Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Panther Girl of Gor Chapter Four

Chapter Four: The River Passage out of Lydius. I am told I will be First Girl when Jacinta is enslaved

“What are you thinking about, Emma?” asked Brinn as I leaned against the ship’s rail and gazed out at the fast flowing Laurius river that swept in the opposite direction to which we were sailing. I could see the beginnings of a tree line about a pasang away from the Northern river bank – the start of the vast territories known as the Northern Forests of Gor, home to outlaws and hostile bands of Panther Girls alike.

“I’m thinking how happy I feel that I wasn’t sold in Lydius. I’m thinking how much I love wearing your collar, Master.” I turned round with my back to the varnished rail and gazed up at Brinn as he put his hands about my waist. I was wearing a new slave tunic of light blue rep cloth that Brinn had told Carsus to buy for me in Lydius while we waited for passage to be booked on this ship. It was short and sleeveless as is usually the case with slave garments.

“Do not mistake my not selling you in Lydius for any indication that I intend to keep you, slave-girl.” Brinn stroked my ass with his right hand as he grinned.

“Of course not, Master,” I laughed for I did not truly think I was at risk of being sold now. The worst danger of that was over.

“I didn’t really have time to arrange your sale, you see.”

“Is that all?” I raised myself on tiptoes and kissed him.

“Also, my shoulder was injured. It took my mind off things.”

“Of course. I understand. Poor Master. Does it hurt?” I kissed his bandaged left shoulder.

“I will not be using a shield for a while, put it that way.”

“Mmm, with your injured shoulder you may find it harder to hold me down in the furs and force yourself upon me? Maybe I will be able to fend you off tonight with my two healthy arms?”

“The day I cannot hold you down with a single arm is the day I no longer deserve to own a beautiful slave-girl from London England. You will find yourself as helpless in the furs as you always are, Emma.”

“I’m pleased to hear it.” The wind blew my hair about my face as we talked. With my right hand I pulled it back and knotted it to the side of my head. “I’m happy today.”

“Excellent. I trust I will not have to suffer one of your unexpected mood swings then?”

“I do not think so, Master. I am so very happy today.”

“Why is that?”

“I’m sailing on a beautiful ship, I’ve had a really lovely breakfast,” I was counting out the reasons on the fingers of my right hand, “I haven’t been sold in Lydius, I’m looking forward to seeing the Exchange Point, and I love being your slave.” My eyes sparkled as I leaned forward again and met Brinn’s lips as he reached down to kiss me again.

“You love being my slave? Are you sure?”

“Oh yes, Master. It’s what I want. I love being in your collar. I want to please you.” I pressed my head against his chest. To my delight I had discovered, after some initial acclimatisation, that I wasn’t prone to feeling sea sick, which was more than could be said for poor Jacinta. She was down wind of us now, chained in close confining sirik, leaning her head over the side of the rail, groaning, trying desperately to be sick. She had been standing there for over an hour.

“Jacinta is really suffering, Master.” I could see the whip marks from the Gorean five bladed lash across her back from the house in Lydius. I could also see the lighter switch marks – three on each thigh, that Melinda had placed on her with the switch. Poor Jacinta. Her beautiful hair was streaked with sick where she had vomited over the side of the rail earlier on while the wind whipped it about her face. She looked deathly pale and unsteady on her feet. She was suffering terribly from the river voyage. I on the other hand found that I could slink and sashay across the deck with ease. The deck of the ship hereabouts was something of an obstacle course in fact as we were sailing with a heavy load of cargo on board and consequently there were numerous crates and barrels often covered in water proof tarpaulins, piled up on the deck. These were mostly bound for the city of Laura, but we would be leaving the ship at the first exchange point before then.

“You’re not planning on selling me at the Exchange Point, are you Master?”

“No.” Brinn thought about this for a moment. “The prices there are quite low for girls.”

“Of course,” I said with a bright smile. “That of course is the only reason you don’t wish to sell me there?”

“There may be one or two other minor and trivial reasons,” said Brinn with a smile, “but they are not important.”

“Oh?” I traced my lips softly against his as I spoke. “It seems I may be in your collar for a while then.”

“That does seem to be a distinct possibility, slave-girl.”

“How terrible for me,” I laughed. “I will have to endure your ravishments for a while yet…”


Brinn had talked for a time with Carsus in the safe house, after Jacinta had apparently broken down and admitted she had been lying. I knelt down beside her as she was still tied to the slave ring on the floor, and I stroked her head, whispering words that everything would be okay.

“He won't whip you any more, Jacinta. You've told him what he wants to know.” Poor Jacinta, she had swapped the pain of the immediate whipping for the certainty that she would now be enslaved. Brinn had said her days of freedom were now numbered. She would wear a collar and she would be branded at the Exchange Point. My friend would be a slave-girl very soon. I touched her left thigh with my finger tips where the slave brand would almost certainly be placed, and I knew the horrible pain she would suffer from that upcoming ordeal.

“Please untie me,” wept Jacinta.

“I can't, not until Brinn gives permission.” The five bladed Gorean whip had left stripes across Jacinta's back, but they would in time heal properly. Unlike the single stranded Gorean snake whip, the five bladed whip was designed not to permanently scar a girl's skin. Such a thing would be counter productive as it would lower a girl's price.

“He's going to enslave me...” Jacinta pulled at her bindings as she lay there on the tiles, exhausted from the whipping.

“Yes. But I will be here to help you. You will not have to face it alone.” I stroked her head again, knowing how very difficult it is for a Free Woman in the early days of her slavery when she finds herself collared and branded.

“No... this can't be happening, no...”

I suppose she was still in a great deal of shock from the whipping. If you have never felt the whip then you cannot understand the psychological effect it has on a woman. Things are never quite the same again after your first whipping.

“Whatever happens, Jacinta, we must hold on to one another as friends. We can't lose that.”

“Emma, come here, I have some things to tell you,” said Brinn, interrupting my conversation. I rose to my feet and walked towards my Master, dropping into Nadu before his feet.

“Once I’ve enslaved Jacinta, I will appoint you First Girl, Emma. Jacinta will be new to her slavery, and I will expect you to train her over the coming weeks, and ensure discipline is maintained in my coffle.”

“This is going to be so hard for her Master. I think she still clings to the hope that you will spare her before we reach the Exchange Point.”

“That isn’t going to happen. She will be branded at the Exchange Point. I know in the past you have been close to her, but once she is enslaved I will expect you to teach her and maintain discipline on my behalf. The Northern Forests will be dangerous and I do not have time to watch her, let alone instruct her. You will not be soft on her, understand?”

I nodded, It made sense I suppose that I would be First Girl. Jacinta would be raw, untrained, clumsy, probably prone to crying – most new slaves are like that to begin with. I was an experienced girl, and in a sense I had come to terms with my slavery. I was no longer shocked by it.

“You will be given a quirt. Once Jacinta is branded, but not a moment before, you understand, you will have switch rights over her. You do not need to check with me in advance regarding punishments for her. I leave that to your initiative. The only hard rule is that you may not disfigure or mutilate her in any way. Understand?”

As if I would ever do that! “Yes, Master, but I am reluctant to hurt Jacinta. You know she is my friend.”

“Then let me incentivise you, First Girl.” Brinn looked very stern all of a sudden. “The position of First Girl is a privilege and it carries with it many rewards, but it also comes with a level of responsibility for which you will be held accountable. If I feel Jacinta's performance is poor, then I will blame the First Girl.”

“Me?! But...”

“Who else should I blame?”

“Well, Jacinta... obviously!” I shot a glance back at her. She still lay on the tiles, her body trembling from the pain of the whipping. She would be like that for a while yet.

“No. Because the First Girl should already have administered the required punishments to ensure that the new girl's performance is up to the standards I expect at her level of slavery. If that is not the case then the fault lies with the First Girl for not handling the training properly.”


“You will have a quirt. You will have the authority to use it.”

A quirt is a small whip with two forked strands often used for training purposes as it can be wielded quickly and easily in confined spaces and is suitable for use by a First Girl or Trainer in a slave coffle for example. The falls on a quirt are made of supple leather, usually bosk hide. The core of the quirt, including the handle, is often made from braided leather, sometimes weighted with lead shot, and is usually stiff but flexible. The quirt can be stuck against a girl's thighs, ass or back with surprising speed, and is very painful. As such it makes for a very efficient instructional tool. 

“Tell me, Emma, in the slave pens of Banu Hashim, what did your trainer do when you made mistakes?”

“She beat me with a switch or quirt...”

“And how did that affect your subsequent performance?”

“I strove to do better next time, so that I would not be beaten again.”

“Exactly. Did it ever occur to you that your trainer would have been evaluated on the performance of her class? And that if you as a class had failed to achieve results, she would have taken the blame for it? She would have been whipped. She would undoubtedly have lost her cherished status as a trainer, and she would have been moved out of her more comfortable quarters in the upper levels of the slave house, to be returned to the dismal girl pens below, where many of her former students might relish her fall from grace?”


“You can see how she was incentivised to ensure you all trained well. As First Girl your duties will be lighter than they were before, as you can assign them as you wish to Jacinta and any other girl I might later add to my coffle.”

“You are going to buy more slaves, Master?”

“Probably not. But I do not rule out the possibility of capturing Panther Girls while I am in the Forests. There is a saying on Gor that Panther Girls once branded and placed in bondage make exquisite slave-girls. As First Girl you will have the best food. You will be rewarded when the other girls do well, and it will be up to you how and when you share out those rewards, if at all. As First Girl you will be closest to me. You don't want another girl to be my favourite, do you, Emma?”

“No!” The thought hadn't crossed my mind that Brinn might favour another slave-girl in his coffle over me.

“After all, I can always buy an experienced girl here in Lydius to be First Girl if you do not feel up to the role?”

“No! Please Master, no!”

“Then I suppose you want to be First Girl in my coffle?”

“Yes, yes I do.”

“With all that entails?”

“I suppose so...” I looked round again at Jacinta. She was my friend. She trusted me.

“So, you will be held responsible for her performance once she is enslaved. Any failings on her part are due to negligence on the part of the First Girl. There will be a number of punishments for the First Girl in such a case, ranging from relatively mild ones such as loss of clothing rights, to being fed slave gruel instead of the more substantial and tasty camp fire meals, all the way to being punished with the five bladed whip. Although I have never used it on you, I know you have experience of the whip, yes?”

“Oh God.” I bit my lower lip at the thought of that whip. “Yes, Master. In the pens of Banu Hashim, when I objected to having my ears pierced.”

“I assume you now fear the whip?”

“Very much, Master!”

“Then you will be keen to ensure that Jacinta does not disappoint me, won't you?”

“Yes, Master!”

I knew now that, friend or no friend, if Jacinta was slack in her training or slave responses, I would be forced to use the quirt on her. I did not wish to lose clothing rights, or be fed slave gruel, let alone feel the five bladed Gorean whip on my back again. Jacinta would have to learn quickly and simply accept that she was now a slave-girl. I would not have time to molly coddle her through the early days. Brinn would expect quick results.             
Brinn now seemed to ignore me as he had further things to discuss with Carsus. “I will require passage on board a river ship for myself and the two girls. Obviously the wharves will be watched by men keen to earn the bounty on my head, and so I will need to get aboard without being seen.” 

“There are ways,” said Carsus as he refilled both their glasses. “We have people who work for us at the wharves. They can arrange passage and they can probably have you brought on board as cargo, if you're not too concerned about your dignity.”

“Fell free to load me onboard in a crate. The main thing is to bypass Kurgus's men.”

“Agreed. You will need equipment and supplies too. I will arrange non-perishables that you may not be able to acquire at the Exchange Point. Are you sure you do not wish to wait here in Lydius while I send for more men from the Sardar?” asked Carsus.

“I wish I had the time, but no, I have to leave on tomorrow's tide. Will that give you enough time to make arrangements?”

“Yes. We act quickly on matters like this. You are very brave to venture into the Northern Forests on your own.”

“I'm hoping I won't be on my own. I'm hoping Limidius and a large body of armed men will meet me at the Exchange Point. They have been riding from the Tahari on kaiilas.”

“A lot can happen between the Tahari and the Laurius river. Especially if Kurgus sent men in pursuit. I would not count on them being there. Kurgus seems to have declared war.”

“Limidius is a very good man. We are practically blood brothers. If he can get to the Exchange Point, he will be there. And if not, then I venture into the Forest alone.” Brinn of course meant that he would have two slave-girls with him, but I suppose we did not count as anything more than pack beasts and so weren't mentioned in terms of numbers.    

“You have never been in the Forests before, have you, Brinn?” asked Carsus.


“Beware the Panther Girls. Do not make the mistake of underestimating them as so many men often do. They know the forests very well, and they can exploit the terrain to their own advantages.”

“They are only women,” said Brinn.

“They hunt in war bands. You may face a dozen at a time. Maybe more.”

“I killed three men in close combat here in Lydius earlier today, and they were men used to fighting in shield walls. They were not afraid to get in close with a sword. Panther Girls will not have the stomach for close up fighting. It doesn't matter their numbers. Unless you are a trained warrior, experienced in battle, you will die if you choose to cross blades with me. I have seen large numbers of untrained men with spears before. None of them wishes to be the first to die. And they all know that the first few who engage a warrior will die, as will the next few. Eventually the warrior's sword arm will tire and he may be overwhelmed, but only if his attackers are willing to sacrifice many lives to bring him to that point. And untrained fighters do not have that level of sacrificial morale. No one wants to be the first to die. Panther Girls may try to encircle me with spears, but once I charge their line with sword and shield, and break it, they will panic and run. I have seen that sort of thing before. They will fight as individuals. It is easy then to get under the point of a spear, by deflecting it with a shield and then the girl is helpless against a short stabbing sword.”

“Well, many men have fallen to Panther Girls in the past.” Carsus rubbed his chin in thought. “I would advise avoiding them.”

“You would do better to advise them to avoid me,” laughed Brinn.       


I was as surprised as everyone else when I began uncontrollably screaming.

“No, please, no! I can't! I can't! No!” Thinking back I must have seemed completely hysterical. Brinn later told me that he had never seen me so terrified before, and the fact that the change came over me so quickly really shocked him.

“Emma! Calm down!' Brinn took hold of my arm and pulled me away from the barrel. I had completely lost it. I was waving my arms around, screaming, my eyes wide with fright. Carsus was staring in astonishment, as was Jacinta.

“Please, no!” I clung to Brinn and stared wildly at the open barrel. “I don't want to disobey you, but I just can't! I really can't!”

“What is wrong with her?” said Carsus. “Do you require the whip, Brinn?” He motioned towards where the five bladed whip now hung again from the hook close to the door.

“No, I think I know what this is. The whip will not be necessary.” To my astonishment Brinn walked me away from the barrel and put his arms around me. “It's okay, Emma, I should have considered this might happen.” He could feel my body shaking with convulsions that I couldn't control. “I understand you are not doing this to challenge my authority.”

“I'm not, please believe me, I'm not, but I just can't!”

“Hush.” Brinn kissed me on my forehead and held me until I began to calm down. “You have embraced your slavery well. I understand you can't help this. I am not angry with you. You will not be punished. And I will find another way.”

He was so kind, so surprisingly kind. I think he recognised from the state I was in that I was not in control of my reactions. It was the open barrel you see, one of two open barrels with air holes, in which Jacinta and myself were to be lowered. A false top would then be fitted above our heads with a layer, perhaps a foot deep, of fruit to conceal the fact that a slave-girl occupied each barrel. This way we would be loaded on board the river ship, past the watchful eyes of Kurgus's men. But Brinn hadn't reckoned with the panic attack that suddenly overcame me when I was faced with the prospect of being confined in a narrow claustrophobic space like that. Suddenly I relieved those long days and nights in the narrow punishment pit in the slave pens of Banu Hashim and I lost control of my senses. The thought of being trapped in a confined space again made me hysterical and I was powerless to stop it.

“You know...” I sobbed as Brinn held me.

“The punishment pit. Yes. You told me about that. You were down there for, what, six days? I should have thought of that before I suggested this. It's all right, Emma, I'm not angry. You will not be punished and you will not be sealed in one of those barrels.”

“Oh God... thank you, thank you, thank you.”

I was later told that Carsus gazed at Brinn in surprise. I suppose Carsus would have simply whipped me regardless and then gagged and bound me before dropping me in a hysterical state into the barrel where I would have lain, confined, in absolute mind numbing terror. For the time I spent in the punishment pit in Patashqar has left me with uncontrollable claustrophobia.

“Carsus, a slight change of plan for Emma here. You will have her brought on board as a slave-girl cargo.”

“There is the risk of her being recognised. Her beauty is such that she will easily stand out when she's marched along the wharves.”

“Then have her hooded. There will be many girls loaded on board the river ship. Place her in amongst the others.”

And so it was. We spent the night at the safe house while Carsus disappeared for some time to finalise arrangements. By now the three dead bodies of Kurgus's men would have been noticed and all the other Kurii operatives within Lydius would almost certainly be on high alert. If this safe house had been compromised in any way, we could expect an attack once it grew dark. Brinn sat with his back to one of the interior walls, his sword lying on the floor close to his right hand while he watched the distant doorway. We were all on edge, wondering whether our enemies might be closing in on us even now. My own nerves felt tense as I sat close beside Jacinta with my arm around her beaten body. I had gently soothed some healing salve on the whip marks with my finger tips and given her some water, but she had refused food.

“You should eat,” I whispered, not because what I said was private in any way, but because the atmosphere in the house felt so tense that I was reduced to whispering.

“I'm not hungry.” Jacinta pushed away the slices of fruit I tried to put into her mouth. I glanced at Brinn for direction, but he didn't seem to care whether Jacinta was eating or not. His mind was fixed very much on the possibility that before morning came he might once again be fighting, but this time with a wounded left shoulder.

“I will get you through this, Jacinta,” I whispered. “I will help you with your slavery.”

“I can't believe it's come to this. After all this time.” Jacinta put her head against my shoulder. She felt soft, and yielding and I remembered how much I had fantasised about her back in Corcyrus. “I don't want to be a slave.”

“No Free Woman ever thinks she does,” I said as I kissed her softly. “I know it will be difficult for you to begin with. It was for me too. It's easier if you accept the reality once you're enslaved and you don't cling on to false hope. Men do not free slave-girls.”

“You speak as if my branding and enslavement is a done deal” said Jacinta. “There are still several days before it might happen. Anything might happen during that time. There is always hope.”

“Oh, Jacinta...” I stroked her head and kissed her on the cheek. “You're naked, and Brinn is going to keep you locked in sirik chains. What can you possibly do?”

“I don't know. But I have to think of something. I know that once I'm branded the game is over for me. I have to convince him he's making an incredible mistake now.”

Good luck with that, I thought to myself. I knew from past experience how stubborn Brinn could be once he set his mind firmly on something. I pondered whether it might be a kindness in the short term to allow Jacinta to cling to false hope, or whether it would be better in the long run for her to accept here and now that she was going to be a slave-girl and that there was nothing, absolutely nothing she could do to prevent that.

I don't think any of us got much sleep that night. Certainly not Brinn, as he felt duty bound to remain on watch. Carsus returned late in the evening and assured us everything was fine.

“The wharves are guarded – my people have spotted the new faces who are watching the comings and goings with considerable interest. There are men at all the gates too.”

“Have the bodies been found?” asked Brinn.

“Yes, and they're the talk of Lydius at the moment. Word is going round all the paga taverns that there's a sizeable bounty on your head.”

“I know. Ten gold. I'm flattered,” said Brinn.

“You should be. Since you killed those three men it's gone up to twenty gold.”

“Excellent,” said Brinn. “That will do my reputation considerable favours. I take it you're not tempted?”

Carsus laughed as he bolted the door. “Twenty gold is a lot of money. Such a shame I have a thing called honour.”

“A shame indeed. I think we should drink paga together.”

That was the thing men on Gor do. They drink paga together. It's the ultimate in Bromance, I think, and they take it very seriously. There's almost an unspoken rule that if you drink paga together, you're promising not to knife one another in the back if the opportunity arises.

“Emma, we are going to drink paga,” said Brinn.

“Of course, Master, I shall prepare the bowls.”

“No. I think I will have Jacinta serve paga. She did so once before in my house in Patashqar. Let's see if she can remember how to do so.”

I should perhaps say a few words about this particular drink as Brinn seems so dependent on it. Pagar-Sa-Tarna, to give it it's full name on Gor, roughly translates as 'Pleasure of the Life Daughter' and it is a fermented drink made from Sa-Tarna wheat grain, similar to whisky. Paga is normally served at room temperature, though the men of Cos and the men who live far to the North often prefer it heated, which sounds disgusting to me. I mean, would you ever want to heat up whisky in a sauce pan? Of course not. The drink is commonly served to men in a footed bowl, though if a woman was to drink it she would do so out of a small goblet. It is not really a drink associated with women though.

Jacinta rose to her feet and, after regarding Brinn for a moment, walked towards the low table where the dark verr skin bota of paga was kept. She knelt stiffly, still feeling the pain from the whip and selected two bowls. These she carried to where the men sat cross-legged on the floor. Kneeling before Brinn, she uncorked the bota and poured the spirit as he watched. Then, holding the first bowl in outstretched hands she offered it to him with her eyes lowered.

“Speak, Jacinta,” said Brinn as the bowl was held towards him.

“The Lady Jacinta of Brundisium offers you paga, captor.”

“Use your Earth girl name,” said Brinn, unexpectedly.

Jacinta glanced up at Brinn, surprised by this order. “Miss Rachel Evans of Oakhampton offers you paga, captor.”

“Good.” Brinn took the bowl and nodded for her to turn and serve Carsus next. Brinn seemed to be staring intently at Jacinta as she served the next bowl. But then his eyes hadn't strayed from her lovely seductive figure from the moment she rose to collect the bowls and paga bota.

“May I speak, captor?” asked Jacinta as she finished serving Carsus.

“No you may not. To answer your unspoken question, yes, you will be enslaved at the Exchange Point. There is nothing you can say that will change my mind, nor do I wish to hear you try.”

An hour or so before dawn a wagon arrived outside the safe-house. Jacinta was placed inside one of the two barrels, and Brinn climbed inside a larger crate. These were sealed, though Brinn's crate had a special lever system that would permit him to open one of the sides. Once ready, anonymous men entered the house to collect and load the barrel and the crate onto a wagon bearing similar barrels and crates. A draught Tharlarion pulled the wagon towards the wharf, leaving me alone with Carsus.

I knelt on the floor as Carsus closed and locked the door.

“You were an agent of the Kurii, like Jacinta,” said Carsus after a while.  

“Yes, Master. But that was a long time ago.”

“That makes you my enemy, and the enemy of all the Free People of Gor.”

“I'm sorry, Master. I'm just a slave-girl now.” I turned my palms on my thighs so they were facing upwards in an act of submission, for I was nervous now that I was alone with Carsus and he was saying things like that.

“Brinn is too soft with you. An agent of the Kurii deserves far harsher treatment.”

Now I was growing very scared. “Please, Master, I am just a slave-girl now.”

“I would whip you often, as a punishment, if you were in my collar.” He looked now at the five bladed whip that hung from the hook on the wall.

But in respect to Brinn, he didn't.

I was roughly hooded without any concern for my comfort. Carsus buckled the leather slave hood under my chin, plunging me into darkness. I felt an anxiety attack build up, for the sensory deprivation and the suffocating sensation of the hood reminded me in part of my confinement in the punishment pit. I began to cry out, but unlike Brinn, Carsus had little concern for my well being.

“If you’re not going to be quiet I’ll gag you as well as hood you, girl.” He smacked my ass with a quirt, no doubt leaving two forked marks. Despite my ragged breathing and a growing fear of being suffocated, I managed to control myself. I felt a clip leash attached to the front of my collar and felt the sharp tug as Carsus reduced the length of the leash to maybe two feet in length.

“Bracelets,” said Carsus, and I obeyed by crossing my wrists in the small of my back. Slave steel was locked around them, rendering me helpless. The effect of the hood was horrible. While not technically claustrophobic in the literal sense of the word, as I was not confined in a small space, it was close enough to the genuine experience for it to seriously affect me. Suddenly I couldn’t stop myself from wailing and shaking, a response that triggered an obvious reaction from Carsus, as he unbuckled the hood, thrust a gag into my mouth, secured it, reattached the hood, despite my wild staring eyes, and then clipped my leash to the slave ring set on the floor and, taking down the five bladed Gorean whip, he whipped me six times across the ass and the back of my thighs. The pain was truly horrible – as painful as the first time I had been whipped. I would have screamed loud enough to be heard several streets away, were it not for the gag that rendered my screams into muffled animal like grunts. When Carsus had finished, I lay there until I was kicked onto my knees and then pulled on to my feet by my left arm.

“Kurii bitch,” said Carsus as he tugged my leash forward. “Give me the slightest trouble on the way to the wharves and I will drag you into an alleyway and whip you again, understand?”

I nodded, unable to speak. My level of hysteria was rising and ebbing in time to my difficulty in breathing. I felt like I was going to choke to death on the gag and the hood. I felt truly frightened. And then I felt Carsus lead me by the short leash to the door and then through it onto the street outside.

Carsus led me barefoot through the streets towards the wharves, steering me by the twin applications of the short choke leash and the sting of the quirt on my ass. With the slave hood buckled over my head no one would identify me as the former Kurii agent who had become Brinn’s slave-girl. Although I couldn’t see where I was going, I soon heard the lapping sounds of waves as I approached the dockside of the city port. There was the unmistakeable sound of barrels being rolled somewhere to my left, interspersed with the squawking of sea birds, and the creak of ships’ timbers. Somewhere ahead of me would be the river ship on which I was to be stored in the hold, alongside other slaves. Somewhere too would be agents of Kurgus looking out for me.

Carsus stopped me somewhere on the dockside, where I felt chiselled stone under my feet. A pair of hands grasped me and clipped an identification tag on to my collar ring. I saw later that it had a cargo manifest number inscribed on it which would match the corresponding receipt that Carsus had earlier given Brinn. A grease stick was used to further mark my body, on my left breast, with a further series of numbers that corresponded to the cargo hold. Then my wrists were freed and I was led up a creaking gang plank on to the deck of the ship. Carsus continued to steer me past bales of trade goods and lengths of rope left on the decking. I felt myself being led down a set of wooden steps into the cargo hold, and even through the leather hood I could sense the change in light. Once inside, the hood was unbuckled and removed from my head. By now I was sweating, my hair damp and lank from the close confinement, but what I saw induced even more panic in me. The area of the cargo hold in which I now stood was obviously designed for the transport of slaves, for it was a narrow forward portion of the hull with what I would best describe as a series of narrow stacked shelves on either side. Each shelf was long enough for a girl to lie on it on her back, much like a series of bunk beds, but to maximise storage space the slave shelves were so tightly arranged that once a girl was placed on one, there was barely enough room for her to raise her head more than six inches or so. I could see other girls already placed on shelves, and in each case their left or right ankle (depending on which side of the vessel they lay) was secured in a close confining ankle ring set into the side of the ship, with maybe five inches of slack chain. I felt a horrible tightness in my chest again as I realised I was going to be confined on one of those narrow claustrophobic shelves. I was still gagged so I shook my head wildly and dropped to my knees, coughing and choking on my gag. Carsus beat me again with the quirt, quite viciously across my left and right thighs until I began to vomit on my gag. Seeing what was happening to me, and fearful now that I might actually die, choking to death, he quickly unbuckled the gag, pulled it free and threw me face down onto my belly where I emptied the contents of my stomach.

“Kurii bitch,” he swore, and then apologised to one of the crew for the mess I had made. “Get up, slut,” he said as he kicked me in the side. I was hyper ventilating as a man’s hands pulled me up and bundled me onto one of the middle set shelves. Despite the threat of the quirt, I screamed again as I was forced onto the narrow shelf, with the upper shelf seeming to press down on me. My left ankle was locked in place securing me in position. Suddenly all the horror of being trapped in that tight confining pit came back to me, and I thrashed wildly on the shelf to the slight extent I was able to move. I swung my head backwards and forwards, clutching and scratching with my nails against the cargo arrangement. My body was marked multiple times by now, but the pain of the quirt was as nothing compared to the stark horror I felt at being confined in such a tight alcove.

“I will need to gag her again,” said the crewman. Carsus nodded, and I felt the gag, still slick with my vomit, thrust back into my mouth. I cried piteously as it was buckled once again at the back of my neck. This was now my version of hell, and it was nearly as bad as what I had feared from being transported in a barrel.

At some point the overhead hatch was closed, cutting out the daylight, plunging this section of the cargo hold into pitch darkness. I felt I was going insane. I felt like I was trapped in a coffin in which I would slowly suffocate. I became convinced I would be sick again in my gag and choke to death with no one nearby to save me. I tried to take small shallow breaths, but the sense of panic and suffocation was unbearable. It was like the pit in Patashqar all over again. And I was not alone. Other girls here were scared too. I heard whimpering, crying, even some screams from slave-girls confined on other shelves. There were also calls from some of the stronger willed girls for us to be quiet, but we paid them no heed. At some point I became aware the ship was now moving, setting sail down the Laurius River. I pressed up with my hands against the surface of the shelf above my body and tried to push it away, but it was of course screwed firmly in place with another girl lying on its surface. I tried to exit the shelf, but the five inches of close chain attaching my ankle ring to the ship’s hull didn’t permit me any leeway.

I would have killed myself if I had been able to, rather than suffer in that nightmare space. Eventually I withdrew into a shell shocked state when I had exhausted myself with screaming. I lay there, twitching, trembling like an animal who knows its leg is caught in a trap and it cannot get free. And then I felt light as the hatch reopened, men came down, and I was turned about on the narrow shelf, the ankle ring was unlocked from my foot, and I was dragged free of the confinement space. The gag was pulled from my mouth and for the second time that day I threw up on the lower deck of the cargo hold.

Strong arms picked me up and enfolded me in their embrace. It was Brinn.

“Forgive me, Emma,” he said for what must have been both the first and last time he would ever use those words to me. “I only realised where they must have put you when I exited my crate a short while ago. I had so much to consider back in the safe house. I should have known…”

“I hate you! How could you do this to me! You fucking cunt!” I was screaming and punching him with my balled fists for what he had done to me, but Brinn did not strike me back. He held my arms in place to prevent me struggling any more and he patiently allowed me to scream my obscenities before he felt me relax, limp in his arms.

“It is over, Emma. I am bringing you up onto the deck now. You will not be down here again.”

And he did. He carried me onto the deck where a light drizzle of rain was now falling from the sky. The ship was at full sail, cutting swiftly through the river currents, heading down stream from Lydius. Brinn laid me down on a pile of spare canvas and watched as I curled into a foetal position. Jacinta was there too, holding some water in a wooden bowl for me to drink from.

“I am angry with myself,” said Brinn, as if that made any difference. “Emma, I did not mean this to happen. I am… sorry.” That last word came from his mouth with some reluctance.

Gorean men rarely if ever apologise to slaves. But Brinn knew he had made a mistake, and he was the sort of man who hated making a mistake. Brinn was always uncompromisingly strict with me, and he expected perfect obedience from me and later when he enslaved her, Jacinta too, but he was not a cruel man who liked to see me suffer. He would of course punish me and punish me harshly if he felt I had transgressed in some way, but he would not take any particular pleasure from seeing me suffer from the punishment. To his mind it was simply a necessary part of the discipline in keeping a slave. And so it should come as no great surprise that Brinn did not wish me to suffer for no reason at all.

I didn’t say anything. I simply lay curled up on the sail cloth, gulping in great gasps of breath from the chill salty sea air. I felt sure that if I did return to that cargo hold I would die, from panic if nothing else.

It says something for my resilience I guess that several hours later I was up on my feet and exploring the ship. Jacinta had been locked into a set of sirik chains, just in case she was thinking of diving over the side and swimming for the shore. I wouldn't have tried such a thing even unbound, for the Laurius river contains various species of dorsal finned freshwater sharks.

Now that I was no longer confined in the cramped hold, I actually began to enjoy the river journey. I have always loved the sea and now standing on the deck of this majestic sail powered vessel, crewed by a score of strong men, I felt a sense of exhilaration as the North wind whipped through my hair. I felt like running across the deck, my arms spread wide, like some ridiculous story book heroine, to reach the prow of the ship where I might lean forward and watch the river currents break against the vessel's blade.

On the third day we passed a similar vessel sailing in the opposite direction headed back to Lydius. On the deck were a number of beautiful slave-girls, mostly naked, and they leaned on the rail and waved at me as their ship sailed past. One of the girls cried out to me, “I love my collar!” and I laughed and waved to her in reply.

I obviously did not shout anything like that back of course, because I wasn't a slut like her.  

Jacinta sulked and said very little during the journey. Occasionally she tried in increasingly desperate ways to plead her case with Brinn, but every time he told her to be quiet. The closer we got to the Exchange Point, the more concerned Jacinta looked, for she knew that a white hot branding iron would be waiting for her there.

“Please just listen to reason,” she would beg of Brinn as he gave her food. “I can help you. I can be of use in your mission.”

“You will be of help. You will be of use. In the furs for example, and carrying my belongings through the forest,” said Brinn as he simply walked away.

Towards the end of the journey even I grew a little tired of Jacinta's constant pleading for Brinn to listen to her. Why couldn't she just accept she was going to be a slave-girl? Why did she have to keep whining about it all the time? I had tried to lighten her mood by showing her interesting things I had spotted on the shoreline, or in the water, but it was as if all she cared about was the fact she was going to be branded at the Exchange Point!

When I spotted a band of Panther Girls, resplendent in their animal skins, leaning on their hunting spears, watching us from the mouth of a narrow tributary on the North bank of the river, I quickly ran to Jacinta and pointed them out to her.

“Look! They're real! Panther Girls! Aren't they magnificent?”

“I don't fucking care!” screamed Jacinta at me. “Get it through your fucking head that I'm not interested in the fucking trees or the fucking fishes or the fucking birds! Brinn is going to have me branded and enslaved in just over a day's time, Emma!”

I could see she really wasn't taking this very well at all. Why couldn't she just meet her inevitable fate with dignity and poise like I almost certainly had done in the past?

On the final day before we reached the Exchange Point, Jacinta had begun to tremble and take short sharp breaths, almost panting like a frightened dog. There was a fevered look in her eyes as she saw the Exchange Point wharf draw near.

“Please, Brinn, please, please... I'm begging you, don't do this... I... I can't be a slave... I'm not like Emma... please, just... just let me talk to you... just for a few minutes...”

Brinn placed a gag in Jacinta's mouth, buckled it tightly at the back of her neck and fastened a choke leash around her throat.

“The time for talking is over, pretty agent of the Kurii. Come.” He tugged Jacinta on to her feet, she still locked in sirik, her eyes wild and staring now in absolute panic. “I will buy some camisks for you and Emma, and then I think I will allow Emma some free time to explore the Exchange Point while you my dear have a destiny in the blue and yellow striped marquee tent, just over there...”  

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