Sunday, 7 May 2017

Harem Girl of Gor Chapter Twelve

Chapter Twelve: The long road to Elysium

Jacinta held out with her hunger strike for another three days before starvation forced her to her knees before Brinn.

“There is something you wish to say to me, Jacinta?” said Brinn as he spooned a delicious bowl of kofta into his mouth. Her head was lowered now as she knelt before him in the desert sand in her pretty blue slave tunic.

“Your captive is hungry.”

“I imagine so. It has been almost a week, has it not?” Brinn had deliberately chained Jacinta each evening close to where she would always smell the food that I was cooking

“Yes, Captor.”

“What of it?”

There was such a forlorn sadness in Jacinta's eyes as she spoke her next words. “Your captive girl begs to be fed.” Jacinta held out the soft palms of her hands as Melinda had done that very first night when she had immediately begged to be fed.

Consequently Melinda had been fed each night without problems. Jacinta must have been ravenous and weak after going without food for so long. Few other girls would have been able to resist for as long as she had. Tonight I had cooked a delicious meat kofta with mint and yoghurt dressing. Under Brinn's instructions I was becoming a pretty decent campfire cook, and so in her starved state, the pot of kofta simmering over the camp fire must have been irresistible to Jacinta.

“I see.” Brinn rose and, ignoring the delicious pot of kofta which everyone was eating, Melinda and myself included, Brinn opened a small sack containing powdered slave gruel. He poured some into a wooden bowl and mixed it with water and milk as we all watched in dismay. Jacinta said nothing. “Here is food,” said Brinn as he placed the bowl of slave gruel before Jacinta. I had eaten it every day when I had been Rashid's slave, and I knew how bad it tasted.

“There is no need for this,” said Jacinta sadly as she gazed at the kofta pot with longing.

“I think there is. Don't get me wrong, Lady, I do admire and respect your spirit, but I am a man, and you are my captive, and I will not put up with such disobedience. When you resist, I am compelled to break you. You have resisted begging me for food and so you will eat slave gruel until I decide you have learnt your lesson. There are always consequences to defying a man.”

“I serve Priest Kings,” said Jacinta as she looked sadly at the gruel again.

“That is still to be determined. I don't really trust you, Lady. I think in my gut you may be lying, but I cannot tell for sure. You are perhaps the greatest liar on Gor. In Lydius we will find out one way or another. If you have been lying to me I will be forced by the codes of the warriors to make you regret it. But I am not a cruel man. You can still tell me the truth and I will simply whip you for previously lying, and that will be an end to the matter. Not all men would be so generous as to offer you this second chance. Far worse will await you in Lydius if it turns out you truly do serve Kurii.”

“I serve Priest Kings,” said Jacinta simply as she picked up the wooden bowl. Then, as Melinda and I watched, Jacinta dipped her fingers into the gruel and began to lift the paste into her mouth. She tried her best not to show how disgusting it tasted, but we all knew the truth.

To be honest there was a little part of me that was happy to see Jacinta kneel in front of Brinn and beg him for food. There was even a little part of me that was glad Brinn gave her slave gruel instead of the delicious kofta I had cooked. Jacinta had said some very vicious things to me. She had called me a slut! Me! We had been friends in Corcyrus and she had called me a slut and derided me for doing what I had done by the camp fire. Who did she think she was to judge me like that? She didn't have a collar or a brand. She didn't understand the difference such things might make. Did she think I wanted men to use me? Did she think I craved their touch? I was angry the next morning as I had prepared breakfast. Jacinta just knelt there, looking like some sort of defiant Ubara martyr. Who did she think she was? Didn't she understand that if Brinn chose to enslave her, she would soon be whimpering and moaning softly beside a camp fire, easily aroused by a man's touch? She would be no different than me in that respect.

And her hunger strike – what was that supposed to prove? Obviously she was going to give in eventually, so what was the point? And now Brinn punished her with slave gruel. The corner of my mouth twitched into the semblance of a small smile as I watched the ever so proud and dignified Jacinta spoon portions of the paste into her mouth with her fingers.

“Look at her,” said Melinda with a grin as she watched her rival feeding like a slave girl. “So much for her vaunted resistance. She's pathetic.” Melinda ate some of the delicious kofta as she knelt in the ankle rings with the three inches of chain between them. She wasn't currently secured to Jacinta though. “I of course understood the advantage of simply begging for food on the first day. It seemed an obvious thing to do. I was not stupid like her.”

We were travelling to a place called Elysium on the northernmost fringes of the Tahari desert. Brinn explained that it was a fortified villa, easily capable of resisting attacks by nomadic desert raiders, and it belonged to a man called Marcellus. The name sounded vaguely familiar when he had first mentioned it many days ago, but I had assumed it was a common enough name on Gor, much like the name Mark or Marc on Earth. But when Brinn mentioned casually that Marcellus had a lame leg, I suddenly remembered where I had heard the name before.

I had been dancing in one of the tiled rooms on the ground floor of the slave pens in Patashqar and there had been a man watching me that I hadn’t recognised. He had been there with the physician who had taken such an interest in me after I had been released from the narrow vertical punishment hole that still gives me nightmares to this day. I sensed it was likely to be the very same man.

As we rode north, with me slung across Brinn’s saddle, he would talk to me to alleviate the boredom of the journey. He would also play with me at times for his own amusement, warming my body with his hands and teasing me to a frustrating arousal until I would beg, literally beg him for relief. Sometimes he would then stimulate me to orgasm, but other times if he felt I didn’t beg prettily enough he would leave me frustrated, tethered helplessly to his saddle until my body calmed down. I would be angry with him then, which only added to his amusement.

“Don’t do that to me!” I would moan piteously as I wriggled in my bonds.

“Oh? A slave-girl seeks to tell her Master what he can and can’t do with her?”

“I meant only that if you are going to stimulate me like that you should not stop before I’m about to come!” I was furious with him for treating me like that. I pulled at my wrist restraints and moaned again.

“But surely by stopping before your body might betray you, I am affording you a sense of dignity? Surely you would not want the Lady Jacinta to hear you moan and scream so piteously as you sometimes do?”

He had a point of course. Jacinta was strung across the kaiila directly behind me, well within earshot. She was still free and exempt from use and so would not have been touched by Brinn's men.

“I don't want Jacinta to hear me, no...” I flushed with embarrassment for I had forgotten how close she was.

“So then,” said Brinn as he playfully spanked my ass that lay directly in front of his hands.

“Don't do that either!” I squealed.

“My slave-girl seems to be full of commands today. It must be the time of the month.”

“You're insufferable today! I hate you!” I sobbed.

“You do amuse me, Emma. And it is so easy to do this to you…” he began playing with me again before I had fully subsided. I tried to hold back as long as I could, to deny him the evidence of his power over me, but before long I was whimpering and moaning again, begging him not to stop.

“Such a slut,” said Brinn. “But then you are from Earth.”

“Please don’t stop, please don’t stop…”

“That depends, Emma. What are you?”

“A slut, Master. Your slut. Your helpless slut!”

“Do you love your collar Emma?”

“Yes! Oh yes!” I would have said any thing at that point.

“I think you might only be saying that to try and obtain some relief. I think you may be lying to me, thinking perhaps to trick me. I confess at times I do suspect you may not actually love your pretty collar...”

“No! No! I love my collar! Please, please...”

“Then shout it out loudly, Emma, for everyone to hear.” Brinn winked in the direction of Limidius who rode some way away to Brinn's right hand side.

And I did. Oh, how shameful I must have been that day as I screamed out that I was a slut and that I loved my collar as we rode on north to Elysium. How the other riders must have laughed, and how Melinda must have smiled from where she was slung over one of the other kaiilas.

And Jacinta? It must have only confirmed what she now thought of me.

I learned more about Marcellus three nights before we reached the walled enclosure of Elysium. I lay in the furs with my Master, curled up next to him under the desert night sky, having experienced the most wonderful orgasm. I felt snug, warm, contented. I had eaten well earlier too, and had been given a small pan of ka-la-na to lick, so all was good with Emma's world. I kissed his chest softly and felt at peace.

“You seem happy tonight, Emma?”

“I’m happy any night I’ve been furred, Master.” I wrapped one of my legs around his. Oh God, but sex with Brinn was fantastic! I looked forward to it every day as we travelled across the burning sands of the Tahari. 

“It is a shame I will have to sell you in Lydius.”

“It is, Master. But you do not have to! You could keep me!” I gave him my special look – the look that I knew could drive men to distraction with wanting me. I could see that Brinn felt troubled by his decision to sell me, that he was wrestling with what he believed to be the necessity of it.

“I have to sell you, Emma. You are becoming a distraction. I cannot have that.”

“Please let Emma distract you, Master.” I was beginning to feel there was a possibility that Brinn might reluctantly change his mind before we reached the port of Lydius and I was determined to play on that possibility with all the skills I possessed. I slipped down in the furs, below his waist, and began to kiss and lick at his manhood. I felt and heard him groan with pleasure and I thought what power it is that a slave-girl has over her Master, for by such a simple thing he might forget himself for a short while and lose himself to delirious pleasure. I began to please him with my lips and tongue, feeling his body go eventually rigid and tremble as he came in my mouth. I cleaned him with my tongue and slid back up to nestle once again with my head against his chest.

“Oh, Emma…” he said as he stroked my hair with his hands. I knew I was going to win. I sensed it. There were still two days to the villa, and many more days on the back of a Tarn. I would be in Brinn’s furs each night during that time, and I would drive him wild with pleasure. There were still a few techniques I had not applied to him in our love making – techniques that slave-girls had been taught to hold back on for times they wanted to truly stand out. I would use those techniques the night before we reached Lydius. My Master did not know it, but he would not be selling me that day or any day after I did so.

“I have already had you too long,” said Brinn.


“Yes, I normally do not own girls for very long. There is no need when they are so plentiful in the cities of Gor.”

I was tempted to plead my case again, but knew that was not the way to get Brinn to change his mind. Repetition would always serve to irritate him. No, I would play the long game, driving him wild each night until he might realise what he stood to lose if he sold me. It was a delicate balancing act to perform, but I would be skilful and persistent, while striving to be subtle at the same time, and so I changed the subject away from my potential sale.

“Who is Marcellus, Master?” I didn’t tell him that I believed the man to have seen me before in the slave pens of Banu Hashim.

“Many years ago he was a famous agent of Priest Kings, much like Tarl Cabot.”

Oh, here we go again, I thought. Tarl Cabot this, and Tarl Cabot that, and isn’t Tarl Cabot so wonderful, and why can’t we all be like Tarl Cabot. I was getting heartily sick of everyone talking about this mythical Gorean superhero in such glowing terms. Why were Goreans so damn humble in comparing themselves with him? The name was beginning to irritate me. As far as I could remember from reading the early books, he was prone to getting captured all the time and only ever got away because his captors were incredibly stupid.

“He no longer works for Priest Kings?”

“No, he has not done so for over ten years now. Partly this is due to a serious wound he took that maimed one of his legs. He now has to use a walking cane or a leg brace. But also he became disillusioned with aspects of our war against the Kurii. It is a shame for he was a great man in his time. He came from Earth as it happens, much like Tarl.”

Tarl again. I ignored yet another reference to the infuriating red headed superman. How he ever managed to operate with such unusual hair colouring without being recognised by anyone was a mystery to me, for Tarl was said to have flame red hair – something you rarely if ever saw on Gor. You would have thought Kurii agents would have identified him with ease.

“How was he maimed?” I asked.

“He fought a Kur – a great battle Kur arrayed for war. To his credit he killed the beast, but his wound was serious. Had it not been for skills of the Priest Kings he would have lost it. Sadly his operational effectiveness was reduced after that. Eventually he had some issues with what we were doing and he resigned his position. He left with his sworn Oath Men and set out into the desert where he built Elysium – a pleasure garden of sorts. He lives now as a Desert Pasha with men who would lay down their lives for him. Since his days working for Priest Kings he has developed an interest in breeding and raising Tarns. Some of his Tarns can be truly exceptional creatures.”

I was intrigued by the fact that he was actually a man from Earth. “How did he come to Gor?” It didn’t strike me that the slavers of Gor would have taken a man in the days before the stolen Priest King technology could reshape their bodies into those of women.

“I’m not sure. I have only met him once before and the subject never arose. He first came to Gor nearly forty years ago. Unfortunately he is one of those rare individuals for whom the stabilisation serums have not worked fully. He is perhaps sixty years old, but instead of being stabilised in his early twenties he looks maybe in his late forties. It is unfortunate as he deserves better.”

I recalled when I had seen him in the tiled mosaic room on the ground floor of the slave pens that his hair had streaks of grey, as did his beard, and there were some lines on his face. From what Brinn said it seemed that Marcellus would age slowly, but he would nevertheless age. How terrible that must be when all around you are immune from the deterioration process.

“Why is that, Master?”

“I don’t know. The stabilisation serums are not perfect. For a very few individuals the effects can be even worse as they can induce premature ageing. It is a very small risk, but a risk nevertheless.”

I felt glad the stabilisation serum had not backfired on me. I relished the prospect of remaining relatively young in appearance until I died. I was vain perhaps, but this had always been my dream – to be a beautiful woman. It was a precious gift that people on Earth would have paid billions for.

“Understand something, Emma. I am not selling you in Lydius because you have been in any way displeasing.”

“Oh?” I remained very still to hear this. Brinn, like most Gorean men, was not prone to being overly sentimental.

“It is difficult. I find myself thinking about you at times.”

“Oh?” I smiled and kissed his chest again.

“It is a weakness, you understand. It can be inconvenient.”

“On Earth it is perfectly normal,” I suggested.

“Comparing me to anything on Earth is hardly a compliment, girl.”

“I'm sorry. But caring for someone shouldn't be a weakness...”

“I didn't say I cared for you, Emma. Do not put words in my mouth. You give me pleasure, that is all.”

Oh fuck you, then, I thought to myself. I clenched my hands into little fists but fought hard not to say anything sharp or caustic in reply. Why did he have to be such a fucking asshole at times! I turned my head to its side as I lay against his chest.

“Now you are angry again, yes? This is another of your mood swings, Emma.”

“Would it fucking hurt you to just admit, just the once, that I mean something to you?!”

Brinn ignored the tone of my outburst. “But you don't, Emma. You mean nothing to me. The sooner you understand that, the easier it will be when you ascend the auction block in Lydius. I will try and ensure that you are sold to a good Master. I will not simply just take the first offer I am given.”

“Oh fucking wonderful! You're so fucking kind to me!”

“Enough! You will not use that tone of voice with me again tonight. This is your only warning.” Brinn's eyes looked as hard as flint all of a sudden.

“Yes Master, I am sorry...” I held the soft palms of my hands out to him in an act of submission.

“I am going to sell you in Lydius. My decision is final.”

I was in a foul, pouting mood next morning, though that didn't stop Brinn from waking me up at some God-awful early hour, and sending me naked to re-light the camp fire and prepare breakfast as he rolled back to sleep. Fucking men! The kaiilas were already awake and snorting, and I could see Melinda and Jacinta sleeping peacefully in their chains close to the dead fireplace. They looked serene, but at times I could see Jacinta stir and, still asleep, roll over on to her other side with her wrists pressed together, and her hands under her head as a pillow. What she had said had hurt me, but I still cared for her.

To make matters worse my period had started, and I was again cursing the Kurii science that had decided I should have to endure such authentic detail in my female body.

I sniffed and wiped my eyes as I set about building the camp fire and sorting out pans by which to fry some smoked Tarsk strips for the men. The girls would eat later of course. The Tarsk is a wild boar that roams the plains of Gor and it makes for excellent bacon. I could feel the cramps begin and the now familiar bloating sensations that meant I wasn't going to have a good day.

“Fucking men...” I hissed under my breath as everyone slept. It was ironic really considering I used to be one. But by now I no longer thought of myself that way, but purely as a woman. As the Tarsk bacon cooked I knelt there in the sand, my right hand resting on my collar. I had worn a collar for so long now that I had forgotten what it felt like to be bare necked. The collar now seemed to be part of me, part of my very being, much as the brand was. I knew there was a very high probability that I might be a slave-girl on Gor for the rest of my very long life, passing from one collar to another with no certainty for my future other than the certainty of the brand on my thigh. “Fucking men..” I said quietly again. That was the worst part of it all, not knowing who might own you in a year or two years' time. Knowing that a Master could sell you at a moment's notice.

The thing is, I was beginning to feel I could be happy in Brinn's collar, or at least as happy as I could ever expect to be as a slave-girl on Gor. Each night things were good. I would hurry into his furs, already wet with anticipation, and I would look up at him with wide eyes and lick my lips. My body would already be tingling even before he touched me, and that first touch... oh my God, it was like lighting a touch paper! I would leap to his first touch and feel giddy, and he would laugh and say something like, “slut,” but in an affectionate kind of way. By now I knew what he really liked and I would bring him to full erection very quickly. The first time he would take me would be rough and unrelenting, and I would love it. The second time would often be with me on my belly, ass raised as he gripped my hair with his left hand. The third time would be more tender, and slow for both of us. I always loved the third time the best. Sometimes I would cry as the orgasm washed through me then. There were times when Brinn would look down at me during such an orgasm and I swear he would almost say something which he might later regard as a weakness, and be embarrassed by it. Then I would usually lie in his arms for a while and we would talk. I would tell him more about my life on Earth, carefully concealing my true sex there. Like most Gorean men, he was always interested in learning more about his kajira. That is one thing I will say in favour of Gorean men – they spend a lot of time with their slaves, and they listen. The fourth time would be passionate and I would sometimes scratch his back as my slave belly consumed me. He didn't seem to mind. The fifth time would sometimes hurt a bit, but in a nice way.

I touched my collar again and thought of the sex. It was consuming my life, the way I felt, as I believe it does for so many slave-girls. It was addictive in a way that if you are a Free Woman reading this you will never ever understand until the day you too are collared and a brand is burned into your left thigh. Then, sweet chain sister, you too will know the delirious pleasures I have felt.

“I love my collar,”I whispered to myself as I tended the camp fire, “and I hate my collar.”      

Elysium looked beautiful as we rode towards it a couple of days later. The terracotta sand of the central desert had long since given way to rough stoney Hamada ground by the time we reached the high towers and crenelated walls surrounding the villa. Over ahead in the clear blue sky swooped a pair of tarns with riders, sweeping majestically towards one another and then steering abruptly away just before the point of collision. It was a breathtaking sight of expert Tarnsmen putting freshly bred new birds through their paces, training them for war.

“You'll be flying strapped to one of those in a day or two, Emma,” said Brinn as he stroked my bottom and reigned in his kaiila. Try not to be sick. It sticks to the feathers.”

The worst of my period was over and I was in a reasonable if somewhat nervous mood as we rode down towards the great gates of Elysium. Inside I would see ornately cultivated gardens of Gorean equivalents of wild hibiscus, cycas, hypericum, lavender, jasmine, plumbago and yucca, with sweet intoxicating scents that blew towards us on the wind. The villa was irrigated and boasted a number of water features across its multi-tiered layout but as we rode through the gates I felt strangely apprehensive as if perhaps Brinn was making a mistake.

The villa was guarded with armed men on the ramparts and towers gazing down at us as we appeared. We were not challenged for Brinn seemed to make some sort of complicated signal with his hands as we came within clear view. Inside however there was a reception committee of five men with spears and shields and an officer. He signalled for us to halt and dismount.

“Who are you? What is your business in Elysium?” asked the officer.

“My name is Brinn of the Sardar Mountains, once a Captain in the forces of Ar during the great Ar-Cos war, and I am a close friend of Marcellus of London.”

The officer became rather more alert as he heard Brinn's name. “Did you say 'close friend'?”          

“Indeed. Why we are almost blood brothers.”

“An interesting way of looking at things, though possibly fatally inaccurate on at least one principle point.”

“That being?” enquired Brinn pleasantly.

“That being I would happily wager a week's pay that Captain Marcellus will have you put to death the moment he sees you. Something to do with a stolen Tarn.”

“Everyone keeps telling me that,” sighed Brinn. “Has all of Gor totally misread the complicated relationship between Marcellus and myself?”

Limidius leaned forward on his saddle and quietly whispered to Brinn. “With all respect Captain, we could probably still turn our mounts round and race back into the desert.”

“Limidius, you too?” Brinn seemed shocked, hurt almost. “Have some faith in me!” Filled with confidence, Brinn casually dismounted and handed the reins of his kaiila to one of the men who approached from the area of the villa's stables. Brinn swiftly undid my wrist bindings, and then my ankle bindings and lifted me off his kaiila. I knelt in the sand, unable to immediately stand until my limbs were fully recovered.

With a good degree of grumbling and pensive glances at the number of armed men present in the villa, Limidius and the two brothers dismounted too. Jacinta and Melinda were freed from their restraints and placed in the sand to the right of me.

“If you would be so kind as to inform Marcellus that his good friend Brinn of the Sardar Mountains has come to see him...”

“You're that tired of living then,” said the officer drily as he motioned for the kaiilas to be marched away.  

“Captain,” whispered Limidius, “even without the kaiilas it is still not too late to draw swords and fight our way back out through the gateway. I understand that the first patches of rough grassland are but five pasangs away in a northerly direction...”

“Limidius, please...” Brinn smiled at him. “Have I ever let you down?”

“There was this one time in the Delta marshes...”

“Apart from that.”

“Need I mention that time at the docks in Port Kar?”

“We were on leave then. We drank a lot of paga. We were young...”

Limidius sighed and gazed round at the beautiful landscaped desert gardens that stretched out on every side from the courtyard. “Ah well, this is a beautiful place in which a man could die. There are worse places I suppose.”

“You will surrender your weapons for I would rather you weren't carrying them when Captain Marcellus orders us to kill you,” said the officer, politely enough.

“But of course, I completely understand,” said Brinn with a smile.

“That is good of you. You seem like fine fellows,” said the officer as he received each of Brinn's weapons in turn. Limidius, Santos and Asheer seemed incredulous as Brinn motioned for them to disarm too, but as always they obeyed their Captain.

“Tell your girls to strip. I need to check them for concealed knives and poison needles.”

“Surely that is a little over zealous?” said Brinn. “They are slaves and captives after all.”

“There is a possibly apocryphal story that a Brinn of the Sardar Mountains once slipped a knife through into a Port Kar Pirate meeting concealed on the body of a dancing girl that he had with him. I am by nature an overly cautious man, which is why I'm so very good at my job.”

“Everyone is so suspicious these days,” grumbled Brinn as he indicated for the man to go ahead. “Strip Emma. You too, Jacinta, Melinda.”

I did as I was told, pulling the tunic up over my body in a graceful fluid movement. Before I could hand my tunic to Brinn, a guard took it and inspected it carefully, including the lining and seams. Then, throwing it aside, he took hold of me by my hair and searched my hair equally thoroughly. He ordered me to open my mouth and checked there too. He then threw me to my belly and as I squirmed and moaned, he placed his hand between my legs and even searched there in case a small needle was concealed in some thick wadding. There was nothing particular sexual in his touch – for him it was a routine search. The rest of my body was examined in turn before he seemed satisfied. “The girls remain naked while they're in the house,” the  officer informed Brinn. “Follow me.”

We were led through a long corridor, past a flight of stairs and several doors, and out into a courtyard garden that was a lot bigger than I might have imagined. Ahead of us was the half naked (from the waist up) figure of Marcellus – and even from this distance I could tell he was the man with greying hair who had taken such an interest in me in the slave pens of Banu Hashim. I could see now that he had incredibly broad shoulders – an archer's shoulders in fact, confirmed by the powerful longbow that he held in his hands. His upper torso was out of proportion to the rest of his body, no doubt from a long period of extensive bow training, for it takes a formidable upper body strength to draw back, let alone fire with any accuracy, the great Gorean war bow. In the hands of an expert archer, such as I suspected Marcellus might be, the great bow could pierce solid planks of wood with its deadly arrows. A highly trained archer was said to be able to loose up to sixteen accurately placed arrows each and every minute, making the Gorean war bow effectively a weapon of mass destruction, but one that the Priest Kings permitted. Marcellus was standing firmly with the aid of a metal brace on his maimed leg, and facing away from us. As we approached, he bent the huge war bow all the way back so that the fletching of the arrow in his right hand touched his right ear. And then as I watched he released the arrow and it thumped hard into a thick wooden target. There were already five arrows neatly grouped together in the centre of the target. A couple of grim looking men, scarred, and strong looking – more warriors, by the look of them, sat nearby, dining on a midday meal. A slave girl knelt quietly, naked, except for silk tied around her waist, serving them.

Marcellus did not turn round as the officer discretely coughed. Instead he said nothing as we stood in the shaded, walled garden. He plucked another arrow from a free standing quiver, stiffened with wooden supports, drew back the bow and fired another lethal shot at the target. There was another thump as the solid, heavy target quivered from the impact, almost falling over on its supports.

“Marcellus!” Brinn was at his cheerful best as he called out to his friend. “How good it is to see you again after so long!”

Marcellus slowly lowered the war bow, no doubt recognising the voice only too well. There was silence in the courtyard as the various off duty men ceased eating their midday meal, sensing trouble was about to break out. Beside me, Limidius gazed in dismay at his Captain.

“I'm sorry to turn up without any warning, Marcellus, but I have a pressing need for a saddled tarn – preferably one of your more heavy load bearing ones.”

“You come here... and ask me... for a Tarn?” Marcellus still hadn't turned around. 

“Well, you do breed the best Tarns, we are old friends after all, and to be honest there isn't another Tarn cot anywhere on this side of the Tahari. You still have an excellent monopoly when it comes to feathers and beaks, old friend.”

“Old... friend...” Marcellus carefully placed his bow down on a nearby table. He still had not turned round to look at Brinn.

“I would not have come here unless the matter involved the very fate of Gor itself. I have reason to believe certain Kurii factions are about to stage a coup within the Steel Worlds and that they know the whereabouts of a secret weapons cache hidden in the Northern Forests of Gor, capable of destroying the Sardar Mountain ranges and the Priest Kings who dwell there. I have to reach the Northern Forests as quickly as possible. Time is no longer with us.”

“When last you were here... you stole from me, Brinn of the Sardar.”

“Please. We are practically blood brothers. Individual property as such is therefore a vague and mutable concept, hardly befitting men such as us.”

“This is what I will do, Brinn of the Sardar mountains. I will enjoy a leisurely lunch and drink a glass of fine ka-la-na wine in my gardens, and then when I am finished, you will be given a blade of your choosing and the two of us shall meet in a cloistered courtyard in the full shade of the midday sun where we shall fight to the death.”

“I can't help thinking that is something of an extreme reaction to take, Marcellus.”

“You... stole from me.”

“The fate of Gor, Marcellus. You were an agent of Priest Kings.”

“I turned my back on such things a long time ago. It cost me my family, and I now know that was a price too high to pay. We shall meet with blades after we have eaten. I have spoken - so shall it be.”

“Aren't you at least going to do me the courtesy of looking at me as you challenge me to a death duel?”

I could see that Brinn was genuinely upset now. Apparently he really had expected Marcellus to put aside the theft of one of his Tarns for the good of Gor.  

“Very well.” Slowly Marcellus turned round to face us. For a moment he glared in anger at Brinn and then suddenly his expression changed dramatically as he saw me again. I felt very uncomfortable, for by now I was well used to men looking at me in a certain way, but this was not that certain way. Marcellus stared at me so long that even Brinn and the others began to notice.

“Is this... your slave-girl...” Asked Marcellus.

“Why, yes, her name is Emma.”

“She belongs to you?” said Marcellus again.

“Yes, as I said, her name is...”

“Emma. Quite.” Suddenly Marcellus broke into a broad grin. “Forget the matter of the Tarn. I no longer care. Welcome to Elysium!” He swept his arms out in a broad gesture of hospitality. “You are welcome to stay as long as you wish, and I guarantee you my hospitality and protection throughout. Now, shall we dine? We have plump desert quails currently barbecuing nicely on spits, and I know just the ka-la-na wine to wash them down with.”    

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