Chapter Thirteen: For those who Trespass against us...
I find it difficult to convey the intense shroud of absolute darkness that enveloped the chamber. We often mistake darkness for an absence of light, whereas in fact it’s usually just a reduction in light, and one that we grow accustomed to as our night vision kicks in. The effect of the Kurii globe was different in that it cancelled out light waves entirely, leaving nothing for our eyes to adjust to. I could have stared into that ink black abyss for a year without my eyes perceiving anything at all.
Simon later explained to me that he thought the globe operated on the same principle as a force field, but one designed to screen out light waves only. Typically of course force fields in science fiction allow light waves through, otherwise you wouldn’t see anything. From a tactical point of view the Kurii globe conferred an incredible advantage to warriors who were able to see despite the light cancelling field, and Elizabeth was able to do so with the aid of a pair of goggles that I saw her raise to her eyes just before she activated the artefact. Quite how they worked is a mystery to me, since surely they would need light waves of some sort, so maybe Simon’s theory is wrong. All I know is that as Elizabeth drew a long knife and as she descended down from the raised dais, she alone in this room was able to see clearly as if it was bright daylight.
For myself, I was blind too, but seated at the feasting table I was at least cogniscent of my location. And so I did the sensible thing and placed my hands on the surface of the table to reassure myself of my proximity to everyone else. Down below on the main floor where Simon and his warriors stood and turned in panic, they would quickly lose all sense of their bearings. If they happened to turn a couple of times, which men in shock tend to do, they would lose all knowledge of where they were facing. It must be terrifying to be suddenly completely blind, and to know a sighted enemy was closing in for the kill.
I heard the men shouting to one another to reassure themselves that they were still together, and I heard the swishing of swords as they no doubt thrust and cut blindly before them, fearing quite correctly that Elizabeth or indeed some other enemies might soon be bearing down on them with murder in mind. But cutting and thrusting blindly with steel when your comrades are all about you is a dangerous and risky thing to do. Within a moment I heard the cry of one of the men who had apparently been stabbed by accident by one of his comrades in arms. I heard Simon shout for them to hold position and stop thrusting, and I heard him call on them to form a shield wall. A few shields clashed together, but I gather it was probably an uncoordinated and haphazard affair without sight to guide its placement.
The men of course weren’t the only ones to cry out, for Elizabeth’s activation of the Kurii globe had taken the silver masked women at the table by surprise too. I heard her call on them to remain where they were, and I think she moved to push one or two of the more frightened ones back down into their chairs before she made her way down to the killing floor. In doing so she remained silent of course, reluctant to speak and therefore give away her position.
The shrill agonising scream of a man dying was the signal that Elizabeth had begun her calm precision led slaughter. I imagine for her it was easy enough. She could see a group of frightened men pressing close to one another, shoulder to shoulder with shields raised and swords swinging uselessly in front of their bodies. Elizabeth feels no fear and so I suppose there would be no sense of panic or anxiety as she closed with her first target. Maybe she watched him for a few seconds, studying the way he moved his sword and shield in regular, familiar, predictable patterns and then with her long knife she no doubt struck, driving it forwards in a quick thrust, or maybe a sideways slash across his throat. She would have seen the momentary shock in the man’s eyes and the panic amongst the other men as they felt their companion drop. Their discipline was probably good, and so they would have closed the gap in their group as quickly as they could, but did one or two of them possibly stumble over the fallen body? Did a man perhaps trip forward, losing the cover of his shield just long enough for Elizabeth to strike serpent like again? For only seconds after the first scream came the second scream, deeper, more throaty than before. Neither man sounded like Simon, but then Elizabeth had told him he alone would be spared, to kneel before her in chains.
I imagine the remaining warriors probably tried to seize the initiative at this point and if they assumed Elizabeth was somewhere in front of their group then they surged forward, slashing wildly in the hope of catching her. Elizabeth probably stepped to the side and took advantage of their uncoordinated movements to cut another man down on the flank bringing further chaos and pandemonium to the survivors. By now they would have lost track of where they were exactly in the chamber, how close they were to the raised platform on which the silver masked women had taken their meal, and how far they were from the relative safety of the doorway. I heard shouting, I heard a war cry of Port Kar, and I heard another scream, soon followed by yet another. The men didn’t stand a chance within this expanded field of darkness. How could any warrior on Gor possibly fight against an opponent who could see clearly when he in turn could see nothing?
And throughout this bloody slaughter what did I do? I sat where I was, not moving, not daring to move for fear of being caught by a back swing from one of the men. What could I do? I was as blind as the men themselves, and just as vulnerable. I prayed silently that Elizabeth would indeed spare Simon as she had stated she would, and that Brinn too would have the good sense not to intervene as the warriors of Port Kar met their death. Live to fight another day.
I knew the slaughter was finally at an end when I heard Elizabeth say to Simon the single word, “Yield.” And yield he did. I heard a blade clatter to the floor. “Kneel.” And so he did, with Elizabeth’s blade at his throat, for then the blackness contracted back to a singularity point within the Kurii globe and we could all see again. I saw Brinn with his back against a far wall where he had retreated to during the fight. Chained as he was he could not have helped anyone, and if he had ventured forward he might have been stabbed by a sword swung in panic. I saw the bodies of the men of Port Kar on the floor, each one now a corpse, cleanly and efficiently slain by a single cut, and I saw a miserable, shocked looking Simon kneeling on the floor, his hands crossed behind his back, as Elizabeth stood behind him with her bloodied knife at his throat. And then there was cheering from the previously terrified women who now understood that they had won, that Elizabeth had killed the very men who would have stripped them, chained them, and carried them from this hall to become slaves. Several of the women left their seats at the raised table to run down to the flagstone floor, making their pleasure quite vocal at the sight of their miracle, their salvation.
“Bind this man,” said Elizabeth to the first of the women who neared Simon. And the woman did so, fixing common slave bracelets to Simon’s wrists. They were delicate, pretty looking manacles designed to hold girls, but they would hold Simon as well as they might hold me.
Elizabeth carried the black light globe in a net that she wore at her belt. I had wondered how she had switched it on and off while simultaneously holding a knife to Simon’s throat. Her fingers could easily touch the recessed spaces of the globe through the net, permitting her to activate it as she wished.
“Let me be clear, Ladies,” said Elizabeth as she began to walk around the room. Marissa knelt nearby, quiet and submissive now after the men had all been killed. Perhaps she now regretted her outburst for she looked up at me with a look of desperation, knowing I was her only remaining hope. “When I came to you several years ago you were a group of delusional Free Women who met in secret fantasising a return to power that you would never achieve. I promised you real power, and some of you didn’t believe I was capable of such a thing. Well now let there be no doubt that I am a woman of my word. The men I have slain will stand as a demonstration of what we are capable of with this artefact from the Schendi jungles. With this device we will slay the Council of Captains, or at least those members not susceptible to our will, and through our complicit Captains whom we have bought with gold and promises of power, we shall soon control Port Kar. In our name the chosen men of New Tharna will despatch ships to enforce the rule of Port Kar on the waters of the Thassa. In time we shall extend our military might to the shores of Cos and Tyros, and when we then control the islands orbiting the mainland we shall proclaim a new dawn on the face of Gor. Women will no longer be subservient to men. Ours will be the power, ours will be the glory. Ours will be the empire to exceed that of Ar at its apogee. Tomorrow a select group of us will be presented to the Council of Captains by our accomplices. The Captains believe we come as simple women to petition some trivial concerns. It will be the last mistake they ever make. Our accomplices will seal the doors to the chamber and I will activate the black-light globe. Then we will draw our blades and set about killing every man in the Council chamber who does not wear a pre-arranged sash denoting allegiance to our cause. The chosen survivors will form the skeleton of a new Council that will arise from the slaughter of the old, and they shall be subservient to us in exchange for a position of power in New Tharna. We shall be the true power – the Shadow Council behind the public Council so that the hapless men of Port Kar may continue to believe their sex still dominates the city. In time we shall reveal the truth, but only when we have consolidated matters to my satisfaction. From this night onwards there will be no place in New Tharna for weakness. I saw the way many of you reacted to the arrival of the warriors. I saw who among you cried and whimpered, and I saw those of you who remained strong.” Now Elizabeth gazed at me. I had not screamed. I had not tried to flee. She nodded with respect. “There will be no more crying, no more shrill screaming. From this night onwards, any woman who betrays or shames her sex in such a fashion will be banished. In the days to come some of you are going to die, martyrs of course to the freedom that I shall provide. I can no longer stomach cowardice, weakness or indecision. We will be strong or we will be nothing. What will we be?”
As one they all chanted, “we shall be strong or we shall be nothing!” It was like a Nuremberg rally all over again, but for appearance's sake I joined in.
I think it was expected of me.
It was strange to now see Simon on his knees, his wrists bound, as helpless as a slave. So much for his grandstanding assault on this house. His men were dead and he was now Elizabeth's prisoner, alongside Brinn. I regarded him as he knelt with his head bowed in humiliation. I suppose he had hoped to impress Brinn, to prove to his 'sword brother' that he was a hero of sorts. But he had under estimated Elizabeth Bentley, and in facing a room full of women he had thrown caution to the wind.
You deserve your fate, Simon.
'What are we going to do?” whispered Marissa as she returned to kneel before me. She had confirmed to Elizabeth by her actions and words just now that she was a spy for Samos. Her fate was now even more precarious than before, unless I could stand my ground and insist that whatever she had been in the past, she was now my slave.
“Play it by ear. It's just down to us now. The men have fucked up, as men often do.”
“We're going to die here, aren't we?” said Marissa in misery. Like most Gorean women she underestimated her capabilities and assumed that if the men had failed, there was nothing she could do that might surpass their efforts.
“Not if I have anything to say on the matter,” I whispered. “I've faced worse than this in the past, believe me.”
“Samos thinks highly of you...” whispered Marissa. “Of what you have achieved before.”
“Then let's hope he's a good judge of character,”I said as I noticed Elizabeth doing the rounds of all the Free Women, speaking to them individually or in groups of two or three at a time. The floor was littered with the bodies of Samos's warriors, and there were swords scattered close by. It might be useful to get my hands on one of those, I thought, but I could do nothing while there were so many women about.
“My father was so proud of me when I began working for the interests of the Priest Kings,” said Marissa. “If anything should happen to me, please tell him I died bravely in the service of the Sardar.”
“I will,” I said, “though if anything like that was to happen, I'd probably be sharing your fate.”
“What about you, Emma? Would you want me to carry some sort of message to your family? Your father perhaps?”
I looked away with a furrowing of my eyes. “You can't. My father is dead.”
Two Years ago:
The winter months in the region of the Sardar can be bitterly cold with a chill north wind that blows down from the mountain range that is home to the shadowy Priest Kings who dictate the technology levels throughout Gor and enforce their dictates with alien science far beyond our understanding. I had been doing the rounds of the slave pens on the estate as I did most nights after putting the children to bed, making sure the various girls were bedded down for the night, or at least the ones who had not been chosen by men to warm their couches. I would answer any questions, listen to any concerns, and adjudicate on any disputes. Candice and Chloe had been arguing that day over a man – one of Brinn's captains that Chloe had an eye for - and regrettably I had had to take Candice's side, for Chloe was actually in the wrong. A First Girl has to be seen to be fair in such matters otherwise she loses the respect of the other slaves. The girls were comfortable enough thanks to the furs that now lined the floors of the cages and each pen had a log burning stove which threw out so much heat that often the girls lay there naked until they fell asleep. I think every girl on the estate owed me a debt of gratitude for the stoves and the furs, and it made my job as First Girl a lot easier that they felt that way. Ruling by fear was really not my thing.
I had some hot broth in the kitchen after my evening rounds, and I knelt there for a while talking to a couple of Brinn's men before I received word that Brinn wanted to see me in his inner Sanctum. This was his private set of chambers at the top of a tower that overlooked most of the estate, and it was a place he would retreat to with guests when they wanted to spend time discussing matters that were not for the ears of slave-girls. I was rarely invited to the tower, and certainly not when Brinn wished to be alone with his thoughts. But tonight was different; tonight I had been given instructions to present myself and meet a guest who had arrived earlier in the day during a rain storm. It was wet outside, and the wind was howling as I made my way up the stone stairs clad in a red slave tunic. I supposed I would be waiting upon Brinn and his guest, preparing drinks and offering food while they talked of important matters. Brinn trusted me with his secrets to a point, and I think it was often the case that I was only turned away from the tower because his guests did not trust me in the same way.
I entered the main chamber at the top of the tower and immediately halted in my tracks. Brinn stood there close to the fireplace which was now burning brightly with chopped logs, but what shocked me was a curule chair drawn close to the fire, and seated upon it the figure of my father, the warrior and retired Priest King agent known as Marcellus, whom I had thought dead at the fall of Elysium in the Tahari when Kurgus had attacked without warning.
“Emma, come in. Close the door,” said Brinn as he regarded me with his typically inscrutable gaze. My father had his hands held out towards the flickering flames, for it was a cold night, and he looked up as he heard my footsteps. There was a trace of a smile on his lips, partially hidden by a grey beard.
“Oh no, this isn't happening. I'm not doing this. I don’t want to speak to him. I have nothing to say,” I said, backing away a couple of steps.
“You’re a slave, Emma, so you don’t have a say in the matter,” remarked Brinn casually as he placed a hand on my shoulder. “You will remain here and speak to Marcellus until he is done talking to you.”
I shot Brinn a furious glance and he responded by taking hold of my hair and pulling my head back until I was forced to gaze up at him with a more obedient look. “Sometimes I allow moments of petulance from you, Emma. Tonight is not one of those times. You will do as I say, or suffer the consequences.”
“Yes, Master…” There was an edge to his voice that I knew very well. I did not push my luck when he sounded like that.
“Good. I will leave the two of you alone. Join me for paga later, Marcellus,” said Brinn as he left the chamber.
“So…” Marcellus steepled his fingers as he sat beside the fire. I in turn balled my hands into fists and stood there, until three deep breaths later I managed to suppress my rising anger. I looked at him demurely as a slave-girl would look at a Master, and I said, “would you like me to serve paga, Master?”
“Perhaps you would like me to dance for you?” I struck an enticing pose, presenting myself as a trained dancer would before a man, with my left leg stretched slightly, toes pointed downwards to the floor.
“I do not want you to dance, Eric.”
“My name is Emma,” I said. “I’m Emma! Eric is gone. What do you want here?”
“I’m dying Emma.”
“Obviously not quickly enough,” I snapped, and immediately hated myself for saying that when I saw the look of pained resignation on my father’s face as he heard the words. “I’m sorry… I didn’t mean that. That was cruel of me...”
Marcellus waved the words away with his right hand. “I deserve that I suppose. You know you can speak freely here… Emma.” My name sounded strange coming from his mouth. Did he really see me as a girl, even though I was physically of the female sex?
“I thought you died in Elysium. Has Brinn always known you were alive?” I asked.
“Yes. He wanted to tell you, but I asked him to withhold that information from you. I didn’t think you really wanted to know I survived, and from your reaction tonight I was probably right in assuming that.”
“Then I ask again, why are you here now? What has changed?”
“I want to see my grandchildren, Emma. I want to hold them and marvel at what you have created. I have perhaps a year left before I die. The physicians cannot prevent the deterioration of my cellular structure from the stabilisation serum, but they have managed to slow it down, and they have provided me with an elixir that gives me temporary strength so that I can function. I have to take it daily, and the effects last for maybe eight hours at a time, after which I am more or less bed ridden.”
“I’m sorry.” I crossed my arms and lowered my head as I said that. “I don’t truly want you to suffer.”
“Thank you. There’s something else, Emma. I am determined not to die in my bed like some feeble cripple. While the elixir gives me strength, I intend to sing my death song on the Thassa, and to that end I have sold my holdings in Port Kar, bought a ship and assembled a crew. It is my intention to sail south, much further south than Goreans normally sail. I wish to explore what lies beyond the jungles of Schendi. I wish to make one last mark on the parchment of life. This is therefore the final time we will ever see one another. Maybe I will even run into this self-proclaimed 'Ubara of the Black Coast' during my travels. That would be amusing.”
“Dad…” I began to cry softly, shedding tears despite my decades of hating him. “Why did you leave us? How could you have done that? How could you abandon your children?”
There was silence in the room for a while, except for the crackling of the fire.
“Brinn told me what you did with my ring, the ring of red burnished metal. You gave it to your friend and allowed her to return to Earth in your place,” said Marcellus as he seemed to ignore my question. “On the face of it, an altruistic act that speaks of the love you had for Rachel. But that’s not the real reason, is it, Emma?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You didn’t want to return to Earth, did you? You are like me in that respect, though for very different reasons. You didn’t want to return to that polluted, sick world when you had the alternative of a life on Gor – a vibrant world that celebrates life and allows you to be who you actually are. You were given the chance of freedom and that scared you because deep down you are a slave and you want to remain a slave.”
“That’s the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard you say. You think I want this?” I touched my collar and glared at him.
“Yes, actually, I do. Brinn tells me how sexual you are these days, how you crave domination in his bed chamber, how you crave bondage, how you beg for sex. I don’t understand why you want to be a slave, but then I don’t understand why you want to be a girl either, but obviously you do. Perhaps I’m at fault for leaving you without a father all those years ago. Maybe that’s the guilt I have to carry to my grave, that I did this to you – robbed you of you gender, your identity. Maybe I'm responsible for the way you turned out.”
“My identifying as a girl has nothing to do with your role as an absent father! How fucking dare you! You don’t know the first thing about how this works! I should have been born a girl, Dad! It took me a long time to understand that. I blame you for plenty of things, but not that. I’m sorry I didn’t turn out to be the mighty Gorean son you wanted. No, fuck that – I’m not sorry at all. Why should I apologise for who I am really? I’m a girl, Dad! I know I’m a girl! And the Kurii gave me the body to match. Being a girl is not a consolation prize – something that’s inferior to being male. I’m not a victim here. This is the one good thing that came out of my abduction.”
“Then I’m happy for you. I may not understand any of this, but I can take consolation in your happiness. No father wants their child to live a depressed and miserable life. If you can only be happy as Emma, then I would rather you be Emma. But you are of the slave sex, Emma. It comes with the territory.”
“I have a strong sex drive. So what?”
“But it’s not just a sex drive, is it, Emma? You fantasise about being dominated, being tied up, being forced. You can lie to me but you can’t lie to yourself. You fear freedom, even while you day dream about it. If you were suddenly freed today, would you truly be happy? I think not.”
“Try me and find out.” I crossed my arms and stared at him.
“I could send you home, you know?” Marcellus looked amused by my stunned reaction. “Oh yes. I could petition the Priest Kings for a favour, after all I have done for them over the years. Perhaps they might agree to give you a place on one of their silver ships on a return voyage to Earth? It would be a one way trip of course, no coming back.”
“You…” I didn’t know what to say. “You could send me back to Earth?”
“I think so. Quite possibly.”
“You’ll do this?” I felt weak in the knees, a mixture of emotions flooding through me. I was being offered a return to Earth? I would be a free woman on Earth? I would see my sister, my brother, my mother again? And Rachel? Was Rachel still alive?
“I will not actually do it of course.”
“You are unbelievable! You are fucking unbelievable, Dad! You come here when I’m happy thinking you died heroically fighting the Kur, and then you tell me it’s in your power to send me home, and then you tell me you won’t do it? What sort of shit parent are you?”
“I won’t do it Emma for three reasons. Firstly, you’re happy here. Don’t pretend you’re not. You’ve been happy since Skaffel Peak. Brinn writes to me and tells me about you, even when I told him not to. Because I knew that if he kept writing to me, telling me of your life, I’d eventually come out of hiding to see you again, and I didn’t want to cause you further pain. I know when a child doesn’t want to see its father. And I can understand why you feel that way. So I didn’t want to hear about your life, but I had to read what Brinn sent every three months. And what he wrote tells me one thing – you’re happy here.”
I paced about the room, furious. I felt like knocking things over. I felt like throwing a bottle at a wall. But was it true? Was it actually true? Did I have any real complaints about my life these last couple of years since we had come here? Would I honestly be any happier living in a one bedroom flat in London, working nine hours a day for some soulless job I hated? What exactly was so bad about my life now? Was I truly any less free with a brand and a collar in Brinn’s estate? What didn’t I have as a slave that I wanted enough in order to sacrifice the good things I had now?
“Tell me you’re unhappy, Emma. Tell me you hate your life.”
“Fuck you, Dad. Fuck you.”
Marcellus smiled. “Secondly, I’d have to take you from Brinn by force. He wouldn’t allow that. I’m not even sure I could if I tried. I would have to come with many men, and these days the truth is Brinn has more men than I do. And it would be dishonourable. Maybe I would do it if I thought you were suffering. But are you suffering, Emma? Are you?”
I didn’t say anything. I turned my back and gazed out of the window at the sprawling grounds where a dozen or so male slaves toiled in the gardens below. I had complete power and authority over them as First Girl. I was a powerful slave here.
“You said three things.”
Marcellus nodded. “And then there is the matter of your children: Marik and Jacinta. They would not be permitted to come with you to Earth.”
“I’m not going to abandon my children!” I turned round and glared at Marcellus.
“Of course not. As I said – three things. Your freedom on Earth would be at the price of never seeing your children again. They would grow up without a mother.”
“I see.” That alone was enough to keep me here on Gor. I would never abandon Marik and Jacinta.
“So I am not really that cruel after all.” Marcellus rose from the curule chair and produced a small packet that he he placed on the table. “I give you this out of kindness for you.”
I gazed sideways at the packet with a suspicious and cautious expression. “What is it?”
I sniffed as I picked it up. “The last present you ever gave me was a toy sword when I was about four years old. I would have preferred a Barbie doll.”
“I know that now, Emma. I didn’t understand that then. But this is a present you will appreciate.”
“Okay. Let’s see. “ I tore the paper away and flipped over the first of a handful of glossy A4 photographs within it. “Rachel… baby…” I felt my eyes sparkle with tears again as I gazed at a photo of Rachel laughing, seemingly happy, sitting in a park on what seemed to be a sunny afternoon. She was wearing a strappy sun dress and she had a glass of sparkling white wine in her hand. She was sitting on a blanket on the grass with a picnic hamper beside her, and she was laughing at something another girl had just said. I didn't recognise the girl, but I could tell she was beautiful. Seated with them, with his back to the camera, was a man in a black t-shirt and jeans. He looked army. Something about him looked army. In the background I could see a few other people – young couples, also enjoying a sunny day in the park. “She’s alive? She’s happy?” I looked up at my father with fresh tears staining my cheeks.
“She’s alive,” Marcellus nodded. “And yes, she’s happy enough. She has a new life now in Boston. You gave her that life. I thought you would like to know.”
“Oh God… Rachel, Rachel, baby… I love you so much. I never got the chance to really tell you...”
“The woman seated beside her found her on my request. She used to work for us here on Gor. We sent her home many years ago. Her name is Aurore. I owed you something, Emma. There are some other photos too.”
I turned them over, one at a time, and in each one there was no mistaking that Rachel seemed content. “I miss you so much.” I lifted one of the photos to my mouth and kissed it. And then I suddenly noticed the face of the young army man who had his back to the camera in the first photo. It was Alan, my younger brother.
“This man...” I held the picture up so that Marcellus might see it.
“What of him?”
“You don't know who he is, do you?”
“No, why should I?”
“He's Alan, Dad... your youngest son.”
Marcellus said nothing as he reached for the photo, took it from me, and looked at the son he had not seen since Alan was a new born baby. I could sense the emotion welling up inside his throat when he spoke. “He looks like a warrior.”
“He is, Dad. A Royal Marine. You'd be proud of him, if you'd bothered to be there for him since he was born. He's everything you wanted me to be. A proper son. He can fight.”
“Your friend must have contacted him on your behalf when she returned to Earth. I had no idea. He seems to be looking after her perhaps?”
“You think?” I laughed through the tears. “You don’t know Rachel. She’s probably looking after him.” I wiped my face with the back of my hand. “Thank you. Thank you, Dad.”
“I got her home…” I whispered.
“You got your friend home.” Marcellus crossed the flagstone floor to where a rack of ka-la-na wine bottles were stored horizontally in a wall rack. I watched as he ran his fingers over the wax seals and, recognising a particular bottle from the stamp on the wax, he drew it from the rack. It was a wine of the city of Victoria. I had never tasted it. Marcellus weighed the bottle in his hand for a moment before making up his mind and breaking the wax away with a knife. “Does Brinn ever allow you to drink ka-la-na wine from a glass?”
“Not usually,” I said, “but he has been known to from time to time. He’s a strict Master, but we’ve known each other so long now that he tolerates certain things from me when he feels like it.”
“Love does that I suppose.”
“I’m not sure Brinn actually loves me. I’m not sure Goreans feel that emotion the same way we do.”
“You may be right, but he is very fond of you. You have no idea, Emma. The things he would do to protect you. But don't think of them as so different from us. I consider myself Gorean now, and perhaps one day you will think that of yourself too.”
“I'm not Gorean. I never will be.”
“Time will tell. When I first came to Gor I was appalled by many of the things I found here. Slavery for example. But now I accept slavery as a natural state of being between men and women. These days I believe that it is right for women to be the slaves of strong men.”
I held out my hand, palm first, to indicate 'no'. “I don't want to hear this, dad. I hear enough of it from the men on this estate.”
“As I said, you are the slave sex, Emma. And from what Brinn has told me, you are a natural slave. Most Earth women are.” Marcellus poured two glasses of the rich red wine and passed one of the glasses to me. I took it with my right hand. “I first had this wine in Victoria itself, fifteen years ago. There was a ritual of Free Companionship that I attended. I remember it well. I thought about your mother that night, and how much I loved her. I made sacrifices when I chose to stay on Gor. I wanted her to join me, and I think she would have come had I asked, but I was afraid in those days of what might happen to her if she did.”
“You feared she might be killed or captured by your enemies?”
“No. She would have been safe in the Sardar mountains. I would have made sure of that. No, I was afraid that in time your mother would have gone the way of all Earth girls who come to Gor – she would have discovered an inner slave deep within her belly. She would have changed from the noble Free Woman I knew on Earth. I didn’t want your mother to yearn for slave silks and a collar.”
“I cannot imagine mum as a slave-girl,” I said.
“Of course not. And by leaving her on Earth I spared you all that possibility. In truth, I always thought I would return one day. But the days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months and the months turned into years. I always had that one charge remaining in the ring of burnished red metal, and many nights I would sit in my great curule chair and gaze at it in melancholy reflection. Just knowing that I could one day return on a day of my choosing sucked me into the false belief that I had never truly left you all for good. I’m sorry.” Marcellus sipped the wine and nodded at the memory of the taste. I sipped mine too and found it to my liking. “I’m glad you’re Brinn’s slave, Emma. You could have done a lot worse for yourself.”
And so we talked for another half an hour or so, and then my father said his good byes, kissing me on first the left cheek and then the right.
“You will never see me again, Emma. My final destiny on Gor awaits me.”
But of course he was wrong, I did eventually see him one final time, deep in the jungles of the Black Kingdoms, when he sang his death song with steel in the stone ruins of Kurtz's lost city, in the shadows of the savage and terrible Gods of Gor. But that is another story yet to be told. Destiny and fate it seems are everything.
“You're right, Emma, it's down to us now. With the death of Samos’s men, and Simon’s capture, I’m the highest ranking agent still able to do something,” said Marissa as she knelt at my feet, still whispering.
“Congratulations,” I said sarcastically as I sipped some wine. I reflected that these silver half masks were a rather good idea for Free Women, serving to cover most of the face, but permit drinking and eating without all the inconvenience of continually lifting veil fabric to one side. They could catch on if Gorean society didn't consider the sight of the lips of a Free Woman to be sexually provocative.
“So it is now up to me to prevent these women from slaughtering the Council of Captains tomorrow.”
“And how are you going to do that exactly?”
“I will obviously think of something very soon. I am an agent of Priest Kings and I have been mentored by Samos himself for a number of years. The important thing I wish to stress is that you now take orders directly from me. Do not get carried away with this fabricated pretence that you are a Free Woman and I am a collared slave. You are the slave-girl here, Emma, and you will therefore obey me explicitly.”
“I see what?” she said with a sniff of annoyance.
“I can’t call you Mistress! If someone heard…” I glanced around and noticed how close some of the other silver masked women were to us now. “And keep your voice down. You're supposed to be my slave!”
“You do not speak to me in that tone of voice! Rest assured that when we retire to our chambers tonight I will have you stripped and tied to a slave ring at the foot of the couch. Whether or not I whip you depends very much on how you speak to me before then.”
There was something quite ridiculous about Marissa, clad as she was in a collar and a slave tunic, kneeling at my feet, telling me that I would be tied to a slave ring tonight while she no doubt slept on the couch. I briefly imagined how satisfying it might be to have her gagged and placed in a slave kennel – presumably there were such cages in the dank, musty cellar below – and save myself a lot of this grief, but I suppose any such action on my part would only come back to haunt me if we survived. Neither Samos, nor Brinn, and I suppose not even Simon would tolerate me going beyond what was reasonable to maintain the current pretence. Marissa was essentially correct – she was a Free Woman, and I was a slave. No matter how I might wish otherwise, she was someone I was expected to obey.
“Call me Mistress!” she hissed.
“This isn’t a good idea…” I began but she cut me off in mid flow.
“Your last warning, Emma.”
“Mistress…” I whispered in what I hoped was softly spoken enough that none of the other women could make out the word.
“Good. I am looking forward to leaving this hall and dropping this charade once we are alone for the night. You will have fine wine and an assortment of exquisite delicacies sent to your room which I will partake of while you lie on the tiles at the slave ring. I will undoubtedly formulate a brilliant plan once I am suitably refreshed.”
“Yes, Mistress,” I whispered, glancing around once again in fear that someone might be listening.
“Samos will undoubtedly reward me greatly for the shameful things I have had to endure tonight. It is frankly disgraceful the way I have been treated.”
And so on. I tried to zone out from Marissa’s remarks as I needed to watch Elizabeth Bentley in particular. It occurred to me that the best way of ruining her plans would be to steal the Kurii black light globe which she carried still in the net secured to her belt. But I was not very confident that I would be able to do so on my own. Should I take the even greater risk of attempting to free Brinn and Simon first so that they could then take on Elizabeth, or should I gamble on the fact that she seemed impressed with my calmness and lack of fear earlier on and use that advantage to perhaps gain entrance to her chambers where I might find the globe? The only thing I knew for sure was that relying on the Lady Marissa to come up with a plan was tantamount to waving goodbye to the Council of Captains. Not that they were really my concern though. I didn’t know them, and frankly even if I did they would be typical Gorean men who would treat me as an animal. I had grown a little tired of saving an ungrateful Gor from the monsters that seemed to threaten it. But saving Brinn would mean a return to my life with my children, and that was something worth doing.
Or of course I might actually die here. How long could I realistically keep up my pretence as the Free Woman of the Shadow Council? Elizabeth knew my face and I couldn’t remain masked forever. Once she knew who I was I would be as good as dead. I had to free Brinn. Once Brinn was unchained with a sword in his hand, I felt sure he would cut down all manner of threats. I wanted to be with him again, in his arms, I wanted to feel safe and owned. What had I become? Had my father been right all those years ago when he said I truly craved the security of chains and being owned? Perhaps I had changed in the years I had lived on Gor. I was surprisingly uncomfortable in the free flowing robes and gowns of a free woman, and I instinctively felt nervous deceiving the other women that I was one of them. If they knew the truth… I was scared to even think beyond that point. And there was a part of me that screamed out how I should be kneeling now, head down, faced with so many Free Women. The years of being a slave on Gor had it seemed conditioned me.
“Emma? Are you listening to me?” hissed Marissa as she stamped her foot. But I was now gazing in alarm at the silver masked figure of Elizabeth Bentley as she made her way through the throng of adoring acolytes towards me.
“Act slave,” I had time to say to Marissa before Elizabeth was suddenly there before me. I could see tell tale scars not completely covered by her silver half face mask – scars from the acid that had splashed on her skin on Skaffel Peak that night we had fought in the dark. If she knew who I was…
“Lady Rosalita, isn’t it?” asked Elizabeth as she stood now before me. “I noticed you during the time the warriors or Port Kar threatened our council. You alone showed no fear.”
“I try not to,” I said.
“You feel fear, though? Unlike me, you feel fear?”
“Yes I do. I was scared obviously, but I was resolved not to show it. If I was to be seized and enslaved I would at least meet my fate with dignity.” In actual fact I had nothing to fear of course from Simon ordering his men to arrest the entire Shadow Council and put them in chains. There had been a part of me that had feared it couldn’t be that easy, and that fear had come true, but I had not feared the warriors of Port Kar in the slightest. We had been on the same side after all.
“I want you to stand beside me when we enter the Council of Captains tomorrow. I want women I can trust to act with ruthless efficiency.” Now Elizabeth placed a bare hand on my right forearm. “I think there will be a high position for you in the realm of New Tharna in the months to come. I am pleased with what I have seen so far.”
I smiled, visible through my half mask. “We share the same goals. I am proud to serve the cause.”
“Good. I have work to do now, but we shall talk again tomorrow. I have set aside suitable rooms for you for tonight. I will have your slave sent to your rooms to await you later.” Elizabeth glanced down at Marissa who had reluctantly knelt as soon as the woman had joined us.
“I think I shall amuse myself reminding one of your captives who the superior sex is,” I said indicating the chained figure of Brinn who stood watching the various women celebrating their unexpected victory.
“He is the one you took and used for your pleasure earlier this night?” said Elizabeth as she saw I was looking at Brinn.
“Yes. I found him vigorous, pleasing but ultimately compliant, as all men shall soon be.” I continued to act the part of a dominant woman. “I used him well.”
“Good.” Elizabeth watched me closely, and for a moment I was a little scared that my interest in Brinn might be too obvious. There had already been one rescue attempt and the revelation of Marissa as an agent of Samos. It suddenly occurred to me that Elizabeth wasn’t stupid and that she might now be speculating how far Samos’s reach extended.
“He is just a man of course. There will be many men for me to choose form in time, but this one interests me. May I have him chained in my bed chamber?”
“No.” Elizabeth continued to regard me in a way that chilled my blood. “I have other uses for him. I would have hoped that my contrived demonstration earlier tonight would have induced some caution when it comes to that man. He is Brinn of the Sardar, and I do not think he will ever be tamed. Men like him will not have a place in New Tharna.”
“What do you mean?”
“They’re too dangerous, even in chains. You saw how he was. Men like that will not survive our night of the long knives.”
A chill passed through me, but I spoke casually as if I was nothing more but mildly curious. “You intend killing him?”
“But of course. Tomorrow in fact. His death has been eagerly anticipated by one who is close to me.” Again Elizabeth eyed me with curiosity. “I hope you didn’t make any sort of emotional connection with Brinn when you used him in the furs?”
“Of course not.” I waved the thought away. “But it seems a waste.”
“Let me send a silk slave to your chambers, Lady Rosalita. I would not wish you to spend a restless night, fraught with frustrations. We keep a couple of men like that in this house. He will serve you in any way you see fit.”
I glanced over at Brinn knowing he only had hours before Elizabeth was going to kill him. What was I going to do?
“That will not be necessary. But perhaps one last use of the man called Brinn before he is put to death? As I said, he is vigorous.”
Elizabeth said nothing for a few moments. She simply regarded me as if making her mind up about something. A cold shiver of dread ran down my spine. Elizabeth wasn't stupid. Had I overplayed my hand? Was she now suspecting that Samos might still have one active agent at his disposal?
“Go to your chambers, Rosalita. I think we shall speak again in the morning.”