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Here is an overview of the 22 chapters in Players of Gor:
3. Lady Yanina
5. What Occured in the Inn of Ragnar; I Will Return to the Camp of the Lady Yanina
6. I Renew an Acquaintance; I Am Considering Venturing to Brundisium
7. The Tent; I Slip from the Tent
8. I Make Myself Useful to Boots Tarsk-Bit; I Will Also Show Him What I Have Found in the Woods
9. Two Women, One Free, One Bond; I Join the Company of Boots Tarsk-Bit
10. A Pleasant Morning in the Camp; The Lady Yanina Will Obey
11. The Lady Yanina Is Included in the Act
12. Conversations with a Monster; The Punishment of a Slave
13. Nim Nim
14. The Urts; How Nim Nim Was Made Welcome in the Pack; The Warrior's Pace
15. What Occurred in the Camp of Bosk Tarsk-Bit
16. What Occurred in the Feasting Hall
17. What Occurred in the Prison Courtyard
18. What Occurred Later in the Feasting Hall; I Leave the Feasting Hall
19. A Lattice Has Been Forced In, From the Outside
20. The Baiting Pit; I Make the Acquaintance of a Gentlemen; I Will Return to the Apartments of Belnar
21. What Occurred in the Apartments of Belnar; Leather Gloves
22. What Occurred on the Coast of Thassa; It Has Begun
The image below shows the most often used words and terms within Players of Gor. The larger the size, the more often the word or term occurs in the text.
I looked up from the board, idly, as the woman, struggling, in the grasp of two guards, was thrust into the vicinity of our table.
"It is your move," said Samos.
I regarded the board. I moved my Ubar's Tarnsman to Ubara's Tarnsman Five. It was a positioning move. The Tarnsman can move only one space on the positioning move. It attacks only on a flight move.
The woman struggled fiercely in the grasp of the two guards. She could not, of course, free herself.
Samos studied the board. He positioned his Home Stone. It was, looking at the tiny counter at the edge of the board, his tenth move. Most Kaissa boards do not have this counter. It consisted of ten small, cylindrical wooden beads strung on a wire. The Home Stone must be placed by the tenth move. He had placed it at his now-vacated Ubar's Initiate One. In this position, as at the Ubara's Initiate One, it is subject to only three lines of attack. Other legitimate placements subject it to five lines of attack. He was also fond of placing the Home Stone late, usually on the ninth or tenth move. In this way, his decision could take into consideration his opponent's early play, his opening, or response to an opening, or development.
I myself, whose Home Stone was already placed, preferred a much earlier and more central placement of the Home Stone. I did not wish to be forced to sacrifice a move for Home-Stone placement in a situation that might, for all I knew, not turn out to be to my liking, a situation in which the obligatory placement might even cost me a tempo. Similarly, although a somewhat more central location of the Home Stone exposes it to more lines of attack, it also increases its mobility, and thereby its capacities to evade attack. These considerations are controversial in the theory of Kaissa. Much depends on the psychology of the individual player.
Incidentally, there are many versions of Kaissa played on Gor. In some of these versions, the names of the pieces differ, and, in some, even more alarmingly, their nature and power. The caste of Players, to its credit, has been attempting to standardize Kaissa for years.
A major victory in this matter was secured a few years ago when the caste of Merchants, which organizes and manages the Sardar Fairs, agreed to a standardized version, proposed by, and provisionally approved by, the high council of the caste of Players, for the Sardar tournaments, one of the attractions of the Sardar Fairs. This form of Kaissa, now utilized in the tournaments, is generally referred to, like the other variations, simply as Kaissa. Sometimes, however, to distinguish it from differing forms of the game, it is spoken of as Merchant Kaissa, from the role of the Merchants in making it the official form of Kaissa for the fairs, Player Kaissa, from the role of the Players in its codification, or the Kaissa of En'Kara, for it was officially promulgated for the first time at one of the fairs of En'Kara, that which occurred in 10,124 C.A., Contasta Ar, from the Founding of Ar, or in Year 5 of the Sovereignty of the Council of Captains, in Port Kar.
The fair of En'Kara occurs in the spring. It is the first fair in the annual cycle of the Sardar Fairs, gigantic fairs which take place on the plains lying below the western slopes of the Sardar Mountains. These fairs, and others like them, play an important role in the Gorean culture and economy. They are an important clearing house for ideas and goods, among them female slaves.
The woman stifled a cry and stamped her foot.
Samos, his Home Stone positioned, looked up.
It was now two days before the Twelfth Passage Hand, in the year 10,129 C.A. Soon it would be Year Eleven in the Sovereignty of the Council of Captains, in Port Kar. It seemed, somehow, only recently that the five Ubars, who had divided Port Kar between them, had been deposed. Squat, brilliant Chung and tall, long-haired Nigel, like a warlord from Torvaldsland, had fought with us against the fleets of Cos and Tyros, participating with us in the victory of the Twenty-Fifth of Se'Kara, in Year One of the Council of Captains; they remained in Port Kar as high captains, admirals in our fleet. Sullius Maximus was now a despised and minor courtier at the court of Chenbar of Kasra, Ubar of Tyros, the Sea Sleen. Henrius Sevarius, freed, now a young man, had his own ship and holding in Port Kar. He owned a luscious young slave, Vina, whom he well mastered. She, now a love slave, had once been the ward of Chenbar, Ubar of Tyros, and once had been intended to be the free companion of gross Lurius of Jad, the Ubar of Cos, thence to be proclaimed Ubara of Cos, which union would have even further strengthened the ties between those two great island ubarates. She had been captured at sea and had fallen slave. Once marked and collared, of course, her political interest had vanished. A new life had then been hers, that of the mere slave. I did not know the whereabouts of the fifth ubar, Eteocles.
We were in the great hall in the holding of Samos, in Port Kar. The room was lit by torches. Many of his men, sitting cross-legged at low tables, as we were, were about. They were eating and drinking, being served by slaves. We sat a bit apart from them. Some musicians were present. They were not now playing.
I heard a slave girl laughing, somewhere across the room.
Outside, in the canal traffic, I heard a drum, cymbals and trumpets, and a man shouting. He was proclaiming the excellencies of some theatrical troupe, such as the cleverness of its clowns and the beauty of its actresses, probably slaves. They had performed, it seems, in the high cities and before ubars. Such itinerant troupes, theatrical troupes, carnival groupings, and such, are not uncommon on Gor. They consist usually of rogues and outcasts. With their wagons and tents, often little more than a skip and a jump ahead of creditors and magistrates, they roam from place to place, rigging their simple stages in piazzas and squares, in yards and markets, wherever an audience may be found, even at the dusty intersections of country crossroads. With a few boards and masks, and a bit of audacity, they create the mystery of performance, the magic of theater. They are bizarre, incomparable vagabonds. They are denied the dignity of the funeral pyre and other forms of honorable burial.
The group outside, doubtless on a rented barge, was not the first to pass beneath the narrow windows of the house of Samos this evening. There were now several such groups in the city. Their hand-printed handbills and hand-painted posters, the latter pasted on the sides of buildings and on the news boards, were much in evidence. All this had to do with the approach of the Twelfth Passage Hand, which precedes the Waiting Hand.
The Waiting Hand, the five-day period preceding the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, is a very solemn time for most Goreans. During this time few ventures are embarked upon, and little or no business is conducted. During this time most Goreans remain within their houses. It is in this time that the doors of many homes are sealed with pitch and have nailed to them branches of the brak bush, the leaves of which have a purgative effect. These precautions, and others like them, are intended to discourage the entry of ill luck into the houses.
In the houses there is little conversation and no song. It is a time, in general, of mourning, meditation and fasting. All this changes, of course, with the arrival of the vernal equinox, which, in most Gorean cities, marks the New Year.
At dawn on the day of the vernal equinox a ceremonial greeting of the sun takes place, conducted usually by the ubar or administrator of the city. This, in effect, welcomes the New Year to the city. In Port Kar this honor fell to Samos, first captain in the Council of Captains, and the council's executive officers. The completion of this greeting is signified by, and celebrated by, a ringing of the great bars suspended about the city. The people then, rejoicing, issue forth from their houses. The brak bushes are burned on the threshold and the pitch is washed away. There are processions and various events, such as contests and games. It is a time of festival. The day is one of celebration.
These festivities, of course, are in marked contrast to the solemnities and abstinences of the Waiting Hand. The Waiting Hand is a time, in general, of misery, silence and fasting. It is also, for many Goreans, particularly those of the lower castes, a time of uneasiness, a time of trepidation and apprehension. Who knows what things, visible or invisible, might be abroad during that terrible time? In many Gorean cities, accordingly, the Twelfth Passage Hand, the five days preceding the Waiting Hand, that time to which few Goreans look forward with eagerness, is carnival. The fact that it was now only two days to the Twelfth Passage Hand, explained the presence of the unusual number of theatrical and carnival troupes now in the city.
Such troupes, incidentally, must petition for the right to perform within a city. Usually a sample performance, or a part of a performance, is required, staged before the high council, or a committee delegated by such a council. Sometimes the actresses are expected to perform privately, being "tested," so to speak, for selected officials. If the troupe is approved it may, for a fee, be licensed.
No troupe is permitted to perform within a city unless it has a license. These licenses usually run for the five days of a Gorean week. Sometimes they are for a specific night or a specific performance. Licenses are commonly renewable, within a given season, for a nominal fee. In connection with the fees for such matters, it is not uncommon that bribes are also involved. This is particularly the case when small committees are involved in the approvals or given individuals, such as a city's Entertainment Master or Master of Revels. There is little secret, incidentally, about the briberies involved. There are even fairly well understood bribery scales, indexed to the type of troupe, its supposed treasury, the number of days requested for the license, and so on. These things are so open, and so well acknowledged, that perhaps one should think of them more as gratuities or service fees than as bribes. More than one Master of Revels regards them as an honest perquisite of his office.
The woman struggled in the grip of the guards. She stamped her foot again. "Tell these boorish ruffians to unhand me!" she demanded.
I, too, now, looked up.
Her eyes flashed at Samos, over her veil. Then they looked angrily at me, too. "Now!" she demanded.
Samos nodded to the guards, scarcely moving his head.
"That is better!" she said, jerking angrily away from the guards, as though she might have freed herself, had she chosen to do so. She angrily smoothed down her long, silken, capelike sleeves. I caught a glimpse of her sweetly rounded forearm and small wrist. She wore white gloves.
"This is an outrage!" she said. She wore tiny, golden slippers. Her robes of concealment, silken and flowing, shimmered in the torchlight. She adjusted the draping of the garment, an almost inadvertent, unconscious movement, a natural vanity.
"What is the meaning of this?" she demanded. "I demand my immediate freedom!"
One of the slave girls, one kneeling a few feet away, before us and to our right, at a table, one of those who was naked, save for her collar, laughed. Then she turned white with fear. She had laughed at a free woman. Samos turned to a guard and pointed at the offending slave. "Fifteen lashes," he said. The girl shook her head in misery. She whimpered with terror. These would be lashes, she knew, with a Gorean slave whip. It is an efficient instrument for disciplining women.
The blows were delivered with suitable force, with authority, but in an evenly spaced, measured fashion. There was nothing personal, or emotional, in the beating. It was almost like a natural force or a clockwork of nature. There was enough time between the strokes to allow her to feel each one individually and fully, and enhance, maximizing, the irradiations of its predecessors, enough time for her, in the fullness of her pain, imagination and terror, to prepare herself for, and anticipate, fearfully and acutely, the next blow. It was not much of a beating, of course. She had erred. She was being punished. Then she was lying on her belly, on the tiles, the beating over. She did not even dare to move her body, for the pain. Samos had been rather merciful with her, I thought. If he had been truly displeased with her, he might have had her fed to sleen.
We now returned our attention to the woman in the silken, shimmering robes of concealment, standing before our table. Her eyes were apprehensive, over her veil. I could see that the beating of the female slave had had its effect on her. She was breathing deeply. Her breasts, rising and falling, moved nicely under the silk.
"May I present," inquired Samos, "Lady Rowena, of Lydius?"
I inclined my head. "Lady," said I, acknowledging the introduction.
To a free woman considerable deference is due, particularly to one such as the Lady Rowena, one obviously, at least hitherto, of high station.
She inclined her head to me, and then lifted it, acknowledging my greeting.
Lydius is a bustling, populous trade center located at the estuary of the Laurius River. Many cities maintain warehouses and small communities in Lydius. Many goods, in particular wood, wood products, and hide, make their way westward on the Laurius, eventually landing at Lydius, later to be embarked to the south on the ships of various cities, lines and associations. The population of Lydius, as one might expect, is a mixed one, consisting of individuals of various races and backgrounds.
The woman drew herself up to her full height. She looked at Samos, angrily. "What is the meaning of my presence here?" she demanded.
"Lady Rowena is of the Merchants," said Samos to me. "The ship on which she had passage, en route from Lydius to Cos, was detained by two of my rovers. Her captain kindly consented to a transfer of cargo."
"What is the meaning of my presence here?" repeated the woman, angrily.
"Surely you are aware of the time of year?" inquired Samos.
"I do not understand," she said. "Where are my maidens?"
"In the pens," said Samos.
"The pens?" she gasped.
"Yes," said Samos. "But do not fear for them. They are perfectly safe in their chains."
Slavers remain active all year on Gor, but the peak seasons for slaving are the spring and early summer. This has to do with such matters as the weather, and the major markets associated with certain feasts and holidays, for example, the Love Feast in Ar, which occurs in the late summer, occupying the full five days of the Fifth Passage Hand. Also, during these seasons, of course, occur the great markets associated with the fairs of En'Kara and En'Var. These are the two major seasonal markets on Gor, exceeding all others in the volume of women processed.
"Chains?" she whispered. She shrank back, her hand at her breast.
"Yes," said Samos.
"I was hooded," she said. "I do not even know where I am."
"You are in Port Kar," he said.
She staggered. I feared she might faint.
"Who are you?" she whispered.
"Samos," said he, "first slaver of Port Kar."
She shuddered with misery. A tiny moan escaped her. I saw she had heard of Samos, of Port Kar. "What hope have I?" she asked.
"None," said Samos. "Remove your veil."
"Make my maidens slaves," she said. "Put them under the iron! Encircle their necks with collars! Let them beg not to be frequently beaten! Let them strive desperately, zealously, to be pleasing to the beasts who own them. Let them be slaves. They are good for little else. But I am different!"
"Do you think you are better than they?" asked Samos.
"Yes," she said.
"You are no different from them," he said. "You, too, are only a female."
"No!" she cried.
"Remove your veil," he said.
"I am too beautiful to be a slave," she said.
"Your veil," said Samos, gently. She was, after all, a free woman.
Some of the slave girls, some naked, some scantily clad, looked at one another. Had they so dallied in their compliance, hesitating perhaps even an instant in their immediate and absolute obedience, serious punishments would doubtless have been theirs. They were, of course, only slaves.
"Please, no," said Lady Rowena.
"You are my prisoner," said Samos. "Doubtless you are aware that you could be stripped absolutely naked at my slightest word."
She put her hands to the veil and, delicately, unpinned it, dropping it to the side.
"Brush back your hood," said Samos.
She did so and, putting back her head, drew forth and freed, with both hands, long, golden tresses, which she arranged before her. They were in two plaits, one before each shoulder; they hung almost to her knees.
"Unbind your hair," said Samos.
She unplaited her hair and, with her head down, shook it loose, and smoothed it. She then, again, lifted her head.
"Put your hair behind your back," said Samos.
She did so.
She then stood before us, regarded, as a woman.
"What is to be my fate?" she asked.
Samos and I regarded her admiringly. Several of the men did so as well. Several of them changed their position, to come about, near and behind our table, where they might see better. I heard soft cries from more than one of the slave girls. They, too, were impressed. The woman straightened her body. She could not help but bask in the warmth of our appraisal.
I turned about a bit.
I saw a blond-haired slave girl, in a brief, revealing tunic, sneak on her knees near to Samos. It was Linda, a former Earth girl, one of the preferred slaves of Samos. She was looking at the standing woman with fear and anger. She reached out to touch Samos' sleeve. He shook free, a small gesture, of her touch.
I then returned my attention to the standing woman.
"As you can see," she said to Samos, "I am too beautiful to be a slave."
I had seen thousands of slave girls who were more beautiful than she but, to be sure, there was no doubt about it; she was quite beautiful.
Samos did not speak.
"What is to be my fate?" she asked.
"You are too beautiful not to be a slave," said Samos.
"No!" she cried. "No!"
"Take her below," said Samos to one of the two guards flanking the woman. "Put the iron to her body, left thigh, common Kajira mark, and, I think, for the time, a common house collar will do for her." She looked at him, aghast. Then her two arms were seized by the guards. Samos looked down at the board. "It is your move," he said. I, too, returned my attention to the board. The guards made as though to conduct the woman from our presence. The business with her, we assumed, was done.
She struggled. "No!" she cried. "No!"
Samos looked up, and the guards held her where she was. "Do you protest?" he asked.
"Certainly!" she cried.
"On what grounds?" he asked, puzzled. She was his by legitimate capture, and he could do with her whatever he pleased. Any court on Gor would have upheld this.
"On the grounds that I am a free woman!" she said.
"Oh?" he asked.
"Yes!" she said.
I could see that Samos was annoyed. He wished to return to his game.
"I would rather die than be a slave!" she cried.
"Very well," said Samos. "Strip her."
In moments her clothing was half torn from her, and was down about her hips.
"Why are you taking away my clothes!" she wept.
"In order that the blood not stain them," he said.
"Blood!" she cried, in consternation. "I do not understand!"
Then she was naked and thrown on her knees, her right side facing us. Even her gloves and slippers had been removed. One of the guards held her on her knees, bent over. The other guard took her hair in both hands and, by it, pulled her head down, and forward. The back of her neck, with its tiny, fine, golden hair was bared.
"What are you going to do?" she cried.
Samos signaled to another of his men, who unsheathed his sword.
The fellow laid the edge of the blade gently on the back of her neck, and then he lifted the blade away and upward. He grasped the hilt with both hands, his left hand extending somewhat beyond the butt end of the hilt. In this way considerable leverage can be obtained. Several of the slave girls looked away.
"What are you going to do!" she screamed.
"Behead you," said Samos.
"Why!" she cried.
"There is no place in my holding for a free woman," he said.
"Enslave me!" she cried.
"I cannot believe my ears," he said, skeptically.
"Enslave me!" she cried. "Enslave me!"
The fellow with the blade lowered it a bit, and looked at Samos.
"Is this the proud Lady Rowena of Lydius who speaks?" inquired Samos.
"Yes," she wept, helpless in the grip of the guards, her body bent forward, her head down.
"The proud free woman?" he asked.
"Yes," she wept.
"Let me understand this clearly," said Samos. "In spite of the fact that I am willing to accord you the dignity of a swift and honorable death, one fitting for a free woman, you would choose instead, and prefer, the degradation of slavery?"
"Yes," she said.
"Speak clearly," he said.
"I beg slavery," she said.
"You understand, of course," he said, "that the slavery for which you beg is one which is total and absolute?"
"Yes," she said.
I smiled to myself. It would be a Gorean slavery.
"You seemed to think earlier," said Samos, "that such a slavery might be all right for your maidens, but not for yourself."
"I was wrong," she said. "I am no different from them. We are all members of the slave sex. I, too, am only a female."
The fellow with the blade lowered it. The Lady Rowena, doubtless, saw it, near her neck.
"I am troubled," said Samos.
The Lady Rowena twisted her head to the right, wincing, from the hold of the guard, with two hands, on her hair, to regard Samos. Her face was agonized. Her lip trembled. "Grant my petition, I beg you," she said.
"I hesitate," said Samos.
"Do you hesitate," she asked, "because of some lack of certitude as to my nature, for fear of some impropriety or subtle lack of fittingness in such an action?"
"Dismiss such reservations from your mind," she said. Her body suddenly shook with sobs. "My pretense to freedom was always a sham. It was my envy of men, my hatred of my sex, and what I sensed to be its true nature, which prompted me to such deceptions, to such unpleasantness, hostility, and arrogance. I am now ready to be a woman. Indeed, in this, I sense a possible fulfillment greater than any of which I have hitherto dreamed. How marvelous to cast aside the artificiality of roles and become, at last, what one truly is, biologically, one's self!"
"Speak more clearly" said Samos.
"It is appropriate that I be enslaved," she said.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because," she said, "in the deepest heart and belly of me I am a slave."
"How do you know?" he asked.
"It has been made clear to me in my needs," she said. "It has been made clear to me in my feelings. For years it has been made manifest to me in hidden thoughts and secret desires, in countless recurrent dreams and fantasies. In such modalities, again and again, insistently, I have been spoken to by my deepest self."
"Interesting," said Samos.
"Enslave me," she said.
"No," he said.
She looked at him with horror. The fellow with the sword renewed his two-handed grip on its hilt.
"Pronounce yourself slave," said Samos. The fellow relaxed his grip on the hilt.
"Do not make me do this," she begged. "Pity me! Consider my sensibilities!"
His face was expressionless.
"I am a slave," she said, pronouncing herself slave. Several of the slave girls cried out. There was now a new slave on Gor.
At a gesture from Samos the fellow with the blade resheathed the weapon, and the two guards who had held the girl in position released her, standing up.
She was now on her hands and knees, naked on the tiles, before the table. She looked wildly at Samos. "See the slave!" laughed more than one of the slave girls, pointing at her. They were not reprimanded. The girl, frightened, looked from face to face. The words had been spoken. They could not now be unspoken. She was now rightless, only a nameless animal, incapable of doing anything whatsoever to qualify or alter her status.
"Slave! Slave!" laughed the slave girls.
At a gesture from Samos the two guards pulled the girl to her feet and held her before us.
"Take her away," said Samos, "and throw her to sleen."
"No, Master!" she screamed. "Please, no, Master! Mercy, Master!"
I could see that he was not too pleased with she who had formerly been the Lady Rowena of Lydius.
"Master!" she cried.
She was turned away from us. Her toes barely touched the tiles. She was utterly helpless in the grip of the guards. She looked wildly back, over her shoulder. "Why are you doing this?" she cried. She did not, of course, question his authority, or his right to do with her as he pleased.
The guards hesitated, holding her in place, her back to us, in case Samos might be pleased to respond to her. In a moment, if Samos did not speak, they would proceed on their way, she in helpless custody between them.
"It is one thing to be a slave," said Samos. "It is another to be permitted to live."
"Why would you do this to me?" she sobbed, over her shoulder. "Why would you have me thrown to sleen?"
"I think," said Samos, "there is still too much of the free woman in you."
"No!" she cried. "There is no more free woman left in me! The free woman is gone!"
"Is it true?" he asked.
"Yes," she cried, "yes, Master!"
"What, then, is left in you?" he asked.
"Only the slave!" she cried.
"What do you mean 'in you'?" he asked.
"I spoke loosely, Master," she wept. "Forgive me. That which I only and totally am is now a slave!"
"Is there a division between the 'I' and the slave?" he asked.
"No," she said. "The slave and I are the same, wholly."
"You are then a slave, fully?" asked Samos.
"Yes, Master," she said. "The slave is one with herself. She is self-identical."
"It is one thing to be a slave," said Samos. "It is another to be an adequate slave."
"Master?" she asked, in misery.
"Keeping you would be a waste of collar and gruel," he said.
"No, Master," she said. "I would strive to serve well. I would strive desperately to be found worthy of being kept in my collar, and to be pleasing within it!"
"You do not have what it takes to be a good slave," said Samos. "You are too stupid, too cold and self-centered."
"No, Master!" she said.
"You lack the talent, the intelligence of the slave," he said.
"No, Master, no!" she cried.
"Release her," said Samos.
The girl, released, turned about and threw herself in supplication to her belly before the table. She lifted her head. There were tears in her eyes. "Let me prove to you that I can be acceptable as a slave!" she begged.
"Do you realize what you are asking?" he asked.
"Yes, Master!" she wept.
"What do you think?" Samos asked of me.
I shrugged. The decision, it seemed to me, was his.
"Please, Master," begged the girl, tears in her eyes.
"Do you think you can be pleasing?" Samos asked the slave.
"I will try desperately, Master," she said.
"Stand," he said.
"Straighten your back," said Samos. "Suck in your stomach. Thrust out your breasts."
Tears ran from her eyes.
"Remember, my dear," said Samos, not unkindly, "you are no longer a free woman. You have now entered a new modality of life altogether, one in which rigidities and inhibitions are no longer permitted you, a form of life in which, in many ways, you are strictly and uncompromisingly controlled, but one in which, in other ways, your deepest desires and needs need no longer be restrained, but may be, and must be, fully liberated, a form of life in which you, though categorically subjected to the perfections of absolute discipline, that of the total slave, are, paradoxically, freed to be yourself."
She looked at Samos, wonderingly.
"These things may now seem hard to understand," said Samos, "but they, and their reality, if you are permitted to live, will soon become clear."
"Yes, Master," she said, gratefully. I saw that she, already, now a slave, deeply sensed the truth of his words.
Then his eyes were hard, and she trembled.
"Lift your hands to the level of your shoulders," he said, "and flex your knees, slightly."
Samos then signaled to the musicians, who were seated to one side, that they should prepare to play.
"What is it that a man wants from a woman?" asked Samos.
"Everything, and more," she whispered.
"Precisely," he said.
"I suggest that you do well," said Samos.
"Yes, Master," she said.
"You dance, and perform, for your life," he said.
"Yes, Master," she said.
"Are you ready?" he asked.
"Yes, Master," she whispered.
Samos signaled again to the musicians, and they began to play a sensual, slow, adagio melody.
"I had placed my Home Stone," said Samos, turning his attention to the board. "It is your move." That was true. It was my eleventh move. I considered the board and the placement of his Home Stone. An attack, I thought, would be premature. I would continue my development. I would attempt to secure the center, garnering thereby the mobilities and options commonly attendant on the control of these customarily vital routes. He who controls the roads, some say, controls the cities. This, of course, is not strictly true, not in a world where most goods can be carried on the back of a man, not in a world where there are tarns.
"It is the sleen for her," I heard a man say.
Samos glanced at the dancer.
I, too, glanced at her. She was not trained. She did not know slave dance. Her movements were those of a virgin, a white-silk girl. She had not yet been taught slave helplessness. No man yet in his arms had taught her the exquisite, transforming degradations of the utilized, screaming slave, the wrenching surrender spasms, enforced upon her by his will, of the conquered bondwoman, experiences which, once she has had them, she is never willing to give up, experiences which she comes to need, experiences for which she will do anything, experiences which, whether she wishes it or not, put her at, and keep her at, the mercy of men.
"She is clumsy," said Samos. He was irritated. But I saw he did not wish, really, to have her killed.
A man laughed at her, as she tried to dance before him. "Her throat will be cut within the Ahn," laughed another man. Another man turned away from her, when she approached him, to have his goblet of paga filled by a luscious, half-naked, collared slave.
"Clumsy, clumsy," said Samos. "I thought she might have the makings, somehow, of a pleasure slave."
"She is trying," I said.
"She does not have what it takes," said Samos.
"Her body is richly curved," I said. "That suggests an abundance of female hormones, and that, in turn, suggests the potentialities, the capacities for love, the sensibilities, the dispositions of the pleasure slave."
"She is not acceptable," said Samos. "She is inadequate."
"She is trying desperately to please," I said.
"But she is not succeeding," he said.
"She has a lovely body," I said. "Perhaps someone could buy her for a pittance, for a pot girl."
"She is not adequate," said Samos. "I will have to have her destroyed." He looked back to the board.
I saw several of the slave girls looking fearfully at one another. I do not think that they cared much for their new sister in bondage, the former Lady Rowena of Lydius, who perhaps in some subtle way, perhaps in virtue of her former background, held herself superior to them, but, too, I do not think they cared to have her thrown alive, screaming, to sleen. She was, after all, now, like them, only a slave. "Dance, you stupid slave," hissed one. "Do you not know you are a slave? Do you not know you are owned?"
A wild look, one of sudden, fearful insight, came over the face of the dancer. She had not thought, specifically, objectively, it seemed, about this aspect of matters. But, of course, she was owned. She was now property. She could now be bought and sold, like a tarsk, at the pleasure of masters.
She belonged to Samos, of course. It had been within the context of his capture rights that she had, as a free woman, of her own free will, pronounced upon herself a formula of enslavement. Automatically then, in virtue of the context, she became his. The law is clear on this. The matter is more subtle when the woman is not within a context of capture rights. Here the matter differs from city to city. In some cities, a woman may not, with legal recognition, submit herself to a specific man as a slave, for in those cities that is interpreted as placing at least a temporary qualification on the condition of slavery which condition, once entered into, all cities agree, is absolute. In such cities, then, the woman makes herself a slave, unconditionally. It is then up to the man in question whether or not he will accept her as his slave. In this matter he will do as he pleases. In any event, she is by then a slave, and only that.
In other cities, and in most cities, on the other hand, a free woman may, with legal tolerance, submit herself as a slave to a specific man. If he refuses her, she is then still free. If he accepts her, she is then, categorically, a slave, and he may do with her as he pleases, even selling her or giving her away, or slaying her, if he wishes. Here we might note a distinction between laws and codes. In the codes of the warriors, if a warrior accepts a woman as a slave, it is prescribed that, at least for a time, an amount of time up to his discretion, she be spared. If she should be the least bit displeasing, of course, or should prove recalcitrant in even a tiny way, she may be immediately disposed of.
It should be noted that this does not place a legal obligation on the warrior. It has to do, rather, with the proprieties of the codes. If a woman not within a clear context of rights, such as capture rights, house rights, or camp rights, should pronounce herself slave, simpliciter, then she is subject to claim. These claims may be explicit, as in branding, binding and collaring, or as in the uttering of a claimancy formula, such as "I own you," "You are mine," or "You are my slave," or implicit, as in, for example, permitting the slave to feed from your hand or follow you.
"Dance, fool!" cried one of the slave girls to the former Lady Rowena of Lydius.
"See the free woman!" laughed one of the slaves. "It is the sleen for her," said another.
"Please men!" cried another. "What do you think you are for?"
"Like this!" cried a brunette, leaping away from the tables to the tiles, tearing away her silk.
"Do not interfere," warned a man. The brunette, terrified, seized up her silk, and shrank back behind the tables, into the shadows, where, huddled, knelt other slaves.
She who had been the Lady Rowena fell sobbing to her knees, helpless on the tiles, covering her face with her hands. The music stopped.
"You are cruel, all of you!" cried out Linda, the blond Earth-girl slave of Samos, springing to her feet. All eyes turned towards her. "You put us in collars! You take away our clothes! You make us serve you! You do with us as you please!" She looked beautiful, in her brief tunic, barefoot, her body filled with passion, her small fists clenched, in her collar.
"And you love it!" laughed a man.
"Yes!" she cried. "I love it! You cannot know how I love it! I come from a world where there are almost no true men, a world where manhood is almost educated and conditioned out of existence. I come from a world of love-starved women. I did not know what true men were until I came to Gor, and was put in a collar! Here I am disciplined and trained, here I am owned and fulfilled! Here I am happy! I pity even my free sisters of Gor, who are so far above me, for they cannot know the overwhelming joys and fulfillments which are mine, and I pity a thousand times more my miserable free sisters of Earth, so far away, longing for their collars and masters!"
There was then silence. She hurried to the side of the girl kneeling on the tiles. She crouched beside her, putting her arm about her shoulders. She then looked at us. "But this is only a poor slave," she said. "She is new to her condition. She is trying to please. It is just that she does not yet know how. Please be kind to her. Give her some time. Let her learn. Is she not beautiful? Do you not think she could learn to be pleasing? Show her mercy!"
It was then again silent.
Numbly, Linda rose to her feet and walked back about the tables. She knelt behind our table, her head down.
"With your permission," I said to Samos. I rose to my feet and went to the girl, now prone, red-eyed, on the tiles. I crouched down beside her.
"Oh!" she cried.
I turned her over, handling her with authority, as a slave is handled.
She looked up at me.
Never before, doubtless, had she been handled like this. "Her face is beautiful," I said, "her body is curvaceous, her limbs are fair. It seems she should bring a good price."
She gasped, appraised as a female.
"But what is inside a woman is more important," said a man.
"That is true," I said. Some of the most succulent and exciting slaves I had known were, I suppose, at least compared with some of their sisters in bondage, comparatively plain in appearance. Such women constitute marvelous bargains in a slave market. They cost far less than many of their higher-priced sisters and yet, in the long run, are worth far more. Many men, upon returning home, thinking they have bought an average girl within their means, discover instead, to their delight, that they have purchased a dream. To be sure, the matter is complicated. Slavery, for example, marvelously, subtly, tends to bring out the beauty in a woman. Many women, after a year or two in bondage, become so beautiful that they can double or triple their price.
"Men desire women," I told her.
"Yes, Master," she said.
"And you belong to that sex," I said, "which is maddeningly, exquisitely desirable."
"Yes, Master," she said.
"And you are," I said, "I think, objectively, a beautiful member of that sex."
"Thank you, Master," she whispered.
"It therefore seems not inconceivable that men might find you desirable."
"Yes, Master," she whispered.
"Truly desirable," I said.
She reddened. "Yes, Master," she whispered.
"Does that please you?" I asked.
"It terrifies me," she said.
"Do you understand that you are a slave?" I asked her.
"Yes, Master," she said.
"Do you have normal feelings toward men?" I asked.
"I think so, Master," she said.
"Now that you are a slave," I said, "it is not only permissible for you to yield to these feelings, but you must do so."
"Master!" she whispered.
"Yes," I said, "for you are now a slave."
"Yes, Master," she whispered, shuddering.
"That makes quite a difference, does it not?" I asked.
"Yes, Master," she said.
"An enormous difference, does it not?" I asked.
"Yes, Master!" she said.
"She does not have slave reflexes," said a man.
I pulled her by the hair up to a sitting position, and then, by the hair, bent her head back.
"Oh!" she winced.
"Keep the palms of your hands on the tiles," I said. She did so. Her knees were slightly flexed.
"Oh! Oh!" she cried suddenly.
"Keep your palms on the tiles," I said.
"Yes, Master!" she said. "Yes, Master!"
"She does have slave reflexes," I reported.
"Yes," said the man.
"Yes," said another man.
"Are men now of greater interest to you?" I asked.
"What you have done to me!" she said.
"Answer my question, female," said I.
"Yes, Master!" she said.
"We are now going to put these things together," I said. "First, you are an exquisitely desirable woman. You are the sort of woman who could drive a man mad with passion. You are the sort of woman to possess whom men might kill. Furthermore, your beauty and desirability is increased a thousandfold because you are now a property girl, a slave."
"Yes, Master," she whispered. "Oh, Master!"
"Men are now of even greater interest to you, are they not?" I asked.
She looked at me wildly, disbelievingly.
"Answer my question," I said.
"Yes, Master!" she wept. "Oh, yes, Master! Yes, Master!"
"Keep the palms of your hands on the floor," I said.
"Yes, Master," she said.
"That handles things from the point of view of the man," I said.
"Yes, Master," she said.
"Now," I said, "second, let us consider things from the point of view of the woman, from your point of view."
"Master!" she cried.
"Keep the palms of your hands on the floor," I said.
"Yes, Master," she whimpered.
"As a slave," I said, "it is not only permissible for you to yield to your deepest, most stirring, most primitive, most overwhelmingly feminine urges, but you must do so, shamelessly, unqualifiedly, completely."
"Yes, Master," she cried, and thrust herself suddenly, piteously, against my hand.
Several of the men laughed. Some of the slave girls cried out with pleasure. Two clapped their hands with delight. Others shifted uneasily, and cast piteous glances, petitionary glances, at the guards, but the attention of the guards, and such, was centered on the newly embonded, now-nameless, blond-haired beauty, who but shortly before had been the lofty, arrogant Lady Rowena of Lydius. One of the girls, on all fours, moved a bit, that she might be the more easily seen, behind the exploited scion of Lydius. She wished to be noticed by one of the guards, it seems, doubtless one in whose arms she wished to lie as a stripped, grateful, yielding slave. Tears were in her eyes. She bit her lip. There was a tiny spot of blood on her lower lip. Another girl went to her belly, lifting her hand toward a guard, a common obeisance-begging position. But he, too, failed to notice.
I then, by the hair, pulled the former Lady Rowena of Lydius about and threw her lengthwise, prone, to the tiles.
She looked up at me, over her shoulder. I saw wildness in her eyes. I saw that she had begun to sense what it might be to be an aroused slave.
And she had not even been branded or collared. Not once yet had she been sold.
"Whip," I said, to a man, the fellow who had earlier disciplined the foolish slave who had permitted herself, without permission, to display merriment over the plight of a free woman.
The whip was placed in my hand.
"Master?" asked the girl, apprehensively.
"I do not believe you were given permission to stop dancing earlier," I said.
"No, Master," she said.
"As you are a stupid girl and new to your condition, your punishment, this time, will be light. Three lashes."
"Three!" she sobbed.
"Do not expect masters to be so lenient with your stupidity in the future," I said.
"No, Master," she wept.
Then, doubtless for the first time in her life, she who had been the proud free woman, the Lady Rowena of Lydius, naked, and on her belly on the tiles, felt, like the common girl she now was, the slave whip of Gor.
"Stand," I told her. "Back straight, belly in, breasts out. Lift your hands to your shoulders, flex your knees."
"I have been whipped," she said, disbelievingly.
"See the difference?" said a man to another at his table. "How she stands?"
"Yes," said the other.
I touched her here and there, with the whip, deftly, correcting a line, or the tension of a curve.
She shrank back from the touch of the whip. She now knew what it could to do to her. She had felt it. After a girl has once felt the whip the mere sight of it is usually enough to bring her immediately into line. "What hangs upon the wall?" a master might ask. "The slave whip, Master," she responds. "How may I be more pleasing?"
I handed the whip back to the fellow who had had it, and returned to my place at the table of Samos.
He signaled the musicians, and they began, again, to play.
I gave my attention to the board. It was my move. I did not bother, then, to glance at the former Lady Rowena of Lydius. She was a mere slave, dancing for masters. Doubtless, too, as the evening wore on, other girls, too, perhaps Tula, and Susan, and Linda, would be ordered to the floor, to dance before strong men, then perhaps, each in her turn, one by one, to be dragged to the tables.
I must concentrate on the game.
It was my move.
Clearly the slaves had been aroused.
They would serve well.
To be sure, the arousal of a Gorean slave is seldom far below the surface. As the saying is, slave fires have been lit in their bellies. Predictably, periodically, these fires burst into open flame. One of the strongest chains binding a slave, even to a hated master, is her need for sexual relief; she is, after all, a slave; frequently, and perhaps even to her misery, if the master is hated, she begins to sense her growing restlessness, her uneasiness and discomfort; she may fight it, but it is beginning, and she knows, perhaps to her fury, that it will have its way; it is inexorable, like the tides, like the circuits of planets, the risings and settings of the sun, Sol, or Tor-tu-Gor, Light-Upon-the-Home-Stone; and soon she is in the throes of its grasp; she is now its helpless victim, the victim of an acute and desperate need for sexual relief, for some mitigation, however brief, of her intensifying, perhaps even wholly unwelcome, fervor and ardor, some surcease, however temporary, of the tumult, torment and vehemence of her passions. She then bellies, helpless, even to a hated master, kissing and licking his feet, petitioning his caress. He regards her, perhaps with contempt, or bemusement. Will he satisfy her or not? It is up to him, as he is her master. The strongest chain binding a slave, however, is doubtless love. Some slaves have endured great hardships and traversed hundreds of pasangs to return to their master. To be sure, in speaking of chains, and such, those of sex and love, one must not overlook more prosaic bonds. For example, thongs, binding her hand and foot, are useful; the shackling of a five-ringed sirik is lovely; and a metal chain, attaching her by the neck or ankle to a slave ring at the foot of her master's couch, is not ineffective.
Their service would be prompt, and deferential and silent. They would kneel beautifully. The hair of more than one might fall across the shoulder of a guard at table. Might there not be an inadvertent brushing of a rough hand by a small, soft hand placing a plate or goblet? "Forgive me, Master," she might whisper. But could she free her small wrist from his sudden grip, as he might stand, and force her to her knees before him, and then slowly down, to her back?
It is pleasant for strong men to be served by slaves.
No free women were present. This was not unusual in a slaver's house, of course. Free women do not frequent such precincts, unless accompanied and guarded. It would be dangerous otherwise to do so. Too, the presence of a free woman at a dinner or banquet, tends to inhibit the slaves. It is hard to be a lovely slave under the cold, contemptuous glare of a disapproving free woman. Accordingly, free women are forbidden at many feasts. They may, of course, speculate on the nature of the festivities from which their presence is precluded. Too, free women are not permitted in the paga taverns. Sometimes, as a lark, a girl slips into such a feast, disguised as a slave, or into a paga tavern, similarly disguised, perhaps even to the collar. These escapades, of course, are not without their dangers. More than one young, shapely prankster has been seized and rudely conducted, by an arm or wrist, or by the hair, to an alcove, there to be gagged and chained. A bit of arm, a bit of leg, the lines of a slave tunic on a fair young body, the sight of a collar on a neck, sometimes have consequences which seem obvious enough to many, but may not have been fully understood or clearly enough anticipated by the lovely, young intruder.
Sometimes, in some cities, discovered, these fair pranksters are turned over to guardsmen, to be led in public shame bound and naked through the city, under explanatory placards, and then taken back to their homes. More than one has then been refused recognition by their mortified families, who remand them to praetors, for the justice and suitability of proper enslavement.
More often, however, in almost all cities, discovered, these fair pranksters are simply bound and gagged and smuggled out of the city, to be vended in distant markets. Their sly joke has had then an unanticipated denouement.
Commonly the market they are sold in is one in a city enemy to their own. The commercial relations of slavers are general, tolerant, and widely sorted and they have little reference to the politics of particular municipalities. Owning, mastering and humbling the beautiful women of enemies, turning them into loving, dutiful, needful slaves, is relished by Goreans. And in such a fashion one or more woman may be obtained simply, you see, without sorties and attacks, without war, without raids, or even solitary tarn strikes. To be sure, the Gorean warrior usually prefers to steal his own, such a feat being regarded as a coup, a bold affrontery to an enemy, and a victory for himself, the successful culmination of a stimulating adventure, quite apart from the pleasures of enjoying the female.
The joke then, I suppose, might be said to have been on them. They find themselves on an auction block, stripped, displayed, being bid upon. Gorean men find such things amusing. Certainly it makes good telling in the taverns.
It is little wonder that Gorean free women avoid paga taverns, and hurry past them.
In them there are men and slaves.
To be sure, this is presumably a way of, as it is said, "courting the collar." On some level, in some stratum of their being, perhaps far from their conscious speculations, plans, surmises and rationalizations, it seems clear that they, the excited, daring intruders, and such, wish to be enslaved. This seems a likely explanation, too, for the women who frequent lonely bridges at night, or dangerous areas of a city, or, say, publicly provoke and challenge strong young men, treating them badly, pretending to detest them, but perhaps, on some level, longing for their bonds.
I moved my Ubara's Rider of the High Tharlarion to Ubara's Scribe Three. This, supporting the center, would also open a file, developing the Ubara's Builder. The Gorean dancer is expected, usually, to satisfy the passions she arouses. "It is your move," I said to Samos. I gathered, from the cries of pleasure, from the clapping of hands, the striking of hands on shoulders, that the new slave might be proving not unacceptable. "How is she doing?" I asked. "I do not think it will be necessary, at least immediately, to throw her to sleen," said Samos. He was regarding the dancer. "It is your move," I said. Samos put his chin on his fists and examined the board. I lifted my head and looked across the room.
I saw that it was a slave who danced before the men. She gyrated but inches from a burly oarsman, then leaped back, eluding his drunken grasp. She moved between the tables, a slave, an owned woman. Then she was kneeling beside a man, kissing and caressing him, and then, as though it were involuntary, as though her hands were tied behind her and she was being pulled back, away from him, by a rope, she retreated from him. In a moment she was showering another man with her hair and kisses. Then she offered a man wine, holding the goblet, pressing it against her belly, swaying sensuously before him. She was then again in the center of the tiles, among the tables. She made as if to speak, and then, suddenly, stopped, as though startled. Then she took a wad of her long, golden hair and, swiftly balling it, thrust it, as though insolently, in her mouth. She then looked at the men reproachfully. It was as though a man, perhaps not desiring to hear her speak, had gagged her with her own hair. There was laughter. She drew the hair from her mouth, drawing some of it, in loosening it, deeply back between her teeth, with her head back, as though she might have been in the constraint of a gag strap, all this to the music, and then her hair was free, and, with a movement of her head and movements of her hands, beautifully, she draped and spread it about her. It seemed then she withdrew modestly, frightened, behind the hair, drawing it like a cloak or sheet about her, as though by means of this piteous device she might hope desperately to conceal at least some minimal particle of her beauty from the rude scrutiny of masters.
But it was not to be permitted.
To a swirl of music, taking her hair to the sides, holding it, parting it, with clenched fists thrust behind her, twisting, her body thrust forward, her beauty was suddenly, it seemed as though by command, or by the action of another, brazenly bared. "Good!" said more than one man. There was a striking of shoulders in Gorean applause. Even some of the slave girls cried out with pleasure. The girl had done it well. Then she was again dancing among the tables. Her movements gave much pleasure. She entertained well. If Samos had known she would prove this good he might have put her in bells or a chain. I doubted that some of the things she had done, in all their abundance and richness, had been merely thought up on the spur of the moment. I suspected that many times in her dreams and fantasies she had danced thus before men, as a slave. Then, lo, one night in Port Kar she found herself truly a slave, and so dancing, and for her life.
As the music neared its climax she returned before our table, dancing desperately and pleadingly. It was there that was to be found her master.
She lowered herself to the floor and there, on her knees, and her sides, and her belly and back, continued her dance.
Men cried out with pleasure.
Floor movements are among the most stimulatory aspects of slave dance.
I regarded her. She was not bad. She was, of course, not trained. A connoisseur of slave dance, I suppose, might have pointed out errors in the pointing of a toe, the extension of a limb, the use of a hand, not well framing the body, not subtly inviting the viewer's eye inward, and so on, but, on the whole, she was definitely not bad. Given her lack of training, a lack which could, of course, be easily remedied, she was not bad, really. Much of what she did, I suppose, is instinctual in a woman. Too, of course, she was dancing for her life.
She writhed well, an utterly helpless, begging slave.
Then the music was finished and she was before us, kneeling, her head down, in submission to Samos. She lifted her head to regard Samos, her master. She searched his face fearfully, for the least sign of her fate. It was he who would decide whether she would live or die.
"May I speak, Master?" she whispered.
The free woman may speak whenever and however she pleases, for she is free. On the other hand, the slave may be silenced by so little as a look or word. Speech is one of the glories of the human female, and she loves to express herself, as she does so well, frequently and at length, eloquently and lyrically. Few things so impress her bondage upon her then as the understanding that her very speech is contingent on the will of the master, and his permission, whether this be implicit, or explicit. For the sake of ease this permission is usually implicit. On the other hand, it is not unusual for a slave to request this permission explicitly, particularly if she is not certain that it will be granted. Much, of course, depends on the particular master and slave. But even a loquacious slave understands that her permission to speak is dependent on the master, and that that permission, at any time, may be revoked.
I thought it was wise, and sensitive, that the new slave had availed herself of this homely protocol in addressing her master. Naturally, in this context, she would have risked being lashed, and severely, had she not done so.
"Yes," said Samos.
"It is my hope, Master," she said, "that in time I might not prove totally unacceptable as a slave."
"You may approach," said Samos.
She did not dare to rise to her feet. She crawled, head down, on her hands and knees, to the edge of the table. There, near the table, she put her head down and kissed the tiles. Then, rising up a little and approaching further, still on her hands and knees, she turned her head, delicately, and kissed the edge of the table, her lips touching partly the surface of the table, partly its side.
"Are you shameless?" asked Samos.
"Yes, Master," she said.
"Do you beg to live?" he asked.
"Yes, I beg to live, my Master," she said.
"On what terms?" he asked.
"Your terms, Master," she said, "only as a total slave."
"Kneel," said Samos.
She knelt, back on her heels.
Some of the men of Samos had now gathered about, near the table.
"For the moment, at least," said Samos, "you will not be thrown to sleen."
"Thank you, Master!" she cried. "Thank you, my Master!"
Samos then nodded to one of the men standing about, the burly oarsman from whom earlier, eluding him, she had danced away.
He took her wrists and tied them together, with her own hair, before her body, leaving a length of the hair for a leading tether.
She looked up at the oarsman.
"See that you continue to prove adequate," said Samos.
"Yes, Master!" she said.
She was then drawn to her feet by the hair tether and, bound, was led across the tiles to the oarsman's place.
"Tula!" called a man. "Let Tula dance!"
Several men shouted their agreement to this. A long-legged brunette was thrust to the center of the tiles. She had high cheekbones, a tannish skin and a golden collar. Her bit of silk was ripped from her.
"Tula!" cried men, and, sensuously, she lifted her arms, and, standing, excitingly posed, awaited the instruction of the music. She would show the men what true dancing could be.
Across the room I saw she who had been the Lady Rowena of Lydius, her arms, her wrists still bound with her own hair, about the neck of the oarsman. His hands were on her. Her lips were pressed fervently to his. He lowered her to the tiles beside his table.
The music began and Tula danced. I saw other girls moving closer to the tables, subtly taking more prominent positions, hoping perhaps thereby to be more visible to the men. Tula was Samos' finest dancer. There was much competition among his girls for the second position. My own finest dancer was a wench named Sandra. Some others, for example, Arlene, Janice, Evelyn, Mira and Vella, were also quite good.
She who had been the former Lady Rowena of Lydius suddenly cried out. She had been opened for the uses of men.
"It is your move," I told Samos.
"I know," he said.
He moved his Ubara's Rider of the High Tharlarion to Ubara's Builder Three. This seemed a weak move. It did open the Ubara's Initiate's diagonal. My Ubar's Rider of the High Tharlarion was amply protected. I utilized the initial three-space option of the Ubar's Scribe's Spearman. I would then, later, bring the Ubar's Builder to Ubar's Scribe One, to bring pressure to bear on the Ubar's Scribe's file. Samos did not seem to be playing his usual game. His opening, in particular, had been erratic. He had prematurely advanced significant pieces, and then had lost time in withdrawing them. It was as though he had desired to take some significant action, or had felt that he should, but had been unwilling to do so.
He moved a spearman, diffidently.
"That seems a weak move," I said.
I brought the Ubar's Builder to Ubar's Scribe One. To be sure, his opening had caused me to move certain pieces more than once in my own opening.
Tula now swayed lasciviously, insistently, forwardly, before the table. I saw Linda, kneeling somewhat behind Samos, regard her with fury. Slave girls commonly compete shamelessly for the favor of the master. Tula, with those long, tannish legs, the high cheekbones, the wild, black hair, the golden collar, was very beautiful. It is pleasant to own women. But Samos paid her little, or no, attention. With a toss of her head she spun away. She would spend the night in the arms of another.
Samos made another move and so, too, did I.
I heard soft gasps and cries from across the room, the fall of a goblet, and squirming. The former Lady Rowena of Lydius's hands were no longer bound but they were now held above and behind her head, each wrist in the hands of a different man. She was on her back, thrown across one of the low tables. Her ankles were tied widely apart, each one fastened to one of the legs at the bottom of the table. She was at the mercy of a third oarsman.
Tonight, Samos seemed off his game.
I wondered if anything might be wrong.
"Did you want to see me?" I asked. It was unusual for Samos to invite me to his holding simply for a game of Kaissa.
He did not respond. He continued to regard the board. Samos played well, but he was not an enthusiast for the game. He had told me once he preferred a different Kaissa, one of politics and men.
"I do not think you brought me here to play Kaissa," I said.
He did not respond.
"Guard your Ubar," I said.
He withdrew the piece.
"Have you heard aught of Kurii?" I asked.
"Little or nothing," he said.
Our last major source of information on this matter, as far as I knew, had come from a blond slave named Sheila. I recalled her kneeling naked before us, the slave harness cinched on her in such a way as to enhance her beauty. She had spoken obediently, and volubly, but she had been able, all in all, to help us but little. Kurii, doubtless as a security measure, entrust little vital information to their human agents. She had once been the Tatrix of Corcyrus. She now belonged to Hassan of Kasra, often called Hassan, the Slave Hunter. I had once been in Kasra. It is a river port on the Lower Fayeen. It is important in the Tahari salt trade. When Samos had finished with her, she had, at the command of Hassan, still in the harness, served the pleasure of both of us. She was then hooded. The last time I saw her Hassan had put her in the bottom of a longboat at Samos' steps, descending to the canal. He had tied her ankles together and pulled them up behind her body, fastening them there with a strap passed through a ring at the back of the slave harness. I suspected she would not be freed from the hood, except for its lifting to feed and water her, for days, not until she was in Hassan's keep in Kasra. I had little doubt he would see to it that she served him well.
I nodded. From the testimony of Sheila, and other sources which seemed to corroborate it, we gathered that the Kurii might now be turning to the patient stratagems of piecemeal subversion, the control of cities and their eventual linkages in networks of power, to win a world by means theoretically within the laws and decrees of Priest-Kings. Indeed, for such a strategy to eventually prove successful, it seemed not unlikely they would have at least the tolerance of the Sardar itself. I shuddered. It would not bode well for humans, I thought, if some form of liaison, or arrangement, were entered into between Priest-Kings and Kurii.
"Have you heard aught from the Sardar?" I asked.
Samos looked up from the board.
Outside I could hear the sounds of yet another troupe traversing the canal, with its raucous cries, its drums and trumpets. There had been several such troupes, theatrical troupes, carnival troupes, this evening. It was now only two days to carnival, to the Twelfth Passage Hand.
"Late in Se'Var," said Samos, "a Torvaldsland voyageur, Yngvar, the Far-Traveled, bought paga in the Four Chains."
I nodded. I knew the Four Chains. It was owned by Procopius Minor. It was near Pier Sixteen. Procopius Minor is not to be confused with Procopius Major, who is an important merchant in Port Kar, one with interests not only in taverns but in paper, hardware, wool and salt. I had never heard of Yngvar, the Far-Traveled, until recently. I did not know him. The time of which Samos spoke was about two months ago.
"In his drinking, this Yngvar told many stories. One frightens and puzzles me. Some fifty pasangs northeast of Scagnar he claims that he and his crew saw something turning and spinning in the sky, like webbed glass, the light spilling and refracting through it. They then saw a silverish disklike object near it. These two objects, both, seemed to descend, as though to the sea itself. Then, a little later, the silverish object departed. Curious, frightened, they rowed to the place where the objects had seemed to descend. There was not even a skerry there. They were about to turn about when one of the men saw something. There, not more than twenty yards from the ship, half submerged, was a large, winged creature. They had never seen anything like this before. It was dead. They poked it with spears. Then, after a time, it slipped beneath the water and disappeared."
"I have heard the story," I said. To be sure, I had heard it only a few days ago. It, like other stories, seemed to circulate through the taverns. Yngvar, with some fellow Torvaldslanders, had signed articles and taken ship northward shortly thereafter. Neither Samos nor myself had been able to question them.
"The dating of this occurrence seems unclear," I said.
"It was apparently not recent," said Samos.
Presumably this had happened after the time I had gone to Torvaldsland, or, I suppose, I would have heard of it while there. Interesting stories move swiftly through the halls, conveyed by merchants and singers. Too, such a story would be widely told, one supposes, at a Thing-Fair. I went to Torvaldsland in the Rune Year 1,006. Years, in the chronology of Torvaldsland, are counted from the time of Thor's gift of the Stream of Torvald to Torvald, the legendary founder and hero of the northern fatherlands. The calendars are kept by Rune-Priests. That would have been 10,122 C.A., or Year 3 of the Sovereignty of the Council of Captains in Port Kar. I suspected, though I did not know, that the events recounted by Yngvar had occurred from four to five years ago.
"It was probably a few years ago," said Samos.
"Probably," I granted him.
"The ship was probably a ship of Priest-Kings," said Samos.
"I would suppose so," I said. It did not seem likely that a Kur ship would move openly in Gorean air space.
"It is an interesting story," said Samos.
"Yes," I said.
"Perhaps it has some significance," said Samos.
"Perhaps," I said.
I recalled, long ago, in the Nest, when I had seen the dying Mother. "I see him, I see him," she had said, "and his wings are like showers of gold." She had then lain quietly on the stone. "The Mother is dead," had said Misk. Her last memory, interestingly, it seemed, had been of her Nuptial Flight. There was now, doubtless, a new Mother in the Nest. Yngvar and his fellows, unwittingly, I was confident, had witnessed the inauguration of a new dynasty among Priest-Kings.
"Have you heard anything from the Sardar?" I asked, again.
Samos looked down at the board. I did not press him. His reticence to respond directly puzzled me. If he had heard something, of course, it was perhaps none of my business. I had no intention of prying into his affairs, or those of Priest-Kings. Also, of course, perhaps he had heard nothing.
We played four more moves.
"You are not playing your usual game," I told him.
"I am sorry," he said.
A new girl, Susan, was now dancing. She who had been the Lady Rowena of Lydius was on her belly on a table, clutching its sides, her teeth gritted. Tula was being handed from man to man. Some of the other girls, too, were now being used by masters. And others were licking and kissing at them, and whispering in their ears, begging for attention.
We played another pair of moves.
"What is bothering you?" I asked Samos.
"Nothing," he said.
"Is there much news?" I asked.
"Tarnsmen from Treve have raided the outskirts of Ar," said Samos.
"They grow bold," I said.
"Cos and Ar are still at odds," he said.
"Of course," I said.
"The building of ships in Tyros continues," he said.
"Chenbar has a long memory," I said. Much of the naval power of Tyros had been destroyed in the battle of the 25th of Se'Kara. This had taken place in Year One of the Sovereignty of the Council of Captains, in 10,120 C.A.
"On Cos, as our spies have it," said Samos, "there is much training of men, and a recruitment of mercenaries."
"We could strike at the shipyards of Tyros," I said, "ten ramships, a thousand men, a picked force."
"The yards are well fortified," he said.
"Do you think Cos and Tyros will move?" I asked.
"Yes," he said.
"When?" I asked.
"I do not know," he said.
"It is interesting," I said. "I cannot see Port Kar as a great threat to them. The power of Ar in the Vosk Basin would seem a much greater threat to their influence, and their sphere of trade."
"One would think so," said Samos.
"Matters are complicated there now, of course," I said, "by the formation of the Vosk League."
"That is true," said Samos.
"What is the nature of the training being given the men on Cos?" I asked.
"Infantry training," he said.
"That is interesting," I said. It did not seem likely to me that infantry, at least in its normal deployments and tactics, would be successful in an assault on Port Kar. This had primarily to do with her situation, in the northwestern portion of the estuary of the Vosk, the waters of the Tamber Gulf and Thassa before her, the vast, trackless marshes of the Vosk's delta behind her.
"Can it be," I asked, "that Cos is planning to challenge Ar on the land?"
"That would be madness," said Samos.
I nodded. Ar is the major land force in known Gor. The Cosian infantry, meeting her on land in open battle, in force, would be crushed.
"It seems clear then," said Samos, "that they are planning on using the infantry against Port Kar."
I nodded. Cos would never challenge Ar on the land. That was unthinkable.
"That is what is bothering you?" I asked.
"What?" he asked.
"The possibility that Cos and Tyros may move against Port Kar," I said.
"No," he said.
"What is bothering you?" I asked.
"Nothing," he said.
"Are you disturbed by the proximity of the Waiting Hand?" I asked.
This is a frightening and difficult time for many Goreans.
"No," he said.
"Let us stop playing, and adjudicate the game as a draw," I suggested.
"No," he said. "It is all right."
I moved my Ubara's Builder to threaten his Ubar. This movement of the Builder produced a discovered attack on his Home Stone by my Ubara's Initiate. He interposed his own Ubar's Builder, which I then took with the Initiate, a less valued piece. The Initiate's attack, of course, continued the threat on the Home Stone. He then took the Initiate with his Ubara's Builder, and I, of course, removed his Ubar from the board with my Ubara's Builder.
Samos turned to Linda. "Dance," he said. She leaped to her feet and hurried to the center of the tiles. Susan, then, was pulled by the hair to the place of a keleustes, one who marks time, usually on a pounding block or a ship's drum, for oarsmen. In some navies, and on ships of some registry, the office of the keleustes is referred to as that of the hortator. He reports directly to the oar-master. The oar-master, like the helmsmen, of which two are generally on duty at any one time, most Gorean ships being double ruddered, reports to the captain.
We watched Linda dance. It seemed she had eyes only for Samos. Her fingers played teasingly with the disrobing loop at her left shoulder.
"Strip, slave," said Samos.
She drew at the disrobing loop. There was Gorean applause. She danced well. There was little left in her now of the Earth female. How happy and fulfilled she was on Gor. To be sure, she was only a slave.
I returned my attention to the board, as did Samos.
"It is capture of Home Stone in four," I said.
He nodded. He removed his Home Stone from the board, resigning.
He lifted his head, regarding Linda. "She is pretty," he said.
"Yes," I said.
"Do you believe that I am your friend?" he asked.
"Yes," I said.
"Do you trust me?" he asked.
"Yes," I said.
She writhed well, the Gorean slave.
"Why did you invite me this night to your holding?" I asked. "Surely not merely to play Kaissa?"
He was now resetting the pieces. He would take Yellow this time.
"Ubar's Spearman to Ubar Five," he said.
This move attacks the center and opens a diagonal for the Ubara. It also makes possible a positioning move, if it be desired, for the Ubar's Tarnsman. I made the same move, matching him positionally in the center, stopping an advance on that file and securing the same advantages for the Ubara and Ubar's Tarnsman. This is one of the most common opening moves in Kaissa.
We played twice more that night. I won both games easily, the first with a battering ram of Spearmen and Riders of the High Tharlarion on the Ubar's side, and the second with a middle-game combination of Ubara's Scribe, Ubara and Ubar's Tarnsman. It was now late. Linda lay curled on the tiles near Samos. She was naked, save for her collar. She was beautiful and curvaceous. She was his.
"Captain," said one of two guardsmen standing before our table. They were the fellows in whose custody the free woman, the Lady Rowena of Lydius, had earlier been drawn to our attention. The woman who had been the Lady Rowena of Lydius was now again in their custody. She was now on her knees between them, facing us, her arms held high and to either side of her, each of her wrists in the grasp of a guard. She was now a slave.
"Is it the sleen for her, Captain?" asked he who was first of the two guardsmen, he who had just spoken.
"Dorto, Krenbar," said Samos.
"Yes, Captain," said the men. Dorto was the oarsman who had opened the former Lady Rowena of Lydius for the uses of men. Krenbar was another oarsman. He had used her twice in the evening, after putting her through intricate slave paces each time.
"Does this slave," asked Samos, "give some indication that she might eventually prove to be at least somewhat adequate in a collar?"
"Yes, Captain," said Dorto. "Yes, Captain," said Krenbar.
"Tonight, as you know, my dear," said Samos, "you danced, and performed, for your life."
"I beg to have been found pleasing," she said.
"Based on the evidences submitted by Dorto and Krenbar, and my own judgment in the matter, your performances, at least for a new slave, have been found acceptable."
I thought she might almost faint with relief.
"Accordingly, at least for the moment, you will not be thrown to sleen."
"Thank you, Master!" she said.
"You are Rowena," he said.
"Thank you, Master," she said, named. There is some security in a slave having a name. Most masters will not name a slave whom they are planning on having immediately destroyed. It would be a waste of name. To be sure, names may be put on slaves and taken off them on a master's whim. This is not unusual. It is the same with all animals?
"Though you have been spared, at least for now, do not grow complacent," said Samos.
"No, Master!" she said.
"You are now, like any other slave, you must understand, under standard, unconditional slave discipline."
"Yes, Master!" she said. She was now a slave like any other, neither more nor less.
"Take her below," said Samos to he who was first of the two guardsmen. "Mark her, left thigh, common Kajira mark. Collar her, common house collar."
"Yes, Captain," he said. In the case of the girl, Rowena, of course, as she was already a self-pronounced slave, the brand and collar were little more than identificatory formalities. Nonetheless she would wear them. They would be fixed visibly and clearly upon her. This is in accord with the prescriptions of merchant law. Too, for all practical purposes, they make escape impossible for the Gorean slave girl.
"Then bring her to my chambers," said Samos.
"Yes, Captain," said he who was first of the two guardsmen.
"Master!" protested Linda.
Samos looked at her, and she lowered her head. "Forgive me, Master," she said.
"I shall try to be pleasing, Master!" Rowena avowed, frightened.
Then the two guardsmen pulled her about and conducted her from our presence.
"She is fat," said Linda. I did not think this remark was fair on Linda's part. The slave, Rowena, was not fat. She was sweetly shapely. To be sure, by a strict regimen of diet and exercise, she would soon be brought, in a manner congenial to her basic structure, within indisputable latitudes of slave perfection. The Gorean slave girl is not a free woman. Accordingly she must keep herself beautiful.
"Do you not like Linda any more?" she pouted.
"Yes, I like you," he said.
"Linda can please you more than Rowena," she said.
"Perhaps," said Samos.
"I can, I will!" she said.
"Who?" asked Samos.
"Linda can, Linda will!" she said.
"To your kennel," said Samos.
"Yes, Master," she said, taking up her tunic, rising to her feet, tears in her eyes.
She hurried softly, her bare feet on the tiles, toward the door.
"Slave," said Samos.
"Yes, Master?" she said, turning and, addressed, dropping to her knees.
"Do not fret," he said. "Tomorrow night it will be you who will be chained at my slave ring."
"Thank you, Master!" she said.
"And tonight, for you have not been fully pleasing," he said, "tell the kennel master to put you in close chains."
"Yes, Master!" she laughed and, happily, dismissed, clutching her tunic, rose to her feet and scurried away. She would not spend a comfortable night, locked in the steel of close chains, but she was radiantly happy. She had been reassured of the interest of her master.
"What are you going to do with the slave Rowena?" I asked.
"She is one of a lot of one hundred," said Samos. "They are to be sold at the fair of En'Kara."
"The slave, Linda," I said, "doubtless would have been pleased to hear that."
"She will doubtless learn of it, in one way or another, sooner or later," said Samos.
"Doubtless," I said.
I rose to my feet. I was stiff from having sat for so long. I suspected Samos cared for the Earth-girl slave, Linda. It was no secret in Port Kar that the shapely collar-slut was first on his chain.
Samos, too, with a grunt, rose to his feet. "Ah," he said.
We looked about. The men and slaves had left the room. We were alone.
Our eyes met. I saw in his eyes that he wanted to speak to me, but he did not do so.
"Your men and boat are waiting," he said.
He accompanied me from his holding to the small landing, with its steps, leading down to the water, outside.
I stepped down into the longboat and, shaking him by the shoulder, awakened Thurnock, the blond giant, he of the peasants. He awakened the rowers. I took my place at the tiller. One of Samos' men cast the line into the boat.
"I wish you well," said Samos.
"I wish you well," I said.
We then pushed off, thrusting against the steps with the port oars. In a moment, with unhurried strokes, we were making our way down the canal, back toward my holding. The canal was dark now. In two days, however, it would be lit with lanterns, thrust out on jutting poles from the bordering, clifflike houses, and strung with garlands and flags. It would then be the time of the Twelfth Passage Hand, the time of carnival.
I heard the ringing of the time bar from the arsenal. It was the Twentieth Ahn, the Gorean midnight.
I was very puzzled as to why Samos had invited me to his holding tonight. I was sure that he had wished to speak to me. But he had not, however, done so.
I dismissed these considerations from my mind. If he chose to keep his own counsel, it was not mine to inquire into his motivations.
I thought that I had played Kaissa well tonight. To be sure, Samos was not an enthusiast for the game. He preferred, as I recalled, a different Kaissa, one of politics and men.
Here is a cover gallery showing all the editions and printings of Players of Gor, sorted by year of publication. Click on any cover to see the book.
Here is a cover gallery showing all the editions and printings of Players of Gor, sorted by edition. Click on any cover to see the book.