Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Panther Girl of Gor Chapter Ten

Chapter Ten: The Eve of the War

Oh... my... God… I had such an amazing orgasm that night, so deep and rich and fulfilling. It was possibly the greatest slave orgasm I’d had since I'd been collared and sent to the slave pens. I suppose I had been without sex for several days, which may not sound like a long time to you, but then you’re not a slave-girl and you have no idea how needy we can be. I hadn’t been fucked since the night before that night before we set off into the forest, and that was the longest time I’d gone without sex since Brinn had bought me. So by the time Rachel led me on a leash and threw me to the grass beside Brinn for his final use before he died, I was already hot and wet, thinking only of sex.

It seems strange that on a night when everyone else in the camp was concerned with the impending battle that would take place the next day, my thoughts were chiefly on the possibility of being fucked. Of course I was frightened about the prospects ahead of me – it seemed that I would quite likely end up in a coffle chain of captured girls (mostly ex-Panthers it would seem) and belong to Seremides, Kurgus or Miss Bentley. The prospect wasn’t a happy one, but even so I was discovering something about myself, namely that going without sex for several days left me on edge and took my mind off other more important concerns.

I began to understand now the desperation shown by slave girls left confined in the slave pens of Banu Hashim, deprived of the touch of a man. I remembered seeing how some of the girls would plead with passing jailers from the confinement of their cells. My life had been built around sex ever since my training had begun, and now my body was so sensitised to feeling aroused that I began to grow desperate if I was left unfulfilled for any length of time.

You won’t understand this if you haven’t worn a collar. You might even call me a slut now that you know the truth about me, but it is who I am and I make no excuses for what my strict training has eventually produced. Even now as I write this my mind drifts to the possibility of sex tonight, though I know it cannot happen.

Before Rachel leashed me and took me to the area of the forest glade where Brinn was kept securely chained as Kurgus’s prisoner, Kurgus himself came to a decision regarding Tallia. She of course lay chained to his curule chair, as did Erin and I. Kurgus ordered her freed and told her to stand. She was naked of course – as naked as Erin and myself, but Tallia stood with a certain pride, she stood as an unbroken woman might. There was no mistaking the fact that while she might be a captive, she most certainly wasn’t a slave-girl.

“Do you wish to be a slave-girl?” asked Kurgus as he faced Tallia.

“No, I do not.”

“I made you an offer many months ago in Corcyrus. I am prepared now to make another offer.”

“I am listening,” said Tallia as she flexed the insole of one foot. She gazed down at me as I lay on the grass, the collar chain still secured to the arm rest of the chair.

“Pretty slave,” she sneered dismissively.

“Yes Mistress,” I said as I lowered my head. She was still free and more than that, I could well sense her fortunes soon improving. Kurgus had respect for her, and I think too he found her desirable.

“I have kept my word before, so you know I will do so again.”

“That is true,” said Tallia as she regarded him. “It is a weakness in you,” she said with a sinister smile.

“You consider honouring a promise to be a weakness?”

“Of course. Your enemies would not.”

“Then they lack honour. Honour is important to me.” Kurgus, like most warriors, lived to a certain strict code, no matter where his allegiance lay. “I am prepared to offer you your freedom.” Kurgus produced the panther skins and the knife belonging to Tallia. She cocked her head as he showed them to her.

“You must be desperate, male, if you are asking what I think you are asking.”

“Fight alongside me, you and whichever girls you deem tough enough, and I will promise to free all those who survive.”

Tallia grinned, very pleased with what she heard. “You need Panther girls to fight for you, by your side?”

“I am almost certainly outnumbered. I would be a fool to dismiss the opportunity to balance the numbers a little more in my favour. How many girls in your war band do you honestly feel are worthy of wearing their panther skins and carrying spears?”

“Ten certainly. No more than fifteen. The others are weak and will run when the fighting gets serious.”

“We’ll call it fifteen then. I would deploy you as skirmishers. You could of course simply betray me and leave as soon as the battle began. There is nothing much I could do about that once I was committed to the fight.”

“You would have to trust me, male.”

“Yes, I would. Will you fight with me, Tallia?”

“As an equal?”

Kurgus smiled. “As equal as a man and a woman can ever be.”

“True. A Panther Girl will always be superior.” They both laughed at that.

Oh, get a room, why don’t you, I thought to myself as I lay there with my hands resting around my neck chain. One of these days the two of them were actually going to have full blown sex, and God help anyone in the vicinity of their violent orgasms.

“There are other Panther Girls fighting on the side of your enemies, yes?” said Tallia

Kurgus nodded.

“These other Panther Girls did not ask the permission of the Silver Moon Panthers to stray this far towards our territory. Perhaps I should then punish them for their audacity.”

“Perhaps you should,” said Kurgus.

“I am prepared to ally with you, male, for the duration of the fight that is. After that I give you fair warning that I will try to enslave you if I ever see the opportunity. I want you in my collar.”

“And I you too, Tallia. Shall we seal the compact with paga?”

“And blood.” Tallia drew her knife from Kurgus’s hands and as we watched she cut a thin sliver in the palm of her hand. Kurgus nodded and did the same with his own blade and then they both clasped palms together as two men might. You could hear a pin drop in the forest, so quiet was everyone who watched. The mighty Kurgus was according this honour to a Panther Girl.

“No one will kill you while I stand by your side,” hissed Tallia. “Let them try and they will suffer my wrath.”

“My sword and shield will guard your back so long as I hold them,” said Kurgus. “You are my spear maiden.”

“And afterwards I look forward to having you in my collar, male.”

“And I will dress you in the richest of pleasure silks when I lead you in a golden cage to my pleasure gardens in Corcyrus,” said Kurgus.

“We need paga,” said Tallia proudly as she now held aloft her bloodied hand for all to see. “And then we will pierce the ears and brand the thighs of all the girls I deem too weak to fight alongside me tomorrow.”

And so they broke out the paga and to my disbelief, bearing in mind that there was going to be the mother of all battles tomorrow morning, they all drank two or three cups of the stuff, just to warm themselves up for the more serious drinking later on. Sometimes I can't get my head around Gorean men. Then Tallia ordered her girls to be freed and to be lined up in front of her. She marched straight towards Aphris and placed a knife in her hands.

“I challenge you for leadership of the Silver Moon Panthers. I, Tallia, am the strongest and I shall lead. Do you submit?”

I held my breath and watched. According to Panther ritual Aphris now had the choice of fighting or casting aside her knife and kneeling before Tallia in submission. Of course she fought. A circle was cleared and Kurgus ordered men to form a wall of shields around the circle.

“Try not to get yourself killed,” whispered Kurgus from the side of his mouth as Tallia limbered up with some stretching exercises. She seemed calm, confident and seemingly elated with the prospect of a knife fight to the death.

They circled one another in the torch light, snarling and spitting insults at one another, stalking slowly, watching one another's eyes. And then they closed in, feinting, slashing, stepping quickly aside, cutting, thrusting, always watchful for an opening, and when it came, it was swift and deadly. Aphris moved the wrong way at the wrong time and Tallia struck like a cobra. Her knife flashed in the torch light and slashed Aphris’s face. The girl went down, screaming, blood bubbling from her lips. Tallia was on her in an instant, and without a shred of mercy, she finished the girl off with
A deep knife thrust in the kidneys. Now she rose, smearing Aphris’s blood across her eyes in a broad red stripe signifying victory in a death duel.

“Nessa of the Silver Moon Panthers!” she shouted loudly. “As second to Aphris, you may now challenge me or submit!” The Panther Girls all looked at Nessa who stood there in shock. A knife was thrust in to her hand by a girl loyal to Tallia, but no sooner had that been done than Nessa cast it quickly aside in the grass.

“You will not fight me?” Said Tallia as she stalked towards the girl. Suddenly Nessa was on her knees, sobbing.

“Please spare me,” she said.

“Binding position!” snarled Tallia, obviously disappointed with the girl. Nessa quickly complied and was securely bound by another couple of Tallia’s followers.

“You have branding irons?” Said Tallia without even looking at Kurgus.

“I do.”

“See that she is branded tonight. A common kef mark will suffice. Her ears are to be pierced too.  She is no longer a Panther Girl of the Silver Moon tribe. Give her to your men as sport tonight.”

“As you wish,” said Kurgus. He clicked his fingers and paid no further attention as huntsmen dragged the screaming Nessa away to the vicinity of a coal brazier where irons could be heated.

“Congratulations,” said Kurgus as he stood next to Tallia. “You’re quick.”

“I am,” said Tallia. “

“I’m quicker,” said Kurgus with a grin.

One day we shall see.”

They really, really, really needed to just go and fuck each other, I thought to myself.

Even now I think back to that moment when Tallia stood proudly in the forest glade with Kurgus’s admiration, and she walked along the line of Panther Girls, looking each one in the eyes as they faced her. What a difference there was between me and her! How strong she was compared to me. Even Rachel couldn’t match her in strength of character. I think even Rachel would have submitted to Tallia rather than anger her. She walked the line of Panther Girls twice before coming to a decision. Then as she walked from left to right once more, she selected certain girls. No one knew whether they were being selected to be given panther skins, a knife and a spear, or whether they were destined for chains. But then once she had chosen fifteen girls, not one more, she declared, “will you stand with me, swear to follow me and obey my every command?” They all screamed yes, and there in the torch light Tallia made each one kneel to her, on one knee, cut her palm with a knife and swear allegiance. She received these oaths with a nod and a kiss on the cheek of each follower.

“We will be stronger than before,” she said as she motioned for her chosen girls to receive panther skins. Fear now swept through the remaining line of girls as Tallia turned to face them once again.

“Please take me too,” pleaded a brunette.

“I will serve you, Tallia,” said a red head.

“I can fight! You know I can fight!” wept another who was a blonde. Tallia listened to their promises and their pleading for a couple of minutes before she calmly said, “do any of you wish to challenge me with knives?”

Not a single girl dared.

“So be it. Kneel in binding position. Men will brand you and pierce your ears tonight, and you will serve them in the furs before battle tomorrow.”

Tallia had spoken and now the remaining girls wailed and screamed in fear as Huntsmen seized them one at a time, thrust them to their bellies, bound their wrists, attached leashes to their throats and made them crawl in the grass towards the coal brazier where already we could hear the horrible screams of Nessa as she was branded with a white hot iron. Soon the other girls’ screams joined her as the full scale branding and piercing of ears was underway.

“Good,” said Kurgus as he regarded the girls Tallia had reserved for her new smaller war band.

The next thing I knew Rachel had unclipped my neck chain from the arm rest of the curule chair and, taking the chain in hand like a leash, she motioned me to my feet and made me walk in front of her.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“Be quiet, Emma. Curiosity is not becoming in a kajira.”

It soon became apparent that I was being led to the area of the glade where Brinn lay chained to a tree stump. His neck chain had been fastened to an iron spike that had been hammered deep into the wood. It would be impossible to remove it without strong tools. Brinn looked up as we approached.

“Kurgus has ordered me to kill you,” said Rachel as she gazed down at Brinn. I saw him tense, prepared perhaps to make one last bid to survive, as hopeless as it might seem. Rachel was careful to stand out of reach of his neck chain, and as she stood there she was soon joined by her war band of girls, all of them armed with spears and knives. Brinn saw that whatever he did, he was going to lose. There were a dozen or so girls who might hold him ready for the lethal thrust of a spear point or the sudden slash of a knife’s edge.

“So it’s come to this, has it?” said Brinn. “Very well. Every warrior knows this moment has to come sooner or later. I would have preferred to die with a blade in my hand, but then I suppose Kurgus is hardly likely to observe the codes and allow me such a small honour.”

“Kurgus has permitted you one last meal,” said Tallia. “In recognition that you are I suppose a caste brother. He told me to say he respects your skill, your bravery and your honour, even though you are his enemy.”

“I’m not hungry,” said Brinn. “Tell Kurgus I may as well die with an empty belly. There’s no point in wasting food.”

“Your last meal is a little more metaphorical than that,” said Rachel as she thrust me onto the grass beside Brinn. “Emma is your ‘last meal’. Enjoy her for the final time, Brinn. I suspect she will be especially pleasing tonight, all things considered.” There was a second spike that had been driven into the tree stump, and to it Rachel secured the end of my neck chain. Now I was chained alongside Brinn.

“How long do I have?” said Brinn as he gazed at me. There were tears in my eyes now as I touched him softly.

“I’ll give you an hour. Maybe two. Make the most of it. When I return, it will be for the final time.”

Three of the Panther Girls remained on guard while the others bedded down around us. Rachel returned to sit with Kurgus and Tallia and make plans for the coming morning.

“Emma…” Brinn gazed at me in the torch light and ran his hands along my body. I trembled to his touch and parted my thighs, kissing him passionately all over his body. “This may be the end for me…”

“Please con’t say that, Master. You will escape. I know you will.”

We began to make urgent, passionate, intense love, with Brinn taking me suddenly with little in the way of foreplay, but that didn’t matter, for deprived of sex for as long as I had been, I was already wet and responsive the moment he touched me. I cried and scratched and bit him as I came quicker than I ever had done before. And then he seemed to take me again almost without pause and this time we coupled like animals, perhaps sensing that there would never be another night like this again.

“I don’t think I can escape, Emma,” said Brinn as he kissed my breasts and ran his hands along my hips. “To all things and end.” We said very little for a time, simply content to speak through the medium of sex. Brinn was more tender than I had ever known him to be that third time when we fucked. And then we lay together for a while, just holding one another, knowing that somewhere beyond our comprehension, a clock was ticking away the minutes.

“You have made me very happy these past months, Emma.”

“I’m your slave, Master. You have no idea how you make me feel. It’s incredible at times. It’s wonderful, glorious and I've been so happy to be owned by you.”

“I am so sorry that I will leave you like this. I never meant for you to fall into the hands of my enemies. I fear for you, Emma and I’m powerless to save you now.” He suddenly looked so very sad, not for himself, but for me. I was his after all, and deep down most men wish to protect their slave-girl from the dangers that exist on Gor. It is a matter of honour to them, in much the same way a man of Earth might want to safeguard an expensive car.

“I don’t know what the future will bring for you, Emma, but you will survive it, understand? No matter how bad things may get, cling to your belief that you must survive.”

I wept as he said that and I clung to him, burying my face into his shoulder. “Emma, I would fight an army to be with you. If a man took you from my arms, I would walk and ride the continents of Gor to bring you back. I would never have sold you in Lydius. I know that now.”

“Master, I didn't ask to come to Gor, I never wanted to be a slave, but… I know now what I do want and I want to be in your collar. I want to serve you and obey you and I never want you to sell me. I have come to terms with my slavery, and you have made me your slave. I don’t know whether this is something you want to hear or even care about, but it’s true. I love being in your chains, I long for your touch, and I can’t think of anything else to say, except that I am so happy that you bought me. I could never be happier than I am when I share the furs with you at night. Please understand I’m not simply saying this because Rachel has said she will kill you, it is how I truly feel.”

“Emma…” Brinn stroked my hair and kissed me softly on my forehead. I felt him squeeze me tightly in his arms and I shivered, feeling the intense arousal that comes from being a slave-girl who is held by her Master.

“Even if you feel nothing for me, truly feel nothing for me – even if I’m simply a girl who warms your furs and gives you pleasure, know that you have indeed Mastered me, and spoilt me for freedom. If you freed me now, I would beg with my arms crossed in the act of submission to be your property again.”

“Emma, I…” now Brinn swallowed hard, and he kissed me over and over again and I kept blurting out things, about how happy I felt at times when we were together and how I had never felt such emotions before and the more I spoke the harder it was for the mighty Brinn of the Sardar mountains to speak without betraying the way he felt in the tone of his voice.

“Master, if there is anything you might ever want to say to me, anything at all… now is surely the time to say it?”

Brinn rolled me on to my back and gazed down at me with such sadness, such longing and… dare I say it, such emotion.

“Emma, this is difficult for me, you have to understand, I’m a warrior of Gor, words do not come easily to me regarding such things…”

“You can tell me now, or perhaps never…” I gazed up at him and I could see the desperate longing – the things he wished to give voice to. “But either way, I am yours. If there is nothing you wish to say to me, then so be it. For I love you anyway.”

“Emma…” he almost looked like he was going to cry. I waited with bated breath. Slowly, so slowly the words came. “Emma, you are… the most precious… I… you have no idea how…” He swallowed hard and I practically held my breath. “If this is how I am to spend my last hour on Gor, then… I can think of no other…. what I mean to say… I want to say now… Emma, I actually do lu…”

“Times up, Brinn,” said Rachel quietly as she suddenly appeared in the dim torch light with several of her girls crouched around her.

“Rachel! For fuck’s sake! Your timing is the shittiest I’ve ever seen!” I twisted angrily on the grass as Brinn held me there. “Ohhhh! I could strangle you!”

“Oh.” Rachel looked surprised. “I thought you might have finished by now. But keep your voice down, Emma. Men are nearby”

“What?” Brinn gazed around.

Quickly I held on to him and pressed my nails into his arms. “Master, you were about to tell me something? Something important? Hmm? Something you desperately wanted to tell me?” But already I could sense the moment was gone. I fumed.

“Later, Emma, It’s not important right now. What is Rachel doing?” He could just about see she was releasing his chain from the iron spike that had been driven into the tree stump. She wasn’t holding a knife.

“What does it look like?” said Rachel. “And keep your voice down. Emma, didn't you tell him we have to be very quiet?”

“Um...” I offered them both a nervous smile as Rachel now set about unlocking the hinged iron collar around Brinn's neck.

“You have told Brinn what we're doing? You have, haven't you?” said Rachel as she moved the collar and chain arrangement quietly so that the links wouldn't make any noise, while her Panther girls kept watch from their low crouched positions. I saw Erin now, crouching with them. She still wore her slave collar but she also wore Panther Girl skins. In the darkness, away from the torch light that might reflect against her steel collar, she might be mistaken for one of Rachel's war band. She waved at me with a smirk on her face for it was obvious to her what Brinn had almost been about to say when he was interrupted by the Panther girls.

“Well, um, I was getting there...” I said, not looking at Brinn who was now seriously frowning at me.

“Emma? What's going on? What were you supposed to have told me?” snapped Brinn.

“Oh, we're, um, being rescued...?” I made it sound a bit like a question as I bit my lower lip and fidgeted in my collar and chain arrangement.

“Rachel's not here to kill me?”

“Um... actually, no... no she's not. Rachel's on our side...”

“You were going to tell me this, when?” Now Brinn took hold of my collar and turned me to face him.

“We were talking and... it was so good and... we were sharing a moment, and... I didn't want to spoil the moment.”

I heard Rachel laugh quietly beside me. “Oh, Emma, I can't believe you sometimes...”

“You let me think I was going to die?!” said Brinn.

“Quiet!” hissed Rachel as Brinn's voice was raised suddenly. “If you alert Kurgus's men then we're all dead.” Now Rachel started work on my own chain, quickly loosening it from the tree trunk spike.

“You are in a lot of trouble, slave-girl,” said Brinn. “You will be beaten for this later.”

I flinched, knowing this wasn't a bluff. “Forgive me, Master.”

“How long have you known about this?”

“Well, um, sort of... from the beginning.” I nibbled my lower lip nervously again as Rachel began to free the other end of the chain from my collar ring.

“From the beginning?!” Brinn was looking so very angry now.

“When Rachel first appeared and said all those things about me, it was simply to give her the chance to whisper six words in my ear: 'Be strong and trust me, Emma.' And then later on when I was sipping champagne in the main tent and Kurgus had his back to Rachel, she made some signs with her hands. She pointed to herself, then made a heart shape and then pointed to me. I think it meant: I love you.”

“It did,” said Rachel, as she quickly kissed me on the forehead. “The past few days have all been about saving you, Emma. I couldn't leave you in the hands of the Panther band. I'll explain later.”  The chain came away from my collar ring and now Rachel handed me some skimpy Panther furs. “Put these on, and quickly. You'll look like another member of my war band. We're getting out of here on the pretext of killing Brinn, dumping his body where it won't attract flies, and then staking out the forest in skirmish position for the battle tomorrow morning.”

“So we're supposed to trust you again,” said Brinn with a bemused expression.

“That's up to you, Brinn. You're welcome to stay here if you like. I'm only freeing you because I'd have to knock Emma unconscious and carry her out of here if I left you behind.”

“Just who are you really, Rachel?” said Brinn. “You seem to have more layers than an onion. I've lost track of whether you're a double, triple, or quadruple agent. Even now I don't know where your loyalties lie. Is this all some sort of grand plan and tomorrow you're going to switch sides again? For all I know you're allied in secret with Miss Bentley.”

“Don't be ridiculous.” Rachel watched me slip into the Panther skins as she spoke quietly to Brinn. “This is the real me. I've been protecting Emma since I met her. She reminded me very much of myself, young and naïve when I first came to Gor. I felt sorry for her at first, but then after we spent a week together, I realised she could be the closest thing to a real friend I'd had since the late 1970s. I decided I was going to save her if I could, and now I'm taking the opportunity to save myself too. No, I'm not a Priest King agent, and yes I have worked for Kurgus, but it should be fucking obvious to you that I've never had much of a choice, and Kurgus is never going to let me go. Ever. If I want to be free of him, then this is the moment to try.”

“I love you Rachel Evans of Oakhampton.” Now dressed as a Panther Girl, I hugged her and kissed her on the cheek as Brinn sat there scowling in disbelief. “I don't know what I'd do without you.”

“Learn some new slutty dances, probably.” She smiled and kissed me back. “Listen, we're going to have to move quickly, but not too quickly. We mustn't look like we're fleeing. Kurgus isn't stupid. I don't think he trusts me as much as he wants me to think he does. He's been betrayed by Seremides so trust isn't the monolithic stone of certainty it once was. Brinn...” she turned back to face my Master. “We have a sword and shield and a spare tunic for you in the forest.”

Brinn nodded. “You do know this doesn't change anything, Rachel. You're still my slave-girl. I'm not going to free you.”

“It's not too late for me to stick a knife between your ribs,” said Rachel.

“Actually it is.” Brinn smiled as he held Rachel's knife in his hands. She looked startled and quite rightly so. Brinn had lifted it in the darkness while Rachel had freed his iron collar. The Panther girls around Rachel all lifted their spears and snarled quietly at Brinn until Rachel motioned for them to lower their weapons. “I appreciate this, Rachel, but the day I actually trust you is the day I beg to be treated like a kajira. You may wear Panther furs for the moment, but I own you, and I want you.”

Rachel tossed her hair angrily. “This is not the time.”

“Oh, but it is. I'm an honourable man, I'm not going to proceed in a deceitful manner with you. When all this is over I will have you in my chains again, and I will have you in my furs at night. You were sensational that night before we entered the forests. Untrained yes, but sensational once aroused.” Brinn smiled as he saw Rachel's stunned reaction. “With training you might even be better than Emma.”

“Master!” I clutched at his arm, much to Rachel's amusement.

“Dream on, Brinn. Dream on,” said Rachel.

“I saw the way you were in the furs, Rachel. So many years of pent up desires going unfulfilled until then. You are indeed a good actress, but not that good.”

“Brinn, please.” Rachel glanced at me and then glanced away again.

“Emma has a right to know there will be two permanent girls in my chain coffle. She is ahead of you for the moment, but I suspect the competition will be fierce. You are possibly the most seductive girl I have ever met. I wanted you from the moment I set eyes on your stripped and unveiled body in my house in Patashqar.”

“We need to go,” said Rachel quickly. “Get up, Brinn.”

“Not until I finish saying what I have to say, Rachel,” said Brinn with a smile that showed he was clearly enjoying this.

“Then we'll leave without you!”

“In which case I'll call out for the guards.”

“I said this was a stupid fucking idea to bring him!” said an angry Rachel to me. Then, turning back to Brinn she glared at him. “Say whatever you want to say, but do so quickly. I swear that if you didn't have my knife...”

“You are not the same as Emma, Rachel, but you do desperately yearn to submit, only you are too frightened to do so. You have fought against this for so long that you have become bitter and resentful. You have had to be strong as you saw all your fellow agents in the 1970s captured by Priest King agents and you've wrapped yourself in a protective cocoon, afraid of contact with men in any sexual form. I broke down your barriers at the Exchange point and that night when you lay in my arms after the third time we had sex, I saw and heard the real you. For a few hours that morning you were exquisitely happy, because the fear and stress and responsibility of living in this nightmare existence was briefly gone. You lay in my arms and kissed me softly on my chest and you said, in a nervous, almost frightened voice, 'please fuck me again'. And I did. And you cried as I did so, and I stopped when I saw you crying and then you shook your head and said, 'please don't stop.' Tell Emma that I'm lying if you think you can.”

Rachel said nothing, She knelt there in her Panther skins and didn't look at me.

“Rachel?” I touched her arm but she flinched. “It's okay. I understand.”

“No you don't, Emma.” Now she looked up again at Brinn. “Is there anything else, or can we go now?”  

“We can go now,” said Brinn as he got up, flanked by spear wielding Panther Girls. “With both of you beauties soon to be in my chain coffle, I am the happiest man on Gor.”

We ran maybe twenty five yards into the forest in the rough direction of Fell's Bane before we were suddenly illuminated by a series of hand held energy bulbs being switched on. Standing silently around us, obviously having anticipated our approach, were Kurgus, Tallia, three of Tallia's Panther girls, and twelve huntsmen. Nine of the men were holding powerful hunting bows with arrows set to the strings aimed at our group. Kurgus carried his sword with the ornate hilt that I had seen in his tent. Tallia and her girls were armed with Panther spears and knives.

“What did I say? Was I wrong?” said Tallia as she gazed at Rachel and her Panther girls. We were surrounded, taken by surprise and in a state of alarm.

“No, you were not wrong,” said Kurgus with an expression like simmering lava. He watched as Rachel's girls formed a hastily improvised circle of spears, nervously anticipating the first of the fletched and barbed arrows. It is said that a huntsman can let loose sixteen accurately placed arrows per minute. “Why, Rachel? Why?” Kurgus clenched the hilt of his sword so hard that his knuckles turned white.

“I'm not going back, Kurgus,” said Rachel and I could hear the fear in her voice, similar to the way she had sounded on the river ship that had taken us to the Exchange Point when it had become clear to her at last that all her scheming, all her deceptions, all her smooth talking wasn't enough to save her from a slave brand and a collar.

Kurgus nodded “I gave you everything you ever wanted, Rachel. How could you do this to me?”

“But that's just it, Kurgus, you never did.” Rachel was unarmed as Brinn had her knife. He was holding it now and watching the eyes of the huntsmen. Two of the archers had obviously singled him out as a target. Unless luck was on his side, Brinn would take two well placed arrows to the chest as soon as Kurgus gave the word. At this range the bows of the huntsmen would be lethal. I placed myself before my Master and stared at the men, daring them to fire at a slave-girl who had her palms open to them. Men find it difficult to kill slave-girls. It is an alien concept to them and I hoped to take advantage of it.

“Move aside, Emma,” said Brinn softly in resignation. “I will not use you as a shield.” I felt his free hand pull me away and he nodded to the huntsmen as if to say, you have a clean shot now, just don't kill my girl. There was an almost imperceptible nod back as the men acknowledged that.

“I didn't want to believe this was possible, Rachel. Not after all these years.” If Kurgus was acting now then he was the greatest actor I had ever seen.

“Let me fight her,” said Tallia as she narrowed her eyes to slits. “She dresses like a Panther Girl. She leads Panther Girls. Let us see if she can fight like a Panther Girl.” Tallia produced a second knife, a twin to her own and proffered it hilt first, but then Kurgus motioned with his hand.

“No, Tallia. That will not be necessary.”

“She betrayed you, Kurgus, and she is an insult to Panther Girls. Look at her, posing in our skins. Let me fight her with knives.”

“I said no.” Kurgus snapped abruptly and gazed back at Rachel. The fear on her face was obvious to anyone who looked. This could not possibly be an act. I had known Rachel long enough to know that these were genuine emotions.

“I don't know what to say, Kurgus,” she said simply as she steadied the nervous arms of the girls either side of her. Her girls were frightened now. They knew that half of them would be felled by arrows within a second or two of Kurgus giving the command. “I've made my decision. I didn't want to hurt you, but I can't do this any more. I can't. It's been forty years.”

“I would have let you retire, Rachel. I would have.”

“You've said that so many times. But there's always another mission, isn't there, Kurgus, and then another, and then another, and the danger ramps up, and I'm left fearing for my life time after time, caught between the danger of wherever you send me and the fear of what will happen to me if I fail you. Forty years, Kurgus. And it's never enough for you, is it?”

“I would have sent you home, Rachel.”

“Don't say that! Don't try and make this seem like I fucked up just when you were about to honour your promises! It doesn't work like that! You would never have let me go home! You didn't in 1985! You didn't in 1995! You didn't in 2005! it never ends! And now look at me! I'm branded, with pierced ears! And for what?! Haven't I done enough for you! Haven't I?!”

“I would have sent you home, Rachel, had I known. I am not cruel for the sake of cruelty.”

“Well it's too late now, isn't it?” Rachel wiped her right arm across her eyes where she felt tears welling.

“I'm afraid so. This is worse than Seremides. Far worse. After this... I can never be hurt again.”

“Fuck you! You're not the fucking victim here, Kurgus! You brought me to Gor with the promise of love! And then...”

“It is what I do, Rachel. You were just another girl then with potential. It was my job. But that was forty years ago. I stopped thinking of you as 'just another girl' thirty years ago. I would have sent you home.”

“Stop saying that! Stop saying that, you fucking bastard! You have played with my mind since the very first day we met! The fact is you didn't send me home and you never would! Anyway, it's too late. I can't let you do to Emma what you did to me.”

“I really don't care about Emma, Rachel.”

“Just kill her, Kurgus,” said Tallia. “This is getting boring and we have work to do in advance of the battle tomorrow.”    
There were some soft cries of fear amongst the Panther girls as they saw the bow strings fully drawn back in response to Tallia's words. But then Kurgus lowered his hand, signalling the bowmen to do the same.

“No. I give you your life, Rachel. You can leave. You can all leave. I will fight alone tomorrow, without you, and I will win. Because I always win. You can go Rachel. But understand this – I can never forgive you for what you have done today.”

“I understand.” Rachel nodded her head.

“If I ever see you again, then believe me, my act of mercy will no longer apply and I WILL kill you. Now go, before I change my mind.”

And so we did.

And so we ran on into the night towards Fell's Bane.   

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