Chapter Eighteen: Ventura Highway
((AUTHOR'S NOTE: if you'd like a 'multi-media' experience to reading this chapter, you can have the song on youtube playing in a separate window as you begin reading: Ventura Highway ))
We were maybe twenty miles or so outside of Monterey, driving along the Pacific Coast Highway in an open top Ford Mustang when one of Rachel’s favourite old songs came on the radio.
And I mean old! I wasn't even born when this came out!
“Now this… this is a tune,” she said as she turned the volume up. It was our first holiday together, a road trip along the west coast of America in search of sunshine, great wine and anonymous motel bedrooms where we could fuck each other’s brains out every night, like Thelma and Louise but without the tragic ending.
Chewing on a piece of grass
Walking down the road
Tell me, how long you gonna stay here Joe?
“You and your 1970s classic rock,” I joked as I began to tap my fingers on the dashboard. I had to admit though... it certainly was a tune.
Some people say...
this town don't look good in snow...
You don't care...
“We had such great music back then,” said Rachel as she drove along the coastline, the wind whipping through our hair. She wore frayed cut off denim shorts and a vintage Fleetwood Mac t-shirt that was probably a size too small for her, but that wasn't a problem as far as I was concerned, because it really showed off the swell of her breasts. I wore a floaty summer dress and loose bangles on my wrists. We were happy. We were deeply in love.
And we were in a fast open topped car!
in the sunshine...
Where the days are longer
The nights are stronger
You're gonna go, I know-o-woah-o-woah-o-woah...
“Oh! Oh now, this bit…” Rachel suddenly grew very excited, “the bit that’s coming up… the chord changes… absolute bliss… any moment now…”
And then just as the chorus kicked in Rachel stepped on the accelerator and timed it perfectly to the shift in the song’s tempo.
'Cause the free wind is blowin' through
And the days surround your daylight
Seasons crying no despair...
Alligator lizards in the air...
I laughed, throwing my arms high in the air, wiggling my fingers, as we sped along the bright blue coastline, me singing “alligator lizards in the air!”
“I haven’t heard this since I was at university,” said Rachel as she eased up on the accelerator again. “Come on, you’ve got to admit this is a tune and a half?”
“Amazing. Why haven’t I ever heard this before?” I placed my hand on her bare thigh and tapped my fingers on her skin to the song, working my way up towards the frayed hem of her cut off shorts until she slapped it away. “I keep forgetting you’re old enough to be my mum.”
“Behave,” she laughed. “I'm driving.”
“We could always pull over onto a quiet side road and we could do obscene things?” I suggested with a sparkle in my eyes. “I know some really obscene things we could do...”
“I bet you do. I want to get to Monterey first,” said Rachel. “I've always wanted to visit Monterey. We'll have lunch there, go for a walk, and then I'll check out whether you're wearing any knickers under that thin summer dress that you've been teasing me with.”
“A nether closure?” I teased some more. “You know slave girls aren't permitted nether closures... we always have to be open and wet and readily available for our beautiful sexy Mistresses...” I leaned close and kissed her neck softly.
“I really am going to crash if you keep this up,” Rachel laughed, as another car sped past us in the opposite direction. The driver was staring at us as he swept past at speed. I gave him a saucy wave.
“But what a way to go,” I said as I leaned back and ran my hands through my hair. “If a ten-ton truck, kills the both of us, to die by your side, well, the pleasure and the privilege is mine...” I sang. I still had a pitch perfect voice, thanks to the Kurii. Ever since returning to Earth from Gor and reuniting with Rachel, the lost love of my life, I had considered possibly a musical career. I not only had the voice, but I also had the looks and the sassy moves.
“That's some modern song I don't know, I suppose?”
“I'm going to teach you to love the Smiths, hippy-girl! About time you find out there's life past 1972. You win the song-off today though. This is sublime...”
You're gonna go, I know-o-woah-o-woah-o-woah...
'Cause the free wind is blowin' through
And the days surround your daylight
Seasons crying no despair...
Alligator lizards in the air...
There were three young lads sitting on a low wall drinking bottles of the weak piss they pass off as beer in the US and they were seriously checking us out as we stepped out of the Mustang to refuel. I couldn’t hear what they were saying to one another, but I guessed the comments related to our appearance. Rachel in her denim hot pants seemed to be attracting considerable attention.
“We have admirers,” I said with a sigh as I leaned against the bonnet. I was showing a fair amount of leg in my floaty summer dress, but in this weather that was to be expected and anyway, compared to how I used to dress when I was on Gor, I was practically modest.
“So they are,” said Rachel with a smile as she placed the hose in the gas tank and watched the fuel gauge climb. “They seem harmless enough. They’re just young lads.”
“I suppose.” I glanced back at them and swept the hair from my eyes. One of the lads raised his beer bottle in a sort of salute to me. I waved back.
“Stop flirting with them,” said Rachel as I now noticed the lad that I kindly waved to getting up from the low wall and, after a couple of knowing glances to his friends began walking towards us across the station forecourt.
“Oh no, now we’ve got company,” I said.
“Easily sorted,” said Rachel as she finished filling our gas tank. “Kiss me. Kiss me like a slave girl kisses.”
“You’re very bad,” I said with a laugh. And then I kissed Rachel in full view of the young men, and it was some kiss. When we came up from air we saw the startled looks on the faces of the lads, all of whom were backing away now, shaking their heads, though no doubt turned on by the sight of us like that.
“Sorry boys,” I said in my most demure voice as I put my arms about Rachel’s waist and gazed shyly at them. “We’re just soooo horny and wet for one another all the time…”
“I am so going to fuck your brains out tonight, Emma,” said Rachel as she watched the lads move on towards the local strip mall.
“Mmm, I’m counting on it.”
“I think there’s a flirty little miss in a sun dress who’s going to have her little wrists handcuffed to the head board tonight.”
I squirmed deliciously against Rachel at the thought of that. “I am really hot just thinking about it,” I said as I kissed her again. “Alligator lizards in the air...” I sang, raising my arms up and wiggling my fingers again. “Hey, look, there’s an ice cream store over there,” I said as I pointed towards the old fashioned diner that had resisted the onset of the modern age. The storefront paint work was peeling away and the view through the window suggested it still had the original wipe clean vinyl seats from the 1960s. “We’re on holiday – we should have ice cream.”
“Pistachio,” said Rachel.
“I would have thought you’d be a Cherry Garcia kind of girl, just because.”
“Cherry Garcia?” said Rachel in surprise. “There’s an ice cream named after…”
“Come on,” I laughed, taking her hand. “Ice cream is on me.”
We sat in one of the side booths gazing out at the mostly vacant parking lot and at the nearby highway where cars cruised past. We ate our ice cream like hyper active teenage girls, marvelling at the huge bucket size proportions of the servings. “We’re going to put on so much weight this holiday,” I said as I scooped out another long spoonful of black cherry and chocolate flavour and slid it seductively into my mouth, acting like it was cock.
“You look happy,” said Rachel as she gazed into my eyes and slid her hand under the Formica wipe clean table to stroke my thigh under the skirt of my dress. Her fingers felt like heaven.
“I am so happy. After all we’ve been through, this is amazing. I love you, Rachel.”
“I know,” Rachel said with a grin.
“Hey! You’re supposed to say it back!” I said with a semi-irritated frown as Rachel continued to look enigmatic on purpose.
“Never doubt it for a moment,” she said. “You’re the one good thing that made my time on Gor worthwhile.” She squeezed my free hand under the table and nodded towards the window. “What do you want to do tonight, other than the obvious when we climb into bed?”
“I want to go out, and I want us to look amazing when we do. Let’s really go full blown sex kittens tonight – full makeup, the works. I want men in Monterey to lust after us and then I want them to realise they can’t have us. I want that power back after all the years on Gor. I want men here to be frustrated they can't have us after all we’ve been through.”
“You just want to get me into a really short skirt and do my makeup, don’t you?” said Rachel with an arched eyebrow.
“Hell, yes. I’m doing your makeup tonight! No excuses! I’ll make you look so sexy you’ll probably want to masturbate in front of a mirror when you see what you look like.”
“Okay. We are on holiday after all. But let’s be careful when we’re out tonight. This isn’t Gor, but it’s still dangerous to tease and frustrate drunken guys too much, especially in the wrong areas of town.”
“Yes, Miss,” I said with a playfully petulant pout. “But I’m still going to make you look like a hot sex kitten. I'm going to dress you in that stretchy purple number with the long sleeves and cut out panel, and just wait until you see what I'll be wearing. It's black, shiny, shows off my belly and ever so revealing...” The main door swung open as I said that and I was momentarily distracted by the sight of two small children racing in ahead of their parents, feverishly excited to get their hands on tubs of ice cream. They must have been six years old, and they looked ever so cute with wide eyes that viewed the sprawling ice cream counter as if it was Christmas. The parents came in at a leisurely pace behind them, watching their kids as they pressed their small faces to the glass surround of the ice cream display.
And then I felt it.
Something wasn’t quite right.
“Wait a minute, where are my children? Where are Marik and Jacinta?”
“Children?” Rachel looked confused as she spooned some more of her ice cream. “You don’t have any children, Emma. You can’t have children. Neither of us can. We were given slave wine on Gor, remember? We’re infertile without the releasing agent.”
“No… no… I have children – two beautiful children… why can’t I visualise their faces? Why can’t I remember what they look like?”
“Hey, calm down, what’s got into you?” said Rachel as she reached over and took my arm. “We’re both suffering from trauma from our time on that fucked up world. These sorts of delusions are to be expected.”
“No… no! I have children! Where are my children? What's happened to them?”
“Emma, calm down.”
“Oh God… please don’t let this be… Rachel, how did I get here?” I felt a sense of nausea suddenly rising in the pit of my stomach.
“We flew here, Emma, London to San Francisco. You were all flirty with that young man at the airport terminal in the hope he would upgrade us, but he didn't, and then you speculated he must have been gay, and we were stuck with that noisy family seated next to us that argued all through the flight remember?”
“No… no, I mean, how did I get here… to Earth? How did I escape Gor?” I stared at Rachel in desperation. “Please… no…”
“I’m afraid so, Emma, I’m sorry,” said Rachel as she simply stood there.
“This is a dream… it’s just a dream… isn't it? And I’m going to wake up in a few minutes?”
“I'm sorry, Emma. Yes. You’re still on the Carcassonne,” said Rachel as her face grew dimmer and harder to see. “You're Simon's slave now. You never escaped Gor. You never will.”
And then I woke up back in my living hell.
I have a love of the sea embedded deep within my soul, and it is possible, I think, that there is something about the ever changing mood of the ocean that instills a passion in me for life. I once promised my beautiful children, Marik and Jacinta, that I would take them on an ocean voyage when they were much older, for I wanted them to experience the wild savage nature of Gor encapsulated in its finest landscape – the endless horizon of the gleaming expanse of the Thassa. I could well imagine Jacinta standing proudly at the prow of a ship in her silken gowns and robes of concealment, the wind whipping through her hair as the ship cut fiercely through the waves, and Marik, standing at her side, ever watchful, with a sword strapped to his waist, ready to protect his sister from any threat she might face.
I miss my children so much.
We sailed on the Carcassonne, which was a typical Gorean merchant ship that carried between three to four sails. The fair weather sail is used for good conditions at sea; tarn sails are hoisted for combat, and storm sails for compensating for vicious cruel weather. If a fourth sail is carried (which the Carcassonne did not) it is a tharlarion sail to aid slow and careful manoeuvring.
Before the ship left the deep water harbour of Port Kar, the captain of the vessel, a man called Olmec, poured an offering of oil, wine and salt into the sea and spoke ritual words of significance to appease both the Priest Kings and the spirit of the Thassa itself. Goreans limited to the First Knowledge are very superstitious, as one might expect from a race where technology has been stunted, and even those Goreans with the Second Knowledge retain an open mind on the subject.
Gorean merchant ships are all constructed in a similar way with the outer planking of the vessel built first as each plank is joined to the one above with hundreds of mortise-and-tenon joints. These are all locked in place with small pegs and then a framework is added to the inside of the vessel to provide additional reinforcement. Although this tends to be a time-consuming method of building ships and boats, it does produce very strong, durable vessels, which bearing in mind the choppy waters of the storm tossed Thassa is rather important to the reliability of maritime trade. This system of construction can produce very large vessels, and in the Port Kar harbour I saw some ships that were over forty metres in length, capable of carrying up to 400 tons of cargo. The Carcassonne on the other hand was nowhere near that scale and measured maybe twenty metres in length with a cargo capacity of 75 tons.
The keel of the Carcassonne was deep and shaped somewhat like a wine glass. It was dual powered, having both sails and banks of oars. In Port Kar most vessels are rowed by Free Men but the ships of Cos still make use of matching rows of male slaves chained to the oars, and so it was with the Carcassonne. They were strong, brutal looking men, with shaven heads for hygiene, probably criminals or men who had surrendered in battle. When I looked at them, they looked back at me with the expression of a carnivore sighting a small flightless bird. I was glad they were securely chained with heavy iron manacles, for I felt sure that none of them had had a woman in a long time, and were they to get their hands on me...
The Carcassonne, like most Gorean merchant shipping, is designed to operate in coastal waters and would not for example strike out far to the west where the waters are more dangerous and land is seldom seen. No one quite knows where the Thassa ends, though there are now tales of lands far to the west that are said to have recently been discovered by the mythical Tarl Cabot. The peoples there are said to be resemble the feudal Japanese culture of ancient Earth.
The ship's rigging used on its square-sail is familiar enough to anyone who has seen pictures of Roman ships from ancient history, consisting of many small rings made from wood, lead or horn, that are hand sewn onto the face of the sail. These rings are called brail rings and they guide a series of lines that can be hauled on from the deck by strong men in order to change the shape of the sail, reduce the size of it in stronger wind and to furl the sail when needed. There is therefore no need for a man to climb the rigging to trim or take in the sails on these kind of vessels.
It is possible for a coastal ship of this size to be operated by a surprisingly small crew of between five or six men if they are experienced sailors. This assumes that you are not operating with oars of course. The Carcassonne had a crew of eleven men in total, and augmented its sail power with twenty four slaves seated in two banks of twelve.
One of the advantages of the square-sail system is it allows a vessel to sail at a steady speed both day and night. In good weather, with a favourable wind granted by the Priest Kings from the side or rear, the Carcassonne might average speeds of between four and six knots. However, if the wind was blowing in the wrong direction then only the most well-maintained ship could perhaps sail against the wind at an angle of no more than sixty or seventy degrees.
The Carcassonne flew a Cosian flag as soon as we left the confines of the Port Kar harbour. Generally speaking there is little love lost between the great maritime powers of Cos and Port Kar, but on Gor, like on Earth, coin is all, and so trade (which after all benefits both powers) is permitted, with the unspoken provision that nothing is done to provoke tension on either side. Olmec was a Cosian man, and as soon as we came on board he assigned Simon an area close to the fore deck which, with a stub of white chalk, he marked out as ours for sleeping on. Simon did not have the resources to pay for a cabin (such things can be expensive on a ship voyage) and he perhaps chose not to spend the money he did have for a space below deck. And so we would sleep on piles of empty sacking under the open skies of Gor. Many poorer travellers do so as well, and it became obvious on the first night that other men and their slaves would be sleeping very close to us. There were maybe eleven men travelling as passengers above deck and possibly half that number again below deck. No one paid for a cabin as far as I could see.
We carried no Free Women aboard, which came as some relief to the Captain, for he believed that Free Women on board a ship brought bad luck.
“That and they always complain about the food and bedding,” he added.
During the day I was permitted to roam the deck and amuse myself in talking to the other slaves or the men who worked the sail cloth and rigging. Men enjoy talking to slave-girls, and pretty as I am, I found no shortage of company on board the Carcassonne. Simon spent a lot of time brooding on what he had done, for it is no small thing to take the chosen love slave from Brinn of the Sardar and turn your back on nearly six years of friendship. I think Simon was now racked with guilt and torment, knowing he had succumbed to his feelings for me to the detriment of his deep friendship with Brinn.
Sometimes, as I walked past the rowing benches that were set below the height of the main deck, a male slave might call out to me.
“What is your name, girl?”
I would stop and gaze down at the man with his powerful upper arms, broad shoulders, and bull like upper body strength, built up from months of rowing hard against the ocean currents, and I would first check that I was well outside of his reach. Typically the manacles on such a man make it impossible for him to reach his hands up to anywhere near the height of the main deck. And then, knowing I was safe from harm, I would look down on him with derision.
“Do not speak to me, slave.”
The man would likely bristle at that, and to my amusement he would try futilely to reach up towards me. How I would laugh and perhaps, having taken a measure of his full reach, kneel down overlooking the oar pit and bring my body closer, to tease him. “Only Free Men may touch me, slave,” I would say, and there would be much struggling and pulling at the chains, and the man, and perhaps the men close to him, would growl in frustration. On one occasion it amused me to bring a small piece of loose silk and, touching it briefly to my breasts where the scent of my slave perfume lingered, I tossed it into the oar pit with a mocking laugh, saying, “here, this is as close to me as you will ever be.” I watched as several of the powerful, bull-like slaves fought to gain the scrap of silk as it fell between their feet.
The sailors would watch this exchange and smile, though when the slaves in the oar pit fought for the scrap of silk, one of the sailors told me not to do such a thing again.
“The slaves might damage one another,” he said, eyeing my supple body all the while. “The Captain would not be pleased.”
I noted the chained black slave who, amongst all the others, had successfully seized the scrap of silk. He really was a brute of a man, much stronger looking than either Brinn or Simon, and the way he looked up at me as he put the silk briefly to his nose to inhale my perfume made me shiver. I walked quickly away and didn't look back at him again.
That first night on board the Carcassonne, Simon chained me by a neck chain to an iron ring set into the wooden plank beside our sack cloth bedding. He had already stripped me of my slave tunic and as I knelt there with the heavy chain draped loosely between my breasts, he gazed with admiration at his property.
“You are mine, Emma. Mine.”
It was true. Brinn had surrendered ownership of me to Simon, bound as he was by his rigid and inflexible caste codes. Brinn had renounced his claim, bitterly as it happened, but without any further recourse to claim me back. Now I belonged to Simon. He could keep me, sell me, kill me, whatever he wished.
I watched as Simon drew his tunic from his body. It was dark on board the ship, but there were some lanterns lit to ensure enough light to peer at one another through the gloom. Simon would compensate for the poor sight by 'seeing me' with his fingers. And he did so – ranging his hands over my body, triggering slave responses in my flesh as he touched vital erogenous zones. Within an ehn or two he had me wet to his touch and had laid me down on to my back. I felt the roughness of the sack cloth against my skin, so different from the soft furs of a Master's couch.
I did not think I was to be kept as a kettle slave after all.
“You are everything to me, Emma. You belong in my collar.” As he spoke, Simon parted my thighs and touched me intimately. I moaned softly and writhed where I lay, casting my hands back, above my head, gripping the collar chain with my fingers, half closing my eyes. “I know what you want now. What you need now. I should have had you sent to my couch many years ago. I wasted so much time thinking of you as a girl from Earth to be respected and cared for with honour and dignity. You're a natural slave, and that's what you will be to me from now on. Please me, Emma,” he said as he took hold of my hair and raised my head up until my mouth was close to his groin. “Please me as you've pleased so many other men in the past.”
And so I did.
I lay, somewhat dishevelled in the rough sacking as the sun rose in the morning. Simon had found some old used canvas that he had thrown over the both of us to shield us from salt spray while we tried to sleep, but sleep didn't come easy for either of us. The sex had helped, for I can sleep soundly after a couple of orgasms, but the sea had been rough that night and even with my natural sea legs I'd felt queasy and sick at times. Simon had left me on three occasions to try and throw up over the side of the rail, but he could never quite force his stomach to vomit, and so he remained unsettled from approximately three in the morning. He had of course used me a few times before then, and it had been fulfilling for both of us. Simon was a lot more experienced with women now, and my distant memory of him as a timid young Earth man with a floppy fringe, who I had to lead into the bedroom, was long gone. I wouldn't say he was Gorean in his use of me, but I was well mastered and he took his pleasure as a man of Gor would. But deep down he was still Simon, and after his first orgasm inside me, he felt a measure of shame.
We lay there on the moving deck, with the sounds of men snoring around us, and Simon momentarily reverted back to his previous type.
“I'm sorry, Emma,” He said as he took hold of me tightly after he had come. “I never meant it to be like this. But I can't help wanting you. You have no idea how it burns inside me. I must have you. I can't live a life where you are in another man's collar.”
I said nothing. What was there to say? I didn't love Simon the way he loved me. I couldn't say the things that he wanted to hear me to say.
And he was now taking me even further away from my children.
“I gave you pleasure too, didn't I?” said Simon, in a way that no Gorean man would ask. “You can't have been faking it. Your writhing and your piteous cries sounded too real.”
And they were real, but it was because my body was by now a finely tuned slave body, trained to perfection to respond to a man's touch. I was in effect a slave to my own feelings.
“Yes, Master, it was pleasurable,” I said as I lay there in his arms, dreaming of home, of the estate, of my children, of the happy years in which I had been First Girl, and when everything had been right in my world.
And I thought of Ventura Highway and an open topped Ford Mustang and stopping for ice cream along the Pacific coast of America.
“I gave you an orgasm? A slave orgasm, like other men have done? Tell me I did.”
There was something slightly pitiful in the way in which he needed to know this had been consensual, at least in so far as I had enjoyed it, even if the matter of choice had been irrelevant to him. “Yes, I experienced a slave orgasm, Master.” I wished he wouldn't ask me such things. I didn't want a conversation along those lines.
“I hope you will grow to love being in my collar, Emma. I will be a good Master to you. I know now what you need in life.”
“You told me I am to be your kettle slave, Master. I am to spend my life scrubbing pots with a wire brush, and I will sleep chained in your kitchen.”
“No! I was... I was angry, bitter, confused... I didn't mean that. You hurt me, Emma. You hurt me. Don't you understand that? Everything I did for you. Everything I felt for you. You will be my silken pleasure slave. You would never have been just a kettle slave to me. I will adorn your limbs with jewels in time and you will be First Girl in my house. One day I will have a large house with grounds, and I will own many girls, but you will be first among them all. I will earn great riches, and you will see what a strong resourceful man your Master will be.”
Words on the wind.
Deep down every man wants his slave-girl to admire him. They may not admit it to themselves, but men are rarely satisfied to simply own a girl. They want to know that the girl desperately loves her collar, that she loves her Master, that she is proud of the man who owns her. I saw that again that night in Simon's responses to me.
It occurred to me then that I might actually have some power over my Master in time.
In the time we had spoken, Simon's penis had grown erect again. I touched it with my fingers and played with it until it was stiff as a rod. He seemed lost in waves of ecstasy as he groaned in response to my touch. Yes, I thought to myself, it is not impossible that one day I might have some power over my Master because deep down he desperately wanted me to love him. I kissed him softly and, as I rolled onto my back, felt him enter me deeply again.
We sailed for the island of Teletus, south of the Tamber Gulf, where Simon had decided we were going to find a new home. Teletus is a merchant controlled exchange island, and like many such places it has a cosmopolitan and largely transient population which means strangers are well tolerated. It also benefits from strict law levels, as opposed to some of the more piratical islands within the maritime area.
“You will like Teletus, Emma,” said Simon as he held me close to him near the port-side rail. One arm was around my waist while the other stroked my hair. “I read about it from the books in Brinn's library. I will find work there as a physician, and soon we will have a house of our own. We will begin a new life in Teletus where it is always warm, like the Southern Mediterranean. You will attend to my house during the day, and share my couch at night.” He kissed me and stroked my bottom while he did so. “You will make me so happy. I love you, Emma. You will find me to be a good Master. I know now that I have to be very strict with you, and so I will be.”
I thought of Chloe, as Simon held me, and where she might be now. Brinn had kept her, and I imagined she was now warming his furs each night as he concluded his business in Port Kar with Samos. Perhaps Chloe would soon become Brinn's favoured slave-girl. Perhaps by the time they returned to the Sardar to reclaim Brinn's estate, Chloe would have worked her way into Brinn's affections, for the journey would be a long one. I imagined them back at the villa soon, with Chloe now promoted to the position of First Girl, carrying my switch, ordering the other girls to line up before her so that she might instruct them with her rules from now on.
Perhaps Brinn would have Chloe raise my children in my absence, for Marik and Jacinta knew her well. Perhaps in time Jacinta and Marik might see her as a surrogate mother.
“You're crying Emma,” said Simon as he looked down at me.
“The wind is in my eyes, Master,” I said as I blinked the tears quickly away.
We made good speed, for it seemed at first that the Priest Kings favoured us with a strong wind. The Captain was in a good mood, sensing a quick journey with profit to be made on the isle of Teletus. He was carrying a consignment of woven cloth and olive oil, along with beams of hardwood in the hold. I liked the Captain, for as the days went by he occasionally presented me with small candies to eat. He would present them on the palm of his hand and I would take them with my teeth, thanking him each time.
I seemed popular amongst the crew, and I relished the attention, though deep down I knew that each passing day took me further and further away from the Sardar.
And then on the fifth day we sighted a black sail.
I have known panic in my time, but never such panic as the minutes that followed the first sighting of the sail of the 'Larl of the Thassa' on the horizon.
“May the Priest Kings preserve us,” said Captain Olmec as he snapped shut the telescopic glass of the builders. “That is Yishana's vessel.” Immediately he began barking orders for the sailors to take hold of the rigging and change course away from the pirate ship that was already moving towards us.
I have never seen men move so fast, with such determination as I did that afternoon. Olmec gazed up at the Cosian flag flying high above the sail mast, and he suddenly looked a picture of despair. “We will be butchered to a man if that she-sleen catches us,” he said to no one in particular. “Ships of Cos are never spared by the Ubara of the Black Coast.”
The slaves at the oars were spurred into action by one of the sailors who began to beat out a fast rowing pace with a kettle drum. I watched as their taut muscles strained at the oars, pulling in unison to the metronome beat. Simon stood beside me now, gazing out over the sea, watching the distinctive pirate vessel as it began to close the distance. It was a Gorean ram ship, a war vessel, and as an hour passed, I could begin to make out that the decks of the ship were crowded with fighting men. They were all, to a man, black skinned, and they wore strips of brightly coloured cloth about their loins. They stood proudly with long oval shields and tall spears and they beat those spears against their shields once they were close enough for the sound to carry.
A Gorean ram ship is a caravel in design, with two to six inch planking, a single mast and a bank of oars. The Larl was maybe a hundred and ten feet long and stood six feet above the water line. This shallow draft means a vessel such as her can be beached upon sand if the need arises. Below the waterline there was an iron shod ram in the shape of a tarn beak that would splinter our beams if it struck hard.
“Askaris,” said Olmec as he took my left wrist and pulled me back from the ship's rail. “Ferocious warriors from the interior of the Black Ubardoms.”
There were maybe seventy to eighty fighting men on that vessel.
“Our only hope is to run,” said Olmec as he drew a sword belt about his waist nevertheless. “If we are rammed, we are dead.”
There was nothing that Simon and I could do but watch as another hour went by, and the Larl of the Thassa grew closer still.
“Couldn't you surrender?” I said to the Captain. But he shook his head.
“The outcome would be the same. That she-sleen has a vicious blood vendetta against Cos. She will not spare us, so we may as well fight.”
For it was now obvious that the Larl of the Thassa was fast. It came towards us with the speed and grace of a hunting shark, cutting through the ocean waves. And now the sound of the beating of shields was very loud. We could all see the Askaris quite clearly, forming a wall of shields before us. And then I saw her. A white skinned woman, though tanned, dark haired, standing on the forecastle of her ship, clad like her men in a simple wrap of scarlet cloth about her hips, her breasts as bare as a slave girl's. She stood proudly, feet apart, with barbaric jewels adorning her wrists and neck as she held a Gorean short bow in her left hand. Two men stood beside her. One was tall, with a shaven head, dressed in black robes with silver lining, and from his facial features I might guess he was of Taharian descent. Smoke billowed from a lit coal brazier that was perched on three iron legs to his left, and as I watched he made some form of incantation, gathered up a handful of powder and cast it onto the coal fire where it flared dramatically in coloured plumes of smoke. The other man was a black skinned Askari, and he held a fist full of arrows for the woman. She took one, placed it to her bow string and then sighted the bow towards our ship. The distance I thought was too great for such a bow, and perhaps she concurred, for she then relaxed the string and lowered it down again.
“Issue weapons to all the men who would have one,” said Olmec in a grave voice, “and then pray to the Priest Kings for succour. For today we sing our death song with steel.”
“Emma, bring me my sword,” said Simon as he considered the possibility that after all he had been through to win me for himself, today was the day he was going to die. I ran quickly on my bare feet to where our meagre belongings lay piled together within the chalk lined parameters of our sleep space. Simon's short sword was there in its scabbard, wrapped in oil skin to protect it from the salt water. I unwrapped the oil skins and lifted the blade, still in its scabbard, and I brought it to Simon. He took it from my hands and gazed down at me. “I am sorry, Emma. I have doomed you.”
“Yes you have,” I said bitterly. For it was true. This was all Simon's doing. Had he not succumbed to his desire for me, even now we would be in Samos's feasting hall, and I would be curled round Brinn's feet, being fed by hand, knowing that within a few days I might be travelling back to see my children.
“Emma, I will do everything I can to protect you,” said Simon as he belted the sword about his waist.
“And then you'll die,” I said, gazing back at the deck full of Askaris who were now close enough for me to make out their burning eyes. “Like everyone here on board this ship is going to die, screaming, as their guts spill out, steaming, on to the wooden deck. You stupid men.”
“That's her,” said Olmec, gazing directly at the tanned woman who stood on the forecastle of the Larl. “That's the she-sleen herself – Yishana, the self-proclaimed Ubara of the Black Coast.”
I saw Yishana lift the bow again, draw back the string, with hardly an expression on her face. She sighted along the length of the arrow and let it loose. It flew across the intervening space between our ships and thumped into our deck, maybe a foot or so away from Olmec. I could see that the arrow was fletched with brightly coloured feathers from some exotic bird, no doubt native to the jungle interior.
“I wish I had a bow,” said Olmec as he spat over the side of the rail.
It was another half an hour before the Larl was in range to begin a ram attack. Now it picked up speed, for I could see other men at its oar bank – free men, not slaves such as we had on board the Carcassonne. They were black, like the Askaris, and they strained hard at the oars to pick up ramming speed.
Most of the men on board had by now taken weapons and they had assembled themselves into a tightly packed line, two ranks deep. I could see that most of them were terrified, for few of them were of the scarlet caste. I think they all knew they were going to die this late afternoon out here on the sparkling green waters of the Thassa, like so many others had done before. Most men fear battle, and I saw several of the men be sick or void their bowels at the thought of what they were about to face. Olmec tried to inspire courage amongst them, and he turned his back on the approaching Larl to shout above the pounding of Askari spears against shields.
“If we are to die, then let us die like men! Let us show them that there is a price to pay for pillaging the Carcassonne. Let us meet them steel upon steel, and sell our lives dearly. Every one of you here is a man, and every one of you shall die as a man, under the watchful gaze of the Priest Kings. May our song of steel be remembered in the after life to come!”
They were good words I think. But then a brightly fletched arrow hit Olmec in the back. The arrow punched through to show its steel tip protruding out from his stomach. He grunted, and then he dropped to his knees, and from there fell face first onto the deck. As I turned my gaze back to the Larl I saw Yishana take another arrow from the Askari by her side. She was still expressionless as she now sighted her aim on the wall of armed men that lined our vessel.
Two men fell with arrows inside them by the time the iron shod ram of the Larl struck and splintered our hull. I was thrown to the deck by the sudden impact, and as I lay there I heard the heavy grappling irons bite into the wood of our ship as Askaris threw them over the port-side rail. And then there were the war cries of eighty or so men as the Askaris leapt from ship to ship, plunging headlong into battle with our own men. I felt hands grasp me and throw me clear of the initial assault. I fell amongst bundles of sail cloth and I span round in my slave collar and red slave tunic as the line of spear carrying Askaris struck the far less confident line of Cosian men. I couldn't see Simon at first, but then I saw him attach himself to the end of our line and he struck out at an Askari shield with his own blade. He was not a warrior, but he had been taught the use of a sword by Brinn of the Sardar, and so here at least he was no worse than any other man on board the Carcassonne.
One thing I knew for certain was I didn’t want to die. I've never been the sort of woman who opts for an 'honourable death' in place of slavery. Life is precious to me, even when it is far from perfect. As the first of the Askaris swarmed over the rail and onto our deck I pulled the thin slave tunic from my body and cast it away. I dropped to my knees between two barrels of rain water, spread my thighs and crossed my wrists behind my head in a display position. I curved my back slightly to accentuate my breasts and I lowered my eyes submissively. I would make myself unmistakable as a luxury prize to be seized and taken as plunder. I would display myself, make myself desirable, make men want to keep me alive. Perhaps even fight to protect me. Even so I trembled for a stray thrust of a weapon might kill me if the battle rolled across the deck to where I knelt with just the two barrels for protection.
And so the butchery began, for that is what it was. The air stank of piss and the metallic scent of freshly spilled blood. I saw a man fall to his knees, clutching a split stomach, trying desperately to stop his entrails from oozing out like raw sausages as an Askari then pushed a spear straight through his back to come out through his front and splinter the wooden deck in front of him. I saw another man struck in the face by an Askari shield, and then as he staggered back, he was speared by two more of these savage warriors, and held in place for a moment like a pin cushion, before they withdrew their spears and looked around for fresh victims.
And then there was a war cry from the throat of a woman, and to my surprise I saw Yishana herself, still clad in nothing more than a strip of red cloth, and golden bangles about her ankles and wrists, run onto the deck, closely followed by two of her strongest Askaris. She carried a spear and an oval shield and seemed determined to fight hand to hand beside her men.
There was no doubting Yishana’s courage as she ran headlong towards the milling crowd of men, screaming some tribal war cry of her people, brandishing the same short stabbing spear and tall oval shield that her Askaris carried into battle. She ran barefoot on to the deck of the Carcassonne and she moved quickly with considerable agility. Women can never compete with Gorean men in terms of strength, but we can be quick and supple. Yishana was able to weave herself around the slower moving heavy set sailors who tried to cut her down with whatever crude weapon they had to hand. I was reminded again of the Panther Girls I had seen in the northern forests, and Tallia in particular. Yishana had some training with the combined spear and shield, that much was apparent, for she knew how to keep the shield in place, using it occasionally to push her opponent back, and to stab forwards with the spear point from behind the protection of the shield. But even so, she ran the risk of being pushed back by a ferocious attack from a stronger man. Except that in her case she was flanked on either side by two of her Askaris, and they protected her as she fought. In a sense they were controlling the number of opponents that could run at Yishana, funnelling them, ensuring she only had to face an opponent head on, and no more than one at a time.
I saw Yishana’s shield catch the downward blow of a heavy stave wielded two handed by one of the men on the Carcassonne, and I saw her turn the shield in a way that Brinn would have acknowledged with an approving nod of his head, turning the stave away from her body in the process, opening the man’s defence to a quick thrust with her spear. It struck flesh, stabbed deep and then quickly withdrew. The man didn’t seem to feel the thrust at first, but then as the wound opened, he staggered a step back.
But the more I watched, the more I began to recognise a reckless incoherent element to her bravery. She was taking risks that a seasoned warrior would never take, and it didn’t seem to make sense. She could die like that, but she didn’t seem to care or even consider the possibility. True, her guardian Askaris were quick to save her from lethal mistakes, and often she didn’t even seem to recognise they were doing so. I saw a sailor thrust at her head with a ship board cutlass when she exposed herself briefly, only for the Askari to her right to deflect the blow with his own spear tip, effectively sweeping the man’s blade up and away from Yishana. Interestingly the Askari didn’t then complete the kill as he could possibly have done. It was as if the kill had to be reserved for this barefoot savage woman who screamed as she fought.
And then I saw the dilated pupils of her eyes and it became clear to me that Yishana, the Ubara of the Black Coast, was high on some powerful narcotic. It would be something like amphetamine sulphate or PCP and it instilled in her a fighting spirit and a sense of artificial bravery that no sane or rational person would consider in other circumstances. She was drugged up with a combat drug and fighting accordingly.
I think the sight of her fighting on deck beside her warriors served to disorientate the defenders of the Carcassonne. I doubt many of them had ever seen a woman fighting before unless they had ventured into the northern forests and even then the Panther Girls would have kept their distance, skirmishing briefly in successive waves with probing attacks, rarely lingering to face men on so called equal terms.
Looking at the faces of the defenders I could see many of them were angry at the audacity of Yishana, how she considered herself the equal of them, and how she then fought on equal terms as a warrior. Women were never accepted into the warrior caste on Gor for it is not a hereditary caste, unlike the other castes. Women can be born to men who are of that caste, and they can free companion into the caste, but they retain their own caste or, in the case of daughters, the original caste of their mother. Women are simply not considered warriors on Gor. Men consider it an insult if a woman presumes as much for herself. And so I saw a few of the men act irrationally by trying to reach Yishana and teach her the error of her ways, and in their rage they surrendered the defensive options they might otherwise employ in their urgent haste to bring down this audacious woman. Perhaps that was the point of her fighting like this – to provide bait that might break the discipline of more seasoned fighters on board the Carcassonne, for men can act irrationally when they feel their honour or the natural order of things is threatened.
And also I suppose for any woman to lead men on board a pirate ship, she would have to seem worthy of such a position or else her own men would simply depose her. It still seemed remarkable that Yishana could command men like this. I had only ever heard of Tarna doing so – the desert chieftain who supposedly commanded Tahari raiders – and in her case she only held the position because behind the scenes the Kurii supported her position and authority to their own ends.
The simple fact is, men on Gor feel uneasy taking orders from a woman. They will do so for pay, or for the ruler of a city, for some cities are ruled by a Ubara or a Tatrix, but it never feels natural to men, and often the woman in question only holds her authority with their tacit approval – approval that could be withdrawn at any time.
As I have often said, it is not easy being a woman on Gor.
What was Yishana’s secret? How could she lead men like this? For her Askaris were undoubtedly of the warrior caste, whether or not they observed the strict caste conventions of northern and central Gor. They were to a man strong, fierce, and savage in their fighting skills. If they came from the black interior east of Schendi then their customs and beliefs would differ from the Gor I knew by now, but they would be Gorean nonetheless. I have mentioned before that there is little to no racism on Gor. The colour of a man’s skin means precious little to the average Gorean, over and above the fact that he is often suspicious of strangers from other cities, but that has nothing to do with race or skin colour. It simply resembles London being suspicious of Manchester. And these would be hand picked men – the best warriors from the jungle interior – the smartest, quickest, the ones with a sense of adventure and a thirst for pillage and plunder. There is limited room on a pirate ship, and if the reputation of the Larl of the Thassa was to be believed then Yishana’s crew would be among the very best pirates to sail the open sea.
The pirate queen’s flanking guards allowed her to duel with a man of the builder’s caste as he tried to force her back to the ship board rail by the sheer strength of his blows. He swung a hammer and pounded at Yishana’s shield until I thought it would surely break. The woman was being forced back repeatedly, and at any time either one of the Askaris could have ended the fight by spearing the man in the side of his body, but they chose not to do so. Nevertheless they watched his movements and seemed ready to intervene if for example Yishana suddenly lost her shield. I couldn’t hear what the man was saying, but he seemed to be screaming insults at Yishana, no doubt because she dared to wear the scarlet breach cloth of an Askari, and dared to stand before a man with a spear in opposition to him. Yishana thought nothing of this, for she was fighting like a Valkyrie now, stabbing at his chest and throat whenever an opening presented itself. And then the man split the animal hide and the wooden boards that made up Yishana’s shield, but in doing so his weapon was momentarily trapped between the boards and in that moment Yishana lunged forward and pierced his chest with her spear tip. She drove the shaft forward with all her strength, screaming something as the metal shod tip sunk deep into the man's body and he slumped forward, the weight of his dying body dragging down her weapon arm in the process. Quickly now the two Askaris closed in around Yishana, knowing that her weapon was trapped and her shield was splintered. Like a carapace closing around the delicate wings of a beetle, they did not permit any further men on the Carcassonne to approach their Captain until she had extricated her spear and cast aside her splintered shield. She stooped, panting from the exertion of battle, her eyes wild, as she picked up a fallen shield from one of the few Askaris who had been wounded so far. As she thrust her left arm through the leather straps of the shield, her eyes glanced across the blood stained deck and locked briefly on the sight of me, a terrified slave girl, naked and beautifully desirable in her collar. Remarkably she paused, staring at me for several seconds and then she seemed to snap out of her momentary trance, jump back on to her feet and the carapace of Askari shields parted to permit her to fight once more.
I screamed as an Askari saw me for the first time as I knelt beside the rain barrels and the packed bales of sail canvas. As he raised his spear towards me I adopted the universal binding position with my arms extended, wrists crossed before me.
“La Kajira, Master! La Kajira! I am yours!”
The spear point hovered closed to my throat, but then with a snarl, the young man withdrew it and instead, motioned me to my belly. I complied quickly, not wishing to be killed, and within moments the young Askari had taken my wrists behind my back and had tightly bound them with fibre. It was a risky thing to do during an ongoing battle, but I think the honour of seizing a slave-girl was too much of a temptation, and besides, the battle itself was winding down now.
Only a few isolated groups of men remained on the deck, surrounded by the Askaris. Most of the bodies that littered the deck of the Carcassonne were white, and only a handful of black bodies bore testament to the resistance they had met. Now, as I struggled to my knees, the hand of the young Askari tight in my hair, I could see that Simon was one of the men who still stood, though he had taken a wound to his right thigh. He was breathing heavily, his tunic stuck to his chest with sweat. I counted seven men in total from our ship still standing.
And then Yishana herself stepped forward, the steel tip of her spear bloodied from where she had impaled a man.
“Those of you who claim the home stone of Cos will die,” she said simply.”Those of you who do not, may submit themselves before me.”
There were angry cries of defiance from a couple of the men, possibly men of Cos, for there are few Gorean men who will forsake their home stone, even if it means their death, but then one of the other men cast aside his sword and knelt on the blood stained deck. An Askari spear touched his throat and, without needing to be told, the man bowed his head before the warrior. There was a clatter of steel as a second man threw down his short sword and knelt in the same way. Simon was the fourth man to kneel. Only two men towards the end remained standing.
One of them – I think his name may have been Arbanus – raised his blade to the Gorean sky and then spat on the deck. “I am of Cos! So be it! Take me if you can, you sleen!”
And they did. He died quickly with several spear thrusts through his torso.
The last man of Cos cast down his sword, weeping, and cried out, “I am of Cos, but I submit! I beg mercy!” Not one of the Askaris moved towards him. Instead, Yishana strode forward, and with the tip of her spear, she lifted his head.
“You are of Cos?” she said.
“I am, but I submit! I am strong, I can pull an oar! Do not kill me! I beg you! I submit to you!” He crossed his wrists for binding.
“Pathetic,” said Yishana as she suddenly thrust her spear tip through the man's throat. He gurgled and choked, coughing up blood as he died. Yishana withdrew her spear and turned to address one of the men who had fought closely beside her. “Free any of the oarsmen who is not sworn to the Home Stone of Cos.” The Askari nodded and set about finding the keys to the shackles of the oar slaves. I saw nine of them being freed and then, with a sinking feeling, I saw the throats of the others being cut while they remained chained to the oars, unable to defend themselves.
One of the men who rose up, freed from his chains, was black skinned, and I saw knotted about his right wrist was a scrap of perfumed slave silk that I had tossed to him many days ago. He grinned as he saw me kneeling on the deck, my wrists bound behind my back.
There was silence now on the deck as Yishana turned to face the five men who knelt before her. Simon was one of them. She gazed down at them as a Mistress might regard slaves.
“Strip yourselves,” she said with a snarl. One by one the men did so, casting off their tunics, until they knelt before this proud, savage, beautiful woman, who carried the war spear and oval shield of a man.
“Does any man here wish to die?” she asked. No one of course volunteered. All the men chose instead to submit. Now her gaze switched to me, and she nodded her head for a couple of the Askaris to pick me up and place me down beside the men. To my surprise Yishana ran her fingers over my breasts. She laughed when she saw the shock reflected in my face. And then she turned her attention to Simon. He was shielding his sexual organs with his hands as he knelt there, but with the tip of her spear Yishana moved his hands away. She smiled as she looked down at his cock. It looked smaller than usual, probably shrivelled with fear. Simon didn't look proud, defiant and masterful any more. He was once more the terrified young man from Earth that I had comforted at the foot of Skaffel Peak all those many years ago.
He looked scared of Yishana.
He looked pathetic.
“Aren't you the pretty one,” she said as she regarded Simon, kneeling before her, stripped naked, exposed. I could sense how frightened and out of his depth he was now. Intimidated by this powerful looking woman, he lowered his head before her gaze. “I think you'll make a fine silk slave once you're taught to pleasure a Free Woman. What is your name?”
“Simon.” His voice sounded very nervous indeed.
Yishana touched the spear point to his throat in warning. “Your name is whatever I give you, male. Maybe I will give you a pretty slave-girl's name? Would you like that, male?” She laughed, the pupils of her eyes still dilated by whatever drug was coursing through her veins. “My name is Yishana al Ghul, Stormbringer, chosen Avatar of Nakeisha wind-rider, Scourge of Cos, She-Sleen of the Black Ubardoms, Captain of the Larl of the Thassa, and Ubara of the Black Coast. I rule these waters.” She addressed us all now, but Simon and myself in particular it seemed. “But you will learn to call me Mistress. Welcome to my chain coffle... pretty little slaves.”
“You are all mine now.”
The end of Shadows of Gor, but Emma and Simon will return in late 2018 in the fifth novel in the Emma of Gor series, 'Ubara of Gor' – a tale that stretches from adventure on the high seas to the perils of the tropical Black Coast and the trail to a forbidden lost city deep in the steaming jungles where the Gods of Gor dwell.