You smile softly as you watch your sister lean against one of the crenellated ledges of the wall overlooking the harbour below. Dante is fifteen years her senior, but with his age stabilised at twenty four the age difference doesn't look so obvious to your mind. Nevertheless he will be experienced with women by now. You frown, thinking of how he will no doubt be the typical kind of man who sates his desires with the slave-girls owned by his family. That is what men do after all. He has never Free Companioned to your knowledge, maybe because his work for his family takes him so far afield across the waters of the Thassa on a regular basis. But most men do Free Companion at some point, if only to establish a dynasty and to arrange political and social matters to their convenience. Love can come into it, but not necessarily. There would be an expectation for Rosanna to bring with her to the Free Companionship ceremony some advantage in social, political, financial or military terms. Dante's family was powerful and wealthy within Telnus, and no doubt many High Caste women would look favourably on an alliance with his house through the noble and lofty ceremony of Free Companionship. It would certainly be good for the Sanchez family name.
"I'd be very surprised if the family didn't throw some kind of party for his return. Perhaps that might be a good time to introduce you? Assuming we get invited of course." As soon as you say that you see Rosanna's face light up.
“You think?” She steeples her hands before her face with delight. “Oh, thank you! Thank you so much!” It is good to see your sister happy.
"If there's a party and if we get invited remember. Don't count your vulo eggs yet." The chances are though that if there was a party you would almost certainly receive an invitation. It would be unthinkable if you didn't, as Salvador, the head of House Saffini, had always looked kindly on you. He had been fond of your father in the days that your father had worked for him as his chief architect, and he had often indulged the young Sanchez children as you ran around at a young age, playing games in his sprawling gardens while your father consulted on various charts and plans. Even then you had known Dante – five years your senior – and his younger sister, Isabel, who is the same age as you, and indeed, the two of you made your pilgrimage to the Sardar together which formed the strong bond you now enjoy. You had shared your first experiences of the Gorean mainland together – the sights, the sounds, the laughter and at times the fear of the unknown.
"But for now, I have things I need to attend to. Don't forget your chores. I should be back in time for dinner and for Priest Kings sake, have your veil on in case I bring visitors."
The mention of chores brings a pouting frown to Rosanna's semi-veiled face. It is a constant source of irritation to her that she has to spend time looking after the house. “When are we going to get a slave?” she says. It is a question she has asked you many times now since your father's original slave died of the same Arian disease from the mainland that killed him. “All my friends have slaves to do the chores! They laugh at me, knowing I have to clean and keep house. It is embarrassing!” She does look embarrassed. “How can I expect Dante to even look at me if we don't have a slave! We're supposed to be High Caste! It's not fair, Rosalita! It's not fair!” She hurries away back into the house, slamming a door in her wake.
She has a point of course and it is something you have considered yourself many times now. 'I really must see about a properly trained slave', you think to yourself. 'I'm sure I can afford one, if she's not too expensive. But no Earth girls, they're such sluts.'
Every Free Woman knows that Earth girl barbarians are natural slaves and an insult to your own sex. The way they are said to crawl and beg the touch of a man... disgusting. You gaze at your reflection in a wall length mirror and shiver slightly at the thought. Men of course seem to like them, but then men can be beasts. You seem to recall that Salvador Saffini owns an Earth girl slave – Anna by name. If the rumours are true, the blonde haired little slut is his favourite and she spends most nights chained to a slave ring at his couch, in preference to his noble Free Companion who has her own suite of rooms in the sprawling family home. No doubt there are occasions when Salvador joins his lofty Free Companion for a night, but mostly she is left to sleep alone in honour and dignity.
You curl your hands into fists and control your breathing as you imagine what it must be like for the Earth slut, Anna, to wait at the end of a chain leash in Salvador's opulent bed chamber, perfumed, silken and knowing she must be absolutely pleasing when he arrives.
You are so glad you are a Free Woman.
You gaze at your reflection again and you coyly unwind the loose veil a little from your face, relishing the sight of your incredible beauty. Men have told you in the past that you are the most beautiful woman in all of Telnus. You would laugh softly, mischievously when they would say that, and you would chide them for their boldness, but secretly you would be pleased with the compliment.
You think again how good it would be to have a meek, respectable slave-girl as you fumble with the many heavy layers of cloth that constitutes the multitude of garments a Free Woman of Telnus must wear when she leaves her building. So many layers of underslips, gowns and robes, all with fussy clasps and stifling high stiff collars. Gloves to conceal the erotic sight of your wrists, and long sweeping skirts that hide the allure of your ankles. It is a chore to dress yourself after your bath, which is something else you had to prepare yourself. A girl about the house would make things much easier.
Then come your veils – the last veil, also known as the light veil is the one wound first about your actual face. Then comes the freedom veil, and over that the pride veil, and then the house veil. Finally comes the heavy and absolutely opaque street veil which finishes your garmenture for leaving the house this day. You feel your usual sense of being enveloped in constricting robes and gowns and the almost suffocating feeling of so much cloth wound about your lower face. And as always you slide two slim daggers into concealed sheaths within the linings of your robes that are quick and easy to reach with your small, nimble hands. You gather your luscious hair up into a complicated style and fix it into place with pins, one of which is a long, poison coated needle in a supple leather sheath. A slash with that needle will make a man regret laying hands on you if ever he tried. Within moments he would find his muscles stiffening, his breathing becoming ragged and he would fall to the floor at your mercy.
Let men beware, for you are the Lady Rosalita Sanchez and you would guard your modesty with integrity if need be.
The palanquin was arranged by Isabel and so it arrives at the scheduled time. You smile, satisfied, as you see Rosanna now working around the house, sweeping the floors and cleaning the various surfaces of the furniture. She glares at you from time to time in annoyance, but says nothing. She depends on you after all for her allowance of a silver tarsk each month.
“You're going out?” She says, hearing the palanquin arrive.
“Yes. I will return soon.”
“Can I come with you? I have nothing to do all day. I'm bored.”
“How lucky then that you have chores to stimulate you,” you say with a smile that is hidden behind your veils. “I will be back soon.”
Rosanna of course knows nothing of your work for the Kurii. No doubt there will be a purse of money today for whatever Isabel has in mind. The Kurii pay well. They are Gentlemen it seems, who appreciate the talents that free Women may bring to their endeavours.
The palanquin is the usual mode of transport for High Caste Free Women within Telnus. It is a covered litter with a curtained enclosure for one passenger, or sometimes two, consisting of a large box carried on two horizontal poles by four or six male slaves. A 'driver' walks beside the palanquin, clearing the way in the street with the prompting of an iron shod stick. At night when the streets are dark and ominous the litter is also accompanied by a private guardsman for added security. Rates at night are triple what they are during the day.
To summon a palanquin to your home is easy enough. Most homes have poles sticking out from their first floor. The pole is reachable from a window and when a palanquin is required, a colourful strip of cloth is tied to the pole. The next palanquin to pass along your street will notice that cloth and will present itself at your door for service.
A small lantern is set above the pole, and at night this is lit with lamp oil to signify the same request.
It should be noted that windows in buildings in Telnus are usually narrow, never large enough to admit the body of a man through one, and often barred or fitted with shutters for added security.
The palanquin awaits as you leave the house. Four burly male slaves are chained to the two poles. They are typical male slaves – large, strong men who resent their bondage and would violently escape if ever the chance presented itself, which it never does. Male slaves are kept under tight security, and the penalties for any sign of disobedience are extremely severe. They know not to look at you as you walk towards them. You would be entitled of course to have them whipped if any man dared to meet your gaze. They are just slaves. And you are a Free Woman.
“Noble Lady,” the uniformed 'driver' bows as you approach. He is polite, well mannered and respectful of your station. He is also low caste and therefore beneath you in status.
“Where am I going?” you ask.
“Talon's Point, my Lady,” is his reply. Talon's Point is a public garden within Telnus and a popular place for citizens to meet during the day. It has a cage display of exotic animals and various stalls selling food and drink. It is also a good place to speak to someone without risk of being overheard.
“Keep to the main thoroughfares,” you say with the self assurance of a woman born to command. “I may wish to stop to purchase some fresh fruit and vegetables along the way.”
“As you wish, Lady.”
“As I command,” you correct him.
“Of course, Lady. As you command.” He bows again and you enter the palanquin with a smile. He is low caste after all. Caste is everything on Gor.
The journey through the streets of Telnus is comfortable enough. The men who carry your litter are strong and able to keep it steady as they walk. For the most part you keep the curtains closed, but every once and a while you part the curtains slightly to check where you are. It is a route you are familiar with, and already the streets are growing quite busy.
Eventually you reach the iron gates to the gardens. The palanquin is lowered softly, and a small set of steps is folded down permitting you to step out with ease. The slaves are now sweating; their toned muscles glistening with the sheen of their work. Still they do not dare to look at you. You would beat them if they did.
“You will wait for me?” you say. It is more of a statement than a question really.
“Of course, noble Lady.” The 'driver' bows again. Despite the fact the palanquin has been pre-paid, you offer the man five copper tarsk-bits as a tip which he gratefully accepts.
It is a beautiful warm day as you walk now through the gardens. The exotic beast cages are somewhere up ahead, but before then you spot Isabel Saffini waiting near some fruit trees. You recognise her not by her features, for she is veiled, but by her striking garments and her mannerisms In a society where Free Women are commonly veiled, you have grown accustomed to spotting your friends through subtle things.
“Rosalita, how good to see you again!” says Isabel as she glides softly towards you. She touches your shoulders with her fingers and the two of you make kissing motions to one another's cheeks without actually making contact. “It has been far too long. You have been missing so many social engagements lately. I do hope money isn't a problem?”
“No. Why would it be?” You say with a hint of annoyance, for it is true that you have been careful with your money of late, spending sensibly rather than extravagantly like Isabel does, when it comes to a social life.
“Because you know if money is ever an issue...”
“Well it isn't.”
“Of course.” Isabel takes your arm in hers and you begin to walk together. Isabel is quite beautiful, but nowhere near as beautiful as you. She does however have auburn hair which she is extremely and rightly proud of, for it is a rare colour on Gor and men are very attracted to women who possess that particular shade. Along with Isabel's comparative wealth, her hair colour is the only thing you are jealous of. Isabel has a habit of ensuring that the hood of her outer gown is usually thrust back just enough to show off the colour of her hair. Many men gaze in admiration as the two of you walk together through the park. Her auburn hair always stands out and gets her attention. Your superior beauty is of course irrelevant as you are heavily veiled and no one can see it.
“How is Rosanna?” she asks. “I suppose she must be beginning to consider a pilgrimage to the Sardar soon? Better to do it early rather than postpone it until the twenty fifth year beckons. We had such an adventure on ours! Do you remember those young men in Vonda?” She laughs softly. “We had them wrapped around our little fingers! I sometimes wonder what ever happened to them? They were so desperate to impress us! And the sea crossing! You were sick the whole time! You thought you'd be a proud Ubara of the Thassa on the poop deck with the wind in your hair, but once the ship sailed you practically locked yourself in your cabin with a bucket close to hand!”
“We did have very rough weather,” you say as a mitigating factor. “I wasn't the only one. The deck was slick with vomit at times.”
“I know. Disgusting! And the food those sailors served!” She wrinkles her nose in disgust at the memory. “Do you remember how we had to chisel the ship's biscuits with a knife to break them apart, and then soak them in milk to make them edible!”
“I don't think we'd be cut out to be sailors,” you say.
“It's dry land for me from now on,” agreed Isabel. “I have no wish to visit the mainland ever again!”
You walk some more, making small talk, for you are friends that go back many years, though the friendship is an unequal one. You are High Caste whereas Isabel of the Merchants is low caste, however much the merchants may periodically petition for their caste to be raised in status. It is something you tease her about occasionally when she gets a bit above her station. Merchants are after all nothing more than glorified shop keepers. They cannot design and build towering cylinders on a grand scale like your father could. She may have money, but you have status. One cannot buy the other, except via Free Companionship. It is the one advantage that your sister possesses. Were Dante to woo her, he would gain from association to her status.
After a while you come to an area of the park grounds where there are a series of public kaissa tables where men can play one another during the day. Several of the tables are occupied. A few are not. On the other side of the pathway overlooking a pleasant lake are a number of small low tables where friends may gather socially. Isabel guides you to one of those tables and motions for you to kneel beside it as she does. She glances at the tables opposite where men are deep in thought, pondering their next move on the chess-like boards.
“I seem to recall you're quite a good kaissa player, Rosalita?” says Isabel.
“Yes. My father taught me. He was quite progressive in that respect. He said the game is a good training ground for an analytical and mathematical mind.”
“I'm a terrible kaissa player. I know the moves, but that is about it.”
“Never play me for money then,” you say with a smile.
“Or anything else for that matter,” laughs Isabel as she reaches into a small pouch at her side. “I still squirm at the thought of some of the forfeits when we travelled to the Sardar mountains. But anyway, I have a gift from our Kur friends to give to you.” Isabel produces a small gift wrapped box that she passes to you to be unwrapped. Inside is a ring made from silver with a precious stone set in it. You examine it closely and estimate its value as maybe as much as five silver tarsks. If you wished to sell it quickly you would probably receive two to three silver tarsks for it.
“It’s not just a precious bauble,” says Isabel with another smile. “Watch.” She takes the ring from you and, as you watch her hand movements, she rotates the precious stone. The ring then opens and a small amount of white powder spills out. “Just salt,” she says, “but the ring can be loaded with Tassa powder to render someone unconscious. There are a couple of pouches of that powder under the tissue paper in the gift box. Load the ring at your convenience and wear it. You never know when it might come in useful.”
“Do you have a ring like this?” you ask.
“Oh yes.” Isabel holds her left hand up and shows you a gold ring with a precious stone set into it. Hers would be gold, wouldn't it. “Wear it on your left hand so you can turn the setting with your right. The Tassa powder is best added to a drink of some kind.”
“How strong is the dosage?”
“It will render the strongest of men unconscious for several hours. Enough time to do with him as you will.”
“Let men beware,” you say, laughing softly.
“Oh yes,” says Isabel. “We are dangerous women. Before I forget, do you have any plans for kajuralia? It is next week, remember?”
“I can’t say I do.”
Kajuralia is of course the slave holiday observed in most pars of civilised Gor except for Port Kar. During this day slaves are, after a fashion, 'free' and able to run amuck, play tricks on their masters and to otherwise go wild. There is a certain 'reversal of roles' permitted during this time, if only for fun.
“Well, my father will be away during that time. He is visiting his sugar cane plantations inland and will be gone for a couple of weeks. So…” Isabel leaned forward and touched your hand in a conspiratorial way. “I was thinking of throwing a fabulous party for kajuralia.”
“What sort of party?”
“Something of a naughty one. It is kajuralia after all! Ladies only. No men invited. Definitely no men! The ladies will all draw tokens from a box. Half the tokens are marked ‘Mistress’ and the other half are marked ‘handmaid’. The handmaids get to serve the Mistresses during the party. I think it will be a lot of fun.”
“Handmaids…” you say with a raised eyebrow.
Isabel laughed. “It’s a more polite term. I think you know what I mean, Rosalita.”
“Oh, don't be like that! It's Kajuralia! It's just a bit of fun. I promise you there won't be any men in attendance.”
“What will these handmaids wear?”
“Oh, briefly hemmed tunics I’d imagine. Sleeveless even.” She laughed again. “The look on your face right now! It’s a fifty-fifty probability who you might be. Thrilling, yes? There will be rules of course. There has to be rules. No actual physical punishments of any kind, though the handmaids will have forfeits if they do not obey reasonable commands.” Isabel’s eyes sparkled. “We could pair up for the party. Just think! If you draw the wrong token you might be my little 'Lita' for the night, barefoot, wearing a pretty little tunic, serving me drinks.”
“Or you might be my 'Bella' for the night,” you say back.
“That’s… that’s a slave name,” said Isabel. “I don't like that.”
“So is Lita.”
She sniffed. “Well, anyway, it’s going to be fun. It’s kajuralia after all. Say you’ll come? Please? Please?”
“It is always good to see you, Isabel, but I suspect you didn’t bring me all this way by palanquin just to invite me to a kajuralia party?”
“True.” Isabel swept her gaze around the park to make sure no one might overhear her. “Our good friends the Kur have need of your assistance once more. They will of course pay you handsomely.” She made a careful motion with her hand and placed a glinting coin of gold on the table. That coin alone was equal to two month’s income from the business you had inherited from your father. It constituted more than a quarter of your savings to date. “Gold is so pretty, isn’t it? I just love golden things…” Isabel slid the coin towards you and nodded as you took it in your hand. It was a Cosian coin of course, minted in Jad. It felt good in your hand. “I think I react to gold the way slave sluts react to slave-silk,” she laughed. “Our lovely Kur friends have more gold to spread around. They like you, Rosalita. They have great ambitions for you. They will make you rich.”
“What do they wish me to do?”
“They have a new agent just arrived in Telnus. She is a barbarian girl from Earth.” Isabel recognised the look of disapproval in your face and quickly nodded. “I know. I know. I share your view of Earth girls. The little sluts. Her name is Michelle Brennan – it’s a barbarian name of course. She has been tutored in Gorean and speaks it well, but without a Cosian accent so she could never pass for a Free Woman of Cos. Luckily she doesn’t need to.”
“What is her role in Telnus? What can she do that we can’t?”
“She is to conduct work that would not be suitable for either you or me. You will receive full instructions of the assignment in a few days. In the meantime just know that you are to effectively be the woman’s handler. She will defer to you on her assignment due to your knowledge of Gor and Telnus in particular. She has been told to understand and accept that you are her superior officer for the time being.”
“Good,” you say. “I would not accept orders from a barbarian, particularly one of low caste, which all barbarians are.”
“Indeed.” There is a little stiffness in Isabel’s response when you mention caste differences.
“I’m sorry… I didn’t mean…”
“It is nothing. As I said, this Michelle Brennan will play an important part in the subterfuge currently being conducted in Telnus. Your role is to see she complies with her orders and you will assist her in presenting a believable façade. During the operation she will reside in your house.”
“Is there anything you can tell me about her mission? Anything at all?”
“Why yes.” Isabel’s eyes light up with a sense of mischief. “Oh, but you are going to like this, Rosalita. The little barbarian with illusions of grandeur has agreed to play the role of a kajira to facilitate her mission.”
“You see why this mission would not be suitable for either you or me? Why a barbarian has been selected for it instead? No Gorean Free Woman would wish to take on such work. As I said, full details will shortly be forthcoming, but essentially this Michelle Brennan will be posing as your newly acquired slave. Hence why she will be living in your house for a few days. I have taken the liberty of having her delivered to your house today by the way. She will probably be there by the time you return.”
“Does she understand what a kajira is?”
“On a basic level, yes. She understands that it is a class of slaves on Gor. She understands that they are owned, that they are not free. She understands that she will be dressed in garments that will well expose her arms, her legs, the swell of her breasts, not to mention the shape of her figure. It is a sacrifice she has to make to further the schemes of the Kurii in Telnus. She expects to be rewarded handsomely for her work. She expects to be rich and powerful in return.”
“She expects?” you say with a smile.
“She is a barbarian. They are not like us. She has no idea that unlike Gorean Free Women she is essentially expendable in the great scheme of things.”
“We are different of course. The Kur have great respect for us.”
“What degree of authority do I have?”
“You have absolute authority of course. You outrank this barbarian girl. Total and uncompromising authority. Which is how it should be.”