Chapter Nine: In the Court of the Crimson King
Let me make one thing clear. When he's not busy practising a cold, emotionless scowl in a wall length mirror, Samos, First Slaver of Port Kar, and senior agent of the Priest Kings, really loves playing Kaissa...
I mean, really, really loves playing Kaissa...
It apparently wasn't always the case. But over the last 20 years or so Samos has developed a taste for the mathematical board game that resembles Earth chess.
“An interesting move. Rash perhaps. Certainly original in its scope and execution. But sadly I now take your second Builder piece.” He swept one of his two Initiate pieces diagonally and captured Simon's piece with a flourish of his right hand, adding it to the capture pile on his side of the board before settling back in his curule chair with the fingers of both hands steepled beneath his nose as if in silent prayer. From where I knelt at the side of the table, holding a bota of paga in case either man required a refill, I could see that Simon's Kaissa position was looking very tenuous indeed. From almost the moment they had begun play Samos had ruthlessly swept his pieces in aggressive motions across the length and breadth of the board, inflicting a slow death of a thousand cuts on my Master. It was clear that Simon, although he played the game regularly back at the estate, was nowhere near Samos's skill level.
Kaissa is a poor man's chess, by which I mean, someone obviously took a game that is perfect as it stands, and then decided to make the board bigger and add all sorts of unnecessary extra rules. It's a bit like taking the board game Monopoly and adding rules so that you can take out endowment mortgages. Unfortunately, Goreans take the matter of Kaissa so seriously that I would almost certainly be whipped if I said anything derogatory about the game within their hearing.
“Kaissa is an excellent game, don't you think, Emma?” said Simon without looking down at me.
“Yes Master, truly excellent in every regard, but I fear it is beyond a mere slave-girl.”
“Of course,” said Simon. “I wouldn't expect a kajira to understand the intricacies of play.” He placed the fingers of his right hand loosely on the top of a Spearmen piece, considered the possible moves and then took it away again.
We were in the great hall of Samos of Port Kar by his invitation, conveyed through the offices of his agent here, the Lady Marissa, and we had been there for nearly an hour now. The men were taking their time with the game, pausing to discuss matters within the city and beyond, and to drink paga. Chloe knelt beside me, holding a plate with lightly spiced vulo snacks which neither of the men had tried yet. In a corner of the room I could see Samos's preferred slave-girl, Linda, watching us like a hawk. She lounged on cushions, grooming herself with a wide toothed comb beside a small free standing mirror. I thought she looked very beautiful. She in turn obviously thought I looked like competition. We gave each other some unobtrusive warning glances a bit like the way two cats might regard one another on either side of a garden.
Samos himself is something of a legend on Gor to those in the know, though much of his earlier life remains a mystery to all but the Priest Kings. What I know of him is what Brinn told me in snippets over the years. A confidante and friend of some past incarnation of the semi-mythical Tarl Cabot (Brinn by the way never took my theories about Tarl Cabot very seriously – often telling me I was a silly kajira who didn't know what she was talking about), Samos is one of the most powerful Captains in Port Kar, and holds the rank of First Slaver within the city in addition to the position of First Captain on the Council. But as Brinn and I know, he is also one of the most senior Priest King agents, directing all manner of operations from the comfort of his great hall overlooking the canals of Kar. He claims to have been Cabot's 'handler' during the late 1970s and much of the 1980s, though I remain sceptical about all things Cabot.
I find Samos to be an intimidating and imposing figure, and I would fear to be in his chains. There is a cold determination about him, compared to say the good natured humour of Brinn and many of Brinn's sworn men. Samos rarely laughs, and I suspect a slavery in his collar would be absolute. The back talk I often gave Brinn would not be tolerated by Samos. I imagine I would learn my place quickly enough under his whip and become the meek and submissive slave-girl that he prefers.
“Brinn spoke of you on occasion,” said Samos as he watched Simon's face, no doubt looking for tell tale signs of the moves he was considering. “He referred to you as his brother. Coming from Brinn, that is quite an accolade.”
“I feel the same way. I have no idea what would have happened to me on Gor if Brinn had not taken me in. I would probably be dead by now. I owe him a lot.” Simon's hand moved to his Ubara piece.
“You're thinking of moving your Ubara to capture my Physician, aren't you?” said Samos with a smile. “Study the board position carefully before you commit.”
“Ah,” said Simon as he took his hand away. “Ah, yes...”
“I would have your Home Stone three moves later,” said Samos. “At least you recognised the sequence once I urged caution.” Now Samos turned his gaze towards me. It was cold, almost reptilian in nature. Unlike most Goreans, he had a close crop of white hair, and a red, sunburned face, with skin cracked like leather. Gold adorned his ears. Bearing in mind the longevity stabilisation serums available to Goreans, the visible signs of ageing on Samos's face suggested he must be very old indeed, even in terms of Gorean lifespans. “Paga, Emma.”
I refilled his cup without speaking. I did not think he was much interested in conversation with me. I was just a slave-girl in the house of one of the most famous slavers on Gor.
The Lady Marissa knelt at a low table some distance away from us. She was reading some papers and seemed to have no interest in the game. Various armed men, all sworn to the service of Samos, guarded the various arched entrance ways into this grand hall. To a man they looked straight ahead, impassively, paying no attention to anything that was happening, or being said. I thought their discipline was extremely good, considering they were at best irregular pirates or corsairs.
“You are convinced then that the body did not belong to Brinn?” asked Samos as he tapped the arm of his curule chair twice with the index finger of his right hand. I have no idea whether it was supposed to be a sign of some sort, or a personal mannerism, but it was something I noticed him do from time to time.
“I am,” replied Simon as he made his next move on the Kaissa board. He seemed hesitant though as he moved one of his two Tarnsmen to counter Samos's last strategy. Samos smiled, leaned forward, as if expecting that move and swiftly took one of Simon's now exposed Spearmen to add to his growing pile. Simon frowned and continued. “Or rather Emma is. She swears on her life that the body is not Brinn's. Which begs the question, what has happened to him? Obviously you were meant to think him dead so that perhaps you didn't send men to locate him, in which case he may have been kept alive for questioning. We can't assume he wasn't killed though after he revealed everything your enemy needed to know.”
Samos nodded. Obviously enough he had considered that very same possibility. “The Lady Marissa is with us today because she was working in conjunction with Brinn. She was trying to infiltrate this Shadow Council that has spread its tendrils throughout Port Kar, gaining influence over various senior Captains within the council of the city. I have been aware of the existence of this Shadow Council for a number of years now, though I believe it has been active to a lesser extent for decades. Only in the last three years has it become a force to be reckoned with. It has, I believe, new leadership.” Samos steepled his fingers beneath his nose again and stared at Simon with his typically inscrutable expression. “So now you have examined the body to your satisfaction, what do you plan to do next?”
“I had it in mind to find Brinn,” said Simon, “though I confess I do not know how to go about that or where to begin. I have no experience in the ruses and strategies that Brinn routinely deployed.”
Samos nodded again. “You are loyal to Brinn? You would not desert him in his hour of need?”
“That's more or less it,” admitted Simon. “But I don't know how or where to begin.”
“Work with me,” said Samos, simply. “Work with my charming and resourceful agent, the Lady Marissa.” He indicated her where she knelt by the low table in her exquisite gowns of blue silk, and her light veils. She nodded briefly, acknowledging his remarks, his compliments, her eyes regarding Simon and apparently liking what she saw. “If you truly wish to find out the truth about Brinn, then I could make use of you.”
“That would seem to be my best option,” said Simon in agreement. He glanced at the Lady Marissa and smiled back at her. She had replied yesterday to the message we had left for her as soon as she returned to her apartment in Port Kar some days behind us. She had already reported in to see Samos, and Samos had agreed to meet Simon on her recommendation.
“Please join us, my dear,” said Samos to Marissa. The Lady rose in a smooth flurry of skirts and walked gracefully towards the Kaissa table where she stood proudly. She did not regard either Chloe or myself while she stood before the men. “You will work with Simon,” Samos explained.
“You mean Simon will work with me,” she said, correcting Samos.
“As you say, Lady.” Samos seemed amused by her statement.
“It is, I believe, an important distinction,” said Marissa. “Simon after all has no experience as a field agent, whereas I have served you faithfully now for many years, Samos.”
“That is true. Forgive me for implying otherwise. Let me assure you, Lady Marissa, that you will shortly be playing the most important role in our investigations. Simon would not be able to do what I will ask of you.”
“I am pleased to hear that. You can of course rely on me, Samos. I can cope with anything you command.”
“There was an arrangement in place for Brinn to communicate with me by notes left in a dead letter drop,” said Samos as he considered his next move. “After his body. Or what we assumed was his body, was found floating in the canals of the wharf district, I retrieved his final message that he must have written an hour or two before his apparent death.” Samos produced a small folded piece of rence paper from a low table which he handed to Simon. “Brinn had learned of clandestine meetings taking place in a fortified town house on a small island in one of the Port Kar lagoons. People were apparently coming and going late at night from a departure point on a quiet wharf in the run down southern quarter of the harbour. Brinn wrote to me that women robed in black with faces hidden within hooded cowls had been rumoured to be there from time to time, stepping on board private gondolas to be ferried to this island under the cover of darkness. Armed men apparently watch and guard the pier approaches from many sides preventing anyone from stumbling across these midnight assignments. Brinn stated he intended to go there that night and see for himself what was transpiring. Brinn has many fine qualities, but I sometimes find him rash, head strong and over confident. He obviously believed that he could overpower or sneak past the sentry guards. It now seems he didn’t. I need to know what is happening down there. Which is where you come in, Lady Marissa. You are to go to this wharf tonight, spy on the people there and then make a full report to me in the morning.”
“I do not understand,” said Marissa. “If Brinn failed to get close enough without avoiding the guardsmen, why do you think I would have any better luck?”
“Because you will have the advantage that Brinn didn’t have, that the guards on sentry duty will ignore you.”
“I find that hard to believe,” said Marissa. “If anything, a Free Woman alone on a secluded wharf late at night is going to be easy pickings and taken for sport, regardless of whether she poses a threat to this conspiracy or not. Send me there and you will be sealing my fate.”
“Surely you have seen that there are many women in Port Kar, Free Women in fact, who come and go through the canals and wharfs without any man trying to stop them?”
“I don’t understand,” said Marissa again. “I have seen no such Free Women.”
“And that I think is my point. You ignore them as easily as men ignore them. I refer of course to the she-urts of Port Kar – the scavenger women in their brief tunics who roam the canals, living rough, scavenging and begging for food. They come and go as they please, and the guards in place on the wharf pay them little heed. Disguised as a she-urt, you would be able to get close and spy on what occurs.”
Marissa’s face grew pale at the thought. “Their garments are practically slave garments!” she said. “Their legs and arms are bare, their faces unveiled. They do not wear collars, true, but they are as scandalously attired as slave-girls.”
“True enough,” said Samos, “but what of it? The disguise will get you close enough to the conspiracy in safety where you can discover what Brinn could not. There is little danger from the men there.”
“It is not the matter of the danger – you are asking me to demean myself. This is not something I am comfortable doing.”
“Oh?” Samos did not look particularly pleased with the elegant Lady Marissa. “Correct me if I am wrong, but I seem to recall you saying to me when you first joined my service that you wished to be treated equally alongside any other agent? You did not wish to be cosseted or protected from peril because of your sex? You wanted to take the same risks, endure the same hardships as my men?”
“You do not ask your men to dress in what is effectively slave garb in the pursuit of a mission,” pointed out Marissa
Samos smiled. “I should perhaps then accord you the same dignity in the pursuit of your mission as I have done in the past with Brinn?”
“Why yes!” said Marissa. “Exactly! I agree with that conjecture. I will do what Brinn has done, of course.”
“Then, perhaps Emma can describe what Brinn did for me six years ago.” Samos turned to regard me.
“He saved Gor,” I said. “He travelled to the Northern Forest to confront a Kur conspiracy and...”
“No.” Samos waved my words aside. “I do not refer to that time. Before then, in Corcyrus, when I believe you were a Free Woman.”
“Oh...” I smiled softly to myself. “Oh… you mean… that was on your orders?” I laughed.
“It was.” said Samos.
“What?” said Marissa. “What did Brinn do in the service of Priest Kings? I am of course his equal, and will endure and match any hardship he faced in your service.”
“He…” I bit my lower lip to try and stop myself from smiling too much. “He pretended to be a work slave on Kurgus’s estate so that he could spy on the Kur plans, Mistress. He was there for a couple of months, working in the fields. I was... actually his Mistress for a while...” The look on Simon's face was priceless right about now. Marissa's expression was pretty good to watch too.
“Brinn was your slave?!” said Simon.
“Oh yes. For a time. Sort of. Yes. He carried my palanquin through the streets and served me in cafes. He was ever so cute in his little slave tunic. I was quite a strict Mistress to him actually...” That was putting it mildly. “He was my preferred silk slave.”
“Why don't I know this?” said Simon in amazement.
“Well, it's not really the sort of thing Brinn is going to talk about over dinner with guests, and it wasn't my place to ever mention it.”
“Did you ever... I mean...” Simon seemed to search for the right words, “rape him?”
I laughed. “No Master. I remained white silk all the time I was free. I only became red silk some time into my slavery. It never occurred to me that I might one day be his slave.”
Lady Marissa said nothing, but she placed the fingers of her right hand to her mouth. I could see Samos was getting irritated by the way the conversation was going. He doesn't really have a sense of humour.
“I believe you implied you are prepared to endure hardships, discomforts and embarrassments equivalent to those Brinn has endured in my service?” he said.
“I didn’t know he did something like that…” said Marissa.
“Then it is settled. Tonight you will don the brief ragged tunic of a she-urt and you will be taken barefoot to the docks to spy on wharf nine.”
“Samos, please…” Marissa hid her face between the palms of both her hands. “This is too much. The guardsmen may ignore me, but the she-urts of the city are very territorial and run in small packs. As a new face I may be noticed by them.”
“That is true enough, but I will not send you alone. With your permission, Simon, I will send Emma with my agent to watch over her and protect her as necessary.”
“Emma?!” Marissa looked at me in anger. “What use will she be? She's a slave!”
“Approach me, girl,” Samos said to me as he rose and walked across the hall to now stand on the enormous tiled mosaic that depicted the known continent of Gor. It was a magnificent construct within his great hall, showing the vast area stretching from the Axe Glacier in the north to as far south as the desolate Taharian wastes. I did as I was told and I knelt there in Tower, with my knees closed as the Lady Marissa was present. I bowed my head, aware that he was assessing me with his eyes. I positioned my bottom squarely on the area of the jungles of Schendi. Poor Schendi – today it suffered the indignity of being squatted on by a slave-girl ass.
“You are Emma of the Sardar - Brinn’s love slave.”
I felt thrilled that Samos considered me the love slave of Brinn. Had Brinn spoken of me that way? He must have done, for there was no other reason for Samos to say that. “Yes, Master, I am.” I knelt proudly, with my back straight, my head now raised, for I was the love slave of a renowned warrior of Gor.
“Three years ago Brinn was in my hall and we drank paga together throughout the night. His conversation turned to you after a while, and he told me the truth of what happened in the Northern Forests, at Fell’s Bane, Lake Siljan and Skaffel Peak.”
I said nothing. All of Gor knew the official story that Brinn had been the hero that day and had singlehandedly saved Gor from the Kurii. Many of the stories didn’t even mention the presence of a coffle of slave-girls who had been there at his side.
“You destroyed a shield wall of warriors single handedly when even Brinn himself was ready to sing his death song lament with sharpened steel.”
I said nothing.
“You brought down Tarn Strike with its deadly consignment of Earth atomics, thereby saving the Sardar nests.”
I still said nothing.
“You fought a psychotic Kurii agent to the death on top of Skaffel Peak and you chose to free your best friend rather than claim that same freedom for yourself.”
Still I said nothing.
“You did all this and yet you do not try to claim any credit.”
I remained still.
“I am Samos of Port Kar, First Slaver and First Captain here. I do not offer words of praise often, particularly not to slaves. Nevertheless, know now that I am impressed.”
“Thank you, Master.” Now I dared to gaze at him. He seemed to permit it. “You are the first man to say that to me.”
Samos nodded. “Do you wish to sell this girl, Simon?” he casually asked.
“No. No I do not.” Simon looked up from the board, somewhat surprised by Samos's interest in me. From where she sat grooming her long glossy hair, I saw Linda pause in her brushing and glare at me with a warning that was only too clear in tone.
“I will offer you fifty tarn discs of gold.” There was a sharp intake of breath throughout the great hall. This was an unheard of price that might only be offered for a Ubara of a mighty city like Ar. 50 Tarn discs of gold is a fortune that would set a man up for life. It is close to a million dollars for a single slave-girl.
“Thank you, Samos, but she is not for sale at any price. Not yet anyway.” Simon threw me a bitter look. He had still not forgiven me for the words I had spoken in the tent of Boots Tarsk-Bit.
“You will of course give me first refusal if ever you change your mind?” said Samos.
“I suppose that is fair,” replied Simon.
“So you see, Lady,” said Samos turning once more to face Marissa, “Emma has proven herself to be quite capable in he past. If anyone can play the role of a she-urt by your side, I believe she can.”
“I would prefer, Samos, for another Free Woman to assist me. It would be more appropriate.”
“Trust me, Lady, I think you will prefer Emma by your side if there's trouble.” Samos turned now to one of the men who stood guarding the main door arch. “Escort the Lady Marissa to a side room, where she can have privacy. Send a slave in to assist her to disrobe and then dress her in the simple tunic of a she-urt. When she is ready, bring her back into the main hall.” The man nodded and
motioned for Lady Marissa to follow him.
Two Years Ago on Brinn's estate:
“You’re getting good, Simon,” I said as I handed him a towel. His upper torso was drenched in sweat from the combat work out, and he was breathing heavily as he took the towel and began to rub himself down with it. Brinn had been keen to show Simon how to defend himself at some basic level if ever the need should arise.
“Thanks, Emma. But I think I’m in more danger of being killed in Brinn’s training sessions than in a real fight somewhere on Gor.” He watched me closely as I approached Brinn with a second towel. This time I didn’t hand it to anyone, I began drying my Master myself. I kissed the space between his shoulder blades as I did so.
“Simon still has a long way to go,” said Brinn as he placed his practice sticks on a nearby bench. “I was going easy on him. An enemy wouldn’t.”
“But still, I was impressed,” I said, and then turned to Simon. “Compared to your level of ability when we first met you in Golden Klaw, you're doing really well, Simon…”
I suddenly screamed as I felt Brinn’s right hand smack hard against my ass. And then I felt his hand in my hair, twisting my face up to his. I knew instantly what had angered Brinn – I had spoken Simon's name to his face, and made the mistake of doing so in Brinn's presence.
“How many times do I have to tell you, Emma? Simon is a Free Man, you do not use his name when speaking to him.”
“It’s okay, Brinn. Please don’t hurt her.” Simon took a couple of steps forward, concerned with my well being, but Brinn waved him away.
“I do not approve of this easy going way you have with the slaves, Simon. Emma should call you Master, it is not healthy for her to do otherwise.”
“No, please…” I felt myself being bent over the wooden bench and I felt the hem of my short tunic thrust up as Brinn clicked his fingers and one of his men brought over a slave crop. My face flushed red with embarrassment as I knew Simon would see me being punished like this. I was held down by Brinn’s left hand in my hair as his right beat me with the crop seven times.
“Brinn, please don’t…” Simon looked mortified, for in a sense Brinn was enforcing discipline on Simon’s behalf. Any other man on the estate would have beaten me himself if I had used their name in error, not that I would have dared do so. But I was so used to talking to Simon in private, and knowing that he was of Earth, it felt natural to address him as something other than Master, for Earth Men are not really born to be Masters.
And then Brinn raised me back up and threw me down to Simon’s feet. “Beg his forgiveness, Emma.”
I crawled a few feet to where Simon continued to stand. I pressed my face, wet with tears, to his sandalled feet and kissed his toes. “Emma begs forgiveness, Master. Please forgive her. Please.”
“Do you wish to beat her, Simon?” Brinn held out the slave crop for him to take if he wished.
“No, Brinn. You know I don’t.”
“You’re weak, Simon.” Brinn seemed annoyed. “You’re weak with women. How do you expect a slave-girl to respect you?”
There were similar remarks from Brinn’s warriors, many of whom also thought Simon weak on the subject of women, even though he was well liked otherwise.
“I forgive you, Emma,” said Simon as he reached down and touched my head. “You don’t have to do this.”
I lay there on the ground, scared now, not daring to rise without Brinn’s permission, despite the offer to do so from Simon. I could feel Brinn pacing about the room behind me. Not knowing what to do, I kissed Simon’s feet again.
“You embarrass me sometimes, Simon,” said Brinn with a bitterness that shocked me. “I think of you as a brother and so I feel ashamed for you when you display weakness like this. It is bad enough that you refuse to eat meat! Why won't you eat meat? I make allowances for your unhealthy Earth ways, but even so, you have lived on Gor now for several years. The way you are sometimes with the slaves on this estate…” He shook his head. “My men comment.” He waved his hands at the men who sat watching from the long benches at the side of the room. “They like you, Simon, but we all wish you would learn to move on from this twisted Earth mentality. Be Gorean! Be a man!”
“Men don’t prove themselves men by beating women, Brinn. We’ve talked about this before.”
“Always the same thing from you, Simon. Always the same thing. I don’t take any pleasure from striking Emma! What do you think I am? Some sort of sadist? But it is important I do so if she forgets herself. And she often forgets herself around you, and you’re to blame for that. Emma is a slave, Simon. She is not a Free Woman. The way you act is appropriate towards my sister Cassandra when she visits – and yes I’ve seen how much time the two of you have been spending together – do not be concerned – I approve. But you cannot act the same way towards Emma, or any other slave on this estate. You are confusing them. It’s not healthy for them. It’s your fault I had to punish Emma just now. Your fault.”
“My fault? For fuck’s sake, Brinn! Listen to yourself!”
“None of this would be necessary if you kept her under strict discipline. You are making things difficult for the other men on this estate. How do you think they would feel If Emma called one of them by their name because she is used to doing so to you with your apparent tacit permission?”
“I don't care how the other men might feel, Brinn, I only care that you just beat Emma! We're talking about Emma here! You beat her with a whip! Emma loves you! I would never beat Emma if she was...” Simon suddenly stopped himself.
“If she was what?” said Brinn with a smile.
“Nothing, Brinn. Nothing.”
“If she was in your collar? If you owned her? If she loved you?” He approached us both with his smile spreading. “Would you like Emma in your collar, as your slave? Would you like to chain her to your couch each night, knowing that she will pander to your every need?”
“Emma is better than that,” said Simon. “I don't think of her like that.”
“She's a slave, Simon, she's a natural slave. A slut. You should see her in the furs when she's close to orgasm.”
Simon furrowed his brow and looked away. His hands clenched into fists.
“Just imagine her, soft and perfumed in the most diaphanous silks, begging for your touch, Simon, literally begging you...”
“Shut up, Brinn! Shut the fuck up!”
Brinn and the other men in the hall began laughing. It was always a good joke to tease Simon. Brinn slapped him hard on the back. “Come, enough of this. Let us retire to the paga room and drink together my brother. Emma is right – you have done well today.”
Simon hadn't returned for us until mid-morning the next day, by which time he stank of paga and looked like he hadn’t slept all night. He said nothing as we knelt there together at the back of Boots’s tent, looking fearful. His face was a mask of simmering rage as he unlocked our chains and then attached snap lock lashes to our collar rings.
“Master…” I tried to say, showing him the soft vulnerable palms of my hands in supplication, but he ordered me to silence with a couple of words and a threatening look. I was pulled roughly to my feet by a sudden jerk of the chain, as was Chloe. Simon produced two sets of slave bracelets and confined our wrists behind the small of our backs.
We hadn’t been fed last night or this morning, but I sensed that was the least of our concerns now.
Still uncharacteristically silent, Simon led us by our leash chains from the tent, out through the empty grass area where our audience had stood and cheered the night before, and on into the canal lined streets of Port Kar. I had no idea where we were going, and Simon didn’t seem prepared to tell me.
After a while we came to a paga tavern – a different one to the one we had frequented together. We were led inside and chained to the wall rings where Masters left their slaves. Then we watched as Simon walked towards a paga girl who turned to greet him. “Paga,” he said, as he took her wrist and pulled her towards him. I watched, horrified as he raped her lips in a Master's kiss, tore the silk from her body and told her, “bring me a cup and then take your place in one of the pleasure alcoves. Kneel and await my pleasure there.”
When the naked girl brought him his paga he downed it in one and, without looking at either Chloe or myself, he pushed her towards the nearest alcove where she scrambled onto her hands and knees in the soft furs. Simon followed her, pulling the tunic from his body as he stepped inside. He looked briefly at me, his face impassive as he then drew the curtains shut.
“I’m scared now,” I said to Chloe as I knelt at the chain rings.
“Me too. It’s like that’s not Simon any more.”
Simon did whatever he did inside the curtained alcove for maybe an hour and a half, no doubt savouring the girl in the furs, while we waited beside another slave whom I didn’t speak to. I could see that my unfortunate words last night had worked a sea change on Simon’s mood. Was this some reaction to me suggesting he was weak? Was this a demonstration that he was quite capable of acting Gorean, of taking a paga girl and thrusting her into an alcove for his use? It felt like this display of Gorean manhood was intended for me to see. I had hurt him obviously, without meaning to. He had not paid attention to my reference that he had many good qualities – he had simply heard my statement that because he was of Earth he was weak. No man wants to hear a girl call him weak.
And yet I did not mean weak as an insult, for isn’t it true that the majority of men on Earth – the kind, considerate ones who respect and love women as equals – aren’t they all weak in terms of Gorean society and culture? But does that mean it is wrong for them to be weak? Does it mean they should be ashamed of their kindness, the respect they show to women?
But it is hard to hold on to those values if you are a man transplanted to the fields of Gor where all around you your own sex revels in its mastery of women. Simon had held on to his beliefs for a long time. He had been kind to me on the estate. He had respected me.
Would he still respect me now that he had witnessed a slut lying in the furs, basking in the warm afterglow of being ravaged? Would he still respect a slave who seemed to mock him for being kind?
I didn’t know.
When Simon emerged he drew the tunic back over his body and returned to the wall where we were secured. Still he said nothing as he released our leashes from the rings. Now he took us back out onto the street where the sun that Gor shared with its Counter Earth tried to peer through the clouds that had blown over from the Thassa to the west. We were still bracleted, and tightly in my case at least. I would have bruises on my wrists when Simon eventually released me from the cruel, inflexible Gorean steel. He marched us along the side of a canal where again we saw one or two cautious looking she-urts crouching near the water line. They watched Simon as he passed by, their eyes never leaving him in case he might suddenly run at them for some reason. Usually men leave the she-urts alone, but every once in a while a man might try to have sport with them, in which case they quickly flee into the shadows.
On Gor if you are any kind of a Free Woman you do not want a man to catch you. Not if you wish to remain free.
“Examine the body, Emma. Take your time,” said Simon.
It was many hours later and we now stood in a cold, tiled room belonging to the caste of physicians. The centre of the room was dominated by a marbled slab on which lay the remains of a body previously identified as being Brinn of the Sardar. The body was wet, dripping liquid down the sides of the slab as it had been preserved in a vat of light blue fluid. I have probably mentioned before that technology levels on Gor vary drastically. The Priest Kings maintain a low technology level when it comes to weapons, armour and engineering, but they have traditionally permitted great advances in medicine, often beyond the current parameters of Earth science. The most famous aspects of Gorean medicine would of course be the stabilisation serums which arrest the effects of ageing, and it is rumoured that there is a serum which will actually roll back the effects of ageing. You can imagine what these serums would be worth on Earth.
I had been given the stabilisation serum shortly after being brought to Gor, and as such I haven’t visibly aged in the time I’ve been here. I have no idea what my life expectancy will be, but I can probably expect to see the dawn of the 23rd century, all other things being equal. Sometimes I wonder what such an extended lifespan will do to me. I think human beings are hardwired to expect three score and ten years before they begin to grow detached from the changing nature of their world. I remember my mother on Earth often telling me how she couldn’t identify with my contemporary tastes in music, and that was only an age gap of maybe thirty years.
The figure on the marble table was in a poor state, having been chewed upon by canal urts. The light blue fluid however had prevented further decomposition, and so the body looked as it had done when it was fished out of the water. Considerable damage had been done to the face, making it impossible to identify it from its features alone.
I nibbled my lower lip as I approached the body. I had known Brinn intimately for a long time. I had kissed, licked and nibbled many parts of his body. My fingers had explored all over his skin. If anyone would recognise his mutilated form, it would be me.
The physician stood there in his green robes, watching me as I regarded the naked body that had turned a parchment shade of grey from the loss of blood. I studied the corpse for several ehn, but to be honest I knew the answer immediately.
“This isn’t Brinn.”
“You’re sure?” asked Simon as he approached me. “The scars perhaps aren’t in quite the right place? There are small tell tale signs that are wrong?”
“Probably, but I didn’t really look at them.” I said. “I didn’t need to. That’s not Brinn’s penis.” I pointed to the corpse’s groin. “Believe me, I know Brinn’s penis very well indeed.”
Chloe couldn’t help but snort with laughter. The physician turned to her and frowned. This was of course a serious medical and legal matter.
“I’m sorry, Masters,” said Chloe, trying to recover quickly.
“That’s all you looked at?” asked Simon with a frown.
I shrugged. “It’s conclusive proof, isn’t it?” I didn’t mention that I could probably pick out Brinn’s penis by touch alone if I was blindfolded and had ten such appendages flopped out on a table in front of me.
“My Master is alive,” I said turning to face everyone.
“We don't know that,” said Simon. “Brinn may still be dead. All you know is that the body in front of you is not Brinn. Let's not jump to conclusions about what that might imply.”
Later that night, Simon fed Chloe and myself by hand in the dingy attic room in the tenement building close to the canals. We knelt, our wrists braceleted in front of us as Simon peeled off strips of food and placed them one at a time in our mouths. He had some money now of course. He had been speaking to me for a while now and the conversation had turned to his feelings for me.
“There were very few nights on the estate when I didn’t dream of you, Emma. I used to see you with Brinn, and I dreamed what it would be like if you weren’t his slave. For years I put money away in the hope that one day Brinn would tire of you and decide to sell you, and if he did, I would have the money to buy you from him. I used to dream of that day and how after purchasing you I would tell you to kneel as a slave, and then with own hands I would remove the collar from your throat and discard it and tell you to rise again as a Free Woman. I would buy you soft gowns and veils and I would tell you that you never had to be a slave again. I would give you papers of freedom, and you would be permitted to live with me in peace and respect, and maybe, just maybe, you would grow to love me and one day we might be Free Companions, and I would be the proudest man on Gor as you stood before me in your modest attire, seven veils about your face, brushing them slightly aside with your hand as we drank the wines of Free Companionship together. And I would love you and protect you and cherish you and respect you, and see you safe from harm. I would in my dreams make you happy and lavish you with gifts and courtesies.”
“I am so sorry…” my voice was soft and kind. Back on Earth I too had known unrequited love as a man, and I understood how painful it is to love someone unconditionally and to never see that love reflected back in their eyes.
“But you never had such feelings for me. I know now. You thought of me as weak, of Earth. My very kindness was unattractive to you.
“Simon, no, don’t think that, please, you are a good man, a kind…”
“Do not use my name again! This is your last warning, Emma. You call me Master. The next time you speak my name I will whip you. I will.”
A liquid rage had seized hold of him now as he considered all those wasted years patiently longing after me. “How stupid I was to think you would respond to my love, my affection, my respect for you. Because you’re a slut, aren’t, you, Emma? A slave slut who doesn’t want kindness or respect or compassion. The only thing you seek is a strong Master who will dominate you, who will chain you, make you crawl and beg. That’s what heats your slave belly. How stupid I was. You want a man who will make you crawl to him. You want to be dominated. You want to submit. That’s what you are. You’re just like all the rest of them. You despise weakness in men. You laugh at men like me. I see that now.”
“Please Master, it's not like that.”
“No? Then tell me – do you love me, Emma?”
“I’m sorry, Master… I can’t control how I feel.”
“Of course not. Of course you don’t love me, for I’ve never whipped you. I’ve never forced myself upon you. I’ve never made you submit at my feet. Why did I think you might be something better than that? You know what? You were right to despise me, to laugh at me. I was stupid and foolish and weak, and laughable. But no more. No more. I will be Gorean.”
“Master, please let me explain…”
“I’m not fucking interested! You’re a slave, Emma – you’ll always be a slave, in my collar, or Brinn’s, or someone else’s. That’s all you are. To think I was going to free you. No wonder you mocked me. Well, there will be no freedom for you now. I despise you now. And I will keep you in a collar. My collar. Brinn is probably dead. Even if that wasn’t his body in the canal, it’s unlikely he still lives. So you’re mine. As is Chloe. You’ll be my kettle slave, Emma, scrubbing my rooms, preparing my meals, tending to the chores. Chloe will be my silken pleasure slave. I’ll adorn her with jewels and she will sleep on the couch with me each night and I will take my pleasures with her and forget about the stupid, pitiful longing I once had for a simple kettle slave. You will spend the nights chained in the kitchen, thinking of what might have been had you remained chaste, pure; had you not been such a slut. Your slavery will not be the slavery of the furs. I will not give you to men to ravish. Your life will be scrubbing pots clean with a wire brush. Welcome to your slavery, Emma.”
“I didn’t mean the things I said – the way I said them. I didn’t mean to hurt you like that. I would never have hurt you.”
“You didn’t hurt me Emma, you simply woke me up to the truth. I’m not going to be the weak man of Earth any more, depending on Brinn for everything. I can make my own way on Gor. I was young and immature when I first met you in the hull of that Kur ship, but I’ve grown since then. I’m six years older. I’ve learned a lot of things during that time. I can make a life here on Gor for myself. You could have been part of that life. I would have held you in such high esteem. I would literally have scattered rose petals to the door of our house for you to see when I escorted you over the threshold. I would have seen you want for nothing. You could have been my Lady. My Free Lady.”
“I can’t help how I feel! It’s not a crime. It doesn't make me a bad person! You’ve been my closest friend on Gor along with Chloe. You have no idea how much you mean to me, Master, but I cannot make myself feel more than I do.”
“When I saw you in the furs last night, squirming your thighs together, practically purring as you told Chloe what a slut you were, I felt crushed. I wanted to die. Brinn I could understand. Of course you would feel that way in Brinn's arms. I always accepted that you had feelings for Brinn. I could accept that he made you submit. I understood, Emma, but I thought it was because he was special. But no – it’s any man who is a Master, isn’t it? It’s any man who knows how to roughly handle you, how to ignite the fires in your slave belly. You just want submissive sex.”
The next day we received the note from the Lady Marissa to inform us that she had returned to Port Kar. That afternoon we went to meet her.
“Welcome, Simon, to my humble home away from home.” The Lady Marissa walked slowly across the tiled floor, taking small, delicate steps. As before she wore rich gowns of delicate fabrics, and as before she had loosened and then removed her thin, gauze like inner veils, those veils of fragile transparency that did little to conceal a woman’s features, such veils that a woman might wear about her own home if receiving visitors that she knew. As before she permitted Simon to view her face devoid of even those veils. While this wasn’t totally taboo in Gorean society, it was generally considered to be daring, provocative even. If Simon had been a close family member, or a Free Companion, then such a move would be acceptable, but by my reckoning she had only seen Simon a handful of times before she had first unveiled herself in the house in the Sardar. Either she trusted Simon implicitly, which was possible if she knew of his association with Brinn, and his origin on Earth, or she was indeed being daringly provocative. I did not look at her directly of course, for fear of being beaten, but I watched her with my peripheral vision, my head lowered as a good kajira should do. I kept the level of my eyes on her glittering sequinned slippers of unparalleled craftsmanship. Gorean Free Women spend an inordinate amount of money on their shoes, often owning dozens of pairs. It is one thing they have I suppose with women of Earth.
“Your gracious hospitality shames me,” said Simon as he took her gloved right hand and lifted it almost but not quite to his lips. For a moment he seemed to kiss the very tips of her fingertips before lowering her hand once again. “I trust your journey from the Sardar was a pleasant and uneventful one?”
“Mostly, Simon. Though I fear I tire easily over long journeys where there is little to alleviate one’s boredom. I find the food and accommodation to be lacking at times, but one must make do in the service of Samos and the Priest Kings. I see you still have your… slaves.” The Lady Marissa looked down at me in particular as I knelt in my brief slave tunic. I felt her eyes linger with distaste on my shapely legs and the plunging neckline of my single tight garment.
“Please accept my apologies, Lady, for the brevity of their garmenture. I would have dressed them more modestly before coming here, but there was an incident at the docks when we landed and I confess I lost my operational funds. I would have left the girls at my lodging if the lodging was at all secure.”
“I see.” Marissa paced a few steps towards me. “She seems meeker, more docile, more obedient than last we met. Less offensive in her attitude.”
“That she is, Lady. Her attitude to you last time we met was, in hindsight, not appropriate. I confess you were right about Emma.”
“I was?” Marissa smiled and toyed with a lock of her hair, pleased by the direction of Simon’s words.
“Yes, and I must apologise for that too, for I believe I may have come across last time as defending Emma for her lack of discipline. Trust me when I say I realise I was wrong now, and any further lack of discipline will be swiftly punished. Emma is now simply a kettle slave. Chloe, I will take as my pleasure slave. She has been pleasing. Emma has not been pleasing. Emma is no longer in favour.”
“Oh, Simon, I am impressed…” Marissa took three steps now to stand before Simon and offer him a warm smile. Her gloved right hand briefly and barely touched his forearm in acknowledgement. “You do seem more Gorean than before. I like what I see.”
“Thank you, Lady. Frankly, I am a little embarrassed at the signs of weakness I must have displayed previously before you. It was unbecoming in a man.”
“Your apology is accepted.” Marissa's eyes sparkled as she gazed up at him. She moistened her lips without thinking as she looked at him boldly. “It is good that you have learnt how to handle women now.”
“Handle women, Lady?” said Simon with a smile. He gazed down at her, apparently liking what he saw.
“Slave-girls, I mean.” Marissa quickly corrected herself. “You have learnt how to handle and control slave-girls. That is what I meant of course.” Her face flushed a little.
“Slave-girls are women, Lady. It is much the same thing.”
“Not quite. Not all women are slave-girls. It is an important distinction.”
“Of course. And yet any woman might find herself become a slave-girl, if fate so decreed,” said Simon. He seemed to like the nature of this conversation.
“I suppose,” said Marissa, apparently unconcerned. “If the woman was careless in the company of men she didn't know. Such women deserve what they get.”
“You are very beautiful, Lady Marissa,” said Simon as he gazed at her unveiled features.
“And you are very bold to say so.” She seemed very pleased with the compliment, for after all Simon was a handsome, strong man.
“I have seen many slave-girls who are far less beautiful than you, Lady.”
“I am not sure I wish to be compared to slaves in such a fashion.” Marissa shook her head, slightly annoyed by the implication.
“I am sorry, Lady. It was a clumsy form of compliment. I of course only meant that men routinely enslave only beautiful women, and so if you are more beautiful than a typical slave, that only means how very, very beautiful you are.”
“Beautiful enough to be a slave-girl?” Said Marissa “Is that what you are implying?”
“As I said, it was a clumsy attempt at flattery that came out wrong.” Simon shrugged his shoulders. “Gorean, as you know, is not my natural language. My phrasing is sometimes not as good as it should be.”
“But yes, to answer your questions,” said Simon pleasantly, “you are certainly beautiful enough to be a slave-girl, Lady.”
“I did not actually want you to answer that question! It was not the sort of question that required an answer!”
“Surely all questions are phrased in anticipation of an answer?” suggested Simon. “It is what makes them questions after all.”
“Not that question. Obviously not that question.”
“It is noted, Lady. May I say, I take considerable delight in the fact that you obviously trust me enough to unveil yourself in my presence, Lady. It is heartwarming.”
“You are a confidante of Brinn. Brinn and I worked together, so I feel I can trust you, Simon. Besides... I'm hardly the sort of woman you'd imagine in chains and a collar.” She laughed softly.
Simon said nothing. He simply gazed at her again, and his eyes regarded her throat.
We waited maybe 30 ehn in the great hall, during which time Samos and Simon continued with their game of Kaissa. Samos had surprised me by his compliments, however brusque they might have been. From what I heard, and from what I could see for myself, he was not a man prone to offering a cheerful disposition to visitors, but he seemed to be completely honest when he acknowledged my past triumphs.. There weren’t many people on Gor who knew what I had done, but it seems that Samos was one of that limited group. So when he asked for more paga, I was actually quite pleased to serve him. Let Simon see how other men valued me. I presented the paga to him on my knees, ensuring I offered the perfect serve. The Lady Marissa of course was no longer in the hall, and so I opened my thighs to Samos. Simon noticed this of course and frowned, but it was after all expected of me. I did not look at my Master. Why should I? I was serving another man after all.
“I too will have paga, Emma,” said Simon as he tapped his cup.
“Of course, Master,” I said as it took the cup and filled it, away from the table as is custom. “Your Kajira, Emma, offers you paga, Master,” I said, presenting my body to him the same way I had done to Samos. Simon took the cup and looked down at me. “In future I will have Chloe serve me paga. You will work in the kitchens as a kettle slave.”
If Samos thought this strange, he made no sign of it. He certainly didn't object to the proposal to make me a kettle slave. I bristled a bit at that. Had Samos not been prepared to pay 50 tarn discs of gold for me? Surely he understood how preposterous it might be then to keep me as a simple kettle girl? I felt sure that in Samos’s household I would be a pleasure slave like Linda, draped in precious jewellery to show off his wealth to guests. I would be a silken slut, lounging on soft cushions, awaiting my Master’s pleasure. I would not be sent to clean pots in a kitchen.
“I have your second Builder now,” said Samos as he took it with a plain Spearman figure.
“I fear I am seriously outmatched, Samos,” said Simon as he sat back in his curule chair to enjoy the paga. “I have much to lean about the great game.”
Samos waved the comment aside. “You play well considering your short time on Gor. And in any event, there are greater games on Gor than Kaissa. The great game of worlds for example.”
Another ten ehn went by before Samos’s man, Yakov, entered the hall. Samos was considering his next Kaissa move and so he didn’t look up, but simply asked, “is the Lady Marissa ready to rejoin us?”
“She is, Samos, but she requests that due to the nature of the garment she has had to wear, that Simon withdraws from this hall so that he may not see her clad thus.”
“Simon is a guest in my hall. He understands and appreciates the great sacrifice that the Lady Marissa is making. Please tell her to join us now.”
Yakov left and it was another five ehn before he returned once again, and still alone.
“What?” said Samos, his concentration still focussed on the Kaissa board.
“The Lady Marissa wishes to inform you that she remains uncomfortable with Simon seeing her in a ragged and revealing tunic, much like a slave garment, and insists he leaves the hall before she enters.”
“I see,” said Samos. “Bring the Lady Marissa into the hall, over your shoulder if necessary.”
Yakov nodded and departed. He was absent for an ehn, and we then heard a shriek, followed by outraged protests as he returned with the Lady Marissa carried over his left shoulder. He placed her struggling, writhing body squarely on the tiles before Samos’s table where she span round onto her hands and knees, her face flushed with indignation. She was dressed in nothing more than a tight clinging rag of a tunic, made from cheap rep cloth, worn tight about her body. In the struggle of being seized and carried into the great hall, Marissa’s rag garment had ridden high up on her thighs and so once she was on the tiles she desperately tried to pull the brief hemline down about her as much as she could.
“Thank you for rejoining us, Lady,” said Samos, with only a cursory glance in her direction. Simon on the other hand feasted his eyes upon Marissa’s quite lovely body and striking beauty. I watched from my kneeling position with the paga bota as he adjusted the position of his chair to regard her all the more.
“Your man! What he did to me!”
“Yes, and it was on my orders. I do not appreciate being kept waiting. Do you consider your disguise now complete?” he enquired.
“Yes. Yes, I do.” Marissa rose to her feet, which of course she was entitled to do as she was a Free Woman.
“Emma, tell the Lady Marissa what is wrong with her disguise,” said Samos as he watched Simon move one of his remaining Spearmen towards his Ubara piece.
“She is too clean, Master,” I said. “Her hair is perfectly groomed, glossy and carefully styled. Her skin is obviously the skin of a woman who has just had a luxurious scented bath earlier this morning.”
“Quite.” Samos watched as Simon decided not to make the move he had been considering. “Yakov, if you would perhaps roll the Lady Marissa in the garden outside for an ehn or two…”
There was another shriek from Marissa as Yakov grinned, hoisted her over his shoulder again and carried her struggling body out towards the open veranda doors that led to a cloistered garden.
“You were right not to take my Ubara,” said Samos with his eyes now resting on Simon’s. “It was a trap I laid for you. I would have had your Home Stone piece three moves later. Sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice the virtue of a High Born Lady to win the war.”
Simon smiled, recognising the analogy, as did I.
“Unhand me!” screamed the Lady Marissa from outside. She then squealed in despair as Yakov no doubt rolled her about in the earth and maybe dragged her protesting body through some bushes. When Marissa reappeared, being led back into the great hall by her left wrist, her hair now looked dishevelled and her once clean arms and legs were ground with dirt. She shook her wrist free and stared at the table by which we sat or knelt.
“Satisfied?” she snapped at Samos.
“Indeed. Emma?” he enquired, turning back to me for an opinion.
“It will be dark, Master. Her disguise will be sufficient during night time hours.” I smiled at the Lady Marissa. She didn't realise that her figure hugging tunic had ridden up her thighs again. Simon of course had not failed to notice it.