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Here is an overview of the 50 chapters in Vagabonds of Gor:
1. A Female Slave
2. A Copper Tarsk
4. The Delta
5. The Ul
7. Glory to Ar
8. The Pursuit has Continued
9. The Barge
10. Morale is High
11. A Victory is Claimed
12. It is Thought That There are the Cries of Vosk Gulls
13. We Proceed Further into the Delta
14. The Attack
15. We Continue Westward
16. It is Quiet
18. I am Pleased to take Note of the Moons
20. I Decide to Imposde Discipline
21. Gilded Wood
24. I Will Hunt
25. Ina Begs to be First my Feast
26. The Cry
27. The Female Obtains Certain Insights
29. We Camp in Secret; We Move in Silence
30. The Tor Shrub
31. We Resume the Trek
34. The Hut
36. The Walls of Brundisium
37. Near the Cosian Camp
38. There will be News from Torcadino
39. The Alcove
40. News from Torcadino; I am Expected
41. She Will Serve Well
42. We Will Return to Camp
43. Marcus Finds a Woman of Interest
45. I am Offered Gold
46. Ina Will Keep Watch
47. The Slave Camp
48. A Slave Whip
49. The Slave Girl
50. The Walls of Ar
The image below shows the most often used words and terms within Vagabonds of Gor. The larger the size, the more often the word or term occurs in the text.
A Female Slave
"You were once the Lady Temione, were you not?" I inquired.
"Yes, Master," she said, lifting her head a little from the dirt, where, before me, in the camp of Cos, on the south bank of the Vosk, north of Holmesk, she knelt, head down, the palms of her hands on the ground.
"Lie on your right side before me," I said, "extending your left leg."
She did so. In this way, the bit of silk she wore fell to the right, displaying the line of her hip, thigh and calf. I saw the brand, tiny and tasteful, yet unmistakable, fixed in her thigh, high, under the hip. It was the common kajira brand, the staff and fronds, beauty subject to discipline, worn by most female slaves on Gor. She had the toes of the left leg pointed, lusciously curving the calf. I saw that she had had some training.
"You may resume your original position," I said.
She returned to it, a common position of slave obeisance.
I noted that her hair had grown out somewhat, in the weeks since I had last seen her, a free woman on the chain of Ephialtes, a sutler whom I had met at the inn of the Crooked Tarn, on the Vosk Road. He had been kind enough to act as my agent in certain matters.
"Tell me of matters since last we met," I suggested.
"It was at the Crooked Tarn, was it not?" she asked.
"Perhaps," I said.
"Or was it in the camp of Cos, near Ar's Station?" she asked.
"Perhaps," I said.
"I with others was once there blindfolded, and displayed," she said.
"Oh?" I said.
"Yes," she said.
"Speak," I said.
"As master recalls," she said, "I was detained at the Crooked Tarn, as a debtor slut."
"Yes," I said.
"And forced to earn my keep," she said.
"Yes," I said. Her use had cost me a tarsk bit. Had I had a slave sent to my "space" it would have cost me three full copper tarsks, for only a quarter of an Ahn. I had had her for a full Ahn, for the tarsk bit. That was because, at that time, she had been free. She would be worth much more now, clearly. I noted the collar on her neck, metal, close-fitting and locked. It was easy to see, even with her head down, because of the shortness of her hair. It had been shaved off some weeks ago by the keeper of the Crooked Tarn, to be sold as raw materials for catapult cordage. Women's hair, soft, glossy, silky and resilient, stronger than vegetable fibers and more weather resistant, well woven, is ideal for such a purpose. The concept of "earning one's keep," in one sense, a strict legal sense, is more appropriate to a free woman than a slave. The slave, for example, cannot earn anything in her own name, or for herself, but only, like other domestic animals, for her master. To be sure, in another sense, a very practical sense, no one "earns her keep" like the female slave. She earns it, and with a vengeance. The master sees to it. The sense of "earning her keep" of which the former Lady Temione spoke was a rather special one. It was rather analogous to that of the slave, for, as I recalled, the keeper of the inn appropriated her earnings, ostensibly to defray the expenses of her keeping. A result of this, of course, was to make it impossible for her, by herself, to subtract as much as a tarsk bit from her redemption fee.
"In the morning, early, after the evening in which I had been carried, bound, to your space, to serve you, I, with other debtors—"
"'Debtor sluts'," I said.
"Yes, Master," she said. "—were redeemed. We were overjoyed, thinking to be freed, but found to our dismay that we were put in coffle, to be taken northward on the Vosk Road to the vicinity of Ar's Station."
"I see," I said.
"But before our redemption our heads were shaved by the keeper, for catapult cordage."
"I saw the pelts on a rack, outside the inn," I said. Her hair had been a beautiful auburn. That hair color is popular on Gor. It brings a high price in slave markets.
"A man named Ephialtes, a sutler of Cos, paid our redemption fees."
"It was he, then, who redeemed you?" I asked.
"I do not think so, Master," she said.
"He was acting as an agent then?" I said.
"I think so, Master," she said. "Though apparently one with powers to buy and sell as he pleased."
"On behalf on his principal?" I asked.
"Doubtless, Master," she said.
"You may kneel back," I said.
She straightened up, and then knelt back on her heels, her knees wide, her hands on her thighs. I had not specified this position, one of the most common for a female pleasure slave but she had assumed it unquestioningly, appropriately. It had been a test. She had passed. It would not be necessary to cuff her.
I listened to the sounds of the Vosk River in the background.
"Though we were free women, six of us, as you recall, including myself, we were apparently to be marched naked, chained by the neck, in coffle behind a sutler's wagon."
"You objected?" I inquired.
"I and another, Klio, perhaps you remember her, did."
"And what happened?" I asked.
"We were lashed," she said. "It was done by a terrible person, one named Liadne, put over us as first girl, though we were free and she a mere slave!"
I remembered Liadne. She was lovely. I had first met her under her master's wagon, shivering under a tarpaulin, in an icy storm. I had used her but had paid her master for her use, leaving a coin in her mouth. I had had Ephialtes, the sutler, purchase her in the morning. I had thought she would make an excellent first girl, to introduce her free sisters into some understanding of their womanhood.
"We were then obedient," said the girl.
I did not doubt but what Liadne would have kept them, arrogant, spoiled free women, under superb discipline. That had certainly been my impression, at any rate, when I had seen them lined up, kneeling, naked, coffled, and blindfolded, in the camp of Cos near Ar's Station.
"We were taken to the Cosian camp, near Ar's Station," she said. "There we were kept naked, in coffle, and under discipline. One morning we were displayed in blindfolds."
I had not wanted them to know, or at least to know for certain, that it was I who had redeemed them, not simply for the pleasure of it, but for my own purposes, as well. This was not that unusual. Captors do not always reveal their identities immediately to their captives. It is sometimes amusing to keep women in ignorance as to whose power it is, within which they lie. Let them consider the matter with anxiety. Let them speculate wildly, frenziedly, tearfully. It is then time enough to reveal oneself to them, perhaps confirming their worst fears.
"The next morning," she said, "when I awakened, two of our girls were gone, Elene and Klio, and there was a new girl, a slender, very beautiful girl, also free, like the rest of us, on the coffle."
"What was her name?" I asked.
"'Phoebe'," she said.
"Tell me of her," I said.
"She wore her collar and chain lovingly and well, most beautifully," she said. "She obeyed Liadne from the first, immediately, spontaneously, intuitively, naturally, with timidity, and perfection. It was as though she intuitively understood authority and her own rightful subjection to it. Though this new girl, like the rest of us, save Liadne, was free, I think I had seldom seen a woman, so early in captivity, so ready, so ripe, for the truths of the collar."
"She had perhaps fought out those matters in the sweaty sheets of her own bed, for years," I said.
"As had certain others, too," smiled the girl, looking down.
"You are beautiful," I commented, regarding her face, and lineaments, in the light of the nearby fire.
"Thank you, Master," she whispered.
"Was this new girl proud?" I asked.
"I think only of such things as her capacity for love, and her bondage," she said.
"But you said she was free," I reminded her.
"Of her natural bondage," she smiled.
"She was not then, in a normal sense, proud?"
"Not in ways typical of a vain free woman, at any rate."
"But yet," I said, "this new girl, unlike the rest of you, was wearing a slave strip."
"Ah, Master," said the girl, "it is as I suspected. It is you who redeemed us."
"Of course," I said.
"The new girl would not speak the identity of her captor, but, I take it, it was you who brought her to the coffle of Ephialtes."
I nodded. I had, of course, warned Phoebe to silence, with respect to whose captive she was, as my business in the north, at least at that time, had been secret.
"Her docility on the chain, its beauty on her, her eagerness to obey, and such, suggested that it might have been you, or someone like you," she said.
"And I thought it might have been you," she said, "from little things she would say, or knowing looks, or responses to our questions, or shy droppings of her gaze. In such ways can a woman speak, even when she is pretending not to. I think she was shyly eager to tell us all about you."
I nodded again. I was not unfamiliar with the small talk, the tiny riddles, the hints, the delights of conversing slaves. I had little doubt that Phoebe, and without too much provocation, might have revealed more of me, and of our relationship, and past, and such, than I would have approved of. She was marvelously feminine. It would not really do, of course, to whip her for such things, as she was free, and, even in the case of slaves, masters tend to be tolerant of such things. They make the girl so much more human.
"Was it you, too, who took Elene and Klio from the coffle?" she asked.
"Yes," I said.
"What did you do with them?" she asked.
"Did a slave ask permission to speak?" I asked.
"Forgive me, Master," she said.
"What is your name?" I asked.
"'Temione'," she said. She wore that name now, of course, as a mere slave name, put on her by the will of a master. Slaves, as they are animals, may be named anything.
Most slave names, of course, are not as long as 'Temione', with its four syllables, with its major accent on the second syllable. Most are short, and luscious, for example, 'Tula', 'Tuka', 'Lana', 'Lita', and so on. One would not be likely, for example, to give a she-kaiila a name such as 'Penelope'. Still, a name like 'Temione' was surely appropriate for so lovely a slave, its nature comporting well with her beauty. I thought it an excellent name for her, and I have no objection whatsoever to slaves bearing names which are attractive, sophisticated, gracious and beautiful. If anything the contrast between such a name and her status can be provocative. And, of course, one can put her to your feet as readily as a Tuka, and have her kiss and lick a whip as fearfully, desperately, deferentially and well as any Lita. Indeed, many masters find this gratifying, as it suggests that one now has in one's collar what was once a lady, but is now become only a needful, placatory slave hoping to please her master. Free women, it might be noted, in passing, however, usually object to such names for slaves, as it seems, in their view, that such lovely names should be reserved for those of their own status. For example, a free woman named, say, 'Ariadne' or 'Philomela', would not be pleased to encounter, or be served by, a slave with the same name. To be sure, in one sense the names are different, as the free woman has the name in her own right as a legal person and the slave has the name in virtue of her master's right, to put it on her if he pleases, like an ankle ring or collar.
My own preference in these matters is to favor, on the whole, like most Goreans, simpler, shorter names for slaves, names which, like the collar, help to remind them that they are slaves. Such names seem more appropriate for them, and, interestingly, the slaves themselves often favor such names. They think them suitable, and respond well to them. Such names seem to them identificatory, and leave them in no doubt as to their condition and status. It seems to them then fitting that one who bears such a name should be a slave, should serve, should kneel, should fear the whip, and should be such, expectedly, as to squirm and thrash in the master's chains, and lift their bodies, and plead for a continuation of his attentions.
What more could one expect of a Dina or Lita?
Do not blame them. They are helpless. Slave fires, you see, have been lit in their bellies. They now belong to men. Free women, I suppose, cannot even understand these things, how a slave chained at her master's slave ring can whimper in need, how a slave, tears in her eyes, can kneel before a man, and tenderly lick and kiss his feet, soliciting his attention, even the stroke of his whip if it should please him.
But perhaps the free woman can understand these things. Is it possible? Perhaps she does understand them. Perhaps that accounts for her hostility toward, her envy of, her hatred for, the female slave.
Does she, too, I wonder, in her heart long for a collar?
"I sold them," I said.
She looked at me.
"You may speak," I said.
"Both of them?" she asked.
"Yes," I said. I had sold them one morning, in the siege trenches. They had given me the cover I had needed to get to the walls of Ar's Station.
"Tell me of Ephialtes, Liadne, the coffle, and such," I said. I remembered the six debtor sluts I had redeemed at the Inn of the Crooked Tarn, the Lady Amina, of Venna; the Lady Elene, of Tyros; and the Ladies Klio, Rimice, Liomache, and Temione, all of Cos.
"Ephialtes is well," she said, "and seems much taken with Liadne, as she with him. Two days after the fall of Ar's Station a mercenary, who had apparently seen much action, passed near the wagon of Ephialtes. Liomache, seeing him, startled, terrified, tried to hide amongst us but he, quick, and observant, had seen her! He rushed over to us. She could not escape, of course, as she was nude and helpless on the chain. Such niceties constrained us well, no differently than if we had been slaves. She cried out in misery. He pulled her up and shook her like a doll! 'Liomache!' he cried. 'It is you!' 'No!' she wept. 'I know you,' he said. 'I would know you anywhere. You are one of those sluts who lives off men, who runs up bills and then inveigles fools into satisfying them. I remember however that when I first met you you had been somewhat less successful than usual, and were being held for redemption at the inn. How piteously you misrepresented your case, and begged me, a lady so in distress and a compatriot of Cos, to rescue you from your predicament!' 'No! No!' she said. 'It is not I!' 'You well made me your fool and dupe!' he snarled. 'I paid your bill for three silver tarns, a fortune to me at the time, and put in travel money, too, that you might return to Cos!' 'It is not I!' she said. 'And for this I received not so much as a kiss, you claiming this would demean our relationship, by putting it on a "physical" basis.' 'It was not I!' she wept. 'Well do I remember you in the fee cart moving rapidly away, laughing, carrying my purse with you, waving the redemption papers, signed for freedom!' 'It was not I!' she cried.
"Then he cuffed her. We gasped, for he had done so as if she might have been a slave. This took the fight out of her. He then thrust her back, and looked at her. 'But,' said he, 'it seems that someone was not such a fool as I, for here you are, on a chain, in a warriors' camp.' She could only look at him then, tears in her eyes. She knew that she had lost. 'Oh,' cried he, 'how many times I have dreamed of having you in my power, of having you naked, in a collar!' He turned her brutally about, from side to side, examining her. 'Excellent!' he cried. 'You are not yet branded!' She sank to her knees before him, her head in her hands, weeping. 'Keeper!' cried he. 'Keeper!' Ephialtes, who had been called forth by the commotion, was present. 'She is for sale, or my sword will have it so!' cried the mercenary. In short, she was soon sold, for an enormous price, two gold pieces. She was startled that he wanted her so much. To be sure, the gold was doubtless that of Ar's Station."
"So that was the fate of Liomache?" I said.
"I saw her the next day. She was naked, in his collar, and branded. Indeed, she told me, proudly, that he had branded her with his own hand. It was a beautiful brand, and had been well done. She was also in a yoke. She seemed not discontent."
"Did you see her again?" I asked.
"No," she said, "though she is perhaps somewhere in this very camp."
"What of you?" I asked.
"The keeper of a paga enclosure, a man called Philebus, saw me the next day. It was not possible, of course, for us to conceal ourselves. Only too obviously we would come easily to the attention of even idle passers-by. He expressed interest. I was displayed, and said the 'Buy me, Master.' So simply was it done."
"You seem more beautiful than I remembered you," I said.
"My master tells me that I have grown much in beauty," she said. "I do not know if it is true or not."
"It is," I said.
"Thank you, Master," she said.
"When you left the coffle, then," I said, "it contained only Amina, Rimice and Phoebe."
"Yes," she said.
"I wonder if the coffle is still in the camp," I said.
"I would suppose so," she said. "But I do not know."
"Do you know anything more of them?" I asked.
She laughed. "Phoebe wants explicitly to be a slave," she said. "She scorns to hide her feelings and longs for the legalities which would publicly proclaim her natural condition. I do not think Amina has ever forgotten your kiss, that of a master, when she was helpless at the Crooked Tarn, chained to the outside wall, the storm raging. Rimice, the curvaceous little slut, is already more than half a slave, as you know. All, I think it is fair to say, are itching for the touch of masters."
"'Itching'," I asked, amused.
"A slave's expression," she smiled.
"And you?" I asked. "Are you 'itching' for the touch of a master?"
She leaned forward, her eyes moist, beggingly. "I am already a slave," she whispered. "I do not 'itch' for the touch of a master. Rather I scream and beg for it!"
"They may have all been sold by now."
"Yes, Master," she said.
"They were all choice items," I said.
"Yes, Master," she said.
"You know nothing more of them?" I asked.
"No, Master," she said. "But I suppose that they, in one way or another, are still with the camp."
This seemed to me possible, but it need not be so. When women are sold they may be taken here and there, transported hither and yon, carried about, anywhere, as the articles of property they are.
"Lean back," I said.
She leaned back, shuddering with need, tears in her eyes, commanded.
I glanced about the paga enclosure of Philebus. The area, circular, of leveled, beaten earth, was about forty yards in diameter. Its fencing was little more than symbolic, a matter of light railings, no more than waist high, set on tripods. This barrier, such as it is, is dismantled and re-erected, over and over, as the camp moves. There are some tiny, alcovelike tents within the enclosure, mostly just within the perimeter. There were several tiny fires, here and there, within the enclosure. Small fires are usually used in such enclosures, as in camps generally, as they may be quickly extinguished. The girls, slaves, within the enclosure, were not belled. Thus, in the case of an alarm, the entire camp could, at a command, be plunged into darkness and silence, vanishing, so to speak, in the night. Such precautions serve primarily to defend against attacks of tarnsmen. There are often explicit camp rules pertaining to the sizes of fires, as there are for many other things, such as the general ordering of the camp, its defenses, its streets and layout, the location of its facilities, such as infirmaries, commissaries, and smithies, the maintenance of security and watches within units, the types of tents permitted, their acceptable occupancy, their spacing and drainage, and provisions for sanitation. The observance of these rules, or ordinances, is usually supervised by, and enforced by, camp marshals. To be sure, this camp was largely one of mercenaries, and, as such, was lax in many of these particulars. It is difficult to impose order and discipline on mercenaries. Too, these men were flushed with victory, after the fall of Ar's Station, to the east. I noted a fellow relieving himself a few yards away, near the railing of the enclosure. In a camp of Ar an infraction of that sort might have earned a fine, or a scourging. Overhead, briefly, against one of the moons, I saw a tarnsman descending toward the camp. As he was alone, he was probably a courier. The patrols are usually composed of two or more tarnsmen. In this way, they will usually prove superior to isolated interlopers and, if need be, one may be dispatched to report or summon aid, while the other, or others, may attend to other duties, perhaps those of a pursuit or search, or maintaining a distant contact with the enemy.
"Paga!" called a fellow, sitting cross-legged, a few yards away. A girl hurried to him, with her vessel of drink.
Survivors of Ar's Station, which had been Ar's major bastion on the Vosk, including many women and children, had been rescued from the piers of the burning port by a fleet of unidentified ships, ships with which the Cosians in the north had not had the forces to deal. Although the identities of these ships were putatively unknown it was an open secret on the river that they were those of Port Cos, supplemented with several apparently furnished by the Vosk League itself. The matter had something to do with a topaz, and a pledge, something going back apparently to affairs which had taken place earlier on the river. At any rate, as it had turned out, the Ubarate of Cos had decided, wisely, in my opinion, to take no official notice of this action. This was presumably out of a respect for the power of Port Cos, and her desire to influence, if not control, through Port Cos, the politics of the Vosk league, and, through it, the river, and the Vosk basin, as a whole. I had been among these survivors. We had been carried to the safety of Port Cos.
There were perhaps a hundred men, here and there, within the enclosure, and some fifteen or twenty girls. The girls filled their vessels, which, like the hydria, or water vessel, are high-handled, for dipping, in a large kettle hung simmering over a fire near the entrance to the enclosure. Warm paga makes one drunk quicker, it is thought. I usually do not like my paga heated, except sometimes on cold nights. This night was not cold, but warm. It was now late spring. Some Cosians tend to be fond of hot paga. So, too, are some of the folks in the more northern islands, interestingly, such as Hunjer and Skjern, west of Torvaldsland. This probably represents an influence from Cos, transmitted through merchants and seamen. In the north generally, mead, a drink made with fermented honey, and water, and often spices and such, tends to be favored over paga.
"Master," whispered the girl before me.
I looked at her. She had not asked permission to speak. She quickly put down her head. "Forgive me, Master," she said. She opened her knees more, frightened, placatingly.
Most of the girls within the enclosure were here and there, serving, or kneeling, waiting to be summoned. Two, naked, were in tiny cages, cramped, hardly able to move. I gathered they were new to their slavery. I did not know how long they had been kept so. It had perhaps been a day or so. Both, putting their fingers through the close-set bars, which made it hard even to see them, would beg a fellow, I suppose, Philebus, their master, and the owner of the enclosure, as he passed by, to be released, that they might now serve men. It was difficult to tell if he had heard them or not, but once, at least, he must have for he, with his staff, struck the bars of a cage, strictly ordering its fair occupant to silence. "Yes, Master!" she wept, drawing back, as she could, within it. There were some other girls, too, who were not serving, some five or six, or so. They, in their snatches of slave silk, sat, knelt or lay about a stout post which had been driven deeply into the ground to one side, to which post they were chained by the neck. As more men entered the enclosure women were released from the post to assist in the serving. Also, if one appealed to a fellow, she might be released at his request, to serve him particularly and, if he wished, privately. Temione had been free of the post when I had arrived. I had, thinking I had recognized her, and, as it proved, I had, summoned her to my place.
I regarded the former proud free woman. She did not dare to raise her eyes. She did, however, trembling before me, make a tiny, piteous, begging sound of need.
"Did you say something?" I asked.
"Forgive me, Master," she said.
"Did you want something?" I asked.
She lifted her eyes, frightened, pleadingly. "I desire to serve you," she whispered.
Interesting, I thought, the transformations which a collar can make in a woman.
"Please, Master," she begged.
"Very well," I said, "you may serve me."
"Thank you, Master!" she breathed, joyously.
"Bring me paga," I said.
"Oh!" she wept, in misery. "Oh, oh."
I looked at her.
"Yes, Master," she wept, and rose quickly to her feet, hurrying toward the paga vat.
I watched her withdraw. How lovely she was! How well she moved! What a slave she had become!
The enclosure of Philebus was, in effect, a transportable paga tavern, one so arranged that it might accompany a moving camp.
I watched her waiting, to dip her paga vessel. How attractive, how desirable, how exciting she was! Women look well in the service of men.
Another paga slave hurried by, summoned, a blonde.
I have mentioned that the girls were not belled, and that this had to do with, presumably, the possible need for darkness and silence, in the event of an attack on the camp. The evening was warm. The moons were out. It would be a good night, I thought, idly, for an attack on a camp. Yet I did not expect one would occur. One should occur, but, I was confident, it would not. If it were to happen, surely it should have taken place long before now. There was even poor security in the camp. I and the fellow I had agreed to accompany, a young man, of the warriors, formerly of Ar's Station, a young man named Marcus, or, more fully, Marcus Marcellus, of the Marcelliani, had had no difficulty, in the guise of minor merchants, in entering the camp. In effect, I suppose, we were spies. Young Marcus, with the consent of his commander, Aemilianus, formerly of Ar's Station, now amongst the refugees at Port Cos, had been given permission to track the movements of the Cosians in the north, and to convey this information to the major land forces of Ar, which were currently located at Holmesk, to the south. So deeply ran former loyalties, in spite of the failure of Ar, seemingly inexplicably, to relieve Ar's Station. Young Marcus was, in my opinion, a fine, though moody, soldier. It had been he who had managed to convey Ar's Station's half of the topaz to Port Cos, which action had resulted in the redemption of the pledge of the topaz, bringing the forces of Port Cos, and apparently, in the process, ships of the Vosk League, as well, to Ar's Station, to evacuate the piers, to rescue survivors, primarily the remnants of her citizenry. If young Marcus, of whom I have grown fond, has a weakness, I would think it would be his moodiness, and his incredible hatred for Cosians, and all things Cosian. This hatred, which seems almost pathological, is doubtless the consequence of his experiences in war, and particularly during the siege of Ar's Station. It is hard to see all, or much, of what one has loved destroyed, and not feel illy disposed toward the perpetrators of this destruction. To be sure, had the forces of Ar landed in Telnus, I do not think the results would have been much different. I myself, like many warriors, terribly enough, I suppose, tend to see war more as the most perilous and exhilarating of sports, a game of warriors and Ubars. Too, I am not unfond of loot, particularly when it is beautiful and well curved.
Temione had now reached the vat, and was carefully dipping her narrow, high-handled serving vessel in the simmering paga. She had seemed to be crying, but perhaps it was merely the heat from the paga which she had, with the back of her hand, wiped from her eyes. Yet, I thought, too, I had seen her clench her fist, driving the nails into the palm of her hand, and her hips move, inadvertently, helplessly, in frustration. It is hard for a woman to help such things when she is scantily clad and in a collar, when she is a slave.
To be sure, the Cosians had moved in an open, leisurely way, and even along the southern bank of the Vosk, rather than to the north. This seemed madness, for surely the Cosians could be pinned against the river and slaughtered. They would now be, as they had not been at Ar's Station, heavily outnumbered. Perhaps Policrates, the camp commander, was unwise in the ways of war. But rather it seemed he might know he had little or nothing to fear. From what I had heard of him I was reasonably confident he knew what he was doing. Indeed, perhaps he was flaunting an immunity of some sort, political or treasonous. To be sure, the southern bank of the Vosk, because of the former extent of Ar's Margin of Desolation, long ago abandoned, is much less populous than the northern bank. Also, of course, the Cosians were presumably moving toward either Brundisium, which had been the port of entry of their invasion fleet, or south to join Myron in the vicinity of Torcadino, where Dietrich of Tarnburg, the mercenary, lay at bay, like a larl in his den. There had been no attempt, at least as yet, for the fine forces of Ar, in all their power, to cut them off, to pin them against the Vosk, or meet them in battle. There were several thousand Cosians, and mercenaries, in our camp, but the forces of Ar, by repute, were in the neighborhood of some fifty thousand men, an incredible force for a Gorean community to maintain in the field. The common Gorean army is usually no more than four or five thousand men. Indeed, mercenary bands often number no more than one or two hundred. Dietrich of Tarnburg, in commanding something like five thousand men, is unusual. He is one of the most feared and redoubtable of the mercenary commanders on Gor. Surely his contracts are among the most expensive. But in spite of the invitation seemingly flagrantly offered by Policrates, the camp commander, general of the Cosian forces in the north, said once to have been a pirate, rescued from the galleys by Myron, Polemarkos of Temos, a cousin to Lurius of Jad, Ubar of Cos, the forces of Ar had not struck, even to restrict or harass foragers. Militarily it seemed Ar's behavior was inexplicable. Perhaps, incredibly enough, they simply did not know the disposition, strength and location of the Cosian forces.
Temione had now filled her paga vessel. She picked up a goblet from a rack near the vat. The shelving on the rack was of narrow wooden rods. The goblets are kept upside down on the rods. In this way, washed, they can drain, and dry. This also affords them some protection from dust. I watched her carefully wipe the goblet. Woe to the slave who would dare to serve paga or wine in a dirty goblet!
I listened to the Vosk in the background, the murmur of conversation within the enclosure, the sounds of the camp.
The slave turned toward me.
Seeing my eyes on her, she put down her head. She approached, humbly, frightened, seemingly terribly conscious of my eyes on her.
How beautiful she was.
"Master," she said, kneeling before me. She poured me paga, filling the goblet she had taken from the rack, from the vessel she carried.
"Paga!" called a fellow nearby, to a redhead, who swiftly hurried to kneel before him, her head to the dirt.
She had not dallied.
Any slave in such a place, of course, may be subjected to the discipline of a customer. It is little wonder that the girls, so subject to penalties, which may be promptly and severely administered, are concerned to be pleasing, and fully.
"Master?" asked Temione.
I took the paga.
"Will there be anything else?" she asked, timidly.
I sipped the paga. It was hot.
"Your ankle is not belled," I said.
"None of us are belled here," she said.
Her response suggested to me that she was probably unaware of the rationale for this.
"Your ankle would look well, belled," I said.
"I have never been belled," she said, shyly.
"Belling a girl makes it easier to find her in the dark," I said.
"Doubtless, Master," she smiled.
It is common, though not universal, to bell paga slaves. The jangle of slave bells on them, as they move, is quite stimulating. In the oasis towns of the Tahari, and in the vicinity of the great desert, sometimes even free women are belled, and wear ankle chains, as well, that the length of their stride may be measured and made beautiful, and perhaps, too, to remind them, even though they be free, that they are but women. Who knows when the slaver's noose or net may fall upon one of them? Almost all female slaves, at one time or another, or at certain times, are belled. This is probably because bells are so beautiful on them, and so brilliantly and insightfully symbolic of their status as domestic animals, that they are properties, that they are in bondage. Most girls walk proudly in their bells, their shoulders back and their heads up, gloriously proud of their fulfilled femininity. Sometimes they fear, though, to wear bells out-of-doors, for they may then be subjected to the attacks of outraged, frustrated free women, attacks which they, as slaves, must endure. Indoors, however, they are pleased to wear their bells, and often beg to do so. And the little she-sleen, I assure you, know well how to utilize those pleasant, remarkable little devices, so subtly and apparently innocently, to drive masters half mad with passion. When a girl fears she may be out of favor with her master, she sometimes kneels before him and begs, "Bell me." In this simple request, asking to be belled, the slave puts herself in her place, at the feet of her master, reconfirms to him her humble and loving acceptance of her bondage, reassures him of her desire to please, and gives a promise of delights so exciting and intimate that they can be known only amongst masters and their slaves. Sometimes, too, when a slave feels she may not have been sufficiently pleasing she will strip herself and approach the master on all fours, her head down, a whip in her teeth. It is her way of making clear to him her desire to please. It is usually much better, incidentally, for the slave to do this of her own accord than to be ordered to so approach the master. If it is he who has issued the order she may well be being summoned for punishment, or at least a severe upbraiding. If she approaches on her own accord she may well find forgiveness or, perhaps, a disciplining that is little more than symbolic. If she so approaches, however, on his order, as I have suggested, she may well fear. He will do what he wants with her. She is his, totally. The whip on Gor, incidentally, though it is much in evidence, is seldom used. That it will be used, and promptly, if the occasion arises, is perhaps, paradoxically perhaps, why it seldom needs to be used. Most girls avoid feeling it, at least generally, by striving to be excellent slaves. To be sure, every female slave will have felt it, upon occasion. It is then common that they try to make certain that these occasions are quite infrequent. To be sure, some women do not fully understand they are owned, until they are whipped.
The gate to the paga enclosure suddenly flew open and cracked back against the railing.
"It is Borton!" cried a fellow, delightedly.
"Let the festivities begin!" called the newcomer, a large, broad-shouldered, heavily bearded fellow, flinging a heavy purse on its strings into the stomach of he whom I took to be Philebus, the taverner, who clutched at it, but failed to secure it, as it was jerked back on the strings. Philebus cried out in good-humored dismay. And then the fellow took the purse and thrust it down, firmly, into his hands.
"I have been long aflight and have now reported to my captain," said he. "I am weary of the saddle, and would have drink, and something softer to ride!"
There was laughter, and cheering. Men crowded about him. The chained girls shrank down, frightened, making themselves as small and inconspicuous as they could, close to the post.
This fellow, I gathered, was well known. Unfortunately I, too, had once made his acquaintance.
Temione gasped. She, too, had recognized him.
He wore the uniform and insignia of the tarnsmen of Artemidorus, the well-known Cosian mercenary.
"Let feasting begin!" he called, expansively. There was more cheering. "It is Borton!" called a man. "Borton has returned!" cried another. "Borton!" said another. Others, taking note of the commotion, outside the railings, hastened now to enter. Philebus, as I took him to be, the taverner, and Temione's master, was calling out orders to a couple of fellows, his lieutenants, or assistants, I gathered, having to do with food and drink. One of them closed the gate of the enclosure. Some other fellows were climbing over the railing.
"Are you not in my spot?" inquired the newcomer heartily, of a poor fellow sitting rather near the center of the enclosure, usually regarded as a preferred position for prompt service, for observing the dancing of slaves, and such. Swiftly, on all fours, the fellow beat a hasty retreat.
There was again much laughter.
The fellow called Borton hurled his helmet down in the place, marking it for himself. Few, I gathered, would be eager to displace this token of his claimancy.
I put down the cup of paga, and tested the draw, an inch or so, of my blade.
"No, fellow," whispered a man near me. "That is Borton."
"I had gathered that," I said.
"He is one of the best swords in the camp," he warned me.
I returned my blade to the sheath, almost entirely.
"Master," whispered Temione to me, breathless, her eyes shining. "It is he."
"Yes," I said. I did not then understand her emotion. "It is he."
The newcomer strode to the post. The girls there, not yet serving, clung about it, in their neck chains, as though it might provide them some security, some safety or refuge. He pulled one and another of them about, examining them. He turned one over with his foot and had her lie before him, her back arched. Temione gasped, startled at the boldness with which the women were handled.
"You, too, are a slave," I reminded her, "and you, too, could be so treated."
"I know," she said.
"Bring me the girls in the cages!" said the fellow, settling down in the spot he had marked for himself.
The two girls, in a moment, wincing, were brought forth by Philebus and, one of his hands in the hair of each, drawn hastily on all fours to his place. They were naked save for their collars. He thrust one to his side on the dirt, and threw the other, a blonde, on her back over his knees as he sat, cross-legged. "Do not interfere," he warned her.
"Borton!" called a fellow cheerfully, from well across the enclosure, "has it been necessary to redeem you from any inns lately!"
"I think I paid something in that fee!" called another, a fellow also in the uniform of the tarnsmen of Artemidorus.
"I paid you back, and fivefold, you sleen!" roared Borton, laughing.
The girl across his knees, on her back, suddenly cried out, startled. "Do not interfere," he warned her, again. The other girl, the one near him, in the dirt, made as though to edge away. "No, you do not!" he said. "Stay here." She came then even closer to him, on her side, frightened and excited, and, lifting her head, timidly kissed him on the knee. The girl across his knees cried out again. Her eyes were open, looking up, wildly, at the moons. Her feet moved. Her hands opened and closed. She moaned.
"Some weeks ago," said the man near me, "before the fall of Ar's Station, Borton, carrying dispatches for Artemidorus, stayed at an inn on the Vosk Road. There, while he refreshed himself with a morning bath, some rascal stole his clothing, his money, his tarn, the dispatches, everything."
"Interesting," I said.
The fellow chuckled. "He was kept at the inn, chained naked to a ring in the courtyard, until his bills, which I gather were considerable, had been satisfied."
"Who redeemed him?" I asked.
"His fellows," said the man. "Other tarnsmen in the command of Artemidorus, some days later, stopped at the inn. They were much amused to find him in such straits. They kept him as he was for two or three days, teasing him, and making him suffer much, raising his anxieties that they might not be able to scrape together his redemption fee, or that they had done so, but had then lost it in gambling, and such things, and also discussing, as you might well imagine, the honor of the troop, and whether or not one who was so foolish as to have gotten himself into such a predicament should be redeemed at all. He roared and ranted much, you may not doubt, but what could he do, naked in a courtyard, in chains! In the end, of course, after obtaining promises of immunity from him for their jokes, they redeemed him, and he was released."
"Surely there must have been repercussions concerning the dispatches and such," I ventured.
"They were not important, it seems, but routine. It is said they were not even coded. Too, his bravery, his skill with tarns and the sword, and such, were valued. To be sure, he was fined and reduced in rank. His monetary fortunes, I gather, if not his dignity, have been apparently recouped, presumably from loot distributed to the command of Artemidorus, acquired in the fall of Ar's Station."
"You must flee, Master," whispered Temione to me.
"I have not yet finished my paga," I said. To be sure, I had not expected to see this burly fellow again. I, and Ephialtes, had both had run-ins with him. In a camp of thousands, of course, in which there might be two dozen paga enclosures, I had had, it seems, to pick just this one. To be sure, it was not as absurd as it might seem for the enclosure of Philebus was said to be one of the best in the camp. I had inquired, naturally. At any rate, there was little to fear. The fellow had not seen me, and might not remember me. Besides, perhaps he would see the humor of the whole affair, and we might have a friendly drink together. But I moved the sword just a bit more from the sheath. A quarter of an inch, where hundredths of an Ihn are involved, can be a considerable advantage. In many situations, warriors discard the scabbard altogether. That is one reason it is often carried on a loop over the left shoulder, that it may be immediately, lest it prove an encumbrance, or present an encircling strap an enemy may seize, the blade drawn, discarded.
"Roast tarsk!" announced Philebus, proudly, approaching the burly fellow, gesturing to one of his helpers, who was accompanying him, bearing a tray of steaming meat. The burly fellow seized a joint of hot, dripping tarsk from the platter and bit into it. "Excellent!" beamed Philebus, then indicating to his assistant that he should carry the tray about, to serve others, as well. The other helper, too, was distributing food, sausages and bread. One of the serving slaves, close behind Philebus, knelt before the burly fellow, putting her head to the dirt in obeisance, and then put a goblet of paga before him. When she straightened up Philebus, behind her, tore back the sides of her silk. Philebus was doubtless quite pleased with her, to so display her. He had probably personally used her many times. She was perhaps one of his best. She moved before the burly fellow, on her knees, excitingly, brazenly, lifting her hands to her body, as though the better to call attention to her charms, as a slave.
"The forward hussy!" exclaimed Temione, angrily. "I hate her!"
Temione's soft outburst, so indignant, interested me. "Do you wish it was you, instead, who were so displaying yourself before him?" I asked.
"Cheers for Borton!" called a fellow.
There were cheers. "Thank you," I said. I took a piece of tarsk from the platter. If the fellow was so good as to treat us, it would surely have been boorish to refuse his hospitality.
"Serve him!" said Borton, laughing, chewing on the joint of tarsk, to the beauty kneeling before him, indicating a fellow he knew across the circle.
The beauty looked at him, startled, puzzled, as though for an instant she could not believe what she had heard, that she had been dismissed. I thought that anger then, for just an instant, suffused her countenance but then, suddenly terrified, as though she might suddenly have realized the unacceptability of her reaction, she hurried over to the fellow Borton had indicated, to fling herself to her stomach before him, desperately and zealously licking and kissing at his feet. "You will be whipped tonight," Philebus assured her. "Yes, Master," she moaned. She had been slow to obey. The female slave is to obey instantly and unquestioningly.
"Thank you," I said to the other helper, taking a sausage from the plate.
"It serves her right!" whispered Temione.
"The lash?" I asked.
"Of course," she said. "She was slow."
The girl on her back, she stretched over the knees of the burly fellow, cried out, hot juice having fallen on her body from the joint of tarsk.
"Paga for all, from our host, the noble Borton!" called Philebus. Girls rushed about, serving. I put out my hand, keeping Temione in her place. "Master?" she asked. "You are serving me," I said.
Philebus unlocked even the holding collars on the neck chains of the girls at the post, that they, too, might participate in the serving. Swiftly, as soon as they were freed, they leaped up to do so. He glanced once at Temione, who moved, frightened, but he did not signal to her to rise. Clearly she was with me.
I took a piece of bread from the platter of the second assistant, as he came by again. "Thank you," I said. Had Marcus been with me he, too, might have obtained a free supper.
The burly fellow had now had what he wanted from the joint of tarsk and had thrown its residue to friend a few feet away. He wiped his hands on the body of the slave across his knees.
"What a brute he is!" exclaimed Temione, softly.
"But a skillful one, it seems," I said.
The girl across the burly fellow's knees squirmed and made small sounds. She could now no longer control her body.
"What a crude, brutish fellow he is!" said Temione, angrily.
"Are you angry," I asked, "that it is not you who are in his power?"
"A toast to Borton the noble, Borton the generous!" called a fellow, rising unsteadily.
"A toast, a toast!" called others.
I joined, too, in this toast. It pleased me to do so.
I saw that Temione could not take her eyes off the bearded fellow. Long ago, Temione, like Amina, Klio, Elene, Rimice and Liomache, had been one of those women who makes her living off men. She, like the others, however, when I had met her, probably due to the war, the scarcity of genteel travelers, the crowds of impoverished refugees, the high prices, and so on, had fallen on hard times. Their bills unpaid, and their evasions not satisfying the inn's attendants, they had been taken, ropes on their necks, before the keeper. He had put them on a bench in a wheeled cage, honorably clothed, near the checkout desk, where they might importune men to pay their bills. This proving unavailing he had had them stripped and searched by powerful free women and then returned to the cage, on the bench much as before, though now unclothed and absolutely coinless. Later he had had them taken from the cage and ankle-tied, on their knees, near the checkout desk, their hands freed that they might the more piteously and meaningfully supplicate guests of the inn. At the seventeenth Ahn the keeper, perhaps tiring of their presence near his desk, and despairing of them being immediately redeemed, had had them cleared away. For the first time in their lives they had then worn chains. In particular, I had met the former Lady Temione, of Cos, in the Paga Room, where, naked, and shackled, she had served as my waitress. It had been in the Paga Room, too, that she had first made the acquaintance of the fellow I now knew as Borton. He had cruelly scorned her, as she was free, and refused even, and in rage, to be served by her. "Bring me a woman!" he had cried. "Bring me a woman!" This had been a great blow to her vanity, her self-esteem and pride, as she, like most free women, had regarded herself as some sort of marvelous prize. Then, in effect, she had found herself, by this magnificent brute of a male, a warrior, doubtless a superb and practiced judge of female flesh, for such commonly frequent the markets, rejected as a woman, flung aside with contempt. She had even watched him, later in the Paga Room, with fascination and horror, and, I think, with jealous envy, use a slave, skillfully, lengthily, exultantly and with authority. There had been little doubt about the slave's superiority to her. That night, after I had left the Paga Room, I had arranged for the Lady Temione to be brought to the space I had rented. It seemed to me that she might be able to use some reassurance as to her femininity, even if she was a mere free woman. Also I had noted that she had been much aroused by the brute's uncompromising mastery of the slave. Why should I not capitalize on that? Too, I had wanted her, and she was cheap. She would serve to relieve my tensions, if nothing else. It had pleased me to put her through some paces, mostly suitable for a free woman, though, to be sure, one who is a debtor slut. As luck would have it, given our late arrivals at the inn, Borton and I had been rented nearby spaces. In this way, the Lady Temione had come once more to his attention. He had been somewhat rude to her, as I recall, referring to her as fat, stupid, a she-tarsk and not worth sleen feed. To be sure she was then only a free woman. He had also requested me, as I recalled, to remove her from his presence. "Get that thing out of my sight," was the way he put it, I think. I thought him somewhat rude. Fortunately the keeper's man arrived in time to prevent an altercation. After the keeper's man had shouldered the Lady Temione and carried her off, head to the back, as a slave is commonly carried, presumably to a chaining ring or kennel for the night, I had not seen her until she, with others, blindfolded, were kneeling before me, naked and in coffle, in the camp of Cos, not far from Ar's Station. When women are not redeemed from an inn, or such, they are commonly disposed of to slavers. When one pays the redemption fees, of course, the woman is yours, to do with as you please. For example, you may free her, or, if you wish, sell her, or make her your slave. Before the arrival of the keeper's man the burly fellow had much scorned and abused Lady Temione, intimidating and terrifying her. He had even had her, though she was free, use the word "Master" to him. This had startled myself and Ephialtes, who had been present, and perhaps the woman, as well. It was apparently the first time she had ever used the word "Master" to a man. I looked now at Temione, the slave. I suddenly realized she had never forgotten the burly fellow. She was looking at him. Yes, doubtless, he was the first man to whom she had ever addressed the word "Master."
The burly fellow now permitted the trembling, gasping woman across his knees some surcease of his attentions. He quaffed paga. She then arched her body, lifting it up to him, piteously, pleadingly, moaning. "Lie still," he said to her. "Yes, Master," she wept. He brushed back the other woman, too, who lay beside him, as she tried, with her lips and tongue, to call herself to his attention, to importune him. I did not think either of those women would have to be kept again in the tiny cages, unless perhaps for punishment or to amuse the master. They were both now, obviously, ready to serve men.
"Let slaves present themselves!" called the fellow, lifting his vessel of paga.
"The parade of slaves!" called a man. "The parade of slaves!"
"Yes, yes!" called others.
The "parade of slaves," as it is sometimes called, commonly takes place in venues such as paga taverns and brothels. It may also, of course, take place elsewhere, for example, in the houses of rich men, at dinners, banquets, and so on. It is a presentation of beauty and attractions. The slaves present themselves, usually one by one, often to the accompaniment of music, for the inspection of the guests. It is in some ways not unlike certain fashion shows of Earth, except, of course, that its object is generally not to merchandise slavewear, though it can have such a purpose, but to present the goods of the house, so to speak, for perusal. Whereas in the common fashion show of Earth the woman considers the clothing and the man considers the women, and the women serve the ulterior purposes of the designer, in the parade of slaves there are generally no free women present, and the men, openly, lustily, consider the beauty of the women, as it was meant by nature to be considered, as that of slaves, and the women serve the ulterior purposes not of a designer, but of a master, who will, in the event of their selection, collect their rent fees, or such. To be sure, the women serve themselves, too, but not in the trivial sense of obtaining money, but in the more profound senses, psychological and biological, of expressing and fulfilling their nature. To be sure, the women must fear, for they may be taken out of themselves, so to speak, and forced helplessly into ecstasy.
I heard a swirl from a flute, the simple flute, not the double flute, and the quick pounding of a small tabor, these instruments now in the hands of Philebus' assistants. The slaves about the enclosure looked wildly at one another, frightened, yet terribly excited. Then, as startling as a gunshot, there was the sudden crack of a whip in the hand of Philebus. The girls cried out in fear, in their collars and scanty silks. Even Temione, near me, recoiled. It was a sound not unfamiliar to female slaves.
"Dora!" called Philebus.
Immediately one of the girls, a sensuous, widely hipped, sweetly breasted slave, half walking, half dancing, to the music, swirled amongst the guests and then presented herself particularly before the burly fellow, moving before him, back and forth, facing him, turning about.
"Lana!" called Philebus, and Dora swirled away, twirling, from the center of the presentation area, to complete her circuit of the area, doing her best to evade the caresses and clutches of men, and then knelt, in the background.
The girl whom the burly fellow had consigned to the pleasure of his friend leaped to her feet and began her own circuit of the area, in much the same manner as her predecessor, Dora. She was an exciting, leggy wench, and the lightness of her silk, its brevity, and the partedness of her bodice, thanks to Philebus, left few of her charms to the imagination. She was the sort of woman who might initially be tempted to give a master a bit of difficulty, but I did not think that this difficulty would be such that it could not be easily remedied, and prevented from reoccurring, with a few blows of the whip. She looked well in her collar, and I had little doubt that, under proper discipline, she would be grateful, loving and hot in it.
"Aiii!" cried a fellow, saluting the beauty of the parading slave.
She postured seductively before him.
"How beautiful she is," said Temione.
"Aiii!" cried out another fellow.
But the burly fellow, with a laugh, and a movement of his goblet, dismissed her.
This time she hurried away, immediately, moving beautifully, amongst the men, in the circuit of slave display. She had not dallied an instant. She had been dismissed.
"Tula!" called Philebus, and another wench sprang to her feet.
Lana, her circuit completed, returned to the side of the fellow to whom the burly fellow had consigned her earlier. She was still his, by the will of another, until she would be released.
"Lina!" called Philebus. She was short-legged and plump, juicy, as it is said, with a marvelous love cradle. Such often make superb slaves. They commonly bring high prices in the markets.
"I am afraid," said Temione.
Lina blushed at the raucous commendations showered upon her. Then she, too, dismissed, swirled about, away from the center, and went to kneel in the back.
"Sucha!" called Philebus. She, too, was short, but very darkly complexioned. I suspected she might be a Tahari girl, or one from that region.
"Ina!" called Philebus. She was taller, and blond, perhaps from a village near Laura. Although she was blond, it was clear that slave fires had been ignited in her belly. I smiled. I did not doubt but what she, even though blond, would be as helpless now in the arms of a man as the most common of slaves.
"Susan!" called Philebus. Susan was a redhead.
The girl who had been across the burly fellow's knees had now been thrust to his right and she lay there in the dirt, watching the parade of slaves. She was breathless. Her eyes shone. The other girl, on the fellow's left, had risen to her hands and knees. She gasped. She seemed awestricken and excited. "Down" said the fellow to her. She then, and the other, curled close to him, one on each side, excitedly watching the self-presentations of the slaves. Each, from time to time, kissed at the burly fellow, as though to remind him that they, too, were about, and women, and ready.
"Jane!" called Philebus. Jane was a very shapely and curvaceous brunet. The names 'Susan' and 'Jane' are Earth-girl names, but this did not mean that these girls had to be Earth girls. Earth-girl names are commonly used on Gor as slave names. They may have been once from Earth, of course. However, even if that were the case, they were now naught but Gorean slave girls, properties, salable, tradable, and such, now only lascivious, uninhibited owned women, slaves. I mention that they may once have been from Earth because that is a real possibility, having to do with the slave trade. Ships of Kurii, as the evidence makes clear, regularly ply slave routes between Earth and Gor. That is why I mention that possibility.
"Jasmine, Feize!" called Philebus.
"I cannot present myself," wept Temione to me.
"Do you prefer the lash?" I asked.
"He scorns me, he holds me in contempt," she said. "He would laugh at me. He would ridicule and mock me! He threw me from him in disgust! He thinks of me as ugly, as fat, as stupid, as a she-sleen, as one who is not worth sleen feed, as one so ugly and disgusting that he would have me taken from his sight!"
"But now," I said, "you are a slave."
She looked at me, wildly.
"Temione!" called Philebus.
Instantly Temione, in a sensuous flash of beauty, was on her feet.
"Ah!" cried several of the men.
She was a slave, and totally!
She moved about, away and among the men, in her moment in the parade of slaves, on that dirt circuit among masters, Goreans, larls among men, uncrippled, unsoftened, untamed beasts, categorical, uncompromising owners of women, and she a woman, unutterably desirable and vulnerable, soft and beautiful, owned, such as they might have at their feet, among them!
"Aiii!" said a fellow.
But she had drawn back from him, as though fearfully, but yet in such a way that he was under no delusion that her wholeness, in his grasp, or in that of another, would yield untold pleasure.
I forced myself to look about.
The burly fellow had lowered his goblet.
Philebus himself seemed startled. I think he had not realized what he had owned, until then.
The kneeling girls in the back, too, watched, some rising up from their heels. They looked at Temione, and at one another. Some gasped. Some seemed startled, others stunned. It was as though they could not believe their eyes. They had not, until then, I gathered, no more than Philebus, nor I, suspected the depth and extent of the female, and slave, in Temione. Some of them tore open their silk, and squirmed on their knees, in the dirt, in need. Seeing how beautiful a woman could be, and how desirable, they, too, wanted so to writhe and move, and, in doing so, to bring themselves, too, to the attention of masters, that they might beg some assuagement for their needs of submission and love.
There was the sound of the flute and drum. There was the firelight, the men about, the enclosure, the Vosk in the background, the firelight and the slave.
"So beautiful," whispered a man.
"Gold pieces," said another man, appraising the luscious property slut.
"Yes, yes!" agreed another, excitedly.
She paused before me, in her circuit, her hands moving on her thighs, her shoulders and breasts moving.
I sipped paga. Then I dismissed her, with a small movement of my head.
She spun away.
Now she was approaching the burly fellow.
It was pleasant to observe her, the owned, collared, silked, barefoot beauty.
Then the slave stood before the burly fellow, her shoulders back, her head up, proud in her slavery, unabashedly exultant in it, her body seeming hardly to move, but yet revealing, and obedient to, as must be the body of a slave in the parade, the music.
"Ah!" said the burly fellow, his eyes shining.
She regarded him. Surely he must recognize her!
Then she moved, back and forth, before him. His hand was tight on the goblet. The girls in the back murmured. He did not dismiss Temione. He kept her before him.
Men looked at one another, grinning.
Temione moved before the fellow, here and there, in one direction or another, twirling about, walking, approaching, withdrawing, approaching. Still he did not dismiss her. Once, as she moved away from the fellow, our eyes met. She seemed startled, puzzled. It seemed she had expected he must surely recognize her! Doubtless she had been prepared to be again scorned, to be rebuffed, to be ordered from his sight, to be sent away, perhaps even struck, but he had not yet even released her from the prime display area, that before him, near the center of the circle. In another moment, as she again faced me, I could not help but take in, in a glance, together with her consternation and puzzlement, the excitingness of her shapely, bared legs, her exquisite ankles and feet, the marvelous lineaments of her hips, waist and breasts, well betrayed by the silk she wore, that mockery of a garment, suitable for a slave, the sweetness of her upper arms and forearms, the smallness of her hands and fingers, her shoulders, her throat, encircled by its collar, her delicate, sensitive, beautiful face, the total marvelousness of her! Perhaps it was understandable then, I thought, that he had not recognized, in this beautiful and exciting slave, the mere free woman he had earlier so scorned and abused. Perhaps few men would have, at least at first. And yet she was, in a sense, the same woman, only now fixed helplessly in bondage.
Then she was again before him.
No, he did not recognize her.
Then she stood boldly before him, as though challenging him to recognize her!
But he still did not recognize her!
Then boldly, suddenly, she tore back her silk before him. The girls in the background gasped. Men leaned forward. The hand of Philebus tightened on the whip he held. He half lifted it.
But the girl noted him not. Her eyes were on the burly fellow, and his on her, raptly, startled, stunned.
Then she put herself to the dirt before him in what, had she been a dancer, and on a different surface, might have been termed "floor movements," such things as turnings and twistings, rollings and crawlings, sometimes on her hands and knees, sometimes on her stomach; sometimes, too, she would be kneeling, sitting, or lying, or half sitting, half lying, or half kneeling, half lying; I saw her on her back and stomach, sometimes lifting her body; I noted, too, she was excellent on her side, one and the other, both facing him, and away, in her movements; I regarded her crawling, on her hands and knees, or on her stomach, sometimes lifting her body; sometimes she would look back over her shoulder, perhaps as though in fear or even, it seemed, sometimes, challenging him to recognize her; sometimes she would approach him, crawling, head down, sometimes head up, or turned demurely to the side; then she would be again sitting, or kneeling, or lying, extending her limbs, displaying them, drawing them back, flexing them; sometimes she recoiled or contracted, as though into herself, drawing attention to herself, to her smallness and vulnerability, her curves, as a helpless, compact, delicious love bundle; I saw, too, that she knew the Turian knee walk. Men cried out with pleasure. And in all this, of course, time was kept with the music.
I glanced to the burly fellow. His knuckles were white on goblet, his hand so clenched upon it.
"Is master pleased?" inquired Philebus.
"Yes! Yes!" cried the burly fellow.
"Yes!" cried others.
With his goblet the burly fellow indicated that the slave might rise.
She stood then before him. Though she scarcely moved, in her body yet was the music. I did not think Philebus would use the whip on her for having parted her silk, unbidden, or for having put herself to the dirt before Borton, his customer. Such delicious spontaneities, incidentally, are often encouraged in a slave by a private master. Bondage is a condition in which imagination and inventiveness in a slave are highly appropriate. Indeed some masters encourage them with the whip. In a public situation, however, as in a paga tavern, it is advisable that the girl be very careful, at least in her master's presence. She must not let it appear that she is, even for an instant, out of the master's complete control, and, of course, in the ultimate sense, this is entirely true. She is, in the end, his, and completely. If a girl, say, one new to slavery, does not know this, she soon learns it, and well.
"Come, come," said Borton, gesturing with his left hand and the goblet in his right, "bring them all forward!"
Philebus, with the whip, gestured the girls in the background forward and they hurried forward, in their silk, their feet soft in the dirt, and they knelt, in a semicircle behind, and about, Temione, her silk parted, who still stood.
"Perhaps master is ready to make a choice for the evening?" asked Philebus.
There was laughter.
The question, surely, was rhetorical.
With his coiled whip Philebus, expansively, indicated the girls, like a merchant displaying wares, or a confectioner displaying candies, and, in a sense, I suppose, he was both.
There was more laughter.
I did not think there was much doubt what the burly fellow's choice would be.
The two fellows who had supplied the music were silent. One wiped the flute, the other was addressing himself to the tabor, loosening some pegs, relaxing the tension of the drumhead. The drumhead is usually made of verrskin, as most often are wineskins.
"Can they dance?" asked the burly fellow, as though his mind might not yet be made up.
The taborist looked up.
"Alas, no," cried Philebus, in mock dismay, "none of my girls are dancers!"
The taborist continued his work.
There were cries of mock disappointment from the crowd.
"I will dance," said Temione.
The slave girls shrank back, gasping. There was silence in the enclosure. Philebus, in rage, lifted his whip. But the burly fellow indicated that he should lower it.
"Forgive me, Master," said Temione. She had spoken without permission.
"You do not know how to dance," said Philebus.
"Please, Master," said Temione.
"You beg permission to dance before this man?" asked Philebus.
"Yes, Master," she said.
"Let her dance!" called a man.
"Let her dance!" called another.
"Yes!" said others.
Philebus looked to Borton, the burly fellow. "Let her dance," he said.
Philebus glanced at his fellows, and the one tried a short schedule of notes on the flute, the other retightened the pegs on the tabor.
Borton looked quizzically at the girl before him, so beautiful, and owned.
She did not meet his eyes.
"Let the melody be soft, and slow, and simple," said Philebus to the flutist, who nodded.
"May I speak, Master," asked Temione.
"Yes," said Philebus.
"May the melody also be," said she, "one in which a slave may be well displayed."
"A block melody?" asked the flutist, addressing his question to Philebus.
"No," said Philebus, "nothing so sensuous. Rather, say, the 'Hope of Tina.'"
Approval from the crowd met this proposal. The reference to "block melodies" had to do with certain melodies which are commonly used in slave markets, in the display of the merchandise. Some were apparently developed for the purpose, and others simply utilized for it. Such melodies tend to be sexually stimulating, and powerfully so, both for the merchandise being vended, who must dance to them, and for the buyers. It is a joke of young Goreans to sometimes whistle, or hum, such melodies, apparently innocently, in the presence of free women who, of course, are not familiar with them, and do not understand their origins or significance, and then to watch them become restless, and, usually, after a time, disturbed and apprehensive, hurry away. Such women, of course, will doubtless recall such melodies, and at last understand the joke, if they find themselves naked on the sales block, in house collars, dancing to them. Some women, free women, interestingly, even when they do not fully understand such melodies, are fascinated with them and try to learn them. Such melodies, in a sense, call out to them. They hum them to themselves. They sing them in private, and so on. Too, not unoften, on one level or another, they begin to grow careless of their security and safety; they begin, in one way or another, to court the collar. The "Hope of Tina," a melody of Cos which would surely be popular with most of the fellows present, on the other hand, was an excellent choice. It was supposedly the expression of the yearning, or hope, of a young girl that she may be so beautiful, and so feminine, and marvelous, that she will prove acceptable as a slave. As Temione was from Cos I had little doubt that she would be familiar with the melody. To be sure, it did have something of the sensuousness of a block melody about it. Yet I thought, even so, she would probably know it. It was the sort of melody of which free women often claim to be completely ignorant but, when pressed, prove to be familiar, surprisingly perhaps, with its every note.
"Why do you wish to dance before me?" asked the burly fellow of the slave.
"Did Master not wish to see a woman dance?" she asked.
"Yes," he said.
"Surely then," she said, "that is reason enough."
He regarded her, puzzled. It was clear he did not recall her, but also clear, for he was no fool, that he suspected more was afoot than a mere compliance with a masterly whim, even though such whims, for the slave, in many contexts, constitute orders of iron.
"Why do you wish to dance?" he asked.
"Perhaps," she said, "it is that a master may be pleased, perhaps it is simply that I am a slave."
I saw Philebus' hand tighten on the handle of the whip.
"Do I know you?" asked Borton.
"I think not, Master," she said, truthfully enough.
She put her hands over her head, her wrists back to back.
"She is beautiful!" said a fellow.
"Dance, Slave," said Philebus.
"Ah!" cried men.
To be sure, Temione was not a dancer, not in the strict, or trained, sense, but she could move, and marvelously, and so, somehow, she did, swaying before him, and turning, but usually facing him, as though she wished not to miss an expression or an emotion that might cross his countenance. Yet, too, uncompromisingly, she was one with the music, and, particularly in the beginning, with the story, seeming to examine her own charms, timidly, as if, like the "Tina" of the song, she might be considering her possible merits, whether or not she might qualify for bondage, whether or not she might somehow prove worthy of it, if only, perhaps, by inward compensations of zeal and love, whether or not she might, with some justification, aspire to the collar. Then later it seemed she danced her slavery openly, unabashedly, sensuously, so slowly, and so excitingly, before the men and, in particular, before the burly fellow. Surely now, all doubts resolved, there was no longer a question about the suitability of bondage for such a woman.
"She can dance!" said a man.
"She should be trained!" said another.
"See her," said another.
"Has she not had training?" asked one of Philebus.
"No," said Philebus. "Only days ago I bought her free."
"See her," said yet another.
"It is instinctual in a woman," said another.
I tended to agree with the fellow about the instinctuality of erotic dance in a female. The question is difficult, to be sure, but I am confident that there are genetic codings which are germane to such matters. Certainly the swiftness and skill with which women attain significant levels of proficiency in the art form argues for the involvement of biological latencies. It is easy to speculate, in general terms, on such latencies having been selected for in a variety of ways, for example, in noting their affinity with movements of love and luring, their value in displaying the female, their capacity to stimulate the male, their utility in pleasing and placating men, and such. The woman who can move well, who can dance well, so to speak, and please men in many ways, is more likely to be spared, and bred. Many is the woman who has survived by dancing naked before conquerors in the hot ashes of a burning city, who, perhaps ostensibly lamenting, but inwardly thrilled, sensing the appropriateness and perfection of her imminent bondage, has put forth her fair limbs for the clasp of chains and her lovely neck for the closure of the collar. Yes, I thought, there is, in the belly of every woman, somewhere, a dancer. Too, I was not unaware that in certain cases, as in that of Temione now, as she was not as yet really skilled, and was certainly untrained, the man himself might make a difference. One man might, and another might not, at her present stage, call forth the dancing slave in her. What woman has not considered to herself what it might be like to dance naked before some man or another, one before whom she knows she could be naught but his slave?
"Beautiful!" said a man.
Temione was pleased.
The collar looked well on her neck. It belonged there. There was no doubt about it.
How she looked at the burly fellow! He was now so taken with her he could hardly move.
Now the exquisite slut began to sense her power, that of her beauty and desirability.
She had determined, I now realized, from the first moment she had leaped to her feet, obedient to the command of her master, Philebus, that she would make test of her womanhood, that she would, courageously, regardless of the consequences, risking contempt and perhaps even punishment, display herself before him, this rude fellow who had once so scorned and tyrannized her as a free woman, as what she now was, ultimately and solely, female and slave. To be sure, she, new to her slavery, had perhaps not fully realized that she had really no choice in this matter but, willing or not, must do so, and to the best of her ability, in total perfection.
Borton moaned in desire, scarcely daring to move, his eyes glistening, fixed on the dancing slave.
How bondage had transformed Temione! What is the magic, the mystery of the brand, the collar, I wondered, that by means of them such marvels might be wrought? It had to do, I supposed, with the nature of woman, her deepest needs, with the order of nature, with the pervasive themes of dominance and submission. In bondage woman is in her place in nature, and she will not be truly happy until she is there. Given this, it may be seen that, in a sense, the brand and collar, as lovely and decorative as they are, and as exciting and profoundly meaningful as they are, when they are fixed on a woman, and she wears them, and as obviously important as they are from the point of view of property law, may be viewed not so much as instituting or producing bondage as recognizing it, as serving, in a way, as tokens, or outward signs, of these marvelous inward truths, these ultimate realities. The true slave knows that her slavery, her natural slavery, is not a matter of the brand and collar, which have more to do with legalities, but of herself. She may love her brand and collar, and beg them, and rejoice in them, but I do not think this is merely because they make her so exciting, desirable and beautiful; I think it is also, at least, because they proclaim publicly to the world what she is, because by means of them her deepest truth, freeing her of concealments and deceits, cutting through confusions, resolving doubts, ending hesitancies, making her at last whole and one, to her joy, is marked openly upon her. The true slave is within the woman. She knows it is there. She will not be happy until she terminates inward dissonances, until she casts out rending contradictions, until she achieves emotional, moral, physiological and psychological consistency, until she surrenders to her inward truths.
"May I speak, Master?" Temione asked of the burly fellow, swaying before him.
How bold she was!
"Yes," he said, huskily.
"Does Master find a slave pleasing?" he asked.
"Yes!" he said.
"Perhaps even exciting?" she inquired.
"Yes, yes!" he said, almost in pain.
"I am not too fat, am I?" she asked.
"No!" he said. "No!" It might be mentioned that as a slave girl is a domestic animal her diet is subject to supervision. Most masters will give some attention to the girl's diet, her rest, exercises, training, and so on. Some slavers, with certain markets in mind, such as certain of the Tahari markets, deliberately fatten slaves before their sale, sometimes keeping them in small cages, sometimes even force-feeding them, and so on. Most masters, on the other hand, will try to keep their slaves at whatever dimensions and weights are thought to be optimum for her health and beauty.
"Perhaps Master thinks I am stupid," she said.
"No," he said. "No!" Properties such as intelligence and imagination are prized in female slaves. It helps them, obviously, to be better slaves. Too, it is pleasant to dominate such women, totally.
"Does Master think I am a she-tarsk?" she asked.
"No!" he cried.
"Beware," Philebus cautioned her, his whip in hand.
"Let her speak, let her speak," said the burly fellow, tensely.
I did not think the swaying slave would be likely to be mistaken for a she-tarsk. She might, however, as she was acting, be mistaken for something of a she-sleen. To be sure, the whip can quickly take that sort of thing from a woman.
"Alas," she lamented, "I am not worth even sleen feed!"
"No!" cried the burly fellow. "Do not say that! You are exquisite!"
"But such a charge has been cited against me," she moaned.
"By some wretch I wager!" said he, angrily.
"If Master will have it so," she demurred.
"Would that I had him here," he said. "I would well chastise him, and with blows, did he not retract his judgment, belabor him for his lack of taste!" In fairness to the burly fellow, it had been Temione the free woman against whom he had leveled that charge, not Temione, the slave. There was obviously a great deal of difference between the two, even if Temione herself was not yet that aware of it.
"Alas that I am so ugly!" she said.
"Absurd!" he cried. "You are beautiful!"
"Master is too kind," she said.
"You are the most beautiful slave I have ever seen!" When he said this I noted that a pleased look came over the features of Philebus. He would not now, I suspected, be willing to let Temione go easily, if at all.
"Surely Master speaks so to all the slaves," she said.
"No!" he said.
"That you will have the poor slaves open and gush with oil at your least touch."
"No!" he cried. She did not understand as yet, I gathered, given her newness to slavery, that such, emotional and physical responsiveness, was expected of, and required of, all slaves, at the touch of any master.
"Can it be then, Master," she asked, "that you do not wish to cast me from you?"
"I do not understand," he said.
"Will you not order me from your presence," she asked, "or have me dragged from your sight?"
"No!" he cried.
"Then Master finds me of some interest?" she asked.
"Yes!" he howled in pain.
I saw that he wanted to leap to his feet and seize her. I did not think he would be able to get her even as far as one of the small alcove tents within the enclosure. More likely, she would be flung to the dirt and publicly ravished, before the fire, even where she had danced. She might then, in a moment, bruised in his ardor, gasping in her collar, be dragged to an alcove, and forced again and again to serve, until dawn, until at last she might lie soft against him, by his thigh, in her collar, having served to quench for a time the flames of so mighty a lust, one which she, as a slave, had aroused and which she, as a slave, must satisfy.
"A girl is pleased," she said.
The music stopped, and the girl, instinctively, among the others, fell to the dirt and lay there before him, on her back, looking at him, her breasts heaving, a submitted slave.
The burly fellow threw aside his goblet and leaped to his feet.
Men rose up, crying out with pleasure, striking their left shoulders.
"I must have her!" cried the burly fellow.
The girls about Temione looked at one another, excited, but fearfully. Tonight the paga would flow. Tonight they would hurry about, serving well. Tonight much pleasuring would take place within the enclosure. Let them prepare to work, and hard. And let them anticipate their helplessness in the grasp of strong masters.
"Superb!" called out a man.
"Superb!" cried another.
Temione now was on her hands and knees, frightened.
"I will buy her!" cried out the burly fellow.
"She is not for sale!" cried Philebus.
"Name your price!" cried the burly fellow.
Temione, on her hands and knees, looked up, frightened, at her master. She could, of course, be sold as easily as a sleen or tarsk.
"She is not for sale," said Philebus.
"A silver tarsk!" cried the burly fellow. Men whistled at the price he was willing to put out for the slave, particularly in a time and place where there was no dearth of beautiful women, a time and place in which they were plentiful, and cheap. "Two!" said the burly fellow.
"She is not for sale!" said Philebus.
"Show her to me!" said the burly fellow.
Philebus, not gently, jerked Temione back on her heels, so that she was kneeling, kicked apart her knees, which she, in her terror, had neglected to open, and thrust up her chin. She looked at the burly fellow, her knees apart.
"I know you from somewhere, do I not?" he said.
"Perhaps, Master," she stammered.
"What is the color of your hair?" he asked, peering at it in the flickering light, in the half darkness.
"Auburn, Master," she said.
"A natural auburn?" he asked.
"Yes, Master," she said. It is not wise for a girl to lie about such things. She may be easily found out. There are penalties, incidentally, for a slaver passing off a girl for an auburn slave when she is not truly so. Auburn hair, as I have indicated, is prized in slave markets. The fact that Temione's hair, like that of the other debtor sluts at the Crooked Tarn, had been shaved off, to be sold for catapult cordage, may have been one reason that the burly fellow had not recognized her. At the Crooked Tarn, when he had seen her, she had had her full head of hair. It had been very beautiful, even shorn, hanging on the rack in the courtyard of the Crooked Tarn.
"I think I know you," he said.
"Perhaps, Master," she said. Then she cried out with fear, and bent over, cringing, in terror, for Philebus had cracked the whip near her.
"Speak clearly, slave," said Philebus.
"My hair is grown out a little now," she said, looking up, frightened, at the burly fellow. "It was shaved off before. It is grown out a little now!"
"Speak, slave," said Philebus. "Where do you know him from?" He snapped the whip again, angrily.
"From the Crooked Tarn, Master!" she cried, but looking, frightened, at the burly fellow.
"You!" he cried.
"Yes, Master!" she said.
"The free woman!" he cried.
"But now a slave, Master," she said, "now a slave!"
"Ho!" cried he. "What a fool you have made of me!"
"No, Master!" she said, fearfully.
"You fooled me well!" he said.
"No, Master!" she wept.
"An amusing little slave," he commented.
She dared not respond, nor meet his eyes.
"A gold piece for her," said the burly fellow.
The slave moaned.
"Two," said the burly fellow. "Ten."
"Do you think you are a special slave, or a high slave?" asked Philebus of the girl, moving the coils of the whip near her.
"No, Master!" she said.
"Twenty pieces of gold," said the burly fellow.
"You are drunk," said Philebus.
"No," said the burly fellow. "I have never been more sober in my life."
The girl shuddered.
"I want you," said Borton to the girl.
"May I speak?" she asked.
"What would Master do with me?" she asked, quaveringly.
"What I please," he said.
"Do you have twenty pieces of gold, Borton?" called out one of the fellows nearby.
Borton scowled, darkly.
There was laughter. His finances, I gathered, may have been somewhat in arrears since the time of the Crooked Tarn.
"Ten silver tarsks," said Borton, grinning.
"That is a superb price, Philebus," said a fellow. "Sell her!"
"Yes, sell her!" urged another.
"She is not for sale," said Philebus.
There were some cries of disappointment.
"But perhaps," said Philebus to Borton, "you would care to use her for the evening?" This announcement was greeted with enthusiasm by the crowd. The girl, kneeling and small, trembled in her collar, in the midst of the men. Philebus handed the whip to Borton, who shook out the coils. "She is, you see," said Philebus, "merely one of my paga sluts."
There was laughter. It was true, of course.
"And there will be no charge!" he said.
"Excellent, Philebus!" said more than one man.
The girl looked at the whip, now in the hand of Borton, with a kind of awe.
"May I speak?" she asked.
"Yes," said Borton.
"Is Master angry with the slave?" she asked.
He smiled. He cracked the whip once, viciously. She drew back, fearfully.
"Use it on her well, Borton, my friend," said Philebus. "It is well deserved by any slut and perhaps particularly so by one such as she. Did she not part her silk without permission? Did she not put herself to the dirt before you, unbidden? Did she not speak at least once without permission, either implicit or explicit?"
"May I speak, Master?" asked Temione.
He indicated that she might, with the tiniest flicker of an expression.
"Forgive me, Master," she said, "if I have angered you. Forgive me, if I have offended you in any way. Forgive me, if I have failed to be fully pleasing."
He moved the whip, slowly. She stared at it, terrified, mesmerized.
"Am I to be beaten?" asked Temione.
"Come here," he said, indicating a place on the dirt before him. She did not dare to rise to her feet. She went to her hands and knees that she might crawl to the spot he had specified.
"Hold," I said, rising.
All eyes turned toward me, startled.
"She is serving me," I said.
There were cries of astonishment.
"Beware, fellow," said a man. "That is Borton!"
"As I understand the common rules of a paga tavern, under which governances I understand this enclosure to function, I have use of this slave until I see fit to relinquish her, or until the common hour of closing, or dawn, as the case may be, unless I pay overage. Alternatives to such rules are to be made clear in advance, say, by announcement or public posting."
"She was not serving you!" said a fellow.
"Were you serving me?" I asked the slave.
"Yes, Master," she said.
"And have I dismissed you from my service?" I asked.
"No, Master," she said.
"That is Borton!" said a man to me.
"I am pleased to make his acquaintance," I said. Actually this was not entirely candid on my part.
"Who are you?" asked Borton.
"I am pleased to meet you," I assured him.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"A pleasant fellow," I said, "one not looking for trouble."
Borton cast aside the whip. His sword left its sheath.
Men moved back.
"Aii!" cried a man. My sword, too, had left its sheath.
"I did not see him draw!" said a man.
"Let us not have trouble, gentlemen," urged Philebus.
"Wait!" cried Borton, suddenly. "Wait! Wait! I know you! I know you!"
I glanced quickly to my left. There was a fellow there. I thought I could use him.
"It is he, too, who was at the Crooked Tarn!" cried Borton, wildly. "It is he who stole the dispatches, he who so discomfited me, he who made off with my coins, my clothing, my gear, my tarn!"
I supposed Borton could not be blamed entirely for his ill will. The last time I had seen him, before this evening, I aflight, astride his tarn, hovering the bird, preparing shortly to make away, he had been in the yard of the Crooked Tarn, chained naked there, still soaked wet from the bath, to a sleen ring. It had been strong enough to hold him, despite his size and strength, even when he had seen me, which occurrence had apparently caused him agitation. I had waved the courier's pouch to him, cheerily. There had been no hard feelings on my part. I had not been able to make out what he had been howling upward, crouching there, chained, what with the wind, and the beating of the tarn's wings. Several of the fellows at the Crooked Tarn had intercepted him, rushing through the yard, I suppose on his way to inquire after me. Coinless, chained, naked, utterly without means, absolutely helpless, he would have been held at the Crooked Tarn until his bills were paid or he himself disposed of, say, as a work slave, his sale to satisfy, as it could, his bills. He had been redeemed, I gathered, by other fellows in the command of Artemidorus, and then freed. Certainly he was here now, not in a good humor, and with a sword in his grasp.
"He is a thief and spy!" cried Borton.
Men leaped to their feet.
"Spy!" I heard.
"Seize him!" I heard.
I suddenly lost sight of Temione, buffeted aside, falling amongst the men. Borton was pressing toward me. I seized the fellow to my left by his robes and flung him across Borton's path. Fellows pressed in. Borton was in the dirt, expressing dissatisfaction. With my fist, clenched on the handle of the sword, I struck a fellow to my right. I heard bone. He spit teeth. There was no time to apologize. I spun about and fell to my hands and knees, men seizing one another over me. I rose up, spilling three or four fellows about. I then pushed and struck my way through men, most of whom I think could not clearly see me in the throng, broke free, and vaulted over the low railing, to hurry through the darkness toward the Vosk. "There he goes!" cried a fellow. I heard some girls crying out and screaming, in terror, some probably struck, or kicked or thrust aside, or stepped on, or trampled, in the confusion. Slave girls seldom care to find themselves, helpless curvaceous obstacles, half naked, collared and silked, in the midst of men and blades. It is their business to please men, and they well know it, not to prove impediments to their action. "He is heading toward the Vosk!" called a man. But by the time I had heard this I was no longer heading toward the Vosk. I had doubled back through the environing tents, most of which were empty, presumably thanks to the sounds of the paga enclosure and various hastily spreading rumors, such as that of Borton's generosity, that there was to be a parade of slaves, and that a curvaceous woman was now dancing her slavery before strong men. It is appropriate for a slave to express her slavery in slave dance, of course. It is one of the thousands of ways in which it may be expressed. I did, however, as soon as I was among them, sheath my sword and begin walking, pausing here and there to look back, particularly when in someone's vicinity, as though puzzled by the clamor coming from the vicinity of the enclosure. "What is going on back there?" asked a fellow.
"I do not know," I admitted. After all, I was not there. I supposed, however, that dozens of men, perhaps some carrying torches or flaming brands, or lanterns, would be wading about, slipping in the mud, parting reeds, and so on, swords drawn, at the bank of the Vosk, looking for me. I did not envy them this task. It is difficult enough to find a fellow in such a place during the day. It is much harder at night. Too, if he is not there, the task becomes even more difficult.
"I think I will go down there and see what is going on," said the fellow.
"Could you direct me to the tent of Borton, the courier?" I asked.
"Certainly," he said.
"Thank you," I said.
I watched him making his way, curiously, down toward the paga enclosure. He was joined by a couple of other fellows. They, too, were presumably curious. I could not blame them. From the higher part of the camp, now, I could see several torches flickering along the river. Too, there seemed some small boats in the water, torches fixed in their bows, much as are used for hunting tabuk and tarsk at night, from behind blinds. They were probably commandeered from local folk. I then began to make my way toward the encampment and cots of Artemidorus, the Cosian mercenary. These were located at the southern edge of the camp, that direction in which lay, presumably, the main forces of Ar. In this way the location was convenient for reconnaissance flights. They could come and go, largely unobserved. Too, it would not be necessary to cross the main camp's air space, which is usually, and for obvious reasons, kept inviolate. The cots and defenses there, too, supplied something of a buffer between the main camp and the south. It is difficult, as well as dangerous, to move in the vicinity of unfamiliar tarns, particularly at night. The tents of the couriers were supposedly near the headquarters tent of Artemidorus himself. That made sense. So, too, were their cots. Then I was in the vicinity of the encampment of Artemidorus. I avoided guardposts. Some, however, were not even manned. In moments, not challenged, I was among the tents.
"Fellow," said I, "where lies the tent of Borton, of the command of Artemidorus?"
I had approached the headquarters tent of Artemidorus himself, not only its central location, on a rise, and its standard, but its size making it prominent. Somewhere here, around here, I had been told, was the tent of Borton.
"What business have you with him?" he asked.
"None that needs concern you," I said.
His hand went to his sword.
"You have drawn!" he said.
I resheathed my blade. "Look," I said, reaching into my wallet and drawing forth a handful of slave beads, "are they not beauties?" He looked at them, in the moonlight.
"They are cheap," he said.
"Of course," I said, "but pretty, very pretty, and strung on binding fiber." They were large and round, about half a hort in diameter, of brightly colored wood.
"You are a merchant," he said.
"Come here, by the fire," I said.
I there displayed the beads.
"Yes," he said, "pretty."
"I am to deliver these to the tent of Borton," I said. I had decided that.
"He does not own slaves," he said. "He rents them."
"These need not be, at first, for a slave," I said.
"True," laughed the fellow.
"Imagine them cast about the neck of a stripped free woman," I said, "and her then ordered to writhe in them at his feet, in fear of his whip, hearing them clack together, knowing they are strung on binding fiber and such."
"Yes!" laughed the fellow.
"When he then puts his hand on her," I said, "I wager she will be well ready for him."
"Indeed," said the fellow.
"And may later be branded and collared at his leisure."
"Of course," said the man.
Slave beads are commonly cheap, made of wood and glass, and such. Who would waste expensive beads, golden droplets, pearls, rubies, and such, on a domestic animal? Still they are very pretty, and slaves will wheedle and beg for them. Indeed, they will compete desperately, zealously, sometimes even acrimoniously, for them. And they, such deliciously vain creatures, know well how to use them, adorning themselves, enhancing their beauty, making themselves even more excruciatingly desirable! Among slaves a handful of glass or wooden beads may confer a prestige that amongst free women might not be garnered with diamonds. Slave beads, too, and such simple adornments, bracelets, earrings, cosmetics, slave perfumes, and such, are well known for their effect in arousing the passions not only of the women themselves, but, too, it must be admitted, sometimes of their masters. Indeed, some masters will not permit such things to their women for fear they will make them too beautiful, too exciting and desirable, so much so that there might be a temptation to relax discipline. This fear, however, in practice, in my opinion, is illusory. The master need only make simple and elementary corrections. He may then have a slave as beautiful as he wishes, and as perfect as he wishes. Indeed, let the woman, the more beautiful, and the more exciting and desirable she becomes, be kept at least as strictly, if not all the more strictly, in the toils of her master. Why permit a jewel lenience, or even think of it, when even the commonest of slaves is ruled with a rod of iron? Does she think the master weak? Show her she is wrong. Indeed, if anything, let her discover that her beauty, far from weakening her master, serves rather, by his will, to ensure the fixity of the discipline to which she finds herself subject. This she will love.
"His tent?" I asked.
"There," said the fellow, indicating a tent at the foot of the rise surmounted by the headquarters tent of Artemidorus. That it was his headquarters tent, incidentally, did not meant that he, Artemidorus, was necessarily within it, or would sleep there, or such. Sometimes tarn strikes, infiltrating assassination squads, and such, are directed against such facilities.
"My thanks, friend," said I, and bidding the helpful fellow farewell I went to the tent. It was somewhat large, and a bit ostentatious, I thought, for that of a mere courier. Like most Gorean campaign tents, at least those set up in large, fixed camps, it was circular, with a conical roof. It was striped with red and yellow, and had an entrance canopy. A pennon, one bearing the insignia of the company of Artemidorus, a sword grasped in the talon of a tarn, flew from the main pole, projecting through the roof. I myself prefer lower, more neutral colored tenting. It is easier, for one thing, to break the outline of such a tent. A tent, like this, incidentally, would not accompany the tarnsmen in their flights, borne by draft tarns, but would follow in the supply wagons of the main body. A company of tarnsmen, such as that of Artemidorus, is not burdened in flight with the transport of such items. Such a group would normally move, of course, with their war gear, such as missiles and weaponry, and supplies for a given number of days.
"I do not think he is there now," called the fellow after me.
"I shall wait, at least for a time," I said. Then I shook the canvas of the threshold curtain and, not receiving a response, entered.
It was rather dark within and so I struck a light with the fire-maker from my pouch, located a lamp, and lit it. I did not think there was any point, under the circumstances, given my conversation with the fellow outside, and so on, in trying to keep it a secret that someone was within the tent. That surely would have aroused suspicion. Besides I was curious to look about the tent. There might be something there I could use. Within there were small carpets, expensive hangings, and sleeping furs. There was also a variety of small items, such as vessels and bowls, and small chests. Also, fixed on the center pole there was a piece of paper which said, "Beware, this is the tent of Borton." Everyone likely to see that sign, I gathered, would know who "Borton" was. I was pleased to see the sign, as it confirmed that I was in the right place. There was also, to one side, at the edge of a carpet, a heavy stake driven deeply into the ground. There were some pretty, but sturdy, chains scattered near it, and a whip. I was pleased to see that Borton knew how to handle women. I did not think he could be such a bad fellow, really. Certainly he had, in the past, proved very helpful to me. Hopefully he would do so again.
"Ah," I said. I had turned over some of the small carpets in the tent and discerned that in one place there was an irregularity in the earth. With the point of a knife I dug there and found a small cache of coins. There were five pieces of gold there, three staters of Brundisium and two of Telnus, eleven silver tarsks, of various cities, for such circulate freely, and some smaller coins. I put these in my wallet. I had looked under the carpeting because the small chests, not surprisingly, pried open, had not yielded much of interest. For example, I already had, in my gear at my tent, a sewing kit. It is amusing, incidentally, to rent a slave, bring her to your tent, and put her to tasks such as your sewing. Then, when she thinks this is all that is required of her, and expects to be dismissed, you order her to her back or stomach, teaching her that there is more to her womanhood than the performance of such tasks. Interestingly, the performance of such tasks, so suitable to tiny, delicate hands, and to the woman's desire to serve and be found pleasing, tends to be sexually arousing to her. In their way, they confirm her slavery upon her, and prepare her for more extensive, profound and intimate services. Slavery to the woman is more than a sexual matter, though sexuality is intimately and profoundly involved in it, essentially, crucially and ultimately. It is an entire mode of being, an entire way of life, one intimately associated with love and service.
I thought now that the search might be abating near the river, that it might, by now, have been redirected to the camp as a whole. This seemed, then, a good time to return to the vicinity of the river. I did, before I left the tent, hang the slave beads I had shown the fellow outside over the nail in the tent pole to which Borton had attached his warning sign. I thought I might as well give him something for his trouble. I looked at the beads. They were pretty, that double strand of insignificant baubles, those lovely spheres of colored wood strung on binding fiber, enough to bind a slave hand and foot. Then I left the tent.
"I do not desire to wait longer," I told the fellow outside.
He nodded, not paying much attention.
"There is something going on to the north, there," said a man to me, as I passed a guardpost.
"Where?" I asked.
"There," he said.
I could see the light of torches, could hear, distantly, shouts of men.
"I think you are right," I said.
"What is it?" he asked a fellow approaching.
"They are looking for a spy," he said.
"Do they know what he looks like?" I asked.
"They say he is a big fellow, with red hair," said the man.
"I have red hair," I said.
"If I were you, then," said the man next to me, "I think I would remain inconspicuous for a time."
"That is probably a good idea," I said.
"It would be too bad to be mistaken for the spy," said a fellow, "and be riddled with bolts or chopped to pieces."
"I agree," I said.
"Be careful," said the first fellow, solicitously.
"I shall," I assured him.
"They will have him before morning," said the other fellow.
"Yes," said the first. "The camp will be turned upside down. There will be no place to hide. They will look everywhere."
"Everywhere?" I asked.
"Everywhere," he assured me.
"They will have him before morning," repeated the second man.
"I wish you well," I said, bidding them farewell.
"I wish you well," said the first man.
"I wish you well," said the second.
When men search they normally do so, naturally enough, I suppose, as if their quarry were going to remain stationary, obstinately ensconced in a given situation. It is then necessary only to examine the available situations thoroughly, and your job is finished. On the other hand, whereas it is clearly understood by most searchers that the quarry may be in B while they are in A, it seldom seems to occur to them that the quarry may now be in A while they are in B. In this fashion it is possible to both "search everywhere" and find nothing. In this sense, locating men, or larls, or sleen, which tend to double back, often to attack their pursuers, is not like locating buttons. To be sure, many of the men in this camp, both regulars and mercenaries, were skilled warriors, perhaps even trained to hunt men. The tracking of routed enemies, now fugitives, after a battle, for example, is an art in itself. The hunting of slaves is another. Such men may think with the quarry; they may bring up the rear; they may depart from the main search parties; they may conduct random searches, impossible to anticipate, and so on. Many are those taken by such men, including female slaves, to be brought helplessly in chains to their masters. There is one place, however, that even such skilled fellows are not likely to look, and that is with the search parties themselves. Whereas it is not easy to blend in with such a party if one is a female slave, given her sex, her nudity or paucity of garmenture, perhaps even slave garb, her collar, and such, a man has less difficulty. It can be risky, of course. My hope, then, was to wait until searches were taking place outside the camp, particularly toward the south, as they might in the morning. Marcus, with whom I had come to the camp, an orderly fellow, had made very specific contingency plans, and had insisted emphatically they be complied with, in case either of us were apprehended or detained, plans which he might be putting into effect like lightning at this very moment. If possible, we were to meet on the road to Holmesk, to the south, in the vicinity of the village of Teslit. If this meeting proved impractical, the fellow near Teslit, whoever it might be, was to hurry south to Holmesk, there to contact the men of Ar. He was a very serious young man, and was very serious about these plans. For my part, of course, if he were apprehended, or such, I would probably have dallied about at least long enough to determine whether I might be of any assistance or not. If one has been impaled, of course, the amount of assistance one can render is negligible. He himself, however, had insisted that he must be discounted, sacrificed without a murmur, and that I must continue on to contact the men of Ar in the south. I did not discuss these matters with him as it is very difficult to talk with people who are reasonable. To be sure, we had expected, in a day or so, to depart southward anyway, having been with the forces of Cos long enough to anticipate their route and marches, this information to be conveyed, supposedly, to the forces of Ar at Holmesk. I myself found it difficult to believe that the forces of Ar at Holmesk did not know, and with some degree of accuracy, the nature, the movements, the marching orders, and such, of the Cosian forces in the north.
I must now, however, find a place to dally until morning, until the searching was done in the camp.
"They will have him before morning," had said a fellow. I trusted he was mistaken.
I thought I knew a possible place.
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Here is a cover gallery showing all the editions and printings of Vagabonds of Gor, sorted by edition. Click on any cover to see the book.