And so here we are.
The cold, windy summit of Skaffel Peak.
The end game begins.
The hull of the ship now lay at an acute sixty degree angle with the base of Skaffel Peak. As we released ourselves from the safety harnesses in the control room, I saw Rachel move towards Brinn’s body with a worryingly determined expression to her face.
“Rachel, no! Don’t even think about it!” I warned as I hastily unclipped my own harness and bounded from my chair, intent on stopping her if she tried anything.
“Think about what?” said Rachel as she slipped Brinn’s knife from its sheath and kept it for herself.
“I’m just saying – you promised not to do anything to Brinn while he’s drugged.” I had been concerned that Rachel’s anger at being whipped might be sufficient to make her slit Brinn’s throat while he was defenceless.
“I’ll always keep my word to you, Emma.” Rachel now took Brinn’s belt and fastened it about her own naked waist. She re-sheathed the long knife and stood up, stumbling a little due to the angle of the deck. “It’s probably not a good idea to remain here very long. After what we did the Priest Kings will almost certainly despatch some of their ships to secure the area. They’re going to want to know what’s happened here, and the last thing we want is for some over zealous warriors from the Sardar to shoot first and ask questions later.”
“I think we may have a problem then,” said Erin as she gazed at the angle of the floor.
“Look at the way the ship is leaning. The lowest part of the incline is the side of the ship with the airlock…”
I caught on quickly, as did Rachel, and together we ran across the sloping deck, down the corridors of Golden Klaw to where the airlock now lay embedded in the earth around Skaffel Peak. The inner airlock door opened cleanly enough, but the outer airlock door only partially opened, before a mass of soil fell inside. The ship lay partially on its side, meaning our exit point was wedged against a deep mass of soil.
“We should be able to dig our way out. It’s not going to be quick though…” mused Rachel as she set about exploring the ship for suitable digging tools. We found some steel shovels in one of the maintenance cupboards and with these we set about excavating a hole that rose upwards to the side of the ship. We dug for maybe an hour and a half before we broke through and made a passage wide enough for us to crawl through. It was an hour and a half we didn’t really have the luxury of, for by now Sardar ships would be in the air and on their way to Skaffel Peak.
“How long does it take to fly from the Sardar to the Northern Forests?” I asked.
“Obviously longer than an hour and a half,” replied Erin. “Let’s get Brinn and move out.”
And so we did. By the time we emerged from the wreck of the Kur vessel all four of us, Erin, Rachel, Simon and myself were filthy with dirt. We pulled and pushed Brinn’s body through the narrow hole, which was thankfully only a crawl space of ten feet with an opening at either end. I had been afraid it might bring on a claustrophobia attack, but the obvious exit points at either end seemed to reassure me sufficiently that I managed to crawl rapidly through it with some encouragement from Erin. I had with me my shoulder bag of medical supplies and the ring of Red Metal that I now wore on a finger of my right hand. The sun was already going down on the horizon as we gathered at the foot of Skaffel Peak to work out the easiest route up the side facing us.
It didn’t look too bad. There was an animal trail of sorts that had been worked out over centuries, snaking in a zigzag fashion up the slope to the summit. I wouldn’t call Skaffel Peak a mountain, not in the extreme climbing context of the word, but it was more of a challenge than say an average hill. And so we left Brinn safely beside a thin copse of trees and I told Simon to look after him. The poor lad seemed shell shocked by everything that had happened.
“What are we going to do now?” he said. “The ship is wrecked. I have no idea where we are!” It was obvious to me that Simon wasn't going home in a hurry. Like it or not, Gor would be his new home for some time to come. God knows what would happen to him on this savage planet without any friends. I couldn't imagine him hunting his own food, let alone fighting anyone.
“Keep Brinn safe, Simon. He seems to see you as some sort of orphan puppy in need of help, so I think he'll look after you if you let him.” A wind from the east was beginning to blow and I shifted position to prevent my hair from blowing into my face.
“What about you? Where are you going? You're not going to leave me here?”
I had to laugh. A man on Gor was pleading with a slave-girl not to abandon him in the wilds.
“I have something I have to do, Simon. Be strong. Look after Brinn. Everything will be all right.”
“Wait! Don't go, Emma!” Simon quickly stood up. “What if someone comes?”
“Try hiding. But ensure they don't kill Brinn. Try to be a bit Gorean, Master.”
And then we began walking, travelling slowly together up the incline towards the summit of Skaffel Peak, as Simon down below watched us leave. The path snaked up along the side of the slope, on one side of which was a steep ravine that looked down upon one of the rivers that fed sharply into Lake Siljan. We could see the waters crashing hard on a series of rocks that protruded up at various angles from the river bed forming a scree. We felt jubilant, for not only had we destroyed Tarn Strike and thwarted the plans of the Kurii, but we were for a time at least free, despite our locked collars, and we carried the precious ring of Red Metal which was a one way ticket off Gor. I knew it would be dark soon, for already the sun was beginning to dip on the horizon and I was anxious to reach the summit of the peak before the light failed us entirely. I wasn't too worried, for Erin carried a hand held energy lamp which we might use if necessary, but to do so would pin point our location, and I was desperate to reach the summit and activate the ring before Sardar warriors might try and take us. Although we were on their side, we had no way of proving it, and they were likely to place us in chains and drag us back to the mountains for interrogation if they found us.
We were perhaps too focussed on reaching the summit quickly, when we should have considered the possibility that during our time trapped within the ship, other parties of a hostile nature might well have tracked us down, because not everyone had died in that flooded umbilical tunnel, as we discovered when we were part way up the winding slope and found Miss Elizabeth Bentley patiently waiting for us. She had shed most of her clothing, presumably when she had reached the surface of the lake, coughing and spluttering. Gone were her heavy boots and the thick hooded hunting jacket. In fact she now wore nothing more than a thigh length torn blouse that Goreans would have referred to as slave short. But she had saved one thing it seemed – a rifle sized gun that resembled a toy. It was made of plastic and it reminded me very much of the pump action water soakers that you might buy in Toys R Us.
For some reason we stopped in our tracks when Elizabeth pointed the weapon at us. It was just a water pistol, but we somehow sensed she wouldn't be carrying it unless it was actually dangerous.
“Hello, Emma,” she said with a cold sneer. “Did you think I was just going to let you get away with that?”
“You're threatening us with a toy gun?” said Rachel as she drew Brinn's knife from its scabbard. “Really?”
“It's a toy gun filed with a highly corrosive acid,” said Elizabeth, “and you're well within its spray range. Drop the knife, or I'll spray you with a solution that has the consistency of napalm.” By way of demonstration she squirted a patch of grass almost thirty feet away. We watched as it caught fire. “It works on a compressed air principle, so the Priest Kings really don't care about it.”
I watched as Rachel reluctantly dropped her knife onto the grass and, after a nod from Elizabeth, kicked it over the side of the ravine.
“It’s over, Elizabeth,” I said. “It's over. Your Kur drowned, we brought down your Tarns and in the process we’ve probably caused every Priest King Special Forces unit to mobilise and converge on this area. Fell’s Bane and Lake Siljan are going to be crawling with Sardar troops very soon now, so you might want to start thinking about running before they get here.” I tried to sound as confident as Rachel would sound, but it didn't come naturally to me.
“Well, that’s the beauty of not being afraid of anything, Emma.” said Elizabeth as she stood there in the torn remains of her thigh length blouse. “It means you’re not actually afraid of anything. It's incredibly liberating.” Elizabeth levelled her lethal gun between the three of us. “How long have the silly little men been fighting their interplanetary war with their sharp pointed sticks, hmm? Fifty, sixty, seventy years? Longer even? And then I come along and in just a couple of days work out how to get round the Priest King's Weapon Laws. Oh, but you should have seen the look on Seremides's face when I killed a Kur in single combat with this gun just by way of demonstration. Whoosh! A couple of shots from this and the Kur was a blazing torch, screaming and rolling on the floor in agony. The other beasts found it funny. Then I suggested Seremides fight a Kur with his silly pointed stick if he thought he was my equal. The pecking order rather quickly adjusted itself after that as far as the rebel Kur High Command were concerned.”
“You know, there’s a reason why people have a fear emotion,” said Erin as she tossed away Brinn’s gladius from her right hand. It followed Rachel's knife over the edge of the precipice. “It's really useful because it helps us survive when we’re in danger. Fight or flight. The fight’s over, so flight’s your only option now, Elizabeth.”
“Not that you’ll get very far,” said Rachel. “You’re a woman alone in the wilds of Gor, wearing nothing more than a torn blouse. Do you think the Kurii reward failure? I can tell you they don't. You've got no friends there anymore, and the first men you run into are going to strip and bind you. Believe me, that’s what happens to beautiful women who work for the Kurii sooner or later. You're going to be a slave-girl. A slave-girl on Gor.”
Elizabeth laughed. “We'll see won't we. Me against Gor. Well, me and my big fuck off gun.” And suddenly I could see she was going to shoot us, and I had to do something, anything.
“Elizabeth, please,” I held my hands up, and gazed at the summit of Fell's Bane in the fading light. So near... so very near. “This isn't the end for you! You can go home! Listen to me! You can go home!”
“Emma, don't!” screamed Rachel suddenly.
“What do you mean?” Elizabeth Bentley narrowed her eyes but kept the gun trained on my body.
“I'm wearing a ring on my right hand. It's a ring of Red Metal. You know what that means, yes? A ring of Red Interplanetary Metal?”
“Emma, don't! That's your only chance to escape Gor!” Rachel glared at me, but like Erin, she didn't dare try to attack Elizabeth.
“Red Metal? Priest King Red Metal?” Elizabeth smiled. “Show me.”
And so I did. I slipped the ring from my finger and held it up to the setting sun. “Yes. A one way passage off this planet and back to Earth. It's yours if you let Rachel and Erin walk away from here. That's all I ask. And then you can go home.”
“I could kill you and take it from you?”
I held my arm out straight and pointed it towards the edge of the pathway that sloped down towards a ravine. I could hear the sound of rushing water at the bottom – a river tributary that fed into Lake Siljan. “And I swear I will throw the ring with my dying breath down that ravine and it will be lost for ever.”
Elizabeth and I stared at one another for ten, maybe fifteen seconds.
“All I ask is you let Rachel and Erin live. And then you can go home, Elizabeth. I swear it. You can go home...”
And so she did. Rachel and Erin protested at first, but I told them to trust me.
“I'm not leaving you,” hissed Rachel.
“Yes you are. You're going to take Erin and you're going to climb back down to where Simon and Brinn are.”
“Elizabeth will kill you once you give her the ring.”
“Trust me, Rachel. Please.”
And reluctantly she did, and so I watched as Erin and Rachel disappeared from sight, headed back down the slope of the ravine to where Simon was waiting by the wrecked ship with Brinn. A cold wind was blowing on this side of Skaffel Peak and I felt the chill now that I was no longer moving. Elizabeth seemed impervious to the cold, as she cradled the water soaker.
“So, here we are,” said Elizabeth.
“So here we are,” I said back. “I saw you, you know, that night when you were brought semi-conscious to the landing field near Milton Keynes. I was lying on the grass, also drugged, when they placed your body close to mine.”
Elizabeth smiled. “That was you? The young man?”
I nodded. “I felt sorry for you then. I was scared for myself, but I remember feeling concerned for you. You were pleading with them, I think.”
“Was I? I was drugged. I could have been saying anything.”
“You wore some really nice clothes. They stripped you and I remember thinking how beautiful you looked. How beautiful, and how vulnerable. How were you taken?” I gazed up at the sun. It wouldn't set fully for another ten minutes I guessed.
“Does it matter?” Elizabeth pointed her gun at me. “You ask a lot of questions, Emma. The Priest Kings aren’t going to save you. It’s a long flight from the Sardar to the Northern Forests. I’ve let your friends go, now you give me the ring.”
“Indulge me,” I said as I took another step towards the edge of the precipice. I held my right hand with the ring clenched inside it, hovering in the air. If my hand was to open now, the ring would go tumbling down the side of the mountain. “Like Rachel said, you’re going to kill me when I give you the ring, aren’t you?”
Elizabeth simply smiled.
“I’d be better off taking my chances with the fall. An acid spray must be an incredible painful way to die in comparison.”
“It is. But no, if you give me the ring I won’t kill you.”
“Really? Wow. You mean I can trust your word? That’s just so encouraging.”
“It was my boyfriend,” said Elizabeth. “Since you want to know. He had met me in a bar three weeks before I was taken. He spent those weeks assessing me and preparing a report that favoured my acquisition as a potential agent. That night I thought I was being driven to a restaurant to be wined and dined. Instead I was gassed in the back seat of the car. You know the rest. I was to have been Kurgus’s agent, or so I understand now.”
“Seremides switched your papers with mine. I was earmarked as a slave-girl. Seremides arranged matters so that I was then the one earmarked for agent status. Seremides wanted you, I understand?”
“Eventually. But he took his time deciding that. He claimed me but only after I had spent two weeks in a slave pen. I was branded, Emma, beaten, whipped, raped. Seremides could have claimed me on day one, but he wanted to test me; he wanted to see if I could endure the worst Gor had to throw at me for a fortnight and still have value as an agent.”
“I’m so sorry…” That would have been me of course. I was supposed to have woken up scared and helpless in a slave pen in Corcyrus with the other slaves. Only I had been lucky and in essence Seremides had saved me from such a fate, at least until he enslaved me himself. “I know what that must have been like. I was placed in the pens of Banu Hashim in Patashqar. I’m so sorry.”
“That which does not kill you only makes you stronger. My mother once told me that Ulrika Meinhoff told her that. I survived two weeks of brutality with no apparent hope, because I knew it was what my Grand Mother would have done. I am not weak, Emma.”
“I can see that.”
“And then Seremides came and he offered that I might work for him, work for the rebel faction of the Kurii. I was lucky – I got to meet a Kur very early on when Seremides was receiving his orders. I knew right away that my only chance of survival on Gor long term would be to make myself more useful to the beasts than Seremides was. And so I interrupted their exchange, much to Seremides’s anger and flat out told the Kur that I was worthy enough to serve them directly. And to prove it, I would do what Seremides could never do - I would kill a Kur in single one-on-one combat. The Kur was intrigued by this. I was obviously weak and even Seremides wouldn’t have dared fight one of the beasts alone. I was given a day to prepare. I made a crude but serviceable pump operated water squirting weapon in the Kur workshops, and created a highly corrosive fluid with ease. I’m a chemist by profession. By the way, the fluid I have in this weapon is far better. But what I had at the time was good enough. I suggested I face a Kur prisoner – there are many factions within Kur society, so there was no shortage of enemies I might fight. I faced the Kur in the arena with my gun. That caused the other beasts some concern until I explained I had devised a potent weapon that didn’t contravene the Priest King weapon laws. I blinded the Kur with my first shot and left him dying with two more. I then suggested that Seremides should fight a Kur with his chosen weapon – the sword. Seremides looked quite pale as the great Kurii asked him whether he wished to take up my challenge. After that I became their preferred agent.”
“Why, Elizabeth?” I said as I swept my hair from my eyes. I was standing directly in the path of the wind, and try as I might it kept blowing my hair back across my eyes. Despite that, I chose not to turn my head so that the wind wasn't in my face.
“Why what, Emma?” As she spoke, Elizabeth took a few steps towards the edge of the ravine and satisfied herself that Rachel and Erin weren’t lurking somewhere below, perhaps intent on scaling up the rough rock face to stage some miraculous rescue. She could see them far below, gazing up helplessly at the sight of us two halfway up the summit.
“Why did you want to see the Kurii destroy Gor? I can understand you had little or no choice in working for the Beasts, but in your case you actually seem to approve of their aims.”
“You actually need to ask? Look around you, Emma,” she gestured dramatically with the gun and her free arm, “this is a sick society where brutality is the order of the day. You’ve been on this planet as long as me. Before I was ‘rescued’ by Seremides and offered a new life as an agent, I was raped and brutalised in the slave pens, exactly the fate that had been ordained for you. I lay there each night developing a hatred of the men on this planet. Why wouldn’t I want to tear down their society, grind their faces into the dirt and turn them into cattle for the Kurii? Let the men of Gor feel the iron heel of a superior life form. It’s their philosophy after all – only the strongest deserve to be free.”
“And what about the women, Elizabeth? What about the women on Gor? What did they ever do to you?”
“They accept their fate! They do nothing, nothing to fight their oppressors! The slaves meekly curl up in the arms of their Masters, panting and desperately begging for sex, while the so called Free Women fight amongst themselves and actively hate any one of their own sex who wears a collar! They’re all complicit in their own subjugation! I have nothing but contempt for them! My Grand Mother would never have surrendered like that. She would have fought, and she would have killed. Goreans look down on Earth men and women, but we have a history of fighting against oppression. The women of Gor should not sit meekly by, fussing over their veils and robes!”
“And what would you have them do, Elizabeth?”
“Whatever it takes! Whatever it fucking takes! Fight! Kill! Stand up for themselves!”
“And die in the process?”
“Yes! If necessary! An animal would! The Kurii would!”
“Elizabeth, you don’t understand how other women feel. You have no concept of fear. You’ve said so yourself. You lost it in your accident. It’s easy for you to act like this. Other women want to live. They don’t want to die.”
“Then they’re weak! Pathetically weak, and they have surrendered their right to whine and complain when someone like me sets out to do what they should have done a long, long time ago. I was going to take the war directly to the Priest Kings in the Sardar. I want these shadowy aliens to die. Because they are truly the worst of them all. Think about it, Emma, they have the power to reshape society on Gor. They could put an end to the subjugation of women overnight. They could level cities, burn entire armies. They could do anything they wished to do. But they tolerate the status quo. They sit in the Sardar mountains and allow this never ending vista of cruelty to unfold. They enforce this primitive state of technology. They insist that Gor has a society in which raw muscle is the most important resource. Women are always subjugated in a primitive society. It is only when technology gives women the ability to compete with men on an equal footing that women achieve any sense of equality. So long as this world is ruled by those who have the raw strength to wield a sword, throw a spear or pull a bow, women will always be at a man’s mercy. And these aliens, whatever they are, protect this type of society. I hate Gorean men, but I hate the Priest Kings even more, for they see it all and they approve. So yes, I wanted them to die in a nuclear fireball. I wanted to pull their mountain ranges down over their net work of tunnels. I wanted to see their nests of offspring burn in a radioactive hell. I wanted them to die screaming horribly in pain. Let them die! Let them all die! They deserve it.”
The wind was whipping across the slope of Skaffel Peak as I considered how much time I had bought for Erin and Rachel to get clear to safety. The Priest King soldiers would be here soon, and I suspected they might be prone to shooting first and asking questions later once they spotted survivors. The wind continued to blow my hair into my face, just as I wanted it to, and so I turned round to face the precipice where the wind was now in my face rather than blowing from behind.
“I need to sort out my hair,” I said, much to her surprise. And then as I apparently did so, my face hidden from Elizabeth's gaze, I suddenly let out a sharp yelp of pain.
“What’s the matter, slave-girl? Did you tread on a sharp stone?” she sneered.
“Yes.” I turned back round, and as soon as I did, the wind blew my hair in my face again. It was getting darker now – twilight and shadows as the sun set on the horizon – and it suited me perfectly. I seemingly gave up on brushing my hair back, and simply peered out with it plastered across my face.
“I understand your anger, Elizabeth, truly I do. I suffered horrible things in my time here. But I don’t want everyone else to die because of it.”
“And I don’t care how you feel or what you want, slave-girl.”
“I used to feel so sorry for you. I used to think back to that night in the field by the landing strip when I saw you being bundled into one of the transport tubes. For months afterwards I used to imagine how I might find you in a slave market and how I would buy you and free you, because I wanted to help you, and…”
“Oh shut up, Emma! Those pathetically romantic day dreams when you might save the helpless girl tied to the railway tracks are almost as bad as the Gorean male attitude to women. I never needed your sympathy or your help! I make my own destiny and I am every bit the equal of these barbarians. My time on Gor has actually been quite the liberating experience. I never feared anything on Earth, but now I understand what I’m truly capable of. When I return to Earth I shall be the catalyst for revolution. I have such plans. I know how to think big now. I will be the Alpha and the Omega. My Name will be Legend.”
“Then you’ll be needing this, Elizabeth.” I held my left hand outstretched, and in it gleamed the ring of red metal. I clenched my hand into a fist again, lowered it to my side and then took a single step forward. “I'll bring it to you.”
“Stop! No closer,” said Elizabeth.
“I’m tired and I’m cold, Elizabeth. Either take the ring, kill me, or walk away. I really don’t care any more.” I stared hard at her as I seemingly rubbed my hands together across my chest to warm myself.
“Throw me the ring.”
And so I did, which is precisely what I wanted her to say, for it hadn't really been my intention for her to get any closer to me. In the last traces of daylight Elizabeth could clearly see the outline shape of a ring in my hand – a ring that I casually tossed towards her. It tumbled through the air to be snatched in the palm of her left hand, as I in turn stumbled backwards, seemingly at random, along the edge of the ravine. I watched Elizabeth clench her fist around the ring and hold it above her head in victory.
“I am actually grateful.” She kept her eyes on me as I did the same and then I walked quickly up the slope, putting enough distance between us now that I would hopefully be out of range of her acid gun. Seeing this, Elizabeth laughed.
“Stay out of my way, Emma. I hope you’re not stupid enough to try and ambush me when I climb to the summit and…” in the dim light she could see what I had been hiding, now that I no longer allowed the wind to blow my hair across my face. I had turned from the wind and now it was blowing my hair back over my shoulders and Elizabeth could see the ribbons of blood trailing down my face from my nose.
“Yes I am.” I smiled and took another few steps back. Now I really was out of range of the acid gun.
“I don’t understand. Why do you look so…” and then it suddenly clicked. “You don’t have a nose ring in your nose any more!”
I smiled and opened my right hand. There resting on my palm was the ring of red metal. Elizabeth quickly opened her fist and saw a simple nose ring suitable for a slave-girl. I had torn it from my nose while we talked.
“You fucking bitch!”
And then in panic I ran up the final approach to the summit of Skaffel Peak, knowing that a vengeful Elizabeth Bentley would be close behind.
I reached the rocky summit feeling breathless but driven by adrenaline as I surveyed the landscape for anywhere I might hide. It was a flat, barren, wind swept promontory, devoid of cover, except for some wind stunted trees that perched on the cliff’s edge with a tangle of roots hanging in mid air from where a part of the cliff soil had broken away. I had no idea how firmly fixed the trees were, but with Elizabeth Bentley maybe only half a minute behind me, I had little choice but to trust to the relatively lightness of my body. I grabbed hold of the thickest branches of one of the trees that leaned ominously over the edge and swung my body down onto the tangle of roots. I hung there, maybe three or four feet below the edge of the summit, gripping the roots with my hands and coiling my feet around them for added security. I had to trust to my core strength as a dancer that I could hold on for dear life just long enough to either slip past Elizabeth or strike her from behind. I made it just in time as, from my hiding space suspended a good hundred and fifty feet above the ravine, I heard Elizabeth scramble onto the summit and scream my name as she tried to locate me.
Thankfully it was now dark enough that she couldn’t be sure I wasn’t simply lying down on the undulating gorse like grass, trusting to the twilight shadows to disguise my body as just another ridge on the horizon.
“Show yourself, you little slut!” screamed Elizabeth as she ran across the sparse vegetation, acid gun cradled in both hands, ready to take a shot. I felt cramp in my muscles as I hung there, clinging to the roots for dear life, terrified to climb back up and take the chance that she might have her back to me, but I knew that, dancer muscles or not, I couldn’t hang there indefinitely.
“Give me the ring!” screamed Elizabeth. “Give me the ring you little shit, or I’ll make your death last for hours!”
I risked hanging there out of sight for a few more minutes, feeling the muscles in my arms and legs begin to ache with each passing tick of my internal clock, until I began to fear that if I delayed much longer I might never summon the strength to claw my way back to the safety of the rocky escarpment. I tried to control my breathing as I clawed and pushed my way back up the thick tangle of roots and with both arms clinging to a branch, and my feet pressed against the loose soil that was already giving way on the side of the hill top, I hauled myself back up to safety in time to see Elizabeth turn her back to the trees a mere ten yards away.
Any moment now she might turn round and see me crouched and breathless, and so my hands scrabbled across the rough ground in search of a heavy stone that I might use. I found one just as she began to turn back in my direction and I jumped to my feet and threw it straight at her head. There was a glancing crack and she staggered back, screaming, but she wasn’t down. I ran, diagonally, away from the edge of the ravine, darting alternately towards her and away from the aim of her gun as she fired wild. There was a hiss as a jet of acid seared the ground close by, followed by another jagged gash as I flung myself slightly to her left. And then I was on her as she seemed to regain her composure. I had just enough time to see blood on the crown of her head as I crashed into her and bowled her over onto the scrubland grass. I think there was another shot that smeared the ground to her right and then we were fighting, twisting, punching, biting, scrabbling to kill one another. I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t know how to fight, but I knew I wanted to survive and so I let the animal in me take over. I didn’t fight as a human, as a slave-girl, as anything really, just as a wild beast pushed to the point of absolute terror with nothing to lose. I tried to gouge her eyes and she tried to do the same to me. I think she lost her gun as she tried to pull my sharp nails from her face and somehow I got a knee into her gut and she drove a fist into my throat but no matter what damage she did, my adrenalin was numbing me from the worst.
But she was stronger than me. We twisted some more on the lumpen ground, our bodies criss crossed with cuts, gashes, bruises, nail and teeth marks as Elizabeth forced my arms down beside my head. I twisted my body and suddenly rolled with the pressure she was applying and before she could compensate, Elizabeth rolled over and struck the ground cheek first. Suddenly there was a terrible scream and Elizabeth was no longer holding me down, instead she leapt to her feet, screaming like all the Devils of Hell were dragging her down to the brimstone pits. I gazed up and saw to my horror, the left hand side of her face hissing, bubbling and burning. She had struck a patch of the napalm like acid that she had sprayed from her gun. Her screams were truly horrible as she flung herself in agony about the wind swept summit of Skaffel Peak, oblivious to everything now but the searing pain on one half of her face. I saw the gleam of white enamel where the acid had dissolved the lower part of her jaw, exposing her teeth, and then suddenly she ran, howling into the night and stumbled off the edge of the cliff, to fall tumbling through the air towards the ravine below.
I could see the hissing, scarred patches of Earth now where Elizabeth had landed, and cautiously I crawled round these patches of acid to reach the edge of Skaffel Peak where I was able to peer down. I could hear the sound of the rushing waters crashing over the rocks of the scree, but it was too dark to make anything out. Elizabeth was gone – her body no doubt broken and torn on the jagged rocks before it was then swept down stream back towards Lake Siljan and the watery grave that had claimed her last Kur and the remnants of her warriors.
It was over. I was alive.
I lay there feeling wretched and exhausted until I felt Erin and Rachel wrap me in a blanket. They had of course began the ascent of Skaffel peak again the moment they saw me flee from Elizabeth Bentley, but they had been too late to help me in my fight. We huddled together for a while in the blankets on the exposed bleak summit until I felt strong enough to finish what I had begun.
“It's time,” I said.
And then I knelt down on the grass and motioned for Rachel and Erin to join me. There, under the three moons of Gor, I slipped the ring of red metal from my finger and held it in the palm of my hand.
“You all know what this is, and what it can do. It’s a ticket home for one of us. One of us can return to Earth.” I looked at my two friends and waited for their reactions.
“It’s your ring,” said Rachel. “It belonged to your father.”
“Like Rachel says, we’re not going to take it from you, pumpkin,” said Erin. “What are you waiting for?”
“If I use this it means I’m leaving you behind. I will feel guilty for the rest of my life.” I meant that. This was awful – knowing that to use the ring selfishly meant leaving my friends behind to suffer on Gor. “Maybe the Priest Kings will take us all?”
“I don’t think so,” said Rachel. “I’m pretty sure it’s just a case of whoever has the ring gets to enjoy the ride. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think you have to actually wear the ring when they come.”
“I wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for the two of you. Erin…” I turned to face her. “I feel so wretched. I only escaped Banu Hashim because you gave me the means to do so. I swore I’d find some way to free you. I gave you my word..” I gazed at the collar still locked around her throat, knowing that my friend was doomed. Even if she evaded Brinn, the next man who came across her would try to claim her as his. Her temporary freedom from men would be pitifully short.
“You promised to get me out of the pens, Emma, and I am out of the pens. I don’t hold you responsible for everything else. Come here.”
I did so and Erin embraced me and hugged me. “I’ll let you in on a little secret, pumpkin, I had a soft spot for you when you were in the pens. You’re very sexy.” She kissed me on the forehead, though it was obvious she would like to have done far more than that.
“I’ll never forget you, Erin,” I said as I pressed my head to her shoulder. “I wish we could all leave here together.”
“Yeah, I know.” We held each other for a while and then I turned to face Rachel.
“And Rachel, oh my God, where do I even begin! You have watched out for me since that first morning when we met in the bath chambers. I don’t know what I would have done without you, Rachel. You were my rock, my life, and…”
“I know.” Rachel put her finger to my lips. “There’s no need to say anything.”
“Rachel… any words I say now will never be enough…”
“I know.” She took my hands and gazed into my eyes. “I feel the same way. Whatever happens to me after this, I will be happy knowing I’ve sent you home. You’ve given me purpose, Emma. I have done some dark things, some bad things in the forty years I worked for Kurgus, and I did those things because I desperately wanted to stay free and because I dreamed that one day Kurgus would send me home. If I told you some of the things I have done in the service of the Kurii, you would think so much less of me.”
“I’m never going to see you again!” I wailed. “This is the toughest, most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.” I moved forward and hugged Rachel to me. I loved her so much and I was about to do something that meant we would never see each other again. There was no putting it off any longer. With my arms around Rachel, I carefully slipped the protective cap from the disposable one-shot hypodermic I had concealed in my left hand and, gazing into her eyes one last time, injected Rachel in the back of the neck with the same fast acting tranquilliser that she had used on Brinn.
Rachel gasped, stared at me in shock and simply mouthed the words, “Emma... no...” before she slumped to the ground and swiftly passed out.
“Oh, pumpkin, tell me you’re not actually doing this…” said Erin as she gazed at the used hypodermic in my hand. It was the last one I had in my medical supply bag and I had been keeping it for this moment on Skaffel Peak.
“I have to. I can’t condemn Rachel to a life on Gor. It would kill her! She’s suffered for forty years now. What I’ve been through is a small fraction of that. I can’t save myself and leave her behind. She’s done so much for me. I owe her so much.”
“I’m impressed. This is some sacrifice you're making. You really sure about this? There’s no going back once you take that final step?”
I nodded and bit my lower lip. “I’m doing this now before I chicken out and change my mind. Rachel would have sacrificed her life for me. I’ve got to do this.”
“So, how does it work?”
“I’m not sure. My father said something about wearing the ring and simply mentally commanding the Priest King ship to appear. He said “you’ll never see them, but the ship will convey you to Earth.” And so I slipped the ring back on my finger and held a fist into the air. I closed my eyes and called out to the silver ship inside my head. 'Come, here, now, at once. I’m on Skaffel Peak. Take me home.' And I think I felt something. Maybe an electric tingle through my body and then I heard Erin gasp and when I opened my eyes and looked back at my hand I saw the ring was now glowing as if infused with power.
“Something seems to be happening,” said Erin.
I nodded again as I slipped the ring from my finger and placed it instead on Rachel’s finger. I knelt down beside her and produced a small pouch from inside my medical supply satchel. It was the diamonds that Brinn had taken from Seremides at the same time he had taken the gold he had spent to buy Rachel. I tied the leather pouch by its thong about Rachel's left wrist. It would be enough money to set her up for life once she returned to Earth. I didn't know how she would get around the problem of creating a new identity for herself, or somehow explaining where she had been for forty years and how she looked like she was still maybe 23, but I felt sure that with enough money at her disposal Rachel would think of something.
And so we sat there for a time. Erin had salvaged a bota of paga from the wreck of the Kurii ship, and so we passed it between ourselves, sipping the harsh liquor to ward off the cold as we waited patiently. We didn't have to wait long. I don't think it was more than fifteen minutes before we saw the silver ship appear like a phantom high above us in the sky.
You will never see the creatures that pilot it, my father had said to me. But they will take you home.
And so they took Rachel. I cried as I saw the silver beam descend down to her body and Erin hugged me as I watched her body rise up into the clouds and enter the ship through an aperture in the side. For a few seconds the ship just hung there, suspended over the summit of Skaffel Peak, and then as suddenly as it had appeared, it was gone.
“Good bye Rachel,” I sobbed. “Please be happy on Earth and live a good life for me.”
I think we finished the bota of paga before Erin said we should climb back down to the foothills. Amazingly we weren't drunk; rather the alcohol seemed to keep us going on reserve energy. By the time we scrabbled our way down in the dark, Brinn was awake and was waiting for us with Simon standing nervously by his side.
I had no idea what to expect as I walked purposefully towards Brinn. He stood there on the exposed edge of the slope that meandered towards the path on which we had ascended and now descended, and all the while his eyes were locked upon me.
“I have no excuses for what I did, Master,” I said as I dropped to my knees in Nadu before him. “Beat me, sell me, kill me, or do what you wish with me, but I do not regret sending Rachel home.” I lowered my head and placed myself in whipping position, expecting the worst. It didn’t matter any more, for I had saved my best friend and Sapphic lover. After all I had been through, I was by now past caring for my own life. I knew what my future would be on Gor – a brutal beating from Brinn – possibly even death, or if not, to be sold on an auction block probably for a token price so that my next slavery might be a punishment one. I would suffer again as I had done in Rashid’s collar, but in my heart I would know I had saved Rachel.
I remember reading once about heroism. A man had seen a child drowning in a river and he had jumped in to the water to save the child. Afterwards he had been hailed a hero, and he had modestly turned down the accolade. “A hero is someone who risks or gives up something for the benefit of others. I’m an expert swimmer, and so for me there was never any risk. A hero would be someone who could barely swim, deciding to risk his own life in the water to save the child.”
I like to think what I did for Rachel counts as heroism.
Brinn said nothing as he gazed down at me, I sensed Erin nearby, glaring at him. I had already told Erin not to intervene, for Brinn could easily have killed her.
“Rachel deserves the chance to start her life again,” I sobbed. “I don’t care if you’re angry with me. I don't care! She saved both of our lives and we would never have defeated the Kurii’s plan without her! If she had been a man you would have showered her in gold as a reward! I don’t ask for mercy or forgiveness! Do what you want with me. I have nothing left.” I began to cry as I knelt with my head down and my back displayed. I was so tired, so utterly exhausted and drained. I wasn’t even sure I could climb back down Skaffel Peak any more. For a moment I considered throwing myself off from the edge into the ravine and the fast flowing river that crashed over the rocky scree, to join Elizabeth Bentley in death, but a mixture of fatigue and my own body’s survival instinct put paid to thoughts like that.
And then I felt Brinn lift me back to my feet and fold me in his arms. And I found myself sobbing into his shoulder as he embraced me and whispered “hush.”
“You want me to sell you, Emma?” he said quietly.
“No.” I sobbed.
“You could have left on that ship instead of Rachel,” he said.
“Rachel would have died here on Gor. You know she would have in time. She deserved better. If you’re going to whip me, then do it now while I’m still numb with fatigue.”
“I’m not going to whip you, Emma. And I’m never going to sell you. I accept what you did for Rachel. Just this once.” He kissed me softly and I kissed him back while Erin watched from a few yards away.
“You don’t want to sell me?” I had been sure my punishment would be severe.
“No. I am not a fool, Emma. Why would I do a thing like that? You chose to stay on Gor.”
“You chose to stay here, knowing you wear my collar.”
I nodded again.
“Then what you did tonight pleases me greatly. For the loss of you is unthinkable to me.”
I said nothing for a while as he continued to hold me, and then I said it. I had to say it. It had been buried deep inside me for months – always there – that nagging fear that one day he would find out from someone else. “Master… I have to tell you something. And I’m terrified of your response.” I couldn’t look at him. “The Kurii have machines that they stole from the Priest Kings. These machines allow them to…”
“Reshape a person’s body. I know, Emma.”
“No you don’t. I mean… back on Earth I was a…”
“I said I know Emma. I know who you were back on Earth. Erin told me a few nights ago. I don’t care. The Kurii gave you a woman’s body. You're a woman now. I don’t care what you might have been before.”
“How…” I suddenly glanced back at Erin. “You told Brinn about me?”
Erin nodded. “That’s about it, pumpkin. Someone had to tell him.” She smiled.
“But… how did you know?”
“Oh, Rachel told me.”
“Rachel told you?!” I couldn’t believe this! “Does everyone on Gor know the truth about me?”
“Certainly seems that way, doesn’t it, pumpkin,” said Erin with a smile. “it’s obviously more of a big deal for you than any of us. Get over it.”
“Oh God…” I gazed up now at Brinn. “You’re serious? It doesn’t make any difference?”
“I’ll admit it was a shock, but as Erin said, you are a woman. And I should know. We will not have to speak of this again. It is said, It is done. It no longer needs to be spoken of.”
I nodded furiously and kissed him again. I think we would have held each other for the rest of the night had Erin not coughed to break our moment together.
Brinn released me and turned to face Erin. “So then,” he said.
“So then.” I'm not going to be your slave,” said Erin as she stood there, so beautiful in her steel collar with her fists clenched defiantly. To my surprise Brinn simply nodded.
“What are you going to do?” he asked.
“I thought I might try my luck in the Northern Forests. It seems like my sort of place. A lot of sexually frustrated women dressed in skimpy animal skins. I think I might like it here.” She grinned.
“You'll last maybe three months,” said Brinn. “At best.”
Erin shrugged. “Three months is something. It's a start. And who knows? I might become the next Tallia?”
“I'm being optimistic. Probably two months if you're lucky.” Brinn produced a collar key and motioned for Erin to turn round, and then to my surprise he unlocked the collar and handed it to her. “The Panther girls will enslave a girl who can't remove her collar,” he said. “Now you have a fighting chance.” And then he gave her a knife.
Erin nodded and then, leaning forward, she kissed Brinn softly on the cheek. “Thank you. Look after Emma. She lost a lot today, but she loves you.” And then she turned to me. “He won't ever say it to you, Emma, because he's an idiot.” and then she kissed me full on the lips and left me standing there looking all flustered, much to Brinn's astonishment. “See you in another life, pumpkin.”
We stood there and watched as Erin walked slowly away towards the twilight shrouded tree line that marked the edge of this part of the Northern Forest until gradually she faded from our sight.
And then ten minutes later we saw the warriors of the Sardar begin to arrive on the horizon.
EPILOGUE 1: Emma
What is left to say? A few things, I suppose.
It began raining shortly after Brinn led me back down the slope towards Lake Siljan. He was quieter than I had ever known him to be, and for many days afterwards I honestly didn’t know what might happen to me. We headed back to the site of the wrecked Kurii vessel because we knew it would be the target for a Priest King clean up team and shortly thereafter we were proved right when two of their own silver ships descended from the clouds to disembark a number of men in service to the Sardar. Brinn greeted them and identified himself and we were therefore saved a long journey on foot to the Sardar.
I told Brinn to take the credit for the defeat of the Kurii. I was past caring really. And I knew that giving credit for such a victory to a slave-girl would be pointless. Yes there would be gratitude, but of a worthless kind. I was Brinn’s property. What would the Priest Kings offer me? A medal? But if Brinn was acknowledged as the new hero of Gor, having destroyed Tarn Strike, then the accolades for him would be great wealth, prestige, fame, power, and authority – all the things that men can enjoy on Gor and women cannot. And so I told Brinn to take the credit for himself.
“Tell them Rachel and I were simply your slaves. Tell them everything was down to you. Take the credit and the rewards for saving Gor.”
“But I didn’t,” said Brinn sadly. “In the end it was you and Rachel…”
“You will always know that, Master. And I know you will know it. That is enough for me. It is your world, not mine.” I gazed sadly up into the night sky, now lit up with stars. Somewhere out there in space was a silver ship beginning its long journey round our sun, headed for Earth.
“I love you, Miss Rachel Evans of Oakhampton,” I whispered softly as I hugged myself with my arms to ward off the chill air. Brinn draped a cloak over my shoulders and kissed me on the forehead.
“This will mean incredible honour, wealth and authority for me,” he said.
“Yes it will. A slave-girl could never have any of that, so you may as well have it instead.”
And Brinn has never forgotten it. In the days to come Brinn was praised by all. Great banquet feasts were held in his honour; songs and poetic verse were composed to tell his story. The Sardar awarded him a vast estate with a great house and large tracts of land. He was showered with gold and precious gems and everything a man might want. He was welcome in virtually every city in Gor when word spread of what he had done. But sometimes when he sat in his high curule chair in his palace like house, with great flame braziers burning to ward off the winter chill, and he was surrounded by fifty or so guests who drank and dined in his great hall and raised great toasts to his battle with the Kurii, I would see him gaze wistfully down at me as I knelt at his feet in a golden neck chain in a place of slave honour on his dais, and there would be no joy or pride in his eyes.
Brinn soon had a stable full of slave-girls to attend to his great house – twenty of them in fact, and many male work slaves to tend to his lands. He made me First Girl, and my duties in the house were to oversee the other girls – which I did easily enough, and to be his personal love slave, which I also did easily enough. The other girls knew I was Brinn’s favourite, and they sensed that preference was never likely to change, and so they feared me and in most cases desperately went out of their way to please me. I was permitted to carry a light slave whip with which to enforce discipline as necessary, and there were times I had to use it, but on the whole I think I am a fair and considerate First Girl. I have made some friends among the other girls, particularly Chloe (an Earth girl), Ellen and Candice, but even they know my word is the law and our friendships remain one sided as a result.
Brinn insisted I had to have some sort of reward. He practically begged me to name it.
“My freedom?” I said with a hint of a smile, and his face went pale at the thought.
“Please do not ask that, Emma,” he said, and there was fear in his face for I knew that if I did ask that reward he would feel obliged to grant it
“They say only a fool frees a slave, Master.”
“They do say that, Emma.”
“Would you be that fool if I named that as my reward?”
Brinn said nothing for a time and then he walked away from the hall, unable to face me.
That night when I lay in his arms in a bedroom the size of a medium size feasting hall, and as resplendently furnished as a Ubar’s palace, Brinn asked me again to name my reward.
“But do not ask me for your freedom, Emma, for it would destroy me.”
“But I’m just a slave, Master. You have many slaves…” I kissed him and stroked his chest.
“There are no other slaves,” he said as he gazed down at me.
“I can ask anything?” I said.
“This once. Yes. You may ask anything of me. After what you have done, I cannot say otherwise.”
“I could be free again.”
Brinn looked sadly at me. “Yes, but I would never be free of you, Emma.”
And then I moved closer and whispered to him what it was that I wanted.
And Brinn smiled.
Two days later it was done. I walked onto the sun lit veranda of the east wing of the house with a slave crop in my hand. There a beautiful brown haired slave-girl was kneeling, terrified on the stone tiles. She was naked of course, and collared, and freshly branded. I had been present when she had been branded and I had directed the branding while she screamed in the slave rack. Now she was chained by the collar to an iron ring set into the floor of the veranda. She looked so small, so weak, so exquisite in her bondage. She was terrified.
“You’ve been named Louise,” I said as I stood there in my slave tunic, with a coiled whip at my belt. “It was the first slave name I heard when I awoke on Gor, so it will be your name now.”
“Please…” begged Louise as she knelt there before me. She was still in great pain from the branding and the whipping that had followed. New slave-girls are often whipped early on in their slavery to teach them to fear the lash. It is useful in respect of their future training. It saves many mistakes and speeds up the learning process.
“You are going to be trained as a pleasure slave, Louise,” I said as I gazed down at her. “But not here. Not in the Sardar. You will be taken to the Tahari, to a place I understand you are familiar with: the slave pens of Banu Hashim. There you will be housed for many months. You will learn quickly, or your treatment there will be very brutal. Actually, it will probably be very brutal even if you do learn quickly. You will spend your first six days in a punishment pit. You probably don’t fully understand what that entails, but you will do very soon.”
“Please Mistress, do not do this,” begged the girl called Louise.
“After your training, you will be hooded and raped. It will be painful I expect, but a slave-girl has to lose her virginity at some point. And then I will have agents seek out a desert brigand called Rashid. I believe you know of him. I will have you sold to him for a copper tarsk bit. At that price, with your expensive training, I suspect he will be only too keen to have you.”
That was all I really had to say. And then I left Louise, or rather the former Seremides, to her fate. For the technology that the Kurii had used to change my body had of course originally been stolen and adapted from the Priest Kings, and so it had been no great effort to use the Priest King's own devices on the hideously injured Kur agent who had originally betrayed me. He had still been alive when Sardar warriors had rounded up the wounded survivors in the Forest, and so I had requested that the former Seremides should spend the rest of his life on Gor in the body of a beautiful slave-girl. I thought it fitting.
Simon resides here now. I still don't understand why, but Brinn seems to have taken a liking for the young man of Earth and has offered him a home. In return Simon oversees the administration of Brinn's estates and finances. From time to time Brinn gets him terribly drunk on paga and I think he finds that funny. Bit by bit, Simon has developed some muscles. Every so often I catch him looking at me and I smile and he looks quickly away, but his confidence around women is growing. I've suggested to Brinn that he sends a girl to Simon's room one night, but Brinn disapproves of the idea. “A man should not have to be given a girl,” was what he said to me. “A man should simply take the girl when he wants her.”
Shortly after commanding me to start work on my account of my time on Gor, Brinn had a physician examine me. It was a lengthy and intrusive examination, at the end of which I was give a number of injections, presumably some further stabilising serum. But since then Brinn has seen fit to lock me in a chastity belt. He has been away on business for the Priest Kings in Ar and has left me unable to receive any sexual satisfaction at either the hands of men who work in his household, or even by the exercise of my own fingers. To say I am desperate now is an understatement and I count the days until he is due back. I am told he will return here in a few days time, by which time I will have finished tidying up this vast sheaf of papers. The other slave-girls know I have been locked in this belt and I think they secretly enjoy the thought that I cannot wheedle or flaunt myself to the men in the house while my Master is away. I do not understand why Brinn is now so reluctant for any other man to have me – is it a possessive jealousy on his part? Other men using me never seemed to trouble him in the past. All I know is that I am desperately in need of sex, and at night I lie awake, twisting and turning in my furs, burning inside.
Sometimes I go out onto the south facing veranda overlooking the sweeping gardens of Brinn’s estates, which is my favourite, and I gaze up at the sun, shielding my eyes with my right hand as I imagine a green and blue planet on the other side – the third rock from the sun. And I like to imagine that Rachel Evans of Oakhampton is perhaps sitting on a sun lounger in a quiet resort on the South Coast of France, sun bathing, perhaps reading a book, and she too gazes up at the sun and imagines the world of Gor where I remain to this day. I like to think that on some of the days, probably not many, we both gaze up at the same time, and were it not for the vast tract of space separating us, our eyes would meet and we might whisper across the great void the words, “I love you.”
That is all.
I live. I love. I endure.
Whoever you are, reading this, I wish you well.
God bless you and good night.
EPILOGUE 2: Brinn
You have no idea how my spirits lifted and my heart soared when I received news that you were still alive! Throughout my many adventures that followed my escape from Elysium, I truly believed Kurgus had killed you, and yet looking back now I cannot recall the man ever confirming or claiming he had done so. I suppose I had feared the worst and proceeded accordingly, but of course there would have been immense strategical value in Kurgus taking you alive for future interrogation. I understand you would almost certainly have endured terrible torture had Tarl Cabot not rescued you on the way to Corcyrus! What a warrior! What a hero! What a man! That he then went on to defeat the seven Kurii who were travelling North to rendezvous and join with Kurgus's forces in the Northern Forests benefited me greatly. I dread to think what the outcome might have been had Kurgus had the benefit of seven Kur warriors on his side in the final confrontation with Elizabeth Bentley. I am, as ever, in awe of the great Cabot, and hope to meet him one day as you have done. I should add that Emma has an amusing but ludicrous theory about Tarl that I must explain to you one day over paga.
I mention Emma, because she is the reason I am writing now. I enclose a heavy packet of papers for you to read, for this is the true account written by your daughter, Emma. I commanded her to write a frank and honest account of everything that occurred to her since the night she was taken from Earth, and having read her papers tonight I admit to being greatly moved by the intensity of what she has experienced.
I understand why you are hesitant to see her again, and I understand why you conveyed to me your wish that she not be told of your survival, but I entreat you now to change your mind. I confess I do not know how I would have felt, how I would have reacted, had I discovered that my eldest son had become a woman, but I would like to think I could never have rejected her completely. The situation is complicated. You had always known Emma as a boy, and I have always known Emma as a woman. Biologically she is of course a woman now. Her body is 100% female, and as for her mind… I think now that her mind had always been female.
Our lives are often solitary and devoid of love, such is the nature of the work we do, and like you I understand that such a state of being is necessary for the good of Gor. You chose to leave your home planet forever to serve the Priest Kings and in doing so you sacrificed so much. I know you loved your Free Companion on Earth, and you loved your children. You were prepared to pay that price for the greater good. But now fate has given you one of your children back, and she is here should you change your mind. I will not tell you what to do, only that you can be proud of her, for as you will see when you read her account, she, not I, saved Gor.
Emma urged me to take the credit for her deeds, and now I feel ashamed that I did so. You at least must know the truth, for Gor was saved by your flesh and blood. In the end she had your strength and resilience.
I know you are dying, and so there is another reason for me urging you to speak to your daughter, or at least allow her to know you still live. I understand her blood transfusions could potentially stabilise your deterioration. You could live many more years with her help. Please allow her to save you. No matter what has happened in the past, I feel sure she would never leave her father to die of a wasting degenerative disease.
And there is one final thing I must tell you. I intend to breed Emma. I have given her the inhibitor for the slave wine, and by now she will be fertile again. I keep her locked in a belt so that no other man in my house can impregnate her by accident. It is time I had strong sons, and I am told that Emma has the potential to give birth to strong, beautiful children. Your line is a house of honour, even if mine no longer is. I would not see your line die out. Please accord me the honour to conjoin with your line and through Emma gift you grandchildren who will grow to be strong warriors and elegantly beautiful Free Women. I will briefly free Emma long enough for her to give birth so that your Grand Children will be born to a Free Woman, and then I will enslave her again. She belongs in my collar.
My work for the Priest Kings takes me to Port Kar very soon, where I have been told you now live. With your leave I would call upon you and discuss these matters in person over paga for I have always had the utmost respect for you. Everything I am was made in your inspiration.
Your sword brother in all things,
Brinn of the Sardar.
EPILOGUE 3: Rachel:
Are you hanging up your stocking on the wall?
Is it time that every Santa has a ball?
Does he ride a red nosed reindeer?
Does he tug upon a sleigh?
Do the fairies keep him sober for a day...
Christmas never used to begin this early in the early seventies. I remember that my mother always refused to decorate the tree until ten days before Christmas, but now the shops seem full of yuletide sparkle as soon as Bonfire night is over. But what’s most bizarre as far as I’m concerned is that over 40 years on from when I was taken to Gor, you still play the same early Seventies Christmas records every year. Slade wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Wizzard wishing it could be Christmas every day-ee-ay, and Greg Lake still believing in Father Christmas. It’s like I could be walking around Oxford Street in 1975.
Would you like to know what the first thing I really noticed about 2016 was? Men’s hair, and their personal grooming. Men seem to spend more time exfoliating, moisturising and taking care of their appearance than women ever did in 1974. And they dress well, if perhaps a little effeminately. Young men especially so. All the men I had known in 1974 took a weekly bath on Saturday and relied on bottled Brut and Old Spice in the days between the weekends. Young men look like girls with beards and short hair now.
But some things are reassuringly the same, if rather more glitzy. The Harrods food hall was always a magical place when mother took me to visit it in the early Seventies. As I stood there gazing around at the vastness of the place I imagined as a young girl that this had to be what Heaven looked like. I’ve come to Harrods today for two reasons, and the first of which is to buy Emma’s Christmas present. It’s something I’m going to do every year from now on. She’ll get a present under the tree – something expensive and precious, and wrapped in sparkling paper and glittery gift bows, and I’ll keep the presents for her in the hope that one day she’ll find a way back home. I spent forty years living in hope, always clinging to it, and just when my hope was about to die, Emma saved me.
It’s a lovely December day and the sun is out despite the chill in the air. I gaze up at the sun and I pretend I can see her behind the glowing orb where the planet Gor hides from sight. She’s beyond my help now, but I’ll never forget her and I’ll hope and pray that one day she’ll find a way back to Earth if she wants to. I still don’t fully understand why she did what she did that evening on Skaffel Peak. Most of all I regret the fact that I can never say to her what her sacrifice meant to me. For I think I would have died on Gor eventually. I know Emma always thought of me as the stronger one, but I think I was dying inside. It’s strange to think that in the end Emma was the one who was able to adapt and survive on that far off planet, not me.
So yes, she’s going to get a Christmas present this year, and it’s going to be something fabulously feminine and expensive, and it’ll be waiting for her with every other present I buy her until she dies, just in case she does ever find her way home.
But first I have something else to do - the second reason why I’m in Harrods today. I need to buy some perfume.
I glide up the stairs, following the free standing signs that announce the launch of a major new perfume range in person today. It’s something of a celebrity launch and I’m keen to get one of the very first bottles in person from the designer.
“Oh! My! God!” I held my fingers with their sparkly gel nail varnish up to my mouth as I exhibited all the awe and overwhelming hero worship of a nineteen year old girl. “You are sooo my role model! I can’t believe I’m actually, like, getting to meet you!” I squealed and pulled out my mobile phone in breathless panic. “Got to calm down! Got to calm down!” I squealed as Udumi watched me with an amused smile. “Please, I must take a selfie with you! Oh God – you’re just so wonderful – I love everything about you – your make-up, your clothes! Those shoes you wear in this month’s Elle magazine!”
“I can see you’re big fan,” said Udumi with a polite smile as she gazed at my perfectly applied heavy make-up, pink lips, and the rather revealing night club acceptable outfit I was wearing. She politely leaned forward as I stretched out my arm and took a selfie of us both.
“This has sooo made my day!” I squealed again as I continued babbling.
“What’s your name, honey?” asked Udumi as she hovered her gel pen over the cardboard box of her newly launched signature scent.
“Rachel, but please can you make it out to, um, ‘superstar model to be, Rachel.'” I clapped my hands together and offered a star struck look as she squiggled her autograph with the words I’d asked for.
“So you want to be a model then?" said Udumi, and now she was professionally assessing my body. As I expected, she liked what she saw.
“I’d do anything to be a model like you!” I said breathlessly now. “Anything!”
“Interesting. The fact is I know people who know people, and I could perhaps help out. I know people who are always on the look out for girls like you. How would you feel about lingerie modelling for example?”
“Oh, to die for!” I leaned forward and quickly scrolled up some photos on my phone. “These are me…” I’d had them taken three days ago in a professional photo studio in London. I was modelling the most exquisite lingerie, and I had deliberately worn a metallic choker that would remind Udumi very much of the lineaments of a slave collar. She smiled as she obviously liked what she saw.
“Listen, I don’t say his very often, but perhaps I can help you out. Introduce you to some people. Would you like that?”
“Oh God, yesss!”
“I’ll be in New York for a couple of weeks, but how about I ring you when I’m next back in London. See if we can work something out?”
I smiled, very happy indeed.
“Whatever you say! I’d love to meet you, anywhere, any time. Oh God, I can’t believe this is happening to me! Excited! Much!”
“I think I know just the people who would like to meet you.” said Udumi as she smiled and passed me a piece of paper. Write your number down here and I’ll be in touch very soon, sweetie.”
Yes you will, I thought as I scribbled my mobile number down. And I’ll be only too ready for you and your men when you come for me, because I know precisely how you operate, and ‘sweetie’ you haven’t got the faintest idea who I am or what I’m capable of.
I left Udumi to her queue of mostly excited girls who looked to be about the same age as me, and I found Alan lurking around the isle of designer perfumes. He was dressed in jeans, boots, a hooded sweatshirt and winter coat, with close cropped military style hair, and he nodded as I approached.
“It's done,” I said. “She has my number. She'll be in touch soon.”
“That's really her?” He glanced at Udumi without appearing to. “She's the one who took Eric and Bea? She doesn't look very dangerous.”
“When she comes for me it will be with one or two big men who WILL be very dangerous. Trust me on that.” I leaned forward and kissed Alan on the lips and felt him return the gesture. “Is that going to be a problem for you?”
“Not at all,” said Alan Anderson as he placed his arms around my waist. He wasn't a Gorean man, but he was very fit – a Royal Marine now, following in his father's footsteps, and a crack shot with a hand gun if his army records were anything to go by. He also knew where in London you might buy a couple of black market 9mm Makarovs, no questions asked, and for an Earth man he was a pretty good lover. Looking inconspicuous in our mutual embrace, we pretended to look at some perfumes together, but really we were watching Udumi again.
You've been a Kur agent on Earth for a couple of years, Udumi? Good for you. I worked for them and survived in some of the most dangerous parts of Gor for forty years. You don't know it yet, but we've just declared war on you, and you won't even see us coming.