Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Panther Girl of Gor Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine: Storm clouds gather, Kurgus debriefs me, and I learn an unwelcome truth about myself

“Hold still, Tallia! I can’t do this if you keep twitching like that!” I was rapidly reaching the end of my patience with her as Tallia suddenly jerked her head back without warning.

“What do you expect? You just tried to poke me in the eye with a pointed stick!” Tallia snarled and actually growled as she knelt there on the grass beside me.

“It’s not a pointed stick, it’s an eyeliner pencil,” I said in exasperation. “It will make your eyes look bigger.”

“Why would I want my eyes to look bigger? You’re insane, slave-girl! Try to poke me with that pointed stick again and I’ll kill you!” She bared her teeth and hissed in a manner that made me jump, for Tallia can be quite intimidating when she wants to be.

“That’s it. I give up.” I put the eyeliner pencil back down next to the other cosmetics laid out on my tray. “So we’re both going to be whipped now - you for refusing to allow yourself to be made up, and me for failing to apply the make-up. Have you ever been whipped before, Tallia?”

“No, of course not. No one would have dared.” She stared at me disdainfully.

“It is unbelievably painful. You can’t possibly imagine the depth of the pain. I’m going to be whipped tonight because of your insufferable defiance. And you’ll be whipped too, just because you won’t let me make your eyes look pretty.”

“I’m a Panther Girl. I do not need pretty eyes...” she spat on the ground.

“And stop spitting! You’ll be beaten for that too if you do it in front of Kurgus. Especially if he's eating.” I glanced at the quirt that lay on the grass next to my right thigh. As First Girl I was empowered to use it on Tallia, but…

“I can see you looking at the quirt again, Emma. If you so much as touch it I’ll knock your teeth out.” Tallia balled her right hand into a fist and I knew she wasn’t bluffing. Kurgus would of course beat her within an inch of her life for doing so, but by then I would have lost my front teeth and I rather liked them.

“Fine! But I’m going to have to tell Kurgus.” I rose to get up. There was no way this was going to work. At least in Rachel's case in Elysium, she was compliant, even if she didn't like the idea of being dressed, perfumed and made beautiful with slave cosmetics for the pleasure of the men. Kurgus had decreed that Tallia would serve him by the camp fire tonight, when he 'entertained' the war delegation from the rebel Kur faction, and so it was my job to make her look as soft and alluring as possible. Frankly it was asking me to perform miracles because she was as fiery and aggressive as her Panther namesake. I couldn't rule out the possibility of Tallia trying to stab Kurgus with the cutlery if she was forced to serve him.   

“Go and run to the men then. You’re weak and pathetic.” Tallia wiped the lipstick away with the back of her hand. She had caught sight of herself in the mirror and hadn’t liked what she had seen. “You do not paint a Panther Girl of the Silver Moon war band like you would a slave girl!”

“You’ve been captured by men and you’re wearing ankle chains,” I pointed out. It was true. She no longer had her weapons, and her ankles were chained together with just four inches of close chain, but judging by her confrontational demeanour she still thought of herself as a fierce tribal Panther who could run and hunt in the forest with a spear.

“Run to the men and snivel your excuses. I do not fear them or their whips.”


Earlier that day Kurgus had set about securing the Panther Girl camp with the sort of brisk efficiency I had come to expect from him. He quickly posted his huntsmen as scouts on the forest perimeter to ensure no one might sneak up on him unawares the way he had done with Aphris. The Panther Girls of the Silver Moon war band were locked by their ankles into a coffle chain with Aphris and Nessa at either end. Interestingly he didn’t chain Tallia with the other girls. Kurgus spoke to her for a while, saying things I couldn’t hear, and when he had finished she was taken by one of his men and chained alongside Amara, Brinn and myself.

“What did Kurgus say to you?” I asked as a wrist anklet was locked about her left leg and attached to a similar anklet around my ankle. I was then similarly attached to Amara.

“It is none of your business, slave-girl,” snapped Tallia.

“Did you ask Kurgus to free you?” I enquired with a smile.

“Maybe.” She gazed at the ground.

“He refused, didn’t he?”

“I think you had best keep quiet, slave-girl, unless you wish to part ways with some of your teeth.” Tallia held a fist close to my face. I glanced in alarm at Brinn who simply shrugged.

“I don’t generally intervene in the squabbling of slave-girls,” he remarked as if his mind was on other more lofty things.

“I’m not a slave-girl,” hissed Tallia.

“True,” he acknowledged. “I also do not intervene when a Free Woman feels insulted by one of my slaves and decides to chastise her.”

“Master!” I was really annoyed by that. This was a Panther Girl who had raped him after all! Surely the usual rules of allowing free women to discipline slaves wouldn’t apply in respect of Tallia!

“She is free, Emma. Bear that in mind when you speak to her.”

Tallia smirked and lowered her fist. She glanced at Brinn and added, “Thank you, male, though I do not need your permission to hit this slave-girl if I wished to do so.”

On the other side of the glade, Rachel had rejoined her Panther Girls and was apparently reassuring them that everything would be fine. I could see that the girls were nervous to say the least now that they were outnumbered by Kurgus’s men. It had no doubt occurred to them that Kurgus could easily turn on them if he so wished and their natural inclination was to flee from armed bands of men in the forest, but Rachel is nothing if not persuasive and so she gathered her girls in a circle and spoke to them in reassuring terms. They had seen already how close she seemed with Kurgus but even so, they remained edgy and on guard.

I noticed too that Rachel had found Nessa amongst the captives and had taken the ring of red metal that she had been wearing about her neck. Now Rachel looped it with her other adornments of animal teeth and wore it herself.

This state of affairs was exacerbated a couple of hours later when more of Kurgus’s men began to arrive in the forest camp. He had travelled with just twenty men so as not to alert Aphris’s war band, but now a further 80 warriors with spears and shields filed into the forest clearing, accompanied by a baggage train of heavily laden pack beasts and, to my astonishment and delight, a number of slave-girls, including Erin!

She saw me about the same time I saw her and I saw her nod with a smile as she walked in a coffle chain a few paces behind a blonde haired girl. The slaves all acted as bearers and they were all encumbered by heavy packs across their shoulders. They looked exhausted from the long walk and eagerly collapsed onto the ground when the slave Masters ordered them to. I wanted to hurry over and speak to Erin, but I was chained to Amara and Tallia and couldn’t move unless they did too. But by mid afternoon I was freed, as was Amara and while we were set chores to do, under the watchful eye of guardsmen, I was free to locate Erin.

“Pumpkin!” She threw her arms around me as I began to blubber the words, “I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry...” in a pitifully incoherent fashion.

“Hey, I know, okay? I know what Seremides did after you left me,” said Erin as she squeezed me back.

“You do?” I blinked back tears of joy. “I felt sure you would hate me for not coming back for you. Only a few days ago I ate some mushrooms and I was convinced you hated me now.”

“Well, to be honest I was beginning to think that way, but then Kurgus decided he needed me.”

“I thought you weren't for sale?”

“I wasn't, but Banu Hashim has three beautiful children. Kurgus kidnapped them and threatened to return them to the Slave Lord in a series of gradually smaller hat boxes unless he delivered me in good condition as a ransom. I should be grateful I suppose. Mind you, Kurgus only did it because he needed the co-ordinates in my head to go after Seremides. He is furious. I've never seen him so angry. I tell you something, pumpkin, when he closes in on Seremides, there will be no quarter given on either side. This is going to be a blood bath. You don't betray a man like Kurgus unless you can be sure of killing him at the same time.”

“Where is Seremides now?”

“Close. Very close. I've heard snatches of the conversation between Kurgus and his captains. It seems there are three main bodies of men in the forest now. There's Kurgus of course.” Erin counted on her fingers for my benefit. “He has just over a hundred warriors and maybe thirty experienced huntsmen who know the terrain. Then there is Seremides and an unknown size force, and then there is a third force that includes a large contingent of Panther Girls as an advance skirmish screen and a number of Kurii warriors. They are led by a woman, strange as that might seem. Kurgus is concerned they are probably part of the rebel Kur faction opposed to the Kur high command that is pretty much fighting for its life at the moment in the Steel Worlds. We can't see it, but it's civil war up there in space right now. Just imagine – attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion!”


“That's Blade Runner. You must have seen Blade Runner, pumpkin?” 

“Yes, but I don't recognise the reference.”

“Rutger Hauer, right at the end. Amazing scene. He's dying in the rain on a rooftop and he releases a dove and...”

“Erin, can we focus here, please?”

“You obviously don't love movies like I do, pumpkin. Anyway, Seremides and Kurgus have been doing this little tactical dance going round each other in circles, trying to figure out which one of them has the edge, and whether it's safe to engage, while this third force, the one with the mystery woman...”

“I think I might know who she is. I had this mushroom trip and it was like some things that I might have heard subliminally at some point in time came to the surface and made connections with things I did know for certain.”

“Ohhh-kayyy, well, this third force is heading straight towards Lake Siljan by the sounds of it. There's a Kur base there, still loyal to the High command I think, and it's actually under the surface of the lake. It's an old space ship that managed to slip through the Priest King detection grid during the Nest Wars over forty years ago and made a landing in the water for concealment purposes. The Kur now use it as an underwater base, perfectly hidden. They built a tubelike tunnel that connects it to a hidden hatch near the surface of the lake. The fact it has airlocks makes it a perfect underwater complex. It's all very James Bond. They...” Erin suddenly started laughing.


“They call it...” she couldn't stop laughing now.

“Oh come on, Erin, what is it?”

“You're going to love this... in all seriousness, they actually call it... 'Golden Klaw.'”

“No!” Now I burst out laughing too and for a couple of minutes Gorean men walked by with puzzled expressions on their faces as they saw two slave-girls convulsed helplessly in a fit of the giggles. “They don't? 'Golden Klaw'? You're making this up!”

“No, I swear, Emma, Gorean men are actually that pompous. They have a secret villain base under water that they call 'Golden Klaw' and they actually think it sounds really cool. They honestly have no concept of satire whatsoever...”

I didn't get to say much more to Erin for one of Kurgus's warriors came for me and led me into the large tent that had been pitched for Kurgus and Rachel's benefit. Inside it was large enough to stand and walk around in and it was comfortably furnished with throws, furs and a couch that had been assembled in several sections. There were some low tables and lamps and an ornate weapon's rack on which Kurgus's personal equipment was displayed, including a beautifully made sword with an engraved beast head on the hilt that looked very ancient. Rachel lay in the furs on the double couch, naked except for her steel collar and the earrings and nose ring she still wore. Her Panther furs lay on the ground close by. She drank from a golden goblet of ka-la-na wine and regarded me with a cold expression as I was made to stand a few feet in from the entrance. The warrior unclipped the leash from my collar and indicated I should kneel.

“What's Emma dong here, Kurgus?” said Rachel as she placed the goblet down onto the ground beside the couch. She turned onto her right side in the furs, displaying without thinking her left thigh where the slave brand would forever sit. She was still legally a slave of course in all respects even if Kurgus wasn't treating her as one.

“I wish to speak to her. She is one of my agents after all.” Kurgus was dressed in a long robe, belted about his waist, of rich golden threads from the far east. He looked at me for a while and then motioned me to stand, which I did. “I understand you respond to the name Emma now.”

“Yes, Master.” I stood there, automatically adopting a soft, feminine stance, with my wrists and ankles flexed almost as if I were posing for a fashion shoot. Kurgus seemed to smile when he heard me call him Master.

“Much has changed, I see, since I saw you depart for the Tahari.” He reached for a silk wrap that lay on the surface of one of the tables and he indicated I should lift my arms, which I did. To my surprise he dressed me in the wrap and I realised it was mine, the one that had been brought to Gor from Earth, the one that had been in my hotel room that night when I had been lured from the fetish club and kidnapped. The one that I wore that first day in Corcyrus so that I might have something familiar and comforting to focus on. Kurgus closed the wrap and belted it about my waist with the silk sash. “Would you care for a drink, Emma?” He indicated another of the low tables where I saw a bottle of champagne and three flutes. “It's a 1990 Krug. I had several cases shipped over and placed in storage during a visit to Earth in the mid nineties. I'm told it has matured well.”

I looked at the champagne and nodded. I had no idea whether it was any good or not. To be honest champagne and sparkling wine all tasted the same to me. “Thank you, Master.”

I watched as Kurgus twisted the cork and popped it without exciting the wine. He then poured three long flutes and handed the first to Rachel. She extended her left hand to take it and placed it to her lips, savouring the gentle hiss of the bubbles. Rachel of course had appalling tastes in wine and you might as well have served her a bottle of Babycham for all she'd get out of it. Kurgus passed the second flute to me and then took the third for himself.

“You have been through an ordeal, Emma.” He raised the glass, indicating we should all do the same, and then we sipped the champagne together.

“What do you think?” he asked.

“It's good,” I said.

“Yes it is,” added Rachel as she sat up now on the couch. She crossed her ankles together, conscious that she was now the only naked girl in the tent. She began to reach for her Panther skins, but Kurgus picked them up before she could.

“Kurgus?” she gazed up at him with narrowed eyes.

“There's no need to dress, my dear, I enjoy the sight of you as you are. Lie back in the furs. Savour the Krug. I wish to speak to Emma for a while. Simply content yourself with looking ravishing and beguiling.”

Rachel shot me a dark look and lay back in the furs as commanded, curling herself into a comfortable position with the glass in her hand. She looked unhappy by Kurgus's comments, especially since he had spoken them in front of me. She was now very conscious of being the only naked girl in the tent. I saw the fingers of her left hand touch her collar while Kurgus's back was turned. It remained locked about her throat and I noticed she still wore the nose ring and earrings. Kurgus it seems had not bothered to remove any of them. I wondered why. I continued to stare past Kurgus at Rachel and watched as she moved her hands again now for a few brief seconds, still staring at me all the while, as if to hold my gaze.

I smiled softly and lowered my head, my heart skipping a beat from what I'd just witnessed. Kurgus caught sight of my sudden change of expression. “You find something amusing, Emma?” He turned and regarded Rachel, aware that I had been looking at her. Rachel lay still on the furs, her left hip well displayed from her sublime position. Her skin looked dappled from the flickering lantern light as she smiled up at Kurgus with apparent longing. Nothing seemed untoward.

“Is everything all right, my dear?” asked Kurgus of Rachel.

“I'm bored Kurgus. Please conclude your business with the little slut and return to me.” She pursed her lips in a seductive way that I had never taught her, but looked good on her. “It will be cold tonight and I will need warming.”

Kurgus laughed and returned his attention to me. “Now Emma, I want you to tell me in detail everything that happened from the moment you left Corcyrus to the point at which Seremides betrayed me.”

And so I did, for I had no particular reason to hold back on any of the details. I recounted the story of my uneventful journey across central Gor and then the incidents that occurred as we travelled through the Tahari. I described our arrival at Patashqar and the welcome I received at the slaver house, and the revelation that I would have to pose as a slave-girl and go undercover in the pens of Banu Hashim in order to locate Erin. I described all the hardships I had suffered there and the manner in which I had eventually persuaded Erin to co-operate. And then, feeling the pain and anguish as if it were only yesterday, I recounted the betrayal and my subsequent enslavement and sale to Rashid. It was a long story, during which Kurgus topped up my flute twice. By the end of it I fell silent.

“Seremides deceived me. It's not an easy thing to do, but I think I was blinded by my love for him as a sword brother. We went back many decades as warriors who fought side by side in the great war between Ar and Cos. To say I am bitterly disappointed is an understatement. This is a betrayal that cuts to my very soul.”

“He was jealous,” I said as I sipped the champagne. It felt good to wear the comforting silk wrap. It reminded me of Earth, and my days as a T-girl, and how I would dress on returning from a night out at a wine bar or a club. “He resented Rachel's status in your service and he bitterly resented what he considered to be a punishment detail in looking after me. He felt you took him for granted and did not offer him the respect he thought he deserved.”

“I see. A lesson for the future then.” Kurgus actually looked hurt by it all. The betrayal had obviously been painful and perhaps he would never trust a so called blood brother in the same way ever again. But I didn't care.

“What's going to happen to me...” I had been nervous, unsure whether I should ask, but the three flutes of fizzy Krug champagne had restored a semblance of courage, and emboldened by the way I was now being treated, I voiced what was for me the elephant in the room.

“Well, it's fair to say your original career path hasn't really worked out the way I had hoped it might, Emma.”

“Please give me another chance...” I felt tears welling in my eyes. “Even you were surprised by what Seremides did. It's not my fault...”

“And what do you think I should do with you, Emma?”

“I tried my best. Honestly I did. And I was successful! I managed to obtain the weapons co-ordinates. If Seremides hadn't been a traitor...”

Kurgus nodded. “That is true, I suppose. In a sense I am at fault for assigning you Seremides as your handler. I acknowledge that.”

“I could be your agent again. I would do better next time. Please!”

There was soft mocking laughter from Rachel as she lay on the soft furs on the couch. “Just tell her, Kurgus. Put the little bitch out of her misery.”

“What?” I looked at Rachel and then back at Kurgus.

“Yes, I suppose I should really tell you now, Emma. This bit about you being 'my agent'...”

“I was your agent.”

Rachel laughed again and sipped some more of the champagne.

“Well yes, that's what I thought, though I confess to having my doubts fairly early on. You remember Udumi Ayeola?”

I nodded. She was the beautiful black woman who had kidnapped me and shipped me to Gor.

“I have the utmost respect for her and any decision she makes. You came with her personal recommendation that you would make a superb agent on Gor. I can remember some of her words in the communication. 'I have observed her for some time and made numerous enquiries into the nature of her character and capabilities. Without her realising it I have conducted subtle tests to gauge her reactions to stress situations and her ability to operate under pressure. She scored highly in every form of test and demonstrated a level of cognitive skill that I conclude would make her a valuable asset and possibly even a potential replacement for Rachel when eventually you choose to  retire her.”

I noticed how Rachel shifted position in the furs upon hearing that.

It was a very flattering assessment from Udumi, and one that I secretly thought was maybe a bit too flattering. Just what were these tests she spoke of? I tried to think back and recall anything unusual that might have occurred in the months leading up to my capture.

“But the thing is, Emma, within weeks of you arriving on Gor, I began to wonder how you could possibly have scored so highly. When I looked at you I did not see the amazing deeply capable woman that Udumi had described to me. I admit I was confused, for as I said, I trust Udumi's opinion implicitly. And so I assigned Rachel to 'accidentally' cross your path, befriend you, and assess you before she left on her own mission to the Tahari.” Kurgus turned now to face Rachel. “Summarise your assessment of Emma after spending a week or so in her company.”

“I told you she was poor agent material, that while she was an improvement on many of the Earth women who worked in the service of the Kurii that I had the misfortune of encountering in the 1970s, I didn't think she would do very well, and certainly wasn't up to the task of running a station in Patashqar. I told you to get someone else.”

“Indeed.” Kurgus refilled our flutes again, this time from a second bottle of the Krug that was kept in a straw filled wooden crate close to the side of the tent. “But Udumi had obviously detected some hidden quality... I admit to having been perplexed. And in the end I chose to go with Udumi's opinion, especially since time was of the essence and I didn't have the luxury of training up a replacement for you, Emma. But then sometime later, after word of Seremides's treachery reached my ears, I decided to investigate exactly what my 'sword brother' had been doing behind my back in Corcyrus. And then it all made perfect sense.”

“I don't understand?” I sipped my champagne.

“You weren't the woman, Emma, that Udumi recommended to me and spoke of in such glowing terms. I discovered the original notes for you in a hidden trunk. The notes on you simply read – 'deeply submissive, sexually confused, transgender without recognising it in herself. Agent potential: 4. Slave potential: 9. Summary - will make an excellent slave after suitable training.”


“Seremides had switched Udumi's reports, The report I had assumed was referring to you was actually written about an Earth woman called Miss Elizabeth Anna Bentley of Park Lane in London. She was the one that Udumi had recommended as superb agent material, and had kidnapped for precisely that purpose, but Seremides arranged for her name to be recorded on your report. And then as I had no interest in the girl, it was simple enough for Seremides to procure her and train her in secret as his own agent behind my back. The truth is, Emma, Udumi never considered you as agent material. It was always your fate to live the rest of your life in a slave collar at the feet of men. I should have gone with my natural instincts in those first few weeks.”

“You're a slave-girl, Emma,” said Rachel with a yawn. She stretched lazily on the furs, feeling languid and sleepy now from the champagne. “You always have been. You were never supposed to be an agent. You were brought to Gor to be collared and trained. It was a mistake. So, no, Kurgus isn't going to give you 'another chance'. And by the way, I've persuaded him to sell you because frankly I don't ever want to see you anywhere in Corcyrus ever again. Looks like it's back to the slave pens for you, I'm afraid, Emma.”


There was a great deal of commotion and anxiety in the forest clearing as the sky began to grow dark that evening. A delegation from 'the enemy' was due to arrive to talk under a flag of truce, and so the glade was ringed with burning torches to signify a cessation of hostilities while the flames burned. Kurgus was expecting Seremides to parlay, probably to try and convince Kurgus to surrender the co-ordinates of the weapons cache in return for some unreliable promises of safe conduct out of the forest. Kurgus, being Kurgus, wanted to meet Seremides from a position of strength and prestige, and so he had ordered Erin, Tallia and myself to be knelt at the foot of his curule chair in leash chains secured to the hand rests of the chair itself. We would recline there as the beautiful and desirable spoils of war for all to see. He also ordered that the Silver Moon Panther Girls be chained to stakes in a semi circle ring behind his chair. They would all be stripped naked and positioned against the stakes with their wrists braceleted high above their heads. Their Panther skins would be tied like trophies to each stake to flutter in the wind.

“I gave Emma instructions to apply slave cosmetics to your face,” said Kurgus to Tallia late in the day.

“And I told her I would break her teeth if she tried.” Tallia sat on the grass in her close fitting ankle chains, looking up at Kurgus with a sneer.

“Are you not afraid I might have you whipped for that?”

“You may do as you please, Kurgus, for I am your prisoner. I believe there is a whip just over there.” She pointed with her left hand to a whip that lay coiled in the grass, maybe seven yards away. “I would fetch it for you, but as you can see, my ankles are quite securely chained and it is difficult to walk like this. I think your men fear what I might do if I could move freely.” She smiled in a malicious way.

“You could crawl to the whip and pick it up in your teeth,” suggested Kurgus as he bit into an apple.

“To make me crawl to fetch you the whip, like a slave-girl might, you would first have to whip me, and therein lies the paradox.”

“You have no concept what a whipping might feel like, Tallia.”

“You're not going to whip me, Kurgus.”

“Oh? You seem very certain of that. Tell me why?”

“Because you still very much want me to work for you. Especially now, for if I chose to do so I could easily pick say, the fifteen strongest girls from the ones you captured, and form them into a second skirmish line for your army. The others you could collar, frankly, and pierce their ears. Aphris allowed far too many weak girls to join her war band. I think Leena had the right idea to keep the numbers in her war band small.”

“Perhaps I would like you to work for me, Tallia.”

“Then you will not whip me, for I am told that when a strong powerful Panther Girl is whipped, she discovers her submissive side and is suddenly good for nothing but kneeling in Nadu. What a waste that would be...” She gave Kurgus a sarcastic smile that he seemed to appreciate.

“But if I do not whip you, I suppose you will not permit Emma to apply cosmetics to your face?”

“Correct. I am not a slave-girl. Tallia of the Silver Moon Panthers does not wear slave cosmetics.” She yawned and stretched her arms.

“I like you, Tallia,” said Kurgus after a while.

“I know. I like you too, male. I look forward to the day when I might have you in my collar, serving me sexually in the Northern Forests. Rest assured I will never sell you.” She grinned and showed Kurgus the whites of her teeth.           

'Oh, get a room, you two', I thought to myself.


Night had fallen completely when the enemy emerged from the edge of the forest line. There were a great number of armed men carrying flaming torches and two enormous Kurii beasts carrying heavy shields, acting as an honour guard for a short woman who walked in a position of authority between them. She wore an expensive looking skirt that was cut to mid calf length, leather boots and a hooded hunting jacket. She was of course properly veiled. 

“I assumed Seremides would meet me,” said Kurgus as he sat in his curule chair and gazed at the veiled woman, with three girls chained at his feet. “Is he too scared to face me?”

“My name is Miss Elizabeth Anna Bentley of Park Lane in London and I speak for the Kurii war council,” said Miss Bentley. “Do you have a problem with that?”

“Yes I do actually. I have no wish to speak through one of his intermediaries. Tell Seremides that he should come here himself if he wishes to…”

She suddenly raised her hand to interrupt Kurgus. One of the two Kurii suddenly reared up and roared to command Kurgus to silence. “You’re obviously under the misunderstanding that Seremides is my superior. That is no longer the case. He has been demoted for his failure to locate Tarn Strike, and so the great Kur warlord, Sa-Greyr, has promoted me accordingly in his place.” She indicated the Kur to her right.

“You?” Kurgus looked at the women in disbelief. “I’m to believe you’re in overall command here instead of Seremides?”

“Yes.” Now Miss Bentley pushed back the hood of her jacket. We could all clearly see the beautiful reddish brown colour of her long hair that she wore loose except for an Alice band that kept the fringe from her eyes. “I now command in the Northern Forests. Hai Kurii!” She raised her fist in the air in the semblance of a Black Panther power salute from the early 1970s.

Kurgus regarded the enormous Kur beasts that loomed menacingly either side of her, standing as an honour guard with their spiked shields. “Explain, if you will. You have no more respect for Earth women than the average Gorean man has.”

One of the two great fanged beasts clipped a box like translator device to the fur at its throat and once it hummed into operation, the beast’s growling tongue converted to fluid if somewhat robotic Gorean.

“She is not afraid. She is first human we encounter who has no fear of Kurii.” Now the great beast bent its face to Miss Bentley’s slim, short, elegantly curved body and it sniffed her from her knees to her head, nodding to its companion that all was well. Miss Bentley seemed totally unfazed by this monstrous thing placing its snout close to her face. “There is no fear scent. None at all. All humans have fear scent when they meet us. Not her.”

“No, not I,” said Miss Bentley. Now she unpinned her veil before us, an act of remarkable and shameful audacity as there were numerous Gorean men here who were complete strangers to her. I could see them scowl in disapproval, disapproval which then turned to grudging delight at her stunning beauty. But she did so for the beast’s benefit, not ours, as she now placed her face against its snout and pressed her nose against the creature’s cheek. “I do not fear you,” she said to the great Kur. “I worship you. You are magnificent!” The beast growled in a way that set my teeth on edge. It could easily have snapped her head off cleanly with a single bite of its jaws. But instead it permitted Miss Bentley to place her arms around its neck and sink her face into its deep mottled fur. The other beast had also clipped a translator box to its throat and it continued the conversation while Miss Bentley groomed its colleague.

“I smell fear from all of you. Even you,” It indicated Kurgus who showed no outward signs of being scared as the great bulk of the monster padded heavily forwards on four legs to approach him. A dozen or so of Kurgus’s men stepped forward to present a wall of spears around their leader, but Kurgus motioned for them to lower their weapons.

“This noble Kur will not attack me. This is a circle of respect for the time being until the torches burn down. It is the way of the Kurii.”

“You fear me,” growled the Kur. “You do not show, but we always smell, the fear.” The Kur sniffed Kurgus and nodded as if in confirmation. “You all fear us, but not the woman. She fears nothing.”

“Really?” said Kurgus in a sarcastic voice. “I can think of several dozen ways to scare her.” The men around him grinned at that.

“You do not understand then,” said the Kur, “for she does fear nothing. We examine her in one of steel worlds. Her brain lack capacity to feel fear. It damage in area corresponding to processing of fear signals. She understand theoretical level concept fear, but she does not feel. We like that.” The great beast opened its enormous jaws into the Kur equivalent of a smile, rolling back its lips to expose more of its fangs. Even from where I knelt I could smell its fetid breath.

“I was hit by a car when I was six years old,” said Miss Bentley as she released the neck of the other Kur. “I struck my head against the kerb side and I might have died. I was in a coma for several weeks. Doctors saved my life, but I was told there was damage to my brain – the part of the brain that processes the emotion of fear. I have never been scared of anything since then. It is a most liberating sensation. It has permitted me to do many remarkable things in my life on Earth, few of which were ever legal. Fear shackles us, Kurgus, it limits us, it cripples us, but I have transcended all of that. Without fear I am free to be who I want to be, and now I want to be the herald of the great Kur.” She spread her arms wide and giggled as the Kur that loomed above her took her wrists in a single paw and lifted her high up into the air to place her onto its back. She clung to its fur and giggled again as she gazed down at us from her elevated position.

“So you’re functionally insane. Very well. Now I am glad I didn’t recruit you as my agent after all.” Kurgus stared up at Miss Bentley as she sat on the Kur’s broad shoulders. It seemed happy to have her there.

“Seremides was scared,” said Miss Bentley. “Men always are. They do not understand the savage elegance of this great race. The Kurii could smell his fear – he stank of it - just like they can smell the fear in this forest glade right now. You all reek of fear. You stand your ground, but you are terrified that these alien Masters might choose to strike you down if they so wished. You all know you are nothing before them. Gor is destined to fall, and with it too my home planet.”

“Why would you wish that?” said Kurgus.

“They murdered my Grandmother long before I was born. I never knew her, but I’ve since learned what a remarkable and astonishing woman she was. I read about her on the Internet when I was thirteen and I felt so inspired by her philosophy and her deeds. I remember the delicious feeling, almost sexual in nature, when I read her most famous words: 'Protest is when I say this does not please me. Resistance is when I ensure what does not please me occurs no more.' Just two lines, but I felt reborn when I read them. I knew then that I was descended from one of the greatest women who had ever lived. They murdered her in her jail cell and made it look like suicide in 1976, for they feared her and what she was capable of. She wanted to bring down the sick cloying degenerate society on Earth and she was damned for it by men and women who weren't fit to lick her boots. I learnt much, much later that she had come to the attention of the great Kurii in 1969 and they had high hopes for her to spearhead a wave of agents on my home world. But she was betrayed in 1972, and when the authorities learned of the existence of the Kurii, they tortured precious information out of her in their prison and then staged her suicide. But I share my Grandmother’s blood line and I will carry on her great work, even if my treacherous, insipid parents refused to do so.”

“Do I know your Grandmother?”

“You met her I think. You are named in some of her papers, Kurgus, the ones that the authorities didn’t find. You trained her briefly in 1970 in Frankfurt. You promised her a new world order. You promised her greatness. And then you abandoned her when she needed you. You did this because you are weak and you are scared. You all hide in the shadows afraid of taking risks. But not all the Kurii are so scared.” She hugged the beast on whose shoulders she sat. “There will be no more skulking in the shadows in fear of the wrath of the Priest Kings when Sa-Greyr here tears your heart from your chest and eats it raw and feeds me scraps of it that I will rend with my own teeth and nails in emulation of my alien Masters. War is coming and we will sweep everything away with fire and steel.”

“Your Grandmother was Ulrike Meinhof, wasn't she?” said Kurgus, remembering now. “You share her insanity I see.”

“You remember her?”

“Yes, her and Andreas Baader. I reported in 1971 that she was clearly deranged and delusional and a liability to our early networks. We cut her loose when she began to fall apart.”

“And I will kill you for that,” said Miss Bentley. “She could have been a herald for a new Earth if you had not abandoned her.”

“This was before I recruited you,” said Kurgus to Rachel now. “We set up or made contact with various revolutionary groups and individuals in the late sixties to early seventies. Meinhof was part of the Red Army Faction of radicals in West Germany. They seemed to have potential at the time for direct violent action, back when we were establishing our early networks on Earth, but they just refused to follow orders. They operated outside of our control. We could not allow that.”

“I hold you directly responsible for the imprisonment and murder of my Grandmother,” said Miss Bentley.

“And I don’t particularly care that you do,” said Kurgus. “If this is all you wished to say then our meeting under a flag of truce can come to an end.”

“One more thing. We think you have the correct co-ordinates for the weapons cache. If you wish to leave this forest alive, you will give them to me. You have until dawn and then my forces and Seremides’s forces will attack you from either side.” She snapped her teeth suddenly, viciously, as she gazed down at Kurgus.

Kurgus nodded. “Then we fight at dawn. Tell Seremides to sharpen his sword and remind him that I was always the better swordsman during the Ar Cos war and that any respect I had for him is now gone. I look forward to facing him, shield against shield, after breakfast tomorrow. Tell him I’ll slit his stomach open, pull out his entrails and strangle him with them. And I’ll do pretty much the same to you. As you can see, I have more than enough slave-girls now.” Kurgus indicated Tallia, Erin and myself, kneeling before him in leash chains.

Miss Bentley began to giggle again. “I do sometimes wonder what it might feel like to be scared by threats. Sadly I will never know. Until tomorrow then, Kurgus. Until tomorrow.”

Kurgus said nothing until they were gone. Then he rose out of his chair, let out a long sigh of relief and turned to regard Rachel.

“Before dawn tomorrow I want your girls to be forming a skirmish line to await the arrival of the Panther Girls allied to Miss Bentley's forces. My huntsmen will form a semi-circle on the other side of the forest through which I suspect Seremides's men will arrive.”

“You're going to stand and fight?” said Rachel.

“Yes. Seremides was never a very good tactician, and the Earth woman has no military experience. That may make up for the superior numbers and the fact we will be fighting on two sides.”

“And Sa-Greyr, the Kur?”

“He and the other Kur will give me a very sleepless night. I have one other thing for you to do before then.”

“Name it, Kurgus.” Rachel placed her hands on her hips and looked up at him with longing.

“I don't like loose ends and distractions that might get in my way when battle begins. Cut Brinn's throat for me later tonight after we eat. I suppose I'll just have to make do without him working on my farm lands in Corcyrus in the future.”

“No problem,” said Rachel with a smile as she touched the hilt of her knife. “Consider it done.”       

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