Chapter Seven: My downfall is complete
The dried blood on my upper thighs was evidence of what I already knew - that I was no longer white silk. I lay now on my belly on the tiles of the alcove floor, the slave ring and chain still locked in place around my ankle. The length of white silk lay near the curtain where Seremides had cast it aside. It was no longer appropriate for me. In future if I was to be given pleasure silks to wear, they would almost certainly be red in colour.
You may be wondering whether I enjoyed being raped on that slave couch, and the short answer is no. The books seem to suggest that all women discover their 'slave belly' when a man (any man) rapes them. I wish that were the case, truly I do, for it would have made the ordeal bearable, but the truth is I was an unwilling participant, I was scared, I was threatened with extreme torture and ultimately death if I did not co-operate, and none of those things are conducive to me feeling aroused. My body was tight when Seremides forced himself into me and it hurt. To my shame and humiliation I had to pretend I was enjoying it, otherwise he would have sent me to my slow death in one of the narrow pits afterwards.
“You are very quiet, Emma,” said Seremides as he pulled his tunic back on over his body. “Do you not wish to thank your Master for teaching you what it is to be a woman on Gor?”
“Thank you Master for teaching me to be a woman on Gor,” I said quietly as I lay there. It had hurt when he had broken my hymen, but I had suffered worse than that to date. Over the course of an hour or so I had been compelled to respond to him as a full pleasure slave, encouraging and co-operating in his use of my body. I think we all have differing definitions of what the word 'evil' means. For me the definition has something to do with self gratification at the expense of others, and not particularly caring about their pain, or even worse, relishing it. These days my definition of evil is a lot simpler as I have distilled it down to a single word: 'Seremides'.
“You were splendid. I feel refreshed and ready to contend with a busy day which will begin with meeting the slaver, Rashid.”
“You're going to sell me to him, aren't you?” I said miserably.
“Indeed. That was always the plan. You were superb in the furs, Emma, and I am almost tempted to keep you, but I think you would be an inconvenience when I travel in secret to the Northern Forests. Oh yes,” he noticed the surprise in my eyes when he said that, “I will be taking command of the expedition into the forests. It is my reward, my promotion, for having acquired the weapons cache location. Kaa-Ashgaa is a Kur of considerable vision and genius and he recognises talent when he sees it.”
Kaa-Ashgaa. I made a mental note of the Kur name, though I had no real hope it would ever be useful. “I suppose Kurgus is unaware of your treachery?” I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. Seremides had struck me there several times during the rape, even though I was co-operating fully. I think it added to his pleasure.
“Kurgus is ignorant of my plans, but do not call what I do treachery, Emma, for if anyone is a traitor, it is Kurgus and the insipid overly cautious creatures he serves, who through their recent inaction are betraying the Great Race. The Steel Worlds have waited far too long to take Gor for themselves. And anyway,” Seremides turned to face me again, “why should you care what fate befalls Gor? You were taken from your world and enslaved by Goreans. You owe this world and its people nothing. You should be pleased to see it fall.”
“And what will replace it?”
“Why, the natural order of the universe of course. Chaos. Anarchy. The rule of the strong over the weak. With me as High Claw of the Kur's Gorean allies. Once I deliver the weapons cache to Kaa-Ashgaa I will have my pick of women. I shall have the most beautiful Ubaras of Gor chained to slave rings at the foot of my couch. This is going to be a good day. This is going to be MY day.” He lifted his right foot and pressed it close to my hands. “Lace my sandals, Emma.” I did so. First his right sandal and then his left. I did so on my knees and while I did so my eyes registered his weapons harness propped against the side wall. There was his short Roman style sword – a Gladius – and his dagger. For a brief moment I imagined what it would be like to be Lara Croft, to suddenly leap across the intervening space, somersaulting and landing to seize the Gladius, turning on the balls of my feet to then stab it into his gut, twisting the blade as I did so.
But the Gladius remained there in its scabbard, untouched, while I tied Seremides's sandals.
“Now kiss and lick my feet, Emma, and tell me what you are.”
“La Kajira, Master.” I kissed and softly licked his feet.
“How arrogant and full of yourself you were during your time in Corcyrus. So full of airs and graces, thinking you were something special. I despised you there, do you know that? To think Kurgus actually expected me to take orders from a barbarian girl! He has no one to blame but himself for my turning to the service of the great Kaa-Ashgaa. I was loyal to him for so long! But did he ever respect that? He lavished more praise on the Lady Jacinta than he ever did on me. He was practically my blood brother! Kurgus and I fought together in a shield wall thirty years ago in the great Ar-Cos war. We tended one another's wounds. We shared blood and steel! We have history together! Does that not count for something? And yet, he awards me a 'punishment detail' to obey your orders in Patashqar? Tell me, is that fair?”
“No Master, it is not.” I placed my forehead at his feet and told him what he clearly wanted to hear.
“See what I have accomplished in secret without his knowledge! I have the co-ordinates to Tarn Strike now, and when I deliver its nuclear payload to Kaa-Ashgaa, we shall destroy the Sardar mountains and every Priest King living there. And then the Steel Worlds will send its ships, like locusts in the wind, to take Gor and your snivelling planet too.”
Of all the cliches in pulp fiction, the one the always amused me the most was the common enough precedent of the evil villain explaining his sinister schemes to the hero when he's captured. And yet here, as I lay on the tiles, with a slave ring locked around my ankle, was a man who was doing just that. I can only assume his bruised ego relished the opportunity for someone to marvel at his genius, and at this moment in time it seemed that I would qualify as an applauding audience.
“Master is very clever,” I said. “I had no idea who I was dealing with. He outwitted me at every turn.”
“It's not your fault, Emma. You were never my equal, nor even close.” He knelt down and lifted my face by the chin. “I knew you were a slave from the moment I set eyes on you. I had no idea how superb you would be in a collar and pleasure silks of course, but I recognised you were a natural slave.”
“Master knows his girl well,” I said as I lowered my eyes in submission.
“How easily I played you. You have served me well, and in my gratitude I will sell you to Rashid rather than kill you. You will be taken deep into the desert and I fear your slavery will be a harsh one. No soft silken couches for Emma in some rich man's harem. No diaphanous pleasure silks where you will be going. Just back breaking work during the day in a nameless desert settlement and further work on your back in the furs during the night.”
I sobbed. I had always feared such a fate.
“I do this not out of cruelty, but rather I do not wish you to be a slave here in Patashqar where agents of Kurgus may one day find you. Where Rashid will take you, no one will ever find you. You will live out your remaining days on Gor in complete anonymity.”
Seremides was as good as his word. He had assured me I would not wear pleasure silks when he took me to the metal working forge where Rashid awaited him. He marched me naked, the way I had come to the pens of Banu Hashim originally, but now I knew I was no longer wearing a collar around my neck as a form of pretence. There were legal papers filed in my name proclaiming me a kajira, and there was nothing I could do to save myself from this fate. I kept my head lowered in submission as I was led by a throat leash, for I did not wish to gaze at any Free Women who might watch as I was led past the market place. Curiously, some of my thoughts were of Erin – she was back in the pens and knew nothing of this betrayal. How long would she endure her slavery in the hope that I was now free and working towards buying her? How long before that hope gradually gave way to doubt and a nagging suspicion that I had lied, and that no one was coming to her aid. She would feel betrayed for a second time. She would hate herself for having been stupid enough to trust me. She would be even more bitter and cynical than before. I cried on her behalf as well as my own. There was no way I could tell her the truth of what had happened. She would wait for word from me with a new born hope that would prove false, and she would eventually come to hate me I think.
“Oh, Erin, I'm so sorry...” I whispered as I kept pace with Seremides. “Please forgive me.” But I knew in the pens of Banu Hashim she would never forgive me for apparently breaking my word. She would think I was no better than Kurgus.
I think I was numb and still in shock by the time we reached the small metal working shop in the back streets of Patashqar. Rashid was waiting there for us, with Kara kneeling in the straw beside an anvil. A chain ran from the anvil and was padlocked about her neck. The moment I saw her face I knew she had been raped too.
“Tal,” said Rashid as Seremides led me through the narrow doorway. “You are late.” His eyes narrowed as he spotted the dried blood on my inner thigh. “I thought you were bringing me a white silk girl?”
“What can I say? The temptation was too great,” replied Seremides. “I mean, just look at her.”
“You promised me a white silk girl!” snarled Rashid as he spat on the sawdust covered floor.
“Her sale price is cheaper now,” suggested Seremides. “You will be getting a bargain. And there will be other girls that are white silk. I will ensure you have first refusal on them.” He clicked his fingers and pointed to a spot on the ground. “Bracelet position, Emma.” I moved and stood there as instructed.
“You say she is fully trained?” Rashid approached and began to check my bonds and examine my body, turning me first to the left and then to the right. I endured his touch and smiled when it was expected of me for I did not wish to be beaten.
“To the same standard as Kara. I take it she was pleasing?”
“She was.” Rashid glanced back at Kara who quickly lowered her head, understanding she was the subject of their discussion. “She was, in a sense, my second breakfast today.” The men laughed. Now Rashid put his fist in my hair and pulled my head back. He gazed at my face and seemed satisfied. “She will be cheaper now, you say?“
Seremides nodded. “Five copper Tarsks will suffice. The conditions of her sale are as before – she must not be resold in Patashqar or Kadesh, or indeed Tor. I want the slut to disappear into the sand dunes.”
“There are men who might be looking for her?” suggested Rashid as he began to examine my teeth, all of which were perfect and flawless of course, for the Kurii science had corrected all signs of dental work from my time on Earth.
“Not yet, but maybe some day. In any event you simply have to ensure she doesn't serve in a city.”
“I think I will pay you two copper Tarsks,” said Rashid after giving the matter some thought. “I was expecting her to be white silk after all.”
“Four copper Tarsks, but only because I have in a sense disappointed you.”
“Shall we then agree on three and say no more of the matter?”
“Agreed.” The men spit and clasped hands and the deal was done. I no longer belonged to Seremides of Corcyrus. I had been sold to this desert man for three small copper coins. That was what I was worth to him.
“Have you decided on Emma's brand?” asked Seremides.
Shock suddenly hit me like a hammer blow as blood drained from my face. You may think me stupid for not having anticipated this, but in a sense I had begun to take it for granted that I was an unbranded slave-girl. I had been in a collar for eight weeks now, long past the time most girls are branded, and so I had forgotten such a thing might possibly happen to me. I gazed wildly about the room and saw a furnace with red hot coals and a bellows for forcing air into the conical forge. There were a number of handles belonging to branding irons with their shafts and tips buried in the coals.
“There are five irons here to choose from,” said Rashid as he scratched his chin. “The common Kef brand, the Dina, the Palm, the typical mark of Treve and the common mark of Port Kar. It seems I am spoilt for choice.”
“I have always been fond of the kef brand on the left thigh of a girl,” suggested Seremides.
“I too appreciate the kef. The kef it is.”
“Please, Master... don't do this to me.” I pressed my forehead against Rashid's feet in supplication, for all the good it would do me.
There was of course a branding rack in the metal working shop. The design of such racks varies from city to city, but generally speaking it is a vertical x shape that allows a girl to be stood upright with her wrists chained above her head in snap bracelets or manacles. The rest of her body can be unrestrained, except that there is an adjustable vise like grip with spinning twist handles. One or the other of her thighs is placed into the vise and it is then tightened until the thigh which is to receive the brand is perfectly immobile. This allows for precise application of the branding iron to ensure a clean mark is made.
My pleas for mercy were simply answered with a cuffing from the back of Rashid's hand that knocked me to the ground. I felt his hand grip my hair again and pull me to my feet, I was bent forward so that my head was at the height of his waist. Then he led me to the branding rack, removed the bracelets from my wrists and placed me onto the rack, locking my wrists now above my head. I sobbed as my feet were shackled for added security to the lower legs of the rack. Now Rashid moved the adjustable vice into position around my left thigh and span the twist handles until I was perfectly held in its inflexible grip.
“Please, no, Master...” I could see Kara watching from where she knelt, fastened by a length of chain to the heavy iron anvil. Two months ago Seremides had had her branded in the House of Abdul-Hamid and I remember hearing her horrible screams from where I lay in a slave-girl cage. I remember seeing her glassy eyed, in shock, when she was subsequently brought out to be housed in the cage next to mine. Her hands had been tightly braceleted behind her back so that she couldn't scratch or mutilate her fresh brand in any way. It was truly horrible.
A brand is of course permanent. Even reconstructive surgery on Earth would leave a badly scarred thigh as the brand burns deep into a girl's flesh. A girl who has a brand has it for life. It would be the final stage of my slavery – confirming if there was still any doubt, that I was no longer free.
“You object to being branded, Emma?” asked Seremides. “Surely you realise slave-girls are routinely branded?”
“Please, please don't do this to me, Master!”
“You will look lovely with a brand, Emma. You are incomplete without one.” Seremides nodded to Rashid, who then approached the hot coals where he selected one of the irons – the one tipped with the common kef design. “I promised you a display of Rashid's skills,” said Seremides, “and as you can see I have kept that promise.”
“Please don't brand me!” I struggled against the rack and was able to wriggle and move every part of my body save my left thigh that was locked firmly in place. Now Rashid walked towards me with the tip of the brand seeming white hot. He held it close to my face so that I could see the design and feel the heat radiating from it. “Oh God, please...”
“You are already a slave, Emma,” said Seremides. “You have been one for two months now, ever since you proclaimed yourself a slave in the house of Abdul-Hamid. Did you you truly believe you were playing a role?”
Rashid placed the branding iron against my thigh and, oh God, the pain, the absolute searing all consuming pain! I screamed louder than I ever thought possible and I shook within the confines of the branding rack as I heard and felt the brand crackle and hiss and indelibly mark me for life. There was a sickening smell of burning flesh, and what seemed to be unrelenting pain. I screamed and screamed and screamed some more, shaking my head from left to right. Rashid held the iron firmly in place, letting it sear and char my flesh for five ihn. I wanted to pass out, to faint, but couldn't. All I could do was scream, with wide staring eyes and sweat drenched hair. I registered nothing but the pain – a pain that didn't stop when the brand was finally removed from my thigh.
“Good clean work,” said Seremides, seemingly impressed. “You have branded many girls”
“I personally brand all the girls I seize in the desert. Why waste money paying another man to do it?”
“I suppose.” Seremides rubbed his chin and regarded me as my body slumped in its bindings. Tears were running down my cheeks and the smell of cooked meat was emanating from my left thigh. “There is no mistaking what you are now, Emma.”
But I wasn't listening. I was in the grip of the burning, all consuming pain. I felt like I was going to be sick, but the lack of food this morning meant there was only a long string of saliva hanging from my mouth. Now I was the same as Kara, the same as Erin. We were all branded slave-girls on Gor.
I was left in the rack for a time, while the men discussed matters pertaining to their mission. Whatever service Rashid had provided over the course of the last two months seemed to be finished now, and it was simply a case of the men concluding their business together.
Kara gazed at me, understanding only too well the pain I must now be feeling. She hadn't spoken to me since she had been forced to beat me, along with all the other girls, the morning after I had been freed from the narrow punishment pit. I had missed her company, her concern for me, the moments of shared laughter during the darker days of our training and her determination to survive. In the coming weeks when we were slaves in the desert settlement where Rashid's family eked out a basic existence from the rough hammada ground, it was Kara who kept me alive and kept me sane. I feel sure that if I had not had her by my side I would have either gone mad or I would have died. In many ways I owe her my life.
What followed was a time of total despair. Kara and I were given black haiks to wear as protection against the fierce Tahari sun, as we were marched out of the city and into the desert. Rashid rode a war kaiila and led two pack kaiilas with various supplies. Kara and I were chained by our wrists and in a neck coffle and we marched relentlessly across the stoney ground and into the shifting dunes of the desert proper. We were made to walk for several hours at a time before we might be allowed to rest, and in the fierce heat of the Tahari it was an exhausting journey. Worse was to come when, many days later, we arrived at a pitiful collection of adobe buildings in the middle of nowhere. Here were Rashid's family – his sisters and brothers and they greeted him as a hero. It was a large family as is common in the Tahari. The brothers were all desert bandits like Rashid, while the sisters were Free Women who had petitioned him for new slaves to take on their chores. I could see the women detested us the moment the black haiks were drawn away from our bodies in front of the adobe building in which the kaiilas were stabled. This stable was also to be our home, as it had an iron bar fixed to a wall to which our neck chains could be fastened.
“See how soft and pretty they are,” said Aludra.
“Look at their hands,” said Ghaliyah as she took my right wrist and examined my soft palm. “This one has never worked in her life.”
“They are pleasure slaves,” laughed Rashid, to the delight of his three brothers.
“Pleasure slaves!” Karida, the third sister pulled my hair to deliberately hurt me. “We need hard working girls to farm and tend to the livestock. And you bring us this soft city slut!” She pulled my mouth open to check my teeth.
“I have uses in mind for them too,” said Rashid as he winked at his brothers. “Do what you will with them during the day. During the night they will have other duties.”
And so it was that by day Kara and I worked under the hot baking sun. it was back breaking work that soon meant we developed hard calluses on the palms of our hands. We widened irrigation ditches and tended jojoba, date palms and citrus plants. We scraped pitiful crops of rice, maize, lentils, and chickpeas and spent many hours each day grinding the maize between stone wheels under the watchful eye of Karida. She carried a whip and she would strike us if ever we slowed down. Even when I would collapse through a combination of heat and hard work, Karida would beat me where I lay until I got up with Kara's help. Kara was stronger than me, and she endured conditions that would have been too much for me to bear.
And during the nights Rashid and his brothers would take it in turn to have us each in their furs. Each of the men had me in turn, and not a night went by that I wasn't raped by one or another of them.
A couple of weeks later a third girl was added to the homestead – a Tahari girl called Mehra, that Rashid had seized during a desert raid. She made the daily chores a little easier, though our night time duties remained as frequent as before.
There were times when I truly wanted to die, but Kara kept me alive throughout it all.
During this time I suppose Seremides was busy making arrangements to travel north. He had the co-ordinates I had given him, and his plan was to reach a city such as Lydius or Laura that bordered the vast forest region, there to meet up with warriors and hunters in the employ of the Kur faction that was planning a military coup within the Steel Worlds. It would take time for Seremides to organise and equip an expeditionary force sufficiently strong to be able to navigate the forests that after all were teeming with Panther Girls and Outlaws. But once his force was assembled, he would plunge deep into the emerald canopy and find the lost weapons cache that might be used to destroy the Sardar Mountains, and with it the Priest Kings who are said to live there.
During the hours before dawn when I lay chained in the stable, having satisfied one or maybe two of the desert bandits in their furs, I would embrace Kara and we would console one another. We had little in the way of hope left. I felt sure we would eventually die out here, though Kara told me not to think of such things. I told her the truth about my coming to the Tahari; about Kurgus, about the Kurii and their decades old war with the Priest Kings, and I told her about Tarn Strike, and how I had been sent to find the slave-girl, Erin, and acquire from her the location of the lost weapons. I told her everything apart from my greatest secret – that I was in fact a man before I came to Gor. That one thing I still kept from her.
Rashid's brothers were not cruel like him. They treated me as a slave of course, and they expected me to obey them and to pleasure them, but they were not cruel for the sake of cruelty. If I disobeyed or was less than perfectly pleasing, I would be beaten, but provided I made them happy, they would treat me fairly. In their furs late at night they would reward me with small pieces of food from the previous evening's meal, and they would at least make a point of warming my body before fucking me. I am ashamed to say that my body did sometimes respond to their caresses once I was over the initial shock of being used very night. One of the brothers – Haroun – was actually quite skilful and to my surprise I generally orgasmed each night I spent in his furs. I should be clear that this was still rape – I had no say in the matter, but as the nights wore on and I began to accept the reality of my situation, I did begin to respond sexually without having to pretend.
Idris, Rashid's youngest brother, would always sleep with me after using me. The others would generally send me back to the stable, where one of their sisters would chain me by the neck to the iron bar next to Kara. The sisters hated that I gave pleasure to their brothers, and they hated my overt sexuality. I feared being chained by Karida because she was the cruellest of the three. Some nights, after she had locked me in place she would pick up a kaiila crop and beat my thighs with it.
“Slut!” she would scream at me as I cringed in the dry straw, unable to defend myself. “Filthy, city born slut!” Afterwards Kara would take me in her arms and hold me and I would cry and sob and wish that I were dead.
So I looked forward to being sent to Idris every fourth night when it was his turn to have me. It would mean I would spend the night in his furs and not have to face the possibility of being led back to the stable by Karida. Idris would talk to me late into the night and tell me his grand ambitions to be a desert Pasha one day, leading a thousand kaiila riders into battle. He was young, maybe just 17 years of age, and I suspected I was his first woman. He was certainly over eager at first and I had to use many of the techniques I had learned in the slave pens to slow him down for fear he might come too quickly, feel embarrassed by that fact and take his embarrassment out on me as if it were somehow my fault.
I think Idris became quite fond of me as I often felt his eyes on me as I worked on the stoney hammada ground during the day. Once when Ghaliyah was about to beat me for some imagined slight, Idris restrained her whip hand and told her to leave me alone. “She will be in my furs tonight, and I do not want her performance spoilt.”
Ghaliyah resented that of course and took it out on me three days later when Idris was away scouting out caravan trails. By the time he was back, I had been beaten so badly that I had not been able to work for a whole day.
I would not have made it without Kara. I cannot even begin to imagine what those days and nights would have been like without her. She too suffered, but she had an inner strength and resilience that I didn't possess.
But even with Kara there, life in that settlement would have killed me eventually. But then the day came when Rashid grew tired of us all, as he had grown tired of his previous slaves, and he decided we would be sold at the Oasis of the Twenty Three palms. And that, at last, is where my current narrative originally began.
Which brings me back at last to Brinn.
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