Sunday, 7 May 2017
Harem Girl of Gor Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fourteen: Elysium Falls
The great Kur reared up onto its hind legs, brandished its enormous metal shield and battle axe in either paw and roared its battle cry. Macellus's single rank shield wall, in the great hall of Elysium, shrank back in obvious terror as the volume of the enormous beast’s challenge caused even the bravest man in the hall to reconsider his position. Behind the Kur came Kurgus, now dressed for war in a Greek style crested helm, cured leather vambraces and greaves, spear, shield and short sword. Two and a half ranks of formidable warriors formed a corresponding shield wall behind Kurgus and I knew that if battle commenced Kurgus would take his place in the centre of their line to lead it. All his men wore helms, greaves and carried full size hoplite shields and thrusting spears.
It was the first Kur that I had ever seen, but unfortunately it would not be the last. It was almost eleven feet tall, which I now know is much larger than usual, and must have weighed close to twelve hundred pounds. Its arms were much longer and larger than its legs, suggesting it was capable of moving very quickly indeed on all fours, and each one ended in a powerful set of non-retractable claws with six digits.
The most common fur colour is dark brown, but this one was a brownish red. The beast's head was easily the width of the chest of a large man such as Brinn, with a mouth large enough to swallow a human head whole, and set inside the mouth were two rows of fangs, four being prominent in the position of canines. The upper two canines were long and curved. The rest of the face consisted of large round eyes with black pupils, large, pointed, wide ears that are usually laid back flat against its head during battle, and a wide leathery snout with two slitlike nostrils. This was the creature that I had presumably been serving during my time as Kurgus's agent on Gor.
It was of course a predatory carnivore, and I had no doubt it was going to kill us all.
“So you thought that your bolts and your locks would keep me out? You should have known better after all this time.” Kurgus addressed Marcellus who stood firm, inspiring his own men to do the same. Where his shield wall had faltered, it now reassembled to the sound of metal overlapping on to metal.
The shield wall is the pre-eminent infantry battle formation on Gor. Each man in the front rank uses his shield to cover and protect the right side of the warrior next to him, and due to the size of the shields (at least three feet in diameter, but often larger) they overlap and lock into place, forming the so called 'wall'. The men in the second row are there to reach forward with their thrusting spears and kill the men in the first line of the enemy shield wall, and thereby break the line. Any other ranks were there to add weight to the push and shove of battle. When one wall broke, the other side gained a critical advantage and usually went on to win. A shield wall is a place for strong men. Women have no place in a shield wall. That should be obvious enough.
“You have brought an animal with you,” said Marcellus as he notched an arrow to his war bow.
“And I see you now have to resort to firing pointed sticks in place of fighting with steel on account of your maimed leg.” Kurgus watched the tip of the arrow as he knew he was likely to be its intended target.
“I fight with steel too, but I will not decline the opportunity to kill you and the men either side of you before your shield wall crosses the hall.”
Marcellus had moved quickly once he had received the news from Halvar that Elysium was under attack. He unlocked the collar leash chain from the iron ring set into the floor and pulled me to my feet. The length of steel chain now hung vertically down my body, with maybe two to three feet of links spare, pooled between my toes.
“Do exactly as I say and do not question me.” He looked worried, and I suppose it was because he recalled the last time he had faced a Kur in battle. Back then he had been young and fully fit. Now he was older with a crippled leg.
“Halvar, ready my war bow and meet me downstairs in the main hall. The Kur will be through the gates soon – they are only designed to hold back humans. Assemble what men remain in Elysium and make them form a shield wall there.”
Marcellus had of course thinned his own ranks just hours earlier when he had despatched twenty five of his warriors with Limidius. This left him now at a serious disadvantage.
I could hear shouting throughout the villa as men who been asleep for a couple of hours were swiftly being roused to pick up weapons and shields and prepare for battle. Now Marcellus pulled me by my neck chain down the corridor and through the seraglio where his slaves too were waking in alarm to the sound of men barking orders loudly. I saw Bella rise up from a soft velvet lined divan and from the look in her eyes I knew she had been in this situation once before, when as the desert raider, Tarna, her own fortress had been attacked.
“Seal the seraglio doors behind me,” said Marcellus. “I don't want the women getting in the way of the fighting.”
I gripped the collar chain with my hands as Marcellus marched me out and into the main corridors leading to the great hall. Already I could hear roaring and crashing sounds coming from the main gate, accompanied by the distinctive splintering of wood.
“The gates will not hold,” said Marcellus as a man ran up to him and handed over a Gorean war bow and a quiver of arrows. He limped into the hall where his remaining warriors were assembling into a shield wall. From the opposite side of the hall, down a staircase, came the running figure of Brinn, short sword in his right hand, and two collar chains, connected to the collars of Jacinta and Melinda, in his left.
And then the main doors splintered and we saw the great Kur squeeze its massive bulk through the breach, brandish its weapons and roar.
Again the great Kur roared, and again the shield wall behind Marcellus shook. This time though the formation didn’t falter. Their discipline, I think, was good, as was their faith in their Captain.
“Your men look a little nervous,” said Kurgus as his eyes scanned the line. “This War Kur is called Grall Kesh and he is a breaker of shield walls. He is a Beserker. He will tear through your formation with his first charge. We will then deal with what’s left.”
Now Marcellus turned his bow on the Kur. “It will have three arrows in its hide before it gets here.”
“We shall see.” Now Kurgus spotted the Lady Jacinta, kneeling beside Melinda, both beauties tethered by neck collars with chain leashes that Brinn gripped tightly in his left hand.
“I see you have my women. I will have them back.”
“Your women are very beautiful, Kurgus,” said Brinn as he drew his short sword. He was one of the only men in the great hall who didn’t have a shield. “They look splendid in pleasure silks. Perhaps I shall take them north, brand them, collar them, and use them in the furs. You may think of the pleasure they will give me as you sit in your villa in Corcyrus.”
“I have missed you on my farm work force, Brinn. I shall try and take you alive, so you may finish your days tending to my crops.”
I shrank back and the wall of men parted to allow me to slip through the shield wall to safety to stand close to Brinn.
“How did you find Elysium?” asked Marcellus.
“Brinn led me here,” said Kurgus. “As I hoped he might. I’m afraid you’ve been played, Brinn; played by my finest agent.” Kurgus nodded his head towards Jacinta who knelt on the tiled floor in a chain leash. “Jacinta took on a very dangerous mission and she has performed it spectacularly. She was to arrange matters so that a high ranking agent of Priest Kings might realistically and convincingly capture her. She would then be taken, I assumed, to a Priest King stronghold in the Tahari. I have decided you see, to close down all Priest King operations in the Tahari with fire and sword. There comes a time in every man's life when if he wants something done properly, he has to come and do it himself.”
“You couldn’t have followed me,” said Brinn. “Limidius would have seen the trails.”
“We weren’t close enough to be seen. We didn’t need to be. A sophisticated tracking device was implanted under Jacinta’s skin, within one of her beautiful ass cheeks. It has a short life span, and will expire soon, which is why I had to move in now. I was concerned this might be a minor stronghold, so imagine my delight when I discovered it was the residence of Marcellus of London! Retired, he may be, but his death and the destruction of his men will be a great prize to report to my Kur Masters. They will reward me well for his head.”
“So you worked for Kurgus all the while,” said Brinn in anger. Jacinta regarded him with as calm an expression as she could muster under the circumstances.
“It’s a game we play, Brinn. A bitter, vicious game, and one that I play well.” She gazed at him, unsure what his reaction might be now.
“I should have killed you back in Patashqar, you bitch.” He placed his sword to her throat and looked at Kurgus. Kurgus’s expression seemed neutral, unperturbed. Jacinta seemed very scared now, for she knew there was nothing Kurgus could do to save her if Brinn chose to quickly cut her throat. Perhaps you wonder why Brinn didn’t try to use Jacinta as a bargaining chip, but if you knew Kurgus as well as I did, you would know he would not be moved by threats to Jacinta. No doubt he was fond of her, but not so much that he would even momentarily consider putting down his sword or retreating in order to save her life.
Precious seconds ticked by as Brinn now looked at Jacinta, the sharp edge of his sword poised to end her life. And then he lowered his blade to her evident relief. It is a fact that Gorean men find it very difficult to kill a helpless woman, particularly if she is beautiful. Often they just can’t bring themselves to do it if the woman in question is totally at their mercy. So it was with Brinn. Also, I think Brinn understood at a subliminal level that Jacinta was only doing what he himself might do if their places were swapped. It wasn’t personal – it was all part of the Great Game played out between agents of the Priest Kings and the Kurii. Jacinta had done her duty to Kurgus, much as Brinn did his duty when he pretend to be a slave in Kurgus’s villa. I think also that Brinn may have secretly admired Jacinta’s bravery and her skill at deceiving him. There is that too.
“You’re not going to kill me?” asked Jacinta softly as she knelt there.
“That would be too easy,” snarled Brinn. He jerked her leash suddenly, making her cry out. “But this is not the end of the matter between you and me. There will be a reckoning.”
“The Lady Jacinta will be well rewarded tonight. This time she has truly out done herself. She is a consummate actress. I salute her bravery.” Kurgus raised his spear in salute. I suddenly recalled Jacinta’s parting words all those months ago in Corcyrus when she spoke of her new mission. “To be honest I'm worried about this one. It feels bad,” she had said to me. Little did I know at the time she had been told to allow the enemy to capture her. Imagine the risk! She had to rely on Kurgus tracking her down and rescuing her. And even then there would have been the risk that in the meantime she might have been raped, might have been branded, enslaved. Jacinta had been brave. She must have been terrified though.
“You’ve been clever, Kurgus,” admitted Brinn. “It was clever of you to provide Jacinta with a Priest King recognition code in the hope it might mean I wouldn’t enslave her before you arrived. Where did you get it from? Who did you torture and kill for it? Was it a friend of mine?”
“What are you talking about?” said Kurgus.
“The ruse that Jacinta was a double agent working against you,” said Brinn. “Where did you get the recognition code she used?”
I think I realised the mistake Brinn had made before he did. Jacinta’s body stiffened and a look of dismay crossed her face now as she stared up at Brinn. For all his vaunted superiority, Brinn had just announced to a surprised Kurgus that Jacinta had used a secret Priest King recognition code known only to high ranking double agents. Now Kurgus turned his gaze back to Jacinta, and from what little I could see of his face under that great helm, I could see this was news to him.
“Did she now.” Kurgus lowered his spear. “I think the Lady Jacinta and I shall have a long and fruitful conversation tonight, by the light of a fire brazier with hot irons. You have some things to explain to me, my dear.”
Now the penny dropped with Brinn and he gazed down at Jacinta. The look she gave him then and there could have sunk a ship. I too was furious with Brinn. How stupid he could be! I would never have so easily been tricked into divulging crucial information like that! I stood with my hands on my hips, regarding him with a look of incredulity. As he looked at me I rolled my eyes and made it plain what I thought of his bumbling.
“You do really serve Priest Kings?” said Brinn as he gazed back at Jacinta. She simply looked down at the floor, but I could see her body was trembling now. How would Kurgus react to such news? I felt sure that whatever happened, being ‘rescued’ by Kurgus was now the nightmare option for Jacinta.
“Please kill me quickly,” she whispered to Brinn. Brinn seemed startled. He looked back at Kurgus who seemed ready to give the order for battle for he had stepped back into his shield wall which then closed ranks around him. The great Kur snarled as it hefted the enormous shield in front of its body. I knew with a single charge it could break Marcellus’s thin shield wall.
“With your permission, Marcellus, I would like the honour of standing by your right side in the shield wall,” said Brinn as he released the chains to the neck collars. Melinda looked happy – Kurgus was here and would no doubt free her as she had not been branded or enslaved. Her fortunes were probably secure, though she might well be demoted in her position when Kurgus learnt how easily Brinn had captured her. Jacinta of course faced torture and perhaps a slow death once Kurgus discovered the extent of her apparent treachery. There were a thousand questions I now wanted to ask Jacinta. How long had she been a double agent? When and how had she been recruited by Priest Kings? How scared she must have been to have played this secret double life.
“You do not have a shield,” said Marcellus as he continued to aim his bow at the great Kur.
“I shall pick up the first that falls and I will die fighting at your side.”
“You will do no such thing. You are right – the Kurii must not obtain the weapons cache. That is more important than either myself or Elysium. Go. Take the women with you. My men and I will buy you sufficient time to escape by Tarn. Take Thunder Rider. He is my finest Tarn – truly a Ubar of the skies. He will fly faster and truer than any other Tarn ever would.”
“I do not run,” said Brinn through gritted teeth.
“Tonight you do. Take the women and go. But before you do – there is a ring of red metal in my belt pouch. Take it and give me your word.”
“That you will keep the ring until you make your decision regarding Emma.”
“Emma was to be sold in Lydius.”
“Maybe, and maybe not. I have seen the way you look at her. I shouldn't have taken her from you. It was a moment of desperation on my part. It was dishonourable to clutch at straws in such a way. Sometimes a man should just accept his fate with dignity and look back at the great things he has achieved in his time on Gor. Should you choose to keep Emma as your slave-girl, then cast the ring in the sea, and know you own her with my blessing, for you will be a good Master to her. But should you decide you no longer want her, then take her to a remote high hilltop and give her the ring of red metal. That is all I ask.”
I stood there in disbelief. The ring! I watched as Brinn took it from the belt pouch and held it in his hand. The ring! It possessed the power to once more, but only once more, summon a silver ship of the Priest Kings from a remote hill top. It was my way off Gor! With the ring I could return home! Home! Back to Earth, back to London, where I might live out my remaining years, remaining young and beautiful thanks to the stabilisation serum in my veins. My father had left my fate in Brinn’s hands. Either he would keep me as his, or he was to give me the means by which I might return to Earth. Brinn pocketed the ring, not understanding what it meant, but nodding to Marcellus’s wishes.
“I will do so. You are a man I wish I could have shared paga with before,” he said simply.
“Thank you. Now go. Take Emma and see that Kurgus does not get his agents back. It is all I can do now to spite him when Elysium falls.”
I often think back to my Father’s parting words to Brinn. He could have told Brinn to simply give me the ring, but it seemed that was not what he thought would be best for me. In the time he had known me, my father had decided what he felt would ultimately make me happy, and he decided that I would be happiest in the collar. Obviously my father had been on Gor long enough to think and rationalise as a Gorean, but he had also seen the way I now moved, heard the way I spoke, and perhaps seen subtle signs in my body that made him believe I was a natural slave, to coin the phrase so many Gorean men use. Perhaps he felt that while I would be safe on Earth, I would never truly be happy. Maybe he thought I would spend the days and nights on Earth desperately seeking out submission to Earth men, and finding myself frustrated when none of them would keep me the way Brinn might. Was it a kindness in his mind to keep me in the collar, provided I had a fair Master? I don’t know. I never saw my father again. I assume he is dead now, slain by Kurgus and the berserker Kur. For a long time before I came to Gor I had hated my father for walking out on his family when I was so young. I never understood how he could have done such a thing. I now know his reasons – duty and so forth, but that doesn’t mean I forgive him. To put duty before your own family is an alien concept to me, but then I am not a Gorean.
Did my father accept me as a daughter, or was his action that day simply born out a sense of loyalty to his wayward child? Would he have accepted my need to be a woman, in time? Or would he have spurned me as an embarrassment? I do not know. And part of me doesn’t care. You may think that cruel of me, but it had always been his choice not to use the ring of red metal one last time and return home to us. For the truth was, he had long ago ceased working for Priest Kings, and he had grown to love Gor so much that he couldn’t bear the thought of leaving it forever, never to return. His family mattered less to him than Gor. I’m not sure I can ever truly forgive him for that.
But I hope one day I can.
There was a roar now that seemed to shake the walls of the building as the great Kur charged. An arrow flew from Marcellus’s bow, only to be struck aside by the beast’s shield. But then a second arrow struck the monster’s chest and it roared in pain, faltering by a single step. But on it charged, followed closely by the shield wall of Kurgus that retained perfect formation with shields locked, overlapping one another. A third arrow struck the Kur in its axe wielding arm, but then it struck the shield wall like a truck driving headlong at full speed. Men were bowled over by the shield as a single swing lifted two high into the air. The great axe came down, scattering men on the other side like bowling pins. But the Kur did not escape unscathed. Two spear points struck it in its side, drawing blood, matting its fur with the blood. Marcellus had been pulled back by one of his men and had been spared the impact of the great beast who now laid about itself with shield and axe as terrified warriors tried to stick it with spear points. They were doomed of course for their formation was splintered, and now Kurgus’s shield wall was about to strike. I saw my father draw his own sword and face Kurgus’s great helm as the two lines braced themselves for impact.
And then I felt my arm being taken, Brinn pulling me swiftly towards the archway that led into the grounds of the villa. In his left hand he held the neck chains belonging to the ladies Jacinta and Melinda.
“No!” screamed Melinda as she was pulled away, still Brinn’s prisoner. “Kurgus! Help me!” But she could not stop Brinn from running her into the grounds.
“Believe me, Lady,” said Brinn angrily, “if you do not run with me, I shall slit your throat and leave you to die!”
Melinda ran as fast as she could, not attempting to slow her pace one iota. Jacinta ran too, knowing that a rescue by Kurgus might mean her slow torture at the ends of white hot pokers. And I ran too, weeping as I heard the sounds of battle that would mean the death of my father.
“Stay close to me Emma,” shouted Brinn as his eyes fixed on the line of tarn cots up ahead. “Do exactly as I say – this is no time for arguments!”
And so we ran while men were being butchered behind us to buy us time. They stood beside their Captain, bravely or stupidly depending on your viewpoint. They were of the caste of Warriors and they would not retreat without the man who led them. At some point I tripped and fell and Brinn swore as he scooped me up from the ground to return me to my feet. “Keep up, Emma!” he shouted as the tarn cots loomed up ahead.
We entered the one where Thunder Rider was stabled and it was a fearsome sight. The Tarn is a giant bird, much like a hawk, but crested like a jay. It is large enough to carry several passengers with ease, and it is powerful enough to kill those passengers if the Tarnsmen should ever lose control of it. Like a cat, a tarn is never truly tamed or domesticated, but rather must always be approached with caution. I was very, very scared of it, but I think I was even more scared of the Kur, somewhere behind us.
There was no time to gather supplies or spare weapons. Brinn lifted Melinda first onto a fur lined ring that hung from the left side of the bird’s saddle. He placed her feet onto the ring and lashed her wrists tightly together. Her bound wrists were then looped over the raised saddle pommel and secured in place with steel cuffs for added security. Jacinta was similarly secured to the saddle ring and pommel on the other side. The nature of the binding arrangement meant that Jacinta’s wrists were bound to the pommel above Melinda’s, and this signified in binding terms that Jacinta was first girl in the coffle now. Both girls seemed terrified of the giant bird and the prospect of it carrying them high up into the clouds where their lives would depend on the security of their wrist cuffs, and retaining a foot hold on the steel rings attached to either side of the saddle.
Brinn now lifted me easily up on to the front of the saddle where he lashed my wrists to a steel ring set just behind the pommel. I would ride with my back to his chest, one arm around me as I leaned forward with my wrists bound to the ring. He would steer the great bird with me pressed close to him for safety.
“Master..” I whimpered, feeling absolutely terrified as I now sat so high up from the ground.
“Quiet, Emma!” We could all see a line of men emerging from the great hall, running with spears and shields towards us. They were Kurgus’s men, led by Kurgus. Of the great battle Kur there was no sign. Had my father and his men killed it with their spear points and swords before Kurgus had in turn killed them? I hoped so. But it may just be that it was now feasting on the dead.
“Kurgus! Save me!” screamed Melinda again, to which Brinn responded by cuffing her across the face.
His hands were on the straps now that controlled the Tarn. With the first motion of the straps, the Tarn began to beat its wings and emit its terrifying warning sounds as armed men came closer. It was a war tarn and it would fight with beak and talons rather than let the enemy approach when it had a rider on its back.
Brinn climbed up on to the saddle and raised his sword high in the air in salute to Marcellus and the fall of Elysium. “Sleep well, warrior,” he cried out as he glared at Kurgus. Now he pointed the blade point first at Kurgus and swore, “This will end one day with your death at my hands!”
For myself, I was petrified with fear. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I would be better off if Kurgus claimed me from Brinn, for he might free me. I was his agent after all. But then I recalled that I was now branded with pierced ears and I knew that meant my usefulness to him was at an end. The best I could hope for if he ‘rescued’ me would be a collar and pleasure silks in his villa. He might well simply sell me in the markets of Corcyrus if he felt he had enough girls in his pens. But Brinn would sell me too in Lydius. Or would he carry out my father’s dying wish and take me to a hill top and give me the ring of red metal so that I might return home? I had to believe that he would.
“Save me, Master!” I said to Brinn.
“Quiet, Emma.” Brinn sat arrogantly in the saddle, simply staring at the ragged line of spearmen who ran across the grass. He shook his head as if to say, ‘this is not the end’, before he pulled sharply on the one strap and signalled the tarn to leap high into the air with a fierce beating of its wings.
Jacinta, Melinda and I all screamed as we took off. I felt a sense of terror and acute nausea as the ground pulled sharply away from me. It is one thing to be in an aircraft or a helicopter, and quite another to be seated on a giant bird, knowing that you only remained there because your wrists were secured to a slave ring before your body, and because a man had his left arm around your waist. I screamed and screamed until my throat grew hoarse and we were up high in the clouds, seeing the villa below spiral away from our vantage point. Already the first fires had been lit and black plumes of smoke coiled into the sky to signal the fall of Elysium. Kurgus had won this battle it seemed, but Brinn was determined that he would not win the ensuing war.
The End of Harem Girl of Gor.
But Emma's story will continue and conclude in Book 3: 'Panther Girl of Gor'. The war has now begun in earnest for the fate of Gor. Kurii factions have split between the forces of Seremides and the forces of Kurgus, and arrayed before them is the small forlorn hope of Brinn and his men, dedicated to the service of Priest Kings. With a race against time to acquire the lost legacy of Atomic weapons that is 'Tarn Strike', hidden deep in the Northern Forests, will the planet Gor be ultimately saved or doomed by the actions of a stroppy, but ever so pretty, slave-girl called Emma?
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