Chapter 10: We find sanctuary in the Oasis of Jallabad
To say the sand kaiila was on its last legs was an optimistic assessment of the poor beast's rude health, as it now lay on the ground by a water hole, gasping, exhausted, with blood matted around its hind leg.
“It will go no further,” was the assessment of Seremides. “The lance thrust that it received during the attack on our camp was severe. We are fortunate it lasted as long as it did.”
“Then we're on foot?” This was desperate news indeed for no one could realistically travel across the Tahari on foot. It wasn't simply a matter of having to walk the distance between water wells, but rather the fact that it would be impossible to carry sufficient supplies, especially water, for the duration of the journey.
“For the time being, yes. I must think.” Seremides began to unfasten the ties on the leather satchels on the beast's flanks. It was imperative of course that we marshal what resources we had secured from the raiders and make the most of them. For myself I possessed nothing but the torn sleeveless silk underslip and loose veils that I stood in. I had even lost my pale blue silk slippers during the attack and winced as the bare soles of my feet made contact with the burning hot sand. Beside me, Lady Sakkara seemed distraught.
“All my belongings were in the caravan. We must go back for them!”
“Don't be stupid,” I said as I crossed my arms to hold my torn garment in place over my breasts, and as I did so I regarded the nomads camped in the oasis. Typically, an oasis is an isolated area of vegetation in a desert region, most commonly surrounding a spring or similar water source. It provides an important habitat for animals and even humans if the area is large enough. Throughout history the location of oases has been of critical importance for trade and transportation routes in desert areas, as caravans must travel via these places so that supplies of water and food can be replenished. An oasis is usually formed from an underground river or aquifer such as an artesian aquifer, where water can reach the surface naturally by pressure or by man-made wells. Substrata of impermeable rock and stone can trap water and retain it in pockets, or on long faulting subsurface ridges where it subsequently percolates to the surface. Any incidence of water is then used by migrating birds, which also pass seeds with their droppings which will grow at the water's edge forming the vegetation of an oasis.
Seremides had told me in the past that an oasis was traditionally a place of refuge and shelter where people belonging to many different tribes – even those hostile to one another – would invariably have to co-exist for a time. As such, complex customs and rituals had evolved to ensure that squabbles and the settling of vendettas and feuds didn't break out. An oasis could only function as a way station if everyone agreed to maintain the peace. Consequently, breaking the peace in an oasis was almost as serious a matter as contaminating a well. Nevertheless I could see several men gazing in the direction of Lady Sakkara and myself. It would be obvious enough that we hadn't arrived in the company of a strong caravan. It would be obvious that we had barely escaped from an attack somewhere out in the desert, and we were here in a most precarious situation. I moved closer to Seremides to make it obvious to those watching that I was with a man who carried steel. Call me distrustful, but I didn't want to rely simply on the customs of behaviour for an oasis, even if it was for example against the customs of the desert to enslave a woman here.
“My dowry was on a sand kaiila in the caravan,” said Lady Sakkara. “It was my Free Companion price! 150 pieces of minted silver!”
“And it will be in the hands of the desert raiders by now. It's lost.” Lady Sakkara was beginning to annoy me. Didn't she realise we had to concentrate on survival right now? I turned back to face Seremides. “What are the sum of our assets?”
“I am checking, Lady. Do you have any money on you?”
I too had lost my operational funds which were with the luggage that we abandoned at the camp site. I checked the secret pocket woven into my underslip and found two pieces of copper minted in the city of Ar – my emergency stash. I held the coins up and Seremides took them from me. “That is good. And you, Lady Sakkara?”
“Nothing,” she said, but she glanced at the sand as she said so.
“Nothing, Lady Sakkara? Are you sure?” Seremides's eyes narrowed. “Come, come, these are desperate straits we find ourselves in. Every coin counts.”
“I told you, I have nothing.” But again there was something about the way she said it that made Seremides suspicious. He shrugged nevertheless and accepted her word for the moment. After all, she was a Free Woman.
“We have a water skin that you can refill at the well. Unfortunately our other possessions aren't particularly useful in our current situation.” He tipped the contents of the satchels onto the sand. It was apparent that we had by chance taken a beast that was carrying basic slave equipment – hardly surprising as it had been taken from one of the desert raiders. There were a number of collars, lengths of chain, a bag of 'O' rings, some reed mats, rolled up and tied, a slave whip, shackles, padlocks, and a couple of light blue ta-teeras. There were also a few metal working tools, a hammer, and a few iron spikes with 'O' rings at one end.
“Perhaps we can sell them?” I suggested.
“Perhaps. I must think.” Seremides rubbed his chin, deep in thought.
“Well, we have to do something. We need money if we're going to buy food and passage with another caravan.”
“As I said, woman, I'm thinking.” Seremides continued to gaze at the slaver accoutrements as I paced around the dying kaiila. It was breathing heavily now, in considerable pain and distress and emitted a deep moaning sound as It had lost a lot of blood when it carried us to safety. We hadn't of course realised that it had been wounded when we had taken it. Only when we had ridden out of the camp had the effect of the wound been noticeable. Even so, it had carried us to the safety of a well. There was little I could do for the animal, but I poured some water into the palm of my left hand and lifted it to the beast's mouth. It licked the water up gratefully and so I gave it some more.
“It is true we need money,” said Seremides after a while.
“That's an accurate assessment of our current situation,” I agreed. “So we sell the slave kit?”
“Perhaps. I am formulating an idea. It is in its infancy, but growing slowly.”
“Wonderful,” I said sarcastically. “Let me know when inspiration gives birth to it fully formed.” Men! Now I picked up the water skin and carried it over to the water well with my left hand while my right held the material of my garment together. Several men had gathered near the well, swapping stories while their slaves queued to dip similar water skins into the well. They regarded me with interest as I approached, especially on account of my minimal clothing. The conclusion to be drawn from my thin slip was that I was the captive of Seremides, sent to fetch water, and yet I walked with the confidence of a Free Woman.
“Tal,” said one. “With which caravan do you travel?”
“I have no caravan. We were attacked in the desert by bandits. We must find passage with another caravan here in the oasis.”
The man grinned and spread his hands in warm welcome. “My name is Hamid. I am a simple merchant of sorts. Come travel with me. You may ride side saddle behind me with dignity.” His friend chuckled and suppressed a smile as he pretended not to look at me directly.
“I'm not stupid,” I said with an air of false confidence.
“You will be safe with me, Lady. We will ride together to the nearest city and I shall ask nothing more from you than the pleasure of your conversation.”
“Like I said, I'm not stupid.”
The men laughed as I passed by and joined the queue of slave girls. Since I was free I simply pushed past the slaves. They could queue of course, but they would not use the well before me.
“You probably wouldn't look good in a collar anyway,” shouted Hamid.
By the time I returned to our dying sand kaiila, with a full water skin sloshing in my arms, the Lady Sakkara was already remonstrating with Seremides.
“I am holding you personally responsible for the loss of my dowry!” she exclaimed in anger. “You should have gone back for it! It is my Free Companion price in Patashqar!”
“Be quiet woman, I am thinking.” Seremides now held two iron spikes with 'O' rings in one hand and the heavy mallet in the other.
“Water,” I said as I dropped the heavy skin on to the sand. For all the good it would do us in our present capacity as I knew I wouldn't be able to carry it with my weak strength for more than half an hour. We were trapped in this oasis, without the means to even buy food. There was water in abundance of course, but without funds we could not join a caravan and eventually we would starve to death here. It is true some of the trees grew dates, but they were high up and out of our reach.
“We must earn some money,” said Seremides as he looked at the two iron spikes in his hand.
“So sell something. The chains and collars for example. They're of no use to us.” I noticed that while I was queueing at the well and while Lady Sakkara had worked herself up into a shouting fury, Seremides had calmly laid out two collars, and two lengths of neck chain on the sand by the dying animal. He had also placed two rolled reed mats there.
“What are you doing?” I asked as I watched him walk slowly to a nearby palm tree. The fronds spread out on all sides providing a good degree of shade alongside the other trees. Seremides took one of the iron spikes and drove it into the tree trunk with his mallet. He was strong – much stronger than the average Earth male, and so it took him but three powerful blows to drive the spike a good seven inches into the wood. The 'O' ring hung from the side of the end, attached by a strong hinged joint. He then took the other spike and drove that into the opposite side of the same trunk. Both spikes had been driven into the tree at about the height of a woman's neck if she was kneeling on the sand at the base of the tree.
“I said, what are you doing?” It seemed to me that we should be finding a buyer for the metal goods that we had found in the satchels. Even second hand they would be of interest to someone at the oasis. “I'm hungry,” I said, feeling my stomach churn again. “I haven't had any food since yesterday. Give me one of the copper tarsks and I will see if I can buy some bread.”
“You will eat later,” said Seremides as he tested the iron spikes. They were embedded deep into the wood and couldn't be removed without the use of an axe to split the trunk.
“I'm hungry too,” said Lady Sakkara. She was still angry with Seremides's refusal to address the loss of her Free Companionship dowry. I could of course understand her anxiety for it was a considerable sum of money that was probably irreplaceable. “You must feed us!”
“You will be fed later.” Seremides now locked two lengths of chain to the 'O' rings. The lengths of chain that he had selected were approximately three feet in length.
“There's no point tethering the kaiila,” I said. “It's not going to last the night. It's of no use to anyone.”
“I have decided to acquire some funds for our continued journey to Patashqar.” Seremides now unrolled the two reed mats beside the base of the palm tree. “In a place like this men will pay a few copper tarsks for the use of a Free Woman on the mats. Such a thing is considered a novelty, and the novelty offsets the lack of experience and slave heat they would find in a kajira.”
“Are you insane?” I gazed down at the reed mats and the lengths of neck chain fastened to the 'O' rings now dangling from the iron spikes.
“It is an obvious solution to our financial problems. As you are both free women I will accord you the dignity of retaining your silken underslips, and you will therefore not have to strip completely. I will also hood you if you wish, so as to spare you the sight of the men who pay for your use.”
“There is no way I'm going to lie on that mat to earn money by opening my legs! Forget it!”
“Be quiet, woman. I suggest you kneel on the mat.”
“No!” I backed away, as did Lady Sakkara. Seremides shrugged and took a step forward.
“If you insist on being troublesome, I will not permit you to retain the modesty of a slip. You will probably attract more customers naked.” He watched as Sakkara and myself fled to the other side of the wounded kaiila. “Come now, ladies, where do you plan on running to? Do you intend to take sanctuary with a nomad in this camp? Perhaps he will look after you, tethered to his kaiila mount, stripped to the whip and ridden off to the slave markets of Patashqar. You will serve far more men in a collar then you will do here this evening.”
I tried to run, but I only got a dozen yards away before Seremides brought me down with ease. Lady Sakkara simply cowered close by, wailing like some helpless bimbo. I struggled simply for the sake of my own dignity as Seremides easily pressed me down in the sand with his superior weight and strength and slashed with his sleen knife at my slip. Within seconds it was ruined, cut into pieces that he simply peeled away from my body. As he did so he glanced up at Sakkara. “Kneel, Lady, or you will be next.” Wailing still, Sakkara dropped to her knees on one of the two mats. I felt my wrists taken now and pulled harshly behind my back. I felt the familiar slave steel locked around my wrists for the second time since l had entered the desert and I began to cry in desperation. Why was Seremides doing this? He was supposed to be my escort to Patashqar! I was his superior on the mission!
Now I was dragged across the sand by my right ankle and bound and helpless I was unable to prevent Seremides from throwing me onto the reed mat. There while I cursed him, he locked a simple unadorned steel collar around my throat and attached it by its 'O' ring to the length of chain trailing down from the iron spike.
“Will it be necessary to gag you?” he asked as he rearranged my tousled hair.
I swore at him again, which was all the answer he needed to force wadding into my mouth and secure it there with a slave gag. I was now totally muzzled and unable to do anything more than whimper. My situation was bleak as I now lay, stripped naked, on display for Seremides's potential customers. With my wrists locked behind me, I would be unable to fight any man who decided he wanted me.
“You could have lain there ungagged with your slip for modesty, Lady Felicia, so this predicament is of your own making.”
Sakkara had obeyed, not wishing to share my dismal fate by resisting. She too was terrified but, as I watched, Seremides addressed her in a kind tone of voice. “If Lady Sakkara would be so kind as to extend her head forward while I attach her display collar.”
“Please, please...” she cried.
“This is necessary, Lady. We must have money.”
Ignoring her pleas, Seremides attached a second display collar, and clipped the second length of chain to it. “Do you wish a hood?” he asked. Sakkara nodded frantically, and a hood was promptly secured over her head, loosely knotted with thongs around her collar.
Already I could see various men within the oasis taking an interest in what was happening in the vicinity of the shaded palm tree with the neck collar chains. Several surly looking Goreans walked casually towards Seremides as he finished securing the sack cloth hood about the head of Lady Sakkara. Humiliated as I was, I felt even more ashamed in comparison with Sakkara, since she at least retained the under slip garment she had been wearing beneath her robes and gowns. It was a delicate peach coloured silk, and of course sleeveless. And yet it was better than nothing as I was only too acutely aware as I knelt on the rough, coarse matting. The collar felt different around my neck to the light bondage one I had worn in the BDSM club in Milton Keynes when Udumi had spoken to me. That collar would have been considered a joke on Gor, even though it was made of steel and could be locked. The locking system however was simple compared to the seven pin designs of Gorean slavers. Too, the steel was lighter, more suitable for kinky bedroom play than the cold reality of securing slave-girls. The length of chain that draped down from the 'O' ring on my collar trailed down my belly onto my lap and round my waist to the iron spike embedded in the tree. I felt sure that if I tried to pull away from the tree I would find that I was extremely well secured. Even Seremides might have had difficulty pulling that spike free without tools, and my strength was a small fraction of his.
“These women are free?” asked a nomad in blue robes.
Seremides nodded. “Both are certified free and available for use for a small fee.” Hearing that, I kicked out with my legs and pushed myself against the palm trunk as far as possible to put another foot and a half distance between myself and the approaching men. My heart was beating furiously for I knew that any one of them might pay to rape me, while there was nothing I could do to stop them.
“Why is this one stripped yet the other wears a slave's garb?”
“It's not a slave's garb!” sobbed Sakkara. “It is my under slip.”
The nomad laughed. ”This is what Free Women wear under their robes of concealment?” Puzzled, he knelt down and, without any objections from Seremides, pulled the soft fabric up high on Sakkara's legs to reveal her hip. It was of course not branded.
“Sleen!” cried Sakkara in outrage as she pulled her legs up to her stomach, but the nomad simply ignored her protests and seized her left ankle to return her to her original, seductive position.
“It resembles a slave's garment, but perhaps more finely made. Any woman who wears such a thing against her skin must in her heart be a slave.”
“Possibly,” said Seremides, “but as you can see, she is free. Accordingly use of her will be within certain proscribed limits.”
“Bah, I could have one of Ashmid's slaves and not have to worry about limits.” The nomad rose and made to leave but Seremides was anxious to get his first customer.
“The limits are reasonable and not such that they will detract from or interfere with your pleasure. Consider – you can have a slave at any time. How often can you sample the delights of a Free Woman? Especially one who has no experience of serving a man before? The pleasures are different.”
The nomad thought about this as a small crowd began to gather round to watch. “They are white silk?”
“I have yet to ascertain. One moment.” To my horror, Seremides approached me, parted my ankles with ease and then with his right hand probed inside my sex with his fingers. I squirmed, horrified and violated as he made his determination of my body.
“Look at her wriggling,” laughed one of the men in the crowd.
“You can tell she has never been touched like that before,” said another. The mood of the crowd seemed more good natured now that Seremides was examining me. Goreans like to see women treated this way it seems.
“She is intact. She is White Silk,” confirmed Seremides as he removed his fingers. Like Sakkara had done, I now pulled my knees up to my belly and tried to make myself seem small against the tree trunk. The wadding in my mouth was soaking up all my saliva, making my mouth feel very dry. I was suddenly afraid that I might be sick while I was gagged, in which case there was the danger I could suffocate on my own vomit.
“I suspect the Lady Sakkara will be the same,” said Seremides as he now approached her.
“No! Do not touch me! Do not touch me!”
Seremides slapped her hard across the hooded face, producing a cry of pain from the poor girl. He then parted her legs and, thrusting the slip up around her hips, proceeded to test her too. But this time to his surprise he found a different result.
“Well, Lady Sakkara, you are no stranger to a man's furs it seems.” He slid his fingers back and regarded his potential customers. “This one is most definitely Red Silk.”
No doubt Sakkara's face was flushed with embarrassment at hearing this discovery, and only the hooded sack cloth concealed the dismay she must be feeling.
“How much?” asked another man in the crowd. There were now a good dozen or so men who seemed to be intrigued by the idea of Free Women being made available for rape.
“The Red Silk girl can be had for 5 Tarks bits,” said Seremides after a bit of thought. There are 20 Tarsk bits to a single copper Tarsk, and 100 copper Tarsks to a silver Tarsk. Five Tarsk bits is a good price for an untrained girl on Gor, but in this case you would have to factor in the lack of paga taverns and slave brothels within the desert oasis which would otherwise act as competition to deflate prices. You would also have to factor in the novelty value of Lady Sakkara being free. Even so a few men began to grumble at the price Seremides was setting. Two of them simply shrugged and walked away, while a number of others were obviously considering doing so as well. “Maybe three Tarsk bits for the first customer would make for a fine introductory offer,” said Seremides with a smile. He obviously knew that once the first customer had paid, others would follow suit.
“And what of the White Silk girl? She truly is slave beautiful,” said a bearded nomad. I shrank back against the rough bark of the tree. As much as I hated the idea of being had by a man, I hated the idea of a man with a filthy long beard even more. The possibility that he would force his lips on mine was truly revolting. I squirmed in the slave steel and whimpered in my gag. His body seemed very hairy and that made my skin crawl all the more.
Seremides seemed to gauge the fact that the crowd were particularly interested in me, and well they might be, for I probably was an erotic fantasy in the flesh. My body had been crafted by the Kurii machines to be impossibly slave beautiful, and terrified and wriggling in slave steel, tethered to the palm tree trunk as I was, only made me seem all the more delicious. “She is White Silk,” said Seremides, “so the first use has to be accordingly more expensive, for that is a precious commodity that can only be savoured the once.”
“How much?” called out another man.
“I too am interested in the White Silk girl,” said a second.
“And I,” said a third. To my horror, the Lady Sakkara seemed to have been forgotten and all eyes now turned to me. The fact that she was hooded and so her own facial beauty was anonymous may have been part of the reason for the transfer of interest to me, but also my body was completely stripped and, all modesty aside, I was the more beautiful of the two of us.
“I wish to be first,” said a broad shouldered desert raider with a pair of crossed long knives at his sashed belt.
“Well you will be disappointed then,” said another fighter who wore a razor sharp scimitar at his side.
“I am prepared to pay well for her,” said a scarred man whose face looked like weather beaten sandstone, beneath a dark grey turban.
Seremides was delighted by all of this and he rubbed his hands together at the prospect of a good fee for my first use. In vain I struggled again against the steel bracelets, realising too late that my struggling seemed to increase my desirability.
“It has been a week since I last had a woman,” said the scarred weather beaten man to Seremides. “I will have her.”
The mood unmistakably became more serious. “Let me be clear,” said the man with the two long knives at his waist. “Majmoud defers to no man in this oasis. I shall have the White Silk girl first. Others may follow me.”
Suddenly there was the slither of steel being drawn from a well worn leather scabbard as the man with the scimitar at his hip objected in the time honoured tradition of the desert tribes.
“Majmoud will wait his turn, so says Ali-Farjeen of the Sula raiders. I lust after this slut and will enjoy her first.”
Suddenly, to Seremides's mounting alarm the once peaceful oasis became a ring of sharpened steel as knives and scimitars were drawn on various sides. Men who had been in desert sands for a week or more wanted to be the first to take my innocence. It mattered not that they could have had a slave in the curtained tents of Mamuk nearby, for they were already only too familiar with the delights of the three girls chained in sirik within that area. What I offered was something new – a novelty, and novelty that seemed to be one of the most ravishing beauties they had ever laid eyes upon.
“If she was fully trained and branded, that girl would fetch a heavy price on the slave blocks of Patashqar,” muttered one man to the right of the palm trees. He held a scimitar in one hand and a long knife in the other. I was astonished that so many men wished or were prepared to fight over me. Maybe part of that was down to the fact that any man here who did not take me first was by default implying he was not as worthy as the man who did. The man who took me first without objections from the others would be regarded as the most dangerous alpha male within the oasis. That was a problem when nearly all of the growing mob assembled around me thought of themselves as being top dog in a pack of rabid alpha males. It was now impossible for many of them to back down and allow someone else to ravish me first.
I could see that the long-legged Sakkara had slid quietly round the side of the palm trunk, still tethered by the coffle chain, hoping perhaps to be ignored as the men fought over me. Was she secretly angry that they all seemed to want me in preference to her? Was there some part of her womanly pride that was insulted by all of this? Possibly. My experiences on Gor had shown me that Gorean women often suffered from a myriad of conflicting emotions and desires that they could rarely admit to themselves.
I can only conjecture what might have happened next. There would certainly have been fighting over me which would have spiralled into men settling tribal vendettas and blood feuds against one another. The sanctity of the oasis would have been torn asunder and the ramifications throughout the desert would have been severe.
But then Suleiman appeared.
“Any man who uses steel within this oasis will be met by me.” He was enormous, broad shouldered, a virtual giant, easily six feet six inches tall. His right hand rested casually on the hilt of his engraved scimitar as he regarded the semi-circle of raiders and warriors with hawk like eyes. His black beard was streaked with grey and his jellabah was crimson slashed with traces of black. As he spoke men stepped aside and even the ring-leaders cursed under their breath and lowered their blades.
“Does any man here wish to cross blades with me?” First he glanced slowly to his left, making eye contact with each man in turn. Then, and only then when satisfied no one there was prepared to challenge him, did he turn his gaze to the other side. Everywhere I looked, men submitted to his authority.
“This is the Oasis of Jallabad! Do you forget that? Does your lust for this girl make you forget your oaths?” he snarled. “Is one woman worth the breaking of the peace within an oasis?” he walked forward and turned so that he now stood facing the ring of men, in the space between me and them. “Put away your blades, or by the Djinn of the desert sands I will see that any man who doesn’t, answers to me.” His right hand remained on the sand worn hilt of his scabbarded blade.
Every other blade returned to its scabbard or sash.
“Here is what I say. This woman seems to be a source of conflict between men who should be wise enough to remember their vows. If no man wishes to be second with her, then I say no man shall be first.”
Seremides stiffened at this, seeing his earnings for me disappear in an instant.
“With respect, these are my kept women. I have a right to…”
Suleiman simply answered by producing a silver tarsk to the gasps of the assembled men. He held it aloft for all to see and then flicked it towards Seremides who caught it in his right hand.
“Compensation for the lack of earnings on the girl for the night. I trust that will suffice?”
“The Pasha is most generous.” Seremides bowed and took a step back, gripping his silver tarsk tightly for fear it might suddenly be taken away from him. “What of my other girl?” he indicated the terrified looking Lady Sakkara who was now clearly huddled against the side of the trunk, the steel chain falling loosely down between the line of her breasts within the silk slip. The garment was still ridden up on her hips, exposing her sex. She had been too frightened to draw it back down.
Suleiman shrugged. “She is red silk, yes?”
“Rent her use out if you wish. I have no problem with that.”
And then as the first man stepped forward to offer three tarsk bits, I heard the Lady Sakkara scream as rough hands seized her ankles and pulled them apart. I lay too scared to move on the rough reed mat, trembling, naked under the shade of the fronds, hardly able to believe that by some stroke of fortune I had been spared Sakkara’s fate.
A lot is made in the scrolls written by Tarl Cabot (who almost certainly doesn't exist, but is in actual fact simply a fictional propaganda name used by agents of the Priest Kings whenever they are successful) and various enslaved women of how slave rape satisfies a woman in the only way nature allows her. All I know is, that night I lay there chained on the reed mat, listening quietly to the increasingly hysterical cries of poor Lady Sakkara as one man after another took her and used her, often in a violent manner that by morning left her covered in purple bruises and switch marks on her skin. Hooded in the dark she had no way of knowing who had paid for her use, and at times I saw her small hands cling to the length of chain that secured her to the palm tree as she was thrown to her belly to be taken again and again and again. Rough sex when you’re not aroused is uncomfortable at best and painful at worst and many sessions of rough sex in the same night leaves a woman feeling raw and sore throughout their body. Certainly by morning when the sun rose once again over the Oasis, I could see my long legged chain sister lying curled in a foetal position, shocked into submission. Sometime after the last man had had his way with Sakkara, Seremides had untied the sack cloth and slid it from her head. Her wide staring eyes and wet hair was testament to the suffering she must have endured. If this was how a free woman was treated in Gorean gang rape, then I shudder to think what indignities are accorded the slave.
It had been a warm night as always and so sleeping nude hadn’t been a problem for me. Seremides had removed my gag and thrown me a piece of stale bread when the use of Sakkara had concluded, and a half slice of a large citrus fruit. I devoured both with alarming speed and quenched my thirst with a wooden bowl full of water before drifting into a restless sleep. By morning I was ravenous, my stomach less than satisfied by that crude portion of food the night before.
“Sakkara…” I touched her ankle with my finger tips and saw the girl flinch and draw herself up tighter than before. “It’s me, Felice.” I felt a sense of guilt that circumstances had spared me from the same fate as hers. Did she hate me now? Obviously it would hardly have helped her if I had shared her fate, but logic means precious little when you have suffered greatly and another has been spared. “Sakkara, speak to me.” I was whispering for I knew Seremides slept nearby. I was still chained, though he had relented and freed my hands and removed the gag. Despite being spared last night I still felt numb with shock myself. Although I was not a slave, I knew deep down that it might simply be a case that Seremides could not by custom enslave me within an oasis. What might happen to us when we left here?
“Sakkara, please, say something.”
“I hate you.” She hid her face between her hands and wept.
“I’m sorry.” And I was. Truly I was.
“I hate you! I suffered in your place! Don’t touch me!”
I moved my hand away. Sakkara was still in a deep shock and probably didn’t mean any of the things she said, for she couldn’t reasonably apportion any blame to myself. Seremides was the one she should hate, Seremides and the men who paid for her use. I clutched the length of chain again and wept silently, small tears forming streaks down my sand encrusted cheeks. I didn’t want to be on Gor. I wanted to go home to Earth. On Earth I would be the envy of everyone, men and women, with my perfect body. Men would be delirious with need to have me, and women would be insanely jealous, and on Earth I could relish my beauty and use it to my advantage. On Earth the world would be my oyster. I would have rich men at my beck and call, desperate to please me in some small way. Everything would be simple for a woman with my body and looks. But here on Gor I had no power. My beauty still made me incredibly desirable, but it left me with no power that I might wield. My beauty had left me chained on a rough reed mat, chained to a tree.
Seremides snores and when he snores I know he’s fast asleep. Some time in the third hour I decided I was going to break free. I wasn’t going to simply lie here like a victim, on Gor. I was going to marshal all my strength and intelligence and prove beyond doubt that I was the equal of a man of Gor, despite what the relentless propaganda in the books always states. I was a woman now, it was true, but I was going to prove to myself that a woman could survive in situations like this. And so placing my feet against the tree trunk I quietly gathered up a length of the metal neck chain in my two hands and bracing myself as best I could on the mat, pulled with all my might. I pulled the chain for at least two minutes but the spike in that time didn’t budge even a fraction. Seremides had driven it seven inches into the trunk of the tree with a mallet and I was powerless to pull it free. I lay back on the reed mat feeling exhausted from the effort. Two minutes of straining my muscles had left me feeling weak in both my arms and my legs. I felt miserable as the soft clink of chain when I let loose the tension reminded me how helpless I was in the face of Gorean steel.
But even if I had pulled the chain free, what then? I was naked, with a chain and collar arrangement around my throat. What would I have done? Where would I have gone? Would I have attempted to hide in the oasis until I was inevitably found in the morning? Would I have run to the first tribesman in the oasis and begged for help, only to have him keep me for himself as a slave? Would I have run naked, defenceless and without provisions into the vast desert beyond the oasis, only to die slowly of sun stroke and thirst?
If I was Lara Croft, or the Black Widow from the Avengers, I could have overpowered the men, taken their weapons and provisions, stolen a sand kaiila and rode out into the desert free at last.
But I‘m not Lara Croft or the Black Widow. I’m Emma Price of London, now Lady Felicia of Corcyrus.
I’m a woman on Gor.
It was a truly humbling experience to realise just how high the odds were stacked against me in every respect. I was now a woman in a society where my sex had to obey strict cultural rules or suffer the consequences.
I clutched the length of chain frantically and ran my fingers down its length, trying desperately to think of something, anything, that I could do. I was born on Earth! I was culturally superior in virtually every aspect to these brutal barbarians! How was it then that I found myself naked and chained to an ‘O’ ring by a simple savage? Oh, how I hated Seremides and wished all manner of foul things to befall him. I couldn’t even try to steal the key to the chain from his tunic because he had the sense to sleep far away enough out of my reach.
Seremides rose early with the dawn, tying on his sandals without as much as a glance in our direction. I was awake too, having slept restlessly at best, and I now lay on my belly, the neck chain loose about my shoulders, stretching still to the great palm tree trunk. My fingers clutched in frustration at the sand as I watched my captor complete his dressing and stride off to find breakfast. Inevitably in a medium size oasis such as this one, there would be merchants providing a source of food for those prepared to pay. Already I could smell cooking as the scent of bacon and eggs frying on hot plates drove me crazy with hunger. In 36 hours I had eaten only a crust of bread and a half slice of fruit and my belly was protesting that it needed something more. At least I had water. Seremides had left a metal pan of water beside each mat before he had gone to sleep that night. By now it was only a third full and grains of sand had blown into it, rendering it undrinkable. Even so I lapped at the surface of the water, which would be free of sand, with my tongue to keep my mouth wet. The sun had begun to rise in the sky and soon, even in the shade beneath the palm tree, the temperature would soon climb to over thirty degrees centigrade.
Men walked by as I lay there, giving little attention to the naked woman in the neck chain. Only last night they had been prepared to kill one another for my use, but now, after Suleiman’s intervention it was as if I didn’t exist.
Sakkara was awake but she still wasn’t speaking to me. I called her name softly several times but this only served to make her turn round onto her side facing away from me. Surely she realised I had no power to save her? What could I have done? And yet it was as if she now blamed me for her gang rape. I hadn’t even been able to save myself – I had simply been lucky that men were prepared to kill because no one wanted to be the second one to use me.
Seremides returned half an hour later, his belly no doubt satisfied with a good cooked breakfast. My eyes lifted slightly as I saw he was carrying two clay bowls, one in each hand.
“Ladies,” he said as he stood above us. “I trust you slept well.”
I turned my face away and didn’t deign to look at him.
“If Lady Felicia wishes breakfast she should not be so rude,” said Seremides. Slowly I turned back to regard him, driven to do so by overwhelming hunger. “That’s better. Come now, the evening was a success. Thanks to you fine ladies we now have ample funds with which to complete our journey.”
“What you did to me…” whispered Sakkara.
“Our resources were limited, Lady Sakkara. I made the best of what we had. But now we have coin! You will recover in time. What are a few bruises and wounded pride after all. Slaves fare far worse.”
I couldn’t believe the sheer gall of this man as he placed a bowl before Sakkara’s mat. It contained two cooked strips of bacon and some lumpy mash that was probably a root vegetable mixed with corn of some kind. There was also a large chunk of sa-tarna bread. My mouth was already watering at the sight of it. Starved as I was, it now resembled a feast.
“And what of you, Lady Felicia? Why, you earned us a whole silver tarsk! My congratulations. For that I have given you an extra two rashers.” He showed me my bowl that did in fact hold four rashers of bacon. I held my hands out for it, which was enough to make Seremides smile. “Perhaps Lady Felicia should thank the man who feeds her? Perhaps she should wish to acknowledge that as a kept woman, she relies on me to provide for her in the desert?”
I blushed, feeling even more humiliated than before, but hunger drove me to agree to his terms. “I’m grateful that you feed your kept women, Seremides. We depend on you in the desert.”
Seremides was pleased enough with this to hand me the bowl. Without hesitation I began to wolf down the food, pausing only to say, “Water, please. Do we have any water?”
Seremides chuckled and upturned the stale sand filled bowl and then replenished it from our water skin. “See how much you need me, Lady Felicia.”
Now he produced the keys to our collars from the lining inside his tunic. Crouching down he unlocked first my collar and then that of Sakkara. Sakkara in particular seemed surprised by this.
“You free us?”
“Of course.” Seremides stood up. “Last night was last night – it was a simple act of necessity. But you are free women, not slaves. You will not wear collars.”
“I need clothing,” I said as I placed one hand over my sex and the other hand over my breasts.
“Sadly your clothes are in no fit state to be worn, Felice.” He indicated the strips of cloth that had been stripped from my body when I had tried to run. “You can wear one of the ta-teeras from the saddle bags if you wish.”
“I don’t want to wear a ta-teera,” I snapped back now that my stomach had some food in it. “I need proper clothing.”
The ta-teera is a particularly form fitting and very brief one piece garment that is fastened with hooks. It is designed to accentuate the figure of a female slave, due to its snugness which draws the fabric tightly around the breasts and hips.
gAll we have are the ta-teeras. You can of course remain naked if you prefer?”
“Give me a ta-teera,” I said quickly as Seremides picked up the rag of a garment and made to throw it on the dying embers of the camp fire.
“Are you sure?” he regarded me carefully. “It is after all a scandalously revealing garment, suitable only for sluts?”
“It will suit her then,” said Sakkara with bitterness. I notice she knelt now as a Free Woman, having the benefit of a long silken underslip to wear.
“Yes, I’m sure, Seremides. Anything is better than nothing.” I took the garment from his hand and pulled it quickly down over my head. It was tight especially around my breasts, no doubt made for a girl with less obvious curves than mine. But I managed to pull it down over my body, though it was like wearing a second skin. If anything it showed off my curves even more than when I was naked.
“Veil yourself, Lady Felicia. It is not becoming that a Free Woman should be unveiled.” He passed me a slave veil – a mockery of a Free Woman’s veil, which consisted of a light piece of diaphanous gauze. It concealed very little of course. Only in the Tahari are slaves expected to be veiled, but it is essentially a joke of sorts as the veil makes clear the beauty of the woman wearing it. As Seremides watched, I hooked the veil onto my lower face and gazed up, to his apparent satisfaction.
“Good. Do not remove it. I will not have my kept women shame me by going about bare faced.”
“Slut!” said Sakkara again towards me. As she stood there, wearing my cast aside veils from the night before – veils more appropriate for a Free Woman, it was hard to tell that only last night the Lady Sakkara had been subjected to gang rape for the sake of a fistful of tarsk bits. Veiled and at least clothed to her knees, she was once again the aloof woman of old, though much of it was no doubt an act. No woman could so easily put aside the abuse she had suffered. And yet I respected the fact she had decided not to show any sign of the pain she felt as she addressed Seremides. “What will happen to us?”
“Happen to you?” Seremides smiled. “Why, Lady Sakkara, I plan on escorting you safely to Patashqar.”
“You will not enslave us once we leave the safety of the oasis?”
“Of course not.” When it became apparent that neither of us really believed him, Seremides elaborated. “Lady Sakkara, I’m not stupid. I know you are far more valuable to me free than if I collared you out there in the desert sands. If I deliver you in one piece to your Free Companion to be, his family will reward me with a sum of money that is considerably more than I would get for you if I was to sell you in a floating market at the next oasis. That much should be obvious. Why should I settle for three copper tarsks when your family in law will no doubt offer me silver for your safe delivery?”
“Three copper tarsks! I’m worth more than that.”
“You have a slave girl’s vanity, Lady Sakkara. It is amusing.” He watched as she clenched her small hands into futile fists, having caught herself out with that remark.
“I meant only that it is a pitiful sum of money.”
“Girls can be cheap in high season. Many raids have been successful. Many markets are now very much in favour of the buyer. But you are right. Your legs are exceptional. You might easily sell for an extra copper.”
“Sleen!” she hissed.
Seremides’s answer satisfied me. He was right of course that Sakkara’s family would be able to pay far more than the current market price.
“Were you able to buy a sand kaiila?” I asked.
Seremides nodded. “Two in fact, Ladies. One for me and a draught beast capable of carrying a Kurdah for the two of you to travel in. We set off in an hour.”
So I would be sharing a Kurdah with Sakkara. It would be a cramped travelling arrangement. Whether she liked it or not she would be rubbing shoulders with me as we sheltered under the canopy. I could only hope her mood improved towards me in due course.
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