encountered on this world, but he was a man and she was a woman, and a slave.

She kept her eyes straight ahead, looking out on the crowds about. The shelf was hot, and she had moved, so her knees and toes were now muchly aware of the temperature of the cement. She hoped that she would not be burned.

“It is certainly a hot day,” he said, puffing a little. “How fortunate you all are, not to be robed.”

Ellen knelt straightly.

“Where is Barzak?” he asked someone.

“I do not know, Master,” said a girl.

“In some paga tavern,” he speculated. “I trust that you have all been presenting yourselves well.”

It was Ellen’s impression that the girls had called out only when interesting, handsome men had passed, or loitered in the vicinity of the shelf. But then the master had not been present, or Barzak, whoever he might be.

“You had been given tassa powder,” he said.

“Yes, Master,” said Ellen.

“How do you feel?” he asked.

“Well, Master,” she said.

“Good,” he said. “There are usually few, if any, aftereffects. Are you hungry?”

“Yes, Master,” said Ellen, after a moment. It was only as he had asked that she had realized that she was hungry. Misery and concern had been on her mind, overwhelming it, not food. Before she had been called for, to be taken to the Chamber of Preparation, to be readied for presentation to her Master at the eighteenth Ahn, she had been fed and watered in her bin. She had been chained by the neck there, as usual, and given her two pans, one containing water, the other slave gruel. She was not permitted to use her hands in drinking and feeding from the pans. She must be on all fours or on her belly. She need not finish the water but the slave gruel must be finished, even to the delicate licking out of the pan. If the guards were not pleased she would be beaten. Having been chained, she had feared that she had been forgotten, but the two instructrices called for her, shortly before the sixteenth Ahn, and the guard had freed her, that she might be taken, hands bound behind her, hooded and leashed, to the Chamber of Preparation. There were many parts of the house, which in some respects seemed almost labyrinthine, with which she was unfamiliar. She did not know for certain how long it had been since she had last eaten, presumably the preceding evening, but possibly the evening before last.

“After tassa powder,” said the man, “a girl is often ravenously hungry. But when the girl awakens in ropes, or chains, she must wait to find out if she is to be fed or not.”

Ellen sensed that the man might be holding something in his hands, something in each hand.

“Look up,” he said.

She looked up, frightened.

“Here is some bread,” he said. “Keep position,” he said, for she had begun to lift her hands from her thighs.

And so she fed, delicately, in position, from his hand.

In his other hand he held a small metal bowl.

When she had finished the bread, he put one hand behind the back of her head and held the small bowl to her lips. “This is Bazi tea,” he said.

He helped her to drink. The tea was not hot, but it was strong, and flavorful.

“Thank you, Master,” she said.

“What a day,” he said. “You will all be browned as a prairie toad, for which I could probably get more money. It is hot enough to burn the turban of a Priest-King.”

He put the cup in a pouch, slung at his belt. Most Gorean garments do not have pockets. Goods which would be normally carried in pockets are usually kept in wallets, or pouches. On the other hand, the garbs of certain artisans often have pockets, for tools, pegs, nails, fasteners, such things.

“What is your name?” he asked.

“‘Ellen’,” she said, “— if it pleases Master.”

“That is a pretty name,” he said. “To be sure, it is a barbarian name. You are a barbarian, are you not?”

“Yes, Master.”

One of the girls nearby laughed.

It suddenly occurred to Ellen, that this might be a test, administered by her master, Mirus of Ar. Perhaps it was a joke on his part.

This man did not seem unkind.

He had fed her, and given her tea.

Surely Mirus of Ar, her master, would never let her out of his collar, really! Surely somehow he would keep her as his forever! Had he not remembered her? Had he not brought her to this world? Had he not restored her youth and comeliness? Had he not given her a beautiful name? Had he not put her in the iron belt? Had it not been he who had first put her to the imperious uses of men?

“We will keep that name, at least for the time,” he said. “It should improve your price. It will be one of the few things that would.”

“Master?” asked Ellen.

“You are too youthful,” he said. “Little more than a pretty girl.”

Ellen bit her lip. Mirus of Ar, her master, she believed, in his arrogance, had done that to her.

“What is the forty-third position of joy?” asked the man.

“I do not know, Master,” she said.

“What is the sixth delight of the hair of a female slave?” he asked.

“I have no idea, Master,” she said.

“What is the title of the eighteenth love song of Dina, the slave poetess?” he asked.

“I do not know, Master,” she said.

“Do you know anything?” he asked.

“Very little, Master,” she said.

“And neither do these others, either, know anything,” he said. “Pot girls, kettle-and-mat girls, worthless she-urts, all of you! Some slaves are worth a Ubara’s ransom. Others such as you I should pay unwary buyers to take off my hands. Perhaps I could bribe the cleaners of streets to take you from my shelf, to throw into the pits, to dispose of you as refuse, as flesh-garbage! Do you know what it costs to rent this space, even without an awning!”

“No, Master,” said more than one of the girls.

“It is none of your business,” he said. “But it is exorbitant. I am destitute! How can I feed you? I shall have to put you on leashes and take you to garbage bins! And where have you been?”

A brawny fellow, in a short tunic, with leather on his wrists, had approached. He was grizzled, slovenly, and, apparently, had lost an eye.

This, Ellen supposed, was Barzak.

“The Iron Collar,” responded the fellow.

“I was having tea!” said the portly fellow in blue and yellow robes, Targo, who seemed to be Master.

“And I paga,” said the grizzled fellow.

“Unwatched, unguarded, I could have lost my entire stock!” said Targo.

“Nonsense,” said Barzak. “They are chained, and, besides, who would want them?”

“You could keep a bota of paga here,” said Targo.

“One wants both meat and drink,” said Barzak.

Most owners of paga taverns are reluctant to let the girls out of the tavern, unless suitably chained and supervised. To be sure, some send them, usually back-braceleted, about the city, soliciting trade. In the taverns the girls normally come with the price of the drink. There may be an extra charge for dancers.

“You have your pick of any of these!” expostulated Targo, waving his arms about, indicating the occupants of the shelf. Ellen realized, uneasily, that she might be included in the width of this sweeping reference. Certainly she had not been explicitly excluded.

“Ho!” snorted Barzak. “I wanted a real slave.”

Some of the girls on the shelf moved angrily in their chains.

“So,” said Barzak, “the little sleeping she-urt is awake. Widen those knees, girl!”

Ellen, in position, instantly complied.

He put out his right hand and laid it, thoughtlessly, possessively, on her left knee. “Oh!” she cried, and shrank back.

“What is wrong?” asked Barzak, withdrawing his hand.

Ellen could not even speak.

“Nothing,” said Targo. Then he turned to Ellen, reprovingly. “You must accustom yourself to being handled, and in any fashion that men please,” he said.

“Master?” she asked, looking up at him. Then she put down her head. “Yes, Master,” she whispered.

“I am going inside,” said Barzak. “It is hot here.” He went to the left of the platform as one would face it, and entered the building.

“How is it that I put up with him?” asked Targo. “It is indeed hot here,” he observed.

“We will burn and peel, Master,” said one of the girls.

Ellen gathered that Targo might be such that one might, with relative impunity, speak to him. She did not think it would be the same with Barzak. Barzak seemed to be one of those men who might as soon cuff a woman or put her to his pleasure as look at her.

“What does it matter?” asked Targo. “How could you be more worthless than you are? Do you have the coins to rent an awning?”

The woman shrank back in misery. Slave