Monday, 5 February 2018

Shadows of Gor Chapter Fifteen (of Eighteen)

Chapter Fifteen - The Ninth Wave

I awoke naked on the grass, feeling numb and cold in equal measure. Slowly, as if time had contracted to a slow crawl, I lifted my heavy body as far as I could manage on my hands and knees. I felt incredibly weak still from whatever drug had been injected into my neck after Elizabeth had stunned me with a blow to my head. My vision was blurred and disorientated from dozens of flaring light sources that slowly focussed into hand held flaming torches carried by the silver masked women of the Shadow Council. They were out in force in the early hours of the morning, forming a semi-circle of sorts on the sloping ground to the rear of the house. I had no way of knowing for sure, but I felt this must be an hour or so preceding dawn, when night slowly gives way to morning. There was no way I could stand – I simply wasn’t strong enough and my muscles seemed to strain with just the effort of raising myself onto my knees. I had to support myself in a kneeling position with both hands palms down in the grass for fear of my spinning head sending me reeling off balance and falling face first again.

“Welcome back, Emma,” said Elizabeth from somewhere to my right. “I know you probably wanted a comfortable lie in this morning, but we have a busy day ahead of us.”

I was vaguely aware of my clothes lying in shreds around me where they had been cut with a knife from my body. Incongruously I still wore my sequinned slippers, but the garments themselves were gone. The fact that I did feel cold suggested feeling was restoring itself to my nervous system, and that had to be good news of sorts.

“Elizabeth…” I found it hard to say anything more than that simple word.

“This is your opportunity now Emma to tell me I’ll never get away with this, whatever this happens to be. Oh, and don’t forget to tell me that I’ll never make you talk. What did the villain say in Goldfinger? I don’t want you to talk, Mr Bond, I just want you to die…”

A pair of slippered feet walked round in front of me from my right. The swish of the long gown seemed familiar in the torch light. This had to be Elizabeth.

“I’m assuming it’s no coincidence you’re here, Emma. I can’t believe you just happened to be in Port Kar and just happened to take the place of one of the silver masks. You work for Samos, yes? It should come as no surprise really after you won the day at Fell’s Bane.”

“I… don’t…”

“You don’t what? Don’t work for Samos? He gave you your freedom, yes? He freed you in exchange for your service I suppose.”

Of course it was an easy mistake to make. I was not collared, and I had been dressed as a Free Woman, despite my brand. The logical conclusion for Elizabeth to make as that I had been freed five years ago for saving Gor. How little Elizabeth understood Gorean men then. She had no idea I was still a slave.

“But once a slave always a slave, Emma. Do you lie awake at night with your new freedom, longing still for the touch of a man who can master you? Do you dream of chains that you no longer wear, of orgasms that you no longer receive? Do you hate your freedom?”

Let her talk – she seemed to like doing so, and with every sentence spilling from her lips I was regaining a little more feeling to my limbs and a little more sharpness to my sight. I could count twenty or so silver masked women now, each one holding a burning torch that smoked and flickered in the sea breeze.

“Samos knows I’m here,” I said, hoping that might alarm Elizabeth.

“Oh yes, Goldfinger again, Emma. Kill me and they’ll send Double O Eight. Well Mr Bond, I trust he’ll have more success than you did.”

I’ve never actually seen Goldfinger, so I had no idea what Elizabeth was actually going on about. Presumably some interrogation scene.

“I want you to see something, Emma. I want to see what you have created.” Elizabeth motioned for two of the women to bring their smoking torches closer to illuminate her face. Then, with only a moment’s hesitation she undid the ribbons at the back of her head securing the silver half face mask. With the ribbons untied she slipped the mask from her face and for the second time tonight I gazed at her hideous scars. The effect on the other women was pronounced for a number of them seemed to flinch. Presumably they had never actually seen the extent of her disfigurement before if Elizabeth’s reaction to the Kur’s words earlier had anything to go by. But something had changed. Perhaps it was the fact she had captured me, but now she seemed capable of not only revealing her disfigurement, but actively showing it off. “You made a monster, Emma. A monster.”

“You were already a monster, Elizabeth.” The words sounded slurred as if I was punch drunk, but at least I was now able to form sentences.

“I would rather be a monster than a victim. Look on your work, Emma, and despair.”

“I’m sorry for your disfigurement, Elizabeth. But you were the one who brought an acid weapon to Skaffel Peak. All I did was try to survive.” I began to grow very afraid. The thought occurred to me that if Elizabeth wanted revenge she might decide to disfigure me in return and that I couldn’t live with. I fear disfigurement and being hideously ugly more than I fear dying. If Elizabeth chose to splash acid in my face in revenge, I would not be able to carry on living.

“Do you know what monsters do to their creators?” Elizabeth replaced the mask and retied the ribbons. “Do you know what happened to Victor Frankenstein in the end when his monster sought revenge?”

“I thought you dead, Elizabeth. You fell into the river. It was a long drop.”

“Yes it was. Perhaps hate drove me to live. I was washed far down stream, far from the exclusion zone perimeter that the Priest Kings set up in the wake of your victory when they cauterised the area of any signs of Kurii technology.”

Cauterised isn’t quite the right term. The Priest Kings have mastered gravitational weapons that can disrupt the forces that bind molecules together. I saw one such weapon in action that morning when the Kurii drop ship fell apart into fine powder before my eyes. A silver ship had hovered overhead and a cone tipped weapon had repelled the molecular structure apart. It is my understanding that they can do this on pretty much any scale they choose. Little wonder then that the Kurii are cautious when it comes to launching an all out assault on Gor.

“I spent two days on my own, delirious with pain, freezing cold, hungry, wandering the bleak forests around Skaffel Peak until I found my way eventually to a pre-designated shelter. We had several in the area – fall back points to which we could retreat in the event of any disaster befalling us. When I arrived I found I was not alone. Kratoa, the great Kur that you saw earlier tonight, he was wounded and lay on the floor inside the underground bunker. Despite my own injures, I dressed and tended his wounds before seeing to myself.”

“Very noble of you, Elizabeth.”

“We needed each other. I knew that. Charity and pity didn’t come into it. We had lost which meant we had failed, and we could expect nothing but death from either our losing side or the winning side to which Kurgus belonged. Kratoa could not walk the surface of Gor easily in his form, and I could not survive easily as a semi-naked woman and so we needed one another. I nursed Kratoa back to health and proposed we helped one another. He would defend me and I would provide him with the deception that he was some sot of trained beast that belonged to me. Together we might travel with relative impunity when alone we would be subject to death or enslavement. And now I work to change Gorean society and claim the brihtright of my sex. Others do too, if these recent tales of a savage Ubara of the Black Coast plundering Cosian ships on the Thassa are to be believed.”

I guessed Gorean men would attempt to kill the Kur on sight assuming it was some wild savage beast that might prove dangerous. And Elizabeth as an unescorted, unarmed, semi-naked woman would fall prey to any man she met in the wilderness. Disfigured as she was she would hardly be kept as a pleasure slave, but she could still be sold to work in a mill or farm land. I could therefore understand the necessity of woman and Kur forming a mutual alliance together. It also explained how Elizabeth was in a position of strength to effectively take over the conspiracy of Tharna women when she encountered it. Having a savage Kur by your side as an enforcer helps lend weight to your words.

“I believe this is yours,” said Elizabeth as she motioned for two of the women to bring Marissa forward. Marissa stumbled on a stone as she was led over on a chain leash. She still wore her scandalously short slave tunic, which was now more than I wore. Her hands were braceleted behind her back and as she caught sight of me she screamed.

“Marissa, it’s going to be okay,” I said without any conviction, for it seemed like the stupidly confident kind of thing to say when someone depending on you screams hysterically.

“Actually Marissa,” said Elizabeth in a mischievous voice, “Emma is lying. It’s really not gong to be okay. It’s actually going to be very, very bad.”

“Please…” Marissa was forced to her knees close to where I crouched.

“You might want to drink this to keep you warm.” Elizabeth produced a flask of strong spirits and dropped it to the grass beside my knees. I stared at it without saying anything. My head was beginning to clear at last and I felt comfortable kneeling before the women. Probably in five minutes or so I would be good enough to rise to my feet and walk slowly. “It’s a bit early for drinking,” I said, though she was right, it was cold.

“You’ll be colder soon, Emma.” She motioned with her hand and I felt myself being lifted up by some of the women. I didn’t bother to struggle as they pulled me over towards Marissa. We were placed facing one another, our breasts touching, and then my hands were taken round Marissa’s body and tied together behind her back. Then, once they had freed Marissa’s hands, they were drawn around my body and tied in place We were locked in a very intimate embrace, our lips close enough to kiss. 

“So pretty,” said Elizabeth. Now we were further secured with a rope and leather harness arrangement that bound our torsos together until only our legs were free.We were made to stand up with aid from several pairs of hands. I felt Marissa’s heart beating furiously against my breasts and I suspected she could feel the same from me.

“What is this, Elizabeth? Are you hoping we'll fuck each other to death or something? I’m not really sure that’s going to happen…”

“You’re so funny, Emma. I do have some respect for you. You should know that. I do.”

“I’ll add that to my slave-girl references in future. Psychopathic bitches give me an eight out of ten and recommend buying me.”

I could feel Marissa’s body trembling against mine and not simply from the cold.

“I want you to know that I’m going to kill Brinn and Simon,” said Elizabeth as she circled our bound bodies. “I’ve given it some thought and I’ve decided that Brinn is simply too dangerous to let live. Kratoa wants to eat him anyway, so I’ll offer him up in an hour’s time. For breakfast...”

“And Simon?”

“I did consider keeping him as a silk slave. I think he’d make a rather good one, but to be honest I’m going to be too busy in the coming months once the Council is slaughtered this afternoon. I’ll feed him to Kratoa too.”

“Why have you tied us up if you’re simply going to kill us?” it seemed a waste of time and effort.

“Because I’m not going to give you a simple clean death, Emma. You did mutilate me after all. Some sort of revenge is called for. It is the Kur way.”

“Do you really think you’re a Kur, Elizabeth? Are you really that self-delusional? You’re just a girl when everything comes down to it. You’re not strong, you just happen to be damaged enough to not understand when to be scared.”

“Words.” Elizabeth stepped forward and ran a hand down left side of my face. “Words mean little now, Emma of London. Time for you to greet the dawn rise.”

I still didn’t understand. Was I supposed to turn to dust when the sun came up? Although my wrists were tightly bound together and tied to the torso harness that held Marissa and I so closely that we could practically be having intercourse, I tried moving my fingers in the hope of working loose a knot, but it was impossible to reach any of them. The ties were typically Gorean in efficiency.

“Are you sure you don’t want a drink of the whisky, Emma? It’ll keep you warm. You might last another ten minutes that way.” Elizabeth picked up the flask and waved it towards us.

“It’s not that cold, Elizabeth. And Marissa is quite snug and warm like this.” I don’t know why I was pretending to be brave while my heart was racing like a deer caught in the headlights of an incoming car.

Marissa and I were seized by a number of the Tharna women and dragged along the ground towards the wooden wharf at the rear of the house. We were harnessed together in addition to having our arms about each other and secured there. Only our legs were free, but stumbling as we did, we remained off balance and unable to walk. As we neared the wooden wharf jetty, Elizabeth signalled for the women to stop. I was close enough to hear the cold water of the Thassa lapping against the wooden supports as I lay on my side facing Marissa. I felt very cold now, despite the warmth of her body pressed against mine.

It was when the Tharna women began to fasten floatation bags to our harness tether that I began to really grow alarmed. These were animal skins filled with air and they were sufficient to keep us afloat.

“No…” I began to cry as realisation dawned on what Elizabeth had planned for us.

“I did offer you the alcohol to keep you warm,” said Elizabeth as we were now dragged screaming towards the side of the jetty. Dawn was still a couple of hours away and the sky was grim and dark, as was the water ebbing and flowing just a few yards away.

“The tidal waves flow out from this lagoon and they will drag you both further out to sea,” said Elizabeth, her voice tinged with satisfaction. “It’s possible the exposure will eventually kill you, but more likely as you are pulled further out to sea, aquatic tharlarion will sense your thrashing and will come to investigate. No doubt the first exploratory bites will tear chunks of flesh from your hips and legs, but the wounds will not be sufficient to immediately kill you. A succession of further bites obviously will, especially once your blood begins to spread in the water.”

“Please just kill me quickly,” I said, knowing I had no way out of this. I was tightly bound, facing Marissa, and she was now in as deep a shock as I was.

“You disfigured me, Emma. I was beautiful beyond words, and you destroyed my face. There will not be an easy death for you or your slave-girl. No easy death for the girl who did this to my face.” We were dragged now to the very edge of the jetty and I could feel Marissa struggling in the leather harness that bound her upper body to mine. The floatation pads lay around us, tethered to our waists and to the lower backs of the harness. With these in place we would not sink or drown, we’d live long enough to be carried out into the estuary, out into the freezing waters of the Thassa.

“I beg mercy Mistress,” I said, and I meant it. 

“Mistress…” sneered Elizabeth as she looked down at me. “Such a slave. But your plea means nothing to me. Save your breath.”

And if I was now terrified, that was as nothing compared with Marissa who was unable to swim and feared deep water accordingly. She was already hyper ventilating as we lay close to the water’s edge.

“Stay calm,” I said as I pressed my face to hers. “Stay clam.”

“I can’t go in the water again!” she screamed, her body twisting and pulling futilely in the leather harness that held us together. She was entering a state of total panic and shock and it would only get worse once we were plunged into the water of the lagoon. I understood only too well how she might be feeling now, for I had experienced similar feelings from claustrophobia ever since my incarceration in the prison hole in Banu Hashim. Deep water affected Marissa the same way that a close confined space would affect me.

“Mistress, please,” I said again, “spare us and I will tell you anything you want to know!”

“I don’t need to know anything from you, Emma. Good bye.” And then she kicked us over the edge. I felt a light headed sensation as I dropped like a stone with barely a moment’s grace to consider what was going to happen next. Marissa and I plunged deep into the cold, brutal water of the lagoon, and I automatically held my breath, knowing that we would sink only a few yards before the flotation sacks would bring us both back to the surface. Moments later our heads resurfaced and I felt Marissa shaking and screaming, pressed against my chest. She had taken in some water I think as she was choking and coughing now.

“Breathe, Marissa, and keep your head up out of the water,” I said as we bobbed up and down, lurching first to one side and then to the other due to the unequal distribution of our weight. Marissa’s thrashing in panic wasn’t helping us float smoothly, and before I could do anything about it I was twice overturned in the water, sinking my head beneath the surface. I could cope with this, but when it was Marissa’s turn to be bobbed under, her panic grew even worse. We had to keep ourselves stable, or else we’d be going under alternately while being dragged out to sea. Already the jetty wharf seemed a good fifteen yards away as the powerful tidal surge drew us further out from the lagoon island on which the Tharna house was built.

Marissa continued to scream hysterically, but she was beginning to cope with each dunking from the uncoordinated movements as we struggled to stay upright. “Breathe! Just breathe and try to remain calm,” I said before the twisting and turning and the force of the waves pushed me over under the surface of the water again. I rose up moments later, shaking my head. The water was absolutely freezing and to add to my troubles I was now shaking with the cold. My body was going into initial shock from being thrust naked into such a low temperature. I had no idea how long it might take for the human body to shut down due to extreme exposure in the ocean, but I suspected that would be the least of my concerns. Gorean waters contain a larger array of predators than the waters of Earth. Within the canals of Port Kar the most immediate threat would be water born urts – rat like creatures who fed on rotting garbage and the occasional dead bodies thrown into the canals to dispose of them. But once dragged further out to sea past the lagoons themselves we would have to contend with aquatic tharlarion – sleek lizard like creatures that could glide through the water like a crocodile.

“I can’t… I can’t…” screamed Marissa in absolute terror. I pressed my mouth to hers and kissed her, the only thing I could do to stem her screaming and to bring her out of her state of shock. It worked, and for a moment she was so stunned by the mouth to mouth contact that the flailing of her legs ceased and we bobbed in the water together, surrounded by the flotation sacks of inflated tarsk skin. When I broke the kiss and pulled my lips an inch or so back from hers, Marissa seemed to be in partial control of herself again.

“Just breathe calmly,” I said again, as I held the small of her back with my tied hands. “We’re not dead yet.”

The terror in her eyes was unnerving to say the least. This had to be one of Marissa’s worst nightmares come to life. And again I could only imagine how I might be reacting now if instead the two of us had been thrust, bound together, into a seep, narrow hole.

“Kiss me,” I said. Marissa looked shocked and surprised, but I repeated myself, “kiss me. It will help.” And so she did. She kissed me and the close contact and lack of sea water getting into her mouth did seem to help. I pressed tightly to her, clutching the small of her back with my bound hands as she did mine, holding one another not just for comfort and security, but also to hold us more steadily in the tidal water. Now we floated in a more controlled fashion, and once we were steady, I tried kicking with my legs to try and steer us towards whatever outcrop of land might be barely visible in the distance. But the tidal surge was stronger than any propulsion I might create.

“Does it help?” I asked.

“Yes!” Marissa kissed me again, her eyes squeezed shut. The warmth and comfort from the kiss blotted out some of the horror she was experiencing. It was as if by clinging to me, pressing herself against my lips, she could shut out the horror of her fear of deep dark water. I pressed kisses now to her throat and to her cheeks and I said soft soothing things I felt her body begin to relax, though like mine it was trembling now from the freezing water. “Breathe. Just breathe, as calmly as you can.”

“I’m so cold… so very cold…” sobbed Marissa as she clung desperately to me. I had very little movement left in my hands, for my bound wrists were in turn then tied to the leather harness we wore, but I tried to massage the small of her back to bring some small measure of feeling back to her body. Realising what I was doing she began to do the same for me, and we rubbed our bodies together as best we could. I opened my legs under the surface of the water and wrapped them about hers, desperate to reduce the numbing effect of the freezing water. Very soon now we might well be grateful for the numbing chill which would reduce the pain of being bitten. “I’m so sorry, Emma. I shouldn’t have treated you the way I did,” said Marissa as she pressed her face to mine again. “I have been so horrible to slaves in my time.”

“You and every other free woman,” I said through chattering teeth. “I’m used to it by now. You’re not the worst, not by far.”

“I wish… I wish we had known each other as Free Women,” she said. “I think I would have liked you as a Free Woman.”

“That has to be the most back handed compliment I’ve had in a long time. Why can’t you just say we could have been friends as we are now?”

“Because you’re a slave, Emma. It changes things. I’m sorry…”

“A Free Woman can’t be friends with a slave then?”

“Of course not. It’s not possible,” said Marissa. I was trying to keep her talking of course, to keep her mind away from the horror of our fate. Talking was good for both of us even if it meant nothing in the long run.

“And if we were both slaves? Could we be friends then?”

“I suppose. Perhaps. Provided we didn’t quarrel or fight over a man.”

“A man like Brinn?” I said as a wave lapped over our heads, soaking us again. Marissa spluttered but managed to control her panic.

“I think we would quarrel over Brinn if we were both slaves,” said Marissa after a while. “I would try and steal him from you.”

“Good luck with that. I’m a trained pleasure slave. You’d be like a lump of firewood in comparison.”

“I would learn! I would find a way! I'm pretty, I think...” That was putting it mildly. Marisa had no idea how sexually delicious she was now that she was collared and in a slave tunic. Men would desire her immmensely.

So much has changed in that respect in the years I’ve been on Gor. My earlier life on Earth sometimes seems like a dream now, a dream in which I seemingly was another person entirely. I make no secret of the fact that I am deeply aroused sexually by strong men, and yet I do not remember feeling that way when I was Eric Anderson of London. I am sure in those days I was sexually attracted to women only, and yet I can’t honestly say any more that that was the case. Had I been in some sort of denial? The past seems mist shrouded and I find it hard to recollect how I actually felt back then. As the years go by I seem to lose more and more connection to my previous life as a man. I can remember facts and details, but I can’t recall feelings. I look back sometimes to the sexual relationships I had in the past with women and I fail to recall any of the emotional intensity I must have felt. What if it was never there? What if I only assumed it was? What if I had never fully understood what I wanted? In contrast my feelings on Gor are imprinted deeply into my mind. I recall the first time that Brinn took me for sex on a woven rug on the sands of the Tahari – I remember vividly every caress of his hands, every sensation, and how alive my body suddenly felt. I had never ever orgasmed the way I had that night. It was wonderful – beyond wonderful even. It was like living your life only seeing things in black and white and then suddenly having the ability to see in colour, and gaining the sense of smell and taste too. And then that let loose the flood gates. I found myself day dreaming more and more about sex and at times the desire would be intensely overwhelming. And gradually I thought less and less of sex with women and more and more of submissive sex with men. I longed to be chained, to be mastered, to be made submissive by strong men. My body would go into vivid raptures if I was fucked hard by Brinn. I began looking at men with complete lust. They were so strong, so magnificent, so virile. I felt weak next to them, and that sense of weakness was a delicious aphrodisiac in itself. I do not remember ever feeling anything like that in my relationships with women when I had been a man. I can’t even recall what my orgasms as a man felt like. Can I be sure I actually ever orgasmed beyond the obvious point of ejaculation? I read once that ejaculation in a man isn’t necessarily a full blown orgasm. Had I perhaps never experienced a real orgasm before coming to Gor? It’s a curious thought.

I am now a woman in every sense of the word, first physically, then emotionally, and then retrospectively in terms of my memories. It is incredible to be a woman. I love my sex, I love the way I look, the way I feel, the way I respond. The Kurii gave me a gift of immense value when they remade me. I suppose I should be grateful to them.

Except now I knew I was going to die. But at least I would die the way I was supposed to be – as a woman.

During the early difficult days of my slavery I felt very ashamed. Slavery is wrong. This is an indisputable fact on Earth, even if it is not on Gor. I felt I was betraying some essential principle by feeling aroused when Brinn would take me by force in the furs. I felt I was betraying my sex when I enjoyed the intercourse. He was raping me. Rape is wrong. And yes, despite the fact I derived pleasure from it, it was technically still rape because Brinn was fucking me regardless of my consent. Suppose I had said no and meant it? Suppose I had told him to stop and meant it? It wouldn’t have altered anything. He would have used me regardless of the fact. And so each time my body opened before him, each time I was driven to orgasmic delights that I barely comprehended, afterwards I felt a deep burning sense of shame. I would lie there afterwards, often with a chain about either my ankle or attached to my collar, and I would hate myself for giving in like that, for actually desiring the sex and, God forgive me, wanting it again. I would fool myself into thinking it was consensual and that made it okay. But eventually there came a time when I wasn’t in the mood, when I just wanted to sleep, and Brinn would take me regardless. Then I would get angry, I would resist, and he would get angry and throw me to my belly and beat me until I cried for him to stop. And then he would roll me on to my back again and carry on as before, fucking me. I didn’t always orgasm with Brinn. Sometimes I really didn’t feel like sex. But he would use me anyway. And it was then that any pretence that this was consensual was rudely stripped away. Sex was always on his terms. Always. I was there for his use whenever he wanted me. Once I hissed and fought back violently, and he simply overpowered me and whipped me. I lay there crying, not understanding how someone could claim to have affection for me and yet treat me in such an uncompromising way. And he didn’t care! He actually didn’t care if I was unhappy, so long as it didn’t spoil his enjoyment. I could be unhappy if I wished, just so long as I didn’t show it.

“How can you be like this?!” I once said to him after he had used me repeatedly during a particularly uncomfortable period of my menstrual cycle. “Don’t you care how I feel?”

He just looked at me for a while and then he lay back in the furs, and he simply said, “Arouse me now, Emma, with your tongue and mouth only.”

That is the reality of slavery on Gor, beyond the romantic BDSM fantasies that some women dream of. I don’t think Marissa understood that. Her desire for Brinn was an illusion built on shifting sand. The shock and horror would hit her the moment she felt the white hot iron brand sink into her flesh. She would scream and writhe in pain for days afterwards. And no one would care. She would not be pampered and cosseted and fretted over. And there would be no going back.

But yes, the sex can be fantastic. Out of this world. It can be all consuming, beyond your wildest dreams. And the curse of Gor is you cannot have one without the other. No wonder women who don’t wear collars are often so unhappy.

“But it’s meaningless. I’m not a slave,” said Marissa.

“Tonight you are. Tonight we both are. I have a brand, you have a collar. If we can be friends as slaves, then let us be friends as slaves before we die. Like you I don’t relish dying alone. Let’s forget the past and see each other through this. No one is ever going to know that your last hour on Gor was as a slave girl, alongside another slave girl. We have that at least.”

Marissa suddenly nodded, trying not to swallow sea water in the process. “We’re slaves. We’re both slaves. I can’t believe I’m saying this to you…”

“It doesn’t matter. If you can’t be honest when you’re about to die, when can you be?”

“I will be honest in my last hour of life,” said Marissa as she kissed me again, much to my surprise. The kiss this time was rather more intimate than mine had been, and Marissa pulled away, confused, realising she had perhaps got carried away in an inappropriate manner. “I'm sorry. I don't know why I did that. I don’t want to die alone,” she said. “Is that bad of me? That I don’t want to die alone?”

“No, you’re only human. Can I ask you something?”

“Yes, of course.” Marissa pulled her face away a little from mine and regarded me.

“Did you mean what you said about Brinn? About the Free Companionship? Did he offer that to you?” I had to know, and I think now Marissa would be honest about it.

“Emma, I’m sorry. I told you that to hurt you. I wanted to hurt you that day we met. I was jealous… so very jealous. I was eaten up inside with jealousy. I wanted Brinn. I had worked with him for so long and I had grown to… desire him…”


“He spoke of you many times. Casually as if it was the most natural thing in the world to talk of a slave he owned. I think he sometimes forgot how inappropriate it might be to tell a Free Woman such things. But when he mentioned how he might enjoy you in the furs… I grew to hate you long before I ever met you. Why couldn’t it be me? Why couldn’t I serve him in his furs?”

“You’d have to be a slave,” I said.

“Yes, I would have to be a slave… but to be Brinn’s slave… I knew I would love it. I only tell you this now because we’re going to die. I would dream of being his – being owned, being taken back to the Sardar to be his! But always there was you. I hated you, Emma, long before I ever met you. I envied you so much. I have fought against those feelings for so long. I have fought so very hard, Emma. Please don’t think I haven’t. But they consume me every day and every night. I have thoughts that sometimes drive me to despair. Sometimes I am so unhappy. Maybe it is better that I die here now that I have told you this.”

“Wow. You sound like a natural slave.”

“At least you will never be able to tell anyone,” sobbed Marissa. “My secret will die with the both of us.”

“Wouldn’t you rather stay alive?” I said as we continued to be swept on past the distant islands, out towards the mouth of the estuary and into the dark forbidding Thassa. Soon we would be in the vicinity of the sea tharlarion who swam in deep salt water. How long we’d last then was anyone’s guess.

“Of course I’d rather live, but we’re going to die out here. I’m so scared, Emma.”

“I am too.”

I felt motion through the water, followed by a shrill, sharp scream from Marissa as she suddenly began beating upwards with her legs in some frantic attempt to escape the ocean tide.

“There’s something in the water!” screamed Marissa again. I had felt it too, but it had actually brushed past Marissa’s thigh. “What is it? What is it?”

It was dark and difficult to tell, but my guess was a tharlarion of some kind. Often they make a few passes to determine what is in the water with them, and whether it might be edible. Our life expectancy had now shrunk to a matter of minutes. This was it – the end was approaching. I thought of my children that I would never see again, of Rachel who was now safe on Earth, of my mother, my brother, of Bea, all safe and hopefully happy. I thought of Brinn who would soon be dead too, fed to the great Kur. I didn’t care about what might happen to the council of Captains when Elizabeth moved through them with her darkness globe. The fate of Port Kar mattered little to me. I had saved Gor once and received little thanks for it. Let men save themselves from now on.

Bur I didn’t want to die. I suddenly realised, perhaps through a deep survival instinct, how precious life was. To be alive, in any capacity, be it free or slave, that was a gift you must never throw away. Now the fear really gripped me and with it the urge and desperation to do something, anything to save and prolong my life. The survival instinct is strong in us all, and it takes over in the direst of circumstances. You have no idea what you’re capable of unless you find yourself in a life or death situation. I struggled furiously at the leather harness and the binding cords around my wrists. My sudden motion sent Marissa into another frenzy of panic, exacerbated by the presence of the aquatic lizard nearby, and now we both found ourselves screaming and wrestling futilely against our bonds. I kicked hard against the tide, trying desperately to steer us towards land, but the tide remained too strong. We continued to be dragged further out to sea, approaching now the extents of the estuary. Beyond those rock outcrops was nothing but an endless ocean stretching far beyond the extent any Gorean ship had ever sailed.

“I’m sorry, Emma! Please forgive me!” cried Marissa. “Forgive me for everything I said and did!”

“I forgive you, slave,” I said, crying myself as I now felt the tharlarion swim past a second time. It was growing interested in us and very soon it would take its first probing bite, tearing a chunk of flesh from one of our soft helpless bodies. I could see Marissa was growing hysterical again.

“Think of Brinn,” I said, “think how it would be to lie in his chains in his furs, to be taken by him, naked, collared.” I wanted to ease her last moments in the water. She was thrashing wildly now with her own legs, and making the sea Tharlarion ever more curious. “He would have wanted you as a slave. If things had been different. He would have taken you in the wilderness if the opportunity had presented itself. He would collar a woman like you. You’re beautiful, Marissa. Slave beautiful. He would have kept you in his great hall, and I would have had to compete with you for his affections. You would be silken, with pierced ears and you would be trained to dance and give pleasure, and Brinn would have sent you to his chambers night after night. You would have been his.”

She began to control her hysterical breathing. My words were helping.

“I should have submitted to him months ago,” sobbed Marissa. “I should have stripped myself and begged his collar. I was too proud. Always too proud and afraid of my feelings. I’m going to die white silk. I’m going to die never knowing sex…”

“I’m sorry, Marissa,” and I was. No one should die having been cheated out of the pleasures of a sexual relationship by the inflexible rules of a society that dictates rigid behaviour. On Earth Marissa would have enjoyed a healthy sex life. She would have found a man to love and he would have loved her. She could have indulged whatever bondage fantasies she had deep inside as she got to feel comfortable in the relationship, but here on Gor she had been denied all of that. Society expected her to remain pure and chaste for fear of being called a slut. How difficult her life must have been, for she was obviously a woman with a healthy sex drive.

“You are so lucky, Emma. You have lived and taken so much from your life.”

“There’s been a fair share of horror along the way too. And being a slave isn’t a bed of roses. It’s not all kinky sex you know. I’ve been lucky in being a First Girl on Brinn’s estate, but I could easily have lived a very different life subject to all manner of misery.”

“But still, I envy you, Emma. I envied your life before I even met you. I would have given anything to actually be you.”

Wow. You just don’t think in those terms when you’re a slave. You don’t think that the rich, proud, haughty free woman secretly desires your life. Of course this was a fluffy Mills and Boon BDSM fantasy because Marissa really didn’t understand the reality of slavery. She saw the sexual possibilities inherent in my life, but considered nothing else. I continued to tread water, my eyes growing accustomed to the early rays of dawn, knowing that there were only minutes left before the first of the Tharlarion closed in for an attack.

And then I saw it – a row boat with two oars, riding low in the water, and I saw it just as I saw the snout of a Tharlarion rise up out of the water and begin to glide towards us. And I saw the boat move smoothly through the early morning sea mist towards us as a figure rose from its curved interior holding a long wooden boat hook in both hands. It was a girl in a scanty tunic, and I recognised the girl as Chloe. She stabbed the steel tipped boat hook down into the water as the long serpentine body of the Tharlarion passed the boat. She stabbed down hard and drove the barbed hook through the scales and into the deep flesh of its back. Suddenly the beast reared up with its razor teeth snout opening and closing in pain as it twisted one hundred and eighty degrees to comprehend this sudden attack. Its tail lashed out, connecting with the side of the boat, rocking it dangerously in the water, but the boat steadied itself and once again Chloe rose up on her knees and stabbed down a second time into the churning water, finding it easy to stab the boat hook into the lizard’s flesh again. The tharlarion turned quickly away, the instinctive reaction of a beast that has been surprised, and I saw it swim desperately away from our bound bodies.

“Chloe!” I screamed her name, overjoyed to see my friend. I swallowed some water as the passage of the tharlarion drove a wave directly at Marissa and myself, but I managed to steady us by beating down with my legs, pushing us slightly towards Chloe’s row boat. And now she pushed the boat hook out again, but this time to hook our leather harness and pull our helpless bodies towards the side of the boat.

“I need to cut the thongs on your wrists,” said Chloe as she leaned over the side of the boat with a knife. I back pedalled with my feet so that Marissa’s back was facing Chloe, meaning my bound wrists were accessible. I felt the knife blade saw at the thongs and then suddenly my hands were free. I grasped the harness leather to steady myself still against Marissa as Chloe now turned us about in the water so that she could then cut Marissa’s hands free. I think we were all very conscious that the wounded tharlarion might return, or possibly even a healthy tharlarion. Already the waters were churning thirty metres away, though hopefully that might be the wounded tharlarion being attacked by other predatory fish.

“I can’t pull you both in to the boat together,” said Chloe as she began to fumble with the buckles on our harness. It was difficult work for the leather was wet and hard to manipulate, but as the moments ticked by, Chloe succeeded in undoing all four of the buckles until suddenly Marissa and I were free of one another. I quickly pushed Marissa to the side of the boat and helped her grasp the side so that she wouldn’t sink. Her sudden weight and terrified scrabbling threatened to roll the boat until I swam next to her and pressed my body against her back, whispering soothing words into her ears once again.

“You’re almost safe. Please trust us to get you out of the water.” And then working together Chloe and myself helped push Marissa over the side and into the row boat. She was alive and safe but still helpless with terror as I would have been had I been entombed in a narrow hole.

“Come on, Emma,” said Chloe with a sense of urgency that could only mean one thing – she had seen a sleek tharlarion moving through the water towards us again. Adrenalin triggered a spurt of energy in my frozen numb body and I managed to haul myself aboard and lie gasping for breath next to Marissa. I was vaguely aware of Chloe striking out with the long boat hook again, pushing away the snout of the one of the carnivorous beasts.

“I will never forget this, Chloe,” I said as I rose to my knees, shaking from cold and fear and we hugged, burying our faces into one another. “I owe you my life.”

“Cool. I don’t think you can ever threaten me with the possibility of cleaning the latrines on the estate again after this,” said Chloe with a smile as she tried to warm my petrified body.

“Hell no, you never have to worry about that again,” I said, as I finally began to cry, letting all the fear and tension flow through me at last. “I can’t believe you found me!”

“I saw everything, Emma, as it happened. But I didn’t dare intervene until you were far enough out of sight of the island. Simon left me behind to guard the boats when he went inside to confront the women. We'd followed you in the distance when you sailed to the island. I’m guessing that didn’t go so well for him?” Chloe looked distinctly worried on behalf of Simon.

“He’s alive, I think, for a while at least, but his men are dead. They’re going to kill him though, him and Brinn. Oh God, Chloe, I can’t thank you enough…”

“Looks like I’m going to be sunning myself on the lawn quite a lot from now on, and doing whatever I like,” she said with a grin.

“Whatever you want. Whatever you want. You can be First Girl and it still wouldn’t settle the debt I owe you now.”

“Hmm, First Girl over Emma Anderson. Now that's a thought.” Chloe laughed.

“You’ll have all the pots of hot spiced Tagine you can possibly want for lunch from now on,” I said as the horror of the moment began to give way to the relief of being saved by my friend.

“So, who’s the sexy slave-girl that was in the water with you,” said Chloe as she glanced at Marissa. Marissa lay curled on her side and in the dim light it wasn’t obvious who she might be. Chloe could see her slave tunic of course, and the steel collar that was locked about her neck, but she didn’t know that she was looking at the Lady Marissa.

“Just a slave,” I said, thinking I might spare Marissa some further embarrassment at being seen like this.

“Well she can make herself useful and do some rowing.” Chloe pushed Marissa with her left foot, prodding her out of her comatose state. Marissa lifted herself weakly to her hands and knees and gazed round, still frightened by her proximity to the deep water of the Thassa. Her wet hair hung down in strands before her face. She seemed unrecognisable to Chloe. “I’ve rowed out here. The two of you can row back,” said Chloe as she rested herself against the prow of the boat. “That means you too, Emma.”

“Wow, you save my life and you go all bossy,” I said as I picked up one of the two oars. But she was right of course. Chloe would be exhausted now from rowing as fast as she could to come to our aid. We were some distance away from the island and I could only hazard a guess how long we’d drifted helplessly with the currents.

“Hey, slave-girl,” said Chloe when she noticed that Marissa was just kneeling there, looking dazed and confused by her situation. “Are you deaf? I said pick up an oar!” She kicked Marissa again and I saw the Mistress flinch from the blow. Suddenly she seemed to snap out of her state of shock and she glared at Chloe.

“Don’t kick me, slave!”

“I don’t know who you think you are, girl,” said Chloe, “But I’ve just saved your life at considerable effort, so as far as you’re concerned if I say jump, you say how high. Now pick up the oar or I’ll throw you back in the sea!”

“Um, Chloe…” I thought I’d better intervene before this got out of hand. “That’s the Lady Marissa.”

“What?” Chloe did a double take, and for a moment there was fear in her eyes, at least until she remembered and confirmed that the girl in front of her wore a slave collar.

“The Lady Marissa is a slave?” Chloe looked surprised and then delighted. “How did that happen? Never mind – the haughty bitch is a kajira now, just like us.” A big beaming smile broke out across her face. “That’s perfect. Oh, you were so rude to us back in the Sardar and Port Kar. Well, there’s nothing to be haughty about now is there, slave!” Chloe kicked her again.

“Stop that!” said Marissa with a snarl.

“Um, Chloe…” I really had to stop this right now. “The thing is… I don’t think she’s actually a slave…”

“What?” Now the look of shock returned to Chloe’s face. “But she’s wearing a collar…”

“I don’t think it counts… I mean, I’m not an expert on slave law, but she submitted to me and I’m a slave and I can’t own anything so I don’t think the submission really counts…”

As I spoke I was aware that Marissa was now regarding Chloe with a dark squinty expression. Chloe was a slave. Chloe, a slave, had dared to kick and abuse a free woman.

“But the collar…” said Chloe, shrinking back now in the row boat. This was a serious matter of course. A slave would normally be killed outright for striking a free woman.

“I put it on her. But I’m a slave. I can’t claim someone. I can’t own property…”

“She wears a collar, Emma. It’s locked on her. Do you really think men will free her?” asked Chloe. I could see Marissa looking scared as Chloe voiced what Marissa no doubt secretly feared. She looked like a slave now – enticing, beautiful, sensual, desirable. Would men actually permit her to be free?

“I think Samos will free her. Her submission was a pretence to the slave girl who was tasked with keeping her alive. Samos has a sense of honour and he would protect his agent provided she did not disgrace herself.” Now Marissa looked worried again, for of course she had disgraced herself in my chambers in the house, but only I knew that she had done so. Only I knew what she had confessed to me when she faced the lash and when she thought she was about to die in the deep waters of the Thassa. But I almost liked Marissa now. She wasn’t too bad as far as Free Women went, and I couldn’t bring myself to ruin her life with a few words. “She conducted herself honourably during her time in the house,” I said to Chloe, and as I said that the relief on Marissa’s face was heartfelt. “She has remained within the context of her pretence, a Free Woman. I think Samos will respect that.” I gazed now at Marissa. “I do not think you need fear the collar, Mistress. Samos will remove it from your throat when I tell him how honourably you conducted yourself today.”

“Emma, I… I don’t know what to say…” Marissa could hardly believe I was saying this after the way she had treated me in the past. “I am indebted to you…” She grasped my hands and squeezed them. “I will never forget this.”

“Be kinder in future, Mistress,” I said as I looked deep into her eyes. “Remember that slaves were Free Women once. Remember that they are people too.”

“I will.” She moved her right hand and wiped tears from her eyes. “I promise you, Emma, I promise you.”

I nodded. “That’s all I ask.”

“Oh God…” Chloe shrank back as far a she could in the boat. Like me she was conditioned to fear Free Women, even if the woman in question wasn’t in a position where she could do anything to either of us right now.

“You struck a free woman, slave,” said Marissa as she gave Chloe a very black look.

“I’m sorry, Mistress, I’m so sorry…” Chloe dropped to her knees and then dropped down further, pressing her forehead to the planks of wood at the bottom of the boat. “Please have mercy, Mistress. Please…”

And then Marissa laughed. She laughed and Chloe, startled, looked up, for it was not a vicious laugh that might be the prelude to a terrible punishment, but rather a warm laugh of relief. “You saved my life, girl. You pulled me from the ocean. Do you really think I would ever hurt you now?” Marissa crawled forward on her own hands and knees and lifted Chloe up. “I owe you my life, Chloe,” she said as she pressed her cheek to Chloe’s. “I will never forget that either. I will pick up an oar and I will row. And while I wear this collar, I will honour you as I would a First Girl. I owe you my life.”

I realised then that my attitude to Marissa had changed. As far as Free Women went, Marissa really wasn’t all that bad.

“Hey,” I held out my hand and waited for the others to place their hands with mine. We gripped each other and then I said, “tonight we’re just three slaves, and we’ll look out for one another. If we survive this we will never forget this night. Yes, Mistress?” I said as I looked at Marissa.

“I will never forget this night, Emma, and you should not call me Mistress while I wear this collar. You are First Girl I think.”

“Chloe is First Girl,” I said with a smile. “She deserves it for today at least.”

“So…” Chloe looked at us both with an amused and relieved expression. “We’re not too far from the main canal district of Port Kar. Probably half an hour on the oars against the current and we can make landfall. If we head to Samos’s house we can report what has happened and he’ll send more men to the house.”

I shook my head. “Brinn and Simon will be dead by then. Elizabeth is going to feed them to her Kur ally who lurks in the basement.”

“You want to go back to the house?” said Chloe.

“Hell, no. I don’t want to go back to the house, but if I don’t Brinn will be killed. Fuckwit that he is, I don’t want that. Aside from anything else he’s my only hope to see my children again. If he’s alive then he’ll take the estate back from Cassandra. I can’t lose him.”

“I do not want him to die either,” said Marissa quietly with a noticeable blush.

“Marissa is in love with Brinn,” I said by way of exasperated explanation. “A few months in his chains would soon teach her the error of her fantasies.”

“Emma, please!” Marissa looked genuinely offended. “I spoke to you in confidence!”

“And I would rather Simon didn’t die,” said Chloe.

“Chloe has spent a lot of time in the furs with Simon,” I explained now to Marissa. “Though between you and me she’s really besotted with one of Brinn’s Captains back at the estate.”

“Emma!” now it was Chloe’s turn to look a bit embarrassed.

“So there you are, you’re both embarrassed because your secrets are out in the open. Now get over it and let’s do something.” I picked up my oar again and nodded to Marissa as she placed her hands on the other one. “It’s maybe ten minutes to row back to the house. I think I know a way inside that means we won’t be detected. After that, well, you don’t have to come with me.”

“I owe you both my life,” said Marissa simply, “and I am an agent of Priest Kings. I will do my duty.”

Chloe shrugged and nodded too. “Where you go, I’ll follow, Emma. You keep getting into trouble and if I’m not around to save you…” she smiled.

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