Chapter 13: I enter the House of Abdul-Hamid and learn the truth of what is required of me
The House of the celebrated Taharian slaver, Abdul-Hamid, lies on Muqtadir street, not far from the Inn of Rashid off the square of Muntasir, on the street of Sariyah. It is one of the better and more respectable of the slave houses in Patashqar, and is one of the Seven ruling Slaver Houses within the city, run operationally by Safwan Samir – a man who enriched himself on the side by earning Kurgus's gold. I of course was a stranger to Patashqar, unfamiliar with the intricate layout of the maze of streets and side alleys, and so I relied on a young man, vouched for by the Inn-Keeper, to guide myself and Seremides to the building in question. The young Taharian man was a good guide, seeming to know every single street and alley within the Merchant quarter – no mean feat, bearing in mind that many of the streets do not display signs and that the quarters have grown over the centuries in a shambolic pattern that defies comprehension. And yet he unerringly guided us through the best route at this time of day, avoiding congestion points by taking short cuts through minor side streets. Many of these side streets I would not usually travel down, even with an armed man at my side - they are narrow and quiet with anonymous doors set into alcove recesses – but the young Taharian man was known in this quarter and so the inhabitants simply nodded as he went about his business conveying the foreign man and woman to their destination.
Even so, Seremides kept his sword hand resting on the hilt of his scimitar and regarded anyone nearby with suspicion.
Finally we reached Muqtadir street. The entrance to the slaver house is reached by climbing a short set of stairs to a narrow heavy iron portal recessed some feet back, at the end of a narrow tunnel in the wall. Above the entrance to the tunnel, and on its right, in the wall, hanging from an iron projection, is a narrow, blue and yellow banner. There is a small, rectangular iron observation panel, currently shut, in the door. The rest of the street was made up of bare sand-washed stone walls with a handful of equally modest doorways that might lead to private houses or businesses.
Standing there behind Seremides, I drew my breath as he knocked sharply three times on the heavy iron door. The observation panel slid back as a pair of eyes peered cautiously out onto the street. They observed an uncollared ta-teera clad girl standing there beside a man dressed in the caste colours of the warriors. “My name is Seremides, and this is Felicia. We're here to see Safwan Samir,” explained Seremides as he turned to address the open panel. “We are expected by Samir,” he added to dispel any lingering doubts on the part of the guard. The man grunted in acknowledgement as the door swung open, after much freeing of bolts, chains and bars, to permit us both entrance into a tiny torch lit room. The armed guard nodded again and allowed us through. Only a few feet before us was another door, also iron, similar to the outside door. In many ways this system operates a bit like an airlock. Security is always tight in a slaver house. They are perhaps amongst the most secure buildings to be found anywhere on Gor. The guard didn't seem too surprised by my presence, despite the fact that a Free Woman attending a slaver house in Patashqar is about as likely as a grown man growing wings and learning to fly like a Tarn. Presumably he had been told to expect me. Nevertheless, my visit was unusual and it drew significant attention as we passed through the security system.
The guard tapped a complex signal on the inner door – one that no doubt changes on a regular basis – and a moment later I heard the locks being released one by one, after which we were admitted to the corridor beyond. The guard in this corridor, seeing us, looked at Seremides and stated: “You will need a temporary licence. No free woman, unless a capture, may proceed beyond this point unless she is in the charge of a Free Man who is responsible for her and has a current licence for her. This is a device to control the movements of Free Women in the house and a precaution against the attempted escape of slave girls pretending to be Free Women. Do you understand the reasoning?”
Seremides smiled as he nodded, obviously pleased with the military-like discipline of this place. “Of Course. I will take responsibility for her while she is within the house and she will not leave my sight.” He looked at. “You will need to unpin your veil Lady so that the guards can see your face. We would not want some slut trying to sneak out dressed in your clothes would we now?”
I frowned. “Don't look like you're enjoying this so much, Seremides. I am well aware of the ridiculous level of security in any house that the slaver caste controls. I just want you to understand that even the villa in Corcyrus didn't operate as obsessively as this! I do this only under protest.” My hands reached to my thin veil and briefly unpinned the sides, allowing it to hang down the front of my ta-teera. I stared the guard in the face, refusing to be embarrassed by this. I refused to look at Seremides. Despite being once a man from Earth, I had been on Gor now long enough as a woman to feel uneasy with my face exposed to men. The guard studied me for a moment and then wrote various notes down on a rectangular form, taking his time, not hurrying, and he instructed me to add a thumb print in ink at the bottom of the page. He then handed the form to Seremides.
“Here is your pass,” said the guard, as he handed over a small disc as well. It was similar to the ostraka used as tickets or tokens of admission at the theatres in Corcyrus. “This is a licence for the female. Please keep it safe and on you at all times while in the house.” The licence included details of my name, my hair colour, my height, and a brief description of the garment I was wearing. Identification could be verified, if necessary, by comparing the thumb print on the paper with a fresh one taken from me at any time.
Seremides opened one of the pouches on his belt and stored both inside, the license folded first naturally, the pouch then fastened shut to ensure neither would be lost. He then gestured onwards. “Precede me Lady, and while you might consider such measures to be obsessive, such ensures that when women are put in chains they stay in them, at least as long as they are in the keeping of the Slaver caste anyway.”
“I'm sure they are!” I paused to re-pin my light veil, fussing over it since I didn't have a mirror to hand and the chamber wasn't very brightly lit. “Your mood seems to have brightened ever since you encountered this ridiculous level of bureaucracy in action.” Once I was satisfied that the veils were securely in place, I preceded Seremides as instructed. The guard walked alongside us, watching me with continued interest. We were escorted through pleasant tiled corridors in the upper levels of the building. Here the house seemed relatively welcoming, but of course I knew that the scene would be quite different in the lower levels, in the chambers beneath the ground floor. Down there the lighting would be dim. The chambers would be dark; the atmosphere cold and clammy. There would be puddles of cold water, seeping down from the street above, caught in concavities or irregularities in the corridor flooring. Narrow passages, crooked and dark, would lead deeper into the system, leading to even lower levels, to pit cells, and grated holes where merchandise could be held. Girls would be terrified of being taken down there. Along the way we passed slaves, usually employed in domestic tasks, such as running errands, carrying burdens, dusting or cleaning. These women were usually naked, except for their collars. As we approached, they immediately positioned themselves, usually with their knees wide, kneeling back on their heels, their heads up, their hands on their thighs, but sometimes instead, kneeling with the palms of their hands on the tiles, their heads down, too, to the same tiles. They remained like that until we passed by. “At this hour,” explained the guard, “we usually clean the upper levels of the house. Training occurs earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon.” He indicated me as I walked slightly ahead along the passage way. “You know the woman well?”
Seremides shook his head. “No not really, I've only known her for a short time.” He was smiling as he walked and talked, as if there was something deeply reassuring about being surrounded by the trappings of a slaver house, not to mention the many nude women, labouring in their collars under superb discipline, that we passed along the corridors.
Before long we reached the expansive suite of rooms where Safwan Samir worked. The guard knocked on the door and, when he heard a reply from inside, gestured for the two of us to enter. I stepped in first. “Thank you for agreeing to see us,” I began to say, but Safwan Samir paid no attention to my words. He stood by a barred window that overlooked the street, with his hands clasped behind his back as he faced us both. “Seremides...” he grinned, concentrating his attention solely on my colleague. “Now I am truly worried about the safety of this city...” He took a few paces forward. “It is truly a pleasure to meet you. Your reputation in the service of Kurgus is a good one, brother. But before we begin, may I see your licence for the female?” He spoke politely. Samir obviously knew who I was, but be chose to go through the usual formal process of checking the papers, as if this was just a routine example of a man bringing a woman into the building, rather than the more important visit it actually was.
Seremides reached to his belt, retrieved and presented my licence for Samir's inspection. “You must be Safwan Samir. It's a pleasure to meet you at last. I've often seen your House's platforms at the Sardar Fairs. I trust you're doing well? After all, there is no shortage of women in need of a collar in this world.”
He laughed at that. “No, there is never a shortage of potential merchandise.” He glanced briefly at me and then back to the papers where he proceeded to take an inordinate amount of time checking the details on my papers, even taking the time to examine closely, from a distance, my hair colour, assess my height, and run his finger down the inventory before he seemed satisfied. “Everything seems to be in order.” He returned the papers to Seremides. “Can I offer you or the Lady a drink?” At this point I stepped forward, feeling it was important to remind both these men that I was Kurgus's agent here.
“Thank you for agreeing to meet us, Safwan Samir, and thank you for the enquiries you have been making on Kurgus's behalf these past few months. A glass of ka-la-na would be nice. I've brought Seremides here because he is assisting me in this part of Gor and...”
Safwan Samir shook his head and simply interrupted me with a wave of his hand. “Please, Lady,” he didn't use my name. “I would rather hear Seremides speak of the particulars of your mission. There are some olives on a low table over there.” He indicated the table. “Perhaps you might care to eat one or two while men talk of business matters that don't relate to pretty shoes and dresses?”
Seremides didn't bother to hide his smile as Samir summarily dismissed me from the conversation. “A goblet of ka-la-na would be much appreciated and the Lady will have a small glass of the same. It would not do for her to get drunk after all.” He walked to the barred window and looked out onto the Street below, before turning back to regard Samir. “I like the view, and the House is impressive from what I've seen of it thus far,” he said casually as he walked to the chair on the other side of his desk. Curiously there were only two curule chairs. Seremides took one and of course Samir took the other. I stood there for a moment looking put out before I glanced towards the low table to the side where the olives could be found. There should be three chairs! I clenched my fists in annoyance. Why weren't there three chairs? Surely Samir knew how many guests to expect.
“Lady,” Samir turned to me briefly. “There is an open bottle of ka-la-na on a shelf over there. Perhaps you would be kind enough to pour a glass for Seremides and a small one for yourself.” He smiled and then turned back to face my subordinate. “I am glad this house impresses you. It is not the biggest such house in Patashqar, but it enjoys a fine reputation. Sadly we have recently outgrown it.” While the men talked, I crossed over to the shelf and poured some ka-la-na into a glass for Seremides. Despite what was said, I selected an equal size glass, rather than a small one, for myself, and filled that one too. I was after all the senior operative in this mission for Kurgus. For the moment I let my glass stand on the shelf as I crossed the floor to present Seremides with the ka-la-na. Perhaps I looked annoyed, in which case good.
“Thank you Felice,” said Seremides calmly as he took the goblet from my small outstretched hand, his attention switching briefly to me before he took a sip of the wine. “Delicious.” Now his comments and attention were directed back at Samir. “I've seen the facility at street level, the more public areas, if such a term can apply to a Slaver House. How many levels are there below ground?”
Samir folded his hands together under his chin, elbows resting on the arms of his chair. “It is a typical Slaver House in Patashqar. Three levels underground, though the deepest one currently has some drainage problems that need correcting. You will be familiar of course with the typical contents of the lower levels of a slave house.” he glanced at me, and then back at Seremides, suggesting perhaps that he should not talk too openly about the pens below, the branding chamber, discipline room, and the rooms where girls were taught to kiss and caress, and learn the movements of love, while I was in earshot. While he ran through a description of the different areas of the house with Seremides, I returned to the shelf and picked up the normal size glass of ka-la-na and raised it to my lips to drink. Samir raised an eyebrow at me as he noticed I had not selected a small glass as Seremides had suggested.
“The business of Abdul-Hamid has achieved a good degree of success this past year, thanks to some well timed bulk acquisitions of choice slaves that were re-sold for a good profit. The business has now effectively outgrown its current building, particularly in terms of holding areas, and we are seeking to relocate to larger premises. The current building is however in an excellent location. Although it is not an unusually large house, it contains baths and a sales yard, as well as various holding areas, ranging from silken, barred alcoves for superb pleasure slaves, through cells and cages of various sorts more fit for medium-priced women, to incarceration chambers that are little more than grated pits or gloomy dungeons, areas in which a slave might be terrified to find herself placed. Other holding areas, ranging from good to bad are no more than a ring position, in a wall or on a floor. There are also kitchens, pantries, eating areas, some with mere troughs or depressions in the floor, storage areas, guard rooms, offices and places for the keeping of records. There is also a laundry and an infirmary; too there are rooms where such subjects as the care and dressing of hair, the application of cosmetics, the selection and use of perfumes, manicure and pedicure, and slave costuming are taught, and even rooms where inept women, usually former members of the upper castes, or the conceited rich,” Samir glanced briefly in my direction again, “could be instructed in the small domestic tasks that would now be expected of them, small services suitable for slaves, such as cleaning, cooking and sewing.”
Seremides had noticed Samir's sidewise glance and disapproving expression concerning me and, as he saw me pick up the full sized goblet, he called across the room. “I said a small glass, Felice. You can pour what wine will fit into it and the rest from the goblet into my own. Then you will kneel at the side table, quietly while we discuss business. Do not forget who holds your license within this house. Slaver Caste laws are quite specific. Free Woman you might be, but while you are present in a slaver house under license, you technically have an owner until you leave.” Seremides turned his head back to regard Samir, very sure of himself that that would be the end of the matter. “How bad is the drainage issue you mentioned in the lowest basement, are we talking damp floors, or light flooding? and how much of the level is affected by it?”
The glass was at my lips when Seremides called out to me. I stood there alternating between outrage and disbelief and was just about to tell him exactly what he could do with his 'small glass', when I saw his right hand move meaningfully to rest on the handle of the whip which he kept clipped to his belt. I suddenly felt dizzy at the implied threat, as Samir stared at me expressionlessly. Slowly, I lowered the glass from my lips, and without saying anything, I picked up a small glass and with trembling hands, poured some of the wine into it, leaving the rest of within the first receptacle. Not choosing to say anything now, I quietly moved to the low table and knelt beside it in the graceful position of the Gorean Free Woman, placing the glass on its surface. All the while Seremides didn't so much as look at me, but Samir did. Only when I knelt as instructed did he turn back to Seremides and smile with a slight nod to answer his further questions. I listened quietly, aware of the sound of my own heart beat. “As for the drainage – we're talking damp floors – puddles – but it will get worse unless some money is spent on the problem. On the plus side, I find that girls will do just about anything to ensure they're not penned on the lowest level.”
Seremides chuckled again at Samir's last comment as he savoured his wine. “Yes, damp attracts urts and being caged down there with those furry fiends would be enough to cause even the most frigid of captives to reform her ways.” He turned his head to regard me as he sat his goblet down on the desk. “You may refill it with the remainder of the wine from the goblet you first picked now, Felice, then you can return to the table and kneel quietly there.” He glanced back at Samir. “We should perhaps discuss the important matters to hand. The reason why we are here in Patashqar at this time.”
Refill it! The nerve of the man. I knelt there as Seremides made himself comfortable with Samir's hospitality. His surly attitude during the journey across the burning sands of the Tahari had now blossomed into full blown insolence as he conveniently chose to disregard the authority given to me by Kurgus in Corcyrus. Oh, how I hated the assumed superiority of the Gorean man now that I was biologically, if not mentally, a woman. I hated his superior size and strength and the world view which dictated that I would have to rely on his goodwill for my own life and freedom. But what could I actually do about it here in Samir's guarded stronghold? I was many weeks away from any authority Kurgus possessed, which meant that in the walled city of Patashqar, Seremides could act as he wished and Kurgus would not know of it until I returned. It suddenly occurred to me how vulnerable my position could be if I chose to anger Seremides in the presence of another Free man. Gorean pride is a stupid and dangerous thing to provoke. If I did so in front of Samir, he would be obliged to put me in my place or lose all face before the owner of these slave pens. Even the threat of Kurgus's anger would mean little if the alternative was the humiliation of being seen to be under the command of a woman. If I opposed him here and now, with Samir as witness, it might be the spark that would make him snap. Would he unclip the whip from his belt? Almost certainly as a threat for me to go no further. And if I did stand my ground? It was inconceivable that he would actually strike me with it, and yet... were there any certainties, now that I had a weak, helpless female body? Could I truly do anything to stop him?
From what I saw of Samir's attitude towards me it was clear he too had little regard for Kurgus's female agents and would probably do nothing to interfere should Seremides decide to enforce his will upon me. It would be far wiser for me to let this disrespect pass for the moment and then speak to Seremides in private afterwards. He would accept my rebukes and the verbal discipline I would have to administer once other Gorean men were not there to see it. But here and now his pride would be on show for Samir and his men to see. It seemed I had little choice but to submit to this arrogant and disrespectful behaviour from my subordinate.
“Yes Seremides.” my voice was surprisingly quiet and respectful all of a sudden as I permited myself the indignity of being the dutiful Gorean woman so long as we remained in this sanctum. I rose to my feet and crossed the floor back to the shelf where the large glass stood. I picked it up and walked back towards the men where Seremides had placed his glass on Samir's table. My eyes were moist as I slowly refilled that glass with the remainder of the ka-la-na in mine. I became very aware that Samir had stopped talking while I did so. The room now seemed very quiet. Neither man seemed to be looking directly at me though.
“Your ka-la-na, Seremides...” I backed away two steps, wishing he would remove his hand from the whip handle. The implicit threat was a visual statement of my inferior position in this house. “I will return to my table now, if that's all right.”
Samir glanced at Seremides as I said that, and added “do you require anything else, Seremides?”
He took up the goblet again and sipped the fresh ka-la-na within. “No, that will be fine Felice. Return to your place now.” He seemed to be enjoying just how well I was responding to being commanded. And still his hand did not leave the handle of the whip.
I hurried quickly back to the low table and knelt there, once I was permitted to do so, feeling very small. I did not touch the small glass of ka-la-na that sat on the table. Every now and then my eyes glanced towards where the two men sat conversing. How I hated Gorean men!
“So then, we should perhaps turn our attention to the matters at hand.” He broke the seal on a letter in his possession and began to read from it. “In accordance with the instructions from Kurgus of Corcyrus, from this moment on, the Free Woman, Lady Felicia Fonseca Gebara Torres is now given full authority as commanding agent within the walls of the city of Patashqar. This authority as a Free Woman in the service of the Kurii extends to overseeing the actions of Seremides who will satisfy himself to act in full accordance with her wishes. My congratulations, Lady Felicia, you are as of now in full command of this operation. I believe this calls for ka-la-na of the finest vintage. What pray are your instructions?” said Safwan Samir as he selected a dusty bottle from a nearby rack. No longer was I required to serve the men.
“And about time too.” I drew myself up to my full height and stood with all the dignity I could muster whilst being barefoot and clad in a ta-teera. “I demand clothes of course, first and foremost. I do not wish to wear this shameful rag one moment longer.” My fingers pulled at the short hem of the clingy fabric where it hugged my shapely hips.
“But of course. You will be accorded the full gowns and robes of a modest Free Woman of the Tahari. Sadly there will be some delay in doing so as obviously a slaver house does not hold stocks of clothing suitable for a Free Woman.”
I hadn't thought of that. “Send then for skilled cloth workers to come here with samples, such that clothing can be prepared for me while I wait. Do so immediately.”
Samir rubbed his chin and thought about this for a moment. “If you so wish, Lady, but it will of course be the source of gossip within hours. Who is this mysterious and beautiful lady who stood imperiously inside the confines of a slaver house, dressed in a ta-teera and yet commanding the authority to send out for fine clothes? Speculation will perhaps be rife, tongues will wag and the spies belonging to the Sultan and the other great slaver houses will soon be investigating your presence here.”
“Perhaps sending for cloth workers to attend me here was a bit presumptuous.”
“Perhaps,” agreed Samir as he relaxed in his curule chair. “Lady Felicia might then prefer to go shopping tomorrow? What is it to her if she wears a ta-teera amongst trusted colleagues today? She is of course above such trivial concerns, intent instead on applying her mind to the greater issues to hand, such as her mission for Kurgus.”
“The ta-teera barely covers me. My I remind you that it is a degrading slave garment?”
“And yet the Lady Felicia wears it well. Rarely have I seen a woman who wears a ta-teera with finer grace and beauty than her.”
“Well... we shall return to the matter of my wardrobe in a while.” I took a glass of vintage ka-la-na from Samir's hand and sipped it. My God, but it was good! This was the sort of wine that surely cost many hundreds of pounds on Earth! Samir noticed my surprised reaction as I sipped the wine.
“From my private cellars,” he said. “And yes, it is worthy of a Ubara, or in this case, the commanding agent of noble Kurgus.”
“As it should be.” I was really quite pleased with the way things were turning out. I had survived the horrors of the journey here, and now I had men who would owe me deference and service, something surely rare on Gor. I would have power, respect and the funds with which to live well while I worked in Patashqar. Lady Jacinta would no doubt approve. “Report then on where I can meet and interrogate this slave girl, Erin?”
“But of course. Our primary investigations have revealed that after the male agent was killed, Erin tried to return to Corcyrus on her own. As you may imagine, she didn't get far before she was enslaved a few pasangs out in the desert. The men she had paid to escort her proved to be bandits. She currently resides in the slaver house of Banu Hashim, he who is third in the council of Slavers. The house and grounds is situated north of here and interestingly it offers a place where privately owned slave girls can be lodged securely and trained for a price. Typically these public access pens are used by men who have acquired a few girls, perhaps with an eye towards a long term investment, but for various reasons they do not have the time or space to look after them personally. Perhaps they have a small residence or perhaps they move around frequently, often with no fixed abode. Perhaps too they are looking to invest money in a girl's training so that the investment increases her eventual sale price considerably, thereby turning a handsome profit. Some girls can be in the pens for a matter of days. Others may reside there long term so long as the fees are paid.”
“I see. Erin was obviously careless to let herself be captured like that.”
“Obviously. It would never have happened to you of course, Lady Felicia.”
“Of course not. I am a far superior agent to her. So, the obvious course of action is to buy the stupid girl. I can then interrogate her at my leisure from the comfort of my apartments within this city. Arrange funds for her purchase immediately. Inform me when it is done.” I sipped some more of the delicious ka-la-na. “And I will require several bottles of this wine to be sent to my apartments. Needless to say, the apartments are to be spacious, cool, airy, and beautifully furnished. Spare no expense in that respect.”
Samir smiled and glanced at Seremides who smiled back. “As it happens I have anticipated your instructions and therefore enquired into the prospect of buying Erin from Banu Hashim. Unfortunately she is not for sale.”
“Not for sale? Every girl is for sale at a price. Make a ridiculously high offer for her that no one could possibly refuse. Pay a gold Tarsk if necessary. I want the girl in chains in my apartment as soon as possible.”
“With all due respect, that is not a wise course of action, Lady,” interrupted Seremides.
“Oh?” I glanced round at the man. “You think you know better than I?
“Were we to make a ridiculously high offer for the girl, then Banu Hashim would know of it, for we would have to make the offer through his house rather than to the girl's owner, who is not currently replying to our overtures. Banu Hashim would be intrigued. Why are we offering such a large sum of money for an ordinary girl in his pens? Who are we exactly? What is our interest? Presumably this girl has some considerable value over and above that of her sweet curvaceous body? More questions would be asked. Any potential sale would be delayed while Banu Hashim's people looked into the matter. The girl, Erin, would almost certainly be questioned, possibly under torture. It is possible she might die under torture, taking her secrets with her to the grave. Spies would hear of our significant offer to buy her and perhaps you or I would receive a visit from cut throats with orders to question us, also under torture. Do you see, Lady?”
“Oh.” Again I hadn't thought of that. “You mean to basically say that a reasonable offer based on Erin's market value price would be refused, whereas a ridiculously high price would in theory be accepted, except that for it to be so high it would result in Banu Hashim delaying the sale to find out what we are doing?”
“Precisely, yes. It is not conceivable that we can purchase Erin. The very price we would need to offer would work against us.”
“Very well. Then we will take her by force. You are instructed to employ warriors, professional mercenaries, capable of storming the building and killing the defenders.”
“We would need a small army to stand any chance of getting in, taking Erin, and getting out of the heavily defended Slaver Quarter alive,” explained Samir. “The Slaver Lords have their own warriors and they would be mobilised in large numbers. It would clearly be suicide and any sell swords we approached would know that. Few men would be sane enough to accept such a contract.”
“This is ridiculous! Why should obtaining one stupid slave prove to be so difficult? Well then, simply arrange for me to have access to her where she is being held. I shall visit the pens and speak to her. Arrange a meeting.”
“Lady Felicia, Free Women do not enter a public slave pen. The only women in a place like that wear collars. No one would take seriously a request by a Free Woman to tour the premises. Furthermore there is the matter of public decency to consider – the staff would probably report your name to the magistrates who would give you a stern reprimand on the standard of decency expected of visiting Free Women in Patashqar. They would feel you were showing to much of an interest in matters relating to slavery.”
“But I have to speak to Erin! This is ridiculous. I have to ask her a specific question, her answer to which will trigger the subliminal command in my head, making me recite a code phrase which in turn will make Erin reveal the weapons co-ordinates. All this hinges on me meeting her face to face.”
“What then do you wish to do Lady? We await your commands.”
“I don't know. There must be some way I can talk to her.”
“My understanding is that you are a talented and resourceful agent, so I personally look forward to hearing how you intend to accomplish this,” said Samir.
“We cannot move Erin from the pens to us?”
“So it seems.”
“Then the only alternative is for me to go to Erin.”
“A brilliant and perceptive observation. I am impressed. Already you provide us with much needed hope. Please continue, Lady.” Seremides choked on his ka-la-na as Samir paid me that compliment.
“Are you all right?” I asked Seremides. He seemed to be having difficulty holding his composure for some reason.
“My apologies, Lady. The wine went down the wrong way.”
“Try to act professionally, Seremides. I am trying to work out a plan here.”
“Of course. My apologies again.” Now it seemed to be Samir's turn to be having problems as he quickly lifted his goblet to cover his mouth while Seremides replied to me. I was getting very irritated by all of this. Despite their conciliatory words, I was getting the impression there was some shared joke that I wasn't privy to.
“Then the problem remains. I am a Free Woman, and Free Women are not permitted within the pens.”
“That is the insurmountable problem as far as I can see it, Lady Felicia.” Samir was looking very serious now, though occasionally the sides of his mouth would twitch for some reason. “The only women who would enter such a place would be freshly captured girls, wide eyed, possibly still in shock, finding it hard to reconcile and come to terms with what has just happened to them – being captured, stripped and collared. Almost certainly such a woman would be led there in wrist chains, the newly acquired property of a man who would need to lodge her there for a few days and perhaps buy some preliminary training for her. Such women of course attract little attention and arouse no suspicions for their comings and goings are common place. It is of course how the public access pens derive their income.”
“Are you suggesting...” I gazed at him with an expression of disgust.
“Suggesting what, Lady? Frankly, I am fresh out of ideas. The problem as I see it seems impossible to resolve.”
“Are you suggesting I should gain access to the pens and therefore Erin, by pretending to be a freshly captured girl?”
The two men now gazed at one another with expressions of stunned amazement. “But that is brilliant!” said Seremides, as if I'd just explained how Black Holes are formed in space.
“Truly Kurgus chose well,” added Samir in equal amazement. “But of course! Why didn't we think of such a thing? Such a course of action is theoretically possible...”
“And yet, without this imaginative Lady here, the likes of you and I could have stumbled blindly for days without thinking of it,” pointed out Seremides.
“Indeed. My thoughts exactly. And to think she came up with this brilliant idea in but twenty ehn? Imagine what she will have achieved in the next few months?”
“The Priest Kings are surely doomed,” said Seremides in obvious admiration.
“Excuse me.” I waved my glass of ka-la-na in their faces. “Thank you for the vote of confidence, but I didn't say I was actually going to do it. I am not going to march in there, my hands braceleted behind my back, Seremides pretending to be my captor! The idea is unthinkable. We will come up with a different plan.”
“And that different plan is?” asked Seremides.
“I too look forward to hearing of this alternative plan,” said Samir. “Two viable plans in but the space of a few ehn? This is incredible.” Again Seremides seemed to be choking on his wine. Was the man not used to alcohol?
“I... I don't have an alternative plan just yet. I will need to think on it.”
“But of course. Sadly, the girl Erin could be collected from the pens at any time. Who knows, it might happen later today?” said Samir.
“It is possible,” agreed Seremides. “Time moves against us. We have no way of knowing how long her mysterious owner intends to lodge her there. Today may well be her last night in the pens for all we know.”
“But nevertheless a good plan takes time to formulate. The Lady Felicia is correct that she may need days, perhaps weeks to come up with a viable alternative strategy, and if by then Erin is lost to us, why, the Lady Felicia will proudly return to Kurgus with her head held high to explain to him why she has failed so spectacularly on her first mission. How she had Erin so close to hand, but through a series of understandable delays, failed to meet her. We will of course support her full account as she renders it.”
“Is Kurgus... tolerant with failure?” I asked.
Both men laughed. Seremides wiped tears from his eyes. “Oh, but Lady Felicia is funny. It is safe to say that no formerly Free Woman has ever had to worry about failing Kurgus twice.”
“Formerly free?” I said.
“It is safe to say that Kurgus offers such a woman an alternative role in his household.”
“I see.” I gazed around the room, registering what the men were implying, as I finished the wine in my goblet. “Kurgus rewards failure in his female agents with slavery.”
“Typically, yes,” said Seremides.
“In all probability,” added Samir.
“Then I dare not fail Kurgus,” I said.
“That would be my advice, yes.”
“And mine too.” Seremides seemed pleased with himself as he sat there sipping wine.
“How long, speaking but hypothetically here, would I have to act as a freshly captive woman?”
“As a slave girl,” corrected Seremides.
“Very well. How long would I have to pose as a slave?” I thought back to what the Lady Jacinta had told me of the assignment issued to Miss Evelyn Ellis in Schendi - of how she had been given an assignment to pretend to be a slave – a role which she had acted out perfectly. Even Brinn, the agent for Priest Kings, had taken on a similar role to further his spying mission within the House of Kurgus.
“I suspect you would have the opportunity to make contact with Erin within two to three days of being stabled within the pens. The first day you are unlikely to have much freedom of movement. The second day would perhaps be a matter of acclimatising yourself to the layout of the place.”
“I would have to wear a collar?”
Seremides nodded. “I would never lodge you in a public access pen without a collar locked around your throat, identifying you as my property. I would not wish the possibility of someone else claiming you while I wasn't around to object.”
“It's out of the question. I simply can't pretend to be a slave girl. I can't.”
“I understand,” said Seremides with a yawn. “I will make arrangements tonight for you to be shipped back to Kurgus to report your failure. I wish you well, Lady Felicia, and I look forward to seeing you in your new role, dressed in perfumed silks, when I return to Kurgus's villa.” He rose to get up but paused when I scurried forward.
“Wait! I am still considering my options.”
“Of course. Please do so.” He sat back down in his chair.
“This is no small thing I'm expected to do. I've been on Gor long enough now to have some idea of what the life of a slave is like. To act like that, even for a few days is a serious matter. I don't think I'd be able to act the part convincingly enough.”
“You would, in a sense, not be acting, Lady,” said Seremides. “Firstly you would assimilate to the role in much the same way any new slave might, for you would be encouraged by the whips and goads of the men overseeing the slave pens. Do you think foolish Free Women automatically know how to be slaves when they are first stripped and collared? Of course not. In nearly all cases it is a deeply traumatic time as they come to terms with the new reality that has been imposed upon them. You would not be expected to be 'slave perfect' as a new capture, rather you would act exactly as is expected – the way a former Free Woman acts when she finds herself on her knees, placed in steel shackles by a man. Secondly, you would not truly be pretending to be a slave, for technically you would be an actual slave. You understand surely that papers of ownership would have to be produced for you? Formalities need to be observed. As part of your cover we would need to create such papers. You would therefore, as far as the law is concerned, be an actual slave during the time you wore my collar.”
“This really is too much...” I turned my head away. “Kurgus expects too much from me.” I thought again of Evelyn Ellis and how she had pretended to be a slave in Schendi as part of her assignment. How could she have done such a thing? The men watched as I clenched my fists in frustration. Kurgus could not ask such a thing of me. I was not a slave!
“We of course would know that you were doing this to further our cause, but as far as the magistrates of the city would be concerned, you would be a legally embonded slave girl – a recent catch, procured but days ago, not yet trained. Though training is of course readily available in the pens.”
“Training is out of the question! Even if I agreed to this ridiculous proposal – which of course I will not – it would be on the insistence that I would be lodged in the pens only – not trained! You cannot expect me to accept slave training!”
“I understand, Lady.” said Samir. “Of course it would be a shame if your only opportunity to meet Erin turned out to be in a training class. If the pens are crowded you may well be housed in separate cages, with limited opportunities to meet outside of a slave class. You might therefore find yourself having to reside in the pens for weeks, maybe months, unable to make contact with Erin in all that time.”
“Couldn't you arrange that I was simply housed in the same communal cage as Erin? That way I could accomplish my mission in a single day without any need for training?”
“And how would we accomplish that without arousing suspicion? What possible reason could we have to house you alongside a specific slave that is not ours and of whom logically we should not know even exists?”
“I don't know! I don't know!” I struck the floor with the palms of my hands. Whichever way I turned, everything seemed to point to this being the only viable plan. “There must be some other way?”
“Then tell us of that other way, Lady, and we will make the necessary arrangements, for we are here to facilitate your plans.”
“I can't think of any other way...” I moaned softly.
Seremides nodded. “This is a slaver house. We could prepare your new identity here in private with dignity, away from spectators. It would be easier that way.”
“I can't do this..” I placed my head in my hands and sobbed. “I'm scared.”
“Of course. There is much to fear in being a slave.”
A thought suddenly struck me. “No, it's impossible. I would have to be branded, and there is no way I would agree to that. The brand is permanent. I will not agree to that.”
“We could work around that.” Seremides looked at Samir, who nodded in agreement. “You are a fresh capture after all, maybe taken only a day or two ago. I perhaps have not had time to brand you yet. Perhaps I have not yet decided which of many beautiful brands to place upon your thigh. There are several to choose from after all. It might then be that your thigh remains clean of the iron when I take you at the end of a leash, your wrists tightly braceleted behind you, to the public access pens for lodging and training. I might perhaps tell the slaver who questions me that I will arrange your branding at a later date, perhaps when I return to collect you. That is plausible, is it not? I would not be expected to rush such a thing. The branding of a girl is a very important psychological moment, not just for her, but also for her Master. Such a thing should take place at an appropriate time.”
“I would not be branded when you take me to the pens?”
“Of course not, Lady. It would not be appropriate to brand you while you're a Free Woman. As I look upon you now I see you are clearly free and not for example a slave girl in a collar who can simply be branded at a moment's notice. Relax, Lady, put such thoughts from your mind. Perhaps you would care for another glass of wine?” Seremides poured a fresh goblet and handed it to me.
“But you say I would technically be a slave?”
“In the eyes of the law, yes. You understand that the impersonation would have to be perfect, save for the brand. The papers would have to be authentic, and copies would have to be lodged with the authorities, or else the owners of the pens would sense irregularities in the matter. Think closely – if there was any doubt whatsoever in your ownership, then you might be considered fair game for the slave pen owners to keep you for themselves. If I could not prove ownership of you, legally, fully, then I could not protect you. Would you really wish to be discovered to be a Free Woman masquerading as a slave within a slave pen?”
“I'm so scared...”
“Drink some more wine.” Samir guided my hands, holding the engraved goblet, to my mouth where I did as he suggested. The wine was excellent and served to calm some of my nerves.
“I would only be in there for two days?”
“You would be in there until you made contact with the slave girl, Erin,” said Samir with a smile.
“But if that proved to be impossible, I could simply leave at any time?”
“Of course not. You would leave only when I collected you,” said Seremides.
“But what if it proves impossible to make contact with Erin? What if I am still there two weeks later and I have no way of speaking to her?”
“You underestimate your skills and ingenuity, Lady, not to mention the eagerness you will have to do whatever is needed to get out of the pens sooner rather than later. There is always a way. Drink your wine.” He refilled my goblet as he continued. “But to set your mind at rest, I would not leave you indefinitely in the public access pens of Banu Hashim. Whether you were successful or not, I promise I will collect you. You have my word of honour on that. I swear it on the Home Stone of Corcyrus.”
I knew then that, whatever his faults, and they were many, Seremides would be as good as his word and he would indeed return to collect me from the public pens. I would not be abandoned there, which is something I feared if my mission turned out to be a failure. Goreans differ from Earth men in that they put a very high price on their honour. Few Gorean men would break an oath that was sworn on their Home Stone. Such a thing would be unthinkable to all but most vilified of Outlaws. As a guarantee it was virtually perfect.
'What would happen if I agreed to this?”
“A collar would be placed around your neck. With your permission it would be closed upon you and locked. You would not have the key.”
I trembled, feeling dizzy at the thought of a Gorean collar around my throat, so unlike the innocent but exciting fantasies I had flirted with when I was a T-girl on Earth, for this would be the real thing.
“We would then record a series of measurements and details pertaining to your face and body. These details together would clearly identify you in dozens of way on your slave papers. If there was ever any uncertainty as to your legal status, for example if you somehow managed to free yourself from your collar and dress yourself in the clothes of a Free Woman, then a comparison with the details recorded on the papers would clearly confirm you were indeed a slave girl. The accuracy would be such that a coincidental match of all the details would be millions to one against. These papers would then be lodged with the relevant authorities in the municipal cylinders and you would then be for all legal purposes a slave belonging to me.”
“But you would know who I really was!”
“Of course I would. Looking upon you now I clearly recognise that you are the Free Woman, Lady Felicia, and as such, as a Free Woman in the employ of Kurgus, you are my appointed superior.”
I relaxed a little upon hearing this and held out my hand with the goblet. “Fill it,” I said in a commanding voice. Seremides nodded and poured a little more of the excellent ka-la-na into the receptacle until I told him to stop. “I am your superior, aren't I?”
“But of course. The instructions from Kurgus are abundantly clear on the matter. We are both to take orders from the Free Woman, Lady Felicia. We cannot disobey her.”
“This is as it should be. So, I would be in charge and control of my own impersonation of a slave?”
“It is certainly true that as a Free Woman, you would of course dictate and plan the details in advance of your collaring. All matters would be clearly set out by yourself, for you are in control of this mission. The final decision is yours, Lady.”
“Perhaps I could do this. How does Kurgus reward his successful agents?” I thought back to the Lady Jacinta who was after all high in Kurgus's favour because of her track record for successful missions against the odds. She did seem to want for nothing, though it was strange that she had been successful now for nearly 40 years while all her contemporaries and most of the women who followed after her had eventually failed and ended up as slaves.
“Kurgus has always been very generous to women he respects.”
“It would be good to deliver a resounding success in this first mission. I think perhaps it would surprise him. I am concerned though that while I reside in the pens I could be subject to slave rape. I am, as you might put it, white silk.”
“That too can be dealt with,” said Seremides. “I would propose to keep you, once your are legally a slave, in an iron belt during your stay in the pens, Wearing such a belt you would remain white silk until my return.”
“An iron belt? A chastity belt?”
“I believe it is called that on your planet, yes. It consists of a horizontal curved bar, much like a collar, that locks around your waist, and a vertical bar that fits snugly over your sex, locking in place to the former bar. A woman in such a belt cannot be taken by a man in the conventional sense. It is true there are other ways of making a girl see to a man's pleasure, but those things need not concern you, for the sheer abundance of other slaves in the pens, most of whom will be red silk and unbelted, will divert the men's attention away from you. Who would want a girl who can only serve in a limited capacity, when there is an abundance of other girls who are not limited in any way?”
“I am beginning to consider the possibility of going through with this if I'm to wear an iron belt for protection and it is understood that my body is not to be branded before I enter.”
“As I said, I would tell the slavers in the pens that I have not yet decided on a suitable brand, that I have not had time to arrange a brand, and that you will therefore simply be branded once I come to claim you. There is no reason for them to think this is a pretence of any kind. They will assume what I say is the truth.”
“If anyone asks, I shall simply tell them then it is your intention to brand me at your leisure when you return from your business elsewhere to collect me from the pens?”
“Lady Felicia, I couldn't have put it better myself.” Seremides smiled. “You seem to understand the situation more clearly than I expected.”
“Well, it is a simple enough deceit.” I shrugged and sipped some more ka-la-na wine. “Let them think I am to be branded in a few days' time.”
“Possibly with the common Kef brand,” added Seremides, still smiling.
I laughed softly. “Your attention to detail is thorough and convincing.”
“I am glad the Lady Felicia thinks so. The Kef brand would of course suit the curve of your hip. Such things must be taken in consideration when the question of a suitable brand arises.”
“It will be amusing to see how easily the slavers will be fooled by your deception.”
“They will assume I am telling the truth. Why after all would I not want to mark you with a brand? A slave-girl's beauty is enhanced tenfold by a beautifully positioned brand. And once she is marked there can be no disguising the fact that she is a slave. I would be foolish indeed not to brand you once I have the time.”
“Or so the slavers in the pens will believe.”
“Of course. It is a reasonable conjecture.”
“I am feeling somewhat braver now than when this proposal was first raised.” I sipped some more of the wine, enjoying the giddy feeling it gave me. It was an exceptionally fine vintage, no doubt from the special reserves of this house. “It will be a skilful deception. The slavers themselves will hardly suspect that I am in fact a resourceful Free Woman who has simply arranged matters such that she can infiltrate their secure building. I suppose a few days spent kneeling in a cage will not kill me. Many women on Gor suffer far more than that on a permanent basis. It will be like a game, I suppose?”
“A game?” Seremides smiled again.
“Yes, playing a role – that sort of thing.”
“As I said before, Lady Felicia will of course be legally a slave, so technically she will not be playing a role.”
“You know what I mean, Seremides.”
“Yes, I believe I do.” He topped my glass up without being asked. “You will be superb.”
“Really?” I raised my eyes as I sipped some more of the ka-la-na. “In what way?”
“Why, already it is obvious to us from the way the ta-teera displays your body that you will be a slave amongst slaves. I think you will bring a high price when you are sold on an auction block.”
“You really are getting carried away by all this role-play, aren't you?” I laughed. “So, what would I fetch on an auction block?”
“Now? Typically two to three silver Tarsks. Maybe as much as four or five. Much would depend on how you flaunted your body under the strict discipline and threat of the auctioneer's whip. A sale price is often much more than just a factor of a girl's beauty, but rather all manner of subtle flourishes that she presents in order to enhance the bidding. After all, a girl usually wants to be sold for a high price. Aside from the signal it gives in respect to her beauty, a high bid usually means a rich Master and an easier slavery. I think you would prefer to be a soft, pampered silk slave than say a poor kettle girl, spending her days scrubbing floors and post, yes?”
“I suppose so.” I drank some more wine. “Hypothetically speaking, of course.”
“Would you like to see your collar?”
“My collar?!” I glared at Seremides. This was a comment made in poor taste.
“I meant only the collar that would grace your pretty throat if and when you decided that your skills, intelligence, beauty and ingenuity were up to such a brilliant deception. I happen to have a collar that would be suitable.”
“I see.” My voice sounded icy now. I was obviously displeased. “You presume too much Seremides. Pour me ka-la-na.”
“Of course, Lady, as you command.” My goblet was topped up. I was quite irritated with him now. It was one thing to discuss the possibility of this mission, but quite another to have a collar already prepared for my use. “I haven't made up my mind yet.”
“I am suitably chastised,” said Seremides humbly. “I obviously overstepped my mark in attending to every eventuality in the fulfilment of your mission.”
“I see. This collar... you have it here?”
“Why yes, yes I do. If I may?”
I shrugged my shoulders and looked away nonchalantly. “If you wish.” I watched Seremides from the corner of my eye as he reached into a box and produced a slim steel collar inscribed with the fine cursive Gorean script. I sniffed and regarded him. “What does it say?”
“I am the property of Seremides of Corcyrus.”
“It is a common enough inscription for a girl's collar. Obviously it has not been personalised for you in particular, for I did not know until now that such might be needed. I would perhaps have your name inscribed on it if you choose to go through with this.”
“I see.” I gazed again at the collar and, seeing my interest, Seremides handed it to me. I turned the collar round in my hands, feeling the smoothness of the steel, marred only by the depth of the engravings. At the front of the collar was fixed a small ring, suitable for attaching a clip leash. At the back were the hinges. Beneath the ring was the lock that would match the key that Seremides no doubt kept in his pouch.
“It is barbaric to put women in collars. Your society is sick.”
“Lady Felicia is of course entitled to her opinion. It does not however change the stark reality of Gorean society.”
“I hate Gorean men. You are all barbarians.”
Seremides smiled and took the collar back from me. “Again, the Lady Felicia is entitled to her opinion. She is after all a Free Woman.”
“You will of course give the slavers instructions that I am to be given special treatment – better food, more comfortable accommodation, less intense treatment?”
“Under no circumstances. Such instructions would again arouse suspicion. They must think you are just another slave girl, fresh to her collar. You will be treated exactly the same as all the other girls in the pens, no better or worse.”
“Then I could be whipped while I am lodged in the pens?”
“Of course. It is a standard instrument of discipline. If you do not wish to be whipped then you must simply be a pleasing slave.”
“It's inhuman and barbaric to whip a girl!”
“And yet I recall a time at Kurgus's villa when you watched the girl, Louise, being whipped without comment.”
“That was different. She had occasionally displeased me.”
“Of course. Perhaps you are not so different than the Goreans you profess to despise, Lady?”
“You confuse the issue. I do not wish to be whipped.”
“I can understand that, and yet when you are a legal slave...”
“IF I were a legal slave,” I quickly corrected him.
“Then you too would be subject to whip discipline. It works wonders on a girl's resolve to strive to be absolutely perfect.”
“I'm sure it does,” I said icily as I shook my head.
“You need to decide, Lady. What do you wish to do?”
“You swear to collect me from the pens?”
“You have my oath, sworn on the Homestone of Corcyrus.”
“Then, I suppose if this Evelyn Ellis was able to degrade herself in pursuance of her mission for several weeks, then I too can bear the humiliation, at least for a few days.”
“You will enter the public access pens of Banu Hashim as my slave then?”
“Yes.” I lowered my head, my cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
“I commend you for your bravery Lady, truly I do.”
“When do we begin?”
“We already have,” smiled Seremides as he opened the hinged collar.
“Now?” I looked startled. “I thought maybe I would rest, eat, and then tomorrow...”
“No. Are you familiar with the basic collaring position, Lady Felicia?”
“Yes.” Again I felt a wave of shame. It was one of the things Tallia had been instructed to teach me. I had of course refused to practise the position personally, but I had listened to her instructions regardless.
“Show me.” Seremides watched as I knelt there in my ragged ta-teera, extending my wrists as if for binding, and lowering my head so that my hair fell forward, exposing my neck. It was a very demeaning position.
“Proclaim yourself a slave, Lady Felicia.”
“Surely that is not necessary!” I snapped.
“I would prefer that we follow the proper conventions, Lady. Proclaim yourself a slave... for the record, you understand.”
“I hate you!” I said as I glared up from under the locks of my long blonde hair.
“Such is your prerogative as a Free Woman. But I do not have all day.”
“I, the Lady Felicia Fonseca Gebara Torres, of the city of Corcyrus, do hereby proclaim myself a slave, the undisputed property of Seremides of Corcyrus.” I paused. “Satisfied?”
“Perfectly.” Seremides glanced towards the slaver, Samir, who sat making notations on a set of papers with a marking stick. He nodded approval back, at which point Seremides placed the steel collar around my neck, further brushing my long hair aside to do so. As I felt the cold metal against my skin I suddenly lost heart and shouted, “Wait! I'm not sure I can go through with this!” But Seremides simply clicked the collar shut. I heard the multiple pins of the locking device set themselves in place and I felt now the weight of the metal resting on my collar bone. “Give me the key! I want the key!”
“No.” Seremides arranged my hair around the collar and looked down upon me. “You really are very beautiful.”
“This is a mistake. I made a mistake. Give me the key!”
“No. Be still. Remain kneeling, but spread your legs.”
“You do not call a free man by his name. Do not make that mistake again.”
“Have you forgotten I'm in charge here?”
“No, I have not forgotten that a Free Woman by the name of Lady Felicia Fonseca Gebara Torres is in charge, but then you are not that Free Woman, you are simply a nameless kajira.”
“Is it not obvious? Your authority only extends in so far as you were free. You are now a slave. You have proclaimed yourself as such.”
“I didn't mean to renounce my authority!”
“But that is what you did. Would you like a name?”
“I have a name!”
“No, you are a newly collared girl on her knees in a slaver's house. You own nothing, not the ta-teera you wear, nor even a name.”
“I hate you!”
Seremides smiled again and waited until my protests had died down. “I name you Emma. It is a delicious slave name.”
“Emma is my name from Earth!”
“As I said, it is a delightful slave name. A girl with that name would always be considered a slave on Gor.”
“Please don't use my Earth name as a slave name.”
“But it is perfect for you, Emma. It would be foolish not to.” Seremides clipped a leash to the ring on my collar and gave it a nominal tug to twist the clip. I stumbled forward, helpless to remain in place against his superior strength. “You leash well, Emma.”
“Thank you,” I said bitterly. “There is no need to go overboard with this, Seremides. No one can see us here.”
“You spoke my name again, Emma.” He looked down at me sternly. “If you make that mistake here, you will make that mistake in public, and in public I will be forced to beat you, or else passers by will suspect some form of deception is in place.”
“I suppose you expect me to call you 'Master' while I play the part in this drama?”
“I do, and I remind you again, you are not in a sense playing a part. Even now, Samir is completing a set of slave ownership papers for you. It will be good for you to get used to addressing men as Master. Forgetting to do so tomorrow could earn you a beating. Not necessarily from my hand.”
“Very well, Master.” I sniffed and turned my head as I accentuated that word. “Why have you leashed me?
“Because I wanted to. You look well leashed, on your knees, in that ta-teera.”
“Beast!” I raised my hands to my collar and turned the metal band around my throat to feel the hinges at the back. “This is wrong!”
“Is it?” Seremides looped the leash about his hand three times for added grip. “It seems right to me. How does the collar and leash make you feel, pretty Emma?”
I looked away, not deigning to answer. The truth was I felt an incredible thrill at kneeling on the floor, subject to a collar and leash. I was in no immediate danger, as I knew Seremides would in a few days free me again. I confess I actually felt a forbidden thrill at pretending to be a Gorean slave girl. Even before a man, who was obviously of no sexual interest whatsoever, there was still a thrill to be had at kneeling before his feet. He was strong, powerful, a skilled warrior, and so I felt very small before him. Quite naturally my body began to betray me by reacting with predisposed genetic patterns that made me feel hot and wet between my thighs. It was not a conscious thing for me, nor something I could control, but rather my female body reacting to the situation in precisely the manner the Kurii machines had designed it to do. It seemed that my body would always strive to betray me, regardless of what I, with my male mind, thought of men.
“You did not answer my question, Emma. How does it feel to be leashed?”
“It is nothing,” I replied with a shake of my head. “I feel nothing.” But I did. I felt a shameful heat between my thighs and I knew my sluttish body was preparing itself for the possibility of sex. I balled my fingers into fists and looked away, much to the laughter of the two men.
“I think the collar and leash changes things a bit, doesn't it, Emma?” teased Seremides. “Perhaps it is just as well that you will soon be fitted in an iron belt. Presumably you want that?”
“Yes!” I said quickly. I didn't trust myself like this. I silently cursed the Kurii science for giving me such a slutty hormone enriched body. I closed my eyes and tried to think of things – bland, ordinary things – that would quell my sudden sexual feelings at being dominated.
“Now follow me and we will prepare you for the slave tunnels of Banu Hashim, pretty little Emma.”
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