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

Slave Girl Of Gor

John Norman

Tarl Cabot had resumed his allegiance to the Priest-kings, the non-human but benevolent rulers of Earth's orbital twin planet, Gor. And accordingly Tarl knew that the battle for the possesion of the planet was under way-the Kurii, the beastlike invaders, had made their plan. There was a girl, once Judy Thornton of Earth, found in the wilderness of Gor. Captured, as such lovely strangers were on the ruthless world, she was to undergo the training that would make of her a slave girl of great value. But unknown to her captors was the fact that she was a tool of the Kurii, that she carried a programmed message that imperilled the future of Gor. It was for possession of her mind and body that Priest-Kings and Kur-monsters battled, while a planet went its way unsuspecting that its very fate was also locked within the slave collar that graced her neck.


(Volume eleven of the Chronicles of Counter-Earth)

by John Norman

Chapter 1

The Collar

I lay in the warm grass. I could feel it, the warm, individual green blades, separate, gentle, on my left cheek; I could feel them on my body, my stomach and thighs. I stretched my body, my toes. I was sleepy. I did not wish to awaken. The sun was warm on my back, even hot, almost uncomfortable. I snuggled deeper into the grass. My left hand was extended. My fingers touched the warm dirt between the grass blades. My eyes were closed. I resisted the coming of consciousness. I did not wish to emerge from bed. Consciousness seemed to come slowly, dimly. I did not wish to emerge from bed. I wished to prolong the warmth, the pleasantness. I moved my head, slightly. My neck seemed to wear a weight; I heard the soft clink, a tiny stirring, of heavy links of metal.

I did not understand this.

I moved my head again, sleepily, eyes closed, to its original position. Again I felt the weight, circular, heavy, on my neck; again I heard the small sound, the stirring, simple and matter of fact, of heavy metal links.

I opened my eyes, part way, keeping them half shut against the light I saw the grass, green and close, each blade seeming wide, blurred in its nearness. My fingers dug into the warm earth. I closed my eyes. I began to sweat. I must emerge from bed. I must snatch breakfast, hurry to class. It must be late. I must hurry.

I remembered the cloth slipped over my mouth and nose, the fumes, the strength of the man who had held me. I had squirmed, but had been held in his grip, helpless. I was terrified. I had tried not to breathe. I had struggled, but futilely. I was terrified. I had not known a man could be so strong. He was patient, unhurried, waiting for me to breathe. I tried not to breathe. Then, lungs gasping, helpless, had at last inhaled, deeply, desperately, taking the sharp, strangling fumes deep into my body. In an instant, choking in the horrid, obdurate fumes, unable to expel them, unable to evade them. sickened, I had lost consciousness.

I lay in the warm grass. I could feel it on my body. I must emerge from bed. I must snatch breakfast, and hurry to class. Surely it must be late. I must hurry.

I opened my eyes, seeing the grass blades not inches from my face, wide, blurred. I opened my mouth, delicately, and felt the grass brush my lips. I bit into a blade and felt the juice of the grass, on my tongue.

I closed my eyes. I must awaken. I remembered the clothe the strength of the man, the fumes.

My fingers dug deep into the dirt. I clawed at it. I felt the dirt beneath my fingernails. I lifted my head, and rolled screaming, awakening, tangled in the chain, in the grass. I sat upright. In an instant I realized I was nude. My neck wore its encircling weight; the heavy chain, attached to the collar, dropped between my breasts and over my left thigh.

"No! No!" I cried. "No!"

I leaped to my feet screaming. The chain's weight depended from the collar, heavily, gracefully. I felt the collar pulled down, against my collarbone. The chain passed now between my legs, behind the left calf, then lifting. I jerked wildly at it. I tried to thrust the collar up, over my head. I turned it, again tried to thrust it up, over my head. I scraped my throat, hurting it. My chin was forced up; I saw the bright sky, blue with its startlingly white clouds. But I could not slip the collar. It fitted me closely. Only my small finger could I thrust between its weight and my neck. I moaned. The collar could not be slipped. It had not been made to be slipped. Irrationally, madly, nothing in my consciousness but my fear and the chain, I turned to flee, and fell, hurting my legs, tangled in the chain. I, on my knees, seized the chain, pulled at it, weeping. I tried to back away, on my knees; my head was pulled cruelly forward. I held the chain. It was some ten feet long. It extended to a heavy ring and plate fastened in a great granite rock, irregular, but some twelve feet in width and depth, some ten feet in height. The plate, with its ring, was attached near the center of the rock, low, about a foot above the grass. The rock had apparently been drilled and the plate fastened with four linear bolts. They may have passed through the entire width of the rock and been clinched on the other side. I did not know. On my knees I pulled at the chain. I wept. I cried out. I pulled again at the chain. I hurt my hands; it moved not a quarter of an inch. I was fastened to the rock.

I rose moaning to my feet, my hands on the chain. I looked about myself. The rock was prominent. There was none like it in view. I stood on a rolling plain, grassy and gentle, widely sweeping, trackless. I saw nothing but the grass, it moving in the soft, unhurried wind, the distant horizon, the unusually white clouds and blue sky. I was alone. The sun was warm. Behind me was the rock. I felt the wind on my body, but not directly, as the plate in the stone was on the sheltered side of the rock. I wondered if the wind was a prevailing one. I wondered if the plate and chain were so situated in order that the chain's prisoner, such as I found myself to be, be protected from the wind. I shuddered.

I stood alone. I was nude. I, small, white, was chained by the neck to that great rock on the seemingly endless plain.

I breathed deeply. Never in my life had I breathed such air. Though my head was chained I threw it back. I closed my eyes. I drank the atmosphere into my lungs. Those who have never breathed such air cannot know the sensations which I then felt. In so simple a thing as the air I breathed I rejoiced. It was clean and clear; it was fresh, almost alive, almost sparkling with the exhilaration of swift, abundant, pristine oxygen. It was like the air of a new world, one yet innocent of the toxins of man's majority, the unquestioned gifts, ambiguous, poisoned, of civilization and technology. My body became vital and alive. So simply did a proper oxygenation of my system work its almost immediate effect in my feeling and awareness. Those who have never breathed the air of a clean world cannot understand my words. And perhaps those who have breathed only such an atmosphere may, too, tragically, fail to comprehend. Until one has breathed such air can one know the glory of being alive?

But I was lonely, and frightened.

It was a strange world on which I stood, wide and unfamiliar, open, bright and clean. I looked out upon the vast fields of grass. I had never smelled grass before. It was so fresh, so beautiful. My senses were alive. In this atmosphere, my blood charged with oxygen, I found that I could detect odors which had eluded me before; it was as though an entire new dimension of experience had suddenly opened to me; yet I suppose it was only that here, in this place, my body did not have reason to fight its world, shutting it out, forcing it from consciousness in order not to be distracted or sickened; here there was an atmosphere which was unsoiled, undefiled, one in which the human could be a part of nature, not a rampart raised against her, not a defensive sojourner treading at night, stepping softly, scarcely daring to breathe, through the country of enemies. My vision, too, in this pure air, was keener. I could see farther and with greater detail than had been possible before in the clouded, contaminated atmosphere in which I had been raised. How far away seemed the familiar pollutions of the gray world I remembered. On certain days there I had thought the air clean, and had delighted in its freshness. How little I had known. How foolish I had been. It had been only less murky, less dismal, only a sign of what a world might be. My hearing, too, seemed acute. The wind brushed the grass, moving in it, stirring the gleaming leaves. Colors, too, seemed richer, deeper, more vivid. The grass was richly green, alive, vast; the sky was blue, deeply blue, far deeper than I had known a sky could be; the clouds were sharp and white, protean and billowing, transforming themselves in the pressures of their heights and the winds which sped them; they moved at different heights at different speeds; they were like great white birds, stately and majestic, turning, floating in the rivers of wind. I felt the breezes of the field on my exposed body; I trembled; every bit of me seemed alive.

I was frightened.

I looked at the sun. I looked away, down, then across the fields.

I was aware now, as I had not been before, or so clearly, of the difference in the feel of my body and its movements. There seemed a subtle difference in my body weight, my movements. I thrust this comprehension from my mind. I could not admit it. I literally forced it from consciousness. But it returned, persistent. It could not be denied. "No!" I cried. But I knew it was true. I tried to thrust from my mind what must be, what had to be, the explanation of this unusual phenomenon. "No!" I cried. "It cannot be! No! No!"

Numbly I lifted the chain which hung from the collar fastened on my neck. I looked at it, disbelievingly. The links were close-set, heavy, of some primitive, simple black iron. It did not seem an attractive chain, or an expensive one. But I was held by it. I felt the collar with my fingers. I could not see it, but it seemed formed, too, of heavy iron; it seemed simple, practical, not ostentatious; it gripped my throat rather closely; I supposed it was black in color, matching the chain; it had a heavy hinge on one side; and the chain, by a link, opened and closed, was fastened to a loop on the side of the collar; the loop was fastened about a staple, which, it seemed, was a part of the collar itself; the hinge was under my right ear; the chain hung from its loop and staple under my chin; with my finger, on the other side, under my left ear, I felt a large lock, with its opening for the insertion of a heavy key. The collar, then, fastened with a lock; it had not been hammered about my neck. I wondered who held the key to that collar.

I turned about and looked at the great rock, the granite. streaked with feldspar.

I must try to awaken, I told myself. I must awaken. I laughed bitterly. I must be dreaming I told myself.

Again the difference in the feeling of my body, its weight, its movements, intruded itself into my consciousness. "No!" I cried. Then I went to the granite, and looked at the heavy plate and ring bolted into the stone. A link of my chain had been opened, and then closed, about that ring. The chain was some ten feet in length. I idly coiled it at the foot of the ring. "No!" I cried. I must awaken, I told myself. Surely it must be nearly time to arouse myself, to hurry to breakfast, to hurry to class. There is no other explanation, I told myself. I am dreaming. Then I feared I might be insane. No, I told myself. I am dreaming. It is such a strange dream, so real. But it is a dream. It must be. It must be. It is a dream. All a dream!

Then to my misery I remembered the man, being seized from behind, not able even to see him, my struggles, being held so helplessly, the cloth over my mouth and nose, his waiting for me to breathe, at last my gasping helplessly for breath, the terrible fumes, nothing else to breathe, nothing else, which could not be tolerated by consciousness, nothing else to breathe, and then my loss of consciousness. That, I knew, had been no dream.

I struck my fists until they bled on the granite rock streaked with feldspar.

Then I turned and walked from the rock, some five feet, and looked out over the vast grassy fields.

"Oh, no," I wept.

The full consciousness of my waking state, and my awareness of truth, welled up within me. It flooded my consciousness, overwhelmingly, irrefutably.

I knew then what must be the explanation for the difference in the feelings in my body, the explanation for the sense of subtle kinesthetic difference in my movements. I stood not on Earth. The gravity was not that of Earth. It was on another world I stood, an unknown world. It was a bright, beautiful world, but it was not Earth. It was not the world I knew. It was not my home. I had been brought here; no one had consulted my will; I had been brought here; my will had been nothing.

I stood alone there, naked, defenseless, before the great rock, looking over the fields.

I was lonely, and frightened, and I wore a chain on my neck.

Suddenly I cried out with misery and put my face in my hands. Then it seemed the earth spun beneath me and darkness swept about me, rushing in upon me and I lost consciousness.

Chapter 2

The Retinue

I felt myself being rolled roughly on my back. "Veck, Kajira," said a voice, harshly. "Veck, Kajira." It was not a patient voice. I looked up, startled, frightened. I cried out with pain. A metal point jabbed into my body, at the juncture between my left hip and lower abdomen. The point lifted, and the shaft of the spear turned; he struck me on the right thigh, hard, with the butt of the spear. My hand went before my mouth; his foot, in a high, strapped sandal, heavy, almost an open boot, kicked my hand away. He was bearded. I lay between his legs. I looked up at him in terror.

He was not alone. There was another man a bit behind him. Both wore tunics, red; each, at his left hip, had slung a blade and scabbard; each, at his belt, carried an ornamented knife; the man behind him who stood over me had slung over his back a shield, of layers of leather and brass, and carried a spear, beneath the blade of which was slung a helmet with a plume of dark, swirling hair; he wore a cord of teeth, from some carnivore, about his neck. The man who stood over me had put his helmet and shield to one side; the helmets of both would cover the entire head and most of the face; the helmets were cut and opened in such a way as to suggest a "Y." The hair of both men was long; the hair of the man behind was tied back with a narrow piece of folded cloth.

I slipped from between the feet of the man who loomed above me, moving back. I had never seen such men. I felt so vulnerable. They were mighty, and like animals. I crouched, backing away. The chain hung from my collar, heavy. I stopped. I turned, and tried to hide myself, as I could, with my hands. I dared not even speak.

One of the men barked a command at me. He moved his hand, angrily. I removed my hands from my body. I turned, still crouching. I understood that they would look upon me.

The bearded man approached me. I dared not meet his eyes. I could not understand such men. My world had not prepared me to believe that such men could exist. He stood closer to me than would have a man of my world. Each in my world, it seemed, carried about with him a bubble of space, a perimeter, a wall, an invisible shield, an unconsciously acculturated, socially sanctioned remoteness, a barrier decreed by convention and conditioning. Behind this invisible wall, within this personal, privately owned space, we lived. It separated us from others, it kept us persons. In my particular Earth culture, this circle of inviolate, privately owned space had a radius of some two to three feet. Closer than this we did not, commonly, in my culture, approach one another. But this man stood close to me. He stood within my space. Suddenly I realized that my space did not exist on this world. I began to tremble with terror. So small a thing it seems, perhaps, that this convention should on this world not be acknowledged or respected, indeed, that, at least in my case, it did not exist, but it is not, truly, a small thing; no, to me the crumbling of this artifice, this protective device, this convention, was catastrophic; it is difficult to convey my sense of loss, of helplessness; on this world my space did not exist.

I saw the black leather strap, wide, shiny, across his body, from which depended the blade slung at his left hip. Behind it I saw the coarsely woven, thick red fibers at his tunic. I knew that were he to seize me in his arms and crush me to his chest, with what strength must be his, that the mark of the strap, the coarse fibers, would be imprinted on my breasts.

I felt the point of his dagger beneath my chin. It hurt. It thrust up. I cried out, rising almost to my toes. I then stood straight before them. I stood straighter than I had ever stood in my life.

The man then stepped back, and he, and the other, inspected me, completely, walking about me. They discussed me, candidly. I could not understand their speech. My chin was very high, as the point of the dagger had left it. I trembled. I heard the small movement of the chain in the collar loop. I wondered what could be the status of women on this world, on a world where there were such men.

It took the men some minutes to complete their examination. They did not hurry.

The two men now stood before me, one a bit behind the other, looking at me.

I felt the collar, weighted by the chain, pull down against my collarbone; the chain hung between my breasts; I felt its heavy links on my body. I stood very still.

"Please," I whispered, not moving my position.

The bearded man approached me. Suddenly he struck me with his right hand, a swift, savage, open-handed slap. I was hurled stumbling, spinning, to the end of the chain, which caught me, cruelly, at the neck, jerking me to the ground. My lip and the side of my mouth were cut. My head seemed to explode. I tasted blood.

The man barked a command. In panic and misery, in a movement of collar and chain, I fled again to my place and again stood before them, so straight, my chin again high, precisely as I had been before.

I wondered what could be the status of women on this world, on a world where there were such men.

He did not strike me again. I had placated him by my obedience.

He spoke to me again. I looked into his eyes. For a moment our eyes met. I knelt.

The other man thrust my body down on my heels, so that I knelt back on my heels. He took my hands and placed them on my thighs. I looked up at them.

I am a brunet, with very dark brown hair. My eyes, too, are dark brown. I am lightly complexioned. I am some five feet five inches in height and weigh about one hundred and twenty pounds. I am thought to be not amply but excitingly figured.

The men looked down upon me. At that time my hair was cut short. I felt the side of the point of the bearded man's spear under my chin, and I lifted my chin, so that my head was high.

My name was Judy Thornton. I was an English major and poetess.

I knelt before barbarians, nude and chained.

I was terribly frightened.

I knelt exactly as they had placed me, scarcely daring to breathe. I feared to move in the slightest. I did not wish to be again struck, or to irritate or offend them in the least. I did not know what they might do, these mighty and terrible men, so unpredictable, so uncompromising and primitive, so different from the men of Earth, if they were not completely and fully, and absolutely, pleased with me. I determined to give them no cause for anger. I determined that they would have my absolute obedience. Thus I knelt not moving before them. I felt the wind move the hair on the back of my neck.

The men continued to regard me. This frightened me. I did not move at all. I remained, of course, as they had placed me. I looked straight ahead, not even daring to meet their eyes. I was terrified lest, inadvertently, I had done something to displease them. I moved no muscle. I knelt back on my heels, my back straight, my hands on my thighs, my chin up. My knees were pressed closely, defensively, together.

The man said something. I could not understand.

Then, with the butt of his spear, roughly, to my horror, he thrust apart my knees.

I was Judy Thornton. I was an English major and poetess.

I could not help but moan, the position was so elegant and helpless.

I knelt before them in what I would later learn was the position of the Gorean pleasure slave.

Satisfied then, the beasts turned from me. I did not move. They busied themselves in the vicinity of the rock. It seemed they searched for something.

Once the bearded fellow returned to stand near me. He said something. It was a question. He repeated it. I stared ahead, terrified. My eyes filled with tears. "I do not know," I whispered. "I do not understand. I do not know what you want."

He turned away, and again gave himself to his search. After a time, angry, he returned to regard me. His fellow, too, was with him. "Bina?" he said, very clearly. "Bina, Kajira. Var Bina, Kajira?"

"I do not know what you want," I whispered. "I do not understand you."

I gathered they must be asking after whatever it was they sought. They had covered the area thoroughly, even turning aside long grass with the blades of their spears.

They had not found it.

"Var Bina, Kajira?" repeated the bearded man.

I knelt as they had placed me, the chain hanging, heavy, from my collar.

"I do not know," I whispered.

Suddenly, savagely, he struck me across the mouth with the back of his right hand. I flew to the left, to the grass. The blow was vicious. It hurt me more than had the first. I could not believe its force, its ruthlessness, its swiftness. I could scarcely see; I fought blackness and pain and seething light; I was on my hands and knees in the grass, my head down; I tasted blood; the collar hurt my neck; I spit blood into the grass; he had struck me; did he not know I was a woman! He jerked me by the collar and chain to his knees; he thrust both hands into my hair. "Var Bina, Kajira!" he cried. "Var Bina!" "I do not understand you!" I cried. "Oh!" I screamed with misery. With both hands he shook my head viciously. I could not believe the pain. My small hands were helpless on his wrists. "Var Bina!" he demanded. "Please, please!" I wept.

He threw me down, with a rattle of chain, to his feet. I lay there on my side, terrified. He unlooped the shoulder belt from him and cast it, with the scabbard and blade, to one side. Then he swiftly loosened the belt at his waist. He slipped it free from the sheath and dagger, and doubled it. He struck it once in the palm of his hand. I could not see him. I lay before him, turned away from him, on the grass. Then I heard it whistle through the air. I cried out with pain. Again and again, viciously, he struck me. Once he stopped. "Var Bina, Kajira?" he asked. "Please don't hurt me," I begged. Again he struck, and again and again. I writhed before him, lashed, squirming on my belly in the grass, weeping, clutching at the grass. In the pain I could scarcely comprehend it. I was being beaten! Did he not know I was a girl! "Please don't hit me," I cried. "Please!" I covered my head with my hands. I lay with my head down. I shuddered with each blow. I would do anything if he would stop! But I did not know what he wanted!

Then he stopped, angrily. I did not even lift my head, but lay, weeping, my hands still over my head, the chain running between my legs, and under my body, to the collar.

I heard him replace the sheath and dagger on his belt, and put on the belt. I heard him lift the shoulder belt and regard himself with the blade. I did not look up, but lay weeping, chained, trembling. I would do anything he wanted, anything.

One of the men spoke to me, and prodded me with the butt of his spear.

I rose to my hands and knees. I felt the chain on my collar. Again I was prodded with the butt of his spear.

Red-eyed, my cheeks and body stained with tears, in pain, my back and sides, and legs, stinging, I adjusted the chain and knelt again as I had originally. There was blood at my mouth. Little had changed. I knelt precisely as I had before. Little had changed, save that I had been struck and beaten.

The two men conferred. Then, to my horror, the bearded one approached me. He crouched before me. He took from his dagger sheath the steel blade, narrow, about seven inches long, double-edged, evenly sharpened. He held this up before my face. He did not speak. The other man crouched down behind me. With his left hand, fastened in my hair, he drew my head back; with his right hand he thrust up, high on my neck, under my chin, the heavy iron collar I wore. It hurt. My jugular vein was, held as I was, prominent and, beneath the clasping, circular iron, prominent and exposed.

"No," I begged. "No!"

I gathered that I was of no use to these men. I felt the delicate, razor-sharp edge of the dagger on my throat.

"Var Bina, Kajira?" queried the man. "Var Bina?"

"Please!" I wept, whispering. "Please!" I would have done anything. I would have done anything. I would have told them anything, done anything, but I knew nothing. I could not give them what information they desired.

"Don't kill me," I begged. "I will do anything you want! Keep me! Keep me for yourselves! Keep me as your captive, your prisoner! Keep me as anything you want! Am I not beautiful? Could I not serve you? Could I not please you?" Then, suddenly, from deep within me, welling up, from somewhere so deep within me that I did not know I contained such depths, flooding from me, startling me, horrifying me with my own wickedness, I cried out, "Do not kill me! I am willing even to be. your slave! Yes! Yes! I am willing even to be your slave. Your slave! Do not kill me! I will be your slave! Let me be your slave! I beg to be your slave!"

I shook with the horror, the scandal, the wickedness, of what I had said. But then, boldly, desperately, determinedly, resolutely, repudiating nothing, I whispered, clearly and firmly, my head back, held back, his hand in my hair, "Do not kill me, please. Yes, I will be even your slave. Yes, I, Judy Thornton, will be your slave. I, Judy Thornton, beg to be your slave. Please. Please, let me be a slave!" I tried to smile. "Make me your slave," I whispered, "Masters!" How startled I was that I had called them Masters, and yet, how natural, it seemed, for I was a girl, suitable prey for such as they, a natural quarry and prey for such as they, and they, as I sensed, were the natural masters, by the dark laws of biology, of such as I.

"Please, Masters," I whispered.

"Var Bina, Kajira?" queried the man.

I moaned with misery. I did not know but they, rich and powerful masters, had access to many women as beautiful, or more beautiful, than I. On Earth I had been noted as a beauty, an unusual, even ravishingly beautiful girl, but on Gor, as I would come to understand, I, and others like me, could be acquired and disposed of for a handful of copper tarsks. There was little special about us. In many houses we would be kept with the kettles, as scullery and kitchen girls. I had been the most beautiful girl in the junior class at my elite girls' college. In all the school, there had been only one more lovely than I, or so some said, the lovely Elicia Nevina, who was in anthropology, in the senior class. How I had hated her. What rivals we had been!

I felt the edge of the dagger anchor itself in the outer layer of skin on my throat, preparing for its slash. I felt the man's hand and arm, through the steel of the dagger, flex for the movement of his arm. My throat was to be cut.

But the blade paused. It withdrew from my throat. The bearded man was looking outward, away from me, over the field. Then I, too, heard it. It was a man singing, boldly, a melodic, repetitious song.

Angrily the bearded man stood up, sheathed the dagger, took up his shield, his spear. His fellow, the other man, already accoutered, even to the helmet, watched the man approach. He balanced his spear in his right hand. The bearded man did not yet don his helmet, but stood near it.

I went to my hands and knees in the grass. I could scarcely move. I threw up in the grass. I pulled at the collar and chain, futilely. If only I could have run, or crawled away. But I was fastened in place.

Numbly I lifted my head. The other fellow was approaching at an even, unhurried pace. He seemed good-humored. He sang in a rich voice, a simple song, as though to content himself in long treks. His hair was black and shaggy. He, too, was clad in scarlet, as were the other two men. He was similarly accoutered, with short sword, slung at the left hip, with a shoulder belt; a belt at his waist with a sheathed knife; heavy sandals, almost boots. He carried a spear over his left shoulder, balanced by his left hand; from the spear depended a shield, behind the left shoulder, and a helmet; about his right shoulder was slung a pouch, which I gathered must have contained supplies; a bota of liquid, water I assumed, was fastened at his belt, on the left, behind the point at which the scabbard depended from the shoulder belt. He strode singing, smiling, through the tall grass. He seemed similarly garbed to the other men, wearing a similar tunic, but they reacted to him in a way that indicated they were not pleased that he had now appeared. His tunic was cut slightly differently from theirs; there was a mark at the left shoulder, which theirs did not bear. These differences were subtle to me, but to those who could read them perhaps acutely significant. I pulled at the chain. No one paid me attention. Had I been free I might have slipped away. I moaned to myself. I must wait.

The approaching man stopped singing about twenty yards from us, and stood grinning in the grass. He held the spear, with its dependent articles, in his left hand now, and raised his right in a cheerful fashion, palm inward, facing the body. "Tal, Rarii!" said he, calling out, grinning.

"Tal, Rarius," said the bearded man.

The newcomer slipped the bota from his belt, and discarded, too, the pouch he carried.

The bearded man waved his arm angrily, and spoke harshly. He was ordering the newcomer away. He pointed to his fellow and himself. They were two. The newcomer grinned and slipped the spear to the ground, loosening the helmet and shield.

The bearded man placed his helmet over his head, it muchly concealing his features.

Carrying the shield on his left arm, carrying the spear lightly in his right hand, the helmet hanging, too, by its straps, from his right hand, the newcomer approached casually.

Again the bearded man waved him away. Again he spoke harshly. The newcomer grinned.

They spoke together, the three of them. I could understand nothing. The newcomer spoke evenly; once he slapped his thigh in laughter. The two other men spoke more angrily. One, he who was not bearded, shook his spear.

The newcomer did not pay him attention. He looked beyond the men, to me.

I then became aware, as I had not before, in my fear, of a strange emotional and physiological response of which I had been the victim moments before, when I had begged mighty men to enslave me. My feelings had been flooded not only with terror but, mixed with them, with the feelings of terror, had been a strange, almost hysterical release of tension, of bottled-up emotion. I had said things which I had never dreamed could come from me, and they could not now be unsaid. I realized I had begged to be a slave. Of course I had been terrified, but I felt, in my deepest heart, that I had not said what I had said merely to try and save my life. Of course I had been desperate to save my life. Of course I would have said anything! But it was the way I had felt when I had said it that now so shook me, so profoundly, to the quick. Mingled with the terror there had been a release of suppressed instincts, a joy in confession, a rapture of openness, of authenticity and honesty. That I had been terrified, and desperate to buy my life at any cost, had been the occasion and an adequate justification, of my utterance, but this terror could not explain the wild, uncontrollable acknowledgement, the shattering of inhibitions which I had felt, the torrential rapture, the abandonment, the capitulation to myself and my instincts which had, though blurred and mixed with the terror, so shaken and thrilled me. The terror was unimportant. It had been nothing more than an occasion, not even necessary. What was important had been the way I had felt when I had begged those mighty men to be my masters. It was as though, in asking for chains of iron, I had cast off thousands of invisible chains, which had held me from myself. Chains of iron I thought might hold me to my own truths, not permitting me to strive for what, in the heart of me, I did not wish, for what I was not. I wondered then what was the nature of women. I knew then that, before, in the emotions that had flooded me I had not been only terrified. I had felt liberty and release, and joy. Oddly, too, in those moments, besides my terror, I had been aroused. Never before in my life had I been so erotically charged, so aroused, as when I had begged those mighty men to enslave me. I now looked at the newcomer, who was regarding me. I shuddered. I, nude and chained, felt my body suddenly soaked with the heat of desire. Perhaps he had read the bodies of many women. He grinned at me. Beneath the bold appraisal of my bared beauty I reddened, angrily. I put down my head. I was furious. What did he think I was. A chained slave girl, whose beauty might belong to him who was the most strong, or most powerful, to him with the swiftest sword, or to the highest bidder?

He pointed to me. He spoke. The bearded man again spoke harshly, waving his arm, ordering the newcomer away. The newcomer laughed. The bearded man said something, gesturing to me. The tone of his voice was disparaging. I felt angry. The newcomer looked more closely at me. He spoke to me, calling across the grass. The word he spoke I had heard before. The other man had said it to me after I had been beaten, when he had prodded me with the spear, before I had again knelt, though then struck and beaten, before the men, shortly before the dagger had been put to my throat. Tossing my head I knelt, the chain dangling from my collar before my body, to the grass. I knelt back on my heels, my back very straight, my hands on my thighs, my head high, looking straight ahead. I thrust my shoulders back, my breasts forward. I did not neglect the placement of my knees; I opened them as widely as I could, as I knew the men wanted. I knelt before them again in that most elegant and helpless position in which men may place a woman, that position I was later to learn was that of the Gorean pleasure slave.

The newcomer now spoke decisively. The bearded man and the other retorted angrily. The newcomer, as I saw out of the corner of my eye, was pointing to me. He was grinning. I trembled and shuddered. He was demanding me! He was telling them to give me to him! The bold beast! How I hated him, and how pleased I was! The men laughed. I was frightened. They were two, and he one! He should flee! He should run for his life! I knelt, chained.

"Kajira canjellne!" said the newcomer. Though he indicated me peremptorily with his spear, it was at the two other men that he looked. He did not now take his eyes from them.

The bearded man looked angry. "Kajira canjellne," he acknowledged. "Kajira canjellne," said the other man, too, soberly.

The newcomer then moved back a few paces. He crouched down. He picked up a stalk of grass, and began to chew on it.

The bearded man approached me. From within his tunic he drew forth two lengths of slender, braided black leather, each about eighteen inches long. He crouched behind me. He jerked my wrists behind my back, crossed them, and bound them, tightly. He then crossed my ankles, and, too, bound them, tightly as well. I could feel the braided leather, deep in my wrists and ankles. I winced, helpless. Then, holding me by the hair with his left hand, from behind, I felt a heavy key, which he must have removed from his tunic, thrust deeply into the large collar lock, below my left ear. The heavy collar, with its lock, pushed into the left side of my neck. The key turned. I heard the bolt click back. It made a heavy sound. It must have been a thick, heavy bolt. He dropped the key to the grass and, with both hands, jerking it, opened the collar. He dropped it, with the depending chain, to the grass. I was freed of the collar! I looked at the collar. It was the first time I had seen it. As I had surmised, it matched the chain. It was heavy, circular, of black iron, hinged, efficient, practical, frightening. It bore a staple and stout loop. One link of the chain was fastened about the loop. The loop was circular, and about two and one half inches in width.

I was free of the collar! But I was bound helplessly. I pulled futilely at my bonds.

The bearded man lifted me lightly in his arms. My weight was as if nothing to him. He faced the stranger, who still crouched a few yards away.

"Kajira canjellne?" asked the bearded man. It was as though he were giving the stranger an opportunity to withdraw. Perhaps a mistake had been made. Perhaps there had been a misunderstanding?

The stranger, crouching in the grass, his shield beside him, the butt of the spear in the grass, the weapon upright, its point against the sky, nodded. There had been no mistake. "Kajira canjellne," he said, simply.

The other man angrily went to a place in the grass, to one side. There, angrily, with the blade of his spear, he traced and dug a circle in the earth. It was some ten feet in diameter. The bearded man then threw me over his shoulder, and carried me to the circle. I was hurled to its center. I lay on my side, bound.

The men spoke together, as though clarifying arrangements. They did not speak long.

I struggled to my knees. I knelt in the circle.

The stranger, now, stood. He donned his helmet. He slipped his shield on his arm, adjusting straps. He slid the short blade at his left hip some inches from the sheath, and slipped it back in, lifting and dropping it in the sheath. It was loose. He took his spear in his right hand. It had a long, heavy shaft, some two inches in width, some seven feet in length; the head of the weapon, including its socket and penetrating rivets, was some twenty inches in length; the killing edges of the blade began about two inches from the bottom of the socket, which reinforced the blade, tapering with the blade, double-edged, to within eight inches of its point; the blade was bronze; it was broad at the bottom, tapering to its point; given the stoutness of the weapon, the lesser gravity of this world, and the strength of the man who wielded it, I suspected it would have considerable penetrating power; I doubted that the shields they carried, though stout, could turn its full stroke, if taken frontally; I had little doubt such a weapon might thrust a quarter of its length through the body of a man, and perhaps half its length or more through the slighter, softer body of a mere girl; I looked upon the spear; it was so mighty; I feared it.

The two men who were my captors conferred briefly among themselves. He who was not the bearded man then stepped forward, his shield on his arm, his spear in hand. He stood separated from the stranger by some forty feet.

I observed them. They stood, not moving, each clad in scarlet, each helmeted, each similarly armed. They stood in the grass. Neither looked at me. I was forgotten. I knelt in the circle. I tried to free myself. I could not. I knelt in the circle.

The wind moved the grass. The clouds shifted in the blue sky.

For a long thee, neither man moved. Then, suddenly, the stranger, laughing, lifted his spear and struck its butt into the ground. "Kajira canjellne!" he laughed.

I could not believe it. He seemed elated. He was pleased with the prospect of war. How terrible he was! How proud, how magnificent he seemed! I thought I knew then, with horror, the nature of men.

"Kajira canjellne!" said the other man.

Warily they began to circle one another.

I waited, kneeling, frightened, nude and bound, in the circle. I watched the men warily circling one another. I pulled at my bonds. I was helpless.

Suddenly, as though by common accord, each crying out, each uttering a savage cry, they hurled themselves at one another.

It was the ritual of the spear casting.

The spear of him who was one of my captors seemed to leap upward and away, caroming from the oblique, lifted surface of the stranger's shield. The spear, caroming from the shield, flew more than a hundred feet away, dropping in the grass, where it stood fixed, remote and useless, the butt of its shaft pointing to the sky. The stranger's spear had penetrated the shield of he who was one of my captors, and the stranger, bracing the shaft between his arm and body, had lifted his opponent's shield and turned, throwing it and his opponent, who had not the time to slip from the shield straps, to the ground at his feet. The stranger's blade, now, loosed from its sheath, under the opponent's helmet, lay at his throat.

But the stranger did not strike. He severed the shield straps of the opponent's shield, freeing his arm from them. He stepped back. He cast his own shield aside, into the grass.

He stood waiting, blade drawn.

The other man got his legs under him and leaped to his feet. He was enraged. The blade in his sheath leaped forth. He charged the other, the stranger, and swiftly did the two engage.

I knelt terrified. I shuddered with horror. They were not human, as I understood human beings. They were warriors and beasts.

I cried out with fear.

I had always had a fear of steel blades, even knives. Now I knelt bound and nude, helpless, utterly exposed and vulnerable, in the vicinity of fierce men, skilled and strong, who with intent and menace, with edged, bared steel, addressed themselves to the savageries of war.

They fought.

I watched, wide-eyed, bound. Furious, sharp, was the precision of their combat.

They were not feet from me.

I moaned.

Backward and forward, swiftly, did they move in their grim contest.

I wondered at what manner of men they might be, surely like none I had hitherto known. Why did they not flee in terror from such blades? Why did they not flee? But they met one another, and did battle. How I feared, and still fear, such men! How could a woman but kneel trembling before such a man?

One man wheeled back, grunting, turning, and fell to his knees in the grass, and then fell, turning, to his side, lying upon his shoulder, doubled, hunched in pain, bleeding, his hands at his belly, his blade lost in the grass.

The stranger stepped back from him, his blade bloody. He stood regarding the other man, the bearded man.

The bearded man lifted his shield and raised his spear. "Kajira canjellne!" he said.

"Kajira canjellne," said the stranger. He went to extricate his spear from the penetrated shield of the man with whom, but moments before, he had shared the sport of war. The fallen foe lay doubled in the grass; his lower lip was bloody; he tore it with his teeth, holding it, that, in his pain, he might make no sound. His hands were clutched in the scarlet of his wet tunic, bunching it, at the hall-severed belt. The grass was bloody about him.

The stranger bent to lift the penetrated shield, that he might remove from it his bronze-headed weapon.

In that instant the bearded man, crying out savagely, rushed upon him, his spear raised.

Before I could respond in horror or my body move the stranger had reacted, rolling to the side and, in an instant, regaining his feet, assuming an on-guard position. As my cry of misery escaped my lips the thrust of the bearded man's spear had passed to the left of the stranger's helmet. The stranger had not remained at the vicinity of the shield with its penetrating spear, but had abandoned it. For the first time now the stranger did not seem pleased. The bearded man's spear had thrust into the grass. Its head and a foot of its shaft had been driven into the turf. He faced the stranger now, sword drawn. The instant he had missed the thrust he had left the weapon, spinning and unsheathing his sword. The bearded man was white-faced. But the stranger had not rushed upon him. He waited, in the on-guard position. He gestured with his blade, indicating that now they might do battle.

With a cry of rage the bearded man rushed upon him, thrusting with his shield, his sword flat and low. The stranger was not there. Twice more the bearded man charged, and each time the stranger seemed not to be at the point of in-tended impact. The fourth time the stranger was behind him and on his left. The stranger's sword was at his left armpit. The bearded man stood very still, white-faced. The stranger's sword moved. The stranger stepped back. The bearded man's shield slipped from his arm. The straps which had held the shield to his upper arm had been severed. The shield fell on its edge to the grass, and then tipped and rocked, then was still, large, rounded, concave inner surface tilted, facing the sky. I could see the severed straps.

The two men faced one another.

Then did they engage.

I then realized, as I had not before, the skill of the stranger. Earlier he had matched himself, for a time, evenly with the first opponent. In a swift, though measured fashion, he had exercised himself, sharply and well, respecting his foe, not permitting the foe to understand his full power with the blade, the devastating and subtle skill which now seemed to lend terrible flight to the rapid steel. I saw the wounded man, now on an elbow, watching, with horror. He had not even been slain. Lying in the bloodied grass, he realized he had been permitted to live. It was with humiliating skill that the stranger toyed with the stumbling, white-faced bearded man, he who had, minutes before, been preparing to cut my throat. Bound, kneeling in the circle, it was with sudden, frightening elation that I realized the stranger was the master of the other two. Four times was he within the other's guard, his blade at breast or throat, and did not finish him. He moved the bearded man into a position where his fallen, discarded shield lay behind him. With a cry he forced back the bearded man, who fell, stumbling in the shield, backward, and then lay on the grass before the stranger, the stranger's blade at his throat. The stranger, in contempt, then stepped back. The bearded man scrambled to his feet. The stranger stood back, in the on-guard position.

The bearded man took his blade and hurled it into the grass. It sank to the hilt.

He stood regarding the stranger.

The stranger slipped his own blade back in the sheath. The bearded man loosened his dagger belt, dropping the belt and weapon to the grass. Then he walked, slowly, to his fellow, and similarly removed his dagger belt. The man held his bloodied tunic to his wound, to stanch the flow of blood. The bearded man lifted the other man to his feet, and, together, the bearded man supporting the other, they left the field.

The stranger stood watching them go. He watched them until, they disappeared in the distance.

He removed his spear from the shield which it had penetrated. He thrust it, upright, butt down, in the turf. It was like a standard. He sat his shield by it.

Then he turned to face me.

I knelt within the wide circle, torn by the blade of a spear in the turf. I was naked. I was bound helplessly. It was an alien world.

He began to approach me, slowly. I was terrified.

Then he stood before me.

Never had I been so frightened. We were alone, absolutely.

He looked at me. I thrust my head to the grass at his feet. He stood there, not moving. I was terribly conscious, helpless, of his presence. I waited for him to speak, to say something to me. He must understand my terror! Was it not visible in my bound body, my complete vulnerability? I waited for him to speak some gentle word, something kindly, something to reassure me, a thoughtful, soft word to allay my fears. I trembled. He said nothing.

I did not dare raise my head. Why did he not speak to me? Any gentleman, surely, by now, speaking reassuring, soothing words, averting his eyes from my beauty, would have hastened to release me from my predicament.

He removed his helmet. He put it to one side, in the grass.

I felt his hand in my hair, not cruelly, but casually and firmly, as one might fasten one's hand in the mane of a horse. Then I felt my head drawn up and back, and back, until, his right hand on my knee, his left hand in my hair, I knelt bent backward, my head on the ground, my back bent painfully, my eyes looking up, frightened, at the sky. He then examined the bow of my beauty. I am quite vain of my beauty. Then he threw me on my side and stretched me out, to examine its linear aspect. I lay. on my right side. He walked about me, and looked at me. He kicked my toes straight, that the line of my body would be more extended. He crouched beside me, then. I felt his hand on my neck. He rubbed his thumb in a scrape the collar had made on my throat when I had foolishly struggled, earlier. It smarted. But the scrape was not deep. He felt my upper arm, and forearm, and my fingers, moving them. He moved his hands on my body, firmly, following its curvatures. He put one hand on my back and another on my side and, for a few moments, holding me thus, felt my breathing. He felt my thigh, and flexed my legs, noting the change in the curve of the calf. It did not seem what a gentleman would do. Never before had a man handled and touched me as he did; no man on Earth, I felt sure, would have so dared to touch a woman. I felt examined as an animal. At one point, turning my head, thrusting two fingers of his left hand and two fingers of his right hand into my mouth, he pulled my mouth widely, examining my teeth. I have excellent teeth, white and small and straight. I had had two cavities, which had been filled. He paid them little attention. He had seen, as I later learned, women from Earth before. Such tiny things can be used to determine Earth origin. Goreans seldom have cavities. I am not certain what the reasons for this are. In part it is doubtless a matter of a plainer, simpler diet, containing less sugar; in part, I suspect, the culture, too, may have a role to play, as it is a culture in which undue chemical stress, through guilt and worry, is not placed on the system either in the prepubertal or pubertal years. Gorean youth, like the youth of Earth, encounter their difficulties in growing up but the culture, or cultures, have not seen fit to implicitly condition them into regarding the inevitable effects of maturation as either suspect, deplorable or insidious. He then threw me to my other side, and subjected my helpless beauty, on its right, to a similar examination.

I was horrified at the boldness, the frankness, with which he handled me.

Did he think I was an animal! Did he think I was only property?

Then he threw me on my stomach at his feet, and I lay there. My wrists were crossed and bound behind me in slender, braided leather. My ankles, too, were crossed and bound in that simple, secure fastening. I felt the grass under my body; I felt it brush my left side, as the wind moved it. I kept my toes pointed.

He regarded me for some time.

How beautiful I must look to him, I thought. And I had sensed his incredible maleness, the animal maleness of him, so different from the thwarted, crippled sexuality so commended and tragically endemic among the males of Earth. For the first time in my life I felt I understood what might be the meaning of the expression 'male, and, as I lay before him, too, dimly, it frightening me, what might be the meaning of the expression 'female. How beautiful I thought I must look to him, lying bound, totally vulnerable, helpless at his feet. How such a sight must stir the splendor of his manhood, to see the female, his, caught, helpless at his feet, his to do with, in lust and pleasure, and joy, as he pleased, helpless to escape him, free for him to work his will upon her!

I felt him turn me. I must resist him! He is a beast! I was sitting now, my face turned to one side, trying to push back, but his left arm, behind my back, held me. I found it futile to struggle. With his right hand he turned my face to face him. He regarded the delicate lineaments of my face. His thumb was at the right side of my jaw, his fingers at the left. I could not move my head. He was darkly complexioned. His face, in a broad, coarse way, was brutally handsome. His eyes were very dark, his hair dark, shaggy, long.

He said something to me. I felt his breath on my face. I trembled. I stammered. "Please, please," I said, "I do not speak. your language. Please untie me."

He said something again.

"I cannot understand you," I said. "Please untie me."

He stood, and lifted me, by the arms, to my feet. He looked down into my eyes. My head came only to his chest; the width of my body seemed but half the width of that mighty, scarlet-clad chest. His hands were very tight on my arms. My ankles fastened, crossed and bound, I would have fallen had he released me; I could not stand by myself. He said something again, a question. "I cannot understand you," I said. He gave me a sudden shake. I felt my head would leave my body. He repeated his question. "I cannot understand you!" I wept. He shook me again, angrily, but not cruelly. Then he released me. Bound as I was I could do nothing but fall before him, on my knees. I looked up. Never had I felt such strength.

He crouched down before me. He looked at me intently. Once more he spoke to me. I shook my head, miserably. I looked up at him. "I will learn any language you want," I blurted, weeping, "but I cannot, now, speak your tongue."

He seemed satisfied, or resigned, after this outburst, that there was little to be gained in attempting to communicate with me. We could not speak to one another. He rose to his feet and looked about himself. He was not pleased. He was not looking at me. I shrugged, a bit angrily. He could not see me. It was not my fault I could not speak to him! But then, as he looked about the field, and the rock, I, in that large, rude circle torn in the turf, put my head down, alone, miserable. I was small in the grass, alone. I knelt helpless, an ignorant barbarian girl, naked and bound, who could not even speak to her captor, on a strange world.

In time, after scouting the terrain of the rock, perhaps searching for clues to my meaning or identity, the tall man in scarlet returned to face me.

It was late afternoon.

I looked up at him, and trembled.

He took me by the hair and threw me to my belly in the grass at his feet. I lay there, helpless.

I heard the sword slip free from his sheath.

"Don't kill me!" I wept. "Please do not kill me!"

I lay there, terrified. I felt the sword, with an easy movement, as though meeting no resistance, sever the binding on my ankles.

He then left me. He fetched the pouch and bota which he had carried, and slung them both, this time, at his belt. He picked up his helmet. He went to the spear thrust in the turf, upright, blade to the sky, and the concave shield at its foot. He slung the shield and helmet over the butt of the spear, suspending them behind his left shoulder, his left arm over and resting on the shaft of the spear, steadying it in place. Then, without looking at me, he left the field.

I watched him go. I struggled to my feet, my hands still bound tightly behind me. I looked about at the field, at the signs of battle, the discarded shields, one deeply punctured and cut, the scattered weapons. I looked at the great rock to which, by the neck, I had been fastened with a heavy chain. I stood in the circle torn in the turf. The wind blew the grass, my hair. The sky was darker now. I gasped. Low on the horizon I saw, rising, three moons. The man was distant now. "Don't leave me," I cried. "Don't leave me here alone!"

I fled from the circle torn in the turf, running after him. "Please stop!" I cried. "Wait! Please, wait!"

Gasping for breath I fled after him, stumbling, sometimes falling. "Please, wait!" I cried.

Once he turned to see me running after him. I stopped, panting. I stood in the grass, some two hundred yards from him. Then he turned again, and continued on his way. Miserable, stumbling, I began running again. He turned again when I was some twenty yards from him. Again I stopped. Under his gaze, for no reason I clearly understood, I put my head down. He again continued on his way and I again followed him. In a moment or two I had caught up with him, and lagged behind, some ten feet. He stopped, and turned. I stopped, and put my head down. He continued on his way again, and again I followed. Then again, after a few minutes, he stopped. I stopped, too, my head down. This time he approached me, and stood about a yard from me. I stood extremely straight, with my head down. I was terribly conscious of his nearness, my nudity, his eyes upon me. Though I was female of Earth I had some dim inkling of the tumult of joy and pleasure which the sight of a female body could wreak m a man. And I knew that I was very beautiful. He put his fingers and thumb under my chin and lifted my head. I saw his eyes, and looked quickly away, not daring to meet them. To my horror, I wanted him to find me pleasing-and as a female. He regarded me for a minute or two, and then, from his shoulder, unslung the shield, and helmet, from his spear. From his belt he took the pouch and bota. He slung them about my neck. Then, adjusting the straps, he fastened the shield at my back. I staggered under its weight. Then, carrying the helmet by its straps in his left hand and the spear, lightly, in his right, he turned and began to stride again through the grass. Staggering under the weight of the shield, the pouch and bota about my neck, I followed him. Once he turned and, with the spear, indicated the position and distance at which I should follow. These things vary, I learned, from city to city, and depend, also, on such matters as context and conditions. In a market, in the crowding and jostling, for instance, a girl may follow so closely she pressed against the back of his left shoulder. Girls seldom follow behind and on the right. If she is thusly placed it is commonly a sign she is in disfavor. If more than one girl is involved, she who follows most closely on the left is generally taken to be in highest favor; girls compete for this position. In an open area, such as the fields in which we trekked, the girl is placed usually some five or ten feet behind, and on the left. If he must move suddenly she will not, thusly, constitute an impediment to his action.

He again took up his march. Carrying his shield, the pouch and bota, some eight or nine feet behind him, on his left, I followed him. I suppose I should have minded. I knew I was heeling him. How strange it seemed. I understood so little of what had occurred. I had awakened, stripped and chained, on a strange world. Men had come to the rock where I had been fastened. They had had the key to the collar. Doubtless they had come there to fetch me. But who had left me there for them? And what had they wanted of me? They had questioned me, beaten me. The word 'Bina' had often occurred in their demands. "Var Bina!" they had demanded. I, of course, had not understood. Then, angry, they had prepared to cut my throat. I had been rescued by a chance male, armed and skillful, who had happened in the fields at the time. He had been, judging from the reactions of my original captors, completely unexpected, and not welcome. By his own reactions I had gathered he knew nothing of the men he had met there, and had behaved as he might have with any others, similarly of his scarlet-clad, helmeted, armed sort. I had been part of a plan, a design, I suspected, which I did not understand, which had been, by a chance encounter, disrupted. But what did the word 'Bina' mean? There must have been something I was supposed to have, or be with me, which was not. The plan, perhaps, had been disrupted, or had failed, prior even to the arrival of the two men at the rock. I did not know. I understood nothing. But perhaps the plan had not been disrupted. Perhaps, even now, I carried some secret with me, which had been unknown to the two men. Perhaps they had not understood the way in which I was to have been useful. Perhaps their information had been incomplete or incorrect. I suspected I was intended to be instrumental in something I did not understand. I could neither explain nor understand my nature or purpose, if any, on this world. Had I been brought here merely as a naked woman, it seemed pointless to have placed me as I had been placed in the wilderness. Too, it would have been pointless to have questioned me so closely; too, why, if I had been brought to this world for an obvious purpose of men, say, for my beauty, had the men prepared, in their anger, to end my life? Surely it must have been obvious to them that I was eager to do anything they wanted, that I was eager to please them. Had I been brought here merely for my beauty surely they would not have behaved as they had. I shuddered, recalling the feel of the knife at my throat.

Then the stranger had arrived.

"Kajira canjellne!" he had said. I had been released of the chain and collar. A circle had been drawn in the turf. Bound, I had been thrown to it. Kneeling, I had watched men fight.

I now, naked and bound, carrying his shield, followed him who had been victorious.

I remembered his might, his insolence, his skill, his power. I admired the width of his shoulders as he walked before me. I remembered the simplicity and audacity with which, after his victory, he had examined me.

I now carried his shield. I walked behind him, and to the left. I suppose I should have minded. I knew, of course, that I was heeling him. I thought about it. Whereas it would have seemed unthinkable on Earth that a man could be so strong, so mighty, that a woman would walk at his heel, here, on this world, it seemed not so impossible or strange at all. There were men here strong enough to put women at their heel. I felt, briefly, profoundly stirred erotically, and, perhaps strangely, marvelously pleased to be a woman. I had never met such men as these, the former two, and he whom I now followed, mightiest among them, who would simply, unthinkingly, put a woman at their heel. I had never known such men. I had not dreamed such men could exist! I had never felt so feminine, so stirred, so alive and real, as in their presence! For the first time in my life I was pleased to be a woman.

Then I castigated myself for my terrible thoughts. Men and women I knew, as I had been taught, were identical. Biology, and a nature, the product of harsh, exacting thousands of generations of evolution, of time, and breeding and animal history, was unimportant. It must be ignored, and dismissed. It did not suggest the correct political conclusions.

I looked up at the three moons.

I did not know what to believe or how to live. But, as I followed the man, trekking through the glorious grass, under the bright, marvelous moons, carrying his shield, literally heeling him, as might have an animal, his captive, nude and bound, I felt, paradoxically, a fantastic sense, of freedom, of psychological liberation. I wanted to run to him and put my head against his shoulder.

For hours we trekked the grass.

Sometimes I fell. He did not stop far me. I would struggle to my feet, staggering under the weight of the shield, and flee to catch up with him. But then I could go no further. My body was not readied for such treks. I was only a girl of Earth. I fell. My breath was short, my legs weak. I lay in the grass. I could not move my body. I lay on my side, the weight of the shield upon my shoulder. After a time I sensed him standing near me, looking down. I looked up at him. I tried to smile. "I can go no further," I said. Surely he could see my exhaustion, my helplessness. I could not even move. I saw him loosen his belt. I struggled to my feet. He did not look pleased. He would have beaten me! He refastened his belt. He turned away. Again I followed him.

Toward morning we crossed more than one tiny stream. The water was very cold on my ankles and calves. Bordering these streams was brush, and some trees. The fields were broken now, with occasional trees, many of them flat-topped. In what I conjecture would have been an hour or so before dawn he stopped in a thicket of trees, near a small stream. He removed the pouch and bota from my neck, the shield from my back. I fell to the grass between the trees. I moved my wrists a bit, and lost consciousness. In what must have been a moment or two I was shaken awake. A handful of dried meat, cut in small pieces, was thrust in my mouth. Lying on my side I chewed and swallowed it. I had not realized how hungry I was. In a moment, he lifted me to a sitting position and, his left hand behind my back, supporting me, thrust the spike of the bota in my mouth. Eagerly then did I drink. He much watered me. I lay then again on my side. He lifted me in his arms, so lightly that it startled me, and carried me to a tree. As he tethered my right ankle to the tree I, bound as I was, overcome with exhaustion, fell asleep.

It seemed to me that I was in my own bed. I stretched in the pleasant warmth.

Then I awakened suddenly. I was in a thicket, on a strange world. It was warm, and the sun, high, filtered through the branches of the trees. I looked at my wrists. They were now unbound. Each wrist, deeply, wore the circular marks of the leather constraints which, earlier, had confined them. I rubbed my wrists. I looked about myself. My right ankle, by a short length of black leather, was tied to a small, white-barked tree. I rose to my hands and knees, my back to the tree. I was still naked. I then sat with my back against the tree, my legs drawn up, my chin on my knees, my hands about my knees. I watched the man, who was sitting, cross-legged, a few feet away. He was putting a thin coating of oil on the blade of his sword.

He did not look up at me. He seemed totally absorbed in his work. He must have sensed my awakening, my movements, but he did not look at me. I felt angry. I was not used to being ignored, particularly by a male. They had always been eager to be pleasing to me, to do anything I wanted.

I did not realize that on this world it was such as we who must be pleasing to them, who must comply eagerly with whatever their whim might decree.

I watched him.

He was a not unattractive man. I wondered if it would be possible to work out a meaningful relationship with him. He must learn, of course, to respect me as a woman.

He finished with the oil and blade. He wiped the blade with a cloth, leaving on it only a fine, evenly spread coating of oil. He replaced the cloth and the oil, which was in a small vial, in his pouch. He wiped his hands on the grass, and his tunic. He resheathed the sword.

He then looked up at me.

I smiled at him. I wanted to make friends with him. He slapped his right ankle, and pointed to it, and then beckoned me to approach him.

I bent to untie the dark leather which fastened me to the white tree. I first bent to remove the leather from my ankle. But a sharp word from him, and a gesture, indicated to me that I must first remove the tether from about the trunk of the small tree. Doubtless he thought me stupid. Did not any girl know that the last bond to be removed is that on her own body? But I was of Earth and knew nothing of such matters. I struggled, with my small, weak fingers, with the knots. I worked hard, frightened, sweating, that I might be taking too long. But he was patient. He knew the knots he had tied could not be easily undone by one such as I.

Then I approached him, and, with my left hand, handed him the supple tether. He replaced it in his pouch, and indicated that I should position myself before him and to his right. I knelt there, and smiled at him. He spoke sharply, harshly. Immediately I knelt in the position I had learned yesterday, which had been clearly and exactly taught to me, back on heels, back straight, hands on thighs, head, up, knees widely opened. He then looked at me, satisfied.

How could I make friends with him, kneeling so? How could I get him to respect me as a person, so desirably and beautifully positioned before him? How could I, so kneeling, so beautiful and small, so exposed and vulnerable, so helpless, so much his, get him to accept me as his equal?

I bent forward and took the piece of meat between my teeth from his hand. He did not allow me to touch it with my hands.

How miserable I felt. On this world I had not yet even been allowed to feed myself!

When I had eaten some meat, he then gave me to drink, again from the bota.

He must learn I am an equal and a person, I resolved. I will show him this.

I broke the position to which he had commanded me. I sat upon the grass before him, my knees drawn up. I smiled. "Sir," said I to him, "I know you cannot understand my language, nor I yours, but, still, perhaps, from my voice, or its tone, you may gather something of my feelings. You saved my life yesterday. You rescued me when I was in great danger. I am very grateful for this."

I thought my head would fly from my neck, with such swift savageness was I struck! The blow was open-handed, taking me on the left side of the face, but it must have been clearly audible for a hundred and fifty yards about; I rolled, stinging, crawling, for more than twenty feet; I threw up in the grass; I couldn't see; blackness, violent, velvet, plunging, deep, lights, stars, seemed to leap and contract and expand and explode in my head; again I shook my head; again I threw up in the grass; then I sank to the side on my stomach.

I heard a word, of command. I recognized it. I had heard it before. Swiftly then did I reassume the position which I had dared to break, and again I knelt, though this time in an agony of terror, before the strange, mighty man, legs spread, arms crossed, who stood before me.

Blood ran from my mouth; other blood I swallowed. My vision cleared; I could not believe the pounding of my heart. I had been cuffed. I knelt, terrified. At that time I did not realize how light had been my discipline considering the gravity of my offense. I had both spoken without permission, and broken position without permission. Most simply, I had been displeasing to a free man.

Had I known the world on which I knelt, how I would have rejoiced that I had not been lashed! As I later realized, allowances were being made for me which, had I been more familiar with the world on which I found myself, would not have been made. Later, such allowances would not be, and were not, made.

I knelt before the man. He stood before me, legs spread, arms crossed, looking down at me. Gone from me in that moment, with the blood that ran from my mouth, were my illusions. No longer did I deceive myself that I might be his equal. The farcicality of that illusion was now transparent to me. The pitifulness of that pretense vanished before the simple, incontrovertible biological reality which had been impressed upon me, in the light of his uncompromising masculine dominance which he, in health and power, chose to exercise over me, a female. How beautiful to men must be women, I thought, who are at their feet. I wondered, frightened, if it were at the feet of men, or at least at the feet of such men as this, that women belonged, if that might be the unperverted order of nature. The thought of dominance and submission, pervasive in the animal kingdom, universal among primates, ran through my head. Never before had I so clearly, and profoundly, understood the meaning of those words. I looked up at him. I was frightened. My world, I knew, had chosen to deny and subvert biology. This world, I gathered, had not. Before him I knelt terrified, his.

To my relief he turned from me. Yet I remained immobile, absolutely, fearing to move, as though frozen in that elegant and helpless position, so vulnerable and exposed, which later I learned was the position of the Gorean pleasure slave.

He looked up at the sun.

It was late afternoon. He lay down, to sleep. I did not break position. I had not been given permission. Perhaps he kept me in position to discipline me. I did not know. I was afraid to break position. I told myself, of course, that this was rational, that he might wake and discover me out of position, or that, perhaps, at times, he was not truly asleep, but was, through half-closed eyes, watching me, to see if I, in the slightest, moved. But in my heart I knew I had not broken position because he had not given me permission to do so, because he had not released me from his command. I was terribly afraid of him. I was afraid to break position. I was obeying him.

For more than two hours, I think, I knelt in position. He awakened.

He looked at me, but he did not release me from position. I remained as I was, in that position so symbolic of female subjugation.

It was now in the early evening.

He gathered up the pouch and bota, and slung them at his belt. He slung his sword, in its scabbard, over his shoulder. He donned his helmet. He lifted his shield and spear.

I looked at him. Was I not to bear his burdens? Was I not to carry the pouch and bota? Was I not to bear his shield?

With a snap of his fingers and a movement of his hand he released me from position. Gratefully I moved my body. I stretched. I saw him watching me stretch, catlike. Reddening, I stopped. At a sharp word from him I continued to stretch, luxuriously, brazenly, and fully relished doing so. He watched me as I moved my body, and rubbed my legs, that their full circulation might be restored; they were stiff and cramped, as was the rest of my body, after the fixed position in which I had been kept, as that discipline sequent upon my cuffing. I was aware, though would scarcely admit it to myself, that my movements, as I stretched, and moved my hands upon my legs, were performed rather differently than they would have been had I been alone. I realized, though scarce would admit it to myself, that I was displaying myself as a female before him. He laughed. I blushed, and lay back, angry, on the grass. The body, kept overlong in any position, of course, even the most natural, becomes stiff and cramped. A girl, incidentally, in the position of the Gorean pleasure slave, but who is not being kept in the position as a discipline, in which case she remains rigid, is allowed much subtle latitude, which she exploits, without breaking the position. Sometimes, as she becomes animated, she rises a bit from her heels, sometimes her hands move on her thighs, her shoulders and belly move, her head moves, her eyes are live and vital, she speaks and laughs, and, radiantly, every inch, every bit, of her alive, converses lyrically and delightedly. Any girl knows that an interesting body is a moving body. Even within the apparent restraint of the position of the pleasure slave a girl's body can be a subtle, provocative melody of motion. The interplay between the restraint of the position and her animation gives the position incredible power and beauty. Yes, power. More than one master, I suspect, has been enslaved by the beauty who kneels before him. It is one of the excruciating delights of the mastery to expose oneself fully to, and yet skirt, the dangers of the girl's beauty, to keep oneself strong, to draw the absolute fullness of pleasure from her, and yet to resist her wiles, to get everything from her, and yet to keep her on her knees, completely.

I lay back on the grass.

Some girls fight one another with whips to obtain such a master.

I looked up at the sky. It was darker now, through the trees. The man in whose company I was, and in whose power I was, had left the thicket. I did not fear that he would not return. He had not been angry with me. Too, I had seen him look at me, and had heard him laugh.

On Earth, I had found boys of little interest, except for the admiration, which they had accorded me. I had held myself, though frequently dating, rather aloof. I did not much care to have boys put their mouths on me. I would brush them back, or thrust them away, appear offended, say "No," firmly to them. They would apologize, stammer, redden. Perhaps I was angry? They were sorry, truly sorry. Perhaps I was angry? Would I forgive them? Could I even consider going out with them again? Perhaps. But what sort of girl did they think I was?

I lay in the grass, and smiled to myself.

I wondered at what sort of girl I was. There had begun to stir in me feelings which I had never felt before. Dimly I had begun to sense how it could be that a woman could give herself totally to a man.

I thought of the stranger. I laughed to myself. He was no boy. With boys I had always felt in command, but with the strange, mighty man in whose power I now was I knew I was not in command. He was in command, completely. At his slightest word I would leap to serve him. How furious, how jealous, would the boys have been had they seen how perfectly the haughty, beautiful girl they could not even interest or impress now responded swiftly, eagerly, even to the snapping of fingers of another, of a true man. How they would have hated and feared him! How they would have envied him his casual sovereignty over the beauty! How perfectly he controlled her, as they could not! They could not even please her. She feared only she could not please him.

I lay nude on the grass of that strange world, in which I found myself in the power of a man other than I dreamed men could be. I had been aloof, haughty, smug, too good for men. Now I feared only I might insufficiently please one man, him in whose power I was. Feelings stirred in me which I had not felt before. Dimly I had begun to understand how it could be that a woman could give herself, fully, to a male. But I wondered if I would have the opportunity to give myself. I might not be accorded this honor. On this world it seemed men took what they wanted. I might not, on this world, I knew, be extended the courtesy of delicately proffering my virginity as I saw fit, in accord with my will. I smiled. I would not be, I suspected, on this world permitted to choose upon whom I would bestow it. Perhaps, rather, I supposed, it would be I who would be chosen, and, regardless of my will, it would simply be taken from me.

I sensed the return of the man. I rolled to my elbow, quickly. He was standing nearby.

I looked up at him.

But he did not command me to my back upon the turf; he did not kick apart my legs.

Rather he gestured that I should rise. I did so.

I stood straight before him, as I knew he wished me to do. On Earth never had I stood so straight. On this world I knew it was expected of me. On this world I did not know what I was. But I did know that on this world, whatever it was that I was, I was expected to stand beautifully. I did so. It was part of my obedience.

He did not move, but stood, leaning on his spear. He did not pay me much attention. I was merely there, subject to him, should he speak or gesture.

After a time, he moved about the small clearing and, with his foot, erased the slight signs of our camp, the few small signs of our sojourn in this tiny forest glade. He had made no fires.

Then again he stood near me, leaning on his spear. Again he did not pay me much attention. I stood to one side. I stood straight. I did not, of course, dare to speak, or, in any way, to intrude myself on his attention. I did not wish to be again cuffed or disciplined. I stood there. I stood to one side, unimportant.

I watched him. It was dark now.

My mind raced rapidly. Contrary to yesterday, he had not this day traveled in the light, but had spent the day in this tiny glade, only a few feet wide, concealed by trees about, and, overhead, by their interlacing branches. He had made no fires. He had now, with the coming of darkness, taken up his weapons and erased the small signs of our brief camp. That he had erased the signs of the camp, that he had taken these precautions, suggested to me that we stood now in a region within which there might be those who would be hostile to him, that at our peril we trespassed now in what might be a country of enemies. I shuddered. I looked about myself, with apprehension, at the shadows of the trees and branches. Did they contain enemies, with steel, approaching even now? Might we be set upon, ambushed or attacked? There was a rustle in a thicket of brush, at which the man had been directing his attention. I almost cried out with fear. I sank miserably to my knees. I tried to take his left leg in my hands, to hold him, but, with the butt of his spear, he thrust me back and away. I flew painfully back to the grass. The jabbing blow had not been gentle. I crawled back. I was terrified. I crouched closely behind him, hiding myself behind him, one knee in the grass. I tried to peer about his body. If I had had a weapon, a civilized weapon, even so slight as a small pistol, which I might have grasped, steadying it, with both hands, I might have feared less, but I had nothing, absolutely nothing. I had nothing, and was totally vulnerable. I did not even have a stitch of clothing, a thread, with which to protect my body. My single and only defense was the steel and prowess of the man who stood between me and what, some yards away, rustled in the dark brush. I depended upon him, completely. I needed him. Without him I would have been helpless, utterly. I moaned thinking of how defenseless women must be on this world. I supposed they might carry perhaps a slim blade, manageable to their small strength and weight, a poniard or dagger, but what if an assailant, such as the man in whose power I was, was simply to take it from them? I did not know it at the time but girls such as I was to be were not permitted to carry even so slight a weapon as a woman's dagger. Girls such as I was to be were completely dependent upon the protection of men, and whether they chose to extend it. My hand went before my mouth. I saw it, in the darkness, emerging from the brush. I thought, at first, because of its sinuous movement, that it was a great snake, but it was not. I thought, seeing it, holding itself closely to the ground, but yet free of the ground, that it might be a long-bodied lizard. Then, as moonlight fell through the tree branches in a pattern across its snout and neck, I saw not scales, but rippled fur, long and thick. Its eyes caught the light and flashed like burning copper. It snarled. I gasped. It had six legs. It was perhaps twenty feet in length, perhaps eleven hundred pounds in weight. It approached sinuously, hissing. The man spoke soothingly to the beast. His spear faced it. It circled us, and the man turned, always, spear ready, facing it. I kept behind the man. Then the beast disappeared in the shadows. I collapsed at the man's feet, shuddering. He did not admonish me. I was not punished. He had not acted as though he particularly feared the beast It was not simply that he was brave, and had hunted such animals, but, as I later understood, that he was familiar with the habits of such beasts. The beast had not been hunting us. Commonly such a beast scouts prey, surreptitiously, and then, unless suspecting a trap, as with a tethered victim, perhaps a staked-out girl, used as a lure,makes its swift, unexpected strike, its kill charge. The beast had been on another scent, probably that of tabuk, a small, single-horned antelopelike creature, its common game, and, on its trail, we had constituted only a distraction. Such a beast is a tireless and single-minded hunter. Domesticated, it is often used as a tracker. Once it sets out upon a scent it commonly pursues it unwaveringly. Evolution, in its case, has, among other things, apparently selected for tenacity. This is a useful feature, of course, in tracking. Fortunately ours had not been the first scent that night which the beast, upon emerging from its lair, had taken. Had it been there would have been grim dealings. It is called a sleen.

I had not known such animals could exist. I knelt at the man's feet, the right side of my head to his ankle. How perilous suddenly I realized was the world in which I found myself. I was completely defenseless, helpless. In a world such as this, without a man such as he to protect me, I might be simply hunted down, and torn to pieces by wild beasts. I needed a man such as he to protect me. I looked up at him. He must protect met I needed his protection. I would pay any price necessary for his protection. In his eyes I saw that he would exact what price he pleased. I put my head down. How I feared a world on which there were such men, and beasts! The name of this world is Gor.

He gestured me to my feet and I stood again, straight, frightened, he regarding me. He had already erased the signs of our small camp. This I had taken as evidence that he was ready to soon make his departure from this place. I did not meet his eyes. I did not dare to meet them. In his presence, aside from my fear and vulnerability, I felt, for the first time in my life, certain deep, and overwhelming and indescribable sensations. These sensations, I knew, had something to do with sexuality, his maleness, so strong, so dominant, and my femaleness, so small, so weak, so much at his mercy. I was confused, astonished, troubled. I wanted to please him. Yes! Could it be possible? Can that be imagined in such a situation! That I, an Earth girl, the helpless captive of a brutally handsome, mighty barbarian, wished to please him, and as a woman? Yes, it is true. It is simply true. Hold me in contempt if you must. I do not object. I am not ashamed. I wanted to please the dominant beast. Further, I wanted to please him not simply from fear but also, incredibly perhaps to your mind, out of an inexplicable gratitude for his dominance, which, for no reason I understood, and in spite of my Earth conditioning, I found glorious. I found myself grateful for his strength, and proud for it, though I knew I was the helpless object upon which it would be exercised. I found these sensations deeply disturbing, and profoundly thrilling. I stood straight. I, though a girl of Earth, virginal, well trained and conditioned, intelligent and of good family, wanted to throw myself naked in the grass at the feet of such a man, his.

He lifted his head, and looked away from me, out through the trees.

I was eager to carry his shield, to have its heavy weight placed across my small back, that I might serve him again, as I had before, as his lovely beast of burden, heeling him, but he did not again stagger me beneath that ponderous weight He stood now, I knew, in a country of enemies. He retained the shield, as he did the spear, the sword.

I wanted to beg him on my knees to rape me.

He turned and left the tiny glade. Swiftly I followed him.

We did not walk far.

As I walked behind him I castigated myself for my weakness in the glade. How I hated myself! How I must improve and strive to be strong. So narrowly had I evaded the loss of my personhood, my self-respect. In the glade, in the darkness, among the trees, so much his, I had almost compromised my identity and integrity! I, a girl of Earth, had wanted to yield to him, a harsh barbarian! Was I not a free individual, a person? Had I no pride? How furious I was with myself. I knew that, in the glade, had he so much as put his hand forth to touch my shoulder, I would have sunk trembling, eager, moaning, helpless, to the grass at his feet. I would have writhed before him for his slightest touch. How relieved I was that I had escaped this degradation. How angry I was. Why had he not taken me in the glade? Had he no regard for my feelings? Had I not been sufficiently pleasing to him?

He turned about, and, with a gesture, cautioned me to immobility and silence.

We stood at the edge of the trees.

Approaching, in the darkness, we saw some twenty torches. I was frightened. I did not know what manner of men these might be.

There were some seventy or eighty individuals in the retinue, which was strung out. The length of their line of march was perhaps some forty or fifty yards, its width some ten yards. Ten men, armed, on each side, flanked the march. These carried the torches. Some five men, armed, preceded the march, some three followed. Some ten or twelve other armed men, here and there, occupied positions in the march. In the march, too, there occurred two platforms and, following, toward the rear, one wagon. The platforms were white, and carried on the shoulders of ten men apiece; the wagon was brown, and was drawn by two large, brown, wide-horned, shaggy, oxlike shambling creatures, conducted by two men. The men who carried the platforms and those who conducted the shambling oxlike creatures were dressed not dissimilarly from the others, those flanking the march and those in and about the march.

The march approached. The man in whose power I was slipped back more deeply among the trees. I, of course, drew back with him. He did not seem disturbed, or surprised, at the line of march. I sensed that he had expected it, that he had, perhaps, been waiting for it, that he had scouted it.

The line of march would take its way rather closely to us. We were concealed in brush, silent.

The line of march approached the trees. I could see that, on the first carried platform, there were some five figures, those of women; on the second there were several chests and boxes, some covered with sheens of glistening material; in the wagon, under a loose canvas, were other boxes, but simpler and grosser in appearance, and poles and tenting materials, and arms and casks of fluid.

We withdrew a bit further into the brush.

The line of march would approach us rather closely. My captor had put aside his shield and spear. He now stood behind me, and slightly to my left. His hands were on my upper arms. We, in the light of the torches, watched the approaching retinue.

I was thrilled, it was so barbaric.

What different humans these were, on this unhurried, stately, barbaric world, so different from that which I knew. I wondered how I had come here, and what I might be doing here.

The vanguard of the torched procession neared us. I could see the weapons of the men. The tunics, scarlet, the helmets and shields, were not cut and formed, and decorated, as were those of the brute who held me by the upper arms.

He did not seem to wish his presence detected.

Suddenly I wanted to cry out. My body had perhaps moved m the slightest tremor. I froze. The blade of his knife was across my throat. His left hand, large and heavy, was firmly fixed across my mouth. I could utter no sound. With the blade at my throat I did not so much as squirm. I remained absolutely still.

Perhaps these men, toward whom he conducted himself as an intruder and enemy, might rescue me! Surely they could be no worse than the brute who held me. He was not a gentleman. Perhaps they were. He had fought with savage steel to possess me; he had candidly, upon his victory, to my horror, appraised my flesh; he had kept me bound for hours; he had made me carry his shield, and heel him like an animal; he had cuffed me, and put me under discipline! He had not treated me as the free and rightful person I was! I had wanted to cry out, to attract the attention of the other men. Perhaps they might rescue me! Perhaps they might return me, somehow, to Earth, or put me in touch with those with whom I might negotiate arrangements for my return to my native world.

I saw the women on the white platform, being carried. How beautifully garbed they were. Obviously these men held women in proper respect, regarding them with rightful reverence, not treating them like animals.

I had decided, swiftly, boldly, to cry out, that I might, by my resolute action, procure my rescue. Perhaps the slightest anticipatory tremor of my decision had coursed through my body. There was a knife at my throat. I did not cry out. Almost instantaneously his hand had closed over my mouth, heavy and firm, and efficient. I was pulled back against his tunic and leather. I could make no sound. I did not even squirm. I could still feel the knife at my throat.

The vanguard of the torched procession passed us.

Over the man's large hand, closing my mouth, making me helpless, I watched the palanquin carrying the women past. On it were five women, girls. Four of these were bare-armed, but garbed in flowing, classic white. Oddly enough, considering the beauty of their raiment, they were bare-footed. They did not wear veils. They were dark-haired and, to my eye, startlingly beautiful. They wore what appeared to be golden circlets about their neck, and a golden bracelet on the left wrist. They knelt, or sat, or reclined about the foot of a white, ornate curule chair set on the platform. In this chair, in graceful lassitude, weary, sat another girl, though one whose features, as she wore sheaths of pinned veils, I could not well remark. I was startled, discerning the volume and splendor of her robes; they were multicolored and brilliant in their sheens and chromatic textures, and so draped and worn that, particularly at the hem, the diverse borders of these various garments seemed to compete with one another to win the observer's accolade as the finest, the most resplendent, of all. About the robes and over the hood and veils of the garmenting were slung medallions and necklaces of wrought gold, pendant with gems. On her hands were white gloves, fastened with hooks of gold. Beneath the final hem of the innermost robe I saw the toes of golden slippers, jeweled, and scarlet-threaded, sparkling in the torchlight. Only in a barbarian world, I thought, could raiment dare be so lavish, so gorgeous, so rich.

Then the palanquin had passed, and more torches and men. The second palanquin was preciously freighted with chests and boxes, colorful and bound with brass and chains. Some of these were covered over with rich cloths that sparkled under the torchlight.

I supposed that the procession was a wedding procession, and that the second palanquin carried rich gifts, perhaps the bride's dowry, or rich gifts to accompany her, perhaps to be delivered to the groom or his parents.

The wagon which followed late in the procession, that drawn by the conducted shambling, oxlike creatures, carried, I conjectured, the supplies of the retinue. The journey I gathered was long. The bride, and her maids, as I assumed them to be, doubtless had far to travel.

Then the men, the torches, disappeared in the distance, through the trees.

They were gone.

The hand left my mouth. He released me. The knife no longer lay at my throat. My knees felt weak. I almost fell. He resheathed the knife and turned me, by the arms, to face him. He pushed up my chin that I must look at him. I met his eyes, briefly, and put down my head. He knew that I had intended to cry out, to reveal our position. But I had been unable to do so.

I shook with terror, for I feared then he might slay me. I fell to my knees before him, and, though I was an Earth girl, I put down my head and, delicately holding his booted sandals, fearfully, pressed my lips to his feet.

He turned about and left the forested area, and I hurried to accompany him.

He had not slain me. He had not tied me to a tree, for sleen to devour. He had not even lashed me to within an inch of my life.

I followed him. I thought to myself, now I know how to deal with this man. I need only salve his vanity. I need only perform placatory gestures. I thought myself then clever, and he a fool, to be so manipulated by a girl. I did not understand at that time the incredible lenience with which I had been treated, or that the patience of such a man is not inexhaustible. I would be taught these truths shortly.

I was an ignorant and foolish girl. I would learn that ignorance and foolishness are not long tolerated in a girl such as I was to be on Gor.

Chapter 3

The Camp

Angrily I tended the brazier, on my knees, fanning the coals. Sparks flew from the iron-banded fire, stinging my body.

Eta strode past me. I hated her. She was dark-haired, incredibly beautiful. Her dark hair swirled behind her to her waist. She had been given clothing. I had not. I envied her the sleeveless body scrap of brown rag, short, high on her thighs, which briefly concealed her. It was fastened with two hooks, which might be swiftly broken and torn away.

A man sat drinking to one side, a strong brew called paga. Spears were stacked to one side, and shields lay about against the sheltering, inclosing cliffs. We were in a wooded canyon, one of many in the area. A small stream, also one of several in the area, ran through the camp. Roughly as we were situated, some two thirds of the camp was closed in by projecting sides of the canyon; roughly, then, about a third of its perimeter was closed by a thick wall of recessed, cut thorn brush, some eight feet high and ten feet thick, a defense against animals. Within the camp itself and about it were several trees, some of them rather large. The camp would not be much visible from the air; similarly it would not be visible from the ground unless one should almost stumble upon it, following this small canyon, rather than various others in the vicinity. My captor and I had arrived at this camp after some four days of trekking. During this time he had not spoken to me, and I had followed him at the position and distance which he had indicated. How relieved I had been that he had not forced his attentions upon me, and used me as a female. And how sullenly and angrily I had followed him, more so each day. Was I not pleasing to him? I knew I had been very fortunate. I had been in his power, completely, and he had not pressed his advantage; he had not exploited his opportunity. How pleased I was! And how furious! How I had begun to hate him! He had not permitted me to feed except when kneeling and from his hand; he watered me similarly, except that, when a stream was encountered, he would sometimes order me to my belly on the pebbles; I would then, his hand in my hair, not using my hands, drink from the water. Was I not his? Was I not physically attractive to him? Why had he not forced me to serve him as a woman? He kept me under his dominance, strictly, and then, when I obviously ached for his touch, he would turn away; he would not so much as glance at me. I hated him! I hated him! The last two days of the trek we had traveled much in daylight, and he had permitted me to carry his shield. We had come then, I had gathered, out of overtly hostile territory. That this camp was sheltered and set as it was I took to be a matter of common camp practice among such men as he, and those who served him. Men such as he, in small parties, even in their own countries, seldom made open camps. Why had he not used me? I hated him!

With a piece of stiff leather I fanned the coals in the brazier. An iron protruded from the coals.

Eta passed me again, a haunch of meat upon her shoulder, grease from it in her hair. She was vital, barefoot and tanned. Her body was beautiful in the brief rag she wore. Her only jewelry was a sturdy steel band, looped closely, quite attractively, rather snugly, about her throat. She was a long-legged, sensuous, hot-eyed slut. She was the sort of woman, I supposed, whom the men of Earth, in fear, would not even dare to let enter their dreams. Yet she seemed to fit in well at the feet of the mighty men of Gor who, without thought, would handle her well and get much, and all, from her.

How disgusting she was! I hated her!

I had been in the camp now for better than two days. We had arrived in the late afternoon of the day before yesterday. In the vicinity of the camp, upon our approach to it, my captor had taken his shield from me, which I had been bearing for him. One does not approach a camp, even one's own, unarmed. One does not know what may have transpired in one's absence.

He had left me alone, kneeling, while he had scouted the camp. Shortly thereafter he had returned, and gestured for me to rise and follow him.

He approached the camp singing, and striking his spear blade on his shield.

Call words were exchanged.

Royally was he greeted by the men of the camp, who rushed forth to welcome him, men among whom I gathered he was chieftain. They shouted, and clasped him, striking him upon the back and laughing. I stood back, frightened of such men. Then a long-legged dream of a girl, Eta, had stood, timidly, near the entrance to the camp, where thorn brush had been wedged aside, during the daylight hours. She had stood there, not daring to approach. Then my captor had indicated that she might enter his presence. Radiantly, joyously, she fled to him, and knelt before him, putting her head to his feet. His shield and spear, and helmet, he handed to another. At a word from him, then, she leapt to her feet and he took her in his arms, as though he might own her, and she kissed him, too, as though she might be owned. Never had I seen human beings kiss like that. It seemed a deeply sensuous complementarity that shook me to the core. It was the kiss of lovers, but more than the kiss of lovers. It was the kiss of a lover who is owned and of one who owns his lover.

Then he laughed, and thrust her to one side. Then all turned to regard me.

How I wished that he had held me and kissed me as he did her. How jealous I was. Then, suddenly, realizing the eyes of all upon me, I was frightened.

The men, and the girl, stood about me. I stood straight. They moved about me. I reddened, assessed. Comments were exchanged. I sensed myself being discussed with open frankness, as might have been an animal. Some of the comments, I sensed, were less than completely flattering. Some, I sensed, were clearly disparaging. Most cruelly I resented the laughter. At that time I had not been brought by strict diet and enforced exercise to optimum measurement. Perhaps, too, at that time, I was not standing as well as I might have. I was standing straight, but perhaps too stiffly, too immobilely, not subtly in movement, in my breathing, the movements of my shoulders, the tiny movements of my head, almost imperceptible, but contributing to the impression of a profoundly alive body, one richly latent with the promise of incredible responsiveness. But mostly I suspect I was found wanting in subtle psychological dimensions, available to the acute observer as a consequence of almost subliminal cues. These matters are conveyed by subtleties of facial expression and physical demeanor. I was a girl raised in a culture predicated on the denial of primate biological realities, a girl from a world in which hypothetically cogent animals denied, denounced and hysterically strove to suppress their own animality, a world in whose social insanity even sexuality had now come to be politically suspect. Most simply, as a normal girl of my world, I had been negatively conditioned with respect to men and sex. In the last few years, an accretion to this form of conditioning, I had been taught that men were my equals, and that men and women were the same. If this were so why then did I feel so small and slight among the Gorean men, and tremble when they put their hands upon me? Among the men of Earth, thoughtful, and cute and kind, I had not felt small and slight, nor did I tremble when they put their hands upon me; I had felt only irritation, and would push them away; I did not dare to push away a Gorean man; I might have been put under discipline; further, I found myself longing, though I did not admit this to myself at the time, to lie lovingly in their arms, theirs. I think the major reason I so failed to impress the men at the camp of my captor was because at that time I had not yet been taught to come alive as a woman. I did not yet know what men were like, or what they could do to me. I did not then know how they in their power could wrench out my insides and bring me to my knees before them. I had not learned their manhood; accordingly I had not yet learned my womanhood. Sexually, I was, like most girls of Earth, negativistic and inert.

Only on Gor, in the presence of my captor, had I, at times, begun to suspect that there was an incredible, glorious world of experience, not forbidden on this planet, to which my nature as a female fully entitled me, could I but dare to be myself. But my fear was groundless. I needed not dare. I needed not decide to become myself. Gorean men do not tolerate pretense and hypocrisy in a girl such as I was to be. Against my will, I would be forced to be what I was.

Much did my captor's men jest with him on the deficiencies of his prize. Laughing, did he strike and kick at them. And the girl, taking his arm, smiling, kissing at him, pulled him away from me. They turned, the entire party, and went into the camp, leaving me outside. I stood aside, alone. I was furious. I had, in effect, been spurned, rejected. Nothing in my experience had prepared me for this treatment. I felt the gravel of the canyon under my feet, the sunlight reflected from the walls. My fists were clenched. Who did these barbarians think they were? I was the most beautiful girl in the junior class at an elite girls' college on Earth, perhaps in the college as a whole. The only exception might perhaps have been the beautiful senior in anthropology, Elicia Nevins. We had been great rivals. But she had only been an anthropology major, whereas I was an English major, and a poetess. But then I recalled the beautiful, intelligent-seeming, hot-eyed slut in the brown rag. In a world where there might be such women, I realized, gasping, Judy Thornton's beauty and even that of an Elicia Nevins would not be particularly outstanding. As I would later learn, the value placed on girls such as we were, a Judy Thornton or an Elicia Nevins, girls of our quality, would commonly be a tiny sack of copper corns, a few more, a few less.

I went inside the brush wall, and knelt down. I wanted to be protected and fed. I would do what they wished to pay for my lodging. Behind me, the thorn brush, so thick and high, by means of hooked poles, was pulled into place, closing me in the camp with the men, and the girl.

I had now been in the camp for two days. Angrily I tended the brazier, on my knees, fanning the coals. Sparks scattered about. My body was stung by them. I used a squarish piece of stiff leather to fan the coals. From the brazier, protruding, was the handle of an iron.

Many were the menial tasks which I was forced to perform in and about the camp.

I was not pleased.

I had been forced to build fires and help cook the food. I had been forced to help serve the food, and to pour wine and paga for the men, as though I might be a servant. I had been forced to help put food away afterwards, and clean goblets and utensils, and clear away the litter and debris of the feeding. I had been forced to sew rent garments, and once, not satisfied with a seam, Eta had had me rip out the thread and perform the entire task again, doing it well. To my humiliation, too, I was taught to wash clothing on rocks, pounding and rinsing, on my knees, at the edge of the tiny stream which moved through the camp. Outside the camp I was set to picking berries and gathering armloads of wood. Outside the camp I would be accompanied by one of my captor's men. On Earth, I had enjoyed a rather elevated socioeconomic status. In my home we had always had, as long as I could remember, both a maid and a cook. From the age of fifteen I had enjoyed giving them orders, as an equal, but not quite. I was not the sort of girl who was accustomed to perform menial tasks, or be of service to others. That was for women of a rather different class, one beneath mine. But here, in this camp, I was helping Eta to cook, and clean and sew, and performing even more degrading tasks, such as serving men at their meals. That might be all right for Eta. I did not know her class. Judging by her garment it was low. But it was not all right for Judy Thornton. I was a brilliant girl, and I wrote poetry. Sometimes, when no men were about, I would refuse to help Eta. She would then, not speaking, not protesting, but sullenly, perform the task herself. When men were about, I would do what tasks she set me. I was afraid of the men.

There were sixteen men in the camp, including my captor, though seldom, during the day, were there more than four or five within its confines.

My captor himself had set me the work of tending the coals in the brazier, where the iron was heating.

I did not dare disobey him.

I was not surprised that there were coals for the brazier, as, on my first full day in the camp, moving about it, I had discovered that it was well stocked with supplies. It was in the nature of a cache camp, which might be returned to now and again. In a cave in the adjoining cliff there were several boxes. Several were locked, but others were open. There were flasks of wine there, and bottles of the brew called paga; stores of salt, grains, dried meats and vegetables; tunics, cloths and blankets; too, there were tools and utensils, and threads and needles; I found some perfumes and jewelries; I did not dare to bedeck myself with them, though I was curious to do so; they were quite barbaric; the girl, Eta, I noted, wore as her only jewelry a sturdy band on her neck; this suggested to me that one were not simply free to help oneself to such finery; doubtless if the men wished me to wear such jewelries they would throw them to my feet and order me to don them, or perhaps, more frighteningly, they would, with their large hands, put them on my body themselves: I found a chest containing medicines and bandages; too, there were some rolls of furs; a box of leather goods, too, I found, which contained strips of leather, pieces of leather, and straps of various sorts; I found two whips, but I did not understand their function, as the men seemed to have no animals on which to use them; also, though heavy enough, they seemed rather short-bladed for the ponderous beasts I had earlier seen in the retinue, those shambling oxlike beasts drawing the wagon; their soft leather blades were not more than a yard long; indeed, the blades of one were scarcely wider than a girl's back; there was, also a box of chains there; I did not look at them closely; I did not understand their purpose. To one side had lain the sacks of coals and some irons.

I tended the brazier.

It was now late afternoon.

A few yards away, Eta was roasting the haunch of meat on a spit. I could smell the roasting meat.

I was hungry.

In the confines of the camp my captor had continued to restrict my feeding to his degrading handouts, which he would place in my mouth, or make me reach for, kneeling, not using my hands.

How I hated him!

How he kept me on my knees to him. How I hated him! And yet he was the most magnificently attractive man I had ever seen. I hoped he would let me have a scrap of the roast meat. How relieved I had been on the trek that he had not abused me, not used me for his pleasure, as would have been so easy, I, his helpless, naked captive. And yet, too, how angry I had grown, so amorous, so weak, so frustrated. Had I not been his? Was I not physically attractive to him? I knew now I was no Eta, but surely I was better than nothing. Why had he not taken me, if only, throwing me to the grass, briefly, brutally? He had kept me under his dominance, strictly, and then, when I had obviously ached for his touch, he would turn away, not so much as glancing at me. One night when I had laid near him, bound hand and foot, I had literally whimpered in my need, trying to put my head against him. He had put wadding in my mouth, and lashed it in with binding, gagging me, then pushed me from his side that he might sleep. I slept little that night, rolling and squirming with misery. Two days later, after we had stopped to camp, my need so much upon me, I knelt before him and, tears in my eyes, began kissing at his feet and legs. I lifted my eyes to him, filled with team. "Rape me," I begged. "Rape me!" But he had turned away. That night, in my bonds, for hours, I had wept and squirmed. I was then a virgin. I did not even know, fully, then, what a man could do to me. Yet, even then, had I been told how it is that girls. of a certain sort, of a sort which I was soon to find myself to be, could sometimes in their need scream and writhe in the grass, could sometimes dance wildly beneath the moons, clawing at them, could sometimes tear their fingernails bloody scratching at the cement of their kennels, could sometimes bruise their bodies hurling them against the bars of their cells or tear their flesh pulling against their shackles to touch a guard, I would have dimly understood. How cruel men are sometimes, not to satisfy such a woman.

But I resolved to resist my captor.

All of the men had, by now, filtered back into the camp. Two men were playing, to one side, a board game, with tall pieces. There were one hundred squares on the board. Some four or five men crouched about, watching the play. Other men sat about. Most talked. Two drank wine together. One man worked on the scabbard of his sword with a small, fine tool. Another man was, slowly and smoothly, sharpening the blade of his spear. My captor, with two lieutenants, sat over a map, drawn with a stick in the earth. They discussed some project, the nature of which I, of course, ignorant of the language, could not understand. Once, one of the lieutenants glanced up, toward me, looking at me; then he returned his attention to the map.

My captor rose to his feet and approached the brazier. I knelt back, on my heels. With a heavy glove, picked up from the grass, he pulled forth the iron and examined it. It was whitish hot. I withdrew from it, leaning back, so intense was its heat. He thrust the iron back in the brazier, deeply, and indicated I should continue my labors, with which directive, of course, I complied.

He returned to his lieutenants. They continued their conversation, their discussion or planning.

Eta hummed and sang as she tended the roasting meat, heavy and hot, dripping fat, hissing, into the fire, on its greenwood spit. Sometimes she glanced over to me. I was not too pleased with the way she smiled at me. She seemed in an unusually good humor, especially considering that I had refused to help her several times this afternoon. The last time she had wanted my help in polishing leather. Of course, I had refused. Such work might be appropriate for a girl such as Eta, but not for the likes of Judy Thornton. I was no cook, no maid, no polisher of a man's leather! I was Judy Thornton. I was not a servant! No, I was the sort of girl who had servants, who gave them their orders, who managed them and supervised them in their duties. I was too good to be a servant.

I did not understand the purpose for which the iron was being heated. It was clearly a marking, or branding, iron. Yet there was no animal in the camp to be marked. I had expected one to be brought in, perhaps one which had been somewhere acquired, but none was brought in. I then conjectured that one of the men, perhaps my captor, since it was be who had had me tend the brazier, wished to mark something which he owned, imprinting in it an identificatory design, perhaps a harness or belt, or the leather of a brass-hooped shield. It seemed to me a sensible idea. I had seen the design at the tip of the iron. It was a small flower, stylized; it was circular, about an inch and a half in diameter; it was not unlike a small rose; it was incredibly lovely and delicate. I thought the design was very beautiful; I certainly would not have minded marking something I owned with it. The only reservation I had pertaining to the design was that I thought it might be a bit too delicate and lovely, like a lovely rose, to appropriately mark goods of a gross masculine nature, such as, say, harnesses or shields. It seemed it might, considering its resemblance to a rose, much more appropriately mark something feminine.

The sun was down now and the supper would soon be ready. The coals in the brazier glowed.

There was a white-barked, fallen tree close at hand, within the camp enclosure. It was broken off some four feet from the ground, and the fallen trunk, from that height, inclined downward.

I looked about the camp, at the men, and at Eta. They were rough, strong men, who played cruel games. Yesterday evening I had been forced to aid Eta in serving the men, carrying meat to them in my teeth; later I had moved among them, as they had summoned me, pouring them wine and paga. I must take the goblet, fill it, kiss it delicately and proffer it to the male. After the supper Eta was taken and belled. I shrank back. They wound thongs, more than a yard in length, closely set with small bells, about her tanned ankles. More bells they tied about her wrists. They then took strings of bells and threw them, looped, about her neck. Five men stood in a line, some yards from her, who were to be the contestants. He who was to act as referee then tore away from Eta the brief rag she wore. The men cried out with pleasure, smiting their left shoulders with the palms of their right hands. Eta regarded them, the bells upon her body, and about her neck and breasts, proudly, arrogantly. There was a mark on her left thigh but I could not well see it in the darkness. Then her hands were taken behind her and tied. Opaque cloths were brought and bets were placed. Eta continued to regard the men, haughtily. Then, about her belly, the referee fastened a tight thong. On this thong, at her left hip, was fastened a single bell, larger than the others, and of a different note. It would serve in particular to guide the men. Then, as she stood proudly, a cloth was thrown over her head and tied under her chin. She was hooded. The girl is hooded in order that she not be able to influence the outcome of the sport. Too, I suspect the men enjoy having her hooded that she, in the darkness of the hood, in her helplessness, will not know who it is who seizes her. Gorean men, the beasts, find such things amusing. The five men were then similarly hooded, the opaque cloths thrown over their heads and tied under their chins. Eta, in her hood, stood absolutely still, not causing the rustle of a bell. The five men then, to the amusement of the observers, were led about the camp, and turned muchly about, that they be completely disoriented. The referee then, taking up a switch, went to the vicinity of Eta. I watched from the shadows. I was indignant, and horrified, of course. Too, I was consumed with pity for my unfortunate sister. Too, I was curious to see who it would be who would first seize her. Of the five contestants I knew well whom I would have first chosen, had I had a choice in such matters, to get his hands on me, a blond, shaggy haired young giant, with freckled wrists, whose hair clung about his shoulders. To me he was the most attractive man in the camp after my captor. My captor did not join in the game. He was chieftain and leader. It was sport for the lower ranks, something to relieve the tedium of the camp. But my captor watched with interest and pleasure. He lifted paga to his lips. I think, too, he had wagered on the outcome.

The game of Girl Catch is played variously upon Gor; it can be played as informally and simply as it was in the camp of my captor, for the pleasure of his men, or it can be a fairly serious business, closely supervised and regulated in a sophisticated manner, as it is by merchant administrators in the rings outside the perimeters of the Sardar Fairs, where the young men of various cities compete. In one form there a hundred young men and a hundred young women of one city, the women selected for their beauty, enter the ring in competition with a hundred young men and a hundred young women of another city, similarly selected. In this form no hoods are worn. The object of the male is to protect his own women and secure those of the enemy. A girl is caught, stripped, bound hand and foot, and carried to the Girl Pit of the capturing city, into which she is thrown. If she cannot free herself, she is counted as a catch. Her own men may not enter the Girl Pit of the capturing city to free her. Sometimes this game is played with the winning side determined by its catches within a time limit, sometimes, in more brutal versions, by the first city which secures the hundred women of its enemy. A male is disqualified from further participation in the contest if he is forced from the ring. Women from the victorious city who may have been captured are, of course, upon the victory of their city, freed. Women from the conquered city, on the other hand, are not; they are kept; they are turned over to the young males of the capturing city; in the game in which the first hundred captures decides victory this means there is a girl for each participating young man, usually one he himself brought bound to the Girl Pit. Accordingly, particularly in the early phases of the game, the young males often devote their acquisitive attentions to those young women of the enemy city who are the most attractive to them personally, to those they would most enjoy taking home with them at the end of the day. This sport of Girl Catch, interestingly, when matters of honor are not thought to be involved, has been used upon occasion by cities to settle boundary disputes and avert wars.

In the camp of my captor, however the rules were simple. The referee lifted his switch.

He cried out a word, which I would later learn meant "Quarry." It is the signal that the game has begun, that the girl is now available, that she is now at large for capture. At the same time that he had cried out this word he had swung the switch and struck Eta a swift, stinging blow below the small of the back, making her cry out, identifying her original position and, with a jangle of bells, starting her into motion. The men wheeled toward the sound. Eta stopped, frozen. She was crouched over, her hands tied behind her back. Whether the slender, supple disciplinary device would be used often in the game depends much on the skill of the girl player. She must, following the rules, move at least once in every five Ihn, which is a little less than five seconds. If she does not move within five inn, perhaps being frightened, or having miscounted, the referee, with the switch, swiftly and exactly identifies her position for the contestants. An instant before the five Ihn were up Eta, jangling with bells, darted off, changing her position. Some of the men cried out angrily, for she had darted, unknowingly, between two of them. The referee cautioned the men sharply. The male contestants must not identify themselves. Such an identification, in that it might affect the girl's behavior, she perhaps desiring capture by a particular male, might unfairly influence the outcome of the game. Needless to say, the girl is expected to be an excellent quarry. If she is a poor quarry and puts up a disappointing run, and is too soon captured, her wrists are tied over her head and she is lashed. It is seldom necessary to do this, of course. Girls pride themselves on their evasive skills in Girl Catch; they strive with every fiber in their small bodies to be cunning, elusive quarry, not to be easily caught; with delight do they struggle to elude the predator; with relish do they know, belled, their capture and seizure is inevitable.

Eta was skilled in the game. But so, too, were the men. Often I suspected had she been thusly hunted and the men of the camp her hunters.

Twice did the referee, with his switch, incite the beauty to motion.

At last it seemed she knew not which way to turn. The men, silent, were about her.

Blindly, hooded, she fled-into the arms of the young blond giant. With a cry of pleasure he seized her and flung her to the grass, pinned beneath him. She was caught.

The referee called out a word, which I would later learn was "Capture," and slapped the man on the shoulder. The other men stepped back. Then, to my horror, I saw Eta, still hooded and bound, in her bells, ravished in the grass.

When the young man had finished with her he stood up and unknotted the hood from his head, casting it aside. Men lifted cups to him and shouted and pounded him upon the back. He was grinning. He had won. He returned to his place. Moneys were exchanged. Eta lay on her side in the grass.

She seemed small, lying there, hooded and bound, in her bells. By all but me she was forgotten. I felt terribly sorry for my poor sister. And I envied her her ravishment.

In a few moments the referee had returned to her and, by the arms, thrown her again to her feet. She stood unsteadily, trembling, the motion of her body agitating the bells.

He again called the word I was later to learn was "Quarry," and again he put her into motion with the switch. Again the men stalked her. Second place was at stake. She did not run as well this time, but, perhaps because this time there were only four pursuers, performed on the whole commendably. In some two or three minutes she was again taken and, to my horror, was, with pleasure and ruthlessness, again subjected to the indignity of the caught female, her second captor handling her with an audacity and simple physical proprietorship scarcely inferior to that of the first. How sorry I felt for her, and how, secretly, I envied her. I watched while third place and fourth place were won. The fifth man, when he had removed his hood, was the butt of much good-humored laughing and pushing. He, losing out, had not won the right to ravish the belied beauty.

The referee removed the hood from Eta, who threw back her head, shaking her hair, drinking in the night air. Her face was flushed and broken out. It was suffused with pleasure. Oddly, she seemed shy. Her hands were freed. She sat on the grass, removing the bells from her body. She, removing bells from her right ankle, looked over at me.

I looked at her, angrily.

She smiled. She removed the last of the bells. Then she laughed, and came over and kissed me.

I did not even look at her.

Then she went to pick up the brown rag which the referee had removed from her before the start of the sport. She did not try to put the rag on but carried it in her hand, loosely, and went to lie at the feet of my captor. I remembered how she had looked at me. It was the look of a woman who knows herself incredibly desired and beautiful, who was at the mercy of men, and who, because they had wished it, had been put muchly to their pleasure.

I was angry with her. Too, I envied her. Too, she had looked upon me as though I might be a naive girl.

It was dark now.

The white-barked tree, fallen, within the camp enclosure, broken off some four feet from the ground, the trunk then inclining to the ground, was near.

I saw that Eta had finished with the meat. Two men had, by the spit, lifted the hot, impaled roast, and put it on the grass for cutting. I was pleased that supper was near.

I tended the brazier. It glowed in the darkness.

Two men came and stood over me. I looked up, startled. They pulled me up by the arms and took me to the white-barked tree. They threw me on my back, my head down, on the tree. I looked at them, wildly. My hands were tied together before my body and then pulled up and over my head. They were fastened, behind my head, out of my vision, to the tree. My body was stretched out, one leg on each side of the trunk. "What are you doing?" I cried. I felt my body being tightly roped to the tree. I squirmed, my head down, my legs up. "Stop!" I cried. Ropes were placed on my neck and belly, and on each leg, above the knees and at the ankles, and lashed tightly. "Stop," I begged. "Please stop!" I could barely move. The men stepped back: I was fastened to the tree. "Let me go!" I cried. "Please!" I whimpered. "What are you going to do?" I asked. They looked at me. I was helpless. "What are you going to do?" I whimpered.

"Oh, no!" I cried. "No, no, no, no!"

My captor had gone to the brazier and, with the leather glove, and another, too, with two hands, withdrawn the white-hot iron. I felt the heat of it, even feet away. "No!" I screamed. "No!" Two men, large men, strong, held my left thigh immobile.

I looked into the eyes of my captor. "Please, no!" I wept. "Please, no!"

Then, head down, helpless, held, I was branded a Gorean slave girl.

The marking, I suppose, took only a few seconds. That is doubtless true. Objectively I grant you the truth of that. Yet a girl who has been marked finds this obvious truth difficult to accept psychologically.

Perhaps I may be granted that those seconds, those few seconds, seem very long seconds.

For an hour it seemed I felt the iron. It touched me firmly, kissing me, then claiming me.

I screamed, and screamed. I was alone with the pain, the agony, the degradation, the relentless, hissing object, so hurting me, the men. Mercifully they let me scream. It is common to let a girl scream, a Gorean kindness, while she is being marked with a white-hot iron. Afterwards, however, once the iron is pulled out of her body, and she is fully marked, Gorean males are less likely to. accord her such consideration for her feelings. They are less likely, then, to be so indulgent with her. This makes sense. Afterwards, she is only a branded girl.

It begins swiftly, almost before you can feel it. I felt the iron touch me and almost instantaneously, crackling, flash through my outer skin and then, firmly, to my horror, enter and lodge itself fixedly in my thigh. It was literally in my body, inflexibly, burning. The pain then began to register on my consciousness. I began screaming. I could not believe what was being done to me, or how much it hurt. Not only could I feel the iron, but I could hear it, hissing and searing in the precise, beautiful wound it was relentlessly burning in my thigh. There was an odor of burning flesh, mine. I smelled burning, as of a kind of meat. It was my own body being marked. I could not move my thigh. I threw back my head and screamed. I felt the iron tight in my body, then, to my horror, pressing in even, more deeply. The marking surface of the iron, then, lay hissing, literally submerged, in my flesh. I could not move my thigh in the least. I threw my head from side to side, screaming. The marking surface of the iron is some quarter of an inch in depth. It was within my flesh. It was lodged there, submerged, hissing and burning. Taking its time, not hurrying, it marked me, cleanly and deeply. Then, swiftly, cleanly, it withdrew.

I smelled burned meat, my own. The men released my thigh. I began to choke and sob. Men regarded the mark. My captor was commended on his work. I gathered I had been well marked.

The men then left me and I continued to lie, head down, roped and helpless, on the broken, inclined trunk of the white-barked tree.

I was overwhelmed, psychologically, with what had happened to me. The pain was now less. My thigh still stung, and cruelly, but the pain seemed relatively unimportant now compared to the enormity of the comprehension that shook me to the core. I had been branded. I shuddered in the bonds. I moaned. I wept. My thigh would be sore for days, but that was unimportant, even trivial. What would remain was the mark they had placed in my flesh. That, unlike the pain, would not vanish. I would continue to wear that mark. It would, from now on, identify me as something which I had not been, or had not explicitly been, before, but now was clearly, for the eyes of all. I lay there. I knew I now was, because of the brand, deeply and profoundly different than I had been before. What could a brand mean? I shuddered. I scarcely dared conjecture the nature of a girl who wore such a mark on her body. She could be only one thing. I forced the thought from my mind. I tried to move my wrists, my head and body, my legs and ankles. I could move them very little. They were helpless in their constraints. Only animals wore brands. I lay there, helpless, miserable. I was Judy Thornton. I was an excellent student at an elite girls' college on Earth. I was the most beautiful girl in the junior class, perhaps in the whole school, unless for my rival, the lovely senior in anthropology, Elicia Nevins. I was an English major, and a poetess! How was it then that I lay bound on a strange world, and bore in my flesh a fresh brand? How Elicia Nevins would have laughed with delight could she have seen me, her lovely, saucy rival, brought so low, even to a brand. I considered Elicia. We had been catty, haughty and smug to one another, competing in our beauty, our honors and popularity. How she would laugh to see me now! I could not even, now, have looked her in the face. The brand had made me different. She did not have a brand. I did. Had she faced me then, and I been unbound, I would have lowered my eyes and head, and, in shame, knelt before her. Had a simple mark on my thigh made me so different? I suspected that it had. I shuddered. I thought of the boys with whom I had gone out on Earth, those immature young men, many of them rich and well-placed socially, whom I had accepted as escorts and dates, often for no better reason than to display my unusual popularity before the other girls in the school. What if they should see me now? Some, I supposed, would have fled in terror, had I, a branded girl, been thrown to their feet. Others, perhaps, stricken and confused, would have blubbered and stammered, looking away, covering me with their coats, speaking tumbled, incoherent, soothing words, solicitous and hypocritical. How many of them, I wondered, would do what they truly wanted, as I had little doubt Gorean men would do? How many of them, I wondered, would simply look down and see me at their feet as what I was, a branded girl? I wondered how many would look down upon me, laugh with pleasure and say, "I have always wanted you, Judy Thornton. Now I am going to have you," and then take me by the arm and throw me to their sheets? Few I suspected. Yet, now, branded, for the first time I was acutely aware of the fantastic strength and size of even such boys, not even men, not even Gorean men, compared to my own diminutive strength and stature. Such matters had not seemed important before; now they seemed extremely important. Before I had been able to put off boys with a glance, a gesture, a sharp word, but what if, now, they should see me as I now was, wearing a brand. Would they simply laugh now at my silly glance, my gesture, my protest. Would they simply laugh, and do what they wanted with me? Or, perhaps, like Gorean men, would they first discipline me, and then perform upon me what actions they chose? With the brand, I knew I was somehow deeply and profoundly different. I lay on the white-barked tree trunk, head down, weeping. The brand was on Gor legal, institutional status; that which it marks it makes an object; its victim has no rights, or appeal, within the law. Yet the most profound consequences of the brand seem to be less social than intensely individual, personal and psychological; the brand, almost instantaneously, transforms the deepest consciousness of a girl; I resolved to fight these feelings, to keep my personhood, even wearing a brand. I lay confined in bonds. I could scarcely move. But I suspected, and truly, that the mightiest bond I wore was not the strict, confining loops on my wrists or belly but the newly incised brand on my body; later, I suspected, even if coils of rope and heavy chains might be heaped upon me, or I should be confined in cells or kennels, the most complete and inescapable shackle placed upon me would nonetheless be always that delicate, feminine design, that small, lovely flower, resembling a rose, burned into the flesh of my upper left thigh.

I heard the sounds of the camp about me. The men were near the fire. The roasted meat was being cut. There was conversation. Eta, long-legged and beautiful, was serving the men. I look up at the rich Gorean night, beautiful with bright stars. Turning my head I could see the three moons. I felt the smooth, brittle bark of the white-barked tree beneath my back, on the interior of my thighs, tied as I was. I could smell the roast meat, the vegetation about. I heard insects. I tried to move my ankles and wrists. I could move them very little. I had cried a great deal. My cheeks, tear-stained, felt tight under the salty rivulets which had dried upon them. I wondered what could be my status on this world, now that I had been marked. What could be the nature, on a world such as this, of a girl who wore such a mark on her body?

Men from about the fire, including my captor, and Eta, too, approached me.

My captor took my head in his hands, and held it so that I must look up at him. I looked to him for pity. In his eyes there was no pity. I, branded, shuddered in his grasp. "Kajira," said he to me, clearly and simply. "Kajira." Then he released my head. I continued to regard him. "Kajira," he said. I understood that I was to repeat this phrase. "Kajira," I said. I had heard this word several times before on this world. The men who had first come to the rock and chain in the wilderness had used it to me. And, too, there had been the cry of "Kajira canjellne," which had seemed to play some ritualistic role in the fierce contests which had brought me, helpless, into his uncompromising power. "La Kajira," said Eta, indicating herself. She drew up the brief garment she wore, turning to me, exposing her left thigh. It, too, bore a brand. She, too, was truly branded. I now realized that I had seen the mark before, in torchlight and half darkness, yesterday evening, when she had been stripped, hooded and belled, and set as lovely quarry to run for the amusement of the men. I had not even understood it at that time, not well seeing it, as a brand. It had never even entered my mind that it might have been a brand. It had been only a puzzling mark of some sort. I would not have believed, yesterday night, that a woman could have been branded. But now, after my recent experience with the iron, I was prepared to believe the evidence of my senses. Women, on this world, could be branded. Eta and I were, in a profound sense, I realized, now the same; we were both branded women; no longer was I her superior; a mark had been put upon me by a hot iron at the pleasure of men; I was now exactly the same as Eta; whatever she was I, too, I knew, was now that, exactly that, and only that. Her brand, however, was not precisely the same as mine. It was more slender, more vertical, more like a stem with floral, cursive loops, about an inch and a half in height, and a half inch in width; it was, I would later learn, the initial letter in cursive script of the Gorean expression 'Kajira'; my own brand was the «dina»; the dina is a small, lovely, multiply petaled flower, short-stemmed, and blooming in a turf of green leaves, usually on the slopes of hills, in the northern temperate zones of Gor; in its budding, though in few other ways, it resembles a rose; it is an exotic, alien flower; it is also spoken of, in the north, where it grows most frequently, as the slave flower; it was burned into my flesh; in the south, below the Gorean equator, where the flower is much more rare, it is prized more highly; some years ago, it was not even uncommon for lower-caste families in the south to give the name 'Dina' to their daughters; that practice has now largely vanished, with the opening and expansion of greater trade, and cultural exchange, between such cities as Ko-ro-ba and Ar, and the giant of the southern hemisphere, Turia. In the fall of the city of Turia, some years ago, thousands of its citizens had fled, many of them merchants or of merchant families; with the preservation of the city, and the restoration of the Ubarate of Phanias Turmus, many of these families returned; new contacts had been made, new products discovered; even of those Turians who did not return to their native city, many of them, remaining in their new homes, became agents for the distribution of Turian goods, and for the leathers and goods of the Wagon Peoples, channeled through Tuna. That in the north the lovely dina was spoken of as the "slave flower" did not escape the notice of the expatriated Turians; in time, in spite of the fact that «Dina» is a lovely name, and the dina a delicate, beautiful flower, it would no longer be used in the southern hemisphere, no more than in the northern, as a name for free women; those free women who bore the name commonly had it changed by law, removed from the lists of their cities and replaced by something less degrading and more suitable. Dina, in the north, for many years, had been used almost entirely as a slave name. The reason, in the north, that the dina is called the slave flower has been lost in antiquity. One story is that an ancient Ubar of Ar, capturing the daughter of a fleeing, defeated enemy in a field of dinas there enslaved her, stripping her by the sword, ravishing her and putting chains upon her. As he chained her collar to his stirrup, he is said to have looked about the field, and then named her "Dina." But perhaps the dina is spoken of as the slave flower merely because, in the north, it is, though delicate and beautiful, a reasonably common, unimportant flower; it is also easily plucked, being defenseless, and can be easily crushed, overwhelmed and, if one wishes, discarded.

The brand Eta wore was not the «dina»; it was, as I would later learn, the initial letter in cursive script of the Gorean expression 'Kajira'; it, too, however, was, in its delicacy and floral nature, an incredibly beautiful and feminine brand; I recalled that I had thought that the brand I had heated might be too feminine to mark a man's properties, such as a saddle or shield, but that it would be perfect to mark something feminine in nature; now I realized that it marked me; both the brand that I wore and that which Eta wore were incredibly feminine; our femininity, whether we wished it or not, had been deeply, and incontrovertibly, stamped upon us. It was natural, given the fact that the dina is the "slave flower," that eventually enterprising slavers, warriors and merchants, those with an interest in the buying and selling of women, should develop a brand based on the flower. Beyond this, there exists on Gor a variety of brands for women, though the Kajira brand, which Eta wore, is by far the most common. Some merchants invent brands, as the dina was invented, in order to freshen the nature of their merchandise and stimulate sales. Collectors, for example, those who are rich, sometimes collect exotic brands, much as collectors on Earth might collect stamps or coins, populating their pleasure gardens not only with girls who are beautiful but diversely marked. A girl, of course, wants to be bought by a strong master who wants her for herself, muchly desiring and lusting for her, not for her brand. When a girl is bought, of course, it is commonly because the man wants her, she, the female, and is willing to put down his hard-earned money for her and her alone, for she is alone; all she brings from the block is herself; she is a slave; she cannot bring wealth, power, or family connections; she comes naked and sold; it is she alone he buys. There are, of course, men who buy for brands. To meet this market various brands are developed and utilized. The "slave flower" brand was a natural development. Unfortunately for these entrepreneurs, their greed and lack of control over the metal shops resulted in the widespread proliferation of the dina brand. As it became more popular, it was becoming, simultaneously, of course, a fairly common brand. Girls branded as I was were already spoken of on Gor, rather disparagingly, as "dinas." Collectors now seldom sought for dinas. This development, though perhaps a disappointment to certain merchants and slavers, was not unwelcome to the girls who bore the brand, though few cared for their feelings. The girl who is bid upon and sold from the block wants to be bought because men have found her desirable, so desirable that they are willing to part with their very gold to buy her; how miserable she would be to learn that it is only for her brand that she is valued. There were other brands in my captor's camp. Yet I had been made a "dina." He had not done this for economic reasons. He had "sized me up," my nature and my body. He had decided the dina brand would be, for me, exquisitely "right." Accordingly, he had burned it into my flesh. Now, in my body, deeply, I wore the "slave flower."

Eta bent over me, smiling. She indicated the steel band she wore on her throat. It had writing on it, incised in the steel, in a script I could not recognize. She turned the steel band, not too easily, on her throat. It fitted her closely, as though it might have been measured to her. I gasped. It was literally locked on her throat. I understood then, to my horror, she could not remove it. Eta wore a steel collar!

Eta then faced my captor. "La Kajira," she said, submissively inclining her head to him. Had I been a man I might have been driven wild, I supposed, by the way in which this had been said. Then Eta turned to me, laughing, pointing to my mouth. I did not understand. She pointed to her own mouth, again faced my captor, and again said, "La Kajira," again performing an obeisance before him. Then, smiling, Eta pointed to my mouth. Bound, I looked upward, into the eyes of my captor. "La Kajira," I said to him. Then, weeping, I closed my eyes and turned my head to the side. Bound as I was I could not well incline my head to him, but, instinctively, I had turned my head to the side, exposing my throat vulnerably to him. This had occurred so naturally that I was shaken by it. Then his large hand lay on my throat. I knew he could have crushed it easily. I turned my head under his hand, and again looked up at him. Tears welled hot in my eyes. "La Kajira!" I whispered, and again turned my head to the side. His hand left my throat, and he, and the others, saying nothing more, returned to the fire, to continue their meal.

Again I lay alone on the inclined trunk of the white-barked tree. What could be my status on this world? Only animals were branded. I wore a brand. Only now, for the first time, now that I was branded, did they show any interest in teaching me their language. Before they had not even taught me the words for «Run» and "Fetch." I suspected that I must now, now that I had been branded, address myself with great diligence to the acquisition of their language. I did not think they would now be patient with me. I had been branded. I would have to learn swiftly and well. The first words I had been taught were "Kajira," which my captor had addressed to me, and "La Kajira," which expressions I understood, from Eta's example, I must utter to my captor. I. knew then that I was a Kajira, and, too, I gathered that this status, whatever it might be, was one I shared with Eta; she had said "La Kajira" to him in a fashion which clearly suggested that she was acknowledging herself a «Kajira» before him. Both Eta and I wore brands. Eta wore even a collar; I wore no collar, but I knew that if they wished to place one upon me, they, unhesitantly, would do so. Though I wore no collar, I knew I was, should anyone wish, subject to the collar. I knew now I was a Kajira; I knew that I had, too, following Eta's example, acknowledged myself as such to my captor; I had proclaimed myself a Kajira, whatever it might be, before him. What could a Kajira be? I forced from my mind the only possible answer, refusing to admit it to consciousness. Then, overwhelmingly, irresistibly, like a cry of anguish, it welled up within me; I could no longer ignore, suppress or repudiate it; no longer could I, like a foolish girl of Earth, deny and flee my reality; the comprehension, insistent and explosive, overpoweringly, erupted within me; I was naked and bound; I was subject to the collar; I had been branded; I had said «Kajira»; I had said "La Kajira"; these were the first words I had been taught; I knew I was a Kajira; I did not even know if any longer I had a name; I supposed I had not; I supposed now I was only a nameless animal in the power of men; I had been too good to be a servant; now I was a Kajira; my thigh stung; I moaned with anguish; I wept; a Kajira, I knew, was not even a servant; a Kajira was a slave girl; and the meaning of "La Kajira," which I had uttered to my captor was "I am a slave girl."

I cried out, a long, anguished cry, then knowing myself a slave girl. «Kajira» and "La Kajira" are often the first words a girl of Earth, carried to Gor, must learn. The women of Earth, to the mighty men of Gor, are good for little but slaves.

When I had cried out with anguish, bound on the inclined trunk of the white-barked tree, two men rose from near the fire and, as though they had been waiting for some such cry on my part, evidence that I now, to my horror, understood truly what I was, that I had now, in my own heart, and to my own misery, incontrovertibly acknowledged my new nature, came to the tree and, swiftly, casually, unbound me. They then carried me by the arms and put me to my knees before my captor, who sat, cross-legged, by the fire. I knelt, my head to the grass, a slave girl trembling before him.

In the camp, hitherto, my captor had confined me to degrading handouts, which he would place in my mouth, or make me reach for, kneeling, not using my hands. Eta now came forward. She held two copper bowls of gruel. Next to me, she knelt before my captor; she put one bowl down before me; then, holding the other bowl, she handed it to my captor; one of the men pulled my head up by the hair, so I could see clearly what was being done; my captor took the bowl of gruel from Eta, and then, saying nothing, handed it back to her. Now he, and his men, and Eta, looked at me. I then understood what I must do. I picked up the bowl of gruel, with both hands, and, kneeling, handed it to my captor. He took the bowl. Then he handed it back to me. I might now eat. I knelt, shaken, the bowl of gruel in my hands. The symbolism of the act was not lost upon me. It was from him, he, symbolically, that I received my food. It was he who fed me. It was he upon whom I depended, that I would eat. Did he not choose to feed me, I understood, I would not eat. My head down, following Eta's example, I ate the gruel. We were given no spoons. With our fingers and, like cats, with our tongues, we finished the gruel. It was plain. It was not sugared or salted. It was slave gruel. Some days it was all that would be given to me. A girl does not always, of course, take food in this fashion. Usually she prepares the food and then serves it, after which, if permitted, she eats. Many men permit a girl, for most practical purposes, to eat simultaneously with him, provided he begins first and it does not interfere with her service to him. Thus he gets his girl, fed, more swiftly to the furs. Much depends on the man; the will of the girl counts for nothing. In some dwellings a girl must, before the evening meal, hand her plate to the man; he will then, normally, return it to her; if she has not been completely pleasing to him, on the other hand, she may not be fed that night. Control of a girl's food not only permits the intelligent regulation of her caloric intake but provides an excellent instrument for keeping her in line; control the food, control the girl. Food control, for the man, also has unexpected rewards. Few things so impress a man's dominance on her, or her dependence upon him, than the control of her food. So simple a thing thrills her to the core. It makes her eager to please him as a slave girl. I finished the slave gruel. It was not tasty, but I was grateful for even so simple a provender. I was hungry. I felt starved. Perhaps the brand had made me hungry. Furtively, I looked at the man over the edge of the copper bowl. He seemed so strong, so mighty. The ceremonial taking of food from the hand of the man, as. it had been done this evening in the camp, would prove to be somewhat unusual, though it would be reasonably common to be handfed, when it amused him, or thrown scraps of food. Among many men, it might be mentioned, however, the monthly anniversary of a girl's acquisition as a slave would be marked by this, and similar ceremonies. A slave girl is a delight to a man; she is extremely prized and precious; that the day of her acquisition should be celebrated each month with special ceremonies and rites is not surprising. These numerous anniversaries are deliciously celebrated, as they may be with a girl who is only a slave, and seldom forgotten; should such an anniversary be forgotten, should it be such that it is commonly celebrated, the girl redoubles her efforts to please, fearing she is to be soon sold.

I put down the bowl of gruel.

A switch was put in the hands of Eta. She stood over me. I put down my head. She did not strike me. I looked up at her. I realized then that she was first girl in the camp, and that I must obey her, that she had been empowered to set me tasks and duties. Suddenly I feared her. Before I had looked down upon her. Now I trembled. It was she who held the switch over me. Before I had generally obeyed her only when men were present. I had preferred to leave her the work. Now I realized I must, without question, take slave instructions from her and discharge swiftly and well whatever menial duties she might place upon me. I met her eyes. Though I was a delicate girl of Earth, beautiful and sensitive, even one who wrote poetry, I had little doubt she would use the switch, and richly, upon me, did I not work well. I put down my head. I determined to work well. In this camp I, though of Earth, was inferior to her. She could command me. She held the switch. I would obey. She was first girl.

Eta took me to one side and, together, we cleaned the copper bowls in the stream, wiping them dry. We tidied the camp.

Men called. Eta hurried to bring them wine and paga. I helped her carry the beverages, and goblets, back to the fire. She began to serve them. I stood back. How beautiful she seemed, those lovely legs in the brief rag, the beauty of her, the firelight on her face, and hair, serving the men; how perfect it seemed to me then, so perfect and natural, that she, so beautiful, served as she did. How grotesque it would have been, had the men served her, or had they all, she, too, served themselves. It was the order of nature, unperverted, which I observed, as she moved about, among those mighty men.

"Kajira!" called a man. I trembled with horror., He had summoned me. I fled to him and knelt before him. Roughly he turned me about and, with a slender strap, tied my hands together behind my back. He then pointed to the meat, and gave me a shove. I fell on my belly, then turned on my side, wildly, to look at him. He pointed to the meat, laughing. How could I, bound, serve him? My captor beckoned to me. I regained my feet with difficulty, with an awkwardness that made the men laugh, and went to my captor, kneeling before him. He cut a small piece of meat and put it between my teeth. It was roast tabuk. He gestured back to the other man with the knife. I went to the other man and knelt before him, the bit of meat clenched between my teeth. The man, sitting cross-legged by the fire, indicated I should approach him, and put the meat in his mouth. Reddening with shame, I did so. I extended my head to him delicately and he, with his mouth, took the meat from between my teeth. The men struck their left shoulders with pleasure. Man after man I so served. I had carried meat before in my mouth, not permitted to touch it, but then I had not been bound, then I had not knelt, then they had not taken it from me in their mouths. I was now serving them, and it was their intention, to their amusement, as only a slave girl would serve men. I was being taught, as they laughed and spoke of me, what I was. The only man I did not so serve was he who cut the meat for me to carry, my captor. He did not cut me a piece of meat to convey in that humble manner to his own mouth. He, of all, I most wished to so serve. I wanted to dare to touch my lips, my mouth, to his, when he took his meat. But he did not have me serve him in this fashion. I wanted to throw my small, naked, bound body into his arms. He frowned. I shrank back. He indicated I should lie upon my belly before him. I did so. He cut small pieces of meat and threw them to me. Lying on my belly, hands tied behind me, I fed. Tears fell into the grass, as I caught at the meat. I had little doubt I was a slave. The men began to talk. One of the men, at a word from my captor, untied me, and I crept to Eta, outside the circle of firelight, and hid in her arms. Later the men began to tell stories, and then to sing. They called for more wine and paga and Eta, and I, too, now, hastened to serve them. We, two, moved among them. I, too, now served them in the firelight. I would pour the paga, which I carried, into a goblet, kiss it, as was expected, and give it to the man. "Paga!" called my captor. I almost fainted. I went to him and, shaking, poured paga into his goblet; I was terrified that I might spill it; it was not only that I feared, should I spill the beverage, that I might be beaten for my clumsiness; it was even more than I wished to appear graceful and beautiful before him; but I shook, and was awkward; the paga sloshed in the goblet but, as my heart almost stood still, it did not spill; he looked at me; I was a clumsy girl, and a poor slave; I felt so small and unworthy before him; I was not only a girl, small and weak before these mighty men; I was not even a good slave. Trembling, I extended the goblet to him. He did not take it. I shrank back, confused. I did not know what to do. I realized then that I had, in my confusion and distress, forgotten to place my lips upon the goblet in subservience. I quickly pressed my lips to the goblet, kissing it. Then, suddenly, as I was to hand it to him, I boldly, again, lifted the goblet's side to my lips. Holding it in both hands, I kissed it again, lovingly, delicately, fully, lingeringly, my eyes closed. I had never kissed a boy on Earth with the helplessness and passion that I bestowed upon the mere goblet of my Gorean captor. I belonged to him. I was his. I loved him! I felt the metal of the cup beneath my full, pressing lips. I opened my eyes. I proffered, tears in my eyes, the cup of paga to my captor. It was as though, with the cup, I was giving myself to him. Yet I knew I needed not give myself to him, for I was his, and a slave girl; he could take me whenever he wished me. He took the cup from my hands, and dismissed me.

Late that night the men went to their furs and tentings. Eta and I put away the extra food; we cleaned the goblets and cleared the side of the fire of litter and debris. She gave me a thin blanket of coarse cloth; it was rep-cloth; I might huddle in it at night. "Eta!" called a man. She went to him. She slipped within his bit of tenting, onto his furs. I saw her pull away the rag she wore and I saw him, in the moonlight, enclose her in his arms. I was suddenly frightened. The bit of blanket about my shoulders I went to the cliff wall and looked upward at the sheer cliff above me. It shone in the moonlight. I scratched it with my fingernails. I went to the wall of thorn brush, a small, forlorn, white figure in the night, clutching the bit of rep-cloth blanket about me. The thorn-brush wall was some eight feet high, some ten feet thick. I extended my hand. Miserably I drew it back, bloody. I went back to where Eta had given me the rep-cloth blanket, and lay down on the hard ground. I shuddered, knowing that, as she had been summoned to the tenting of one of the men, so I, too, might be as helplessly summoned. The major duty of a slave girl, I suspected, was not to cook, or sew, or launder, but to give men lengthy, profound and exquisite pleasures, such as only a beautiful female could give a man, to be to him whatever he might wish, and to give to him all that he might command, and, to the extent of her beauty, ingenuity and imagination, a thousand times more.

I began to sweat. I was frightened of the totality and completeness of being a slave girl. I am a girl of Earth, I cried to myself. I am not a slave! I do not want to be a slave! I am a girl of Earth!

"Kajira," I heard.

Terrified, clutching the bit of rep-cloth blanket about my shoulders, I rose to my knees, then to a crouch. My captor stood before his tenting. I could see the furs within. Too, within, a small lamp burned.

I did not wish him to have to speak twice, for fear I might be beaten.

Holding the blanket about me, I went to him. He proffered me a cup and I, with one hand, holding the blanket about me with the other, drank its contents. It was a foul brew, but I downed it. I did not know at the time, but it was slave wine. Men seldom breed upon their slave girls. Female slaves, when bred, are commonly hooded and crossed with a male slave, similarly hooded, the breeding conducted under the supervision of their respective owners; a girl is seldom bred with a slave from her own house; personal relationships between male and female slaves are usually frowned upon; sometimes, however, as a discipline even a high female slave is sometimes thrown to a chain of work slaves for their pleasure. The effect of the slave wine endures several cycles, or moons; it may be counteracted by another drink, a smooth, sweet beverage, which frees the girl's body for the act of the male slave, or, in unusual cases, should she be freed, to the act of the lover; slave girls, incidentally, are almost never freed on Gor; they are too delicious and desirable to free; only a fool, it is commonly said, would free one.

My captor took the cup from me, when I had downed its contents. He threw it aside into the grass. He had not taken his eyes from me. I felt his hands at my shoulders. He parted the blanket, and then, lifting it from me, dropped it to my ankles.

He looked at me. I stood but inches from him. Then he took me by the left arm and thrust me within the low opening to his tenting. One could not stand upright within the tenting, for its ceiling was low. I half knelt, half crouched, on the furs within. There was little comparison between their depth and luxury, and my pitiful rep-cloth blanket. The tenting was striped on the inside; the small lamp was ornate; on the outside, interestingly, the tenting was a dull brown; among brush and trees it would be easy not to notice it, even if it were pitched but a few yards away. He slipped within the tenting, and crouched beside me. He unslung his gear, his sword belt, with weapon and scabbard, and the dagger belt, and, wrapping them in soft leather, put them to one side. He looked at me. I looked down. I felt very small with him. He held the lamp that I might, turning, examine the brand on my thigh; he held my leg with one hand, the thigh, turning it so that I might more clearly see the mark. His hand on my thigh frightened me. It was so strong. I looked at the brand. It was very meticulous, and clean, and deep, and lovely and delicate; it was incredibly feminine; it was as though my femininity had been literally stamped upon my body; it was as though I had been certified a certain sort of thing, which thereafter, no matter what I wished, or what I might be told, I could never deny; never had I felt so soft, so feminine; I wore, burned in my flesh, one of the most beautiful of brands; I wore, incised in my thigh, resembling a small, beautiful rose, the dina, the slave flower. I looked into the eyes of my captor. Never had I felt so weak, so vulnerable, so soft, so helpless, so feminine. There were tears in my eyes. I knew I belonged to the brute, as a slave girl. I saw him put the lamp to one side. I lifted my lips to his. I felt his arms close about me.

With a moan of rapture, eyes closed, I was pressed back into the furs.

I felt my legs being thrust apart.

"I love you," I whispered, helpless in his arms, "-Master."

Chapter 4

La Kajira

I awakened at his feet in the Gorean dawn. I put my hands on his calves and ankles, as though holding them, yet so softly that he would not know himself held. I delicately put my lips to his calves, feeling the hair beneath my lips, and kissed him. I kissed his ankles and feet, softly, so that he would not know himself kissed, gently, that he might not be awakened, that he might not be angered by the boldness of the slave girl at his feet. Then I lay beside him, joyously happy. I saw the long, horizontal peak of the striped tenting above me, extending on either side from the leather cord that served as its roof tree. The striped sides of the tenting moved slightly in the early morning shiftings of the breeze. The dawn was a soft gray. Outside the tenting I could see dew glistening on the grass. I heard birds, calling to one another. I lay deep in the furs. I rolled to my stomach, my breasts pendant, to look upon the man who owned me. Much in the night had he overwhelmed me. On the interior of my left thigh, reddish brown, dried now, lay a streak of blood, my virgin blood, which never again would I be able to shed. He, as m a primitive rite, I being only a slave, had forced me to taste it. He had taken it on his finger and thrust it roughly in my mouth, smearing it across my lips and tongue and teeth, making me take into my own body the consequences of his victory, my ravishing, my deflowering, and then, as he held my head in his hands, forcing me to look into his eyes, swallow. I would never forget the taste, nor the calm way he looked upon me, as a master. Then, though my body was still sore from his first assault upon me, again he pleasured himself, like a lion, in my vulnerable, raw softness; I was shown no consideration, for I was a slave. I clutched him, loving him. Much service did he get from his girl that night. How excited and obedient I had been, even sore, knowing full well that I would be swiftly and cruelly punished were I not completely pleasing to him. How happy I was, so subservient to him, so much at his mercy. A girl who has not been owned perhaps cannot grasp the feelings of one who is owned, truly owned; but perhaps such a girl, even if only dimly, can sense the joy of the slave girl. I would not have believed it, had I not experienced it.

Gently I lowered my head to the brute and kissed him, softly that I might not awaken my master.

I lay back in the furs, near him, at his feet, in the Gorean dawn.

Once during the night had he laughed, softly, richly, holding me helplessly, cruelly, to him, looking down into my eyes, deeply pleased with his ownership of me. How grateful, and elated, held, I had been!

My master was pleased with his girl!

I listened to the birds outside, in the glistening velvet of the soft dawn.

How far from Earth, with its pollutions, its crowdings, its hypocrisy, seemed this world. I lightly, with my fingertips, touched my brand. I winced. I would not much touch it, for a few days, for I wished its delicacy to heal perfectly. I wanted the brand to be perfect. No girl is so without vanity that she does not want her brand to be perfect. Even lipstick and eye shadow, which a girl may wash off and reapply, a girl wishes to be perfect; how much more so then the brand, which is always worn! The girl wishes a brand of which she can be proud. A good brand adds to a girl's sense of confidence, of comfort and security. Often, a girl's raiment is limited to brand and collar. Accordingly the brand is of considerable importance to her. Also, it is no secret on Gor that a small and beautiful brand, well-placed, considerably enhances a girl's beauty. I tried to resent the brand, but I could not do so. It was too beautiful, and now, too, it was too much a part of me. I kissed my fingertips and, gently, pressed them to the petals of the slave flower which my master, yesterday evening, with a hot iron, against my will, had caused to blossom upon my thigh. I lay there in the fresh dawn. On Earth it then seemed to me that I had been a true slave; and that, on this world, though I wore a brand, I was for the first time in my life truly free. On Earth invisible chains had kept me cruelly apart from myself and my feelings; conditionings and derisions had put walls between me and my heart and emotions; I had been tight, the miserable victim of bonds of my own acceptance; now, for the first time in my life, though I might wear chains, in my heart, my feelings and emotions, I was truly free, truly liberated; I lay there, happy.

I was suddenly frightened. I felt his hand, groping for me. I crawled beside him, and moved my head to where he might touch it, by his thigh. He was asleep. I felt his hands reach into my hair, and fasten themselves in it. He pulled me to his waist. I was a slave girl. "Yes, Master," I whispered.

I felt Eta's switch poking me. "Kajira," she whispered. "Kajira."

I awakened. It was still very early, though lighter now. My master was still asleep. None but Eta was up about the camp.

The dew of dawn was not yet burned off the grass. I crawled from the tenting.

Eta would set me my duties. I, a slave girl, would now be worked. I looked about at the sleeping men, recumbent and somnolent, in their tentings and furs. They were the masters. We women, slave girls, would now ready the camp. There was much to be done. Water must be fetched, wood must be brought from the piles, the morning fires must be made, breakfast must be prepared. When the masters chose to arise, their girls must have all ready for them.

I hummed softly to myself as I worked. Eta, too, seemed pleased. Once she kissed me.

The men were late to arise, and Eta sent me to the stream, with tunics, to wash upon the rocks. I was once startled by the movements of a small amphibian near me. It splashed into the water. The water was clear. I worked swiftly. The air was fresh and beautiful. Soon I smelled the frying of vulo eggs in a large, flat pan, and the unmistakable odor of coffee, or as the Goreans express it, black wine. The beans grow largely on the slopes of the Thentis mountains. The original beans, I suppose, had been brought, like certain other Gorean products, from Earth; it is not impossible, of course, that the opposite is the case, that black wine is native to Gor and that the origin of Earth's coffee beans is Gorean; I regard this as unlikely, however, because black wine is far more common on Earth than on Gor, where it is, except for the city of Thentis, a city famed for her tarn flocks, and her surrounding villages, a somewhat rare and unusual luxury. Had I known more of Gor I would have speculated that my masters might have sworn their swords to the defense of Thentis, that they were of that city, but, as I was later to learn, they were of another city, one called Ar.

When the first man, yawning, sleepy and bleary-eyed, the lazy beast, stumbled to the cooking fire, we were ready for him. Eta and I knelt before him, and put our heads to the dirt at his feet. We were his girls.

Eta piled several of the hot, tiny eggs, earlier kept fresh in cool sand within the cave, on a plate, with heated yellow bread, for him. I, grasping the pot with a rag and both hands, poured him a handled, metal tankard of the steaming black brew, coffee or black wine.

Following Eta's example, to my pleasure, we prepared ourselves plates and cups. We then, while waiting for the men, ate. As long as a male had taken the first bite, the first drink, at the meal, apparently there was little objection to our also partaking. We did so with gusto. Gorean amenities are more carefully observed, usually, at the evening meal, which is more of a gathering and an occasion than the other two or three meals of the day. At an evening meal Eta and I would, under threat of discipline, wait before eating until the master, and each of his men, had begun. We did not, commonly, however, provided it did not interfere with our service, wait until the men had completed their meal before commencing ours. We, thus, finished nearly with them, or a bit before. Thus, after we had cleared goblets, and bowls and dishes, if they were used, we were soon ready, unimpeded, to devote our attentions to the serving of wine and paga, or our bodies for their pleasure, were they desired. To indicate the greater significance of the evening meal, as compared to the other Gorean meals, no slave girl may touch it without first having been given permission, assuming that a free man or woman, even a child, is present. "You may feed, Slave Girl," is a common way in which this permission is given. If the permission is not given, the girl may not eat. Should the master or mistress, or child, forget to give this permission, it is merely the misfortune of the slave girl.

As the men came to breakfast we extended them obeisance and served them.

When my master came to the cooking fire it was with eagerness, such eagerness that the men laughed, that I knelt before him, and put my hair in the dirt between his sandals.

I remembered the night. Well had he taught me the meaning of my brand! I so loved him!

He gestured me to my feet. I sprang up. I stood straight before him, proud in the pleasure I had given him. From the looks of the men I understood that now I stood much differently than I had when I had come to the camp, that the girl who now stood slave within the wall of thorn brush was far more valuable than she who had so recently miserably stood captive beyond its perimeter. The looks of the men told me that I was now more desirable, more beautiful. I know I should have objected to this, that I should have resented it intensely. Yet how fantastically weak and joyous and alive and happy it made me feel!

My master, crouching down, examined the slave flower on my thigh. I did not dare touch him. I trembled. He straightened up. He seemed satisfied, and this much relieved me. I wished him to be pleased, not only with his slave, but with her brand. Eta examined the brand, too, and smiled, and hugged and kissed me. I gathered that the brand was an excellent one. I hugged and kissed her, too, weeping. She permitted me to serve the master, and I did so, delightedly. I watched him like a hawk, that I might anticipate his slightest desire.

One of the men, obviously, as his looks and gesture indicated, asked him about me; My master responded, chewing. They looked at me. I was the object of their discussion. I did not speak Gorean, but I reddened, and put my head down. Gorean masters commonly speak frankly and openly of the qualities of their girls, even before the girls themselves. My features, figure and performances were being candidly discussed and appraised. The sexuality, qualities and capacities, and skills, of a slave girl, not a free woman, are discussed on Gor with the same openness that men on Earth might bring to the discussion of paintings and music, and that Englishmen of the Nineteenth Century might have brought to the discussion of dogs and horses.

I gathered that I, in many ways, left much to be desired. I felt small and helpless.

My master extended to me his metal tankard. Gratefully I filled it again with the steaming black wine.

He was kind. He was permitting me to serve him. I looked at him. Were there to be no secrets between us? Were my defects, my helplessness, and the completeness of my surrender to him, to be broadcast so publicly? In his eyes I read that my questions were out of place. In his eyes I read that I was slave.

I lowered my eyes, and withdrew, the tankard filled, a slave girl.

It was with joy, later in the morning, that I felt, thrown against my body by my master, a bit of brown cloth. It was a sleeveless body scrap, a shred of slave rag. It was a few threads, fit for a bond girl. Yet I welcomed it as I might have a gown, with gloves and pearls, from Paris. Now I might not be so revealed to the men. It was the first clothing I had been given on Gor. Radiant was my gratitude to him, and abundant were the kisses which, in joy, I placed about his legs and feet. Joyfully I drew on the garment, slipping it over my head, and fastened it, more tightly about me, by the two tiny hooks on the left. The slit made the garment, a rather snug one, easier to slip into; the two hooks, when fastened, naturally increased the snugness of the garment, drawing it quite closely about the breasts and hips; deliciously then, from the point of view of a man, the girl's figure is betrayed and accentuated; also, the two hooks do not close the slit on the left completely, but permit men to gaze upon the sweet slave flesh pent, held captive, within; such a garment, of course, when a man grows weary of having his vision obscured, is easily torn away. I turned before my master, proud in my new riches. He indicated to Eta where the garment must be taken in, the hooks placed subtly differently. As it was the garment was too large for me. Eta was a larger woman. It was one of her cast-offs. The garment would be altered, that I would be as well revealed by it as Eta was by hers. The attire of Gorean slave girls is of great importance to their masters. They concern themselves with its tiniest details. The clothing, you see, as well as the girl, belongs to the master; it is natural for him, thus, to take an interest in it; both, in their diverse ways, can be reflections upon him, his taste, his judgment, his discrimination. That a male of Earth may not even know what clothing his wife owns, or what she buys, would be unthinkable to most Goreans, even those who stand in free companionship. To the master it would simply be preposterous. What his girl wears, if she is to wear anything, is of great interest to him. After all, she is not a wife; she is much more important: she is a prized possession. The clothing she wears, any cosmetics or jewelry, or perfume, must be absolutely perfect. He is in, so to speak, on everything. Should she tie her hair with as little as a new ribbon, it must pass his strict inspection. If it is not «right» for her, she will not be permitted to wear it. That a wife might wear a new dress and her husband not even notice it would be incredible, if not incomprehensible, to any Gorean, whether a proprietor or a companion. In short, Gorean masters concern themselves closely with their girls. Clothing, like other matters, is quite important. It must be perfect for its purpose. Its purpose may be to humiliate or brazenly and publicly display the girl, to discipline her, to keep her humble, to remind her she is nothing, only a wench in bondage; it may be to reveal her beauty, of which he is proud, for the eyes of all, or for his own pleasure and that of his peers; it may be to reveal his wealth, the value in girl and raiment which he owns; it may be to augment his prestige, or to incite envy in others; it may be to stimulate her with beautiful things; it may be to excite her sexually, and so on. These purposes, of course, are not all incompatible. Clothing, too, it might be mentioned, like food, is a useful instrument in controlling the girl. Few girls, for example, enjoy being sent nude to the market, to do shopping.

My master drew out his knife. I shuddered, but dared not run. I closed my eyes. I felt him cutting at the garment's hem. He made it scandalously short. It had been a garment of Eta's measured high, but to her own longer legs. Now I scarcely dared move in it.

At a gesture from my master I knelt. I did so in the manner m which I had been taught, back on my heels, back straight, hands on thighs, head high, chin up. I did not neglect a further detail. I spread my knees, widely. It was the position, of course, as I would later learn, of the Gorean pleasure slave. I had seen Eta naturally, unconsciously, assume it when she knelt. Such a girl, in kneeling, does not close her knees before a free man. Any slave girl, incidentally, addresses any free man as Master, any free woman as Mistress, though only one, of course, at a given time, is likely to be her true Master or Mistress.

It gave me pleasure to assume this posture before my master, who had full body rights to me; it gave me less pleasure, in the beginning, to assume it before free men generally; yet, eventually, I did it naturally, and pleasurably; it is a position that not only makes the girl more attractive to the man; but, too, subtly, psychologically, by its effect on the girl, by intensifying her sense of openness, vulnerability and exposure, it makes men much more attractive to her, she thus kneeling, and opened, before them; the girl who finds many men attractive is likely to find the master attractive; the girl who finds few men attractive is to that extent the less likely to find the master attractive; the pleasure slave, so submissively and vulnerably positioned, so helpless and opened before men, cannot help herself but become curious and excited, and heated, about them; in becoming excited and heated by men in general she naturally becomes excited and heated about the master in particular; after all, it is to him that she actually belongs; he is the one who is her master; in a pleasure slave passion is not an accident; inhibitions are simply not permitted; beyond this, instincts are triggered and intelligently released, and then allowed, untrammeled, to take their natural course; biology's dominance/submission equation is genetic; the most perfect satisfaction of that equation for complex, acculturated psychophysical organisms is the institutionalized bondage relation; this exists on Gor, where girls may be the legal slaves of strong men, capable of mastering them. I was such a slave. I had no doubt the man who owned me was capable of mastering me. He had already done so. I was his slave.

How attractive I found men! How I loved, and feared, my master. I wanted to give myself to him constantly.

He gave instructions to Eta, with respect to me. Then he, with his fellows, left the camp. Eta and I were alone. She went and brought pins, tiny scissors, a needle and thread. The alteration of my slave rag was apparently the first order of the day's business. It must match and betray my slave body perfectly. After that we could attend to our less important tasks. I stood and knelt, and stood, and moved as Eta instructed me. Once I removed the garment and she sewed the hem, where the knife had ripped it. In making the hem, of course, though Eta took it up as little as possible, the garment was further shortened. I reddened. I wondered if there was much to choose from between such a garment and being nude; I supposed the garment gave the men something to tear away. Then I put it back on. Eta repositioned the hooks. I gasped, as she fastened them. Then Eta deftly, here and there, sometimes cutting, and pinning and sewing, fitted the rag to me with candid perfection. This was done on my body, that the fit be flawlessly snug. Eta was a superb seamstress. Only twice, even under these conditions, and given our objectives, did I feel the needle. Then Eta stood back; and then walked about me. She went and fetched a mirror from the cave; it was a large one, and permitted me to see myself. I gasped at the slave girl betrayed in the mirror. I looked at Eta in horror. I had not seen myself before as a. slave. I was shocked, and startled. I had not known I could appear such. I could not believe it was me. No, it could not be me! I looked back at the mirror. How beautiful she was, that lovely slave. Could it be I? I looked at Eta. She nodded, and smiled. I looked again at the mirror. I had not known I could be so beautiful! Then I was afraid, for I suspected what such beauty might mean on the world on which I found myself. What man would not simply put a chain on it, or collar it? I stood before the mirror, stunned, looking at the slave girl.

Eta then, to my surprise, with the point of her scissors, ripped the tiny garment a bit under my right breast, that a bit of skin might show, and again at my left hip, a larger rip. These were done in such a way as to make them appear natural, inadvertent rents in the garment. She then, with the point of the scissors, at two points, ripped the hem she had earlier sewn out a bit, that in these two places it might appear the threads had broken; the hem then, in these two places, was irregular on my legs. She then, at another place, cut into the hem, ripping it, and unraveled and tore it a bit, as though it had naturally frayed; some stray threads hung upon my thigh. These were the touches which, to my horror and delight, made the garment of the slave rag exquisitely perfect. I looked at the lovely slave in the mirror. I wondered if the men knew, or suspected, the female cunning that went into the making of a slave rag. She was arming me with beauty. With what else might a slave girl be armed? Eta kissed me, and I kissed her. The ingenuity and care lavished upon the slave rag, seemingly such a pathetic accident of a garment, is a careful secret well kept among slave girls. If the master does not know why the smallest movement of his girl, clad in what he thought was a mere discipline rag, almost drives him out of his wits with pleasure, that is all right. The masters, as we girls sometimes tell one another, do not have to know everything.

I looked at the girl in the mirror. I approached more closely. I lifted the hem of the garment at the left thigh. I almost fainted with the delicate perfection of the brand. It was still red, rough, raw, deep, unhealed, but the form was clearly imprinted, unmistakably, deeply, and beautifully imprinted. On my thigh I wore one of the most beautiful brands, the dina, the slave flower. I tore the garment there, at the left hip, that as I moved, the brand might be glimpsed. Then I knelt before the mirror. Boldly I assumed slave position. I threw my knees apart. I rested my hands on my thighs. I regarded myself in the mirror. I saw a kneeling slave girl there. There was no doubt about it. She was a slave girl. How incredibly beautiful was that poor, lovely slave. She wore a brand. She wore a slave rag. She lacked only a steel collar. That lack, I supposed, could be simply supplied. It is nothing to put a collar on a girl's neck. I lifted my hair up; I lifted my chin, watching in the mirror. I conjectured what a steel collar would look like, fastened on my neck. I did not think I would mind one. It might be rather attractive. Eta's was, terribly so. I hoped, of course, that I might be able to choose whose collar I would wear. But, shuddering, I realized that a girl does not choose whose collar she will wear; rather it is the man who chooses; it is he, and he alone, who places the collar. Suddenly I sensed the misery of being a slave. I might belong to any man! I might belong to any man who might carry me off, or pay my price. I might be abducted or bought, or bestowed or lost in gambling! I was only an article of property, helpless and beautiful, without control over, no more than a dog or pig, into whose hands I might come. Tears sprang to my eyes. Surely my master would not sell me! Every bit of me would constantly try to please him. I did not want to be sold! What a miserable, beautiful girl I saw in the mirror, the poor slave! How sorry I felt for that beauty. But what man would be so foolish as to sell such a beauty? Or, even to share her with another? Surely such a man would keep such a beauty for himself alone,not sharing her with others. I wiped the tears from my eyes. I studied the girl in the mirror. How beautiful in her bondage she was. I brushed my hair back and, lifting my chin, turned my head. I had seen earrings in the jewelry in the cave, exotic loops, twists of wire and golden pendants; I imagined them upon me, hanging at my cheeks, adornments suitable for me, a barbarian slave girl. My ears had not been pierced but I had little doubt that this operation, if my master wished, would be promptly accomplished upon me. I considered cosmetics and perfumes, such as I had encountered in the cave. And behold, in my imagination, the girl in the mirror was so bedecked. I had seen bracelets, anklets, chains and necklaces, intricately wrought and beautiful, in the cave. I extended my arms and wrists, and one of my legs, considering how they might appear, ponderous with such barbaric glory. But the girl in the mirror wore only a slave rag. I then considered how I might appear, so made up, so perfumed, so adorned, but now in a snatch of brief silk, yellow or scarlet, clinging, diaphanous, fit for a man's pleasure girl.

Eta called to me.

Once again I saw only the plain girl in the mirror, the beauty in a slave rag. No adornments were hers; only some threads of cloth tight on her beauty. She was not an ornamented high slave. She wore only a slave rag. She was a low slave.

I sprang to my feet and hurried to Eta.

She was kneeling down and I knelt across from her. "La Kajira," said Eta, pointing to herself. "Tu Kajira," she said, pointing to me. "La Kajira," I said, pointing to myself. "Tu Kajira," I said, pointing to Eta. I am a slave girl. You are a slave girl.

Eta smiled. She pointed to her brand. "Kan-lara," she said. She pointed to my brand. "Kan-lara Dina," she said. I repeated these words.

"Ko-lar," she said, indicating her collar. "It is the same word in English," I cried. She did not understand my outburst. Gorean, as I would learn, is rich in words borrowed from Earth languages; how rich it is I am not a skilled enough philologist to conjecture. It may well be that almost all Gorean expressions may be traced to one or another Earth language. Yet, the language is fluid, rich and expressive. Borrowed expressions, as in linguistic borrowing generally, take on the coloration of the borrowing language; in time the borrowings become naturalized, so to speak, being fully incorporated into the borrowing language; at this point they are, for all practical purposes, words within the borrowing language. How many, in English, for example, think of expressions such as 'automobile, 'corral, and 'lariat' as being foreign words?

"Collar!" I said. Eta frowned. "Ko-lar," she repeated, again indicating the neck band of steel fashioned on her throat. "Ko-lar," I said, carefully following her pronunciation. Eta accepted this.

Eta pulled at the bit of rag she wore. "Ta-Teera," she said.

I looked down at the scrap of rag, outrageously brief, so scandalous, so shameful, fit only for a slave girl, which I wore. I smiled. I had been placed in a Ta-Teera. "Ta-Teera,"

I said. I wore the Ta-Teera.

"Var Ko-lar!" asked Eta. I pointed to the collar on her throat. "Var Ta-Teera?" asked Eta, smiling. I pointed to the brief rag which I wore. Eta seemed pleased. She had laid out a number of articles. My lessons in Gorean had begun.

Suddenly, stammering, I said, "Eta-var-var Bina?"

Eta looked at me, surprised.

I recalled the two men who had come to the chain and rock. "Var Bina? Var Bina, Kajira!" they had demanded. I had not been able to understand, or satisfy them. They had beaten me. Still I had been unable to satisfy them. I could not even understand them. Then they had prepared to cut my throat. The man in the scarlet tunic, from over the fields, had arrived. "Kajira canjellne," he had said. He had fought for me, and won me. He had brought me to his camp, where he had branded me. I was now his slave.

"Var Bina, Eta?" I asked.

Eta lightly lifted herself to her feet and went to the cave. In a few moments, she emerged. She carried, in her hands, several strings of beads, simple necklaces, with small, wooden, colored beads. They were not valuable.

She held the necklaces up for me to see. Then, with her finger, moving them on their string, she indicated the tiny, colored wooden beads. "Da Bina," she said, smiling. Then she lifted a necklace, looking at it. "Bina," she said. I then understood that 'Bina' was the expression for beads, or for a necklace of beads. The necklaces and beads which Eta produced for me were delights of color and appeal; yet they were simple and surely of little value.

I went to the cave, Eta following. I lifted one of the chest's covers. I took from the chest a string of pearls, then one of pieces of gold, then one of rubies. "Bina?" I asked, each time. Eta laughed. "Bana," she said, "Ki Bina. Bana." Then, from another box, Eta produced another necklace, one with cheap glass beads, and another with simple, small wooden beads. She indicated the latter two necklaces. "Bina," she said, pointing to them. Bina, I then understood, were lesser beads, cheap beads, beads of little value, save for their aesthetic charm. Indeed, I would later learn that bina were sometimes spoken of, derisively, as Kajira bana. The most exact translation of 'bina' would probably be "slave beads." They were valueless, save for being a cheap adornment sometimes permitted imbonded wenches.

Eta and I returned to the outside, to continue our lessons.

I still could not understand what had happened at the chain and rock. "Var Bina! Var Bina, Kajira!" they had demanded. The Bina, or Slave Beads, had meant more to them than my life. It was not I who had been important to them there but the beads. When they had clearly understood that I was unable to help them in their quest, they, viewing me then as useless, had prepared to be done with me. I shuddered, remembering the knife at my throat. I had been narrowly saved by the swordsman whose slave I now was. I had thought, before I was clearly apprised of the nature of Bina, cheap slave beads, that perhaps the men had supposed that I was to be chained at the rock, adorned with some rare and valuable necklace, worth perhaps a fortune. Perhaps it had been that which they had wanted. Perhaps then, either I had not been placed so adorned at the rock, contrary to their expectation, or, if I had been, that someone had, in my helpless unconsciousness, arrived earlier and simply removed the necklace, stealing it from my chained body. I might have been left at the rock either because I was chained, and could not be easily removed, or, perhaps, was not wanted. But it seemed unlikely that, if I should have worn such a necklace, it had not been placed on me; and unlikely, too, that someone, in such a wilderness, would come upon me while I there lay chained and remove the necklace. I was thrown into the greatest consternation by my new comprehension of the valuelessness of slave beads. It now made no sense to me whatsoever that the two men, so angrily and fiercely, should have sought for so trivial an object. Of what importance could be a string of slave beads? Why might they have been put on me in the first place? And where, if they had been put on me, had they gone? Who would want them? And why should men come through a wilderness to obtain them? What could be their importance? What could be their secret? I understood nothing.

Eta lifted up a stout whip, with long handle, which might be wielded with two hands, and five dangling, soft, wide lashing surfaces, each about a yard long. "Kurt," she said. I shrank back. "Kurt," I repeated. She lifted up some loops of chain; there were linked ankle rings and linked wrist rings, and a lock collar, all connected by a length of gleaming chain running from the collar. It was rather lovely. It was too small for a man. I knew, however, it would fit me, perfectly, "Sirik," said Eta. "Sirik," I repeated.

Upon command I had slipped from the Ta-Teera.

I stood among the men.

The warrior indicated that I should suck in my gut. I did so, holding my stomach in, tightly. I felt the strap, black, narrow, loop my belly. It was pulled tight, very tight, and cinched. I wore the bell at my left hip. I looked at my master, reproachfully, in anguish. The bells, rows, strung about my neck, and, loosely, too, depending about my breasts, jangled. The sound was horrifying, sensuous. With anger, with misery, I regarded him. The warrior took my hands behind my back and there, with a bit of black leather, fastened them together. The rows of bells on my wrists jangled as my hands were pulled behind my back and fastened there, wrist to wrist, lashed. How could he permit this? Did it mean nothing to him that he had, the preceding night, taken my virginity from me? Did it mean nothing to him that he had, for long hours, pleasured himself with my body? Did it mean nothing to him that he had won me, that I had yielded to him, that I had surrendered myself, totally, to him? That vulnerably I had been fully his? I tried to take a step toward him. The bells on my body, and those tied about my ankles, jangled. I could not move toward him, for the warrior's hand on my arm held me. I looked at my master with anguish. He was sitting cross-legged, some feet away, with others. He had a goblet of paga, which Eta had served to him. Did my master not love me, as I loved him? He, narrow-lidded, looked at me over the rim of the goblet of paga. "Do not do this to me!" I cried to him, helplessly, in English. "I love you!" Surely, though he spoke no English, he could not have mistaken the anguish, the feelings, the deep intent of the helpless girl so shamefully belled and bound before him. "I love you!" I cried. I saw in his eyes that he, as a Gorean master, had no concern for my anguish, my intent and feelings. I shuddered. I was a bond girl. He gave a sign. One of the men nearby readied a large opaque cloth, soft, black, folding it in four pieces, so that, folded, it would be about a yard square. He looked back at me. "I love you," I said. The cloth was thrown over my head and, with some loops of leather cord, four times encircling my neck, tied under my chin. I could not see. I was hooded. I threw back my head in anguish within the hood. "But I love you!" I cried. I stood there, belled and bound, forlorn and hooded. I loved him. But I had seen in his eyes, in the instant that the cloth had been thrown over my head, that to him, my master, I was nothing, only a meaningless slave.

I stood there, head down, miserable, frightened. I heard the men laughing. Five would do contest.

I hated the bells, so many, so tiny, hung about my body, which I could not remove, which would draw them to me. The sound was tiny, rich, and sensuous. They were slave bells. They would draw men to my body. I moved slightly. I felt them stir on my body and on the loops that held them. So slight a movement made them sound! I, miserable, was caught in their lewd, delicious rustle. I suppose the sound of the bells, objectively considered, is rather lovely. Yet theirs was a music of bondage, one which, in its tiny, delicious sounds, rustling, whispered, "Kajira. Kajira." They said, "You are nothing, Girl. You are a belled Kajira. You are nothing, Girl. You exist for the pleasure of men. Please them well, lovely Kajira." I shook my body, trying to throw the bells from me. I could not do so. In their jangling sound, helpless, I was held, betrayed. I could scarcely breathe without stirring the bells. I began to sweat, and fear. It was suddenly like finding oneself caught, imprisoned, hooded, in a net. No move I made was not betrayed by the bells. Most I hated the larger bell, of different note, fastened tightly at my left hip. It was a guide bell. I tried to free my hands. They had been tied by a warrior. I was helpless. I shuddered. And even so slight a movement was betrayed by the bells, indicating the exact position of she who wore them, the slave girl on whose body they were fastened.

The men were ready.

"Please, Master," I cried, bound, closed in the hood, belled, "protect me! I love you! I love you! Keep me for yourself, Master!"

I heard men laughing, talking, bets being made.

The contestants, by now, would have, too, been hooded. But they were not belled. They were not bound.

My cheeks, inside the hood, were stained with tears. The interior of the hood was wet.

I was Judy Thornton, a junior at an elite girls' college, an English major, a poetess, delicate and sensitive!

A man near me called out a word, delightedly, a word I would later learn was "Quarry!" At the same instant I felt the flash of a switch on my body and I, weeping, fled from its sting.

I was a nameless slave girl on an alien world, at the mercy of primitive warriors in a barbarian camp, an object for their sport, a lovely, two-legged plaything, a mere prize, in their cruel games.

The prize stopped, in a jangle of bells, gasping, throwing her head about, as though she might see. She was trapped in the folds of the hood.

I heard a man near me. I did not know if it were the referee or one of the contestants.

I felt the switch touch my body.

I shuddered, with a jangle of bells. But in had been done gently. It was the referee, aiding me, indicating his presence.

I breathed deeply. The bells rustled. I heard another man approaching, doubtless groping. And another to my left.

I was terrified.

Suddenly I heard the hiss of the switch behind me and, almost at the same time, felt the supple disciplinary device, to the amusement of the men, strike me swiftly and hotly below the small of the back. I fled wildly, jangling bells. I was outraged, and humiliated. My eyes were hot with tears. It stung terribly. The switch is often used on a girl when she is guilty of minor indiscretions or tiny misdemeanors. It is thought a fitting instrument for encouraging a beauty to be more careful or zealous in her service. I had delayed in the game for more than five Ihn. It was for that reason that the referee had administered his admonitory stripe. It was the second time in my life I had felt a switch. I did not care to feel one again, particularly when clothed only in slave bells and a hood. The laughter of the men made me angry, but then I cried. Anger in a slave girl was only meaningless pretense. It was not as though she were a free woman whose anger might have significance, might even issue in actions or words, free from the reprisals of discipline. Men are the masters of slave girls, the masters. Anger in a slave girl is futile, meaningless, though sometimes masters encourage it in their girls, to see them flush and assume an interesting demeanor, but it is in the end always insignificant for, in the end, as both the girl and master know, it is the master and not the girl who holds the whip. Thus it is not that slave girls do not become angry. They do. It is only that their anger, as both girl and master know, is meaningless. I cried. The physical effect of the switch on a girl is not negligible, but, I think, its psychological effect, should the blows be placed on a certain portion of her body, thus cruelly humiliating her, may be even more bitter.

Crying, I fled through the camp, stumbling. I heard men falling, stumbling, getting up, pursuing me. I could not free my wrists. Once I fell into the arms of a man and shrieked with misery. He threw me from him. There was much laughter. He had not even been a contestant. Another time the referee caught me, and then thrust me back against stone, that I might know where I was. He had kept me from striking into the cliff wall behind the camp. I fled again, into the camp. My running was erratic, terribly so. I was confused and miserable. I was terrified of being caught. I, too, did not wish to be again struck with the switch. Another man, not a contestant, caught me and prevented me from plunging into the thick wall of thorn brush, in which I might have been half torn to pieces. There was much laughter. More than once I heard a contestant, yards away, curse. Then I would hear one not a yard or more from me, and I would wheel, and run from him. Once I struck one, and tripped, and fell rolling in a wild jangle of bells. I heard him leap for me. I felt his hand, for an instant, at my right hip. I felt the hand of another touch my left calf. I rolled and crawled free, and darted away. Once I found myself, it seemed, surrounded by stone. Wherever I turned there seemed a cliff before me. I spun, disoriented, terrified. Then I fled back and found myself again somewhere in the center of the camp. Barely had I avoided being cornered against the cliffs. I then began to play more cleverly, more warily. Twice more in the game was I stung with the switch then, once on the left arm, above the elbow, and once, more cruelly, on the right calf, when I, wishing to make no sound, not thinking the referee near me, lingered too long in one position.

Then I fled again, directly, into the arms of a man. I waited for him to free me, to throw me back to the others. But his arms did not free me. "Oh, no!" I wept. His arms tightened about me. I was thrown screaming and squirming to his shoulder, and carried about. There was laughing. I heard the man who held me from the ground being slapped on his back by the referee. I heard the word which, later, I would learn was "Capture." It is a helpless feeling being held on the shoulder of a man, your feet unable to touch the ground; you are unable to obtain the slightest leverage; you are simply his prisoner. I heard shouting, and the pounding of hands on my captor's back. Then he, in his pleasure, one hand on my right ankle and one closed about my left forearm, lifted me bodily above his head, bending my body, displaying me. I heard applause, the pounding of hands on the left shoulder. I heard, too, in the sounds, Eta cry out with pleasure, much delighted. Was she not my sister in bondage?

Could she not understand my misery? My captor, whoever he was, impatient then to have me, hurled me as though I were nothing to the dirt at his feet. I felt his hands at my ankles. I turned my head to one side, moaning.

I lay bound in the dirt when he had finished with me. He was then unhooded and led away in his triumph to drink the paga of victory.

I lay weeping and miserable in the dirt. When I moved I heard the rustle of the bells, which were slave bells.

In a few moments I felt the hands of the referee close on my arms. He lifted me, and threw me upright, to my feet. Again I heard the word which, later, I would learn was «Quarry»; again I felt the sudden sting of the switch, inciting me to motion; again I ran.

Four times I ran as quarry in the cruel games of that evening.

Four times was I caught and, on my back in the dirt of that barbarian camp, rudely ravished by whom I knew not.

When, later, I had been unbound and unhooded by Eta, I had wanted her to take me in her arms, to comfort me, but she had not. She had kissed me, happily, and one by one, removed the loops and ties of bells, lastly removing that which I had worn at my left hip. She then indicated that I should help her with the serving. I looked at her, aghast. How could I now serve? Did she not understand what had been done to me? I was not a Gorean girl. I was an Earth girl. Was it nothing that I had been, regardless of my will, ravished four times, put brutally against my will to the pleasure of strong men? I saw the answer in Eta's eyes, which smiled at me. Yes, it was unimportant. Did I not know I was a slave girl? Had I expected anything else? Had it not pleased me?

I looked sullenly into the dirt. I was an Earth girl, but, too, I was a slave girl.

It was unimportant, I realized then. It had been truly nothing, no more than the serving of wine or the sewing of a garment. I realized then what might, truly, be the import of being a slave girl. Why had my master permitted it? Was I not his slave? Did I mean so little to him? He had taken my virginity; he had taken much pleasure in me; he had Won me, forcing from me my total surrender as a slave girl to his power; then he had permitted his men to amuse themselves with me. Did he not love me? I remembered his eyes on me, before the hood had been thrown over my head in preparation for my service in the cruel game. I recalled his eyes. In his eyes I had seen that I was nothing, only a meaningless slave to him.

I poured wine from the flask I bore into the cup, I holding it, of one of the men.

I froze. I saw dirt upon his tunic. Our eyes met. He was, I knew, one of those who had had me. I was now serving him. He regarded me. I extended to him the cup. He did not accept it. Our eyes met. I took the cup and pressed my lips to it. Again I extended the cup to him. Still he regarded me.

I had not been permitted, following the cruel game, to slip the Ta-Teera, my slave rag, again upon my body. My master had said a curt word. I must then remain nude. It is customary, following the game, that the prize remain nude, that the value of her captured beauty remain discernible to all, to the winners for their pleasure, to the loser for his chagrin, to the onlookers for their admiration, and, too, perhaps, to incite them in another contest, at some future date, to vie for its possession.

His eyes were upon me.

Angrily, with helpless anger, the futile, meaningless anger of a slave girl, I again pressed my lips to the cup, this time fully and lingeringly.

Again I extended to him the cup.

This time he took it.

He then, without looking at me further, turned to his cup companion on his left. I hated him. He had ravished me, and now I must serve him, and as a naked slave girl!

I served others, too, commonly this night, like Eta, remaining back of the circle of the fire, behind the sitting men, with a flask of wine. We remained in the shadows. When one of the men would lift his cup, I, or Eta, whichever might be closer, would serve him. Usually we served from more closely among the men, often even kneeling among them, but not this night. They spoke together, earnestly. Matters of importance, I gathered, were being discussed. At such a time men did not wish to be distracted by the bodies of slave girls. We remained in the shadows.

I watched, angrily. My master, with a rock, drew maps in the dirt by the fire. Some of the maps I had seen before. He had drawn them the preceding night for his lieutenants, when they had spoken alone. He spoke swiftly and decisively, sometimes indicating a portion of the terrain by jabbing at it with the rock. Sometimes he pointed to the largest of the three moons above; in a few days it would be full. I stood there, naked, recently ravished, sweat and dirt on my body, and in my hair, holding the large flask of wine on my left hip, watching. I wondered at what might be the nature of the camp in which I found myself. It did not seem to be a hunting camp, though hunting was done from it. Too, I did not think it was a camp of bandits, for the men in the camp did not seem of the bandit sort; not only did the cut and differing insignia on their tunics suggest a uniform of sorts, but the clear-cut subordination, the obvious organization and discipline which characterized them and their relationships did not suggest outlawry; too, the men seemed handsome, strong, clean-cut, responsible, reliable, disciplined, trained, and efficient; there was none of the laxness and disorder of either men or environment I would have expected in a camp of bandits. I inferred then that I found myself slave in a camp of soldiers of some city or country. The camp, however, situated as it was, did not seen an outpost or guard camp; it did not command terrain; it was not fortified; it was too small for a training camp or a wintering camp; too, because of its size, so small, it did not seem a likely war camp; sixteen men quartered here, with two girls as slaves; here there were no armies, no divisions or regiments. There was nothing here with which to consummate war, to repel or launch invasions, or meet in wide-spread combat on great fields. What then, I asked myself, was the nature of this camp?

One of the men lifted his cup and I hurried to him. I took the cup and I filled it. His tunic, too, I noted, was stained with the dust of the camp. I looked at him, angrily over the brim of the cup. Then I pressed my lips to his cup as I must, as a slave girl, and handed it to him. He took it, scarcely noticing me, and returned his attention to the map in the dirt, which was of importance. I wondered if he had had me first, or second, or third or fourth. I wondered which had been he. Each had been different; yet in the arms of each I had been only and fully a slave. I looked at him. He did not know I looked at him. I wondered how many hundreds of slave girls he had had.

I looked carefully, as carefully as I could in the light, at the large, blond, shaggy-haired fellow, whom I found, after my master, the most attractive male in the camp. It had been he who had first taken Eta, when, the night before I was branded, I had watched her perform, bound, belied and hooded, in the same cruel sport in which I this evening had been so humiliatingly victimized, treated as though I might be only a slave. I looked at him. There was not a stain of dust on his tunic. I was just as pleased. Had he run, and I known it, I might have endeavored to throw myself into his arms. I looked at him. Who knows, I thought, I might even have responded to him. This thought scandalized me, an Earth girl, but then I smiled to myself, and tossed my head. It did not matter. I was an Earth girl, true, but now I was only a slave girl. A slave girl is not only permitted to be responsive to men, but it is obligatory for her. It is a duty which, further, should she shirk, will be enforced upon her. It is not uncommon for a girl who is even trivially displeasing to be whipped. I looked at the large, handsome fellow. I had no honor to protect, no pride to uphold, for I was slave. He was indeed attractive. Too, I certainly would not wish to be whipped. I laughed to myself. For the first time in my life, I, a slave, felt free to be a woman. I then loved my sex.

A man lifted his cup, and I hastened to him, to serve him. I then returned to the shadows. I noted that Eta served wine to the tall, handsome, blond-haired fellow. I did not mind. I liked Eta, though she was first girl, and over me. I had worked well under her and she had not switched me. I watched my master. With the rock he jabbed down at the map. Men asked questions. He replied. They hung upon his words. I looked about the circle of the fire. What fantastic males these were, so strong, so handsome, so mighty. I felt small and slight, and helpless, before them. And how proud I felt of my master, first among them, he the mightiest and finest of all. Eta remained in the vicinity of the blond, shaggy-haired warrior. I moved more closely to my master. I wished to pour him wine and kiss his cup, should he give his girl the opportunity to do so. I did not understand their conversation, or the nature of the project which they were apparently planning. It was, I gathered, military in nature. Moreover, waiting was involved in it. More than once had a man gazed at the largest moon in the sky. In some days it would be full.

My master flung the rock down at a certain place in the map. It lay there, solid, half buried in the dirt. It was there that something, I gathered, would take place. The men grunted in agreement. There was a stream there, or a confluence of two streams, and, apparently, a woods. The men nodded. My master looked about himself. None asked a further question. They seemed satisfied. Their eyes shone as they looked upon him. How proud I was of my master. How thrilled I was, secretly, in my heart, to be owned by him.

The men rose from the side of the fire and, some talking among themselves, went to their furs and tenting.

My master looked at me. He lifted his cup. I hastened to him, took the cup, and filled it. I pressed my lips long to its side, then humbly proffered it to the magnificent beast whose girl I was. I knelt before him, and in my eyes, doubtless, he could read my need. But he turned away.

Before he had turned away, again I had read in his eyes, as I had before, earlier in the evening, that I was only a meaningless slave to him.

Was I such poor slave stuff, naked, in need, at his feet, that I was to be despised, and rejected?

Then, kneeling in the dirt, all the fury, the humiliation and frustration, of a scorned Earth girl, scorned by a barbarian, welled up within me. I began to choke with rage. I rose to my feet. I thrust-the flask of wine I carried into the hands of Eta, who came to comfort me. "Go away!" I cried. Eta took the flask. I would not permit her to kiss me. She said something, softly. "Go away!" I screamed at her. Some of the men turned to look at me. Eta took the flask of wine and, frightened, hurried away. I stood near the fire, which, now, had muchly subsided. My fists were clenched. Tears ran down my cheeks. "I hate you all!" I cried. I ran stumbling to the thin blanket which I had been given the night before. I tore it from the ground and covered myself with it, holding it about my shoulders. I shuddered, head down, clutching the blanket about me, shaking with sobs, near where the blanket had lain. I had been taken, against my will, from Earth. I had been brought to a strange world. I had been branded. I was being kept as a slave. I lifted my head, wildly, looking about the camp, up at the moons, at the cliffs and thorn brush. I looked at the men, some watching me. "I am better than you all," I cried, "though you abuse me! I am of Earth! You are barbarians! I am civilized! You are not! It is you who should bend to me, not I to you! It is I who should command, not you!" Eta ran to me, to urge me to silence. None in the camp save I myself understood my words, but, clearly, they were uttered in wildness, in hysteria, in rage; they were words, clearly, of protest, perhaps even of hysterical rebellion. Eta was clearly frightened. Had I known more of Gor, I, too, might then have been terrified. I knew little then of the world on which I found myself, or of the meaning of the brand on my thigh. My shield then, as before, was simply my ignorance, the ignorance of a foolish girl. I shouted and cried out at them, raging, weeping. Then I saw, before me, my master. He loomed in the darkness. I looked up at him, in rage. My fists clutched the blanket about me. It was he who had won me in the grim contest with steel in the fields; it was he who had brought me naked to his camp; he who had branded me; he by whom my virginity had been ripped from me; he who had, in his tenting, again and again, at length, reduced me to a panting, surrendered object of his pleasure, a vanquished, loving slave girl. "I hate you!" I cried to him, in rage. I clutched the blanket about me. How hard it is for a girl, stripped, to stand before, and conduct herself with dignity before, as an equal, a man who is fully clothed. I clutched the blanket with my fists. I held it tightly about me. It gave me courage. He had made me love him! I loved him! And yet he cared nothing for me! "Don't you understand," I cried, "I love you! I love you! And yet you treat me as nothing! I hate you!" I shook with rage. "I hate you! I hate you!" I cried. After making me love him, he had permitted his men to amuse themselves with me! He had given me to them for their sport! "You gave me to others!" I wept. "I hate you!" I looked at him, wildly. "You do not know who I am," I said. "I am Judy Thornton! I am of Earth! I am not one of your barbarian girls, a slut for your pleasure! I am a refined, civilized young woman! I am better than you are! I am better than you all!"

I saw, in the moonlight, the hand. It was extended toward me, open.

"You cannot treat me badly," I said. "You must treat me well." I looked at him, boldly. "I have rights," I said. "I am a free woman."

His hand extended still toward me, open. I did not know the extent of his patience.

I handed him the blanket. I stood then small and naked before him. The moonlight streamed down on the branded slave girl before her master.

He held the blanket, looking down at it. Then he looked at me. I trembled. I knew a girl was to be punished.

He lifted the blanket. In that instant I felt suffused with joy for I felt then that he would, in his kindness, cover me, protecting me from the eyes of his men; perhaps, too, he had been moved by my plight; perhaps he was now sorry for how cruelly he had treated me; perhaps now he would try to make amends; perhaps now I had stirred pity and compassion in his harsh breast; perhaps, too, he was moved now by my love for him and, overwhelmed with gratitude, and tenderness, at the value and immensity of this gift, might be moved to regard me, too, with affection, with love, in turn.

I looked at him with loving eyes. Then he placed the blanket over my head, and, with a length of cord, looping it several times about my throat, tied it tightly under my chin, so that again, as in the cruel game, I was hooded. Then he threw me to his men.

I lay in the blanket, clutching it about me. I was cold, sullen. I could no longer cry. The men, my masters, were asleep. I lay huddled, my knees drawn up.

I did not know what time it was. The moons were still in the sky.

I crawled to my knees, holding the blanket about me. I looked about the still camp.

My body ached.

I moved the blanket, looking down, shifting it that my leg be exposed. I examined my thigh. I looked at the brand which I bore on my body. It was a flower, lovely and delicate. Yet I could not pluck it. I could not remove it. It was imprinted in my flesh. It had been placed there, burned into my thigh, by a hot iron, as I had screamed under the metal's searing print. I regarded it, that graceful floral badge of bondage. It was now a part of my body. I had no doubt that I was more beautiful, branded, than I had been before. The brand, I could see, considerably enhanced my beauty. It is one of the attractive features of a slave girl. But, more beautiful though I might be on its account, it marked me incontrovertibly as a slave. I wished to escape. I looked at the thorn brush. Yet I wore a brand. Could there be a true escape, on a world such as this, for a branded girl? Would that mark not continue to say, to anyone, and all, softly, persistently, each instant, each moment, every hour of the day and night, when anyone might care to glance upon it, "Here is a slave"? Could there be an escape, on a world such as this, for a girl who wore such a mark? If it should be so much as glimpsed, would not such a girl be instantly placed in chain and a collar? Perhaps I might steal clothing, but the brand would still be on my body, marking me. Suppose men, suspicious, would turn me over to free women, that my body might be, without compromise to my dignity lest I be free, examined by them. When they discovered the mark, worn by a girl masquerading as one of their own lofty station, a woman free, would they not in fury, with whips, drive me stripped, begging for mercy, weeping, to the waiting shackles of the men? What escape, what freedom, could there be for a girl who wore a brand? I looked at the brand. Well and deeply it marked me as what I now had no doubt I was, what tonight I had been well taught I was, what I, in truth, incontrovertibly, now was, a slave girl.

The Earth girl, a slave on a barbarian planet, clutched the blanket about her.

I looked up. On the cliff above me, I could see, crouching, the guard. He was not watching me.

I looked at the cliffs, at the thorn brush.

I sat on the ground, the blanket about me. I knew I was a slave girl, legally, irrefutably; the brand told me that; but I wondered on a deeper question, one beyond legalities and institutions; I wondered if I were truly, in my heart, a female slave. This question troubled me deeply. I had, since my branding, experienced profoundly ambiguous feelings on this matter. It was as though I were trying to understand myself, my deepest emotions and needs. At times I had been on the brink of surrendering myself to myself, acknowledging to my horrified conscious mind forbidden truths, long-denied realities, speaking of a venerable, long-suppressed, antique nature, one antedating huts of straw and limestone caves. I did not know what dispositions slept latent in my genetic structures, dispositions inapt and out of place in the artificial world within the strictures of which I had been conditioned. A nature, like the growth of a tree, the shape of a bush, may be clipped and thwarted. The seed poisoned does not grow; the flower immersed in acid does not bloom. I wondered what might be the nature of men, and what might be the nature of women. I know of no test in these matters, unless it be honesty, and what leads to joy.

Perhaps I would not have considered these matters save that I was unable to drive from my mind the recollection of an event which had occurred late in the sordid abuse to which I had been so brutally subjected. I had been thrown to my master's men. One after another had raped and beaten me, and thrown me to the next. I was handed about as an object. Fierce was the discipline to which they subjected me. Though I wept for mercy, and cried out, none gave ear; no consideration nor lenience was shown to the piteous slave girl in their power. Then, strangely, late in this abuse, the event occurred, which even now troubled me. I lay on my back, weeping, my head bound in the blanket, thrashing and squirming, struck, held, unable to withdraw from, helpless to withstand the plunging discipline of the brute to whom I had been last thrown, and it had occurred. I suddenly felt an indescribable sensation. First, it seemed to me, incredibly, that this was fitting, what was being done to me; I had been proud and vain before men; what did I, truly, expect men, such men, men on a world such as this, to do about that? As his force struck me, I felt, strangely, "Be disciplined, Woman." I was half choked in the hood. Then, to my amazement, I welcomed the abuse I felt. There was, beyond its sense of fittingness, seeing that I, a woman, had displeased strong males, and must thus be punished, a sense of profound complementarity; the abuse, if he chose, was simply his to give, and mine to bear; he was a man, I was a woman; he was dominant; I was not; it was his to rule, mine to submit. I experienced then, degraded and abused though I was, with a flood of elation, primitive organic, animal, primate complementarity, the complementarity of man and woman, the complementarity beyond mythology and rhetoric, the complementarity of he who takes and she who is taken, of he who has, and owns, and of she whom he has, whom he owns, and makes his. With a cry of joy and misery then, from the depths of the hood, rearing from the dirt as I could, I clutched him; I felt my body locked to his; then I felt my body, as though of its own will, suddenly, spasmodically, grasp him; I could not begin to control the reflexes which he had triggered in me; they jolted and exploded in my body; I clutched him, helplessly; I was his.

Men laughed. "Kajira," said one.

Then I was thrown to another, I sat in the silent camp, wrapped in the thin blanket, thinking. "Kajira," had said one of the men.

I was angry. I could not forgive myself for having yielded to one of the men. I tried to tell myself it had not happened. It could not have happened. Thus, it had not happened. Yet I knew, in truth, it had happened. I had yielded to one of the men. In his arms, I, who was, or had been, Judy Thornton, had yielded to one of the men. An abused slave girl had wept and bucked in the arms of a master. It had been I. How ashamed I was! I asked myself what could it mean? Could the feelings which had overwhelmed me be denied? Could the sensate truth, the splendor of biological submission, so different from the truth of a man, which is that of domination, in whose glory I had been wrapped, be denied? I resolved that I must not permit myself the weakness which would make a mockery of my personhood. I must not again yield to a male. I thought of Elicia Nevins. How she would have laughed had she seen Judy Thornton, her lovely rival, on her back in the dirt, a branded slave girl, squirming in the throes of submission to a male, so shamefully helpless in his arms, uncontrollably, not the mistress of herself, yielding to his manhood.

I knew then I must escape. It would be difficult, for I was branded.

I looked up at the guard. He was not watching. I crept to the cliff wall. I examined it in the moonlight. At no point could I crawl more than a yard up its surface. I scratched my fingernails on the granite.

I turned to the wall of thorn brush. I feared it. It was high and thick.

The guard was not watching. The camp was not his concern. His concern was elsewhere, with possible approaches to the camp, the fields beyond the valleys.

I cried out with misery. I screamed, frightened. The brush sank beneath me. It would not support my weight. My right leg was deep in it, my right arm. I turned my head to the side, keeping my eyes closed. I felt the thorns. They seemed to tear at me. I was half immersed in the brush. I was caught. I dared not move. I began to weep and scream.

My master was first to my side. He was not much pleased. I immediately fell silent.

Another man came, bearing a torch, lit from the stirred ashes of the fire. Some other men arose but then, seeing it was only a slave girl, returned to their furs and tenting. Eta hurried over to me, but a curt word from my master hurried her back to her rest with dispatch.

"I'm caught, Master," I whimpered. Only too obviously had I been trying to escape.

In the torchlight he pulled my head back, by the hair, to clear it of the thorns. He did not want me blinded. I managed, suffering long scratches, to extricate my right arm. He looked at me. I was afraid he was going to leave me as I was. I could not pull my right leg back because of its position in the brush. I had no leverage, as I stood, to lift my leg out. "Please help me, Master," I begged. I had no wish to remain caught in the thorn brush until morning. It was embarrassing, and I was helpless, and it was painful. "Please, Master," I begged, "help me."

He lifted me up, in his arms, in this action freeing my leg, though it was cut and scratched. In the instant I relished being in his arms, held by him. My weight was nothing to him. I loved the feel of his strong hands on my body, holding me up, lightly, from the earth, which I, thus carried, could not touch unless he permitted it. I, naked, boldly put my head against the shoulder of his tunic. Then he had placed me on my feet.

I did not meet his eyes. I felt small before him. It had been obvious I had been trying to escape. I did not know, at that time, what might be the penalty for a girl who attempts escape and is so unfortunate as, as is nearly always the case, to be recaptured. Slave girls almost never escape. The major reason for this is the steel collar, which, obdurately encircling her neck, read, promptly identifies her master and his city. Almost no one, of course, would think of removing a collar from a girl, unless it would be to replace it with one of his own. This is because she is a slave. Girls may also be hunted down by trained sleen, tireless hunters. If a girl should elude one master, she will, customarily, soon fall to another. A successful escape, infrequent event that it is, seldom amounts, from the girl's point of view, to more than an exchange of collar and chains. Almost any man on Gor will hasten to put his collar on a loose, beautiful female. Where is she to run? What is she to do? All in all, escape is not a reality for female slaves. They are slaves. They will remain slaves. Too, they are branded, which further makes escape, for almost all practical purposes, an impossibility for them. Interestingly, ear piercing, too, can make it difficult for an escaped girl to elude detection. Ear piercing, interestingly, from an Earth point of view, is regarded by most Gorean women, slave and free, as more degrading than the brand. Slave girls native to Gor dread it terribly, perhaps because it is so visible, the piercing of their flesh being so flagrantly erotic; what man would even think of freeing them if they had pierced ears? They beg their masters not to pierce their ears. Their pleas, those of slave girls, are commonly ignored. Their ears are pierced. Afterwards, it might be mentioned, they are usually pleased with the piercing of their ears, and grow quite proud of this erotic dimension added to their beauty; not displeased are they either with the lovely adornments which their master may now order them to fix upon their body; free women, it is no secret, in many respects, envy their enslaved sisters, their beauty, their joy, their attractiveness to men; this may explain why free women are often quite cruel to slave girls; most imbonded girls fear greatly that they might be purchased by one of the dreaded free women. I have wondered sometimes if free women on Gor might not be happier if their culture permitted them to be somewhat more like the slave girls they so heartily despise. It seems a small enough thing that a free woman might be culturally permitted to have her ears pierced and, thus, be permitted earrings. Would it make so much difference? But the bonds of culture are strong. On Earth a free woman would not think of having herself branded, though it might improve her beauty; similarly, on Gor, a free woman would not consider having her ears pierced. Among slave girls, however, ear piercing, inflicted upon them by the will of their masters, is becoming widespread on Gor; one might say it is gaining considerable popularity among masters, which accounts, of course, for its growing frequency in the female slave population of the planet; it is a custom which derives, I am told, from the city of Turia, which lies in Gor's southern hemisphere, an important manufacturing and trading center.

A girl with pierced ears is, of course; either a slave or a former slave. If she is a former slave, her papers of manumission had best be in perfect order. More than one freed woman, because of pierced ears, has found herself again on the block, again reduced by strong men to the helpless state of bondage. Such a woman is usually, by intent, sold away from her city, delivered for a pittance to a foreign buyer.

My ears were not pierced, so I needed not fear that the piercing of my ears would betray me to the casual glance of a Gorean male as a slave girl. I was, however, branded. Gorean free women, no more than the free women of Earth, do not wear brands. Only slave girls, on Earth or Gor, are branded. On Earth, where slavery is practiced, commonly only troublesome girls are branded. On Gor, on the other hand, all slave girls are branded.

I did not think I could well escape with my brand. It marked me too well as a slave.

I did not speak to my master. He was, I supposed, considering my punishment, for having attempted to escape.

I did not know at that time what was commonly done to a girl who has attempted to escape, and has been recaptured. It is just as well. Much depends on the master but, commonly, the first time she is recaptured, she is treated with great lenience, as being only a foolish girl. Commonly, she is only tied and lashed. Should she attempt escape a second time, and be recaptured, she is commonly hamstrung, the tendons behind the knees being severed. Almost no girls attempt escape a second time.

I did not know at the time but even the thought of escape was a foolish one.

Many girls, even should they be so fortunate as to reach the walls of their own city, may not be admitted through its gates. Their slavery, even though no fault of their own, has deprived them of all their rights and cancelled their citizenship.

"Flee or be chained, Slave," is often said to them. They turn and run weeping from the gates.

Some girls attempt to flee to the greenwood forests of the north. In such forests, in certain territories, there roam bands of free women, the lithe, ferocious Panther Girls of Gor, but these despise and hate women not of their own fierce ilk; in particular do they revile and hold in contempt girls, beauties, who have been slaves to men; should such a girl, fleeing, enter the cool vastness of their green domain, she is commonly hunted down like a tabuk doe and cruelly captured; the forests are not for such as she; she is tethered and bound, and often lashed, then driven by switches helplessly to the shores of Thassa or the banks of the Laurius, and then sold back to men, usually for weapons or candy.

My master, with a spear and a loop of rope, under the torchlight, the torch held by one of his men, opened a passage in the thorn bush. It was some eighteen inches wide.

He pointed to the passage.

The way to flight was open.

I need only run.

I looked at my master in the moonlight. My knees felt that they might give way. I began to tremble.

The way to flight was open.

I looked with dread down the narrow corridor forced between the walls of fierce thorn brush, into the darkness beyond.

I needed only run.

The naked slave girl shook with terror before her master.

Then I knelt before him and pressed my lips to his feet, trembling. "Keep me, Master," I begged. "Keep me!" I looked up at him, clutching his knees, tears in my eyes. "Please, Master," I wept, "let me stay."

I remained kneeling, shuddering, as he turned from me and reclosed, with the spear and rope, the corridor in the thorn brush.

Then again he stood before me, looking down at me. He motioned me to my feet that I should follow him. Humbly, his girl, I followed him through the camp. The other man, too, he holding the torch followed.

We stopped before the rolled furs of one of the warriors. He blinked in the torchlight, and rose to one elbow, looking at us. My master spoke to him, briefly, no more than four or five words. I looked at the man. I knew him well from the camp. I had usually shrunk away from him. He was the least attractive man in the camp.

Why had my master brought me here?

My master said something to me, briefly, and indicated the recumbent warrior. I could not understand the precise meaning of the words addressed to me, but their import, as my heart sank, was clear. I was to please this man, and as a slave girl.

Yesterday night my master had taken my virginity, much pleasured himself with me, and forced my total surrender to him, the surrender of a completely vanquished bond girl. But should I then have inferred that I was a favored girl? That there was something special about me? No. It had been only first rights with me, naturally taken by him, the leader. It had meant nothing. I was only a girl. What had meant so much to me, what had been so momentous to me, had been meaningless to him. It had been only first rights. Doubtless he had taken first rights with countless girls, many of them more beautiful than I. I was truly for the use of all, as much1 or more, than the lovely Eta. There was nothing special about Judy Thornton. She was only a slave girl in the camp. I had not understood that. I had been confused, scandalized, outraged, miserable, when I had been put up as quarry and prize in the cruel game of the evening. I had, at last, afterwards, even cried out my rebellion, my foolish protest. I had been vain and proud. I had thought myself better than what I was. I, an Earth girl, had presumed to scold Gorean men. Then I had been hooded and thrown naked to them for their pleasure. In the course of the savage discipline inflicted upon me, late in its measures, I had, it both thrilling and horrifying me, sensed the ancient primate complementarity of male and female, that in the ancient biological sovereignties of nature, on this world reasserted, I, a female, was simply subordinate to the male. This truth, much fought and feared, long denied, accepted, burst upon me with a blaze of freedom. With hurricane force it blasted away the brittle webs and bars of falsehood. I, though helpless, hooded, in the arms of the beasts who ravished me, had experienced, exhilarated, an incredible sense of freedom, of liberation. It was not the freedom of convention I then felt but the freedom of nature, not the freedom to be what I was not, which had been prescribed to me, but the freedom rather to be what I was, which, for complex social and historical reasons, had been long denied to me; it was not the freedom of political prescription, but the freedom of nature, the freedom of a rock to fall, of a plant to grow, of a flower to bloom, the ecstatic freedom to be what one was. And I had cried out and seized the man. I, hooded, knew nothing of him but his maleness. I cried out and yielded to him. "Kajira," had said someone. How shamed I had been that I had done this. How sullenly I had lain in the camp afterwards. I had resolved to attempt escape.

In the camp, as I had lain there, I had known I was nothing special, that I was only a slave girl, that I must obey the men, and that they would do with me what they wished.

I attempted to escape. But, in a moment, foolishly, painfully, I was enmeshed in the thorn brush, helpless and caught in its cruel compass.

My master had then extricated me from my cruel prison and, with spear and rope, opened a path in the brush through which I might, did I choose, take flight.

I had wavered, and then, terrified and crushed, had knelt to him. "Keep me, Master," I had begged.

I now stood beside him, the man with the torch standing to one side. I looked down at the man in the furs, looking up at us. To me he was the least attractive man in the camp.

My master had said something to me. Its import was clear. I looked at him. His eyes were hard. I choked back sobs. I knelt beside the man in the furs, who threw back the furs.

My master stood behind me. The other man held the torch. I then, with hands and mouth, fell to kissing and touching the warrior. I pleased him as well as I could, being an ignorant girl, following his directions. At last he took me and threw me to the furs beneath him. I looked up at my master's face. I could see the side of it in the torchlight. The torchlight illuminated me. Then, suddenly, I turned my head to one side, closing my eyes, crying out. I could no longer resist the man. I then, shamed, under the very eyes of my master, yielded to the man.

When he had done with me to his satisfaction, he thrust me from him. My master then ordered me to my feet and he conducted me to where my blanket had been discarded. There, bending over me, he crossed my wrists and, with a narrow strap, tied them together behind my back; he then similarly fastened my ankles. I lay on my side. He threw the thin blanket over me and left me.

Eta crept to my side. I looked at her, dry-eyed. She did not attempt to untie me. The master had decreed bonds for me this night. I would remain bound. I turned away from Eta, lying on my side. She remained near me. Tonight I had run, belled, both quarry and prize, in a cruel game of barbarian men; insolent, I had been thrown to masters, who had impressed their dominance upon me; no longer had I doubt of their dominance, or of my complete subordination to their will; my master had, later, permitted me to run if I chose, to take flight; rather, I had knelt before him naked and begged to be kept; I would be kept, as he made clear to me, only upon his terms, those of my absolute subjection, my abject slavery; the slave girl had been permitted to run, if she chose; not so choosing, she remained in the camp as clearly what she was, total slave.

I wondered why my master had opened the corridor in the thorn brush; did I really mean nothing to him; was it nothing to him whether I remained in the camp, or lied into the darkness, to starve, or be devoured by beasts, or to fall into the hands of others? I suspected that, truly, it did mean little to him. Yet, as I lay there, naked, bound, under the blanket, I reddened. It had been for my benefit, not his, that he had opened the corridor in the brush. He had understood the slave girl better than she had understood herself; he had doubtless had experience with many girls; perhaps he had even owned Earth girls before; it did not seem likely to me that I would have been the only wench of Earth brought to the chains of this world; there had perhaps been many; as I lay there I realized that he had cognized me well, as a master a girl; the corridor had been opened for my benefit, not his; he, with his skill and experience in such matters, had simply and easily read my emotions, my feelings, my nature; they had lain as open to him as my flesh; I had been unable to conceal aught from his discerning eye; he was a master of female psychology; nothing in me had been secret from him; I had been, with ease, "sized up" and understood; I shuddered, thinking how easy this would make me to control, how simple to manipulate and defeat; I was both gratified and frightened that this man understood me; I was gratified because I wanted, deeply, to be understood, and I was frightened, too, because I sensed the power this understanding would give him over me; I had little doubt, too, that he was the sort of man who would exploit this power; he would use it as naturally, as innocently, as savagely, as effectively, as a boar its tusks or a lion its claws; he understood me and owned me; how could I have been more helplessly his?

I clenched the fists of my bound hands.

He had opened the corridor in the brush. He had known I would not run. I had not known I would not run, but he had known. He knew the girl better than she knew herself. He knew she would, when the choice must he made, kneel to him and beg to be kept. It was not he, but she who had not known that she would beg to be kept. That was the point of his small demonstration, that she, not he, learn that she would not run, that she would beg to remain in the camp, that she would sue on her knees to be kept. And what was the lesson to be gathered from that, I asked myself, angrily. I squirmed in the bonds, furious. The lesson seemed a reasonably obvious one, though perhaps one unpleasant for an Earth girl to accept. What did he know about me that I did not know about myself? What did this discerning brute, so much the master of the lovely Judy Thornton, know about her which she herself did not yet know, or admit to herself? "No!" I wept. I felt Eta's hand, gentle on my head, comforting me. "No," I moaned. "No."

But I knew that I had made a choice. He had then closed the thorn-brush corridor.

He had led me to a man, him whom I had found the least attractive in the camp.

It had then been designated to me that I would please him. Here there had been no bonds, no hooding. It had been I who must initiate action, I who must perform. I had choked back sobs. My will had bent helplessly beneath that of my master. I had knelt and, with hands and mouth, kissing and touching, attempted to please the free man. I tried to respond to the man's directions. I had done so poorly. I was an ignorant, clumsy, frightened girl, raw, uncooked "collar meat," as it is said. But, in time, he had thrown me beneath him and, I think with pleasure, conducted me through the throes of intimate service. I had resolved to attempt to resist him. My master observed. I wished to retain my personhood before my master, that he respect me. But, in less than a quarter of an hour, I had felt sensations overwhelming me which I could not resist. There had been tears in my eyes. Then, though my master observed, I had turned my head to one side, closed my eyes and cried out, and, unable to help myself, yielded to the man, Judy Thornton's lovely belly and haunches jolting in helpless slave orgasm.

I now lay bound, naked under a thin blanket.

Eta sat near me, to comfort me.

No longer did the opportunity to run present itself. The wall of thorn brush had been closed. Leather confined my body. I was tied hand and foot. I could not even rise to my feet. I smiled ruefully to myself.

The slave girl was well secured.

But I was puzzled why I had been bound. Surely it had not been to prevent my escape. The wall of thorn brush, and the sheer cliffs, would be more than ample to prevent that. Why then had I been bound? I supposed, perhaps, it was for purposes of discipline. Binding is excellent discipline. It is often used on this world for that purpose. Restraints, their psychological indignity and physical discomfort, particularly after a time, placed upon a girl by the will of a master, are among the simplest and most effective instruments of female instruction; they rank with food and the whip; a girl, under disciplinary binding, once released, is invariably eager to please; she does not wish to be rebound; the thongs have well apprised her of her place, which is at her master's feet.

But I did not think I was being disciplined. My master had not seemed dissatisfied with me.

My performance had not been superb, but surely I had tried hard, under his will, to be pleasing as a slave girl to the man he had designated.

My master had not seemed angry or irritated. I did not think I was being disciplined. Why then had I been bound?

I had labored diligently, and without inhibitions, as well as I could, as a poor, beautiful, commanded slave.

I had done the best I could.

Why then had I been bound?

I had tried to resist the man for several minutes, and had managed to do so. I had held myself tight and rigid, and had tried to hold in all feeling. I had not wanted my master to see me squirm as a slave.

I was still deeply ashamed that I had yielded to the man.

Then, as I lay there, bound, with Eta nearby, I asked myself why I should be ashamed? Was it wrong for a woman to yield helplessly to a man? Was it wrong for the heart to beat, to breathe, to feel? if the nature of the man were conquest and victory, what might then be the nature of the woman; could it be complementary; might it not be defeat, and delicious surrender and pleasure? I began to sweat in the bonds. Eta smiled at me. Perhaps an equal must resist a man, but I was not an equal; I was a slave girl! I belonged to men! I could be a biological woman, as perhaps a free woman could not. I could be a primitive female, an owned woman, as they could not. I could be a woman, as they could not. Slavery made me free to be a woman. I reared up, sitting, my hands tied behind me. I could not free myself. Eta held my shoulders gently. My eyes were wild. I had no choice. I was slave. I was forced to be a woman.

I cried out with pleasure. Eta cautioned me to silence. I had resisted the man for several minutes. I had fought not to feel. How foolish I had been. What pleasure I had lost. I imagined myself then superbly yielding and kissing and melting in the arms of a master from almost his first touch, the lengthy, delicious pleasure that I could give him, his slave, a pleasure, too, which would make me want to scream with the joy of my womanhood.

"Untie me, Eta," I begged. "Untie me!"

She did not understand me.

I turned my back to her, thrusting my bound hands piteously to her. "Untie me!" I begged.

Eta shook her head gently, and held me. I had been tied by the master. I must remain bound.

I shook my head with misery.

I wanted to crawl to the men, to tell them I understood, to beg them to have me, to let me give them pleasure.

I wanted to please them as a slave girl, theirs. My eyes were vulnerable with the helpless lust of a bound girl who would crawl to a man to serve him. I had not dreamed such an emotion could exist. It was not merely that I was eager to piteously and submissively display my beauty to them, that they might be moved to take it in their arms and vanquish it, but, beyond this, I was overwhelmed by an entire dimension of emotion which might be spoken of, though inadequately, as the desire to yield service and love. I wanted to give, unstintingly, with no thought of return. Always I had been concerned with what I might obtain. Now, for the first time in my life, in my joy and self-acceptance as a female slave, I wanted to give. I wanted to give all of myself, wholeheartedly, to deliver and bestow myself unto them as their girl, who loved them and would do all for them, asking nothing. I wished to be nothing, and to give all.

I wanted to be their slave.

I shook with the selfless ecstasy of the slave girl.

I wanted to crawl to them to tell them that I now understood, and that I was theirs. I wanted to cry out to them, to weep, to kneel to them, to kiss and lick submissively at their bodies in my joy.

"Untie me, Eta!" I wept.

She shook her head.

I knew I had not been as successful as I might have been in pleasing the man to whom my master had earlier commanded me.

I looked at Eta. I looked to the sleeping men. I looked at Eta, again. "Teach me, Eta," I begged, in a desperate whisper, "teach me tomorrow to be pleasing to men. Teach me to be pleasing to men."

Eta could not understand my words, but she could read my eyes, my looks, the movements of my body, my piteous needs. She smiled, nodding. She understood what was occurring in my body. I knew Eta would help me. She knew I was a slave. She would help me to be a better slave. Soon, I knew, when I learned more of the language, and could clearly, or more clearly, express myself, Eta would train me, as she could, in the giving of pleasures to masters. I kissed her.

I struggled with the bonds.

"Please untie me, Eta," I begged, again indicating the bonds. She smiled, and shook her head.

I squirmed in the leather. I now knew why I had been bound. It was to prevent me from crawling to the men as a slave.

I was not to interrupt their rest.

I cried out in anger and misery, confined by the bonds. Eta cautioned me to silence.

The men must not be disturbed.

She then took me by the shoulders, to press me back, softly, to the ground. The thin blanket was about my thighs.

Before she pressed me back, I, resisting, looked at her. "La Kajira," I said.

Eta nodded. "Tu Kajira," she said. Then she indicated herself. "La Kajira," she said. Then she pointed to me. "Tu Kajira," she smiled.

Then she gently pressed me back to the ground and, as I lay on my right shoulder, looking up, covered me with the thin blanket.

I saw the moonlight on her steel collar. I envied her the collar, I, too, wanted to wear a steel collar. It had writing on it. It doubtless identified her master. I, too, wished to wear a collar, which might bear, too, the name of my master.

Eta kissed me and rose to her feet and left.

I lay under the blanket, naked, bound. I rolled to my back. I moved a bit, to find a place where I might lie comfortably. I did not move too much for I did not wish to dislodge the blanket. It would be difficult to replace should it come off in the night. I looked up at the night, the stars, the moons. I saw the cliff. I saw the guard on the height of the cliff. I then rolled to my right shoulder, moving the blanket as little as possible. I regarded the closed wall of thorn brush. I moved somewhat and looked at the furs, and, in some places, the tenting of the men.

I turned my head and looked up at the moons. How wild and white and beautiful they seemed.

Judy Thornton, or she who had once, on a remote and artificial world, been Judy Thornton, looked up at the moons.

I remembered the lovely slave in the Ta-Teera which I had seen in the mirror. She, surely, had not been Judy Thornton.

I was gloriously pleased to be that slave.

I slept out of doors, in a camp of barbaric men. Above me were the bright stars in a black sky, and three moons. I lay under a thin blanket. I was naked. There was a brand on my thigh. I was a bound slave girl.

I was not unhappy.

I looked up at the moons. "La Kajira," I said. "I am a slave girl."

Chapter 5

The Raid

"What is your duty?" asked my master.

"Absolute obedience," I replied, in Gorean.

He held the whip to my lips. I pressed my lips to it, and kissed it. "Absolute obedience," I said.

Eta, from behind me, pinned the first of five veils about my face. It was light, and shimmering, of white silk, almost transparent. Then, one after the other, she added the freedom veil, or veil of the citizeness, the pride veil, the house veil, and street veil. Each of these is heavier and more opaque than the one which lies within. The street veil, worn publicly, is extremely bulky, quite heavy and completely opaque; not even the lineaments of the nose and cheeks are discernible when it is worn; the house veil is worn indoors when there are those present who are not of the household, as in conversing with or entertaining associates of one's companion. Veils are worn in various numbers and combinations by Gorean free women, this tending to vary by preference and caste. Many low-class Gorean women own only a single veil which must do for all purposes. Not all high-caste women wear a large number of veils. A free woman, publicly, will commonly wear one or two veils; a frequent combination is the light veil, or last veil, and the house or street veil. Rich, vain women of high caste may wear ostentatiously as many as nine or ten veils. In certain cities, in connection with the free companionship, the betrothed or pledged beauty may wear eight veils, several of which are ritualistically removed during various phases of the ceremony of companionship; the final veils, and robes, of course, are removed in private by the male who, following their removal, arms interlocked with the girl, drinks with her the wine of the companionship, after which he completes the ceremony. This sort of thing, however, varies considerably from city to city. In some cities the girl is unveiled, though not disrobed, of course, during the public ceremony. The friends of the male may then express their pleasure and joy in her beauty, and their celebration of the good fortune of their friend. The veil, it might be noted, is not legally imperative for a free woman; it is rather a matter of modesty and custom. Some low-class, uncompanioned, free girls do not wear veils. Similarly certain bold free women neglect the veil. Neglect of the veil is not a crime in Gorean cities, though in some it is deemed a brazen and scandalous omission. Slave girls may or may not be veiled, this depending on the will of their master. Most slave girls are not permitted to veil themselves. Indeed, not only are they refused the dignity of the veil, but commonly they are placed in brief, exciting slave livery and may not even bind their hair. Such girls, healthy and vital, their hair unbound, their considerable charms well revealed by the brevity of their costume, are thought by men to constitute one of the more pleasurable aspects of the scenery of a city. Are the slaves of Ar, for example, more beautiful than those of, say, Ko-ro-ba, or Tharna? Men, the beasts, heatedly discuss such questions. In some cities, and among some groups and tribes, it might be mentioned, though this is not common, veils may be for most practical purposes unknown, even among free women. The cities of Gor are numerous and pluralistic. Each has its own history, customs and traditions. On the whole, however, Gorean culture prescribes the veil for free women. Eta fastened the fourth of five veils upon me, the house veil. Though Eta wore only the shameful, scandalous Ta-Teera, she pinned the veils expertly. She, now only a delicious, half-naked slave girl, had once been free. She did her work beautifully.

I felt the street veil fastened upon me. I was veiled as might have been a rich Gorean free woman of high caste, perhaps bound for the song dramas of En'Kara.

"How beautiful," said Eta. She, standing back, observed me. My master's eyes appraised me.

I stood straight. I knew how beautiful I looked, for, once before, some days ago in the camp, I had been so beclothed. I had seen myself, then, in the mirror.

The robes, carefully draped, primarily white, in their richness and sheen, were resplendent; over the veils my eyes would appear very dark. Gloves had been placed upon my hands. On my feet were scarlet slippers.

I knew that I was richly and beautifully bedecked. I knew, too, that I was small, and might be easily thrown to the shoulder of a man.

My master looked at me.

He put his hands on my shoulders.

"Do you dare place your hands on the body of a free woman," I asked him, deferentially adding, "Master?"

He stepped back. He regarded me thoughtfully. "Insolent," said he to himself, as though thinking, "that a mere slave should be placed in such garments."

"Yes, Master," I said.

"Have I ever lashed you?" he asked.

I swallowed hard. "No, Master," I said.

"I should do so, sometime," he said.

"Yes, Master," I said.

"It would scarcely do to run her in the Ta-Teera," said one of his men, standing nearby.

"Doubtless not," said my master, looking at his owned girl. How incredibly, and yet rationally and justifiably, I felt at his mercy. He was my master, He owned me. He could do whatever he wanted with me. He could trade me or sell me, or even slay me upon a whim, should he wish. I was absolutely his, his girl.

"She is beautiful," said Eta.

"She will have to do," said my master.

"They are camped not two pasangs from here," said one of the men.

A black cloak was brought. It was wrapped about me.

"Come, Slave Girl," said my master.

"Yes, Master," I said.

He turned about and, with his weapons, strode from the camp. I followed him, at his heel, where a slave girl belongs.

Eta remained behind.

The other men, the warriors, single file, fell into line behind us, following.

"Be silent," said my master.

I did not speak. Together, the men behind us, we observed the camp. There were more wagons in the retinue now. When first I had seen the retinue, several days ago, there had been only one, which had carried supplies.

The largest of the three moons was now full.

The camp lay nestled in a clearing in woods. A stream ran by one perimeter of the camp. This was joined by another stream, some two hundred yards beyond the camp. Guards had been posted.

"Quiet is the night," called one to the other. He was similarly answered.

I knew, by now, a smattering of Gorean. I could understand them. Eta had worked diligently with me. I could now respond swiftly to many commands. I knew the names of many articles. I had acquired some grammar. I was able to formulate simple sentences by myself. My masters could now command me, the barbarian girl, with relative satisfactoriness, in their own tongue, and I, to some extent, the lovely, barbarian slave from Earth, could respond to them in the tongue of my masters, theirs. I now, artlessly, unable to help myself, found myself thinking naturally of Gorean as the language of masters. It is a beautiful, melodious, expressive language. It is also, in the mouths of men, a strong, powerful, uncompromising language. When a girl is commanded in Gorean, she obeys.

I watched the guards, through the trees, make their rounds. There were several tents in the camp. In the center of the camp was a striped tent, almost a pavillion, supported on ten poles. I saw one of the girls, with bare arms, robed in classic white, unveiled, emerge from the central tent and, with a gourd dipper, go to the stream, where she filled the dipper and thence returned to the tent. There was a golden circlet on her throat, and another on her left wrist. One of the men had looked at her as she had walked past him. There was a fire in the tent, and smoke from this fire emerged from a hole at the tent's apex. Within, as they passed between the wall of the tent and the fire, I could see the shadows of one or two other girls. Near the central tent, almost as large, was a brown, turreted tent, with a pennon flying from a central pole. It was, I supposed, the tent of the camp's leader. There were some seventy or eighty men, I had conjectured several days ago, in the retinue. I could now see several sitting around open-air fires. Others were, I supposed, within the tents, perhaps sleeping.

The two palanquins which had been carried, by ten men apiece, were within the camp, turned upside down, to protect them, I supposed, from dew or rain. Beneath the one were several boxes and chests, those containing the riches which it had borne. Added to the one wagon which had been drawn by the shaggy, oxlike creatures were now four other wagons. These wagons, too, apparently, were each drawn by a pair of the oxlike creatures, called bosk. The wagons were now unhitched. Several animals, those called bosk, ten or more, hobbled, browsed among the trees on the other side of the camp.

Eta, though perhaps it was not proper, had much listened to the converse of the men, and, as my Gorean improved, conveyed certain pieces of information to me.

The retinue was the betrothal and dowry retinue of the Lady Sabina of the small merchant polis of Fortress of Saphronicus bound overland for Ti, of the Four Cities of Saleria, of the Salerian Confederation. Ti lies on the Olni, a tributary of the Vosk, north of Tharna. Tharna, sometimes called the City of Silver, is well known for the richness of her silver mines. She is ruled by Lara, a Tatrix. This seems paradoxical, for in Tharna, of the hundreds of known Gorean cities, the position of women is surely among the lowest. The sign of a man of Tharna is two yellow cords carried at the belt, suitable for the binding of the hands and feet of a female. At one time apparently women were dominant in Tharna but this situation, in a revolution of the males, was overturned. Few women in Tharna, even now, years later, are permitted out of the collar.

I looked at the four new wagons which had been added to the retinue. The wagon which I had seen earlier, the supply wagon, was now almost empty, the food supplies perhaps being diminished as the peregrination neared its end, and the poles and tenting, of course, being used in the sheltering for the camp. The other four wagons, however, were fully loaded, largely, it seemed, with produce and coarse goods.

The Lady Sabina, I learned from Eta, was pledged by her father, Kleomenes, a pretentious, but powerful, upstart merchant of Fortress of Saphronicus, to Thandar of Ti, of the Warriors, youngest of the five sons of Ebullius Gaius Cassius, of the Warriors, Administrator of Ti, this done in a Companion Contract, arranged by both Ebullius Gaius Cassius and Kleomenes, to which had now been set the seals of both Ti and Fortress of Saphronicus. The pledged companions, the Lady Sabina of Fortress of Saphronicus and Thandar of Ti, of the Four Cities of Saleria, of the Salerian Confederation, had, as yet, according to Eta, never laid eyes on one another, the matter of their match having been arranged between their respective fathers, as is not uncommon in Gorean custom. The match had been initiated at the behest of Kleomenes, who was interested in negotiating a commercial and political alliance with the Salerian Confederation. These alliances, of interest to the expanding Salerian Confederation, were not unwelcome. Such alliances, naturally, might presage the entrance of Fortress of Saphronicus into the Confederation, which was becoming a growing power in the north. It seemed not unlikely that the match would ultimately prove profitable and politically expedient for both Fortress of Saphronicus and the Salerian Confederation. In the match, there was much to gain by both parties. The Companion Contract, thus, had been duly negotiated, with the attention of scribes of the law from both Fortress of Saphronicus and the Confederation of Saleria. The Companion Journey, then, when the auspices had been favorable, as they promptly were, these determined by the inspection of the condition and nature of the liver of a sacrificial verr, examined by members of the caste of Initiates, had begun. The journey itself, overland and afoot from Fortress of Saphronicus to Ti, would take several days, but it was ceremonially prolonged in order that the four tributary villages of Fortress of Saphronicus might be visited. It is not unusual for a Gorean city to have several villages in its vicinity, these customarily supplying it with meat and produce. These villages may or may not be tributary to the city. It is common, of course, for a city to protect those villages, whether they are tributary to the city or not, which make use of its market. If a village markets in a given city, that city, by Gorean custom, stands as its shield, a relationship which, of course, works to the advantage of both the villages and city, the city receiving produce in its markets, the villages receiving the protection of the city's soldiers. The policy of Fortress of Saphronicus, extending its hegemony politically over its nearby villages, even to the extent of exacting tribute in kind, is not unprecedented on Gor, but, on the other hand, is not the general rule. Most villages are free villages. The Gorean peasant is a resolute, strong fellow, upright and stubborn, who prides himself on his land and his sovereignty. Also, he is usually the master of the Gorean longbow, in the wake of which liberty is often to be found. He who can bend the longbow, a peasant saying has it, cannot be slave. Women, of course, it might be noted, lack the strength to bend this bow. I suppose if they could bend the bow, the saying would not exist or would be altered. That is the way men are. Goreans enjoy making women slaves. The women, on the whole, interestingly, save some verbally, do not seem to much mind. Interestingly, the longbow is outlawed in the tributary villages of Fortress of Saphronicus. The Betrothal or Companion Journey, ceremonially, included the circuit of the four villages, in each of which a feast was held, and from each of which a wagon of produce was procured, to be added to the dowry riches to be presented to Ebullius Gains Cassius, father of Thandar of Ti, to be included in the treasury of Ti. I had seen four wagons of produce in the camp, and knew independently from Eta, that the four tributary villages had now been visited. The wagons of produce were not of great value but stood as token of the relation of the villages to Fortress of Saphronicus. Also, of course, visiting the villages presented die opportunity for publicizing the match and, doubtless, unobtrusively, in the feasting and celebration, for gathering the reaction, and general feelings, of the villages. Are they content? Is trouble brewing? Must a leader be deposed, or Imprisoned? Must a daughter be taken hostage to the city? Accurate information on the oppressed is essential to the maintenance of the power of the oppressor.

From the striped tent in the center of the camp another girl emerged, clad like the other in the sleeveless gown, a circlet on her throat and left wrist, and made her way toward the supplies wagon. She left the pavillionlike tent sedately but, as soon as she was no longer visible through the opening in the tent she threw back her head, shaking her hair, and then, her gait transformed, sauntered like a she-sleen to the side of the wagon. I gasped. The walk could only have been that of a slave girl. I then realized that the girls in attendance on the veiled woman, who had been seated in the curule chair on the palanquin, were slaves. The circlets on their throats were doubtless collars, and the wristlet each wore was doubtless naught but matching slave jewelry. But they were obviously high slaves, judging by the fineness of their raiment. They were the slave maids of the Lady Sabina, doubtless belonging to her. I wondered how long it had been since one of them had had the hands of a man on her body.

"Quiet is the night," called one of the guards.

"Quiet is the night," was echoed by other guards about the camp.

I looked up at the largest of the three Gorean moons. It was now full.

Tomorrow the retinue would continue on toward Ti, to be met two days from now, outside the city, by a welcoming procession. Or thus it was planned.

I felt my master's hand on my arm. It was not tight, but firm. I was in his power.

I did not understand my role in the events which were transpiring. I was not clear why my master and his men, and myself, scouted this camp, and now remained in its vicinity.

One lunar month from this date, by the phases of the largest moon, after days of preparation, the ceremony of the companionship was scheduled to be consummated in Ti, binding together as companions Thandar of Ti, son of Ebullius Gaius Cassius, Administrator of Ti, and the Lady Sabina, daughter of Kleomenes, high merchant in Fortress of Saphronicus. I hoped, naturally, that they would be happy. I was only a slave, but I did not think myself much less free than the Lady Sabina, whose beauty was being bartered for commercial and political power. I might have to be half naked in a bond girl's Ta-Teera but she, I expected, despite the wealth of her robes and jewels, was in her way as slave as I. Yet I did not feel sorry for her, for I had heard from Eta that she was a pretentious, haughty girl, one bold in speech and cruel to her slave maids. Many of the daughters of merchants are proud sorts, for the merchants themselves, by virtue of their power, tend to vanity and pride, and agitate, justifiably or not, for the inclusion of their caste among the high castes of Gor. Their pampered daughters, protected from work and responsibility, ostentatiously garbed and elaborately educated in caste trivia, tend to be spoiled and soft. Yet I did not wish the Lady Sabina unhappiness. I hoped that she would have a splendid companionship with Thander of Ti. Too, allaying my commiserations for the girl, for she had had no say in her companionship arrangements, was my understanding, conveyed by Eta, that she Looked forward to the match and was much pleased by it. In taking companionship with one of the Warriors she would raise caste, for the Warriors on Gor are among the high castes, of which there are five, the Initiates, Scribes, Physicians, Builders and Warriors. In many cities only members of the high castes may belong to the city's high council. Most Gorean cities are governed by an executive, the Administrator, in conjunction with the high council. Some cities are governed by a Ubar, who is in effect a military sovereign, sometimes a tyrant, whose word is law: The Ubar's power is limited institutionally only by his capacity to inspire and control those whose steel keeps him upon the throne. Sword loyalty is a bond of fidelity sworn to the Ubar. Gorean warriors seldom break this bond. It is not sworn lightly. It is sworn only to those who are thought fit to be Ubar. When the Ubar is thought to be unfit, it is thought, too, he has dishonored the pledge of sword loyalty. It is not then uncommon for him to die beneath the steel of his outraged men. Only a Ubar, it is said, may sit upon the throne of a Ubar. Only when a true Ubar sits upon the throne is it said the pledge of sword loyalty is binding. It was my hope that the Lady Sabina would be happy. It was said she was muck pleased to raise caste and would become, by this match, one of the high ladies of the Salerian Confederation, which was becoming powerful in the north. I did not think much of Thandar of Ti, perhaps because he was a man. I supposed he was not too pleased at being matched with a girl who was not of the five high castes, but surely he could appreciate the commercial and political significance of the match, and would be pleased to serve his city by doing his part. From the point of view of his father the bargain was a good one for Thandar was the youngest and least important of five sons; it was not as if his first or second son had been matched with a merchant's daughter; besides the match was politically and commercially expedient; who knew how ambitious might be the aspirations of Ti, and the Salerian Confederation? Too, from Thandar's point of view, if the match turned out to be a misery he, being a Gorean male of high caste, could content himself with bought women, who would fight one another and beg on their bellies to serve one such as he.

The gowned female slave, the circlet on her throat and wrist, reached into the supply wagon, into a sack, to find a larma. I watched her in the half darkness. I did not think she saw that, behind her, from the pavillionlike tent, the veiled Lady Sabina had emerged and followed her, with two of the other slave maids behind her, one with a switch. The girl at the wagon reached forward, extending her hand into a sack. One of the warriors of the camp was close behind her. I think she must have been aware of his presence but she gave no sign of this awareness. He put his hands on either side of her body, resting them on the wagon box. She turned, easily, not surprised, between his arms, to face him. She lifted the larma fruit and, her head up, looking at him, bit into it. She regarded him in the half darkness. She chewed at the fruit. He leaned over her. I saw the glint of gold at her throat. Suddenly her arms were about him and he was kissing her, she a slave in his arms in the half darkness. I saw her hand behind his back, the larma fruit, bitten into, still in her hand. "So, Shameless Slave!" cried the Lady Sabina, who had followed the girl, perhaps suspicious of her. The two who had been touching leapt apart, the girl crying out with misery and throwing herself to her knees at the foot of her mistress; the man backed away, angrily, startled.

"Shameless slave slut!" cried the Lady Sabina.

"Have pity, Mistress!" wept the caught slave girl, her head to her mistress' sandals.

"What is going on here?" demanded a man, emerging from the central, dark tent, which I took to be that of the headquarters of the camp. He carried a sword slung over his shoulder, loosely. He wore otherwise only a tunic and the heavy sandals, almost boots, of a soldier.

"Behold," cried the Lady Sabina, indicating the kneeling girl, "a lascivious slave girl!"

The soldier, the leader of the camp, I gathered, was not pleased at having his work or rest interrupted, but was concerned to be deferential.

"I followed her," said the Lady Sabina, "and found her here, shameless in the arms of a soldier, touching, kissing!"

"Pity, Mistress," wept the girl.

"Have I not, Lehna," inquired the Lady Sabina, sternly, "taught you proper deportment? Have I not instructed you in dignity? Is this how you betray my trust?"

"Forgive me, Mistress," wept the girl.

"You are not a paga slut," said the Lady Sabina. "You are the slave maid of a free woman."

"Yes, Mistress," said the girl.

"Have I not set you always a model of elegance, an example of nobility and self-respect?" asked the Lady Sabina.

"Yes, Mistress," said the girl.

"When you were twelve, my father bought you from the pens in Ar, and gave you to me."

"Yes, Mistress," she said.

"You were treated with great kindness. You were not put in the kitchens. You were not given to tharlarion drivers. You were taken into our own apartments. You were permitted to sleep in my own chamber, at the foot of my couch. You were trained diligently as a lady's maid."

"Yes, Mistress," said the girl.

"Is that not a great honor for a slave slut?"

"Yes, Mistress," said the girl.

"And yet," said the Lady Sabina, sadly, "how have I been repaid?"

The girl dared not answer, but kept her head down, trembling.

"I have been repaid with ingratitude," said the Lady Sabina.

"Oh, no!" cried the girl. "Lehna is grateful! Lehna is grateful to Mistress!"

"Have I not been kind to you?" demanded the Lady Sabina.

"Oh, yes, Mistress," said the girl.

"And yet I find you like a copper-tarsk rent slave in the arms of a retainer!"

"Forgive your girl, Mistress," begged the cringing slave.

"Have I often whipped you?" demanded the Lady Sabina.

"No," cried the girl. "No!"

"Do you think me weak?" inquired the Lady Sabina.

"No, Mistress," said the girl. "Kind, but not weak!"

"Beg," said the Lady Sabina.

"I beg to be whipped," said the girl.

The camp's leader, he with the sword slung over his shoulder, who had come forth from his tent, looked at the soldier in whose arms the girl had been discovered. He indicated the slave girl with his head. "Strip her and tie her," he said.

Angrily the man tore away the girl's gown and, with a bit of binding fiber, tied her on her knees, her wrists crossed and bound behind one of the spokes on the supply wagon.

"You are worthless," said the Lady Sabina to the bound slave. "You should carry paga in a paga tavern."

The slave cried out with misery, to be so demeaned.

A number of men had gathered about, to witness the scene. The captain was clearly irritated. "I shall speak to you later," he said to the soldier, dismissing him. The soldier turned and left.

The Lady Sabina extended her hand to one of the two slave girls who were with her. In her gloved hand was placed the switch the girl had carried for her.

She then approached the bound slave, who trembled. "Have I not always set you an example of nobility, dignity and self-respect?" asked the Lady Sabina.

"Yes, Mistress," said the girl.

"Naughty, naughty, salacious slave!" cried the Lady Sabina, striking her.

The girl cried out with the misery of her switching. I was startled at the fury with which the Lady Sabina struck the bound, collared girl. Richly did she lay the disciplinary device to the back and body of the imbonded wench, well punishing her for her lascivious indiscretion. Then, wearied, furious, the Lady Sabina cast aside the switch, turned, and went back to her tent. She was followed by the two girls who had accompanied her, one of whom retrieved the switch. The whipped beauty knelt against the wagon wheel, bound there, shuddering. I saw the gold of her collar beneath her dark hair.

When the Lady Sabina had finished her work and returned to her tent, followed by the two gowned slave girls, the leader of the camp, or captain, angrily, returned, too, to his tent, and the men, who had gathered around, returned to their duties, their rest or recreations.

The girl was left tied at the wheel, whipped.

My master looked upward, at the moons. From through the trees, on the other side of the camp, came what I took to be the sound of a bird, the hook-billed, night-crying fleer, which preys on nocturnal forest urts. The cry was repeated three times.

"Quiet is the night," called one of the camp guards, and this call was echoed by the others.

Again, three times, I heard the cry of the fleer.

My master slipped behind me. He held me, with his left hand. I felt, from the side, his knife slip beneath the veils at my face and throat. Then the knife's edge, I feeling it, thin, obdurate, pressed at my jugular.

"What is the duty of a slave girl?" he asked.

"Absolute obedience, Master," I whispered, frightened. "Absolute obedience." I scarcely dared to whisper, for fear of moving my throat beneath the knife.

I felt the knife leave my throat. I felt the black cloak in which I had been wrapped, concealing the largely white, rich, shimmering raiment in which I had been robed, slipped away.

"Run," said my master, indicating a path through the trees, past the far end of the camp. "And do not let yourself be captured."

He thrust me from him and I, miserable, confused, began to run.

I had gone no more than a dozen steps when I heard one of the guards at the camp cry out, "Halt! Stand! Name! City! Stand!" I did not stop, but pressed on.

"Who is it?" cried a man. "A free woman!" I heard. "Is it the Lady Sabina?" I heard cry. "Stop her!" I heard. "After her!"

I ran, madly.

The men, as I now think of it, must have been as confused as I was. I knew only that I feared them, and had been commanded to run. Too, my master had told me to avoid capture. Ignorant, wild, terrified, I ran.

I stumbled and fell, and scrambled to my feet, and ran again. I heard men crying out, and then, more frighteningly, I heard several leaving the camp, splashing across the stream, crashing through brush behind me. I was now among the trees, out of sight of the camp, but I was being pursued, by how many men I did not know.

They were Gorean men.

I fled in terror.

"Lady Sabina!" I heard. "Stop! Stop!"

As I ran I realized that the probabilities of there being a free woman, robed, in the vicinity of the camp, who was not the Lady Sabina, were extremely low. Perhaps she had fled from the camp? Perhaps, for some reason, she wished to flee the match with Thandar of Ti, whom I understood she had never seen. There must have been men in the camp who, almost immediately, would have verified that the Lady Sabina was still within the camp, but many, having only moments to act, would be unable to make that verification. If the running woman was the Lady Sabina she must be caught for her loss would mean the failure of the alliances pending between the Salerian Confederation and Fortress of Saphronicus. Too, she must be caught swiftly, for the forests at night were dangerous. Sleen might take her or, perhaps, prowling outlaws. Too, in the camp were no hunting sleen. Accordingly, the sooner she could be retaken the better. It was night, and, even in the morning, her trail would be less fresh, less obvious. And, if the woman were not the Lady Sabina she should, anyway, be brought in. Surely a free woman in the midst of the night forest constitutes a mystery which must be solved. Who is she? From whom is she running? Is she alone?

I had no time to think. I was only running.

Too, I believe the men of the camp had little time to ponder their courses of action.

It was natural that many of them should have leapt to my pursuit.

I fled through the thickets. I heard men crashing through the brush behind me. I did not know how many followed. I suspect that of the seventy or eighty men in the camp twenty or more had immediately plunged after me, perhaps even more. Surely, too, attention was drawn to that end of the camp near which I had been first seen. It was there that men would have peered into the darkness, there that they would have been marshaled into more organized defensive groups or more organized search parties.

"Stop!" I heard. "Stand! Stand!"

I ran, stumbling, striking branches and brush away from me. My robes were torn.

The crashing in the brush behind me grew louder.

No more swiftly could I run. It was not merely that I was encumbered by the robes. I knew that I could not, in any case, outrun the men. They were stronger and swifter than I. I was only a girl. Nature, whatever might be her reasons, had not fitted me to outrun males. I was frightened suddenly that it had not been her intention that women escape men. Then I realized how foolish this was, to so personalize nature, to ascribe to the cruel, blind processes of the world deliberate intentions. Rather it had been the selections of nature which had determined this. Women who had escaped men would have been lost to the gene pool. Caught women would have been led back to the caves, to suffer the indignities of impregnation by their captors, being forced to reproduce their kind. Similar considerations may have a bearing on the smaller size and strength of women. Yet matters are far more complicated than these considerations suggest. For, in the intricacies, and interplay of both natural and sexual selection, not merely a swiftness, a size and strength would have been selected for in women but an entire set of genetic dispositions; it seems inconsistent to suppose that evolution would select only for the outside of an animal and not for its inside as well, that only matters such as external configuration would have a bearing on its survival or desirability and not its dispositions to respond in certain ways. Surely the same evolution which has selected for the fangs of the lion and the speed of the gazelle has selected as well for the disposition to hunt and the disposition to flight, that has selected for the strength of the male and the weakness of the female has selected as well for the disposition to conquer and the disposition to surrender. We are, to a large extent, one supposes, the products of environments, but it is well to remember that the maximum, shaping environments in which our nature was stabilized and forged are ancient ones; the sense in which environment determines endowment is the sense in which it determines which endowments are to be perpetuated.

With misery I suddenly realized my genetic heritage was that of a type which could be caught by men.

The hands of a man seized me.

"Hold, Lady," said he.

I gasped, and shook, held in his arms.

"Why have you fled, Lady Sabina?" asked he. "It is dangerous." Then he called out, "I have her."

I tried to escape, but I was held fast.

In a moment several more men were about me. He who had held me then released me. I stood, captured, in their midst. I did not speak. I averted my head.

"Is it the Lady Sabina?" asked a voice.

"Face me," said a voice.

I did not face him, but kept my head averted. I felt hands put on my shoulders.

Firmly I was turned to face the speaker. "Lift your head," he said. "To the moonlight."

I kept my head down, but he, with his hand, lifted my head up, that the moonlight might fall upon my veiled face.

I saw that it was the captain, or camp's leader. Suddenly I realized he should not have pursued me. He should have remained in the camp.

He studied what he could see of my eyes in the uncertain moonlight, shattered, through the branches of the forest. He backed away, and studied the robes I wore. Then he said, "Who are you?"

I did not speak. If I had spoken he would instantly have detected my accent, my faltering Gorean, and would have marked me as a barbarian girl.

"You are not the Lady Sabina," he said. "Who are you?"

I kept silent.

"Do you flee an unwanted companionship?" he asked. "Was your retinue ambushed? Do you flee outlaws?"

Again I did not respond.

"Do you flee slavers?" he asked. "We are honest men," he said. "We are not slavers." He regarded me. "You are safe with us," he said.

Moonlight filtered through the branches.

"Who are you?" he said.

I again did not respond. This time he seemed angry.

"Do you choose to be face-stripped before men?" he asked.

I shook my head, negatively.

His hands were at the first veil, the street veil.

"Well?" he asked.

I did not answer.

I felt the veil lifted away from my face. "Remove your gloves," he said.

I slipped the gloves from my hands. He took them and threw them to my feet.

My hands felt the night air.

"Speak," he said.

When I did not respond to him, he pulled away the house veil. The men crowded more closely about. The flesh of my face was now concealed from the direct vision of the strong males by only three veils, the pride veil, the veil of the citizeness and the sheer fifth, or last, veil. Already, in stripping me of the house veil, outrage had been done to me. It was as though the privacy and intimacy of my house had been violated. It was as though they had invaded my house and taken my dress from me, forcing me to stand before them in my slip.

"Who are you?" asked the man again. How could I tell him who I was? My master had not even given me a name.

"The pride veil will be next, if you do not speak," said the man.

I wondered what these men would do with me if they discovered I was not even a free woman. I forced the thought from my mind. Free men do not take it lightly that a Kajira would dare to don the garments of a free woman. This is regarded as an extremely serious offense, fit to be followed by terrible punishments. It can be worth the life of one to do so. I began to tremble.

The pride veil was ripped from me. It was as though my slip had, been torn away by the invaders in my house.

The lineaments of my face could now be detected beneath the veil of the citizeness. The last veil, in its sheerness, and transparency, is little more than a token.

"Perhaps now, dear Lady," said the captain, "you will choose to speak, choose to reveal your name and city, and your business in this vicinity so late in the night?"

I dared not speak. I turned my head to the side, with a wild sob, as the veil of the citizeness was torn away. I wore now only the last veil. It was as though in my own home an almost final shield of modesty had been taken from me, leaving me only a bit of wide-strung netting, inviting the ripping hand of a master.

The hand of the man reached to the last veil. His hand hesitated. "Perhaps she is free?" asked one of the men.

"Perhaps," said the captain. He lowered his hand.

"She is quite pretty to be free," observed one of the men. Some assent was given to this.

"Let us hope, for your sake, my dear," said the captain, "that you are free."

I lowered my head.

"Consider yourself my prisoner, Lady," said the man. He felt my forearms, detecting that I was right handed. I felt a loop of leather put about my right wrist and drawn tight. It was a double loop, drawn through itself, and tightened.

The other end of the closed loop, about a foot from my hand, was taken in the grasp of a soldier. My captor then turned about and began to return to the camp. He was followed by his men. I was led, wrist-thonged, with them.

I had been captured.

In a few minutes we approached the camp. I was carried across the stream, into the camp area. Many were the torches, much was the confusion we encountered there.

The soldier who carried me put me on my feet. I was then again the prisoner of the wrist thong in his grasp.

A man ran toward us, holding up a torch. "The Lady Sabina," he cried, "she is gone! She has been taken!"

With a cry of rage the leader, or captain, ran toward the tents, his men racing behind him, I struggling and gasping, jerked and dragged by the thong which held me.

Straight to the pavillion of the Lady Sabina sped the captain.

I, on the tether, accompanying the soldier who controlled me, hurried, too, to that pavillion. I was pulled within, on the thong. A man within turned, white-faced, to the captain. "They came," he said. "They took her!"

To one side lay two soldiers, wounded. The maids of the Lady Sabina, who had been with her in the tent, stood terrified to one side. One held her shoulder, where there was a large bruise.

"They were here!" said the soldier, pointing to the shuddering slaves.

"What happened?" demanded the captain.

One of the girls, she with the bruise, spoke. The back of the tent was slashed. "In force they came," she said, "many of them. We tried to defend the mistress. We were buffeted aside. They were men, warriors. We were helpless!" She pointed to the back of the tent. "They entered there, and withdrew similarly, the mistress in their power!"

The application of numbers and power is an element of strategy. The men of my master had been outnumbered, surely, by the many soldiers of the camp, but at the point of attack their numbers were superior, overwhelming. Twenty men may breech a wall held by a hundred men, if the twenty men but attack where the wall is defended by only two. In the confusion, as the attention of men had been directed elsewhere, the forces of my master, though not impressive numerically, had been sharply and irresistibly applied, His stroke, in the context, had not been difficult.

I swallowed hard. I realized I had been only a diversion, a pawn. I felt bitter, and terrified.

"Of what city were they?" demanded the captain of one of his wounded men.

"I do not know," said the man.

I had seen the men of my master removing insignia from their garments before the attack.

"We know their direction of flight," said one of the soldiers. "If we act swiftly, we may mount satisfactory pursuit." "Let us act with dispatch," urged another, "that we may swiftly overtake them."

The captain struck at the heavy pole of the tent with the side of his fist. The pole, though it was deeply anchored, shook in the dirt.

"Arm the men," said he. "Issue bows, light rations. All men. Assembly in ten Ehn."

"Yes, Captain," said a man. Men left the tent. The two wounded men were carried away.

The captain then turned to face me. I shrank back. Some four men besides the captain remained in the tent, one of them he who held my wrist thong.

The captain's hand fixed itself in the sheen of the last veil, the fifth veil. Beneath it my features, frightened, could be seen. It was only a token, but, when it was torn away, even the token would be gone. I would stand before men, face-stripped. It is interesting to me, how I thought of this at the time. Doubtless much depends upon context and is relative to the culture. On Earth, few women veil their face, and yet many will veil their bodies. On Earth body veiling tends to be cultural, and not face veiling. On Gor, for free women, both body veiling and face veiling are cultural, and tend to be widely practiced. I suppose, objectively, there is something more to be said for face veiling than body veiling. Bodies, though differing remarkably, one to the other, tend perhaps to be somewhat more similar than faces. Accordingly, if one should be concerned to protect one's privacy and one's feelings, and such, it seems that the face might preferably be veiled. In the face, surely, it is easier to read emotion and individuality than in a body. Should not the face then, if one is concerned with concealment and privacy, be veiled? Is the face not more personal and revealing than the body? Does it not make sense then to consider it a proper object of concealment in a free person? Is one not entitled, so to speak, to privacy in the matter of one's thoughts and feelings, sometimes so manifest in one's facial expressions? However this may be, there are congruences and dispositions which seem appropriate in given contexts. Veils seem correct, and right, with the robes of concealment. Too, seeing the lust of men to discern your features, and understanding what face veiling and unveiling means to them, tends to influence one's views of these matters. I was terrified that such men see my face. I did not want my face to be seen by them. In many Gorean cities, only a slave girl goes unveiled.

I felt his hand tighten in the veil. Then he jerked it away. I was face-stripped, completely. I closed my eyes, with shame. I reddened. It was as though the last bit of netting, mockery of modesty though it might be, had been ripped away. My face, my feelings, my emotions, now lay bare to them. My face, though I wore robes of concealment, was as naked as that of a slave girl.

"I wonder if you are free, my beauty," said the captain.

My mouth, now that he had torn away the veil, was fully exposed to his. Nothing now separated his mouth, his tongue, his teeth, from mine. From his point of view I then, though I might be free, might as well have been a slave girl.

I looked at him.

"Release her wrist thong," said he to the soldier who held the thong. He dropped the thong, and it dangled, loosely, from my wrist.

"A wrist thong scarcely comports with the dignity of a free woman," said the captain to me.

He walked about me, as a man walks about a woman. I had the feeling he saw me naked beneath the robes.

"Are you free, my beauty?" he asked. He drew his sword. I shuddered. "Are you free?" he asked. He put the sword at my left ankle, and, curiously, lifted the robes of concealment a bit. "I hope for your sake," said he, "that you are free. If you are not, I will not be much pleased."

I felt the blade on my leg, lifting up the robes further. "Step from your slippers," he said.

I did so, trembling.

I felt the steel on my leg, lifting the robes yet higher. They were above my knee now.

The three slave girls in the tent, gowned, watched with apprehension.

The robes were lifted higher, some inches above my knee.

"If you are free," said the captain, "you are rather pretty to be free."

"Captain," said a voice from outside the tent, "the men are ready."

"I shall join you momentarily," he said.

"Yes, Captain," said the man.

The captain then again turned his attention toward me. He was angry. He spoke softly, but menacingly. "You have made a fool of all of us," he said. "Thus, I hope that you are free." The blade moved a bit higher on the leg. I trembled. "Yet," said he, "the leg is not bad. It is a leg which is pretty enough to be the leg of a slave girl. I wonder if it is the leg of a slave girl." He lifted the robes to my hip. I felt the steel against my hip.

The men in the tent cried out with anger. The slave girls gasped and shrank back.

"It is as I thought," said the captain. He stepped back, but he did not sheath his sword.

"I will give you twenty Ihn," said he, "to remove the clothing of a free woman and to fall naked on your belly before me."

Weeping I tore away the robes, frenziedly, and, stripped, threw myself on my belly naked before him, he a Gorean male, he a master, I a slave girl.

"Standard binding position," he said. I was prone. When a girl is prone, the standard binding position is to cross the wrists behind the back and to cross the ankles. I took this position instantaneously.

That I did this did not cause him any pleasure. No one in the room thought anything of it. I was simply a prone slave girl who had been commanded to standard binding position. No one in the room, including myself; would have expected me to do other than comply. Lack of compliance by a slave girl to a command in the Gorean world is unthinkable. She obeys.

The captain spoke swiftly with two of the men in the room. Then he spoke, too, to one of the slave girls, who, addressed, knelt before him. She left the tent.

I could hear the men outside. There was some rattle of weaponry.

The girl who, earlier, had been beaten and tied at the wagon wheel, was brought into the tent. She looked at me and went and lay, miserable, in a corner of the tent. The other girl, too, re-entered the tent.

The captain made ready to depart from the tent, to take command of his men.

I lay there, unbound, but in binding position. I had not moved. I did not wish to be slain.

The captain looked down at me, and then, as though in response to an afterthought, said to one of his men, "Tie her."

The captain's helmet was brought to him. I felt my wrists and ankles being tied. My wrists were tied with the loop of thong which had bound my right wrist previously, when I had been brought to the tent.

The captain turned me over with his foot. Then he knelt on one knee beside me. I felt the point of his sword in my belly. "I will see you later," said he, "pretty little Kajira." I felt the point of the sword push in. I winced. "Speak," said he. "Yes, Master," I wept.

"A barbarian," said one of the men.

"Yes," said the captain, getting up.

"But a pretty one," said one of the men.

The captain regarded me, bound at his feet. "Yes," he said. Then he donned the helmet, turned, and left the tent.

The other slave girls in the tent, save she who had been beaten, who lay miserably in a corner of the tent, looked angrily at me. One rubbed the bruise on her shoulder. "Kajira," she hissed. I turned to my side, in the dirt. I wept. I lay a captured slave girl, in the tent of enemies.

Gone then was the romance of slavery. I moaned with misery. I had been used to create a diversion, had been employed as a mere pawn. I had been exposed to danger, as though I might have been a mere slave. Did my master not love me? Did he not care for me? Did he not reciprocate the feelings which I had for him? I wept, an insignificant slave.

I heard the men leaving the camp. Then the camp was empty, save for the wounded, and the slave girls, of which I was one.

"Dina," said the girl with the bruise to me. She had called me that because of my brand, the Dina, or Slave Flower. Girls who wear the brand are sometimes spoken of as Dinas. As she had said "Dina," it had been a term of abuse. The Dina brand is one of the more frequently found of the specialized brands on Gor. Dinas, such as I was, were relatively common girls.

The camp was now quiet.

The bruised girl came over to me. "Dina!" she said, and kicked me. Then she returned to the other girls.

"Our poor mistress," cried the girl who had kicked me. "Pity her!"

I heard the sounds of the night outside the tent, the insects, the cries of fleers.

Surreptitiously, for I did not wish to be struck or again kicked, I tried to move my wrists and ankles. It was useless. Thongs had been used, not rope; the knots, simple and efficient, had been made by a warrior. With a minimum of means I was held with absolute perfection. A Gorean warrior had bound me.

I heard again, from outside, the cries of the hook-billed fleer.

I reared up.

The slave girls cried out, then were silent. Swords lay at their throats.

My master was in the tent, following his men through the rent silken wall.

One of the men carried a looped coffle chain, with wrist rings.

"Master!" I cried out with elation. I struggled to sit up. He crouched beside me and, with his unsheathed blade, slashed apart the leather which bound me. I flung myself to his feet, pressing my lips to his sandals. "Master!" I wept with joy. He had come back! He had not left me. But he pulled away from my hands and lips at his sandals, and issued orders to his men. The four slave maids crouched terrified, under swords, in the center of the tent, including she who had been beaten. Some men left the tent.

"Kneel to be coffled," said one of the men. The girls knelt, closely, one behind the other. There were six wrist rings on the chain he carried. He placed the girl who had been whipped by the Lady Sabina first in the coffle line. "Left wrist coffle," he said. They lifted their left wrists, frightened. Interestingly, the man snapping the wrist rings on the girls' left wrists did not put the first girl in the first ring, but the second. When the four maids were coffled there was, thus, an empty wrist ring both at the head and the rear of the line. "Stand, Slaves," said the man. "Lower chain." The girls stood. Then, ordered, they lowered their wrists. They were then in line, standing, coffled.

Outside I heard bosk being hitched to wagons. Other bosk I heard being freed and driven into the woods.

I wondered if the camp would be fired. I supposed not, for the glow of the burning silk and canvas in the night sky might too soon apprise the camp's soldiers of what had occurred. An obvious trail had been left for the soldiers to begin to follow; then the men of my master had circled about to return to the camp. The trail would become difficult to detect, then perhaps disappear. The men of the camp had not had trained sleen. While the pursuing soldiers followed a false scent, my master's men returned to their camp, from which, later, in a new direction, they might make their departure. My master prepared to leave the tent. I wanted to run beside him, but he would not permit it. He pushed me back. I must remain within. He left the tent.

The man who had coffled the girls now stood back, looking at them. "May I speak?" begged the first in the line, she who had been earlier whipped. "Yes," he said. "I hate my mistress," she said. "I am ready to love you, Master!" "Do you not enjoy being owned by a woman?" he asked. "I want to love a man," she wept. "Shameless slave," cried the last girl in the line, she who had lamented the fate of her mistress, and who had called me "Dina," and kicked me. "I am a woman and a slave!" cried the first. "I want a man! I need a man!"

"Do not fear, Slave," grinned the man who had locked her in her wrist ring, "you will not be neglected when wench service is wished."

"Thank you, Master," she said, and stood very straight, very proudly.

"Brazen slave," scolded the last girl in the line.

"Comb the hair of the spoiled brat of a merchant, if you wish," said the first. "I will dance naked before a man."

"Slave!" cried the last girl in the line, horrified.

"Yes, slave!" said the first, angrily, proudly.

I heard a wagon being driven from the camp. In it, I suspected, lay the dowry riches of the Lady Sabina of Fortress of Saphronicus. The location of the lady herself I did not know, but I had little doubt she was in a safe place, probably blindfolded, gagged and chained to a tree somewhere. I wondered if she had been permitted to retain her clothing.

"Do you have pretty legs?" asked the man of the second girl in the line.

"Yes, Master," she said, smiling.

"You are aware," he queried, "of the penalties for lying to a free man?"

"Examine them, Master," she said, smiling, boldly. "It will not be necessary to beat me."

The last girl in the line cried out with indignation.

The man, with his knife, cut away much of the long, flowing white gown the girl wore, considerably shortening it, until it was provocatively high, ragged and exciting, on her thighs.

"It will not be necessary to beat you," he acknowledged.

"Thank you, Master," she said.

The last girl in the line snorted angrily, tossing her head in the air.

"Do you have pretty legs?" asked the man of the second gowned girl in the coffle.

"I do not know, Master," she whispered. "I am only a girl's maid."

"Let us see," said the man, and, as he had with the first, transformed the flowing classic, sleeveless garment into a sweet scrap of lovely slave livery.

"May I speak?" asked the second gowned girl.

"Yes," he said.

"Are my legs-pretty?" she asked.

"Yes," he said.

"A girl is pleased," she said. She, too, like the others, stood straight.

"How shameless you are, all of you!" scolded she who was the third of the gowned girls in the line, the last in the line.

"And you?" inquired the man.

"I am a woman's slave," she said proudly. "I am above such things." She did not look at him. "I have dignity," she said.

"But a slave girl is not permitted dignity," he said. Then he said, "We will see your legs." He then, with his knife, shortened her gown, as he had those of the others, until its shreds, too, ragged and exciting, were high on her thighs. She stood before him, her legs, though those of a girl's maid, bared to his eyes.

"Excellent legs," he said.

She shuddered, but I did not think that she was entirely displeased with his appraisal. All women wish to be attractive to men. "I–I want to be a woman's slave," she said, I thought a bit uncertainly.

"Do you fear men so?" he asked.

She did not speak.

"What you want," he pointed out to her, "is not important." He regarded her. "Is it?" he asked.

"No, Master," she said.

He touched her about the throat and chin. "Have you never been curious about the touch of a man?" he asked.

"Come to me," said the first girl. "I will love you like you have never been loved before!"

"He is touching me!" cried the last girl.

"Wanton slave!" laughed the first.

The man then went to the first girl and took her in his arms. She cried out with pleasure and pressed herself to him, melting and yielding to his tunic and leather. He subjected her mouth and lips to a kiss which could have been only the prelude to fierce slave rape.

"I can kiss, too," cried the last girl. "Master! Please, Master!"

"No," moaned the first girl. "She is nothing. Stay with me. I am sensuous. You do not know what it is to have had a slave girl until you have had me!"

I heard a second wagon being driven from the camp. I thought it might be one of the produce wagons, but, as it later turned out, the treasure freight of the dowry wagon had been divided between two wagons, the produce in one discarded, to lighten the load and make driving swifter.

My master then re-entered the tent. "Rape her later," he said to the soldier who held the first girl in the coffle in his arms. Reluctantly the soldier put the moaning girl from him.

"Yes, Captain," grinned the soldier.

"When we are to be raped, and must serve you as slaves," begged the first girl, she who had been in his arms, "let me be the first to be raped, the first to serve you as a slave."

"You will not be forgotten, my beautiful little slut," he promised her.

"Thank you, Master, " she whispered.

"Do not forget Donna either," said the second girl.

"Nor Chanda," said the third.

"Nor Marla," said the fourth.

"Lehna is first," said the first girl.

The soldier regarded the fourth girl. Under his eyes she stood very straight in the coffle. The wrist ring was closed on her left wrist, inflexibly, fastening her with the other girls.

"Nor Marla?" he asked.

"Nor Marla," she said.

"Are you not a woman's slave?" he asked.

"Save me a place at your feet, Master," she said. "I am a man's slave."

My master walked about the coffled girls. Then he returned to his original place of stand. "Four beauties," said he, "a good catch. We shall have much pleasure with them, and then, should we choose to sell them, we will get a good price."

How right it struck me that he had said this of the beauties, and yet, in its way, how horrifying to me, an Earth girl. Why did these men not hide their dominance; why did they not pretend it did not exist; why did they not suppress it; why did they not thwart and repudiate the birthright of their nature; why did they not make themselves miserable; why did they not torture themselves and diligently cultivate weakness like the men of Earth, shortening their lives and praising themselves for the constriction and mutilation of their instincts? Were they not powerful enough to be manipulated, strong enough to be weak?

"Coffle her," said my master, looking at me.

I stiffened. Surely the coffle was not for me. I was his girl. I was not a new slave. I had served him well.

The soldier whistled, as though lie might have been summoning a pet sleen, and lifted an open wrist ring, the last ring on the chain. I ran angrily to the chain.

"We must make haste," said my master.

I felt my wrist taken, and the metal of the wrist ring snap shut upon it. I was coffled.

How angry I was to be chained with the new girls. I felt the chain hanging from my wrist, dangling from the wrist ring of the girl coffled before me. I was furious. I was well fastened. I could not escape.

My master looked down at me.

I lowered my eyes. I wore his chain.

He turned away from the coffle and, moving the slashed silk of the rear wall of the tent with his hand, brushing it to the right, not looking back, disappeared into the darkness.

"Marla was not kind to a poor slave when she was helpless," said Marla, the girl before me. "Maria is terribly sorry. Please forgive Maria."

"What?" I said.

"Marla is sorry, Mistress," she said. "Please forgive Marla." The girl was clearly frightened.

It seemed strange to me, that she had addressed me as Mistress, and her fear. Then I realized the legitimacy of her fear, that of a slave girl. She was the one who had called me "Dina," and who, when I had been bound, had kicked me. Now she was owned by my master, and she was a newer girl than I. She did not yet know the nature of the relationships in which she was now helplessly implicated, relationships which could be every bit as perilous and significant as the physical bond of steel on her wrist. Was I first girl? Was I over her? Did I have switch rights upon her body, as Eta had upon mine? Would I be cruel to her? Would I make her suffer? Would she have to please the masters incredibly, and constantly attend them, that they might perhaps be moved to shield her to some tiny extent from my vengeance? Too, she was coffled before me, and this put her much at my mercy. Chained as she was I might, if I chose, make the march a misery of unexpected blows and torments for her. Her fears, in the light of these considerations, were understandable.

"I forgive you," I told her.

Immediately the girl straightened herself insolently, and dismissed me from her awareness. She had, she assumed then, nothing to fear from me, and I might be contemptuously ignored. This irritated me. Doubtless she considered herself, and quite possibly correctly, my superior in beauty, and thus planned to soon stand higher in the relationships of bondage than I, a lesser girl. Having nothing to fear from me she would freely and opportunistically insinuate herself among the men. Slave girls compete for the attentions of masters. Each strives to be more pleasing to them than the other. The quality of a slave girl's life is commonly a direct function of her pleasingness to her master. Whether she Is a treasured love slave or an ignored pot-and-floor wench depends much upon her. Gorean men, unlike the men of Earth, do not bother much with girls that are not pleasing to them. Yet even such may find their utility, and indirectly serve masters, perhaps sweating in the public kitchens of the high cylinders, or laboring, neck-locked, at the looms in the cloth mills, or digging, chained with others, in the sul fields. It is a rare girl who, having tasted the mills or sul fields, does not beg her proprietor to be sold again on the open market, that she may attempt anew, and perhaps more successfully this time, to be pleasing to a man.

I was furious with the posture, so proud and sensual, of the girl before me. I wondered why I had forgiven her. It had seemed the natural thing to do. I had done it, unthinkingly. It was not irrational, of course. For example, she was beautiful, and any dominance which I might have over her might be temporary, and then our relationship might be reversed. What if she much pleased my master one night and he gave her switch rights over me? Also, on another march, it might be I who would be coffled before her, and at her mercy.

Yet I was angry. She now ignored me. Her victory had been cheaply won.

Suddenly, angrily, I kicked her.

She cried out, startled. I stood straight, as though I had done nothing. The soldier with the coffle, who was gathering jewelry into a scarf from various coffers in the tent, pretended that he had not noticed my action. Masters do not much interfere in the squabbles of slaves. Let them impose their own internal order among themselves. On the other hand, they would not approve if one slave injured or marked, or reduced in value, another. That would be serious, and not to be tolerated.

The girl before me now no longer stood proudly and sensually. She was now only a frightened, chained girl, at my mercy. She was coffled before me.

"On the other hand," I said to her, "I may not forgive you either."

"Marla begs forgiveness, Mistress," she whispered.

"I may forgive you and I may not," I said.

"Yes, Mistress," said the girl. She trembled. The chain shook on her wrist. I was pleased. Too, if she feared me, perhaps I could, for a time, frighten her away from my master. She was a lovely female, Marla, and I had little doubt she would be incredibly delicious in the arms of a man. I suppose that I was jealous of her.

The soldier in charge of the coffle slung the scarf, loaded with jewelry from the coffers in the tent, over his shoulder. He grinned at me. I looked down, and smiled.

"We must make haste, Slaves," said he. We readied ourselves. I looked at him. He was not regarding me.

He was Gorean, and a man. It was not that he had dared to be a man. It was rather that he simply was a man.

"Attend me, Coffle," said he, "for bondage march." He held his hand, the visible signal of preparation, poised over his thigh.

We tensed.

But, strangely, though of Earth, I did not object to a world in which men, like larls, were healthy. I wanted them that way, rich and glorious in their power. I sensed, perhaps, my complementarity to them. Only in a world where there were true men could there be true women.

I felt the steel on my wrist, with its chain.

He struck his right thigh with his open hand, suddenly, sharply. We moved out, slave girls, on the left foot, that the pace of the march be uniform.

We were owned.

As I passed the soldier, who stood behind, to follow the coffle, to guard it, I felt weak. I tried to brush my left shoulder against him, but he, with his hand, roughly thrust me to the side. He did not then desire my touch. I and the others must wait, to see if he would permit us to touch him later.

Tears sprang to my eyes. I had wanted to touch him, and had not been permitted to do so. It was his will, the will of the man, which determined matters.

"Har-ta," said he. "Faster." Lehna, who was first girl on the chain, hastened.

Suddenly I was terrified. My will literally meant nothing. Anything might be done to me. The guard had not permitted me to do so much as brush against him. If I could not even placate a man sexually, I was completely without power. Even my attempt to please a man was dependent upon his permission that I should attempt to do so.

I shuddered.

I, hurrying, looked up into the black, starlit Gorean night. I trembled. I, though a girl of Earth, was chained in coffle under three barbaric moons.

"Har-ta," said the soldier.

Again Lehna hastened.

In moments we were leaving the camp, wading the stream.

I felt the cold water about my ankles, and then calves; then I felt it over my knees; then I felt it swirling at my thighs; we lifted the chain to hold it out of the water.

"Har-ta," said the soldier, he in whose charge we were.

Again we hurried. One does not daily under the command of a Gorean master.

I felt the pebbles and stones of the bank beneath my feet. The chain pulled forward on my wrist. I looked up at the wild moons.

I was a slave girl.

"Har-ta!" I heard. "Har-ta!"

The chain pulled forward again.

I, hurrying, stumbled behind the others.

I did not know into what bondage I was being led. I knew only that it would be absolute.

Chapter 6

Tabuk's Ford

My master extended his cup to me, and I, kneeling, filled it with Sul paga. I pressed my lips to the cup, and handed it to him. My eyes smarted. I almost felt drunk from the fumes.

I withdrew.

Sul paga is, when distilled, though the Sul itself is yellow, as clear as water. The Sul is a tuberous root of the Sul plant; it is a Gorean staple. The still, with its tanks and pipes, lay within the village, that of Tabuk's Ford, in which Thurnus, our host, was caste leader.

"Excellent," said my master, sipping the Sul paga. He could have been commenting only on the potency of the drink, for Sul paga is almost tasteless. One does not guzzle Sul paga. Last night one of the men had held my head back and forced me to swallow a mouthful. In moments things had gone black, and I had fallen unconscious. I had awakened only this morning, ill, miserable, with a splitting headache, chained with the other girls.

"Wine, Slave Girl," said Maria, holding her cup to me.

Angrily I put down the Sul paga and fetched the flask of the Ka-la-na of Ar, and filled her cup. She did not look at me, nor thank me, for I was a slave. Was she not, too, a slave? I saw her, in the shreds of her white gown, cuddling with her wine in my master's arms. She had risen swiftly in favor among the masters, displacing even Eta as favorite girl. I had feared, even from the beginning, that she would become excessively popular. My master was, apparently, much taken with her. I hated her. Eta, too, did not regard her with unusual affection.

Marla looked at me, and smiled. "You are a pretty slave," she said.

"Thank you, Mistress," I said, restraining myself. Since she had become first girl in the camp we were all constrained to serve her and address her as Mistress. Even though she was given no jewelry or fine raiment, she was high slave in the camp.

It had been five weeks since the strike on the camp of the Lady Sabina.

Much of this time we had been engaged in a long overland journey.

"Give me of drink," said Thurnus to me.

"Yes, Master," I said. I took the flask of Ka-la-na to him.

Thurnus was a shaggy haired fellow, with yellow hair, big, broad-shouldered, large-handed, clearly in his bones and body of the peasants. He was caste leader in Tabuk's Ford. Tabuk's Ford was a large village, containing some forty families; it was ringed with a palisade, and stood like a hub in the midst of its fields, long, narrow, widening strips, which radiated from it like the spokes in a wheel. Thurnus tilled four of these strips. Tabuk's Ford receives its name from the fact that field Tabuk were once accustomed, in their annual migrations, to ford the Verl tributary of the Vosk in its vicinity. The Verl flows northwestward into the Vosk. We had crossed the Vosk, on barges, two weeks ago. The field Tabuk now make their crossing some twenty pasangs northwest of Tabuk's Ford, but the village, founded in the area of the original crossing keeps the first name of the locale. Tabnk's Ford is a rich village, but it is best known not for its agricultural bounty, a function of its dark, fertile fields in the southern basin of the Verl, but for its sleen breeding. Thurnus, of the Peasants, of Tabuk's Ford, was one of the best known of the sleen breeders of Gor.

Thurnus looked at me, and grinned. "I said, 'Give me of drink, small beauty," he said. He emphasized the word 'drink.

"Forgive me, Master," I said, and, swiftly, turned to put back the Ka-la-na, and fetch the potent Sul paga. As I turned, hurrying, suddenly, frightening me, I realized the Ta-Teera had scarcely concealed me. This frightened me for I had become much aware, in the last few weeks, of the capacity of my beauty to excite men. Eta had told me that I was becoming more beautiful. I did not see how this could be. Yet, apparently, for no reason I clearly understood, I was becoming more provocative and stimulating to men. I suspect this. had to do with the gradual loss of layers of constriction and inhibition in my movements and attitudes, and expressions, the sluffing off of modes of impersonality and rigidity in which I had been conditioned since girlhood on Earth. I now related to men in a much more spontaneous and intensely personal way than once I would have dreamed possible. I now saw them as unique, exciting masters, each different and incredibly individual, who might, for a word or gesture, have me; how could I not regard them differently from a free woman; and, too, doubtless, they saw me in a similarly immediate and intensely personal fashion, not as an object shielded, by prejudice and law, and fear and pride, from them, even to touch whom could be a crime, but rather as a slave girl, vulnerable, exposed, at their mercy, unique in her exact helplessness and individuality, the same in some respects as all other bond girls and yet interestingly and profoundly different, too, from all the others. I shared the condition of slavery with other bond wenches, but each of us, of course, as masters know, in the depths and complexity of us, is a surprisingly and uniquely different individual, a latent prize for the chain, an astonishment fascinating to learn and subdue. I suspect the changes in me, at least in part, had to do with two things, the gradual stripping from me of negativistic Earth conditionings and, on the positive side, the Gorean acculturations to which I, a bond girl, was being exposed. I was learning my slavery. Oddly enough, in learning my slavery, I was experiencing an incredible sense of psychological freedom and liberation. I was liberated from political and economic roles of male impersonation and freed to be myself, a woman. The major difference in me, perhaps, however, was not behavioral, social or cultural, but biological. The cultural arrangements, as such arrangements should or may, liberated rather suppressed, constricted or thwarted my inner nature. My inner nature, thus, was permitted to open its petals to the rain and sunlight of a clean, honest, glorious world. I was becoming true to myself. I think that is it. In becoming true to myself, too, I was becoming happy. And, as Eta once told me, it is hard for a woman to be happy and not to be beautiful.

I approached Thurnus with the Sul paga and knelt before him.

But there is danger, too, in the slave girl's beauty, as any delight who wears the brand knows. As I had, naturally, inadvertently, almost in spite of myself, become more desirable and beautiful, the sexual aggressions of men against me, which I, as slave, might not resist, had become more frequent and powerful. Sometimes I was merely taken by the hair and thrown to the grass and raped, or seized by an ankle and thrown over a log, that I might be used for their pleasure, or kicked to my knees before them, that I might intimately please them. I was much at their mercy. They found me desirable. It is dangerous for a girl to be beautiful on Gor, particularly if she is a slave. The more beautiful and vulnerable she is the more likely it is that her beauty will be seized and dominated, and ruthlessly exploited, by masters. Consequently, though I loved my apparently increasing beauty, and desirability, and was incredibly thrilled with it, and my new attractiveness, I was not unaware that it was attended with risks. It was one thing to be raped by my master's men, and quite another to know that the same passions which I aroused in them I would similarly inspire in the breasts of complete strangers. I was not eager to be slave-raped by strangers, which, Eta assured me, was a not uncommon experience for a pretty slave. On the other hand, I feared slave rape less than abduction. I did not want to be carried away. It was one thing for a man to hastily use me and discard me; it was another to bind me and carry me away, to be his own slave. I did not wish to leave my master, whom I loved.

Thurnus held out his cup. I prepared to put Sul paga in the cup. Then he held the cup closer to him. I must needs approach more closely.

Exciting men is a price a girl pays for her beauty. I was more than willing to pay that price. I was joyful to pay that price. Yet I knew that beauty on a world such as Gor was not without its risks. I suddenly wished I wore a name collar, like Eta, that would make it clear to whom I belonged. My master had not even bothered to put a collar on me. I was a collarless slave.

"Come closer, little beauty," said Thurnus.

I crept a bit closer to him, on my knees, with the paga. I wore the scandalously brief, torn, hooked, sleeveless Ta-Teera, which so displayed a girl's charms.

I feared Thurnus. I had seen his eyes on me often.

I poured Sul paga into his goblet, my head bending quite near to him. My hair was longer now than when I had come to Gor. It was still shorter than that of most slave girls. Most slave girls wear their hair long and loose, though sometimes it is held back with a headband or tied behind the head with a string or ribbon, in a ponytail. My hair fell before my shoulders, over the Ta-Teera.

My master, with his lieutenants, sat cross-legged in the large, thatched hut of Thurnus. It was high, and conical, and floored with rough planks, set some six or seven feet on poles above the ground, that it might be drier and protected from common insects and vermin. The entrance was reached by a flight of rough, narrow steps. The entrances to many of the huts in the village, similarly constructed, were reached by ladders. Thurnus was caste leader. In the center of the hut was a large flat, circular piece of metal, on which, on legs, might sit braziers or the small, flattish cooking stoves, using pressed, hardened wood, common in the villages north and west of Ar. About the walls were the belongings of the house, in coffers and bales. Elsewhere about the village were storage huts and animal pens. Mats covered the rough planks. From the walls hung vessels and leathers. A smoke hole in the top of the hut permitted the escape of fumes. The hut, probably because of its construction, was not smoky. Also, though it was windowless and had but one door, it was not, at this time of day, dark. Through the straw of its roof and sides there was a considerable, delicate filtering of sunlight. The hut in the summer is light and airy. The frame of such a hut is constructed of Ka-la-na and Tem wood. The roof is rethatched and the walls rewoven every third or fourth year. In the winters, which are not harsh at this latitude, such huts are covered on the outside with painted canvas or, among the richer peasants, with ornamented, painted bosk hides, protected and glossed with oil. The village of Tabuk 's Ford lay some four hundred pasangs generally north and slightly west. The Vosk road was the road used many years ago by the horde of Pa-Kur, in its approach to the city of Ar. We had traveled the Vosk road after crossing the Vosk on barges. It is wide, and built like a great wall, sunk in the earth. It is marked with pasang stones. It is, I suppose, given its nature, a military road leading to the north, broad enough to accommodate war tharlarion, treading abreast, and the passage, two or three, side by side, of thousands of supply wagons and siege engines, without unduly, for more than several pasangs, extending and exposing the lines of the march. Such roads permit the swift movement of thousands of men, useful either in the defense of borders, the meeting of armies, or in the expansions of imperialism, the conquests of the weak.

Thurnus looked at me.

"You may kiss my cup, Slave," said he. I pressed my lips to his cup, which he held in his hand. I was weak. I was a girl. I was at the mercy of men.

On the wall of the hut, behind Thurnus, hung the great bow, of supple Ka-la-na. It was tipped with notched bosk horn. It was now unstrung, but the string, of hemp, whipped with silk, lay ready, looped loose upon the broad, curved yellow wood. Near the bow hung a mighty quiver, in which nestled flight and sheaf arrows, and many of each thereof. Such a weapon I could not even bend. It required, too, not simply the strength of a man, but of a man who was unusually strong. Most men, no more than a woman, could use such a fearsome device. It was a common weapon among peasants. It is often called the peasant bow. The other common peasant weapon is the great staff, some six feet in length, some two inches in width. Two such staffs rested to one side, inclining upright against the wall, between a yellow box, about a foot high, and a roll of coarsely woven rep-cloth.

"And do not remove your lips from the cup," said Thurnus, "until given permission."

I kept my lips pressed to the cup, my head bent to the side. A Gorean slave girl dares not disobey.

"Thurnus," said his free companion, a large, heavy woman, in a rep-cloth veil, kneeling to one side. She was squat and heavy. She was not much pleased.

There was a kennel nearby, where Thurnus kept his girls. He did not tend his fields alone.

"Be quiet," said Thurnus, to her, "Woman."

To one side, against the wall of the hut, there rested, on a small table, a piece of plain, irregularly shaped rock, which Thurnus, years earlier, when first he had founded the farm, later to be the community, of Tabuk's Ford, had taken from his own fields. He had, one morning, years ago, bow upon his back and staff in hand, seed at his thigh, after months of wandering, come to a place which had pleased him. It lay in the basin of the Verl. He had been driven from his father's village, for his attendance upon a young free woman of the village. Her brother's arms and legs had he broken. The woman had followed him. She had become his companion. With him, too, had come two young men, and two other women, who saw in him, the young, raw-boned giant, the makings of a caste leader. Months had they wandered. Then, following Tabuk, in the basin of the Verl, he had come to a place which had pleased him. There the animals had forded the river. He had not followed them further. He had driven the yellow stake of claimancy into the dark soil, near the Verl, and had stood there, his weapons at hand, beside the stake, until the sun had reached the zenith and then, slowly, set. It was then he had reached to his feet and picked up the stone, from his own fields. It now rested in his hut. It was the Home Stone of Thurnus.

"Thurnus," said his companion.

He paid her no attention. It had been many years ago that she had followed him from the village of her father. It had all been many years ago. In the fashion of the peasants he kept her. She had grown slack and fat. She could no longer in honor return to the village of her brother.

I kept my lips pressed to Thurnus's cup. He drew the cup more closely to him. I must needs follow.

I knew he had girls he kept in a kennel.

Thurnus was a strong man, of the sort who must either have many women, or incredibly much from one woman. His companion, I supposed, was tio longer attractive to him, or, perhaps, in the prides of her freedom, was too remote to be much in his attention. It is easiest for a man to see a woman who is at his feet, begging to be seen.

"You are a pretty little slave," said Thurnus to me.

I could not speak, for my lips were pressed to his cup.

"What is her name?" asked Thurnus of my master.

"She does not have a name," he responded.

"Oh," said Thurnus. Then he said, "She is a pretty little thing." I felt his hand on my leg.

Angrily, Melina, who was the free companion of Thurnus of Tabuk's Ford, rose to her feet and left the hut.

I shuddered under the intimate touch of Thurnus. I could not withdraw from his caress for my lips must needs remain pressed to his cup.

"Perhaps we should give her a name," suggested Marla.

"Perhaps," said one of the lieutenants, looking at me.

"What do you think of Stupid Girl?" asked Marla.

The men laughed.

"Or Clumsy Girl!" she urged.

"Better," said one of the lieutenants.

How angry I was at Marla, and how jealous of her. She was a saucy slave. Had I so spoken, so freshly and without permission, I might have been whipped.

She was high slave.

"You are right," said my Master. "She is both stupid and clumsy, but she is growing in intelligence, and in beauty and grace."

I flushed with pleasure to hear him say this.

"Let us give her a name more suitable to a slave girl, who, one day, will perhaps be capable of pleasing men."

My lips remained pressed to Thurnus's cup. I could not withdraw from his caress. I began to become aroused. I was a slave. I could not help myself.

Thurnus laughed. He then, with his peasant's humor, suggested two names, both descriptive, both embarrassing.

My thighs moved. How furious I was! I was a slave. I could not help myself.

I was furious, too, at the laughter which greeted Thurnus's proposals. Yet I knew that if I were given either of those intimate, obscene names, I would have to wear it. They would simply be my name.

"Let us think further," chuckled my master. He was Clitus Vitellius, of the caste of warriors, of the city of Ar.

I began to move helplessly under the touch of Thurnus. I could not help myself. I was slave.

My master watched me. "There is something to be said of course," said he, "for the suggestions of Thurnus."

I moaned with misery.

"But I think," said he, smiling, "we may look further."

I tried to restrain myself, to keep from responding to the touch of Thurnus. I could not do so. I thought of Elicia Nevins, who had been my lovely beauty rival in the college on Earth. How amused the haughty Elicia would have been to see me now, a half naked slave girl, clad in the scandalous Ta-Teera, her lips pressed to a cup, responding so helplessly to a man's touch. How humiliated and embarrassed I was to even think of the proud, serene, contemptuous Elicia in my present predicament. How pleased I was that she could not see her old rival now.

Thurnus moved the cup a bit closer to him, maneuvering me into a yet more helpless position. My hands were clenched on the wrist that held the cup. I felt the cup with my teeth.

"Marla is a pretty name," said my Master. He looked at Marla, in his arms. "Do you not think Marla is a good name for a slave?"

"Oh, yes, Master," she whispered. "Marla is a superb name for a slave." She began to kiss him about the throat and chin.

"Perhaps I should call her 'Marla, " said he.

I knew that, in an instant, my name might be Marla. I shuddered.

"But we already have one Marla among our girls," smiled my Master, looking down into the beautiful, uplifted dark eyes of the lovely Marla.

"Yes, Master," she whispered.

I did not know what name I would wear.

"If the nameless slave interests you in the least," said my master to Thurnus, indicating me with his head, "you may, of course, do what you wish with her."

I shuddered, a slave girl on Gor.

"But," said Thurnus, laughing, "you have come to examine sleen."

My master shrugged. "That is true," he admitted.

"Let us then waste no more time sporting with slave girls," said Thurnus, "but turn our attention to more serious business." Thurnus looked at me. "You may remove your lips from the cup, Girl," he said.

I withdrew my lips from the cup. He removed his hand from my body, and stood up.

I knelt on the floor. My eyes were wide. My teeth were gritted. I wanted to scratch at the mats on the floor with my fingernails.

My master rose to his feet, and his lieutenants with him. Marla angrily, pouting, put her legs beneath her, and knelt. We were only girls. The men had business. There were more important things for them to attend to than us.

I wanted to roll on the floor and scream.

I looked at the Home Stone in the hut. In this hut, for it was here that his Home Stone resided, Thurnus was sovereign. In this hut, even had he been a lowly man or beggar, he, because of the presence in it of his Home Stone, was Ubar. A palace without a Home Stone is but a hovel; a hovel which contains a Home Stone is a palace.

In this house, this hut, this palace, Thurnus's was the supremacy. Here he might do as he pleased. His rights in this house, his supremacy in this place, was acknowledged by all guests. They shared the hospitality of his Home Stone.

Had Thurnus requested me my master, in such a situation, would have granted me to him immediately. Not to have done so would have been inexcusably rude, a betrayal, a boorish breech of hospitality and good manners.

Yet Thurnus, though I had little doubt he found me of more than casual interest, had not asked for me. I wondered if he had, in his openness with me, been testing my master, to learn him better. Thurnus impressed me as a shrewd man. My master had well respected the house of Thurnus, and his sovereignty within it. Satisfied then with the acknowledgement of this power, which was rightfully his in this house, Thurnus neither put me to his purposes, nor requested of my master his permission to do so, a permission which would have assuredly been promptly and willingly tendered. Having thus certified my master's recognition of his rights, he chose, magnanimously and nobly, as is often done, not to exercise them. I was, after all, my master's property. In this simple manner these two strong men had shown one another, in the Gorean mode, respect.

But Gorean males, I knew, in such situations, not only respected one another, but were often generous with one another.

In the feast to come tonight, Eta had warned me, there would be a general exchange of slave girls, the bond girls of the village being made available to my master's men, and his own girls, among whom I was one, being made available to the young lads of the community. We would be run between the huts within the palisade.

The men prepared to leave the hut.

My master snapped his fingers and Maria sprang to her feet and went out the door of the hut. His lieutenants followed her.

I was on my hands and knees. There were tears in my eyes. I lifted my hand to my master.

"I am afraid I have aroused your slave," said Thurnus, looking back at me.

"Please, Master," I whispered.

"It doesn't matter," he said. Then he turned and went down the stairs. "Let us look at sleen," he said.

Thurnus looked at me. "You are a pretty little slave," he said. Then he, too, turned, and, descending the steps, left the vicinity of the hut.

In the hut, alone, I struck the mats with my fists. In a short time, one of the men of my master entered the hut. He tied my hands behind my back.

"Simmer and cook until the feast, Little Pudding," he said. "You will then be well ready."

Chapter 7

Clitus Vitellius

"Do not run me, Master," wept Slave Beads. "I was once a free woman!"

"To the line," said my master.

Slave Beads stumbled. to the long line scratched in the in the village of Tabuk 's Ford. She wore the shreds of what had once been the last undergarment beneath her robes of concealment. Its sleeves had been torn away; it had been rent at the side; it had been cut short, and later torn even shorter, until it hung high upon her thighs, exposing even the left hip; at the throat it had been ripped open down, down to the belly, two inches below the navel. She was barefoot, as is common among slave girls.

"Where will we run?" wailed Slave Beads to me.

"There is nowhere to run," I told her. The village was surrounded by a palisade, the gate of which was barred.

"I do not want to be run as a slave girl," wept Slave Beads. She covered her eyes with her hands.

"Stop blubbering," said Lehna.

"Yes, Mistress," said Slave Beads. She was frightened of Lehna. One of the first things that had been done with her after her branding was to be put in a Sirik and given over to Lehna for a disciplinary switching.

My master, with his men, in a bold coup, had several weeks ago stolen the Lady Sabina of Fortress of Saphronicus from among her retainers, on her journey to be joined in companionship to Thandar of Ti, of Ti, of the Four Cities of Saleria, those comprising the Salerian Confederation. The motivation for this abduction, as well as the motivation for the companionship originally, was apparently political. The companionship was to weld commercial and political relationships between Fortress of Saphronicus and the Salerian Confederation, which was an aggressive and expanding league of cities northeast of the Vosk. The growing power of the Salerian Confederation was not viewed with favor by the city of Ar, which, lying in Gor's northern hemisphere, is the major power between the Vosk and the Cartius, and between the Voltai Range and Thassa, the sea. The Ubar of Ar, whose name is Marlenus, is said to be an ambitious and brilliant man, proud and courageous, and imperialistic. He might view the Salerian Confederation as eventually being capable, if it continued to expand, of posing a threat to Ar, either to its security or to its ambitions. As geopolitical matters now stood a plurality of disunited cities, most of them rather small, lay scattered in the territories north of the Vosk. This created, for a strong state, such as Ar, defensively, a reasonably stable, secure border, and, with respect to her possible ambitions, an attractive, exploitable power vacuum. The growth of the Salerian Confederation, on the other hand, might conceivably alter this situation to the detriment of Ar. If the cities of Saleria should multiply and grow strong, their power might balance or exceed that of great Ar itself. Armies and tarn cavalries might then move south. Already, only some years ago, Ar had tasted the bitterness of enemies within her walls, when, in the political confusion following the temporary loss of her Home Stone and the deposition of her Ubar, Marlenus, there had been a revolt of tributary cities, organized and led by Pa-Kur, Master of the Caste of Assassins. The horde of Pa-Kur, as it is spoken of, had set siege to glorious Ar. Initiates, inept and cowardly, then holding power in Ar, had surrendered the city, an act which to this day in Ar has tended to damage the prestige of that caste. On the day of Ar's surrender itself was she saved, by the uprising of her very citizens, violent in the streets, abetted by the forces of certain cities of the north, notably Ko-ro-ba and Thentis. This is told of in the songs. One of the heroes in the songs is called Tarl of Bristol. Marlenus, too, is a hero in such songs. He later retook the throne of Ar, following upon the forcible, civil overthrew of Cernus of Ar, declared a false Ubar. He sits now upon the throne of Ar. He is sometimes spoken of as the Ubar of Ubars.

Donna, and Chanda, and Marla, too, came to the line in the dirt. Slave Beads stifled a sob.

Marlenus, who has seen his city threatened by a league of cities in the time of Pa-Kur, doubtless views with disfavor the rise of the Salerian Confederation. To be sure, at this time, it is relatively weak. A Ubar, however, must think ahead. On the other hand, it is commonly suspected the major threat of the Salerian Confederation is not to Ar's security, but to her ambitions, in the person of Marlenus. The great margin of desolation which once flanked Ar on the north, just south of the Vosk, has not been maintained. It was a long wall of wilderness, an empty, unpopulated, desertlike area without water and beneficient vegetation a thousand pasangs deep. Wells were poisoned and fields burned and salted to prevent the approach of armies from the north. Now, however, in the last years, it has become green. New wells have been dug, peasants have moved into it. This, said to be a plan to bring more arable land under cultivation, is generally viewed as being an opening of this territory to large-scale military passage. It is even being stocked with. game and wild bosk. It retains now of its old character only its name, the Margin of Desolation. We had had no difficulty in traversing it, on the great road leading south to Ar. As the Margin of Desolation, no longer an artificially maintained cruel wilderness, has flowered, it has been said the eyes of Ar have been turning north. Indeed, some claim the Salerian Confederation has grown as well as it has because the cities of the north fear the possible imperialism of Ar, Whatever be the truth of these intricate geopolitical matters, it seems clear that Marlenus, for whatever reason, does not see fit to encourage the growth of the Salerian Confederation.

Eta joined us at the line. I looked at Slave Beads. Her cheeks were tear-stained. Like the rest of us she was barefoot. There was dirt about her ankles.

Clitus Vitellius, my master, was a captain of Ar. It had been his charge, I supposed, doubtless placed upon him by Marlenus of Ar, Ubar of that city, to prevent or disrupt the imminent alliance forming between Fortress of Saphronicus and the Confederation of Saleria, an alliance to be confirmed and sealed in the companionship of Thandar of Ti, youngest of the five sons of Ebullius Gaius Cassius, of the Warriors, Administrator of Ti, of the Salerian Confederation, and the Lady Sabina, the daughter of Kleomenes, high merchant of Fortress of Saphronicus.

In a bold coup had my master carried off the merchant's daughter. In a diversion, in which I had figured, he had struck the camp, seized the girl and, apparently, took flight, leaving the beginnings of a trail. In short order the warriors of the retinue had set forth upon this trail, whilst it was still hot and fresh. They safely removed by their own action from the environs of their camp, my master had then returned to the camp, to seize as well the dowry and beauteous maids of the Lady Sabina, Lehna, Donna, Chanda and Marla. We had been coffled by the left wrist and hurried into the night, on the track of the two wagons in which the Lady Sabina's dowry, divided, had been placed. Less than a pasang from the camp we had come to a small tree. The Lady Sabina, in her robes of concealment, stood with her belly to this tree, her wrists fastened about it, locked in the steel of slave bracelets. Her veils lay about her shoulders. Her head was concealed in a slave hood, buckled under her chin. The construction of this hood was such that it served not only as blindfold but gag as well, the wadding being sewn to the inside of the hood, and it being held in place by laces, emerging through eyelets, tying behind the back of the neck. Such hoods are often used in the abduction of women, either slave or free. Their efficiency and convenience mandates their use, regardless of the legal or social status of the girl on whom they are placed. I had noted that her gloves had been pulled down over her fingers, that the steel of the slave bracelets close on the wrist itself. Experienced captors, for greater security, seldom place bonds over clothing. Hose would be removed, or pulled down, for example, before a girl's ankles would be tied. A guard was with the Lady Sabina, to protect her in the event of the arrival of prowling sleen. Her retinue was, even now, hurrying down a false trail in the opposite direction. An open wrist ring stood at the head of our coffle chain, the place in the line before Lehna.

My master had unbuckled and unlaced, and pulled away, the stiffing, degrading hood. Beneath it, of course, the Lady Sabina had been face-stripped. She turned her face away, that we be unable to look upon it. My master, to my pleasure, simply took her by the hair and turned her face brazenly to all of us, exposing and baring it to all of us for our full gaze. She twisted but, hurt, could not turn her face away. He held it before us, letting us savor it, for a full Ehn. Then, after an Ehn, he released her hair. She sobbed. She regarded us, angrily. But no longer did she try to hide her face. It was pointless now to do so. My master had not seen fit to tolerate her game of modesty. She had been face-stripped, publicly.

My master stepped to where she might more clearly see him, in the moonlight.

"Who are you!" she said.

He did not respond to her.

"I am the Lady Sabina of Fortress of Saphronicus," she said. "Beware!"

The veils, by a man behind her, were lifted from about her shoulders, and dropped to the ground.

"Return my veils," she said.

The veils lay fallen, gently, upon the ground.

"I am the Lady Sabina of Fortress of Saphronicus," she said.

My master did not speak to her.

"Who are you!" she demanded. "You wear no insignia on your tunics. Who are you?" She pulled at the slave bracelets. The chain scraped at the bark. "Beware my wrath!" she said.

My master gave a sign and a man, from behind, lifting her feet, one by one, slipped her sandals from her. She then stood barefoot, her small feet in the crushed leaves and twigs at the foot of the tree. She shuddered. She was a rich, spoiled girl. I supposed shehad never been barefoot out of doors before.

"Who are you?" she whispered. No longer was she arrogant. She was now afraid. Commonly slaves go barefoot.

"Your captor," said my master, speaking to her for the first time.

"I will bring a high ransom," she said.

He put his thumb under her chin, and pushed up her head. She was, the veils gone, a delicately featured, beautiful girl. Her head was up, painfully high, his thumb under her chin. She had a lovely throat. He was perhaps considering in what sort of collar it might look best. Her hair was dark. I could not tell its color in the light. The Lady Sabina, I supposed, was more beautiful than I, but I did not think she was more beautiful than her maids. As a slave, she. would be less than they, on most blocks.

"Keep me for ransom, Warrior," she said, frightened. I think she knew her face and throat were being assessed, as might have been those of a slave.

He removed his thumb from under her chin.

"It would be irrational not to keep me for ransom," she said. "My ransom will be far higher than any price you could realize on me in a market."

This was surely true, though it was true, too, she was quite beautiful.

"Surely," said she, "you did not attack my retinue merely to carry off a girl to wear your collar."

"No," said my master. "There is, of course, the matter of the treasure dowry."

"Of course," she said. She now breathed more easily. "You are common bandits," she said. Then she said, "You have done well, stout fellows. Your loot is valuable. The dowry is immense and rich. And I, too, in ransom, will bring you much, more even than the dowry you have so boldly taken. But return to me now my veils, and my sandals, too, for my ransom surely will be less if it understood my modesty has been so grievously compromised. Your boldness, for the honor of my name and the security of your skim, may remain our secret."

"The Lady Sabina is generous," said my master.

"I ask only," said the Lady Sabina, "that you not let me fall into the hands of those of Ar."

"Ah, Lady," said my master, "there, you see, lies your true value."

"What do you mean?" she inquired apprehensively.

"We have a long trek ahead of us," said my master. "We must move through brush, and woods, and over fields. You must be attired for such a journey in a more practical fashion."

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

He slipped her gloves from her fingers.

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

"We have a long journey ahead of us," he said.

He then, with his knife, to her horror, cut away her cumbersome robes of concealment, until she was clad only in the last of her undergarments. He then ripped the sleeves from the undergarment, and they hung about her wrists, loose, kept from falling by her wrists and the slave bracelets confining her at the tree. "Sleen!" she cried. "Sleen!" He then, too, with his knife, and ripping, in a ragged circle, about her legs, above the knees, shortened the undergarment. Her calves might now be seen. They were pretty. "Sleen!" she cried. He then, upon this outburst, casually ripped away a large piece of the garment, stripping her to the thighs and, on the left side, when he discarded the piece of material, to the hip. Her outburst had earned her only more exposure. She was now as leg stripped or more than Donna, Chanda and Marla, Lehna, who had been stripped for her switching at her mistress's hands in the camp, and I, who had been stripped by the captain at the camp, were nude. The Lady Sabina, I noted, had lovely legs. She seethed at the tree. She pulled at the bracelets, tearing at the bark of the tree.

"I think now," said my master, standing back, regarding the girl, and his work, "that that constitutes a far more practical traveling costume than the robes of concealment for a long, overland journey afoot. Do you not agree, Lady Sabina?"

"My clothing," she said, "return it to me." She tried to be stern.

He, upon this remark, casually, from an inch or so below her left armpit ripped the garment open to an inch or so above her left hip. The line of her left breast, seen from the side, and the sway of her left hip, were lovely.

"Insolent sleen!" she cried. Then she shrank back, in terror. "No!" she said. My master's hands were at the collar of the garment.

"No!" she begged. He ripped it open, to two inches below her navel.

She regarded him with horror.

"Do you have any further objections to your traveling costume?" he inquired. His hands were now at the shoulders of the garment, whence it might be simply torn from her.

"No, Captor," she said.

He turned to us, and motioned us forward, the five girls in the coffle. We approached.

"You will note, Lady Sabina," said my master, "that the first wrist ring of the coffle is empty. It has been reserved for you."

He lifted the open wrist ring, on its chain.

"My ransom will be high," she whispered.

One of the men laughed. The girl regarded him, frightened.

"I ask only," she said, "that I not be permitted to fall into the hands of those of Ar."

"May I introduce myself, Lady Sabina?" inquired my master.

"Yes," she said.

He thrust the slave bracelet on her left wrist up. He placed the opened wrist ring about her left wrist, below the left slave bracelet.

"I am Clitus Vitellius," he said.

"No!" she cried.

I gathered from the way in which she had cried out that my master's name was not unknown upon this world.

"Not the captain of Ar!" she moaned.

"There are many captains in Ar, Lady Sabina," smiled my master.

She put her cheek against the bark of the tree. "Few such as Clitus Vitellius," she said.

I felt proud of my master. How marvelous to be the girl of such a man!

My master snapped shut the wrist ring about the left Wrist of the Lady Sabina. We were now chained to her, and she to us. She was now of the coffle, as were we.

"What are you going to do with me?" she asked.

"I am going to take you to my secret camp and there, under the iron, brand you a slave girl. You will then be taken to the city of Ar and, from an unimportant block, in a cheap market, sold to the highest bidder."

The girl pressed her cheek against the rough bark of the tree and moaned, and wept, staining the bark with her tears.

At a sign from my master the man who had been her guard freed her of the slave bracelets.

She now led the coffle.

"Am I not to be ransomed?" she said.

"You are too politically valuable to be ransomed," he said.

I recalled that the Lady Sabina was valuable indeed. Her companionship with Thandar of Ti, of the city of Ti, of the Salerian Confederation was to result in an alliance between Fortress of Saphronicus and the Confederation. The companionship, of course, was political. The Lady Sabina and Thandar of Ti, according to Eta, had never seen one another, the companionship being arranged by their parents and the councils of their respective cities. In such a companionship the Lady Sabina would have raised caste, and become one of the high ladies of Ti, and of the Confederation. She had been looking forward, it was well known, with enthusiasm to her attaining this high station.

"Accordingly," said my master, "it is expedient in the affairs of states that you be rendered politically valueless."

The Lady Sabina, at the head of the coffle, moaned.

As a slave she would indeed be politically valueless. She could be exchanged, or bought and sold, for whatever masters might wish. The slave is not a person before Gorean law but a rightless animal.

"Do not enslave me, Captain," she said. "Keep me and sell me to the Confederation. Free, returned to them, I will be worth immense riches to you. You and your men, if you return me to the Confederation, will become rich beyond your wildest dreams!"

"Do you ask me, Lady," inquired my master, "to betray Ar?"

She suddenly sank to her knees in terror before him. Would she be instantly slain? "No, Captain," she whispered.

"Considering your future status," said my master, "you may begin now to address free men by the title of 'Master. The experience and the practice will do you good."

"Yes," she said, "-Master."

"Behind you, Lady Sabina," said my master, "you will note a slave girl, Lehna."

"Yes, Master," she said.

"Earlier this evening," said my master, "you much and richly switched her."

"Yes, Master," said the Lady Sabina.

"Give Lehna a switch," said my master to one of his men. Lehna beamed. She was given a switch.

"Lehna," said my master, "should the Lady Sabina daily or in any way attempt to delay the coffle, it will be your charge to hasten her."

"Yes, Master," said Lehna. I did not envy the Lady Sabina.

"I am sorry I switched you, Lehna," said the Lady Sabina.

Lehna struck her savagely across the back with the switch, and the Lady Sabina, whose thin undergarment shielded her from the blow scarcely at all, cried out with misery. She could not believe the sting of the stripe. It was, I conjectured, the first time in her life she had ever been struck. "Lehna!" she cried.

"Address the girls as Mistress," ordered my master, standing over the kneeling free girl.

"Yes, Master," she said.

Lehna again, savagely, struck the kneeling girl. "Please, do not strike me, Mistress!" wept the Lady Sabina.

My master turned away, to speak to his men. In a few moments he, not looking back, strode away, through the trees, followed by the majority of his men, in single file. One man remained behind, to follow the coffle, some yards to the rear.

"On your feet, Lady Sabina!" cried Lehna.

The Lady Sabina leapt to her feet, with a rustle of chain.

"You will take your first step with your deft foot," said Lehan, "upon my signal. Later you will learn to walk gracefully and beautifully in chains. That is too much to expect now from an ignorant girl."

"Yes, Mistress," said the Lady Sabina.

"Are you ready, noble, lofty Lady Sabina?" inquired Lehna.

"I am sorry I switched you, Mistress," said the Lady Sabina.

"Do not fret, my dear," said Lehna. "I will see that you are well repaid."

"Please, Mistress!" cried the Lady Sabina.

"Were you given permission to speak in coffle?" asked Lehna.

"No, Mistress," moaned the Lady Sabina. Lehna then struck her twice, cruelly, with the switch.

"Do you think me weak, Lady Sabina?" inquired Lehna.

"No, no!" wept the Lady Sabina.

Lehna then struck her again. "You are right," she said. "I am not weak."

The Lady Sabina wept.

"Stand straight," said Lehna. "Straighter!" She poked the Lady Sabina with the switch.

The Lady Sabina then, choking back her tears, stood straight in the coffle, the posture accentuating the lovely lines of her chained beauty. I smiled. She stood as straight, as desirably, as beautifully as a slave girl.

"On the left foot, on my signal," said Lehna.

"Yes, Mistress," said the Lady Sabina.

"Now!" said Lehna, crying out, striking her. With a cry of misery the Lady Sabina, moving first on her left foot, stumbled forward. "Faster!" said Lehna, hitting her again. "Yes, Mistress!" cried the Lady Sabina.

We hurried on then, swiftly, through the mixed shadows and moonlit trees, following the men, our masters.

"I do not want to be run for the pleasure of boys," wept Slave Beads.

"Be silent, Slave Girl," snapped Lehna.

"Yes, Mistress," said Slave Beads.

The girls of Clitus Vitellius, I among them, stood at the line scratched in the dirt within the peasant village of Tabuk 's Ford, some four hundred pasangs to the north, and slightly to the west of Ar, some twenty pasangs off the Vosk road to the west.

The young lads of the peasantry eyed us with pleasure. We were all vital, lithe beauties, and, most excitingly, slaves. It was not everyday that such girls, the girls of a warrior, would be run for their pleasure. Our bondage meant that we must, once captured, be marvels for them.

There was discussion of the rules of the hunt. Too, bets were being taken. Some of the young men came to the line, to look us over at closer hand.

"Oh," said Slave Beads. One of the lads had put his hand on her leg.

"Good stock," said one of the boys. "Yes," agreed another.

Another young lad, strapping, put his hands on me. I tried to pull away a bit, but I did not much resist. I was a slave, and did not wish to be whipped.

On the other side of Donna. Marla stood, her head in the air, seeming not to notice the hands of the boys upon her.

I looked over at Slave Beads. She was crying. Her head was in her hands. Two peasant lads, one standing, one crouching, were, by hand and eye, appraising her flesh. They did this with the same attention and innocence that they would have brought to the examination of any other domestic animal.

The two boys then moved on to me. I closed my eyes. They were not gentle. I was examined with less respect, being a slave, than would have been accorded to a bosk heifer.

I wanted to tear at their eyes with my fingernails. But I did not wish to be whipped, or slain. It is not surprising that the Gorean slave girl is obedient. Those who are not obedient are often destroyed. I was terribly afraid then, that I had even felt a momentary impulse to rebellion. I shook with terror. Did I think I was still on Earth? Did I not know I was now on Gor? I shuddered. Rebellion is not permitted to the Gorean slave girl.

The boys continued to examine me.

Tears formed in my eyes. There is a mock rebellion which is sometimes permitted a slave girl, or even commanded of her, for the master's amusement. I felt a tear on my cheek. "Show rebellion," is a command which a girl must, as any other, obey. Yet it is a terribly cruel command. "Kneel," is the command which, commonly, puts an end to her rebellion. When a girl has been permitted defiance it is then all the sweeter, I gather, to bring her again to her knees before you.

Suffice it to say the girl belongs to her master, completely. I opened my eyes. The young men moved on to Donna.

"You are crying," said Slave Beads to me.

I shook my head, and hair. "It is nothing," I said. I stood on the line. How far I had come from Earth, I thought. I was sensitive, and a poetess. Now I stood on a dirt line in a peasant village on an alien world, no longer the free Judy Thornton but rather now only a nameless, half-naked slave girl, waiting to be run for the pleasure of boys. I understood little of what had happened to me. I did not know how it was that I had come to this world. I did not know, in a sense, who I was or what I was supposed to do.

I smiled to myself. I did know I belonged to Clitus Vitellius, a captain of Ar.

In the belly of me, though I would scarcely admit this to myself, I did not object. He was such a man.

From the line, I glanced back to the open fires, where he sat with men of the village, Thurnus, caste leaders, peasant and sleen master, among them.

I shook with pleasure as I stood on the line, and looked at Clitus Vitellius. Within the Ta-Teera my thighs, even looking at him, were hot and damp. He did not notice me, and was talking to Thurnus. He was the sort of man who would set his terms for a woman, even a free woman. No woman, even one who was free, would be permitted to relate to him save on his terms, and on his terms alone. He would not argue, nor would he discuss, nor persuade nor negotiate; to the free woman's horror she would understand that she must, as he saw fit, submit herself as hopelessly and will-lessly as a slave girl for his consideration. He would enter into no relationship except on his own terms. His terms were simple, that the woman be yielded to him, totally, that she be as much his, and as helplessly, though by her own free will, as any slave girl on whom he might choose to fix his collar. He would be, even in a companionship, to the scandal of Ar, master. No woman who failed to meet these understood, publicized and well-known terms would be acceptable.

I looked at my master, sitting cross-legged by the fire, talking with Thurnus.

Yet hundreds of the highborn free women of Ar, many rich, had avidly sought companionship with Clitus Vitellius.

I did not blame them. Had I been a free woman of Ar, I, too, would have sought such companionship. To have such a man as Clitus Vitellius I would have accepted his terms. So, too, I think would have any true woman. Surely it is better to have a true man on any terms than to have half a man, or no man at all. Men are masters; if the man be strong, the woman must submit. Given the opportunity to relate to a true man, few women will settle for less. Indeed, true women, in the belly of them, desire to submit to true men. It is an ancient instinct bred into the bellies of beautiful, feminine women.

"Remove your clothing," would my master say to a high-born free woman, suing to be considered by him in companionship. She would do so, and be assessed. If he was not pleased, he would send her weeping from his presence, clutching the rag of a slave, to don it and return to her dwelling. If he was not displeased he would gesture to the tiles before him where there waited a goblet of slave wine which she, kneeling before him, would eagerly drink. She would serve him that night as a slave. In the morning, she, nude, would prepare and serve to him his breakfast, after which he would make fresh use of her; he would then send her from his presence, first pressing into her hand a coin, usually a copper tarsk or a silver tarsk, commensurate with the quality of her service. Such women went from his quarters proudly, clad in the full regalia of the free woman. They were not discontent. They had been touched by Clitus Vitellius. Some women claimed that they had earned from Clitus Vitellius a tarn disk of gold. Such a coin would buy several girls such as myself. Sometimes a girl, rather than be sent from his presence, would beg to be kept as a collared slave. She would then sign a document of enslavement which, after her signature was affixed, she would be powerless to alter or break, for she would then be only a slave. Clitus Vitellius would commonly keep such a girl for a few days, and then discard her, usually giving her to a friend or selling her. I wondered if such a girl, braceleted, and pulled away from him on her leash, regretted her choice. She was then in bondage, subject to chains and the whip, and the will of men. What had she then to look forward to but the degradation of the sales block, being exposed to men as a slave and being vended in a public market; being owned by a succession of hard masters, accustomed to the management of girls such as she; onerous work and strict discipline; and the continuous exploitation of her body and service? Perhaps, for a woman, the thrill of being owned and commanded, of being at the absolute mercy of a powerful man, knowing that she must obey him, and experiencing, if she be fortunate, incredible, helpless, incomparable love, of the sort which can be felt only by a completely rightless woman, fully and absolutely owned by a man, in his total bondage. But such thoughts would not be likely to be prominent in the mind of a leashed girl, helplessly braceleted, being dragged to her first sale.

I looked at my master. How magnificent he was.

His collar, I had heard, was one of the most sought collars in Ar.

When he strode through the streets free women sometimes threw themselves before him, tearing away their veils and robes, begging for his collar.

He was such a man.

One's freedom is small enough price to pay, whisper some highborn women of Ar among themselves, for even ten days in the collar of Clitus Vitellius. The boredoms of freedom are small enough price to pay surely for even a brief sojourn in the arms of such a man, they conjecture.

But such women, I told myself, must be natural slaves, even though they be legally free, as I was not. If they are natural slaves, I asked myself, should they not be made slaves? Why should one who is a natural slave not be a slave? Can it be wrong to enslave a natural slave? Is it not right that natural slaves be enslaved? Is it not what they want? I looked at my master. What woman, I asked, would not be the natural slave of such a man? He was a natural master. Any woman, I suspected, to such a man, would be a natural slave. Almost any woman, I suspected, looking on such a man, would sense herself his natural slave.

That would explain why the women of Ar would twist on their couches like bitches in heat thinking of Clitus Vitellius. In the darkness, remembering him, his stride, his glance, and limbs, they would have intuited him as their master.

"Prepare to run, Slaves!" called a peasant.

I looked at my master. The heat in my thighs made me want to run to him but I dared not leave the line.

Earlier in the afternoon, casually, Thurnus had aroused me, and no one had satisfied me.

I had spent the afternoon in a slave girl's misery.

I wanted to run to my master.

I dared not leave the line.

I looked at my master. I wondered if I, though a girl of Earth, were a natural slave.

How I wanted him to have me.

Clitus Vitellius, in spite of the desires of the women of Ar, had never taken a companion.

I did not think he ever would. He was Clitus Vitellius. He would have slave girls instead.

He would always keep his girls in collars. I loved him!

"When the torch is lowered," called a peasant, lifting up a torch, lit from the fire, "you will run."

"Yes, Master," we said to him.

"The torch will then be placed in the earth," he said. "When it is fixed in the soil, you will have two hundred beats of a slave girl's heart." He pointed to a peasant's slave, who stood nearby. She was a girl of peasant stock, who had been, two years ago, stolen by slavers from a village hundreds of pasangs to the west. Thurnus had purchased her in Ar and brought her on a rope behind his wagon to Tabuk's Ford. She was thick-ankled and blond-haired, a good-looking, wide-hipped, blue-eyed, strapping girl. One of my master's men stood behind her, his left hand on her left arm. His right hand, about her body, was thrust through her brief, woolen tunic. He would count the beats of her heart. She was barefoot. About her throat, looped twice, knotted, was a length of coarse rope. I looked at the rope. It was snug on her throat. It was thus that Thurnus marked his girls. I conjectured that the heart of such a girl would be slow and strong.

"You will then be sought," said the peasant.

Counting the time it would take to fix the torch in the earth and for her heart to beat two hundred times, I conjectured that we would have a lead on our pursuers of some three minutes. I looked at the girl. Her lips were slightly parted. This angered me. She was excited by the hand of my master's man on her flesh. She backed slightly against him. Her heart would now be beating more rapidly. She was, after all, a girl in bondage, like us. Why did they not take a hundred beats of the heart of a standing bosk? Her sexual excitement at the proximity of my master's man might, I now noted, considerably diminish our lead. I decided to count now on a lead of little more than two minutes. Moreover, she was to be his for the night, once he had counted upon her body, using her beating heart as the clock of the evening's sport. It was no wonder that she was excited. This did not seem to me to be fair. But I did not complain. The men decide what is fair or unfair, and will, in any case, do precisely as they please. It is the girl's part to abide by their decision. The men decide; the girl submits. One must be master, one slave.

Eta was to my far right, on the line. Then came Maria, and Donna. I stood on the dirt line between Donna and, to my left, Slave Beads. To her left was Chanda, and on the far left, was Lehna.

"I do not want to be run for peasant boys," said Slave Beads. "I was once free."

"I, too, was once free," I told her.

"You are slave now," said Slave Beads.

"So, too, are you," I snapped.

"Does Slave Beads wish to be switched again?" called Lehna.

"No, Mistress," said Slave Beads, hastily. Slave Beads feared Lehna. For most practical purposes, she had been put in the charge of Lehna almost from the first moments of her capture. She was commonly chained before Lehna in the coffle, and it was under Lehna's supervision that she commonly performed her tasks.

After the capture of the Lady Sabina we had returned to the secret cache camp, to which my master had originally brought me, his barbarian girl. At the cache camp, the first night of our arrival, the Lady Sabina had been stripped and thrown on her back, head down, on the inclining, white-barked tree trunk, to which she had then been, as I had been before her, helplessly roped. When the iron had been pulled from her burned, marked flesh she had been rendered, as was the intention of my master, and those in Ar, politically valueless. She was then only a slave. She was unroped and thrown, a bond girl, to the feet of my master.

"We must name you," he said. «Sabina-Sabina-» said he, as though musing on the thought. "Ah," had he then said, "it seems that you, in your former name, carried already, an excellent slave name."

"Oh, no, no, Master!" she wept.

"Your former name," said he, "was clever. It appears to be the name of a free woman, and yet, within it, in disguise, which we now penetrate, it concealed secretly your true name. Very clever, Slave, but now you are discovered and you will openly wear your true name, that which will perfectly fit you and which I now, in the decree of the master, make yours."

"Please, Master!" she wept.

"You are Bina," said he.

She put her head in her hands, and wept. The expression 'Bina' in Gorean means slave beads.

"Put Slave Beads in a Sirik," said my master. Swiftly my master's new girl was locked in the light, gleaming Sirik. The collar clasped her throat; a chain dangled from the collar; her small wrists were locked in the slave bracelets fixed on the dangling chain, and the dangling chain, itself, looped down to a short chain and pair of ankle rings, to which it was gracefully fastened at a sliding ring. The ankle rings were then closed about the lovely ankles of Slave Beads, and locked. She was helpless in Sirik. The confinement became her. She was beautiful. I had never worn Sirik.

She knelt before my master, naked, in Sirik. She looked up at him. Her thigh, freshly branded, bore the common slave mark of Gor, the initial letter, in cursive script, of the Gorean expression 'Kajira, which means Slave Girl. She trembled. She was now no different from thousands of other girls who shared her condition, that of total bondage.

"Greetings, Slave Beads," said my master.

"Greetings, Master," she said, responding to her name, as she must.

My master looked down at her, and smiled. She looked up at him, trembling. He was her master.

"Perhaps you remember, Slave Beads," said my master, "that, on an evening, some days ago, a free woman harshly and at length punished a slave girl."

"You know?" she asked.

"We observed, in scouting the camp," said he. He looked down at the kneeling girl, locked in the Sirik. "The beating was well done," said he.

"Thank you, Master," she whispered.

"The crime of the slave girl, as I recall," said my master, "was to desire the touch of a man."

Lehna stood to one side. She stood straight, as an exciting slave girl.

"Yes, Master," said Slave Beads.

"The free woman," said my master, "was doubtless well within her rights to beat the girl."

"Yes, Master!" said Slave Beads.

"But that free woman," said my master, "has since that time herself fallen slave. Indeed, she is now in this camp."

"Yes, Master," said Slave Beads.

"The slave girl whom she beat is, too, in this camp," said my master.

"Yes, Master," said Slave Beads. She trembled in the Sirik.

"Do you yourself desire the touch of a man?" asked my master.

"Oh, no! No, Master!" cried Slave Beads.

"Ah," said my master, "it seems that in this camp we have a slave girl, too, who is guilty of a crime."

"Who, Master?" asked Slave Beads.

"You," said he.

"Not I!" she cried.

"You," said he.

"What is my crime?" she asked.

"Not to desire the touch of a man," said he.

She looked at him, aghast.

"You see," said he, "in this camp it is a crime for a girl not to desire a man's touch." My master turned to one of his men. "Bring Lehna a switch," he said. He turned again to Slave Beads. "You will be well punished for your crime, Slave Girl," said he.

"I am ready, Master," said Lehna.

"Do not forget this beating," said my master. "You are to desire men. Further, it will be well for you to learn what it is to be a beaten slave girl. What you did to Lehna she will now do to you. Perhaps you will then have a richer understanding of what it was, truly, that you did to her. Perhaps you will regret that you were not a kinder mistress."

"She will regret it, Master," promised Lehna, licking her lips.

"I will now leave you to the tender mercies of Lehna," said my master. "Let us hope that, in the future, your masters and mistresses will be kinder to you than was the Lady Sabina of Fortress of Saphronicus to her slaves."

"Do not leave me with her, Master!" cried Slave Beads. "She will kill me! She will kill me!"

"It is not impossible," said my master. He turned to leave, then turned. again to face the kneeling, terrified Slave Beads. "It is my hope, too," said he, "that this beating will prove a useful initiation for you, given your antecedents and nature, into the condition of slavery." He looked at her, sternly. "Yes, Master," she said, looking up at him. "After your beating," he said, "you will be asked again if you desire the touch of men. I trust, then, your answer will be affirmative. If it is not, you will be again beaten, and again, throughout the night."

"My answer will be affirmative, Master," whispered Slave Beads.

My master then turned away from her, and so, too, did we all, leaving her with Lehna.

Later my master took Slave Beads by the hair. "Do you now desire the touch of men?" he asked. "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, Master," she wept.

She was then released from the Sirik. "Go to the men," said my master.

"Yes, Master," she said. She crawled to the men, on her hands and knees. She extended her hand to one of them, and looked up at him, with tears in her eyes. "Please touch Slave Beads, Master," she begged.

He took her by the hair and pulled her into the darkness. We did not retire that night until Slave Beads, on her knees, had begged the touch of each of my master's men. He himself was the last to grant her plea. When he had finished with her he put her again in the Sirik and threw her to the wall of the cliff. Eta went to her and, putting a rep-cloth blanket about her, held her and comforted her. "Poor slave," said Eta.

I, and the other girls, went to sleep.

"Run!" cried the man, lowering the torch.

I, and the other girls, sped, scattering, from the dirt line.

Some fifty yards from the line, in the darkness, between the straw huts, on their pilings, I stopped, and, wild, gasping, in the Ta-Teera, looked back.

Already the torch had been fixed in the ground. The slave girl who wore the rope of Thurnus on her throat as a collar leaned back against the man of my master. Her head was back on his shoulder. Her eyes were closed. His hand was tight on her body, counting the beats of her heart. He was calling the count, but I could not hear him.

I looked wildly about, and then ran further through the huts, down the long corridor between them. Then my hands were pressed against the smooth logs of the palisade surrounding the village. I pressed my body and cheek against the wood. I stepped back and, hands on the wood, looked up. The pointed tops of the palings were eight feet over my head. I turned about, my back to the logs, and looked back down the narrow dirt street. I could see the fire in the village's clearing, its light on the faces of the men about it. I saw the boys getting to their feet, eagerly.

"There is no place to hide!" wept Slave Beads, who was near me.

"We are slaves," I snapped at her. "We are meant to be caught."

I saw some of the boys spitting on their hands and wiping them on their thighs. This would improve their grip. The flesh of a girl would be less likely to slip from their hands.

More than one of them I knew wanted me. Bets had been taken on who would bring me as his slave for the night to the ring drawn about the torch, as they had, too, on the other girls. A big red-haired fellow and a smaller dark-haired fellow had bet on which of them would take Slave Beads.

I saw Chanda creeping into a hut.

Slave Beads turned away from me and fled about the interior perimeter of the palisade.

I followed her, and then darted among the huts. I almost died of fear when, suddenly, I heard, not feet from me, a bedlam of vicious snarling. I cried out, my hand before my mouth. Dozens of vicious eyes blazed at me from behind the stout bars of a sleen pen, one of several in the village. Snouts and teeth pressed at the bars. I stumbled back.

I ran again.

I did not see Marla or Eta, nor Lehna. Slave Beads, too, had fled elsewhere.

I did see a white ankle, not covered by a piece of canvas. It was Donna. "You had best cover this ankle, or you will be soon found, Slave Girl," I said, angrily, jerking the canvas over it. Donna shrank even smaller, covered by the canvas. She trembled beneath it, her head down, under her hands. She was slender, small-breasted and lovely-legged. She had dark eyes, dark hair. The name «Donna» is an Earth name, but the girl, as I had determined, was Gorean. Many Gorean names, as words in the Gorean language, apparently have an Earth origin. Her original name had been Tais. She had been a slave since the age of eight, but it had not been until she was seventeen that she had been judged fit for men, and then branded. Donna, in the beginning, had been a block name. Girls are usually sold under a name, it being easier then for the auctioneer to refer to them; too, for some reason, the intensity of the bidding often increases when a named girl is being vended; it makes, I suppose, the buying and selling much more exciting and personal; "See, Generous Buyers, the flesh of Donna! Is Donna not beautiful? Stand straight, Donna. What am I bid, Noble Buyers, for Donna?" The original Donna had perhaps been a girl brought in a chain and collar from Earth. Her name, finding favor with masters, considering it a lovely slave name, would then have been given, from time to time, to other girls, perhaps some Gorean, perhaps some, like herself, of Earth origin. Tais was too fine a name for a slave; accordingly the lovely seventeen-year-old Gorean girl had been sold in Ko-ro-ba under the block name of Donna, a slave name calculated to excite Gorean buyers. Many Earth-girl names, incidentally, on Gor, are regarded as slave names. Gorean males, commonly, regard the women of Earth as fit only to be their slaves. But Donna, though she had been adjudged fit for men and branded, was sold from the block in Ko-ro-ba to a visiting merchant, Kleomenes of Fortress of Saphronicus, who took her with him and gave her to his spoiled daughter, the Lady Sabina, as a woman's slave. Donna had been a virgin until she was raped in the coffle on the first night of the march by two of my master's men. She had been had from time to time since then, but Marla, Eta and, surprisingly, I, had been the most consistently abused of the girls of Clitus Vitellius. The more beautiful I had become the more often I had been raped; and the more I had been raped, the more beautiful I had become. I think that I understood the problem of Donna. She feared men. The slave girl must, surely, if she is rational, fear men, but, too, she must regard them as potentially constituting for her sources of incredible pleasure. Donna's timidity and lingering uncertainty with men, I think, was largely a function of her fear that she might not be capable of giving them pleasure. It is one thing to be thrown down and raped; it is quite another to hear the indolent command, "Please me." The responsibility for pleasure is often placed on the slender, lovely shoulders of the slave girl. It is she, then, who must labor in her bondage to be pleasing. As soon as I had understood that the quality of my life on Gor, given my brand, would depend on my ability to please men I had begged Eta to give me instruction. She had been extremely helpful, teaching me many things I might never have discovered myself. She had actually received some weeks of slave training in the pens of Ar, a tutelage to which Clitus Vitellius in disgust at her ineptness had remanded her; she had attended diligently to her lessons; when she returned to his quarters it had been clear by morning that it would not be necessary to sell her off. She had made an acceptable beginning in learning the arts of the slave girl. These arts, it might be mentioned, are intricate and diverse, and are complex and rich in many modes and dimensions. Most obviously they are domestic, sexual and psychological. Too, they are culinary, kinetic, cosmetic and artistic. Like the painter and the musician the slave girl need never stop growing in her art, which is the creation of beauty and joy for herself and her master. I had swiftly sought slave instruction; Donna had not. Perhaps I was more practical than she. Perhaps, rather, I was simply a slave and she was not. I was of Earth. The men of Gor regard the women of Earth as natural slaves. Perhaps I was a natural slave. That might be the difference between Donna and myself. Yet I suspected that if I were a natural slave so, too, were all women. Donna, I was sure, would learn her slavery. She was beautiful. She would come around. It requires only the right master to bring out the slave in any woman.

I heard a shout from the center of the camp. The hunters were now in pursuit.

"Do not be afraid, Donna," I said to her. "You will not be beaten or much beaten. You will not truly have to serve. These are only peasant boys and will not know one end of a slave girl from the other."

Then I fled from her side, through the spaces between the dark huts.

I hoped that what I had said to Donna was true. I was sure that the peasant boys, indeed, would not know much of the handling of slave girls. Doubtless they would lack the patience and skill to get all from a girl. I did not think, for example, that they would know how to force me into the slave girl's humiliating submission ecstasy. On the other hand, I regarded them. with genuine fear. They could well hurt me. I remembered their roughness and the way they had, with brutal exactness, appraised my flesh. I was so much smaller and weaker than they, and their lust would be on them. They could well be terribly brutal with me. I was to them, after all, only an animal. They might hurt me. They might throw me about among them. They might beat me with ropes if I were not pleasing to them.

I heard a young man running by. I shrank back in the shadows, crouching among the pilings of a hut.

I did not want them to catch me. I was locked within the palisade. There was no place to hide!

I heard a girl scream, far to my right. They had taken one of us. I did not know whom.

I did not want a rope put on my throat. I did not want to be dragged to the circle of the torch, a caught girl.

Two young men came by, with torches. I hid back, among the pilings.

Shortly after they had passed, the sleen in a pen, some fifty yards off, began to squeal and hiss. They ran toward the pen. Something had disturbed the sleen. Perhaps it was a girl.

Two more young men were approaching, one holding aloft a torch. Again I shrank back among the pilings, holding my breath. They passed.

I saw them stop beside a hut several yards away. The one lifted the torch. It illuminated what appeared to be a pile of canvas. They stood there, one on each side of the pile, it almost at their feet. Cruelly they stood there, not moving. Donna would know that their footsteps had approached. They had not departed. She must, surely, fearfully suspect that her position was known. Yet she did not know for certain. How miserable she must have felt, huddling beneath the canvas, how tense and terrified, how apprehensive. Cruelly they stood as they were, not moving, for almost a minute. She could hear the crackle of the torch. Did they know where she was? Were they playing with the beauty, tormenting her? Longer yet did they stand there, and then, exchanging glances, one of them, with a sudden, loud cry, pounced on the pile of canvas. Shrieking with misery Donna was lifted, by one ankle and an arm, high into the air, over the head of the boy who had seized her. He held her over his head. She struggled, held from the ground, high, helpless, her lovely limbs without leverage. "Capture!" cried the boy. "Capture!" cried another lad, coming from the direction of the sleen pen, where the sleen, shortly before, had hissed and squealed, revealing their agitation. He held Lehna before him, his left hand on her left arm, his right hand on her right wrist, forcing her right arm high, painfully, behind her back. He pushed her before him, so held. Her gown had been pulled down about her hips. She grimaced with pain, her head back.

"Please, Master!" she wept. Lehna was a larger woman than I. She was strong among us girls. Slave Beads lived in terror of her. But in the arms of a male, even a lusty boy, she was slight and helpless, small, to them only another pretty slave girl in their power. I bit my lip. Men were our masters. With the boy who had captured Lehna came four others, two with torches. The boy who had captured Donna had now thrown her, belly down, across his left shoulder. Her head hung down behind his back. His left arm, heavy, brawny, locked her in place. "Let us see your catch," said one of the newly arrived boys. "Tie her ankles," said the lad who held Donna over his shoulder. One of the other boys, who carried a ten-foot length of rope, with one end of the rope, crossed and tied together Donna's ankles, while she was still held on the shoulder of her captor. "Who is your master of the night?" inquired Lehna's captor of Lehna. He thrust her right wrist higher behind her back. "You! You, Master!" she cried. "You are my master of the night!" "Ankle leash her," said the lad who held Lehna. Another lad tied a tether on her left ankle. The ankle leash is cruel. It provides effective control of a girl. There is much that can be done with such a leash, particularly in the control of a skillful master. Most obviously, in an instant the girl may be thrown to his feet in a variety of positions, over which he exercises choice. The lad who had captured Donna, now that her ankles were tied, heaved her with a laugh over his shoulder. She landed in the dirt behind him. She broke her fall, as best she could, with her hands. The long end of the rope which bound her ankles trailed her over his shoulder. Her captor took the end of the rope from the lad who had bound her and, holding it about a foot from her fastened ankles, pulled her feet some six inches into the air. She was lying on her stomach. "There is my catch," he said. Then he said to Donna, "Roll over." She rolled onto her back, her tied feet now held about a foot off the ground by the rope. "There, my friends," beamed her captor, "is my catch!" "A beauty!" said one of the boys. "Yes, a beauty!" said her captor. He was proud of Donna. I did not blame him. She was indeed beautiful. Donna was a marvelous catch. "I want her!" said one of the lads. "First capture rights are mine," said the lad who had caught Donna, "but I am generous, and will share my prize with all of you!" There was hearty acclaim among the lads upon the receipt of his welcome intelligence. Donna squirmed, but was helpless on her back, her feet bound, held in the air by the captor's tether. "What of my prize?" demanded another lad, he who had caught Lehna by the sleen pen. He now held her ankle leash, and stepped back, bowing and displaying the half-stripped Lehna with an expansive gesture. She, too, I was forced to admit, was a superb prize. Such boys did not have such girls everyday. She was a warrior's belonging. "How can we tell if she is pretty?" asked one of the boys. "Thusly!" said one, tearing away the bit of gown about Lehna's hips. There was laughter. She was very beautiful. "But she is standing!" protested the first lad. "Belly or back?" asked Lehna's captor. "Both!" cried more than one lad. Expertly, with the ankle leash, the lad displayed Lehna's beauty in the luscious modes of horizontality. Some Goreans say that a woman's beauty can only be fairly judged when she lies at a man's feet. More than one of the lads cried out with pleasure and slapped his thigh. Donna then screamed as the boys turned to her. Her gown, too, was torn off. Her ankles were still tied. "To the circle of the torch!" cried a lad. "On your feet, Wench!" said the lad who had captured Lehna. She scrambled to her feet, covered with dirt. "Three have yet to be caught," said a lad. I knew one girl had been caught early; I had heard a scream some time ago; I did not know who she was; now I knew that Lehna and Donna were in the power of the pursuers; if only three remained to be caught, then one other girl, somewhere, had also been captured. I did not know who she was either. "Let us take these to the circle of the torch," said one of the lads, "and bind them securely, then hunt the others." The captors hesitated. "You can put your marks on these in charcoal," said one of the boys, indicating Donna and Lehna. "All right," said one of the captors. "Agreed!" said the other. Lehna was led away on her ankle leash, fastened on her left ankle, and by her right wrist, too, it held in the hand of one of the boys. Donna's captor, to her misery, dragged her behind him through the dirt on the tether which fastened her ankles together. I saw the group, pursuers and fair captives, helpless in their charge, disappear down the street.

I shuddered in the darkness among the pilings. I did not want to be captured.

A bold plan leaped into my mind. I began to move through the darkness. I kept in the shadows. I moved furtively. Sometimes I crawled. As much as I could I kept under the huts, among the pilings. Twice boys with torches passed quite near to me. I shrank back in the shadows. Then I threw myself to my belly. Not more than ten yards away I saw Chanda, wild, running. She was fleeing down a nearby street. There was a rope on one of her wrists. It was a wrist tether rope, knotted about her right wrist, with a handle loop, about a foot long, by which she might be led. I remained still. Behind her, in a few moments, carrying a torch, came two boys. "I was first to see her in the hut," said one. "I was first to put her to the floor and get my rope on her," said the other. The first lad lifted his torch, peering about. "Let us not dispute the matter further," he said. "Let us continue the hunt." "Very well," said the other. Warriors, I thought, would not have lost a girl in such a fashion. Girls do not escape warriors.

I hoped that Chanda would escape.

I continued my journey. I continued to keep largely under huts. Too, I often crawled now. I had no wish to leave the prints of a slave girl's small feet. Once I almost cried out with misery, for the path to my desired destination lay across a dark street, down which, a hundred yards or so away, I could see the center of the village, where, about the village fire, were seated several men, villagers and my master, and his men. On my belly I inched across this street and then, gratefully, slipped again into the shadows among and beneath the huts.

For the moment I was again safe.

I did not much fear being trailed for, though slave girls would be barefoot, as I, there would also be in the village the numerous prints of village bond girls, not simply mine, and those of my sisters in bondage. It would be next to impossible, in this populous and much trekked village, particularly in the night, by torchlight, to follow a girl's trail without the use of sleen, which might not, happily for the pursued females, be used in the hunt. If the boys could not find us by themselves they simply could not have us that night for their sport. We would have won our freedom from their aggressions. I determined to escape.

At last, stealthily, crawling in the darkness, I reached that position in the village which I had anxiously sought, that portion of the village where my master and his men had made their camp. I crawled among the furs there, in the darkness. Tentings had not been erected.

I heard a girl weeping and stumbling. "Hurry along, female," I heard. "Yes, Master," I heard. I dared not move. I scarcely dared breathe. I lay as small, as tiny, as silent, as still, as I could. Some figures, three of them, were passing me, some yards on my right. Perhaps if they had looked, they might have seen me. When they had passed, I lifted my head, ever so slightly. They had circled our camp area, between it and the edge of the palisade, and were now returning to the center of the village. I looked. Chanda's hands were now bound tightly behind her back, the wrist tether's handle loop having been used for this purpose. She was bent over. She was stumbling. Her gown had been pulled down about her hips. She was weeping. One of the boys' hands was in her hair. She was being hurried along. They were not patient with her. She was being half dragged, not merely perfectly controlled, by the cruel grip. I did not envy her. She had irritated them by her earlier escape. Doubtless they would make her pay well for her temerity. Men do not care to be displeased by slave girls. I hoped that she would not be excessively beaten. I saw them take her to the circle of the torch. There they bound her hand and foot. They also marked on her body with some burnt wood from the fire, probably putting their ownership marks on her, marking her as theirs for the night.

I crept into my master's furs. For the first time I now breathed more easily.

I heard two boys calling to one another. "How many of the she-tarsks are still at large?" asked one. "Two," he was answered. I did not know who the other uncaptured beauty might be.

I snuggled down in my master's furs, covering my head. I did not think they would find me there. Who would think a girl bold enough to hide in her master's furs? Too, I did not think the peasant boys would dare to look into the furs of a warrior. Surely they valued their lives. I felt secure. It was probably the only place in the village where I might be safe. I was well pleased with myself. I loved the smell of my master's body, which was in the furs, surrounding me with its excitement. The aura of his ownership enveloped me. I felt warm, and protected, and stimulated as a slave girl, warm in my master's furs. I wished that he, too, were in the furs, that I might perform delicious, servile duties for him, fitting for one who was only a lowly bond girl. I loved him. Was I his slave because I loved him or did I love him because I was his slave? I smiled. I was his slave, totally and completely, whether I loved him or not. That was legal, institutional, on this world. I was his to do with as he pleased, completely. I was without rights; his will determined all. He was everything; I was nothing; he was master; I was slave. I decided that I was both his slave and that I loved him. But I did not think I could have loved him so much had he not been so powerful, and had I not been his slave, so helplessly.

I heard a shout outside, and I lay very still. I heard the boys crying out with triumph, and pleasure. In a few moments, when I dared, I looked out from the furs. They had taken another girl. Did they think she would escape? It was Slave Beads. She was being carried to the circle of the torch. She was carried on the shoulder of a brawny peasant lad. She was roped hand and foot, at the ankles, at the thighs above the knees, her wrists behind her back, and about her upper arms and body. In addition, one lad walked in front with a rope which was tied on her neck, and another walked behind with a rope tied about her left ankle. There were several boys in the group. Several, apparently, had flushed her out and, together, run her down like a startled, confused tabuk hind.

I, now, alone of all the girls, had escaped them. I was proud of my ingenuity and cunning.

For more than an Ahn I lay quiet in the furs. Sometimes the young hunters came near, but they did not molest our camp, nor much penetrate its perimeters. One did walk within two or three yards of me, carrying a torch, but I lay very still. He did not throw aside the furs of my master, nor those of the other men.

I lay warm in the furs, happy. I had escaped from them. There was a possibility, I supposed, that my master would not be pleased that I had hidden in his furs, If this were so, I supposed that I would be tied and lashed. Yet I did not think he would object to my boldness and ingenuity. I knew that my master could see through me, his slave girl, as simply as through glass, but I felt that I, too, in the past weeks, strangely, had become much more aware of him, and much more capable of reading his moods and conjecturing his reactions. Perhaps this was only a slave girl's alertness to the master, an alertness natural enough in a girl who is owned by a man, whose well-being and very life may depend on how well she pleases him; I do not know; that is an alertness which any rational girl strives to cultivate; but I wondered if it might not be more, something more in the nature of a deep, intuitive rapport with another person. I felt that I was coming to know my master. Two days ago I had sensed, watching him, that he desired wine rather than paga. I had gone and fetched wine and knelt before him. "May a girl offer you wine, Master?" I had asked him. He had seemed startled, momentarily. Then he had said, "Yes, Slave," and taken the wine. At times I sensed his eyes on me. Once, in the early morning, when I had lain chained with the other girls, I awakened, but gave no sign that I had awakened. Through half closed eyes I had seen that he stood near me. Yesterday night, he had touched my hair, almost tenderly. Then, as though angry with himself, he slapped me, hard, and sent me to Eta, to be put to work. I was not displeased.

Two days ago I had dared to follow him outside the palisade. I found him sitting alone, on a rock, surveying a grassy field. "Come here, Slave," he said to me. "Yes, Master," I said. I went and knelt near him; later I leaned my head against him, which he permitted. "The grass and sky are beautiful, are they not, Slave?" he asked. "Yes, Master," I had replied. He looked down at me. "You, too," he said, "are beautiful, Slave." "A girl is gratified if she pleases her master," I said. "Why is it," he asked, looking down, "that the women of Earth are fit to be slaves?" "Perhaps," I said, looking up at him, "because the men of Gor are fit to be masters." He then again turned his attention to the contemplation of the grass and sky. He sat still for a long time. Then he stood up, as though shaking his mood from him, as though now he was again separate from nature, alien in its midst, conscious, a man, and I was at his feet, a woman. Then it was we two alone, by the rock, in the grass, he standing, I kneeling. He looked down at me. "The woman of Earth," I said to him, "is ready to serve her Gorean master." Laughing, he leaped upon me, seizing me by the shoulders and throwing me back, forcibly, as a slave, to the grass. The Ta-Teera was torn from me. Well then, to her joy, did he use the Earth woman, his slave.

I felt the furs thrown back.

"I knew that I would find you here," he said.

"I hope that master is not displeased with his girl," I said. Yesterday night, he had touched my hair, almost tenderly. Then, as though angry with himself, he had slapped me, hard, and sent me to Eta, to be put to work. I had not been displeased, though my mouth was bloodied. This morning I had knelt before him. "I beg rape," I had said. He had looked at me, angrily. "Rape her," he had said to a passing soldier. He had then turned angrily away. In the arms of the soldier, I had smiled. I think I had disturbed my master. I think he was fighting his feelings for me, his desire for me. Then I had cried out with unwilling pleasure, and helplessly caught at the soldier with my nails, and the thought of my master had been, against my will, forced from my consciousness as the soldier brought me, twisting and crying out, to obliterating, overwhelming slave orgasm.

"Perhaps I should have you lashed," said my master.

"My master will do with me what he pleases," I said.

He had not been too pleased with the way I had yielded to the soldier. But I had not been able to help myself.

"Slave," had said my master later, standing over me.

"Yes, Master," I had said, looking up at him, shamed, "I am a slave."

He had then turned away again, angrily. He called Marla to him, to serve his pleasure. She hurried to him. Objectively she was more beautiful than I, with her large, dark eyes, her face, her lovely figure; too, she had superb slave reflexes; but she did not, I thought, succeed in making my master forget me. She did, of course, frighten me, for she was a formidable rival. I resented, and hated her. Too, she did not seem to regard me with affection and delight. She had wanted me named "Stupid Girl" or "Clumsy Girl." I did not yet have a name. But, in spite of the fact that my master, currently, seemed to be much taken with Maria, and that she was clearly the preferred bond girl in our camp, I did not feel that she had managed to negate the moments or the tacit understanding which I felt I shared with the man who owned me. I recalled his anger at my helpless yielding to the soldier; I was only a slave; I had not been able to help myself; yet he' had been angry; too, he himself had commanded the man to address himself to the work of my rape; yet he had been angry; too, his concern with Marla seemed to me rather sudden and excessive; he seemed to be too obviously unconcerned with me; I smiled to myself; I think he had been jealous; and I think he was using Marla, certainly a delightful diversion, to try and force me from his mind. She was surely more beautiful than I, but in such matters there are rightnesses which are reciprocal and subtle; it is rather like the matching together of pieces in a puzzle, the startling, unexpected fitting together of components, yielding a whole which is, in its wholeness, more precious than the individual pieces or parts could be in isolation; as beautiful and marvelous as Marla was, she was not I; it was that simple, I believe; she was not I; I, not she, I believe, was the one; I had little doubt he was my natural, perfect master; I think he had begun to fear that I might be his natural, perfect slave; surely he did not want to think of me as more than just another of his girls; yet I had little doubt that I was becoming to him, in spite of his desires, something more than just another lovely wench whose wrist was fastened on his chain.

He stood beside the furs, and slipped aside his tunic. "Remove the Ta-Teera," he said to me. I sat up, unhooked it, and slipped it over my head, putting it to the side. He joined me in the furs, throwing them over us both.

I could hear cries, it seemed from far off, from the circle of the torch, where the peasant boys sported cruelly with their captured beauties.

Then I was in my master's arms. I moaned with pleasure.

I felt my master's eyes upon me.

"Will you turn me over to the peasant boys?" I asked, apprehensive, in the darkness.

I did not want to be roped and dragged, a captured slave, to the circle of the torch. They would be furious that I had eluded them. I did not know what they would do to me.

"No," said he, in the darkness.

"Then," said I, breathing more easily, "I have escaped them."

"But you have not escaped me," he said.

"No, Master," I said, snuggling more closely to him, "I have not escaped you."

"You ran well," he said. "And you are bold. It took boldness, indeed, to hide, unbidden, in the furs of your very master. For such boldness a slave girl might be much beaten."

"Yes, Master," I said.

"But I do not disparage boldness in a slave girl," said he. "A girl who is bold is likely to think of marvels of pleasure for her master which a more timid girl would not dare to even contemplate."

"Yes, Master," I said, frightened.

"Too," said he, "the nature of your flight, and your selection of a refuge, indicates high intelligence."

"Thank you, Master," I said.

I felt his hands on the side of my head.

"You are extremely intelligent," he said, adding, "for a woman, and a slave."

"Thank you, Master," I said. What a beast he was. And yet I sensed that my intelligence was indeed far less than his, and that of most of the Gorean men I had met. Gorean males are unusual in their strength, energy and intelligence.

Sometimes this angered me. Sometimes it pleased me.

I did not feel inferior to most Gorean women I had met, either slave or free. Their intelligence, it seemed to me, compared much more closely, statistically, to that of Earth females. Of my master's girls, I felt that only Eta was my superior.

"I like high intelligence in a slave girl," said my master.

"Thank you, Master," I said.

Then I cried out, and held to him, my lips parted, for he had touched me.

"You leap like a she-tarsk," he said.

I bit my lip.

"That is because you are intelligent," he said. "I suppose you did not know that," he said, "for you are of Earth."

I gasped, and could not speak, for the sensation which he was inducing in me.

"Intelligent bodies," he said, "are far more responsive. Your very intelligence makes you the more helplessly a slave."

I clutched him.

"It pleases me to own intelligent girls, such as you," he said. "Intelligent girls make excellent slaves," he observed.

"Please, Master," I said. "I cannot resist you!"

"Be silent," he said.

"Yes, Master," I wept.

"It is more pleasurable to control and dominate them than stupid girls," he said. "They are more stimulating to own. They are greater prizes."

"Yes, Master," I said. "Yes, Master!"

"Too," said he, "one profits more from their ownership than from that of a duller girl. They are brighter, more skillful, more imaginative, more inventive. An intelligent girl can do many more things and do them better than a duller girl. She follows commands easily; she learns swiftly. Her performances, in their variety, intricacy and depth, can approach brilliance. She learns well, and continues to learn, in her intelligence and sexuality, how to please a man. Too, in her depths of emotion, feeling and sensation, these associated with her intelligence, she is easier to manipulate and exploit."

"Please, Master," I begged, "take me!"

"Remain immobile," he said. "Do not move so much as a muscle."

I gritted my teeth. "Yes, Master," I whispered. Every bit of me wanted to cry out and explode. I held myself absolutely rigid. I wanted to explode. I was not permitted to move.

"Too," said he, "an intelligent girl, a highly intelligent one, such as yourself, is capable of truly understanding her slavery. A dull girl has no true insight into the bondage relation. She knows she is a slave. She recognizes the institution, and is cognizant of its legalities. She is familiar with chains, and has worn them; she sees the whip, and has felt it. But does she truly understand her slavery?"

"Forgive me, Master," I said, barely able to speak, "but any woman who is a slave truly understands her slavery."

"Is this true?" he asked.

"In the belly of her," I said, "any woman who is slave knows her slavery. It has naught to do with intelligence, but only with being a slave and a woman. It is an indescribable, helpless feeling in the belly of us, being owned. One need not be intelligent to have this emotion, nor to respond, nor to feel."

"Perhaps," he said.

I wanted to scream. "Please, Master," I said.

"Do not move," said he.

"Yes, Master," I said, obeying.

I held myself rigid. Could the peasant boys have been more cruel?

"You do not think," he asked, "that the dull woman confuses slavery with the chains and the whip?"

"No, Master," I said. I moaned in helplessness. "I am not now chained," I said. "I am not now being whipped. But I could not be more a slave than now if I were chained to a whipping post and the lash being laid upon me. I am owned. I am completely in your power. I dare not even move. I must obey. This could be understood by any woman in my place."

"But perhaps," said he, musing, "your understanding of your slavery, in virtue of your intelligence, your sensitivity, is much more intense, much deeper and richer than would be that of a duller woman?"

"Perhaps, Master," I said. "I do not know!"

"Do you wish to be permitted to move?" he asked.

"Yes," I wept. "Yes! Yes!"

"But you are not yet permitted to move," he said.

"Yes, Master," I sobbed.

"It is pleasant to own a beautiful Earth woman such as you," he said.

"Yes, Master," I said.

"To whom do you belong?" he asked.

"To you! To you, Master!" I said.

"But you are of Earth," he said. "How can you belong to a man?"

"I belong to you, to you, Master!" I said.

"In the past weeks," he said, "you have begun to disturb me."

"Master?" I asked.

"Do not move," he said.

"No, Master," I sobbed.

"I do not understand it," he said. "It is very strange. Today I grew angry with you, and you had merely behaved as a slave."

He referred to my yielding to the soldier in the morning.

"I am a slave, Master," I said. "I could not help myself."

"I know," he said. "Why then should I be angry?"

"I do not know, Master," I said.

He then touched me, and I cried out.

"Do not move," he said.

"Have mercy on your girl, Master!" I begged.

With his touch he had again brought my sensations to the point at which I wanted to shatter and writhe and scream, and yet I must remain at his side, immobile, absolutely motionless.

"You are not important," he said.

"No, Master," I said.

"You are a worthless slave girl," he said.

"Yes, Master," I said.

"You can be bought or sold in any market," he said, "for a handful of copper tarsks."

"Yes, Master," I said.

"Why then," he asked, "do I concern myself with you?"

"I do not know, Master," I said.

"You may move, Slave Girl," he said.

With a wanton cry I pressed myself against him.

"You see," he said, "the women of Earth are natural slaves."

"Yes, Master," I wept.

"You are obviously only a common girl," he said.

"Yes, Master!" I cried softly.

I began to lick at him beneath the chin and kiss him. I clutched at him. I wept and laughed and writhed, holding him.

"Only a common girl," he said. "Only a common slave." I put my tear-stained cheek against the hardness of his chest, holding him. I could feel the hair on his chest between his body and the softness of my cheek. "Yes, Master," I whispered.

"You do not even have a name," he said.

"No, Master," I said.

"Of what importance is a nameless animal?" he asked.

"None, Master," I said.

"How can you be of interest?" he asked.

"I do not know, Master," I said.

"And yet you are a pretty little animal," he said.

"Thank you, Master," I said.

"I shall conquer you," he said.

"You have conquered me long ago," I said.

"I shall conquer you anew," he said.

"Every time you look upon me, or touch me," I said, "I am conquered anew." I felt his chest beneath my cheek. I held him in the darkness. "I am your conquest, fully and completely, Master," I said. "I am your slave."

"Perhaps my slave should have a name," he said.

"As Master wills," I said.

He took me by the shoulders and lifted and turned me. He put me beneath him. I felt the furs and the ground beneath my back. I felt his arms about me. I moaned as my body received and clasped him.

"Do not move," he said.

"Yes, Master," I said. I wanted to yield.

"I shall name you," he said.

I lay in the darkness, helpless, imprisoned in the strength of his arms, waiting to learn whom I would be.

"The name," he said, "for you are a common girl, and worthless, should be an unimportant name, one plain and simple, one fitting for a valueless girl, an ignorant, branded she-slave such as you."

"Yes, Master," I said.

"You are even a barbarian," he said.

"Yes, Master," I said.

"Some men," he said, "enjoy putting a barbarian girl through her paces."

"Put me through my paces, I beg of you, Master!" I wept.

"Do not move," he cautioned.

"Yes, Master," I wept. I so wanted to yield to him. I was on the brink of yielding, but he would not let me move. It was as though I wanted to burst.

"I myself," he smiled, "enjoy putting any girl, civilized or barbarian, through her paces."

"Yes, Master," I said.

"Did you know," he asked, "that in the throes of slave orgasm there is no difference between a civilized and barbarian girl?"

"No, Master," I said.

"It is interesting," he said. "In slave orgasm they are spasmodically identical."

"We are all women, only women," I said, "in the arms of our masters."

"Doubtless that is it," he mused.

"Permit me to yield!" I begged.

"Do not move," he said.

"Yes, Master," I said, through gritted teeth. I was so much his! Why would he not have me?

"You speak Gorean with an accent," he said.

"Yes, Master," I said. "Forgive me, Master," I begged.

"Do not change," he said. "The accent becomes you. It marks you as different and makes you more interesting."

"Perhaps that is what Master finds interesting about his girl," I said.

"Perhaps," he said. "But I have owned barbarian girls before."

"Other girls from the planet Earth?" I whispered.

"Of course," he said. "Do not move."

"No, Master," I said. Suddenly I resented and hated those other girls from the bottom of my heart. How angry and jealous I was!

"The little slave is angry," he said. "Do not move."

"No, Master," I said.

I lay in the darkness, in his arms, trying not to move.

"What became of the Earth girls whom you owned before me, Master?" I asked.

"Was a slave given permission to speak?" he asked.

"Forgive me, Master," I said. "May a slave speak?"

"Yes," he said.

"You owned other Earth girls," I said. "Where are they?"

"I do not know," he said.

"What did you do with them?" I asked.

"I have had five such women, not including yourself, my dear," he said. "I gave two away, and sold off three."

"Are you going to sell me, or give me away?" I asked.

"Perhaps," he said.

I moaned. He could do what he wished, of course.

"Did they love you?" I asked.

"I do not know," he said. "Perhaps. Perhaps, not."

"Did they protest their love to you?" I asked.

"Of course," he said. "That sort of thing is common among slave girls."

"And yet you gave them away, or sold them?"


"How could you do that, Master?" I asked.

"They were only slaves," he said in explanation.

I uttered a cry of anguish. I could be discarded as easily. "You were cruel," I said, "Master."

"How can one be cruel to a slave?" he asked.

"Yes," I said. "How can one be cruel to a slave?"

"You're crying," he said.

"Forgive me, Master," I said.

We lay together in the darkness, I not permitted to move. I heard the peasant boys finishing with my sisters in bondage. Afterwards they would be put in slave hobbles.

"What was your barbarian name?" he asked.

"Judy Thornton," I said, "Master."

"How came you into my possession?" he asked.

"You won me in challenge, Master," I said. "Then you made me your slave."

"Ah, yes," he said. What a beast he was, me so naked, so helpless in his arms.

"Barbarians have such complicated names," he said.

"It is two names, Master," I said. "My first name was Judy, my second name was Thornton."

"Barbarous," he said.

"Yes, Master," I said.

"I do not like those names," he said. "Therefore they will not be yours."

"Yes, Master," I said. I supposed such names did sound unfamiliar, and barbarous, to a Gorean ear.

"What was the name of your barbarian master?" he asked.

"I do not understand, Master," I stammered.

"The barbarian who owned you on Earth," he said. "Perhaps we can use his name."

"But I was not owned on Earth, Master," I said. "I was a free woman."

"Women such as you are permitted to be free on Earth?" he asked.

"Yes, Master," I said.

"Of what sort are the men of Earth?" he asked.

"Of a sort other than Gorean, Master," I said.

"I see," he said. "Are the men happy?" he asked.

"No," I told him.

"Are the women happy?" he asked.

"No," I told him.

"I see," he said.

"Do the men of Earth not find you beautiful and desirable?" he asked.

"They have been weakened," I told him. "I did not know what it was to be desired until I came to this world." I clutched him. "It is only in the arms of true men, such as you, Master," I said, "that I have learned what it is to be a woman."

"You may move," he said.

With a cry I began to respond spasmodically to him.

"Stop," he said.

"Master!" I cried.

"Do not move," he said.

I wept with misery. How cruel could he be. "Yes, Master!" I wept.

He had raised me to the point at which another instant's movement would have precipitated that most incredible and fantastic of sexual experiences to which a human female can attain, that in which she knows herself cognitively and physiologically submitted, fully and completely, absolutely, to a master, the psychological and somatic raptures of submission spasm, the slave orgasm.

"I must drive you from my mind," he said.

I moaned.

"What is your brand?" he asked.

"The Slave Flower, the Dina!" I cried. "The name," he had said, "for you are a common girl, and worthless, should be an unimportant name, one plain and simple, one fitting for a valueless girl, an ignorant, branded she-slave such as you."

"The Dina!" I cried.

He had begun to have me.

"Permit me to yield! Permit me to yield, Master!" I cried.

"No," he said.

I cried out with misery. I tried to hold myself immobile.

"You are going to be named," he said.

I could not even speak.

I was the only Dina among his girls. It was a common brand. Often girls who wore it were called Dina. For a low, common girl, one not to be distinguished from others, it was a suitable name. It was unimportant. It was simple. It was plain. I was common, and of little value. The name, too, was common, and of little value. It was thus not unfitting for a girl such as I, not unfitting for an ignorant, branded she-slave such as myself.

"You will not forget your name," he said.

"No, Master!" I said. I knew how he would impress my name upon me.

He had told me that I was without value, that I was worthless. I knew I could be bought and sold for a handful of copper tarsks.

I knew what he would name me.

He did not cease to have me.

At length I cried out, agonized. "I must yield, Master! I cannot help myself! I cannot help myself but yield to you!"

"Must you yield," he asked, "even though it might mean your death?"

"Yes, Master!" I cried.

"Then yield, Slave," said he.

With a cry I yielded to him.

"You are Dina," he said, laughing, his voice like a lion. "You are the slave Dina, whom I own." He laughed and cried out with pleasure in his triumph over the slave girl. "Yes, Master!" I cried. "I am Dina! I am Dina" I clutched him, joyously, his. "Dina loves Master!" I wept. "Dina loves Master!"

Later I lay in his arms, an owned slave girl, content beside the mightiness of her master.

How I loved him!

"Strange," he said, looking up at the Gorean stars.

"Master?" I asked.

"You are obviously only a common girl," he said.

"Yes, Master," I said. I began to kiss him gently about the shoulder.

"Only a common girl," he said.

It was true. He was Clitus Vitellius, a Captain, of the city of Ar. I was only Dina.

"Yes, Master," I said.

"I fear that I might begin to care for you," he said.

"If Dina has found favor with her master," I said, "she is pleased."

"I must fight this weakness," he said.

"Whip me," I said.

"No," he said.

"It is not you who is weak, Master," I said. "It is I, Dina, in your arms, who am without strength." I kissed him.

"I am a captain," he said. "I must be strong."

"I am a slave girl," I said. "I must be weak."

"I must be strong," he said.

"You did not seem weak to me, Master," I said, "when you laughed, and took me, and named me Dina. Then you seemed magnificent in your power and pride."

"It was only the conquest of a slave girl," he said.

"Yes, Master," I said, "I am your conquest." It was true. Dina, the Earth girl, she who had once been Judy Thornton, a lovely college student and poetess, was now the enslaved love conquest of Clitus Vitellius of Ar.

"You trouble me," he said, angrily.

"Forgive me, Master," I said.

"I should rid myself of you," he said.

"Permit me to follow at the heels of the least of your soldiers," I said. I truly did not fear that he would rid himself of me. I loved him. I was confident that he, too, in spite of himself, cared for me.

"Master," I said.

"Yes," he said.

"Has Dina pleased you this night?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

"I want your collar," I said.

There was a long silence. Then he said, "You are an Earth girl. Yet you beg to wear a collar?"

"Yes, Master," I said.

It is said, in a Gorean proverb, that a man, in his heart, desires freedom, and that a woman, in her belly, yearns for love. The collar, in its way, answers both needs. The man is most free, owning the slave. He may do what he wishes with her. The woman, on the other hand, being owned, is institutionally and helplessly subject, in her status as slave, to the submissions of love.

I sensed my master feared his feelings for me. This gave me power over him.

"Dina wants Master's collar," I whispered, kissing at him. The collar would make me the equal of Eta.

"I decide what slaves will wear my collar," he said.

"Yes, Master," I said, chastened. If he saw fit to put me in his collar, he would; if he did not, he would not.

"Does Dina love her master?" he asked.

"Yes, yes, Master!" I whispered. I so loved him!

"Have I given you choice in this?" he asked.

"No, Master," I said. "You have made me love you, helplessly and wholly."

"Your feelings, then," he asked, "have been fully engaged, and you are now mine, at my complete mercy, fully and vulnerably, with no shred of pride or dignity left?"

"Yes, Master," I whispered.

"You acknowledge yourself then hopelessly in love with me, and as a slave girl?"

"Yes, Master," I said.

"Amusing," he said.

"Master?" I asked.

"I, and the men, and other girls," lie said, "will leave Tabuk's Ford in the morning. You will remain behind. I am giving you to Thurnus."

Chapter 8

A Girl's Will Means Nothing

I fled for the cage. I must reach it!

I threw myself into the cage on my hands and knees. I turned wildly and seized the bar and flung it down behind me. The snout of the beast thrust viciously part way between the bars. It snarled, and squealed and hissed. I shrank back in the tiny cage. On the other side of the bars of the vertically sliding, lowered gate the blazing eyes of the sleen regarded me. I cried out with misery. Had I run more slowly it would have caught me and torn me to pieces. It turned its head and, with its double row of white fangs, bit at the bars. I heard the scraping of the teeth on the bars; it pulled the cage, moving it, until it caught against the chain and stake which anchored it. Then it moved about the cage on its six legs, its long, furred body angrily rubbing against the bars. It tried to reach me from another side. I knelt head down, shuddering, my hands over my head, in the center of the tiny cage. Once its snout thrust against me, and I whimpered. I smelled its breath, felt the heat of it on my flesh. The bars were wet where it had bit at them; the ground, too, about the cage was wet where the beast's saliva, in its frenzy, its lust for killing, had dampened the clawed dust.

"Back," called Thurnus, coming to the sleen and putting a rope on its neck, dragging it away from the cage. "Gentle! Gentle, Fierce One!" coaxed Thurnus. He thrust his head near the large, brown snout, cooing and clicking, his hands in the rope on its throat. He whispered in its ear. The beast became pacified. Thurnus took a great piece of meat and threw it to the animal, which began to devour it.

"Excellent," said Clitus Vitellius.

I knelt in the slave cage, my hands on its bars.

I had locked myself in the slave cage. When I had flung down the vertically sliding gate behind me, two notched projections, bolts, welded to the flat bar at the gate's bottom had slipped into iron-inclosed spring catches, heavy locks, one on the bottom left, one on the bottle right, the gate being thus secured. I could not open these locks. They responded to a key, slung on the string about the neck of Thurnus. It is necessary to engage the locks not only because the animal follows so closely and the gate must be swiftly lowered, but because if the locks are not engaged, it will thrust its snout beneath the bottom of the gate, between the bottom of the gate and the floor of the cage, and, throwing its head up, fling up the gate, and have access to the cage's occupant. The girl's choices are simple. Either she locks herself in the cage, imprisoning herself helplessly at the pleasure of the cage owner, or the animal destroys her.

I, frightened, watched the sleen tear at the meat.

I knelt in the cage, my fists, white-knuckled, clenched on the bars. The cage is tiny, but stout. I could kneel in it, or crouch, or sit, with my legs drawn up. I could not extend my body, nor stand upright. The roof of the cage was about the height of a man's belt. It is so constructed that it can be linked with other cages, or tiered. Though there is a wooden floor to the cage, the wood is placed over bars. The entire cage, thus, is barred. The bars, and their fastenings, were heavy. The cage in which I had locked myself would hold not only a girl; it would also have easily and efficiently held a strong man. It was, accordingly, an all-purpose slave cage.

I looked up through the bars. Clitus Vitellius did not look at me. Already I had been given to Thurnus.

The cage was in a sleen training pit, surrounded by a low, wooden wall and floored with sand. Within the walls were several individuals, my sisters in bondage, those still the property of Clitus Vitellius, one of whom was encaged like myself, Chanda, who was sitting in her cage, wrapping a cloth about her bleeding leg; Thurnus; another of his girls, Sandal Thong; some men assisting Thumus; and Clitus Vitellius, and some of his men. Within the ring, too, were some eight sleen, tied on short tethers to stakes, at the sides; and a rack of meats, and poles, and ropes and whips, used in the training of the animals. Outside the low walls, several individuals observed the proceedings, the balance of the men of Clitus Vitellius, some villagers, including some peasant boys, and Melina, veiled, the slack, fat companion of the huge Thurnus.

Melina regarded me. I did not meet her eyes, but looked down, into the dust.

I was a pretty slave girl who had been given to her companion. I did not care to meet her eyes. I hoped she would not be cruel to me. But she was of the peasants, and I was only a slave.

I looked across the sand to Chanda. She, too, was locked in a tiny cage. She sat on the boards, hunched over, her legs drawn up, and slowly wrapped a piece of white cloth about her bleeding calf. The blood stained through the cloth. The bit of a garment that she wore had also been torn by the beast who had pursued her. It, too, afterward had been fed. When it had been fed, it had been tethered with the others. The men discussed the animals, and their merits.

I held the bars and, head down, eyes closed, pressed my forehead against the bars. What hope had a girl for escape on a world which contained sleen?

I and Chanda had been used for purposes of demonstration.

Sleen had been dragged to us, to take our scent. We had been held by men while the animals had taken our scent. Then Chanda had been released.

She had been run first. Then I had been released. I had been run shortly after her.

I had run wildly, in misery over having been given away by Clitus Vitellius. I had fully determined, in my hysteria and misery, to escape. What a foolish slave girl I was!

I had run wildly. I had almost fainted when a brown, sinuous shape sped past me.

I saw it turn Chanda, and, snarling, begin its attack. She fled back toward the training pit. I saw her stumble once, and the beast seize her leg, and she screamed, and then she was again on her feet, running, her hands extended before her. The girl either permits herself to be herded expeditiously, swiftly, or she dies. I turned to flee. I screamed. It was there, in front of me. It lifted its head. I stumbled back, my hand flung before my face. It snarled hideously. Distracted by the first sleen, that in pursuit of Chanda, I had not even seen this sleen, whose brain was alive with my scent, circle me and approach.

"No! No!" I cried. "Go away! Please, go away!"

It crouched there, not five feet from me, its head lifted, hissing, snarling.

"Please, go away!" I Wept.

I saw its belly lower itself to the ground, the bead still lifted, watching me. Its tail lashed; its eyes blazed. It inched forward. It had two rows of fangs.

I looked to the left and right. It squealed hideously. It came closer.

It was a precisely trained beast, but no training is perfect. It is a balancing of instincts and conditioning. It is never perfect. The beast, at the nearness and intensity of my scent, was becoming uncontrollable. The critical attacking distance for a sleen in the wild is about twenty feet. This distance, in a herd sleen, of course, is much smaller. I could see its excitement mount. The fur about its neck rippled and bristled. Then I saw it gather its four hind legs beneath it.

With a cry of misery I turned and fled. I ran back toward the training pit and the open cage that had been designated for occupancy by the Earth-girl slave.

I ran wildly, helplessly. It ran behind me, snapping and snarling. I felt its breath on my legs. It cut with its teeth at my heels. I gasped. I fought for breath. It drove me faster and faster.

The beast was well trained. It knew well how to herd a slave girl. It had a sense of the distance, and of my limitations; its speed and endurance which, I suspect, were superior to my own. It had herded other girls. It kept me at my limits, not permitting me to think, but only to run, frenziedly, madly, a driven, herded slave girl, seeking her cage.

I was at its mercy. It set me the pace which I must make, if I would live.

I cried out with misery, running.

It drove me perfectly.

My only hope of survival was to reach the cage, and lock myself within it, where I would await, confined, the pleasure of a master.

I threw myself into the cage on my hands and knees and, wildly, turned and flung down the gate behind me, it securely locking. The beast tried to reach me, but could not do so. I was safe within the cage, but locked within it, at the mercy of a master. I had been herded.

What hope had a girl for escape on a world which contained sleen? How completely we belonged to our masters!

There are many varieties of sleen, and most varieties can be, to one extent or another, domesticated. The two most common sorts of trained sleen are the smaller, tawny prairie sleen, and the large, brown or black forest sleen, sometimes attaining a length of twenty feet. In the north, I am told the snow sleen has been domesticated. The sleen is a dangerous and fairly common animal on Gor, which has adapted itself to a variety of environments. There is even an aquatic variety, called the sea sleen, which is one of the swiftest and most dreaded beasts in the sea. Sea sleen are found commonly in northern waters. They are common off the coast of Torvaldsland, and further north.

In the wild, the sleen is a burrowing, predominantly nocturnal animal. It is carnivorous. It is a tenacious hunter, and an indefatigable tracker. It will attack almost anything, but its preferred prey is tabuk. It mates once a year in the Gorean spring, and there are usually four young in each litter. The gestation period is some six months. The young are commonly white furred at birth, the fur darkening by the following spring. Snow sleen, however, remain white-pelted throughout their life.

Most domestic sleen are bred. It is difficult to take and tame a wild sleen. Sometimes young sleen, following the killing of the mother, are dug out of a burrow and raised. If they can be taken within the first two months of their life, which seems to be a critical period, before they have tasted blood and meat in the wild, and made their own kills, there is apparently a reasonably good chance that they can be domesticated; otherwise, generally not. Although grown, wild sleen have been caught and domesticated, this is rare. Even a sleen which has been taken young may revert. These reversions can be extremely dangerous. They usually take place, as would be expected, in the spring, during the mating season. Male sleen, in particular, can be extremely restless and vicious during this period. The mating of sleen is interesting. The female, if never before mated, flees and fights the male. But he is larger and stronger. At last he takes her by the throat and throws her upon her back, interestingly, belly to belly, beneath him. His fangs are upon her throat. She is at his mercy. She becomes docile and permits her penetration. Shortly, thereafter, their heat growing, they begin, locked together by legs and teeth, to roll and squeal in their mating frenzy. It is a very fierce and marvelous spectacle. It is not unusual for slave girls, seeing this, to kneel at their master's feet and beg their caress. After the female sleen has been taken thusly once, no longer need she be forced. She follows the male, often rubbing against him, and hunts with him. Sometimes she must be driven away with snarls and bites. Sleen, interestingly, often pair for life. Their rutting, however, is usually confined to the spring. Sometimes slave girls are called she-sleen, but I do not think this expression is completely apt. Sexual congress in the human is not confined to a particular season. We are not she-sleen. The heat of the she-sleen occurs in the spring. We are slave girls. Our masters keep us in heat constantly.

I looked across the sand to Chanda's cage. She had finished wrapping the cloth about her cut calf.

I hoped the wound was not deep. No one seemed to be concerned about her. I gathered that her leg would not be scarred, and that her value would not be lowered. If her leg did scar, with the result that her block value was diminished, it must be recalled that Clitus Vitellius, my former master, had had her for nothing.

Sleen are used for a multitude of purposes on Gor, but most commonly they are used for herding, tracking, guarding and patrolling. The verr and the bosk are the most common animals herded; tabuk and slave girls are the most common animals tracked; the uses to which the sleen is put in guarding and patrolling are innumerable; it is used to secure borders, to prowl walls and protect camps; it may run loose in the streets after curfews; it may lurk in the halls of a great house after dark; it may deter thieves from entering locked shops; it may stand sentry upon wharves and in warehouses; there are many such uses to which the sinuous beasts may be put; an interesting use which might be mentioned is prisoner control; a tiny circle is drawn and the prisoner must kneel, or assume some prescribed position, within it; then, should the prisoner attempt to rise to his feet, leave the circle, or break the position in the slightest, the beasts tears him to pieces. Aside from these common uses, sleen are put to other uses, too. In Thentis, for example, sleen are used to smell out contraband, in the form of the unauthorized egress of the beans for black wine from the Thentian territories. They are sometimes, too, used by assassins, though the caste of assassins itself, by their caste codes, precludes their usage; the member of the caste of assassins must make his own kill; it is in their codes. Some sleen are used as bodyguards; others are trained to kill in the arena; others perform in exhibitions and carnivals. There are many uses to which such animals are put. The herding, tracking and control of beautiful slave girls is but one use.

The gate to my cage was unlocked, and flung upward. The sleen outside had been fed and taken, by the men assisting Thurnus, on short ropes, to their cages. The men of Clitus Vitellius had left the sand pit, and the area about it, accompanied by his girls, including Chanda, who, too, had been released. The small crowd which had observed had now dissipated, with the exception of Melina, companion of Thurnus, and two or three peasant boys, who watched me. Sandal Thong, one of the girls of Thurnus, who had assisted in the training pit, had left, too, now, to attend to other duties, including the watering of the sleen. She wore a short slave tunic, white, of the wool of the Hurt, and a rope collar. She was a large, long-armed, freckled girl, of peasant stock. Clitus Vitellius, in the tunic of the warrior, remained in the training pit, to accompany Thurnus back to his hut.

Thurnus tapped on the bars of the cage with a sleen whip. "Come out, little slave," he said.

On my hands and knees I emerged from the cage, head down, crawling out onto the hot sand. It was the first time I had ever been caged. Without thinking I began to rise to my feet. The butt of the sleen whip struck me heavily, driven downward, between the shoulder blades, felling me. I lay in the hot sand, startled. I hurt. I could feel the warm sand, granular, between my fingers, on my thighs. "Master?" I asked, frightened. How had I displeased him?

"Were you given permission to rise, Slave?" he asked.

"No, Master," I said, frightened. "Forgive me." It is common on Gor for a girl emerging from a small cage, on her belly, or her hands and knees, depending on the size opening, at the feet of her master to remain, pending her master's instructions, on her belly or hands and knees. I did not know it at the time. I had never been caged before.

I, lying in the sand, was conscious of their feet about me. I did not want to be beaten.

"She is a pretty little thing, is she not?" asked Thurnus. I supposed I did look beautiful, a slave girl, lying at their feet in the warm sand.

"I am pleased that you like her," said Clitus Vitellius.

"I am grateful for the gift," said Thurnus.

"It is nothing," said Clitus Vitellius. "She is only a lovely trifle."

"On your hands and knees, Girl," said Thurnus.

I rose to my hands and knees. I felt a length of sleen rope tied on my neck. The other end of the rope was looped several times and the loops loosely knotted about a bar of the sleen cage. The resulting tether was about a foot long.

"Look up at me, Girl," said Thurnus.

I looked up at him.

"You attempted to escape," he said.

"I had no chance to escape, Master," I said. "A sleen was set upon me."

"It is true," said he, "that you had no chance for escape. But you, ignorant girl, did not know that."

I was silent, frightened.

"Did you try to escape?" he asked.

I had tried to escape. "Yes, Master," I whispered.

"Sit with your back against the cage, legs drawn up," he said. I did so, my neck roped to one of the bars. He crouched down, near me.

He drew out a sleen knife.

He felt the back of my legs, with his left hand.

"Pretty legs," he said.

"Thank you, Master," I said.

"Do you know what these muscles are?" he asked, touching the twin cords behind my right knee.

"Tendons, Master," I said.

"Do you know what they are for?" he asked.

"They control the movement of my leg," I said. "Without them I could not walk."

I felt the blade touch the left tendon behind my right knee. If Thurnus were to draw the blade toward him, the tendon would be severed.

He replaced the sleen knife in its sheath.

Then he struck me twice, once striking my head to the right, and, then, with the back of his hand, lashing it to the left.

"That," said Thurnus, "is for having tried to escape."

"Yes, Master," I said.

He then took my legs, drawn up, in his hands, pressing with his thumbs against the inner tendons behind both the left and right knee.

I shrank back, miserable, my head to one side, against the bars.

"Remember, small, luscious, beauty," he said.

I looked at him with horror. "Yes, Master," I said. The memory of the sleen knife was vivid in my mind.

He removed his hands from my legs and I almost collapsed in the sand.

"On your hands and knees, Girl," said Thurnus.

I went to my bands and knees, and he unknotted the loops of sleen rope from the bar of the cage, and threw it loose beside me, in the sand, whence it rose to the bond on my neck.

"Look up at me, Girl," he said.

I looked up at him, the rope on my neck.

"Go to the hut," he said.

"Yes, Master," I said.

They then turned away from me, Thurnus and Clitus Vitellius. "I must leave before noon," Clitus Vitellius was saying. "There are four sleen in which I am interested."

"Let us discuss the matter," Thurnus was saying.

They left the training pit. On my hands and knees, miserable, in the hot sand, the rope on my neck, I looked about the training pit, at the rack of whips and ropes, the sleen tethers, the cages, the wooden barrier about the training area, and then, on my hands and knees, made my way through the sand and out of the training area toward the hut of Thurnus, the rope dragging behind me.

I had begun to understand what it would be to be the girl of a peasant.

In the street of the village, I stopped. Feet stood before me. I looked up, miserable, in the dust, the rope hanging from my neck. It was two peasant boys.

"What slave is this?" asked one. He was Bran Loort, leader of the peasant boys, a rugged youth verging into his manhood. He had in him, said some, the makings of a caste leader.

"It is the clever, beautiful slave who eluded us last night in our sport," said his fellow.

"So it is," acknowledged Bran Loort.

"It is said," said the one, "she has been given to Thurnus."

"Then," said Bran Loort, "she will be in the village."

"It seems so," said the other.

"Please, Masters," I said, "do not detain me."

"Let us not detain her," said Bran Loort. They stepped aside, as though I might have been a free woman. Dragging the rope on my neck, on my hands and knees, through the dust of the hot, sunny street, I crawled past them.

How far from me then seemed Judy Thorton, the lovely co-ed.

I thought of the college boys whom I had despised or tolerated, with whom I had been so haughty. How they would have laughed to have seen me now, on a world where there were true men.

In the vicinity of Thurnus's hut, at the side of one of the wagons taken in the raid on the camp of the Lady Sabina, being loaded with supplies and gear, was Clitus Vitellius.

I seized at his knees, weeping. "Keep me. Keep me, Master," I begged.

He looked down at me. It was shortly before noon.

I looked up at him, tears in my eyes. "I love you, Master," I wept.

"She does not want to be a peasant's girl," laughed one of the men.

"I love you, Master," I said.

Clitus Vitelllius rook the rope from the ground, which hung from my throat. He held the rope.

"She does not want to be left in Tabuk's. Ford," said one of the men.

"Who can blame her?" asked another.

I looked up at Clitus Vitellius, my hands about his knees, tears in my eyes. He held the rope which was on my neck. "I am your conquered slave," I wept. "Please take me with you."

He put his foot on the rope, pressing it to the ground. Then, beneath his foot, he drew the rope to him. My head was dragged from his knees to the dust at his feet.

I lay before him, helpless.

"You are a slave girl in the village of Tabuk 's Ford," he said. Then he threw the rope to the ground and turned away from me.

I scratched in the dust and wept, beside the wheel of the wagon.

Chapter 9


I cut at the soil with the hoe, chopping and loosening the dirt about the roots of the sul plant.

The sun was high overhead. It was hot. There was a peasant's kerchief on my head.

I worked in my master's fields. I was alone. I wore a peasant's tunic. It was white and sleeveless, of the wool of the Hurt. It came high on my thighs. Thurnus had shortened it. His companion, Melina, had taken the Ta-Teera from me and burned it. "Scandalous slave! Scandalous garment!" she had cried. She had then thrown me a peasant tunic, which had fallen to my knees. Thurnus, wanting to see more of my legs, to her anger, had shortened it with shears.

I straightened my body. My back hurt. I wiped my forehead with the back of my hand.

"You will learn toil, small beauty," he had said when I had knelt before him, among the pilings beneath his hut, my hands tied behind my back, my neck roped to one of the pilings.

I remembered the morning bitterly.

"I am going to Ar with the master," had said Marla, turning before me. "Now who is the most beautiful?" she asked.

"You, Marla," I had said.

"Farewell, Slave," she said, and left me.

I had knelt there beneath the hut of Thurnus, in the Ta-Teera, my hands tied behind my back, my neck roped to one of the pilings.

To another of the pilings four beautiful she-sleen were tethered. They were on short tethers. They were sleek, lovely animals. My master had purchased them. They could not reach me.

Clitus Vitellius and his men milled about.

"I shall miss you," said Eta, kissing me. "I wish you well, Slave," she said.

Lehna, Donna and Chanda came to me, and kissed me, and hugged me. "I wish you well, Slave," they said.

"I wish you well," I said.

Slave Beads stood to one side, looking at me.

"Will you not say farewell to your sister slave?" I asked.

She came to my side, and knelt down beside me. "Yes," she said, tears in her eyes. "We are all slaves," she said. She took me in her arms and kissed me. Slave Beads was no longer the Lady Sabina. She, too, now, was only a slave. "I wish you well, Slave," she said.

"I wish you well, Slave," I said to her.

"Coffle line!" snapped a guard.

Swiftly the girls fell into coffle line. I watched them. I wished I were with them.

Each beauty knew her place.

They did not daily forming the line. They did not wish to be whipped.

Marla led the line. What beautiful legs she had. The girls extended their left wrists, for the rings to be locked upon them. They stood straight, their eyes looking ahead, under discipline. Maria's right foot determined the line. Each girl, with the exception of Maria, the line's leader, aligned her right foot with that of the girl before her in the line. Sometimes a coffle line is drawn in the dirt and the right foot of each girl is placed on it vertically, such that the line besects the ball and heel of each foot.

Clitus Vitellius did not so much as look at me.

The guard, who was the blond soldier, Mirus, whom I found most attractive of the men of Clitus Vitellius, after he himself, unlooped the coffle chain from his shoulder.

The girls stood erect, left arms extended, wrist straight with the arm, their left arms aligned, each at a forty degree angle from her body, right arms at their sides, palms on thighs, ankles closely together, bellies sucked in, chins up.

Marla's wrist was locked in the first wrist ring. She smiled. She was coffled. When the lock snapped on her wrist she placed her chained left wrist at her side, her palm on her left thigh, still looking ahead.

Lehna, who was very beautiful, was the next locked in the coffle. She placed her left wrist at her side, looking ahead.

There are a large variety of coffle arrangements, given mixtures and combinations of materials and bonds, and aesthetic, physical and psychological considerations. Coffle arrangements are seldom random. From the physical point of view, the most common coffles are left-wrist coffles, left-ankle coffles and throat coffles. Left-wrist coffles and throat coffles are useful trekking coffles. The left-ankle coffle and the throat coffle free the hands to carry burdens. Clitus Vitellius still had the wagons stolen from the camp of the Lady Sabina and so his girls did not have to carry the burdens of his camp. Such burdens are often carried by girls in ankle coffle or throat coffle, and are balanced on the head, usually steadied by the right hand.

Donna and Chanda were now added to the coffle. Their left hands, now locked in wrist-rings, lay against their left thighs.

There was another snap of a wrist ring and the chain bore yet another jewel, the lovely, half-stripped Slave Beads.

Last on the chain was Eta. The guard looked at her, and their eyes met, and then he put the chain on her.

I did not know why Eta was last on the chain. I knew the look in the eyes of the guard. He wanted her for his own slave. She looked frightened. He stood behind her for a moment, and she pressed back, putting her head back against his shoulder. Then he moved away from her.

There was a mark on the side of Eta's face, where she had been struck. Perhaps she had not been fully pleasing for an instant to one of the soldiers, or to Clitus Vitellius, and had thus been struck, and put at the rear of the chain. Perhaps she was at the rear of the chain because she was the most beautiful, and her beauty was being saved for last; thus the chain would have begun with the beautiful Marla and then, with a surprise, finished with a girl yet more beautiful than the first. But perhaps she was thought to be ugly for a day or two, until the blow healed, and thus, for ugliness, was put at the back of the line. Or, perhaps it was merely that the last wrist-ring had then been open, I being left in Tabuk's Ford, and thus there was no reason for her any longer to be excluded from the coffle. Thus, she would merely have been placed in the available wrist ring, in my place.

Sometimes masters punish us without explaining the reason It is then for the slave girl to guess and wonder, and try harder to please. Sometimes, perhaps, there is no reason! We are so much at their mercy!

Beside my knee, in the dirt, there was a pan of water, and one of wet meal.

The last girl, Eta, was now coffled.

"Stand easily, Slaves," said the guard, and walked away.

Marla turned to face me. She lifted her chained left wrist… "I wear the chain of Clitus Vitellius," she said. "You wear the rope of a peasant."

"Yes, Mistress," I said.

She turned away from me.

The men were now hitching the bosk to the wagons taken from the camp of the Lady Sabina.

Two peasant boys stood nearby. They looked at me. I, kneeling, clad in the Ta-Teera, my hands tied behind my back, my neck roped to the piling beneath Thurnus's hut, regarded them.

"Greetings, Slave Girl," they said to me.

"Greetings, Masters," I said to them.

They turned away, grinning, and left the vicinity of the hut.

The first team of bosk was hitched up, two of the great animals, broad, shaggy, with polished horns.

Clitus Vitellius was talking with Thurnus.

"I, and the men, and other girls," he had said, "will leave Tabuk's Ford in the morning. You will remain behind. I am giving you to Thurnus."

I had cried out with misery and horror in his arms. "Master!" I had cried. He had then gagged me. He then tied my hands behind my back, and took me naked and stumbling from his furs. He found an ankle stock of heavy wood near the perimeter of his camp area. He put me on my back. The stock consisted of two heavy, oblong pieces of wood, each about four inches thick, joined together by hinged iron. He flung open the stock. He looked down at me. I half reared up, struggling, to a sitting position, my hands tied behind my back, my eyes wild over the gag. Our eyes met. He then, swiftly, brutally, used me, and I, miserable, helpless, my eyes hot with tears, again could not resist him, and, again, unable to help myself, responded to him, and responded as a slave. He laughed at me derisively and then, crouching beside me, threw my ankles into the stock and closed it, one of the two four-inch blocks of wood on each side of my ankles, and flung the hasp over the staple, which would hold the blocks shut. Then, with a drilled peg and a bit of binding fiber, attached to the stock, he, slipping the fiber through the staple and securing it to the peg, fastened the hasp down. This would hold a bound slave. If. my hands had not been tied a padlock would have been used. Tied as I was I was the prisoner of the stock, its weight and constraint. I lay on the ground, twisting, moaning. It seemed my guts had been torn out. I looked up, miserable, at the stars.

Clitus Vitellius then left me, to return to his furs, to sleep.

I cut again at the soil with the hoe, chopping down, loosening the dirt about the roots of the sul plants.

The sun was terribly hot.

On my throat I wore a rope collar. My hands were terribly blistered. It was painful to hold the hoe. My back hurt me. It seemed every muscle in my body ached.

I wanted to throw myself down and weep, but the suls must be hoed.

"You will learn toil, small beauty," Thurnus had told me. I had well learned toil, and misery. It is not easy to be a peasant's girl.

It is a hard slavery.

I remembered seeing Clitus Vitellius leave. He had not looked back. I had wanted to call out after him, but I had not dared. I did not wish to be whipped.

It is not easy to be a peasant's girl. it is a hard slavery.

I remembered the sting of the switch across the back of my thighs as Melina had driven me to the kennel.

"I will make you wish you wore a longer tunic, Slave!" she had cried.

I had dropped through the kennel door and, some feet below, struck the straw-strewn floor of the kennel. The kennel was a cage, a sleen cage, tipped on its side, fully barred, sunk mostly into the ground. The cage in its original attitude, when used for sleen, would have been some four feet in height, six feet in width and twelve feet in length. Tipped on its side, to better accommodate humans, it was some six feet in height and four by twelve feet in breadth and length. In this attitude, it was entered from the top. Within there was a wooden, runged ladder, for climbing out of it. It was sunk some four and a half feet in the ground. Wooden planks, covered with straw, lay over the bars on the bottom. These planks were separated by some two inches apiece, to facilitate drainage. The cage was roofed, too, with planks; these planks were set flush with one, another; they were fastened over the top of the bars, including some, sawed, over the barred door. At night a tarpaulin was thrown over the cage roof. Standing in the cage one could look out, one's shoulders being approximately at ground level.

I dropped to the floor of the cage.

I heard the heavy barred gate at the top, over my head, with its attached planks, flung shut. It made a harsh sound of metal and wood. Then I heard the rattle of two heavy padlocks on chains. There were two heavy metal snaps, as the door above me was fastened shut.

I looked up. I was locked within.

"Kneel," said a voice.

I knelt. There were four other girls in the cage.

"In the position of the pleasure slave," said one of them.

I complied.

"Let us see your brand," said another.

I turned to the side and drew back the tunic.

"A Dina," said another girl. There were four besides myself in the cage, Thurnus's other girls.

"Did you know," asked one, "that Dinas are suitable to be the slaves of slaves?"

"No," I said, "I did not."

"You were not given permission to cover your brand," said one, sharply.

I drew back my hand. I turned to face them, on my knees. They sat in the cage, on the straw.

"Are you a pleasure slave?" asked one, curious.

"Yes," I said.

They laughed. "Here you are a work slave," said one. "Here you will be worked hard," said another.

I straightened my back. They made me angry. I assessed them, obviously to a woman's eyes, though a man might not have noticed, one by one. It is a slight, tacit thing that women understand. I smiled. They were angry.

"Perhaps I will not be worked as hard as you think," I said.

I was clearly their superior in beauty.

"Insolent slave!" cried one. "How haughty you are, Slave Girl!" said another.

I shrugged.

"Do you think you are more beautiful than we?" asked one of them.

"Yes," I told them.

"Do you think you will please the master more than we?" asked another.

"Yes," I told them. "I am clearly more beautiful."

"She-tarsk," said one. "She-sleen!" cried another.

"You will be worked hard!" said another girl.

"We will see to that!" vowed the fourth girl.

"Do you have a comb for my hair?" I asked.

"Do not break the position of the pleasure slave," warned the largest of the girls, Sandal Thong, a long-armed, freckled giantess of a peasant wench.

"Very well," I said.

"It becomes you," said Verr Tail, a wide-shouldered, auburn-haired girl.

"Thank you," I said.

I did not wish to be caged with them. I could sense their hostility. Too, they could surely detect that I did not care for them. But we were locked in the same small cage.

"Doubtless you will soon become the master's favorite," said Turnip, a dark-haired, wide-faced girl.

"Perhaps," I said, tossing my head.

"Radish is now favorite," said Sandal Thong, indicating a blondish, thick-ankled girl at her left. I recognized her. It was she whose heartbeat had given the time count in the boys' sport of girl hunt the preceding night. Last night she had served one of the warriors of Clitus Vitellius. I recalled her pressing back against him, his hand on her heart, his calling the count. I myself had been in the arms of such men many times. They were not peasant boys.

"I was the girl of a warrior," I told them.

"You are very pretty," said Radish. I decided I did not dislike Radish.

"You were poor in the furs," said Sandal Thong. "That is why he gave you away."

"No!" I cried.

"Poor in the furs!" laughed Sandal Thong.

"Why did he give you away?" asked Verr Tail.

"I do not know," I said.

"Poor in the furs!" said Sandal Thong, pointing her finger at me.

"We have few furs in this village," laughed Turnip. "We will see how you roll in the straw!"

"If you are not good," said Verr Tail, "we will soon know. Thurnus will tell everyone whether you are good or not."

"I am good," I told them.

"Why did your master give you away?" asked Turnip.

"It amused him," I said. "He is Clitus Vitellius, a captain. He can have many girls, more beautiful than I. He made me love him, hopelessly and desperately, and then, for his amusement, discarded me. He toyed with me. He used me for the object of his sport. Then, when he had won, fully and completely, he cast me aside, ridding himself of me, giving me away."

"Did you truly love him?" asked Radish.

"Yes," I said.

"What a slave you are!" laughed Sandal Thong.

"He made me love him!" I cried defensively. Yet I knew I would have loved him, even had he not made me love him. Had I had the choice as a free woman I would have chosen to love him; but the choice had not been mine, for I had been a slave; he had overwhelmed me, forcing me to love him, consulting not my will, before I could have chosen to do so; I who had desired to kneel before him of my own free will had been commanded to his sandals as a slave girl.

"You are a fool to have loved your master," said Sandal Thong.

"I love my master," said Radish.

Sandal Thong turned about and struck Radish to the side of the cage. "Slave!" she cried.

"I cannot help it that I love my master!" said Radish.

Sandal Thong spun about, facing me. "Do not break the position of the pleasure slave!" she said.

I held position. "Are you not a slave, too?" I cried.

Sandal Thong stood up. She was a tall girl. She fingered the rope collar on her throat. She stood there in the brief slave tunic, of the wool of the Hurt. It was the only garment she had, as with the rest of us. She was a large girl, heavy-boned, tall, stronger than we, powerful when compared to us, but to a man she, too, would have been slight, at their mercy. "Yes," she said, "I can be beaten, or sold or slain. I can be given as a gift among men. They can put me in chains. They can burn me with irons. They can do with me what they wish." She looked out through the bars of the cage, at ground level. "I must kneel to them. I must be obedient. I must do what I am told." She looked down at me. "Yes," she said, "I, too, am a slave."

"We are all slaves," said Radish.

"I do not want to be a woman!" cried Sandal Thong suddenly, shaking the bars of the cage. She put her face against them, weeping.

"You weep like a woman," I said.

She spun to face me.

"Once," said I, "I did not wish to be a woman. Then I met men such as I had not dreamed could exist. They made me happy to be a woman. Never again would I have wanted to be anything else. My womanhood, though it puts me at the mercy of men, is now exquisitely precious to me. Among such men I would not trade my womanhood for anything in the world. Every girl has a master. It is only, Sandal Thong, that you have not yet met yours."

She looked at me, angrily, the bars in back of her.

"There is some man, Sandal Thong," I said, "whose sandals you would beg to untie with your teeth."

"If Thurnus would so much as look at me," she said, "I would crawl ten pasangs on my belly to lick the dust from his ankles."

"Thurnus, then," I said, "is your master."

"Yes," she said, "Thurnus is my master."

"What is your name?" asked Radish.

"Do you have a name?" had asked Thurnus of me, earlier.

"My former master, Clitus Vitellius, of Ar," I had said, "called me Dina."

"He thought so little of you?" asked Thurnus.

"Yes, Master," I said.

"It is a pretty name," he had said. "it is only that it is common."

"Yes, Master," I had said.

"I name you Dina," he said, putting the name on me, naming his animal. "Who are you?" he asked.

"Dina," I had said, "Master."

"What is your name?" asked Radish.

I smiled. "Dina," I said.

"Many girls with your brand are called Dina," said Turnip.

"I have heard that," I said.

"It is a pretty name," said Verr Tail. "Thank you," I said.

"It must be nice to have a girl's name," said Turnip.

I did not respond.

"I am Radish," said Radish. "I am Turnip," said Turnip. "I am Verr Tail," said Verr Tail.

Sandal Thong looked at me. "I am Sandal Thong," she said.

"Tal," I said to them.

"Tal," they said to me.

"You are first in the cage?" I asked Sandal Thong.

"Yes," she said.

"It will not be necessary to kick or beat me," I said. "I will obey you."

"We are all women. We are all slaves," said Sandal Thong.

"We are all under the whip," said Turnip.

"I have been hand whipped," I said. "But I have never felt the slave whip."

"Have you been a slave long?" asked Radish.

"No," I said.

"You are very pretty to have been free," said Turnip.

"I lived far away," I said.

"Your accent marks you as barbarian," said Sandal Thong.

"Yes," I said.

"Where did you live?" asked Verr Tail.

"A place called Earth," I said.

"I have never heard of it," said Turnip.

"Is it in the north?" asked Radish.

"It is far away," I said. "Let us not speak of it." How could I speak of Earth to them? I did not want them to think me mad, or a liar. Could they believe a world might exist where men, shouting political slogans, vied with one another to surrender their dominance, hastening gleefully to their own castration? Could such a world be welcomed by any save Lesbians, and men who were not men? Truth and political convenience, I thought, do not always coincide.

"Barbarian places are so dull," said Turnip. "Have you never been chained in Ar?"

"No," I said.

"I was sold once in Ar," she said. "It is a marvelous city."

"I am pleased to hear it," I said. Clitus Vitellius, I knew, was of Ar.

"It is strange that you have never felt the slave whip," said Turnip.

I shrugged.

"Perhaps she was too pretty to whip," said Turnip.

"I think it is always the ugly girls who are whipped," said Verr Tail.

"That is not true," said Radish.

"I would suppose," I said, "that any girl, beautiful or not, if she needs a whipping, would be whipped by her master." It surprised me that I, an Earth girl, had said this. Yet, why should a girl who needs a whipping not be whipped, if she has a Gorean master?"

"Dina is right," said Radish.

"They whip us," said Sandal Thong, "when it pleases them."

Radish laughed, and slapped her thighs. "Yes," she said, "the beasts! They put us under the leather whenever it pleases them, whether we have done anything or not!"

"Men are the masters," said Turnip. "They do with us what they please."

"This is a peasant village, Dina," said Verr Tail. "If you remain long us the village, you will learn the slave whip well."

I shuddered.

"I have never even really been switched," I said. Eta had never switched me, though she had held switch rights over me, as first girl in the camp. I had been stung twice across the back of the thighs, below the short tunic, by Melina, companion of my master, Thurnus, when she had hurried me to the kennel. It was been terribly humiliating and unpleasant. It was hard to imagine what a true switching would be. I could not even conjecture what it would be to feel the flash of the slave whip on my body.

"Does the whip hurt, Sandal Thong?" I asked.

"Yes," said Sandal Thong.

"Does the whip hurt very much?" I asked.

"Yes," said Sandal Thong.

"You are strong, Sandal Thong," I said, "do you fear the whip?"

"Yes," she said.

"Do you fear the whip very much?" I asked.

"Yes," she said, "I fear the whip very much."

I shuddered. If even the large, strong Sandal Thong so feared the whip, I wondered what it would do to me.

"It is time to sleep now," said Radish.

We lay down in the straw, and were soon asleep. I awakened once, sweating. I had had a strange dream. I had dreamed I knelt naked, in a steel collar, on smooth tiles, in a beautiful room, as though in a palace. Before me had been a low table. On this table had been strands of thread and, in small cups, beads, slave beads, of various colors, red, yellow and purple, and other colors. I understood, somehow, that I must make a necklace. A slave whip had been lifted before me. "What is this?" asked a voice. "A slave whip, Master," I had said. "And what are you?" had inquired the voice. "A slave, Master," I had said. "Do you obey?" asked the voice. "Yes, Master," I had said. The whip then, roughly, had been forced against my face; it pressed against my lips, bruising them; I felt it with my teeth. "Kiss the whip Slave," said the voice. I had kissed the whip. "Who commands me?" I had asked. It had seemed as though I must ask that. Yet it was not the sort of thing a slave girl would naturally ask. Such an inquiry might be thought to border on insolence. Yet I was not taken by the wrists and thrown fiat upon the tiles and whipped. "You are commanded by Belisarius, Slave Girl," was the response. The response, somehow, seemed oddly fitting, expected. Yet I knew no Belisarius. "What is the command of Belisarius, the slave girl's master?" I had asked. "It is simple," said the voice. "Yes, Master," I had said. "Bead a necklace, Slave Girl," said the voice. "Yes, Master," I had said. Then my hands had reached toward the strands of thread on the table, and toward the cups of tiny beads. Then I had awakened. I did not understand the dream. I put out my hand. I was not on smooth tiles. My hand felt straw, and wood, and a steel bar, and the tiered dirt behind it. The dream was then gone. I lay awake, looking up at the bars and wood above me. The moons were full outside, and I rose to my feet in the straw. I was not in a palace. I was in a cage at Tabuk's Ford. I went to the side of the cage and, over the vertical, banking earth, looked out. My small hands held the bars. The roof of the cage was a few inches above my head. My fists clutched the bars. I had been Judy Thorton. I was caged! I cried out, startled. Bran Loort grinned at me. The other girls turned restlessly, but did not awaken. I shrank back from the bars. I lay down in the straw. He was looking at me. I tried to pull the short woolen tunic more over my legs.

"I am going to be first in Tabuk's Ford," whispered Bran Loort. "When I am first," he said, "Melina will give you to me."

He slipped away from the bars.

I drew up my legs. I huddled in the straw, trembling.

I chopped at the dry earth about the sul plant.

I had been twenty days slave at Tabuk's Ford.

The peasant hoe has a staff some six feet in length. Its head is iron, and heavy, some six inches at the cutting edge, tapering to four inches where it joins the stall. It is fastened to the staff by the staff's fitting through a hollow, ringlike socket at its termination. A wedge is driven into the head of the staff to expand and tighten the wood in the socket.

I was too small to use such a tool well. I did not make a good peasant's slave.

It is difficult to convey the hardship of slavery in a peasant village, particularly for a slight girl, such as I.

I stood up, straightening my back. It hurt. I shaded my eyes.

On the road from Tabuk's Ford I could see the cart of Tup Ladletender, the itinerant peddler, he between its handles, bent over, drawing it.

I looked at my hands. They were raw and blistered, and dirty. I moved my finger inside the rope collar, moving it out a bit from my neck, wiping sweat and dirt from under it. The rope scratched my neck, but I must wear it. It was token of my slavery.

The day begins early, before dawn, when Melina loosens the padlocks on our cage.

We climb out and kneel before her, our heads to her feet. She holds the switch over us. She is our mistress.

Verr are to be milked, the eggs of vulos gathered, and the sleen must be watered and fed, and their cages cleaned.

In the middle of the morning we return to the hut of Thurnus, where pans of slave gruel have been put out for us, beneath the hut. This gruel must be eaten, and the pans licked clean. In the manner of peasant slave girls we kneel or lie upon our bellies and may not use our hands.

After our meal the true work of our day begins. There is water to be carried, wood to be gathered and fields to be tended. Many and various, and long, are the tasks of a peasant village. Upon slave girls do most of these tasks devolve. We must do them or die. Sometimes the boys surprise us in the fields and tie us together and rape us. It does not matter, for we are only slave girls.

It seemed every bone in my body ached.

Ten days ago Thurnus had used me for plowing. He did not own bosk. Girls are cheaper than bosk.

It was the first time I had felt a whip.

I had been hitched with the other girls, and, together, sweating, we had labored naked in the traces under our master's whip. Slowly, leaning forward, our feet digging into the earth, we had pitted our strength against the restraining band of the harness, and, slowly, the great blade had begun to move through the deep soil, turning it for our master. After a few yards I thought I might die. Who would know if I did not put my full strength upon the trace? It was then that I first felt the whip. It was not the five-bladed slave whip, invented for the full and perfect punishment of an erring slave girl, but only a light, one-bladed bosk whip, little more than a switch of leather, a mere incitement and encouragement to better performance on the part of a slacking plow beast, but it struck my back like a hot snake and a rifle shot. I could not believe what it felt like. It was the first time I had ever been struck with a whip.

"Come, Dina, pull harder," said Thurnus.

"Yes, Master!" I cried, hurling myself against the trace. He had not been angry. My back felt as though it had been lashed with a hot cable.

I could not believe the pain of the whip. I could not even conjecture what it would be to feel a true slave whip on my body. Yet I knew a girl could be subjected to a full and lengthy lashing by the true slave whip for so small a thing as having failed in some way that she might not even understand to be completely pleasing to a master. Indeed, she could be subjected to such a lashing for no other reason than that it pleased the master to do so. I had now, for the first time, the former Judy Thornton, felt a whip. I groaned in misery. I now had a new insight into the condition of my slavery. I would do anything, eagerly, the masters wanted.

But in less than an hour I had collapsed in the traces, unconscious.

I dimly remember Thurnus's hand on the back of my neck and Sandal Thong's saying, "Do not kill her, Thurnus. Can you not see she is only a pretty slave, that she is only for the pleasure of men and not for the fields?"

"We can pull the plow without her, Master," said Turnip.

"We have done it many times before," said Radish.

"Do not break her neck, Master," pleaded Verr Tail.

Thurnus's hand left the back of my neck.

I remember him tying my hands behind my back, and tying my ankles together, and leaving me in a furrow. I then again lost consciousness. That night Thurnus carried me, bound, over his shoulder, back to the village, and threw me down between the pilings of his hut. "What is wrong?" asked Melina. "This one is a weakling," said Thurnus. "I will kill her for you," said Melina. She drew from her coarse robes a short knife. I rose on one elbow, naked and bound, helpless in the dirt at her feet. I regarded her with horror. She approached me with the knife. "Please, no, Mistress!" I wept. "Go into the house, Woman," said Thurnus, angrily. "You are the weakling, Thurnus," snapped Melina. She then put away the knife, and stood up.

"It was a mistake to have followed you," she said.

He looked at her without speaking.

"You could have been a caste leader for a district," she said. "Instead I am only the companion of a village leader. I could have companioned a district leader. You stink of the sleen you train and the girls you own."

There were slaves present, and yet she so spoke.

"You are a weakling and a fool, Thurnus," she said. "I despise you."

"Go into the house, Woman," he said. Angrily Melina turned and climbed the steps into the hut. At the top of the steps she turned. "You do not have much longer to give orders in Tabuk's Ford, Thurnus," she said. Then she disappeared into the hut.

"Untie Dina," said Thurnus, "and take her to the cage."

"Yes, Master," said his girls.

"Poor little Dina," said Thurnus, looking down at me, as the ropes were removed from my small limbs. "You make a very poor she-bosk," he said. Then he grinned. Then he turned away.

I struck angrily down at the ground with the hoe. Of course I made a poor she-bosk! It was not my fault I was not a female bosk, like so many of the lasses of peasant stock. Marla and Chanda and Donna and Slave Beads would have been no better! And I did not think Lehna or Eta would have been much better either! How I would have loved to have seen Maria try to pull the plow! She would have done no better than I! Angrily I hoed the suls. I was healthy and vital, but I was not large, not strong. I could not help that. It was not my fault. I was small, and slight and weak. I could not help that. It was not my fault! I was perhaps beautiful, but beauty availed nothing when one felt the weight of the plow at one's back and knew that behind you the master was lifting his whip. Thurnus was disappointed in my weakness.

I chopped down angrily at the ground with the hoe. It was hard for me even to carry water to the fields, struggling under the great wooden yoke over my shoulders, with its attached buckets. Sometimes I fell, spilling the water. And I was slow. The other girls, who were my friends, did parts of my heavier work and I, in turn, did much of the lighter work which was theirs. Yet I did not like this for it was harder on them. I wanted to do my share. It was only that I was weak, that I was not a good peasant's girl.

Sometimes in the fields I hated Clitus Vitellius. It was he who had left me in a peasant village! He had made me love him, conquering me to the last cell of my body, and had then, laughing, given me to a peasant. He knew the sort of girl I was, delicate and sensitive, slight and beautiful, from Earth, and then he had, to his amusement, put me to harsh, weighty slavery in a peasant village, giving me to Thurnus. I struck down at the aids. How I hated Clitus Vitellius!

I looked up again. The cart of Tup Ladletender, the itinerant peddler, was now much farther down the road, on the dirt road leading to the great road, formed of blocks of stone, leading to Ar.

I was thought little of in the village, though my cage sisters were kind to me.

I was not big enough or strong enough to be a good peasant's girl.

I hated peasants. What idiots they were! There were better things to do with a beautiful slave girl than hitch her to a plow!

"The village is not a good place for you, Dina," Turnip had once said to me. "You are a city slave. You should be at a man's feet, in the secrecy of his compartments, collared and chained, curled and purring like a content she-sleen."

"Perhaps," I said.

"I would curl and purr at the feet of Thurnus," had said the large Sandal Thong. We had all laughed. But she had not been joking. It seemed strange to me to think of the large Sandal Thong wanting to submit to the domination of a man. Yet she, too, I reminded myself, was a woman.

Because of my slightness of strength Thurnus had had me help him often with the sleen. Some of the animals I grew to know. But, on the whole, I feared the sleen, and they, sensing this, were unusually vicious with me.

"Are you good for nothing?" had asked Thurnus in exasperation. I had backed away from him, in the sand of the training pit where we had been working. The sun bad been hot, and the sand was hot. It had not rained in several days. The Sa-Tarna was in danger of drought.

Thurnus took me by the arms and shook me. "You are good for nothing," he said, angrily.

I had shuddered in his touch.

"What is wrong?" he asked.

I averted my eyes, shamed. "Forgive me, Master," I said, "but I have not been touched by a man for several days, and I am slave."

"Ah," he said.

I turned my eyes to him. I looked up at him. He was very large. "Perhaps Master would care to rape his slave?" I said.

"Does the slave beg slave rape?" he asked.

"Yes, Master!" I said suddenly, clutching him. "Yes! Yes!" I could not control myself.

He flung me back in the sand, thrusting up the tunic over my breasts. I lay at the foot of a slave cage. He seized me, and I reached hack for the bars of the slave cage, and, holding them, cried out. I twisted and squirmed with the pleasure of his having me. Once I cried out with misery, for I saw Melina watching, from behind the wooden wall. "It is the Mistress, Master," I said. He laughed. "I do what I please with my slave girls," he said. "Let her watch, should she please to do so. Let her find excellent instruction in the behaviors of a hot slave." But Melina, angrily, had left. I then again yielded to the pleasures of him, moaning to the master a slave girl's gratitude. He had deigned to touch me. When he had done with me I knelt at his feet, whimpering. I kissed his feet. "Thank you, Master," I said.

He laughed, and lifted me up, and looked at me, and then, in great humor, flung me to the sand at his feet, from where I looked up at him. "I see, Dina," he laughed, "that you are good for something after all."

I looked down, shyly. "Thank you, Master," I said.

It was now late afternoon.

The cart of Tup Ladletender was now disappearing in the distance, a bit of dust rising behind its wheels.

He had done slave assessment on me this morning.

It was this morning that I had first discovered that I was a whore. But I suppose that every slave girl must be at least a whore, and a marvelous one.

He had not had me, but I had, in his assessment, tried to present myself to him well.

I wondered if I would see him again.

It had begun this way.

"Remain behind, Dina," had said Melina, companion of Thurnus. The other girls had left the village to carry water. Thurnus himself was gone. He would not return until late. He was visiting another village, to buy vulos.

I was frightened of Melina. She was Mistress. Too, once she had prepared to kill me, on the day when I had failed in the plowing. Too, she had seen me in the arms of Thurnus. Yet, she had not of late threatened me. And, I supposed, she was fully aware that Thurnus used all his girls. Radish was used more than I. Surely Melina knew this. Only Sandal Thong was seldom raped.

"Yes, Mistress," I said, apprehensively.

I knew Melina did not like me, but I did not think she hated me more than the other girls. I was certainly not Thurnus's favorite. He preferred larger, wider hipped, larger breasted women than I, more of the sort that Melina might have been at one time, before, in her freedom, she had gone slack and fat.

"Come over here, pretty little bird," had said Melina, gesturing to me. She stood among the pilings of the hut, in the shade. I, the Earth-girl slave, obeyed her. I went to her and, for she was free and I slave, knelt deferentially before her, my head down.

"Remove your tunic, Dina," she said.

"Yes, Mistress," I said. I slipped the short woolen tunic over my head. I was now naked.

"Go to this piling," she said, indicating one of the pilings, "and kneel there, facing it."

I did so.

"Closer," she said. "Put your knees on either side of it, and put your belly against it."

"Yes, Mistress," I said.

"Do you like our village?" she asked.

"Oh, yes, Mistress!" I said.

"Put your arms around the piling," she said, "and cross your wrists, palms up."

I complied.

"Are you happy here?" she asked.

"Oh, yes, Mistress!" I said.

"Would you like to leave our village?" she asked.

"Oh, no, Mistress!" I said. Then I added, hastily, "Unless it be Mistress's will!"

She removed a bit of cord from her robes. I felt my wrists lashed together on the other side of the piling. They were tied very tightly.

"Will that hold you?" she asked.

"Yes, Mistress," I said.

She stepped back from me. She looked at me, and then she went up the stairs into her hut, and, soon, returned, with a coil of rope. She tied one end of the rope on my rope collar and then, leaving me about a foot of slack, tied the rope about the piling, at the level of my neck. The rest of the rope, depending from the piling, she let fall to the dirt.

I looked up at her.

"You are a pretty one," she said.

Because of the rope on my neck I could not stand at the piling.

"Quite pretty," she said.

"Thank you, Mistress," I said.

I was secured, naked, on my knees, at the piling. I was her prisoner.

"A peddler," she said, "is in the village."

I knew this. His name was Tup Ladletender. Radish had told me this. I had seen his arrival. He drew a handcart. It had long handles, and two large wheels. In the cart were many shelves and racks, on which there was a rich miscellany of cheap goods, and pegs and loops, from which hung many utensils, pans and tools. Drawers in the side of the wagon contained, too, mysteries of goods, such as threads, cloths, scissors, thimbles, buttons and patches, brushes and combs, sugars, herbs, spices, packets of salt, and philtres of medicine. No one knew what all might be contained in that unusual cart.

"I am going to fetch him," said Melina, "to take a look at you."

At the piling, my heart leaped. Melina was going to sell me off, I thought, while Thurnus was out of the village.

"Present yourself to him well, you little slut," warned Melina, "or I will switch you to within an inch of your life."

"I will, Mistress!" I promised. Indeed I would! When might come another chance to escape the slavery of the village? I would do anything to escape peasant slavery! Present myself well? Indeed! I would be a wonder to him of obedient, sensuous female flesh! Then suddenly I was afraid. What sort of man was he? Different modalities of wench excite different men. I wanted to be exactly what he wanted. I was desperate to be exactly what he wanted. But what would he want? What a whore you are, I thought to myself. My wrists squirmed in the bonds in which Melina had fastened me. I did not know what he would want! Would he want a quiet, timid girl, one to throw to his feet and abuse? Would he want a lascivious wench, begging to reach him with her tongue? Would he want an angry, defiant girl, to be brought to her knees in docility and surrender? Or would he want, perhaps, a cold girl, haughty, icy with contempt, to be turned into a writhing slave, screaming piteously for his touch? I did not know. One thing I knew was that I would be presented beautifully, physically, to him. Melina had seen to that. She was a clever, shrewd woman. A girl is most beautiful when she is naked, save perhaps for a collar or chain. And I was tied kneeling, in submission position. And my knees were thrust apart by the piling, about which my hands were tied, against which my belly was thrust. This would suggest, perhaps only subconsciously, my vulnerability, my penetration, and the massiveness and irresistibility of masculine power, to which I, a slave girl, must helplessly submit. Too, my hands, tied as they were, contributed to the carefully calculated effect. When I raised them, tied as I was, the softness of their palms was brought against and about the piling, in an intimate clasp. The piling, thus, would be embraced, and held beautifully. Lastly, there was a rope on my neck, long, a tether. This might easily suggest, again perhaps only on a subconscious level, that I might be removed from the post, have my hands tied behind my back, and be led away, like a tethered tabuk doe, to the master's pleasure. Such a rope might easily be looped on the back of a wagon, and I would follow, naked, barefoot, behind the wagon, in the dust. Melina was clever.

"This is the slave," said Melina.

Startled, suddenly frightened, I clutched the post. It was an involuntary reaction. But, tied as I was, I could not have helped but seize it beautifully. I then realized Melina had wanted to startle me, from the direction from which she had approached, and the suddenness of her assertion. The man had seen the reaction of a beautiful, startled slave girl, bound at a post. It had been completely natural. Melina had intended that it would be.

I decided that I would be an Earth-girl slave, the desirability of whose flesh was being assessed, tied in a peasant village. I did not know what else to do, and that is what I was. On this world I was a beautiful barbarian and alien, from a world quite different, one which had not prepared me for their world. Perhaps Gorean men might find it of interest to own, and tame and train me. Earth girls, I had heard from Eta, made superb slaves. I supposed it was true.

"How are you, little vulo?" he said.

"Well, Master," I said.

"She is barbarian," he said.

"Oh?" said Melina. She knew I was barbarian.

"Open your mouth," said the man.

I opened my mouth.

"See?" he said to Melina. He had his fingers in my mouth, opening it widely. "In the back tooth, on the top, on the left," he said, "a tiny bit of metal."

"Physicians can do that," said Melina.

"Are you from a place called Earth?" asked the man.

"Yes, Master," I said.

"See?" he asked Melina.

"Clever slave," said Meina.

I feared I would be switched.

"I am Tupelius Milius Lactantius, of the Lactantii, of the merchants, of Ar," he said to me, "but we fell upon hard times, and I, though only eight at the time, fell as well, it being my duty, caste discipline, family pride and such."

I smiled.

"She smiles well," he said. "In the villages I am known as Tup Ladletender," he said. "What is your name?"

"What do you think of her?" asked Melina.

The man regarded me. "She is obvious collar meat," he said.

I felt shamed at the post. It was obvious to the eyes of a Gorean male that I was a slave. It was only a question as to my price, and to whom I would belong.

"Is she not pretty?" asked Melina.

"In the cities," said he, "such girls are numerous. In Ar alone, each year, thousands of such girls are vended and procured in the slave markets."

I shuddered.

"What is her value?" demanded Melina.

"I could get for her, at best," he conjectured, "only a handful of copper tarsks."

I knew that I was a beautiful slave. What I had not realized was that slave beauty was so plentiful on Gor. Beautiful slaves are not unusual on this world. Beauty in collars was cheap on Gor. Girls more beautiful than I often slaved in the kitchens of great houses or, in state tunics and chains, scrubbed the floors of public buildings at night.

Melina was not pleased.

"Do you not want her?" she asked.

He caressed my flanks, and I held the post. "She is not without interest," he said.

Suddenly, without warning, he touched me, and I cried out, my body thrusting against the post, my hands clutching it, my eyes closed. I could not help myself.

"Ah," he said.

I opened my eyes, startled.

"She is a hot slave," he said. "That is good. That is very good."

"How hot is she?" asked Melina.

Again he touched me, and I cried out, miserable, bound. I could not help myself.

He laughed. "Very hot," he said. He laughed. Then he said, "Steady, little vulo."

"Please, Master, don't!" I begged.

Then I cried out, and began to writhe at the post. My fingernails tore at the wood. "Stop!" I wept. "Please, stop Master!"

He withdrew his hands and I shuddered against the post, fearing only that he might again so touch me.

He stood up.

"How hot is she?" asked Melina.

"She is hot enough to be a paga slut," he said.

"Excellent!" said Melina.

"Yet," said he, "still I think I could get only tarsks for her."

"Why is that?" inquired Melina.

"The wars," he said, "the raids, the falls of cities. There are many beauties, many of them even formerly free, who find themselves upon the block these days, being sold for. a pittance of tarsks."

"But are they as hot as this one?" demanded Melina.

"Yes, many of them," he said. "Brand a girl, put her in chains, give her a bit of training, and in a week she is panting, hot and ready for a master."

"So soon?" asked Melina.

"Yes," he said, "take a woman, any woman, not just these Earth girls, who are slave meat, but any woman, even one who is Gorean, and free, and of high caste, even one who is an iceberg, lock a collar on her, which she cannot remove; teach her she is a slave; and she will turn to fire."

Melina laughed. I reddened, bound at the post. How grievously had the women of Earth been slandered! Did they not know I was a woman of Earth? Of course they knew! How casually, how unthinkably, they spoke in the presence of a slave I But I wondered if it were true. If it were true, in Gorean law, it could be no slander.

"Lock a collar on her," said the man, putting his hands about my neck, as though they were a collar. I tensed, my throat collared in his hands. I knew he could crush my throat easily with his Gorean strength, did he choose. I felt very helpless. He removed his hands from my neck and put them in my hair. He tightened his hands, and pulled my head back. "Teach her she is a slave," he said. I cried out as he tightened his hands further in my hair, and pulled my head back further. He caused me only enough pain to let me know what he could do to me if he chose. Involuntarily I shuddered, acknowledging him as male and master. He removed his hands from my hair. I tensed at the post. I felt his hands at my flanks. "And," he said, chuckling, "she will turn to fire." He touched me, and I cried out, tears in my eyes, biting at the wood with my teeth.

"Hot enough to be a paga slut," said Melina.

"Yes," he agreed.

The women of Earth had been pronounced slave meat. I wept. If this were true, it was, in Gorean law, no slander.

I hoped that he would not touch me again.

The women of Earth are slave meat, I thought. I am a woman of Earth. I clung to the post, slave meat.

"Pretty slave meat," he said, gently touching my flanks.

I wondered if all the women of Earth were slave meat. I knew only that I, undeniably, was such. Perhaps others were not. Let other girls, in their secret heart, ask themselves that question. They need tell no one the answer to that most private and revealing of questions, unless perhaps they meet one before whom they can speak only the truth, their master. Perhaps the matter is hormonal. Perhaps there are hormones which fit a girl for slavery, as there are hormones which fit a man for mastery. I do not know.

Only on Gor had I felt my true femaleness, and that in the presence of Gorean males, who owned or could own me, men capable of owning a woman, as most men of Earth simply are not. My femaleness had been suppressed on Earth, first by my own conditioning, the confused product of centuries of intellectual and social pathology, and, secondly, by the set of societal institutions in which I had grown up and existed, rather than lived, institutions to which sexuality was irrelevant, if not inimical. It is difficult to know what would constitute a good society. Perhaps it would be a necessary condition for such a society that its institutions would be compatible, at least, with the truths of biology. A society which sickens and weakens its members, which cripples them and denies them to themselves, is not obviously superior to a society in which human beings are organic and whole, healthy, and happy and great. The test of a society is perhaps not its conformance or nonconformance to principles but the nature and human prosperity of its members. Let each look about himself and judge for himself the success of his own society. Man lives confused in the ruins of ideologies. Perhaps he will someday emerge from the caves and pens of his past. That would be a beautiful day to see. There would be a sunlit world waiting for him.

There is perhaps little to be said for the Gorean world, but in it men and women are alive.

It is a world which I would not willingly surrender.

It is a very different world from mine; in its way, I suppose it is worse; in its way, I know it is better.

It is its own place, not another's. It is honest and real. In it there is good air.

"Who is your master, little vulo?" asked Tup Ladletender of me.

"My master is Thurnus," I said, "caste leader in Tabuk's Ford, of the caste of peasants, one who makes fields fruitful and is, too, a trainer of sleen." I was proud of Thurnus, who owned me. A peasant who is actively engaged in agricultural pursuits is spoken of as one who makes fields fruitful. Sometimes this expression is applied, too, to peasants who are not actively engaged in such pursuits, as an honorific appelation. Whereas caste membership is commonly connected with the practice of an occupation, such as agriculture, or commerce, or war, there can be, of course, caste members who are not engaged in caste work and individuals who do certain forms of work who are not members of that caste commonly associated with such work. Caste, commonly, though not invariably, is a matter of birth. One may, too, be received into a caste by investment. Normally mating takes place among caste members, but if the mating is of mixed caste, the woman may elect to retain caste, which is commonly done, or be received into the caste 'of the male companion. Caste membership of the children born of such a union is a function of the caste of the father. Similar considerations, in certain cities, hold of citizenship. Caste is important to Goreans in a way that is difficult for members of a non-caste society to understand. Though there are doubtless difficulties involved with caste structure the caste situation lends an individual identity and pride, allies him with thousands of caste brothers, and provides him with various opportunities and services. Recreation on Gor is often associated with caste, and tournaments and entertainments. Similarly, most public charity on Gor is administered through caste structure. The caste system is not inflexible and there are opportunities for altering caste, but men seldom avail themselves of them; they take great pride in their castes, often comparing others' castes unfavorably to their own; a Gorean's caste, by the time he reaches adulthood, seems to have become a part of his very blood and being; the average Gorean would no more think of altering caste than the average man of Earth would of altering his citizenship, from, say, American to Russian, or French to Chinese. The caste structure, in spite of its many. defects, doubtless contributes to the stability of Gorean society, a society in which the individual has a place, in which his work is respected, and in which he can plan intelligently with respect to the future. The clan structures are kinship groups. They function, on the whole, given mating practices, within the caste structure, but they are not identical to it. For example, in a given clan there may be, though often are not, individuals of different castes. Many Goreans think of the clan as a kinship group within a caste. For most practical purposes they are correct. At least it seldom does much harm to regard the matter in this way. Clans, because of practical limitations on mobility, are usually associated, substantially, with a given city; the caste, on the other hand, is transmunicipal or intermunicipal. These remarks would not be complete without mentioning Home Stones. Perhaps the most significant difference between the man of Earth and the Gorean is that the Gorean has a Home Stone, and the man of Earth does not. It is difficult to make clear to a non-Gorean the significance of the Home Stone, for the non-Gorean has never had a Home Stone, and thus cannot understand its meaning, its reality. I think that I shall not try to make clear what is the significance to a Gorean of the Home Stone. It would be difficult to put into words; indeed, it is perhaps impossible to put into words; I shall not try. I think this is one of the saddest things about the men of Earth, that they have no Home Stone.

"What is your name, little vulo?" asked Tup Ladletender of me.

"My master has been pleased to call me 'Dina, " I said.

"If your master has been pleased to call you 'Dina, " said Ladletender, "then you are Dina."

"Oh, yes, Master!" I said, quickly. I had not meant to imply that my name might not be 'Dina. Melina was glaring at me. "I am Dina," I said swiftly, "only Dina, the girl of my master." Those four letters, in Gorean, as in English, were my complete and only designation. Such matters lie entirely within the determination of the Master.

"Pretty Dina," said Ladletender.

"Thank you, Master," I said.

"Do you want her?" asked Melina.

"She has rough hands," said Ladletender. He pulled my small hands, bound, out from the post, and rubbed his thumbs into my palms. I shuddered. "You have rough hands, Dina," he said.

"I am a peasant's girl, Master," I said. My hands were rough from digging, and washing, and holding tools.

I felt his thumbs rotating slowly in my palms. They pressed in. I thrust myself against the post, eyes closed.

"With lotions," said he, "they may be softened, so that they would be fit to caress men."

"Yes, Master," I said. I shuddered to think what his thumbs might have felt like in my palms, had my palms been slave-girl soft.

"Make an offer for the little she-sleen," said Melina.

Ladletender touched my neck, and put his finger inside the rope collar, and pulled it Out a hit from my neck. "You wear a rope collar," he said. "It must be rough and unpleasant."

"What pleases my Master," I said, "pleases me."

"Do you lie to a free man?" he asked.

"Oh, no, Master!" I cried. To be sure, the rope collar was unpleasant, and for that reason I did not like it, but, on the other hand, I, a slave, was naturally desperately eager to please Thurnus, who was my master. It was his will to which mine must conform. It was he whom I must please, fully. There was thus a sense in which what pleased Thurnus pleased me. I was pleased to please him. Did I not please him I might be summarily slain. I was pleased to please him. To please the master is what most pleases the girl.

"She is trying to be pleasing," said Melina. "Would you not like her naked in your furs? She can be purchased cheaply."

"How cheaply?" he asked.

"Cheaply," she said.

"Does Thurnus know you are selling her off?" he asked.

"It does not matter what Thurnus knows," said Melina. "I am free and companion to Thurnus. I may do what I wish."

"Would you like, pretty Dina," said Ladletender, fingering my neck, "to have a pretty steel collar, perhaps enameled?"

I have never owned a collar," I said.

"Nor would you then," pointed out Ladletender.

"Yes, Master," I said, humbled.

It was not I who would own a collar, but I, collared, who would be owned. The collar, like myself, would belong to the master. It would be his collar. I would not own it. I would only wear it.

"This rope is rough and coarse," said Ladletender, fingering the rope collar. "Would you not like a smooth steel collar, one slender and gleaming, or perhaps ornamented and cunningly wrought, or enameled, perhaps to match your eyes and hair, one designed in color and workmanship to enhance your style of beauty, one perhaps measured or custom-fitted to the beauty of your own slave throat?"

"Whatever pleases the master," I said. I knew that a steel collar did immeasurably enhance the beauty of a girl. I had much envied Eta her collar, though it had been plain. I had seen few collars on Gor, but I had learned from Eta that there was great variety among them. They ranged from simple bands of iron, hammered about a girl's throat, her head held down on an anvil, to bejeweled, wondrously wrought, close-locking circlets befitting the preferred slave of a Ubar; such collars, whether worn by a kitchen slave or the prize beauty of a Ubar, had two things in common; they cannot be removed by the girl and they mark her as slave. In the matter of collars, as in all things, Goreans commonly exhibit good taste and aesthetic sense. Indeed, good taste and aesthetic sense, abundantly and amply displayed, harmoniously manifested, in such areas as language, architecture, dress, culture and customs, seem innately Gorean. It is a civilization informed by beauty, from the tanning and cut of a workman's sandal to the glazings intermixed and fused, sensitive to light and shadow, and the time of day, which characterize the lofty towers of her beautiful cities. The same attention, of course, which the Gorean bestows upon his own life and world, is naturally bestowed upon his slave girls. They, too, must be perfect. Just as, in our world, it is not uncommon to seek the advice of an interior decorator in obtaining and organizing the appointments of one's own dwelling, so, too, in the Gorean world, it is not uncommon to call in a trainer and beautician to appraise and improve a girl. He considers such matters as her hair, its cut, cosmetics appropriate to her, the proper type of earrings, a variety of collars and slave silks, how she walks, and speaks, and kneels, and so on, and makes his recommendations. Commonly he finds an apparently plain slave, discovers her latencies, and leaves a beauty. An apparently plain girl is a challenge to such a man. They are said to be able to work wonders. They are often employed in slave pens. A common challenge to them is to take an apparently plain free woman, recently enslaved, and transform her into a ravishing, imbonded beauty. Half the work, however, some say, is done by the collar. Some say the collar releases the beauty in a woman. Perhaps it is true. I had worn only a rope collar, but yet it seemed to me that it, even in its coarseness, made me more beautiful, more exciting. When Thurnus had tied it on my throat he had shown it to me in one of Melina's mirrors. I had almost fainted at the sight of it, so exciting it had made me appear, so sexually charged it had made me. Seeing my state, he had used me immediately, and I had, my whole body, helplessly, to my amazement, responded instantly to him. He had collared me. I dared not dream what my responsiveness would have been had the collar been not of rope, which I might cut or untie, but of true steel, in which I would be helplessly locked. In a sense I both desired and feared a true collar. Collared, how could I resist any man?

"Make an offer for her," said Melina.

Tup Ladletender rose to his feet and reached into his pouch. "Here, little vulo," he said. He took something from his pouch and thrust it in my mouth, pressing it between my teeth with his thumb, depositing it in the side of my mouth. I was startled, kneeling in the dirt at the post, my hands bound about it. "Thank you, Master," I said. It was a small, hard candy. It was sweet. I closed my eyes. It was the first sweet I had had since I had been brought to Gor. In the plain diet of a slave girl, such things are very precious. Girls would fight and tear at one another for a chocolate. Confections are commonly used by masters as rewards in the training and conditioning of their girls. Beyond this they may continue to function as control devices and incitements. Even a slave girl of many years never loses her taste for a bit of candy, for which she may have to work for hours. It is common to give the girl the candy while she is in a kneeling position, putting it in her mouth for her. On the other hand, in training, candies are commonly thrown to the girls. Sometimes, too, for the amusement of the master, candies will be thrown to the floor among several girls, to observe their struggle to obtain these prizes.

"Make an offer for her," said Melina.

"Why do you want to sell her off?" asked Ladletender.

"Make an offer," said Melina.

"Perhaps," he said, looking at me.

"Is she not pretty?" demanded Melina.

"Yes, she is pretty," he said.

"Imagine her, collared, naked in your furs," said Melina, "rubbing against you, desperate to please you."

"I am a merchant," said Ladletender. "If I buy her, I buy her to sell her for a profit."

"But surely you could richly use her before you sell her," suggested Melina.

Ladletender grinned. "Two copper tarsks," he said.

A strange sensation came over me. I realized a price had been offered for me. It is a very strange feeling. The price, of course, even for an Earth girl such as myself, was not realistic. It was intended only to begin the bargaining. Surely I would be worth at least four or five copper tarsks in any market.

"I will sell her to you for less," said Melina.

Ladletender seemed startled.

I opened my eyes, startled, too.

"I need something from your wagon," she said. She looked at me, narrowly. "Come away from the post," she said to Ladletender. They left me tied at the post. She and Ladletender, who seemed puzzled, went to his wagon, with the two long handles. They conversed there. I could not hear their conversation. I sucked at the candy. It was delicious. I wanted it to last as long as possible. I did move a bit about the post where I might look, as though inadvertently, at the pair of free persons at the wagon. I was curious. I was puzzled. From one of the many drawers in the wagon, Tup Ladletender gave into the keeping of Melina, companion of Thurnus, a tiny packet, such as might contain a medicine or powder. I then turned about at the post, so that they would not know I had observed them, and continued to relish the candy. In a short time Melina returned and untied me from the post, and, to my surprise, removed the long rope, though not the rope collar, from my neck. I had expected to be bound, wrists behind my back, and tethered by the neck of the rear of Ladletender's wagon, to follow him, his slave girl, naked and barefoot from the village.

"Put on your tunic," said Melina to me. "Get a hoe. Go to the sul fields. Hoe suls. Bran Loort will fetch you and bring you back when it is time. Speak to no one."

"Yes, Mistress," I said.

"Hurry," said Melina, looking about.

I donned the brief, woolen slave tunic, slipping it swiftly over my head.

Melina seemed agitated.

"May a slave speak, Mistress?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

"Have I not been sold, Mistress?" I asked.

"Perhaps, pretty Dina," said Melina, companion to Thurnus. "We shall see."

"Yes, Mistress," I said, puzzled.

"Tomorrow, my pretty little she-sleen," she said, "you will belong either to Tup Ladletender or Bran Loort."

I looked at her, puzzled. "Go," she said. "Hurry! Speak to no one!"

I turned about and, hurrying, went to fetch a tool. The last of the candy dissolved in my mouth. There was no one to speak to.

I chopped at the dry earth about the sul plant.

It had not rained in fifteen days, and it had been dry, too, before that time. The land was in drought.

Tup Ladletender's cart had now disappeared down the road leading from Tabuk's Ford, he between its handles, bent over, drawing it. Left behind now was not even a bit of dust.

It was late afternoon.

I was totally alone in the fields, unprotected.

I did not understand much of what had happened to me. I did not know why I had been brought to Gor. I had awakened naked and chained by the neck. Men had demanded slave beads of me. I had not understood them. They had prepared to kill me. I had been rescued by Clitus Vitellius, who had branded me and made me a slave. He had toyed with me, making me love him helplessly, and had then, for his amusement, given me away! How I hated him! How I loved him! Always I would remember his hands upon me! Always in my heart I would be his slave girl. I wondered if he ever called to mind the girl he had so casually, contemptuously, discarded. Of course not! She was only a slave. And he had his pick of women, even free women, who would wear a collar for his touch. He would not remember me, a slave he once briefly owned and sported with. But I would remember him, always. I loved him. I hated him! Always in my heart I would think of him as my master. I so loved him, and hated him! If only I could have vengeance upon him! How sweet it would be to subject him to the revenge of a scorned slave girl! But what chance had a slave girl for revenge? She was only slave. I cut down at the suls, viciously. I thought of the strange dream I had had, in which I, naked and collared, kneeling on tiles in a beautiful room, as though in a palace, had been strangely commanded to bead a necklace. "Who commands me?" I had asked. "You are commanded by Belisarius, Slave Girl," was the response. The response, somehow, had seemed oddly fitting, expected, though I had known no Belisarius. "What is the command of Belisarius, the slave girl's master?" I had asked. "It is simple," had said the voice. "Yes, Master," I had said. "Bead a necklace, Slave Girl," had said the voice. "Yes, Master," I had said. Then my hands had reached toward the strands of thread on the table, and toward the cups of tiny beads. Then I had awakened. I had not understood the dream. Bran Loort had been near the bars of the cage. He had startled me. "I am going to be first in Tabuk's Ford," whispered Bran Loort. "When I am first," he said, "Melina will give you to me." He had then slipped away from the bars. I had huddled in the straw, trembling. Today, I had thought that I was sold, and perhaps had been, but I did not know. Tup Ladletender, I knew, had left the village without me. I had been sent to the fields. Melina had purchased something from Ladletender, a packet, containing a powder or medicine. I was to say nothing. Bran Loort would fetch me, I had been told. I was to remain in the fields until then. I understood little of this.

I cut down at the suls. I was to say nothing.

I was alone in the fields.

I lifted the heavy hoe, with the stout staff and great metal blade, again and again. It was terribly hot work, and hard. My hack hurt. My hands hurt. My muscles ached. I worked hard, very hard, for I was a peasant's girl. Such girls are not treated gently if they do not do full work. I did not wish to be whipped.

The sun was sinking.

My tunic was soaked with sweat. My feet and legs were black with dirt and sweat.

The rope collar clung and scratched about my throat.

I stood upright, in pain. I was too slight a girl for peasant work. I held the hoe, breathing deeply, my head back.

How I had wanted Tup Ladletender to purchase me, to take me from the labors of the fields. I would have been willing to be anything he had wanted at the post, anything to interest him, anything to escape Tabuk's Ford, but he and Melina, in their cleverness, had manipulated me in such a way that I was unable to be anything but what I was, an Earth-girl slave whose passions put her helplessly at the mercy of men. Willing to be a whore, I had been forced to be naturally myself, a slave girl, more helplessly a whore than any whore could be. A slave girl must be at least a whore, and a marvelous one at that. Being a whore is but a small step in the direction of being a slave girl. But I did not care. I would have done anything to escape Tabuk's Ford. A slave girl owns nothing. She has nothing to offer a man but her service and her beauty. She has nothing with which to pay but herself. That is the way men want it.

I was sure that Tup Ladletender had found me appealing.

I did not know if he had bought me or not.

I bent again to my arduous labors.

Suddenly I straightened myself. "Bran Loort!" I cried.

He stood a few feet from me, a coil of rope in his hand. My hands clutched the handle of the hoe.

He looked at me.

I flung it down. A girl dares not raise a weapon against a free man. Some girls have been slain, or had their hands cut off, for so much as touching a weapon.

"I have come to fetch you, Dina," he said.

I looked about. There was another peasant lad on my left. He, too, carried rope. I turned quickly. Four others were behind me. Another was on my right. Two others, too, appeared, behind Bran Loort. One of them carried, too, a coil of rope.

There was nowhere to run.

"She is the clever girl who eluded us in the game of girl catch in the village," said one of the lads.

"Greetings, clever girl," said another.

"Greetings, Master," I said to him.

I extended my wrists, crossed for binding, to Bran Loort. "You are going to take me to my master," I said.

He laughed.

I drew back my wrists. I looked about, fearfully. The boys approached more closely, closing about me.

I spun and ran, but fled into the arms of one of the young males, who roughly threw me back to the center of the circle. I tried again to break the circle and was again caught and flung again to its center. They were now close about me.

I extended my wrists, crossed, to Bran Loort. "Bind me," I said, "and take me to my master."

He smiled.

I trembled, and shrank back before him, almost into the arms of one of his brawny young cohorts.

"Are you going to rape me, Bran Loort?" I asked.

"And more," said he.

"Thurnus will not be pleased," I said.

"Tonight," he said, "you will belong to me."

"I do not understand," I said.

"Tonight," he said, "you will be a feast and a festival to us, Dina."

I trembled.

"Hold her," said Bran Loort.

Two boys held my arms.

"Ankle-leash her, both ankles," he said. This was done. I stood before them, ropes on my ankles.

"Put your arms at your sides," said Bran Loort, "out a bit from your body."

I did so.

I then stood before them, double wrist-leashed, ropes placed knotted on my wrists. The ropes on my wrists and ankles, serving as leashes, were cut from the coils of rope brought to the field. The remainders of the coils swung in the hands of Bran Loort and one of his cohorts. I knew I might be beaten with them.

"You will obey," said Bran Loort.

"Yes, Master," I said.

"Remove your kerchief," he said.

I lifted my leashed wrists and pulled away the kerchief, shading my head, freeing my hair.

"Pretty," said one of the boys.

"Tear the kerchief," said Bran Loort.

"Please," I said. I did not wish to destroy the kerchief. It. like the girl, Dina, whom I was, belonged to my master. Dina was responsible for it. The master might not be pleased if it were torn or soiled. Dina might be beaten.

"Tear it," said Bran Loort. I, with difficulty, tore the kerchief, the boys amused at my weakness.

"Drop it upon the ground and, step upon it, grinding it into the dirt," said Bran Loort.

I did so, with the heel of my leashed foot. I was sure now that I would be beaten upon my return to the village.

I looked at the boys. I realized, suddenly, I had more to fear from them than from the swift switch of an angry Thurnus or Melina. Their eyes terrified me. My limbs were leashed. I stood alone among them, their prisoner.

I knew I must please them.

"Are you docile and cooperative?" asked Bran Loort.

"Yes, Master," I whispered.

"Strip," he said.

"Yes, Master," I said. I reached to pull the coarse, brief tunic over my head. I hoped they would be soon done with me.

But my hands, held by the ropes on my wrists, could not reach the bottom of the tunic. My fingers struggled to reach it, but an inch from its wool, clinging about my thighs. I tried again to seize the tunic but was prohibited by the ropes from doing so. I looked at Bran Loort in alarm, in protest.

"Strip," he said. He swung the coil of rope which he carried, whiplike, easily in his hand. Behind me there was another lad, with such a coil of rope.

Wildly I tried to seize the garment, to pull it over my head, but the boys would not let me touch it. I struggled to get my fingers on the white, coarse wool, but I could not reach it.

"Are you docile and cooperative?" asked Bran Loort.

"Yes, Master!" I cried. "Yes, Master!"

"Strip," he said.

Again I tried to reach the garment but again was not permitted to do so. Then I tried to seize the garment at the neck and tear it away but the boys would not let my hands reach the garment.

"You are a rebellious slave," said Bran Loort.

"No, Master!" I cried.

"Obey then," he said.

I tried again to tear away the garment. Again I was not permitted to do so.

"Rebellious slave," said Bran Loort.

Suddenly the rope, coiled, held by the boy behind me, hissed and cut into the back of my thighs.

"Oh," I cried.

At the same time Bran Loort himself struck down at me with the rope he carried, striking me across the shoulder and neck.

The boys yanked the ropes on my ankles, and, by their means, and by means of those held by the other two boys, those fastened on my wrists, I was turned and thrown to my stomach, in the dirt, spread-eagled.

Bran Loort and the other lad struck me again and again with the ropes they carried and then I, sobbing, cut by the ropes, marked even through the tunic, was, by the leashes on my limbs pulled to a kneeling position before him, my arms held out from my sides. There was dirt on the side of my face and on my body, blackening and staining the sweat-soaked tunic. I could taste dirt in my mouth.

"Bring her," said Bran Loort.

I was jerked to my feet by the ropes on my wrists and stumbling, dragged among them, was conducted from the ml field. The ruined kerchief and the hoe lay behind.

Many are the clever things which may be done to a girl who is, as I was, fully limb-leashed. Much sport had the cruel peasant boys with me. They made me fall when they pleased, and as they pleased; sometimes they threw me forward, sometimes backward; sometimes they carried me, face up or face down, suspended between them: sometimes they dragged me by an ankle or a wrist on my back or stomach, or twisting; sometimes they dragged me or made me walk where they wished, though it might be through rocks or gravel.

I did not know if I could live, so led.

We stopped once. I was still clothed at.that time. I was held by the ropes before Bran Loort. I was covered with sweat and dirt; I was gasping; I was trembling, shaken with muscular stress from the cruel march, as well as with fear, knowing myself fully in their hands, not knowing what fate they might choose to inflict upon me. We stood in the vicinity of a thicket of thorn brush, of the sort which is occasionally used to wall camps.

"You are still clothed," said Bran Loort observing me.

"Let me tear away my clothes before you," I begged, "that the beauty of a poor slave girl may be bared to you."

"Do so," he said.

I cried out in anguish. Again the ropes would not let me strip myself.

"You have apparently not yet learned your lesson," he said.

"Please, Master!" I wept.

"Let the thorn brush strip her," said Bran Loort.

"No!" I cried.

By the ropes I was dragged into the midst of tenacious, barbed brush, that thicket of such. I screamed with misery. I begged mercy. I was shown none. The brush tore at my clothing and body. Rudely I was drawn through it. I cried out, throwing my head from side to side. I kept my eyes closed, that I be not blinded. "Please, Masters!" I cried. They did not see fit to show a girl mercy. Bloodied, my body a welter of scratches and linear wounds, I was pulled from the brush. The Earth-girl slave was now naked.

They hit me with the ropes and again we continued our journey. They sang as they conducted me to the place of their feast, on the grass by the stream.

There they held my wrists about a tree and, striking many times, put me under rope-discipline. Held against the tree, feeling its bark with the side of my cheek, weeping, shuddering under the blows of the coiled rope, I wondered what I had done to them that they should be so cruel to me.

They then took me and threw me to the grass on my back. My ankles, by the rope leashes tied on them, held by two boys, were pulled widely apart. Bran Loort looked down upon me.

I realized then that I, a slave girl, had, days ago, eluded them in the game of girl catch. I had, in that game, by my cleverness, bested them. I did not now feel clever. I would now pay for my cleverness. How foolish of a slave girl to attempt to best a free man. Does she not know she may someday come into his ownership!

I cried out. Bran Loort was the first to have me.

"Come out, Thurnus!" called Bran Loort. "See what I have for you."

I lay at the feet of Bran Loort, my knees drawn up, on my side in the dirt. My hands were tied behind my back. I was naked, and my body was covered with dried blood and dirt. A rope, knotted, ran from my neck to his hand. My cheek was in the dust. I was cold, and my body ached, from the rope beatings and abuse to which it had been subjected. I think I was partly in shock. I could no longer cry. The only flicker of feeling left in me was a fear of free men. I, a slave girl, had once bested free men in the game of girl catch. I had learned my lesson well. Never again would I try to best free men. They were master. I was slave.

"Come out, Thurnus!" called Bran Loort. "See what I have for you!"

My head jerked as Bran Loort, emphasizing his words, drew on the rope tied on my neck. I put my head down, shoulders trembling.

"Thurnus! Come out!" cried Bran Loort.

I shuddered.

I lay in the dirt before the hut of Thurnus.

It was night now, and men stood about, with torches. There were the eight young men of Bran Loort, and others, too, gathered from the village. The free men and women were there, and some slaves, not yet caged for the night. Sandal Thong was there, and Turnip, and Verr Tail and Radish. Melina had wanted them to see what was to occur. There were no children present. Bran Loort stood forward, his staff in his left hand, my neck rope in his right. His eight young men stood near to him, each with his staff. Ringing us were villagers and slaves. All eyes turned to the doorway of Thurnus's hut. Melina emerged from the hut and descended the stairs to the ground. Thurnus's hut was near to the center of the village, near its clearing. I could smell the sleen in the cool, night air. It was chilly.

My back and legs were covered with welts from the rope lashings I had been given. My thighs were sore.

Melina stood at the bottom of the stairs. She, too, turned to face the opening.

I looked at Bran Loort. He looked very splendid, proud and strong, a girl's neck rope in his hand, she, proof of his manhood, at his feet. The staff he held was over six feet in length and some two to three inches in width. "I am going to be first in Tabuk's Ford," had Bran Loort once said to me. I recalled, too, something else he had said. "When I am first," he had said, "Melina will give you to me."

"Come out, Thurnus," called Melina, from the foot of the stairs below the hut.

I looked to the doorway of the hut. It was dark, empty.

The eyes of all looked at the opening to the hut.

Thurnus did not appear.

Men stood about, with torches. It was silent, save for the crackle of the torches. I lay bound. The ropes on my wrists, holding them closely behind my back, were very tight.

I heard a sleen squeal from some eighty yards away, behind the huts, in the cage areas.

There was a change in the breathing of the crowd. Thurnus stood now in the entrance to his hut.

"Geetings, Thurnus," called Bran Loort.

"Greetings, Bran Loort," said Thurnus.

Bran Loort's heavily sandaled foot struck into my belly. I cried out with pain.

"On your knees, Slave Girl," said Bran Loort.

I struggled to my knees. He took up the slack in the neck rope, coiling it, holding my head a foot from his thigh. My vision blurred, and then cleared. I saw Thurnus looking down at me.

He regarded me.

Much and well had the young men of Tabuk's Ford pleasured themselves with the girl from Earth, the former Judy Thornton, now the helpless Gorean slave girl, Dina.

I put my head down, under the gaze of my master. But I was not to be permitted this courtesy. The rope, Bran Loort's fist in it, at my neck, the knot, under the left side of my jaw, pulled my head up.

I was to be displayed to Thurnus.

"I have something here of yours," said Bran Loort.

"I see," said Thurnus.

"She is a hot little slave," he said, "juicy and pretty."

"That is known to me." said Thurnus.

"She kneels now at my feet," said Bran Loort.

"I see that, Bran Loort," said Thumus.

Swiftly Bran Loort then discarded the rope and, with his foot, thrust me to one side. I fell sprawling in the dirt, and turned, lying on one side, to watch.

Bran Loort stood with both hands on his staff, one hand grasped in its center, the other hand, his left, some eighteen inches below the center of the staff. But Thurnus had not moved.

No one stirred in the crowd. I heard the crackle of the torches.

Bran Loort seemed for a moment unsteady. He looked from one of his cohorts to another.

Then he again turned to face Thurnus, who stood, not speaking, at the height of the stairs, some six or seven feet above the level of the ground, in the doorway to his hut.

"I have abused your slave," said Bran Loort.

"That is what slaves are for," said Thurnus.

"We took much pleasure in her!" said Bran Loort, angrily.

"Did you find her pleasing?" asked Thurnus.

"Yes," said Bran Loort. He gripped the long, heavy staff more firmly, standing ready.

"Then," said Thurnus, "it will not be necessary for me to beat or slay her."

Bran Loort looked puzzled.

"Surely you know, Bran Loort," said Thurnus, "it is the duty of a slave girl to be fully and completely pleasing to men. Were she not so she would be subject to severe punishment, including even torture and death, should it be the master's wish."

"We took her without your permission," said Bran Loort.

"In this," said Thurnus, "you have committed a breach of code."

"It does not matter to me," said Bran Loort.

"Neither a plow, nor a bosk, nor a girl may one man take from another, saving with the owner's saying of it," quoted Thurnus.

"I do not care," said Bran Loort.

"What is it, Bran Loort, that separates men from sleen and larls?" asked Thurnus.

"I do not know," said Bran Loort.

"It is the codes," said Thurnus.

"The codes are meaningless noises, taught to boys," said Bran Loort.

"The codes are the wall," said Thurnus.

"I do not understand," said Bran Loort.

"It is the codes which separate men from sleen and larls," said Thurnus. "They are the difference. They are the wall."

"I do not understand," said Bran Loort.

"You have left the shelter of the wall, Bran Loort," said Thurnus.

"Do you threaten me, Thurnus of Tabuk's Ford?" asked Bran Loort.

"You stand now outside the shelter of the wall," said Thurnus.

"I do not fear you!" cried Bran Loort.

"Had you asked of me my permission, Bran Loort," said 'Thurnus, indicating me with a gesture of his head, "willingly and without thought, gladly, would I have given you temporary master rights over her."

I lay in the dirt, my hands bound behind my back, the rope on my neck, watching. It was true what Thurnus had said. I could have been loaned to Bran Loort, and would have had to serve him as though he were my own master.

"But you did not ask my permission," said Thurnus.

"No," said Bran Loort, angrily, "I did not."

"Before, too, you have done such things, you, and these others, though not to the degree nor with the intent of this day."

It was true. Sometimes the boys had caught us, Thurnus's girls, or those of others, too, and roped us together and raped us in the furrows of the fields, but it had been done in the bullying rowdyism of their youth, having slave girls at their mercy. There had been no intent of insult, or umbrage, in it. It had been the hot, fierce, innocent sport of strong young men, powerful and excited, who held brief-tunicked, branded girls, in rope collars, in their arms, nothing more. Does a slave girl not expect slave rape? Some masters enjoy having their girls raped occasionally; it serves to remind them that they are slaves. This sort of rape is not uncommon in a peasant village. It is usually taken for granted and ignored, save perhaps by the abused girls, but they are only slaves. Indeed, it is sometimes encouraged, to pacify young men whose natural aggressions otherwise might turn aside into destructive channels. It is also regarded, at times, as an aid in helping young males attain their manhood. "If she pleases you, run her down, and take her, son," is a not uncommon piece of paternal advice in a peasant village. I had heard this twice, though it had not been I on whom the young man had been set. Verr Tail had been caught and raped on her back, struggling, in the stream, once, and Radish had been caught and forced to give pleasure between the sleen cages. Each of these young men had walked differently following their conquest. I had shrunk back when they had approached. I knew they were now men, and I was only a slave. These two young men were not among the cohorts of Bran Loort. But what had been done today to me was clearly different in its intent and gravity from the casual, expected, fierce exhibitions of male aggression to which imbonded girls such as I must become accustomed.

"I have been patient with you, Bran Loort," said Thurnus. "We are grateful for your patience," said Bran Loort. He looked about, at his cohorts, grinning. He set his staff, butt down, in the dirt.

I sensed that the codes were to be invoked. What Bran Loort and his fellows had done exceeded the normal rights of custom, the leniencies and tacit permissions of a peasant community; commonly the codes are invisible; they exist not to control human life, but to make it possible. The rapes of Verr Tail and Radish, interestingly, had not counted as code breaches, though in neither case had explicit permission for their conquest been granted by Thurnus; such permission, in such cases, was implicit in the customs of the community; it did not constitute a "taking from" but a brief use of, an "enjoyment of," without the intent to do injury to the honor of the master; "taking from," in the sense of the code is not, strictly, theft, though theft would be "taking from." "Taking from," in the sense of the codes, implies the feature of being done against the presumed will of the master, of infringing his rights, more significantly, of offending his honor. In what Bran Loort had done, insult had been intended. The Gorean peasant, like Goreans in general, has a fierce sense of honor. Bran Loort had known exactly what he had been doing.

"I am disposed to be merciful, Bran Loort," said Thumus, looking at me. "You may now request my permission for what you have done to this slave."

"But," said Bran Loort, "I do not request your permission."

"I must then call the council," said Thurnus, "that we may consider what is to be done with you."

Bran Loort, throwing his head back, laughed, as did his fellows.

"Why do you laugh, Bran Loort?" inquired Thurnus.

"Only the caste leader may call the council," said Bran Loort. "And I do not choose to summon it into session."

"Are you caste leader in Tabuk's Ford?" asked Thumus.

"I am," said Bran Loort.

"Who has said this?" inquired Thurnus.

"I have said it," said Bran Loort. And he gestured to his fellows. "We have said it," he added.

There were nine of them, including Bran Loort. They were large, strong young men. "Yes," said more than one of them.

"I am sorry," said Thurnus. "I had thought that you had in you the makings of a caste leader."

"I am caste leader," said Bran Loort.

"In what village is that?" asked Thurnus.

"In Tabuk's Ford," said Bran Loort, angrily.

"Have you conveyed this intelligence to Thurnus of Tabuk's Ford?" inquired Thurnus.

"I do so now," said Bran Loort. "I am first in Tabuk's Ford."

"I speak for Thurnus, caste leader in the village of Tabuk's Ford," said Thurnus. "He speaks it not so."

"I am first here," said Bran Loort.

"In the name of Thurnus, he of the peasants, caste leader of the village of Tabuk's Ford," said Thurnus, "I speak. He, Thurnus, is first"

"I am first!" cried Bran Loort.

"No," said Thurnus.

Bran Loort turned white.

"Will it be the test of five arrows?" asked Thurnus.

In this the villagers, with the exception of the two contestants, leave the village and the gate is closed. Each contestant carries in the village his bow, the great bow, the peasant bow, and five arrows. He who opens the gate to readmit the villagers is caste leader.

"No," said Bran Loort, uneasily. He did not care to face the bow of Thurnus. The skill of Thurnus with the great bow was legendary, even among peasants.

"Then," asked Thurnus, "it will be the test of knives?"

In this the two men leave the village and enter, from opposite sides, a darkened wood. He who returns to the village is caste leader.

"No," said Bran Loort. Few men, I thought, would care to meet Thurnus in the darkness of the woods armed with steel. The peasant is a part of the land. He can be like a rock or a tree. Or the lightning that can strike without warning from the dark sky.

Bran Loort lifted his staff. "I am of the peasants," he said.

"Very well," said Thurnus. "We shall subject this matter to grim adjudication. The staff will speak. The wood of our land will decide."

"Good!" said Bran Loort.

I noted that Sandal Thong had slipped from the crowd. None other seemed to note her going.

Slowly, step by step, Thurnus descended the stairs from his hut.

Melina, eyes glittering, stepped back from the foot of the stairs. Men, and villagers all, and slaves, cleared a space near the hut of Thurnus.

"Build up the village fire," said Thurnus. Men hurried to do this. Thurnus opened his tunic, then pulled it down about his waist. He flexed his arms, and hitched up the skirt of the tunic, higher in his belt, until it was high on his thighs. Bran Loort, too, did these things.

Thurnus came to me and lifted me to my feet, his hands on my arms. "Is it because of your beauty, little slave," he asked, "that this has come about?"

I could not answer him, so miserable I was. I could not stand without his holding me.

"No," said Thurnus. 'There is more involved here." He turned me about and untied my wrists, and unknotted the rope from my neck, throwing it away.

I stood in my brand and rope collar before him.

I looked up at him. He had been kind to me.

"Gag her and put her in the rape-rack," he said to a man.

I regarded him, startled, as I was dragged from his presence. I would be secured in the rape-rack, the ready spoils for the victor. I did not know why I would be gagged.

The young men of Bran Loort gathered about him, encouraging him. Thurnus stood to one side, not seeming to pay them attention.

With a cry of misery I was thrown onto the beams of the rack. My left ankle was thrust into the semi-circular opening in the lower left ankle beam and the upper left ankle beam, with its matching semi-circular opening, was dropped, and locked, in place. My other ankle was similarly secured in the separate matching beams for the right ankle. The rape-rack at Tabuk's Ford is a specially prepared horizontal stock, cut away in a V-shape at the lower end. My wrists were seized and my hair and I was thrown down on my back, wrists held in place, and my head, too, by my hair, in three semi-circular openings. A single beam, with matching semi-circular openings, on a heavy hinge, closes the stock. It was swung up and then dropped in place, and locked shut. I was now held in the stock, on my back, by my ankles, wrists and neck. I could move very little. I closed my eyes. I opened them to see a man above me. Looking up and back, my head down, I saw a piece of cloth in his hand. It was large. I wept as it was wadded, painfully, in my mouth. He then secured it in place with a narrow piece of folded cloth which slipped deeply between my teeth. He then, with another three scarves, covering the bottom portion of my face, one over the other, completed the task of gagging the slave girl. I could not utter a sound. I did not know why I had been gagged. My neck rested on the back of the semi-circular opening in the lower beam. It was painful. I am Judy Thorton, I tried to tell myself. I am Judy Thorton! I am an Earth girl! This cannot be happening to me! But I knew I was only Dina, a Gorean slave at the mercy of masters.

I turned my head to the side, to see the combat. I saw Turnip looking at me. Her eyes were frightened. Then she looked away. It could have been she in the stock. Radish was watching Thurnus, frightened. So, too, was Verr Tail. Sandal Thong was nowhere to be seen.

"Are you ready, Thurnus?" asked Bran Loort.

Villagers had cleared a circle. The fire was now high, and one could see well.

"Will you not require a staff?" asked Bran Loort, grinning.

"Perhaps," said Thurnus. He looked at the eight cohorts of Bran Loort. "These fellows, I gather," said Thurnus, "will not enter our competition."

"I am sufficient onto the task of putting a slack, fat fellow such as you under caste discipline," grinned Bran Loort.

"Perhaps," granted Thurnus.

"You will need a staff," pointed out Bran Loort.

"Yes," said Thurnus. He turned to one of Bran Loort's cohorts. "Strike at me," he said.

The young man grinned. He smote down at Thurnus. Thurnus seized the staff and, suddenly, with strength like that of a larl, jerked the young man toward him, at the same time kicking upward savagely, blasting the fellow in the teeth with the heel of his sandal, the young man reeling back, blood spattering from his nose and mouth, clutching at his face, the staff in the hands of Thurnus. There were teeth in the dirt. The young man sat, dazed, on the ground.

"A good staff," said Thurnus, "must be one with which one can thrust," and, saying this, looking at one young man, he drove the staff, like a spear into the ribs of another, "and slice," added Thurnus, who then smote the first fellow, whose attention was now on his struck fellow, along the side of the face. The first fellow fell in the dirt clutching his ribs. I had little doubt that one or more had been broken; the second fellow lay inert in the dirt, blood at the side of his head. "But," said Thurnus, "a good staff must also be strong." The young men stood, tensed, five of them, and Bran Loort. "Come at me," said Thurnus to another of the men. Enraged the fellow charged. Thurnus was behind him and smote down, shattering the heavy staff across the fellow's back. He lay in the dirt, unable to rise. The staff had been more than two inches in diameter. "That staff, you see," said Thurnus, instructing the younger men, "was flawed. It was weak. He gestured to the fellow lying in the dirt, his face contorted with pain, scratching at the dust. "It did not even break his back," said Thurnus. "Such a staff may not be relied upon in combat." He turned to one of the four young men, and Bran Loort. "Give me another staff," he said to one of them. The young man looked at him and, frightened, threw him the staff, not wanting to come close to him. "A better weapon," said Thurnus, hefting the staff. He looked at the fellow who had thrown him the staff. "Come here," he said. Uneasily the lad approached. "The first lesson you must learn," said Thurnus, swiftly jabbing the staff deeply, without warning, into his stomach, "is never to give a weapon to an enemy." The young man, bent over, retched in the dirt. Thurnus smote him sharply on the side of the head, felling him. He then turned to the other two young men, and Bran Loort. "You should keep your guard up," said Thurnus to one of them, who immediately, warily, raised his staff. Thurnus then smote the other fellow, at whom he did not appear to be looking. He turned, watching the fellow fall into the dirt. "You, too, of course," said Thurnus, "should keep your guard up. That is important." The other young man, he beside Bran Loort, then suddenly struck at Thurnus, but Thurnus, clearly, had been expecting the blow. He parried it and slipped behind the other's staff, bringing up the lower end of his own staff. The fellow's face turned white and he sank away. "Aggressiveness is good," said Thurnus, "but beware of the counterstroke." Thurnus looked about himself. Of the nine men only one, Bran Loort, now stood ready. Thurnus grinned. He indicated the young men, strewn about. 'These others, I now gather," said Thurnus, "will not enter our competition."

"You are skillful, Thurnus," said Bran Loort. He held his staff ready.

"I am sorry that I must now do this to you, Bran Loort," said Thurnus. "I had thought you had in you the makings of a caste leader."

"I am caste leader here," said Bran Loort.

"You are young, Bran Loort," said Thurnus. "You should have waited. It is not yet your time."

"I am caste leader here," said Bran Loort.

"The caste leader must know many things," said Thurnus. "It takes many years to learn them, the weather, the crops, animals, men. It is not easy to be caste leader."

Thurnus turned away, his head down, to tie his sandal. Bran Loort hesitated only an instant, and then he struck down, the staff stopped, striking across Thurnus's turned shoulder. It had been like striking a rock. Bran Loort stepped back.

"Too, to earn the respect of peasants," said Thurnus, straightening up, retrieving his staff, his sandal tied, "the caste leader should be strong."

Bran Loort was white-faced.

"Now let us fight," said Thurnus.

Swiftly did the two men engage with their quick staves. There was a fierce ringing of wood. Dust flew about their ankles. Blows, numerous and fierce, were struck and parried. Bran Loort was not unskilled, and he was young and strong, but no match was he for the grim and mighty Thurnus, caste leader of Tabuk's Ford, my master. As well might a young larl with spotted coat be matched against a giant, tawny claw Ubar of the Voltai. At last, bloodied and beaten, Bran Loort lay helpless at the feet of Thurnus, caste leader of the village of Tabuk's Ford. He looked up, glazed-eyed. Some five of his cohorts, two of whom had recovered consciousness, seizing their staves, edged nearer.

"Beat him!" cried Bran Loort, pointing out Thurnus.

There was a cry of anger from the onlookers.

The young men raised their staves, together, to charge upon Thurnus, who turned, to accept their challenge.

"Stop!" cried a voice. There were the shrill squeals of sleen. Sandal Thong stood at the edge of the circle, in each fist the leash, a short leash, of a sleen. The animals strained against the leashed collars, trying to creep forward, their eyes blazing, saliva loose and dripping from their jaws, the wet fangs shining in the firelight. "On the first man who moves," cried Sandal Thong, "I shall set a sleen!"

The young men drew back.

Melina cried out with fury.

"Throw down your staves," ordered Thurnus. They, looking at the sleen, threw down their staves.

"She is only a slave!" cried Melina. "How dare you interfere?" she cried to Sandal Thong.

"I freed her this afternoon," laughed Thurnus. I saw no rope collar on her throat. She had removed it when she had stolen away from the circle of the fire.

She stood there, holding the sleen leashes, a proud free woman, in the firelight, though she wore still the rag of a slave.

"On your feet, Bran Loort," said Thurnus.

The young man, unsteadily, stood up. Thurnus, swiftly, tore away the tunic about his waist, and, taking him by the arm rudely thrust him to the heavy rack, where I lay helplessly secured. "Here is the little slave you find so lovely, Bran Loort," said Thurnus. "She lies before you, helpless." Bran Loort looked at me, miserable. "She is a juicy little beauty, is she not?" asked Thurnus. I recoiled on the beams, so spoken of. "Is she not a pretty little cake?" asked Thurnus. "Yes," whispered Bran Loort. "Take her," said Thurnus. "I give you my permission." Bran Loort looked down. "Go ahead," urged Thurnus. 'Take her!" "I cannot," whispered Bran Loort. He was a defeated man.

Bran Loort turned away from the rack and bent down to pick up his tunic. He went to the gate and it was opened for him. He left the village of Tabuk's Ford.

"Follow him, who will," said Thurnus to the young men who had been his cohorts.

But none made to follow their former leader.

"Of what village are you?" asked Thurnus.

"Tabuk's Ford," they said, sullenly.

"And who is caste leader in Tabuk's Ford?" asked Thurnus, sweating, grinning.

"Thurnus," they said.

"Go to your huts," he said. "You are under caste discipline." They withdrew from the circle of the fire. I expected that they would tend his fields for a season.

Melina had withdrawn from the circle of the fire, returning to the hut she shared with Thurnus.

"Let there be made a feast," decreed Thurnus. There was a cheer.

"But first, Thurnus, my love," said Melina, speaking now from the doorway of their hut, "let us drink to the victory of the night."

There was silence.

She carried a metal goblet, and, slowly, in stately fashion, descended the steps to the ground, approaching Thurnus.

She lifted the cup to him. "Drink, noble Thurnus, my love," said she to him. "I bring you the brew of victory."

Suddenly I realized what must be her plan. Melina was a shrewd, clever woman. She had counted on Bran Loort and his young men defeating Thurnus. Yet, in the event they did not manage this, she had purchased a powder from Tup Ladletender, the peddler. Had Bran Loort been victorious she had promised me to him. But, too, I had been promised to Tup Ladletender, in exchange for the powder, were it successful. In each plan Dina, the slave girl, had been the bauble with which to bring about her will. Had Bran Loort been successful, I would have been his. Ladletender's powder would then be unnecessary, and would be returned to him. If Bran Loort was unsuccessful, then the way would be clear to use Ladletender's powder, and I, of course, Bran Loort defeated, could then be straightforwardly tendered in payment for it. The plans, sharp alternatives, excluded one another; their common element was I, as payment. Melina had planned well.

"Drink, my love," said Melina, lifting the cup to Thumus. "Drink to your victory, and mine."

Thurnus took the cup.

I tried to cry out, but could not. I struggled in the stock. My eyes were wild over the heavy gagging that had been inflicted upon me.

None looked upon me. I struggled in the stock. I tried to scream. I could utter no sound. I wore a Gorean gag.

"Do not drink it, Master!" I wanted to scream. "It is poisoned! Do not drink! It is poison!"

"Drink, my love," said Melina.

I could utter no sound. I wore a Gorean gag.

Thurnus lifted the cup to his lips. He paused. "Drink," urged Melina.

"It is our common victory," said Thurnus.

"Yes, my love," said Melina.

"Drink first, Companion," said Thurnus.

Melina seemed startled. Then she said, "It is first your victory, then mine, my love."

Thurnus smiled.

"Drink you first, my love," she urged.

"My love," smiled Thurnus, "drink you first."

"First, you," said she.

"Drink," said Thurnus. His voice was not pleasant.

Melina's face went white.

"Drink," said Thurnus.

She reached forth, hands shaking, to take the cup.

"I shall hold the cup," said Thurnus. "Drink."

"No," said she. She put her head down. "It is poison."

Thurnus smiled. Then he put his head back, and drained the cup.

Melina looked at him, startled.

"Greetings, Lady," said Tup Ladletender. He had emerged from between the huts.

Thurnus threw away the emptied goblet, into the dirt. "It is a harmless draught," he said. "Tup Ladletender and I, as young men," he said, "have fished and hunted sleen. Once I saved his life. We are brothers by the rite of the claws of sleen." Thurnus lifted his forearm where one might see a jagged scar. Ladletender, too, raised his arm, his sleeve falling back. On his forearm, too, there was such a scar. It had been torn by the claw of a sleen, in the hand of Thurnus; the same claw, in the hand of Ladletender, had marked the arm of Thurnus; their bloods had mingled, though they were of the peasants and merchants. "He now, has, too saved my life," said Thurnus. "I am pleased to have had the opportunity," said Ladletender.

"You tricked me," said Melina to Ladletender.

He did not respond to her.

Melina looked at Thurnus. She shrank back.

"Better," said Thurnus, "that the draught had been poison, and you had drunk first."

"Oh, no, Thurnus," she whispered. "Please, no!"

"Bring a cage," said Thurnus.

"No!" she cried.

"And a sleen collar," he said.

"No, no!" she cried.

Two men left the group.

"Let me be beaten with flails," she begged. "Set the sleen upon me!"

"Come here, female," said Thurnus.

She stood before him.

"Shave my head and return me in dishonor to my father's village," she begged.

His hands were at the shoulders of her robe. He tore it down, exposing her shoulders. The shoulders of a female are apparently exciting to a man. This fact is recognized in off-the-shoulder formal evening gowns on Earth. The existence of such gowns, if Goreans were familiar with them, except on slaves, would be taken as more evidence of the fittingness and naturalness of enslavement for Earth females. She who wears such a gown begs in her heart to be owned.

"Thurnus," protested Melina.

He held her by the arms, her shoulders bared. He shook her slightly. Her head went back. Her shoulders were wide, and strong, and beautiful. They would take a plow strap well.

Yet every part of a female body is beautiful to a Gorean, a hand, a wrist, an ankle, the back of a knee, the turn of a thigh, the sweet, soft hair, almost invisible and delicate, below and behind the ear. Each part bespeaks the glory and wonder and promise of the whole. I have heard Gorean men cry out with joy at the sight of a woman. There is little on Earth to prepare the poor Earth girl for the lust and desire with which she will find herself viewed on Gor. Initially she is bewildered, stunned and shocked. Then she is thrown on her back. She makes swift adjustment. She must. It is the Gorean world, a truly man's world, in which she is a woman. The lust of Gorean males has much to do, doubtless, with the robes of concealment worn in most cities by Gorean free women. They would not wish the casual, inadvertent flirtation of an accidentally exposed ankle to lead to their hunt, capture and enslavement. Slave girls on Gor, on the other hand, when permitted clothing, are usually dressed briefly and lightly, that their charms be muchly revealed. Gorean men wish it this way. That, accordingly, is the way it is.

Thurnus's hands were on Melina's upper arms, now bared, her robes pulled down from her shoulders. He looked at her arms. Then he looked at her face.

The cage was brought, a small, sturdy cage, tiny and tight, and a sleen collar.

"Let me be killed, Thurnus," she begged.

Thurnus lifted the sleen collar before her. With her hand she held it from her. "Kill me instead, Thurnus," she begged. "Please."

"Put your hands to your side, woman," said Thurnus.

She did so.

Thurnus then looped the sturdy, leather, metal-embossed sleen collar about her throat. With an awl, brought by a man, he punched two holes, vertically, in the leather strap, and thrust the twin buckle-claws through the holes; he then took the long, loose end of the strap, for the sleen has a large neck, thrust it through the four strap loops, thick and broad, and then, with a knife, cut off the portion of the strap which protruded beyond the last strap loop.

Melina, her shoulders bared, stood before him, wearing a sleen collar. It had, sewn in its side, a heavy ring, to which a sleen leash might be attached.

Instantly she was stripped and thrown to the ground. She looked up in fear at Thurnus.

"Into the cage, Slave," said Thurnus.

"Thurnus!" she cried.

He crouched down and, with the back of his hand, struck her across the mouth, leaving blood across the side of her face.

"Into the cage, Slave," he said.

"Yes-Master," whispered Melina. She crawled into the cage. At a gesture from Thurnus, Sandal Thong, surrendering the sleen leashes to a man, who took the animals from the clearing, came to the cage and, with two hands, flung down the metal gate to the cage, locking her former mistress within. There was a cheer from those about.

"Let there be a feast!" called Thurnus, caste leader of Tabuk's Ford. "And in the feast fires let an iron be heated for slave branding!"

There was another cheer.

In the tiny cage she who had been Melina crouched down, sleen-collared, her face miserable behind the bars, clutching them with her fists.

She would soon wear the mark of a slave in her flesh.

Men and women hurried about, to prepare the feast. At a gesture from Thurnus Radish, Turnip and Verr Tail ungagged me and freed me from the heavy stock. They helped me from the stock and I, by its head, sank down to the dirt. I could scarcely move. I could still taste the heavy, coarse, sour wadding of the gag in my mouth. I would not have believed so effective a gag was possible. At that time, however, I had not worn the Gorean slave hood with gag-attachment.

Verr was roasted, and puddings made. Sa-Tarna bread was brought forth and heated. Sul paga poured freely.

At the height of the festivities the cage was opened and its occupant, a former free woman, whose name had been Melina, now a naked slave in sleen collar, was ordered forth on her hands and knees. A sleen leash was attached to her collar and she was marched, as a she-sleen, crawling, abused, to the rape-rack in which I had been earlier confined. Therein she was fastened, the beams locking her ankles and neck, and wrists, in place, and, as her left thigh was held by strong men, branded by the hand of Thurnus, caste leader of the village of Tabuk's Ford. She screamed wildly, branded, and, her thigh released, cleanly marked, moaned and twisted on the wood. Her head was then shaved. Then she wept, her head back, softly moaning, held in place by the heavy beams, forgotten, as men and women returned to their feasting.

At Thurnus's right hand sat Tup Ladletender. On Thurnus's left sat the free woman, Sandal Thong, whom he had earlier this afternoon freed. She, with the two sleen, had boldly aided him in circumventing the concerted attack of Bran Loort's cohorts when they had been individually bested. The feast was served by the village slave girls, Radish, Verr Tail and Turnip among them. I was not forced to serve. I lay near the rack on which the newly branded slave lay secured. After a time she was quiet. I could not conjecture the nature of her thoughts. It did not matter. They could only be those of a slave. She the proud, former mistress, was now no more than I, only another slave, at the full mercy of men.

She was now no more than I, nothing.

I looked upward, and saw dark clouds in the sky, racing across the faces of the moons.

There was a sense of moisture in the air.

This pleased me.

Thurnus, at the feast, stood up. He lifted a goblet of paga. Tup Ladletender," said he, "by the rite of the claws of sleen, is my brother. I lift my cup to him. Let us drink!" The villagers drank. Tup Ladletender rose to his feet. "You have shared with me tonight your paga and your kettle," said he. "I drink to the hospitality of Tabuk's Ford." There was a cheer. The villagers, and Thurnus, and Ladletender, drank. "And, too, this night," said Ladletender, "I drink to one with whom I do not share caste but that which is stronger than caste, the blood of brotherhood, Thurnus, he of Tabuk's Ford." There was another cheer. The villagers, all, drank. Thurnus stood up again. "I ask this free woman," said he, indicating Sandal Thong, "for whom I muchly care, to accept me in free companionship." There was a great cry of pleasure from the villagers.

"But Thurnus," said she, "as I am now free do I not have. the right to refuse?"

"True," said Thurnus, puzzled.

"Then, noble Thurnus," said she, evenly, calmly, "I do refuse. I will not be your companion."

Thurnus lowered the cup of paga. There was silence in the clearing.

Sandal Thong gently lowered herself to the ground, and lay on her belly before Thurnus. She took his right ankle in her hands and, holding it, pressed her lips softly down upon his foot, kissing it. She lifted her head, tears in her eyes. "Let me be instead your slave," she said.

"I offer you companionship," he said.

"I beg slavery," she said.

"Why?" he asked.

"I have been in your arms, Thurnus," she said. "In your arms I can be only a slave."

"I do not understand," he said.

"I would dishonor you," she said. "In your arms I can behave only as a slave."

"I see," said he, caste leader of Tabuk's Ford.

"The love I bear you, Thurnus," she said, "is not the love of a free companion, but a hopeless slave girl's love, a love so deep and rich that she who bears it can be only her man's slave."

"Serve me paga," said Thurnus. He handed the goblet to Sandal Thong.

She took it and knelt before him, head down, proffering him the goblet. Though she was free, she served as a slave. Villagers gasped. Free women cried out, scandalized.

Thurnus set aside the cup.

"Have rope brought, and collar me, Thurnus," she said. "I am yours."

"Bring rope," said Thurnus.

Rope was brought.

Thurnus took the rope, and regarded the girl.

She looked up at him.

"Collar me," she said.

"If I collar you," he said, "you are again a slave."

"Collar me, Master," she said.

Thurnus wrapped the rope twice about her throat, and knotted it.

Sandal Thong knelt before him, his slave. He seized her in his mighty arms and crushed her to him, raping her lips with the master's kiss, mighty in its lust and possession of the collared she, and she clutched him, helplessly, crying out. Her head was back, her lips were parted. He had begun to tear the tunic from her with his teeth. "Carry me from the light of the fire, Master," she begged. "But you are a slave," he laughed. He tore the garment from her and threw her between the feast fires. She looked up at him, her eyes wild with the passion-submission of the eager slave girl. "As master wills I" she cried, throwing her head and hair back in the dirt. He leaped to her and, between the feast fires, did lengthy ravishment upon her. Her cries must have carried beyond the palisaded walls.

When he returned to his place at the feast she crawled to his feet, his slave, and lay there, daring sometimes to touch him delicately on the thigh or knee with her fingers.

The feast continued late.

The clouds gathered further in the sky, and I smelled moisture. The moons were darkened by the skudding billows of vapor.

I think that I may have fallen asleep by the rack, from my exhaustion and the pain of the beatings and rapings that I had endured.

But it was still dark when I awakened. I awakened to the clear snap of slave bracelets on my wrists. I looked up. I looked into the eyes of Tup Ladletender. I regarded my wrists. They were confined in inflexible steel. "Get up," said he, "little vulo." I struggled to my feet. I stood there, my wrists closely cuffed before me, not more than an inch apart. "You are mine now, little vulo," he said.

"Master?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "You are mine now."

"Yes, Master," I said.

I felt very strange. So simply had I changed hands.

I looked about. The feast had finished, and most of the villagers had returned to their homes. Some lay about, near the embers of the fires.

We stood near the rack on which the new slave, she who had been the free woman, Melina, lay captive. Thurnus was nearby, and Sandal Thong, and Radish, Verr Tail and Turnip.

"I name you Melina," said Thurnus to the confined slave.

"Yes, Master," she said. He had much shamed her by giving her in slavery the name she had borne as a free woman. She wore it now as the cognomen of a slave.

"May a slave speak?" she asked.

"Yes," said Thurnus.

"Why have you had my head shaved?" she asked.

"To return you as a shamed slave to the village of your father," said he.

"Please keep me, Master," she said.

"Why?" he asked.

"That I may please you," she whispered.

"Strange words from one such as you," he scoffed.

"I beg to be kept to please my master," she said.

"Have you been bereft of your wits by the brand," inquired Thurnus.

"I only wanted to be the companion of a district leader," she said.

"You are now anyone's slave to whom I give or sell you," he said.

"Yes, Master," she said.

"I did not move to become district leader," said Thurnus, "for it was your urging and intent that I do so. Had I sought the position it would have seemed to all that I did so for your ambition and to avoid the lashing of your tongue."

She squirmed on the rape-rack, confined by the beams, in misery.

"In a man's own hut," said he, "he must be master, even though he has selected out for himself a companion. It is the part of his companion to befriend and aid him, not to insult and drive him."

"I was a poor companion," she whispered. "I will try to be a better slave."

"If I choose to seek the leadership of the district," said Thurnus, "I will do so. If I do not wish to do so, I will not."

"As Master wishes," said Melina, the slave.

"You knew little of the matters of being a companion," said Thurnus.

"I will study more diligently the matters of being a slave," said Melina.

"You will begin in the morning, when you are publicly whipped," he said.

"Yes, Master," she said.

He put his hand on her body.

"At one time you cared for me," she said.

"Yes," he said, "that is true."

"Do you find my body of interest, Master?" she asked.

"Yes," said Thurnus.

"And I am strong," she said. "I can pull a plow by myself."

Thurnus smiled.

"Keep me, Master," she begged.

"Why?" he asked.

"I love you," she said.

"You know the penalties for lying?" he asked.

"I do not lie, Master," she said. "I do love you." One of the penalties which may in a peasant village be inflicted upon a lying slave girl is to throw her alive to hungry sleen. I had little doubt but what Thurnus might do this if he caught one of his girls in a lie.

"How can that be?" asked Thurnus.

"I do not know," she whispered. "It is a strange, helpless feeling. I have lain here in the stocks. I have thought much."

"Tomorrow," said Thurnus, "you will have less time to think, and more time to work."

"Long ago I loved you," she said, "but as a free woman. Then, for years I did not love you, but despised you. Now again, after long years, I feel love for you, only now it is the shameful, helpless love of a bond girl for her master."

"In the morning you will be whipped," said Thurnus.

"Yes, Master," she said. She looked up at him. "You are strong," she said, "and masterful. You are a great man, whether you are a district leader or not. My freedom blinded me to your manhood and your worth. I saw you not for the things you were but for the things you might, enhancing my own person, become. I saw you not as a man but as an instrument of my own perceptions and ambitions. I regret that I did not, in my companionship, relish and celebrate what you were, rather than an image of what you might become. I never truly knew you. I knew only the image of my own invention. I never truly looked at you. Had I done so, I might have seen you."

"You were always a shrewd, clever woman," said Thurnus.

There were tears in her eyes. "I love you," she said.

"I am putting you out into the village as village slave," he said.

"Yes. Master," she said.

"At night you will be confined in a sleen cage. During the 'clay you will feed on what men will throw you. Each day you will serve a different hut in the village."

"Yes, Master," she said.

He looked down at her.

"May I speak?" she asked. "Yes," he said.

"May I not, too, sometimes serve my master?" she asked.

"Perhaps," said Thurnus. He made as though to turn away.

"Please, Master," said Melina.

He turned to face her.

"Please touch your slave," she said.

"It is long since you have asked my touch," said Thurnus, regarding her.

"I beg it, Master," she whispered. She lifted her body in the stock. "I beg it!"

We turned away as Thurnus, swiftly and brutally, raped the slave