Monday, 12 February 2018

Shadows of Gor Chapter Sixteen (of Eighteen)

Chapter Sixteen – Emma Anderson, Sword Woman of Gor

We managed to beach the rowing boat on a narrow sandbank or mud flat (it was hard to tell which exactly in the pre-dawn gloom) underneath the small private jetty belonging to the lagoon island. I waded in cold sea water up to my knees as I scrambled up and helped Marissa and Chloe to haul the boat onto the wet ground where we then tethered the boat in place with rope. We worked quietly but swiftly, aware that dawn was about to break and all hell would soon be playing out in the dank basement below the house where the old Kur was waiting to be fed.

I shivered in the cold, still wet from my time in the water. Marissa and Chloe were also wet but at least they wore slave tunics, and Marissa’s was reasonably long for a slave. I needed to dry off properly or risk catching pneumonia at this rate. There would be garments in the house that I could take once we figured a way in there.

“This is the boat that Simon used to ferry across the canals?” I asked of Chloe.

She nodded as she tied the rope into a competent looking reef knot. “Yes, they followed at a distance. The sea mist helped. Your gondola was under observation the whole time once it left the wharf. We lost sight of you though when Marissa fell in the water. How did you get into the house? We only saw Marissa being taken there in the gondola.”

“I took the place of one of the Free Women called Rosalita. I left her tied up in one of the side alleys. She's probably still there, though early morning patrols are bound to find her at dawn.” God, but it was cold. I shivered, feeling quite wretched from the after effects of a rush of adrenalin that always left me weak and shaking after the event. “Is there anything in the boat that might be useful? I’m thinking specifically of weapons…” As soon as I said that Marissa set to checking the inside of the boat. There was maybe an inch or two of water in the bottom slopping around, and we found a number of old sacks, some rope, inevitably some slave bracelets and collars (this is Gor after all) and then to my absolute delight, wrapped in oil skin cloth, a Gorean short sword.

“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” I said as Marissa lifted the bundle, unwrapped it and presented it to me.

Before either woman could say anything, I took the sword by its hilt and lifted it in my right hand. It was beautifully made, as most Gorean swords are, for sword craft is a prized art. It was also a lot heavier than I expected. Gorean warriors build up strength in their arms from an early age by holding a blade in their extended hand for as long as they can. Repeating this over and over again over the course of many years gives them the strength in their arms to wield the blade for long periods of time without tiring. There was no way I could compete with that kind of strength training, but I felt sure I could use it against the Tharna women if need be.

I swished the blade around a few times as Chloe and Marissa watched. “Nice. I feel a little more confident now with this in my hand.”

“Do you know the penalty for touching a weapon?” said Marissa in shock as she saw a slave-girl wield a short sword. That sort of thing was very taboo.

“Death, I imagine,” I said as I held the blade along the line of my eyesight and marvelled at the smooth sharp steel. Goreans fold steel many times to strengthen the forging of the metal. It makes for wonderful weapons.

“Yes, Emma,” said Marissa with a look of disapproval. “That's right.” She tapped her foot and folded her arms.

“Would you prefer to carry the sword and use it if necessary, Mistress?” I asked her with an innocent expression. She looked troubled by this suggestion for it put the onus on her to fight and possibly die in the process.

“I have never used a sword before…” she said, reluctantly it seemed. “I don't know how to.”

“I've seen Brinn practising at the estate for over five years. So with your permission then, shall I carry it, Mistress? I assume a slave can carry a weapon if a Mistress grants her permission?”

“Oh… I suppose so…” Marissa considered this for a moment.

“I think you are still technically free after all, Mistress,” I said sweetly. “It is your prerogative to grant permission.”

“Yes, of course I am.” Her eyes challenged either Chloe or me to suggest otherwise. “Very well, Emma, you have my permission to carry and use that blade against our enemies.”

“Mistress is kind to a poor slave,” I said with a smile on my lips that wasn’t obvious to Marissa in the gloom. I found it difficult to actually think of her as a Mistress, but it amused me to act like I did. I was perhaps being very mischievous now, taking advantage of Marissa’s lack of confidence after having been collared and then nearly drowned and eaten by Tharlarion. She was still in an elevated state of shock and not really thinking clearly. Added to which she had in two moments of panic admitted to having slave feelings, something that no doubt played heavily on her mind. It is difficult I suppose for a Free Woman to exert authority over slaves when she has admitted to those very same slaves that she sometimes fantasises about kneeling naked at the feet of men.

We climbed on our hands and knees up a steep earthen embankment slick with rain. The first rays of dawn were beginning to edge their way over the horizon granting a little light as we crept fearfully towards the drainage gate situated at the side of the island jetty. It was circular in shape, approximately four feet in diameter and closed off with a detachable iron grille. I say detachable, but the grille was screwed into place at four equal points, fixed to the stone surround.

“Shit. Fuck.” I pulled at the grille, holding on to the bars with both hands in the hope that it might be loose after decades of neglect, but Goreans tend to be very fastidious with the upkeep of their properties. This grille wasn’t going to budge, even if I braced myself with the soles of my feet against the brick work on either side.

“Perhaps if we all pull?” suggested Marissa as she knelt close to me, placing her own hands on the bars.

“Unlikely. But let’s try.” I motioned Chloe over, and with a bit of manoeuvring we were all able to get our hands on some aspect of the bars. I whispered a quiet ‘one, two, three’ and then we all pulled simultaneously.

To no effect.

After a futile minute or two of straining hard to the best of our ability, we reluctantly let go. I smiled as I saw how Marissa made a point of wiping her dirty hands on the grass and then on the fabric of her tunic. She wrinkled her little nose in distaste at the realisation how dirty and bedraggled she now was.

“Any other ideas?” asked Chloe.

“Yes, as it happens. When I was in the house earlier tonight I spied Elizabeth talking to a great Kur called Kratoa. He lives in the basement and came up through a hidden staircase behind a set of drapes. I could smell the sea breeze from that passage way, and I heard the soft lapping of the lagoon tidal currents. I think the passageway leads to an exit point close to the jetty, as well as to the basement itself. There will be entrance points, possibly more than one. If we can find a door…”

“You mean like this door?” said Marissa with a smug smile as she brushed her hair back from her face. The wind had picked up now and we were all suffering from unkempt hair as a result. I turned and saw what Marissa had found while I talked to Chloe. It was a small door, very small, and it was partially hidden by bushes, suggesting it hadn’t been used in quite a while. It wouldn't be the one the Kur used, but it would do for us. The bushes disguised the fact that unlike the drainage gate the lower half of the door was in a poor state of repair, with two of the wooden boards missing. The space between the remaining boards was too small for a man to slip through, but possibly we could.

“I think I’m the thinnest,” said Marissa.

“Nonsense. I can get through that with ease,” I said only to then wedge my hips as I tried to slip through. I struggled for thirty seconds or so before I had to accept the fact I was a bit too curvaceous to slip through the gap. I managed to wriggle backwards and extricate myself, and then I moved back to give Marissa enough room to attempt the entry. It was a tight squeeze for her too, but she managed to slip through with sufficient wriggling. How on Earth was a Free Woman so skinny, I thought to myself as she disappeared into the gloom? She obviously existed on a diet of low calorie flower petals and sunshine. I heard some scrabbling around in the darkness, followed by the sound of internal bolts being drawn back. And then with all three of us combining a push and pull technique, we forced the ancient door open just wide enough for Chloe and myself to pass through. The earth and bushes that had accumulated outside the base of the wall prevented the door from opening completely, but it was sufficient for our needs.

Once inside I motioned the other two girls to silence. Our night vision was good enough to make out that there was a flight of wooden steps leading up and down and that we stood and knelt on a narrow landing between the two. Upstairs I knew would be the alcove through which the Kur passed into the house to commune with Elizabeth, and following the stairs down would no doubt lead to some similar exit point into the basement. That it was used frequently by the Kur was obvious by the scent of its wet fur. It was a stale bestial smell that was clear to anyone with a functioning nose.

No doubt Chloe and Marissa expected me to lead them straight downstairs in some daring escapade to save Brinn and Simon, but I had seen enough films where out of their depth heroines descended into dank basements only to run foul of psychopaths with knives to know the value of locating more weapons first. And so I motioned that we would go up rather than down. I led the way with Marissa following and a watchful Chloe bringing up the rear. Sure enough the stairs led to a second landing with a set of curtains that a discrete inspection proved led into the open chamber where I had seen Elizabeth speaking with the Kur. Passing through those drapes would gain us entrance into the house.

I waited for a few moments, listening for any sound of movement within the chamber before I parted the drapes sufficiently to pass through. The chamber was just as I remembered it, with the other alcove in which I’d hid and the passageway leading to the corridor beyond. I picked up a heavy brass candlestick and passed it to Marissa, nodding for Chloe to go and search the chamber for anything that might serve her as a weapon. Provided we didn’t run into Kratoa, and I had little reason to think he might be in the upper house itself, then we only had to face the Tharna women, since Simon’s men had killed the four guardsmen who had served Elizabeth. I say 'only' in respect of the Tharna women, but at last that put us on something of an equal footing, for none of them were trained to fight with weapons, and I felt reasonably comfortable with the prospect of taking one of them on if needs be. Their weight of numbers would be a problem if they chose to attack together, but hopefully they would now be in their beds asleep for the most part. That thought didn’t last long as I heard voices echoing up from the staircase that we had ascended. The voices sounded far enough away that they were obviously coming from the basement, but the murmur of conversation shot down in flame any hope that the Tharna women might have retired to sleep by now.

“We’re going to have to move quickly. I don’t know what time the Kurii traditionally have breakfast, but I know what breakfast happens to be…”

Chloe nodded as she picked up a vase. I frowned, shook my head and pointed at a brass figurine on a shelf that looked a lot sturdier and easier to wield.

“Emma, Chloe, we need to find the key to this collar,” said Marissa quietly. It didn’t seem to be a priority as far as I was concerned, but then I wasn’t a proud free woman locked inside a slave collar. I regarded her and nodded.

“There are probably a great number of keys in this house, Mistress, but we may get lucky and locate the right one.”

“I have to remove this collar before I return to the hall of Samos,” said Marissa. “Samos mustn’t see me like this. Men mustn't see me like this.”

It would be embarrassing, I supposed. Men take the prospect of women in collars very seriously. I didn’t think Samos would enslave Marissa, but then again I didn’t really know him very well at all. Presumably Marissa had a better idea of how he might react in certain proscribed situations, and possibly she was nervous of the possibilities. In any event, it would be humiliating to have to present herself to Samos and ask him to free her. His men would see the beautiful Marissa, bare legged, unveiled, in a dirtied white slave tunic, an inflexible band of steel locked around her throat. It would be shameful, and none of the men in the hall would ever regard her with any seriousness ever again. I doubted that she would ever be able to operate in Port Kar again without being reminded of the humiliation she had endured. Samos would have to reassign her far away for her own good.

“We’ll do our best, Mistress,” I said as I moved now towards the archway that led to the corridor. “Samos will free you, I think.”

Marissa nodded quickly, frightened to consider any other possibility. “Of course he will, Emma, but even so, I would be so ashamed for him to see me like this.”

“Of course.”

Marissa's words were nothing but a distraction as I led her and Chloe on through the corridor towards the area where I knew Elizabeth operated. There was a chance she'd be in bed now, but more likely she would still be awake, probably keeping her body going with chemical stimulants and rehearsing her bloodbath to come. I still didn't really care about the fate of Port Kar outside of how it might affect me and my children directly, but I knew that any form of violent insurrection would ultimately claim the lives of innocent people. It's easy to forget that there is always a bloody cost to overthrowing any form of tyranny, and it is always the weak and the oppressed who pay that price.

We found Elizabeth quickly enough in one of the adjoining rooms where she stood beside a work bench, some maps and charts spread out before her. And there to my delight was the darkness globe of the Kurii, left on another bench far enough from Elizabeth's immediate reach that she couldn't simply grab and activate it the moment she saw us.

Perfect. The Gods of Gor it seemed were indeed smiling on us. I motioned for Chloe and Marissa to stay back as I stalked quietly into the room, but it seemed the bitch had the preternatural senses of a cat for I had barely crossed the threshold when her body with its back to me stiffened and turned in my direction, sensing perhaps my furtive approach.

Neither of us said a word as we simply gazed at one another across the short expanse of tiled floor. I was close enough to Elizabeth now that it wouldn't be possible for her to run to the darkness globe before I might chop at her with my sword. I smiled, for she was unarmed, but then I saw another sword, another gladius, resting on the work bench close to her charts and my heart sank a little. 

Nevertheless I was counting on a few immediate advantages – Elizabeth was dressed from throat to ankles in cumbersome layers of gowns and robes, constrictive and enveloping, whereas I would be fighting naked. The advantage of easy movement was going to be mine. Secondly the half mask that Elizabeth wore would hamper her peripheral vision. Masks always do that. Try wearing one if you don’t believe me. And thirdly I was fighting for my life and the life of Brinn and therefore the safety of my children. I had to fight. Elizabeth did not have that same need.

Oh, and I was holding a proper sword.

“Where did you get that?” said Elizabeth as she backed away around the table. She was reaching for the sword on her bench – one of the swords she had no doubt taken from Samos’s deceased men.

“Does it matter, Elizabeth?” I began to close the distance but I knew I wouldn’t reach her before she could pick up her own blade. I almost closed the gap in time though, before a whistling slash of the Port Kar blade in Elizabeth’s hands made me jump several steps back and face her now on more equal terms. She regarded me with a vicious gaze as she moved to the left, holding her blade back ready to strike if I moved any closer.

“You shouldn’t have come back, Emma. I would have killed you on Skaffel Peak if it hadn’t been for the acid. This time you won’t be so lucky.”

“Seems to me you failed to kill me twice now, Elizabeth. Your stupid death trap was all so cinematic, but you could have just cut my throat instead. Why do you think the third time is going to be any better for you?”

“Because you’re weak, Emma. Weak. And I have the strength and determination of the Kurii!”

Here’s the thing. Obviously I’d never fought a death duel with a sword before, but for five years I’d sat or knelt in a courtyard watching Brinn train with his men, and in those five years his moves had pretty much imprinted themselves in my head. While I hadn’t tried any of the combat moves myself, I’d seen them being performed day after day, week after week, month after month until they seemed like a ballet routine of sorts.

Added to which, I was a trained dancer, which meant I was quick on my feet and very agile. This is a big advantage in a sword fight because it enables you to react quickly and back step to avoid an enemy’s thrust or cut. I didn’t think Elizabeth had either of those advantages, and so I smiled menacingly at her as we circled, our eyes locked, waiting for the other to commit herself. The common Gorean sword is shaped very much like the short bladed gladius of the Roman soldiers, and it is primarily a stabbing weapon designed to be used in conjunction with a shield wall. The Roman army was essentially a mincing machine that presented a solid wall to its opposition and as the formation moved forwards, hundreds of swords would stab out from between the shields to cut down the enemy. But the sword had an edge too and it could be used to cut and slash as well as stab. Brinn had always told me though that the point beats the edge in a fight, and that a deep stab counts for a lot more than multiple slashing cuts might. A single deep stab, he said, could end a fight right away.

Brinn loved to talk about fighting and the art of war, and dutiful slave girl that I was, I would listen attentively to his words of wisdom while kissing his body. He enjoyed talking to me at length as we would lie in bed together. Gorean men spend a lot of time talking to their slaves. It’s one of the good things about them that they honestly enjoy conversing with women and they particularly treasure intelligent and eloquent women in their chains. They are interested in our opinions, our feelings, our thoughts and so on when they own us. Lying on a couch with a man usually entails far more than just sex.

Though the sex will be frequent and really intense. Trust me on that.

“The most important thing is to maintain good balance,” Brinn once told me. “You want to be able to strike or parry without being hit, so keep your feet shoulder wide apart and when you move, move so your legs spread apart. Never have your feet close to each other. Watch your enemy’s movements and be quick. When you parry you keep the blade close to you so you don't stretch out to block and leave yourself open.”

I adopted that wide foot stance now as I faced Elizabeth, but hampered as she was by the cumbersome robes, her stance was more confined and narrow. Score one immediate point to Emma Anderson, Sword Woman of Gor, I thought to myself. You’re going down, bitch. Going down hard.

Brinn once thought it was amusing to put a sword in my hand on the estate and show me how to hold it properly, to the great amusement of his warriors who played along, pretending to be suddenly scared of me.

“Make sure the soles of your feet touch the ground properly because then you’ll have greater strength in your attacks,” he’d explained. “You can maintain your balance if you slide your feet when you move rather than lift them up and stepping. That’s good, Emma. Always take care how your feet are placed and used during each strike because otherwise you’ll provide your opponent with an opportunity to knock you over. Keep your posture straight and your chest and torso forward, like this and it will keep you from losing your balance during your swings and allows you to avoid with a simple twist any blows that come your way, rather than having your torso turned sideways locking yourself to only evade an attack from one direction.”

I had purred with simmering arousal as he had posed me with his hands on my hips. I remember I had been in a highly charged sexual state that morning, and sword lessons were pretty far from my mind.

“Maybe you can show me how to wrestle and grapple instead, Master?” I said with a salacious edge to my voice. “You could demonstrate the techniques you use to overpower and subdue a beautiful girl?” I leaned back into his body and turned my face to possibly be kissed, which I swiftly was.

“Slut,” Brinn had said with a chuckle. “Do you think of nothing but sex?”

“I sometimes think about food too, Master. Especially those delicious pastries you sometimes give me if I’ve been really pleasing…” I had turned round in his embrace and began kissing him, the sword dropping to the grass as I lifted myself up onto my tiptoes to reach him. “Let Emma please you, Master. I can do such delicious things to you…”

We didn’t get much further with sword stances that day, but I did earn myself a delicious freshly baked ramberry and cream pastry.

I was being cautious as I circled Elizabeth because I knew that committing yourself too early and too ambitiously was a mistake. If you charge in recklessly your opponent may just wait and let you meet the point of his sword. I was in no rush to see just how good Elizabeth might be at countering my first reckless strike. I wanted to err on the side of maintaining control and only engaging carefully. This would leave me able to quickly sidestep an attack by Elizabeth, allowing an opening for my return strike which might then be a fight winning blow. Dodging works extremely well in an open space or if you are agile and quick like I am, in an indoor room.

I had unfortunately forgotten about Elizabeth’s lack of fear and how this might affect her own fighting style. Fear is a natural impulse in us all and it urges caution, and that in turn reduces risk taking. Not so in Elizabeth’s case as she nearly gutted me with an unexpected charge that took me totally by surprise. I had expected a series of probing attacks not a whirlwind like attempt to slice me open from stomach to breasts. I should have been ready for it, I should have anticipated it, and I should have been able to retaliate as soon as I successfully jumped to the side, out of her reach. I had been thinking too much, trying to remember what Brinn had told me before, when really I should have been focussing solidly on whatever crazed move Elizabeth would make due to her lack of fear.

Seeing how startled I looked, Elizabeth began sweeping her sword in quick slashing motions at my face and torso, gaining ground on me with each attempt. I parried the blows with the extreme end of my blade, making sure not to let her close the gap between us. Unlike her I did know fear and I was cautious. I didn’t wan to risk everything on some wild impulse the way she was doing.

More things came back to me as we tested one another. Try to maintain your sword in a position that runs from the bottom of your torso to the top of your head, Brinn used to say to Simon. This is a middle position, suitable for any skill level, that means you can respond to an attack with reasonable speed, and also gives you many angles for your own strikes.

Although I found Elizabeth’s reckless and furious slashing with the edge of the blade to be quite intimidating, it would have been a suicidal move on her part had she been fighting a genuine warrior. She was leaving herself open constantly to counter attacks that she would have no hope of parrying. My problem was I wasn’t a trained fighter and although agile, my reaction time wasn’t good enough to compensate for a lack of combat intuition. Brinn fights by instinct born out of years of training. His body and sword arm knows how to react in a fight without having to think rationally in advance. To a warrior of Gor, a member of the scarlet caste, fighting is as intuitive as blinking and breathing. It requires little conscious thought – the sword play in itself is conditioned and the sword arm reacts to the actions of the opponent. I didn’t have that advantage and so I didn’t have the opportunity to exploit the gaps in Elizabeth’s wide swings or rather, if I did, I didn’t have the confidence that I would succeed and therefore not leave myself open to her next wild blow.

“You fight like a Spice Girl!” laughed Elizabeth as the exhilaration of battle began to burn brightly in her face. “Little Baby Spice, that’s who you are, Emma. Little Baby Spice, Emma Bunton, zigging and zagging. I expect on Earth you tried to be little Miss Top Shop, didn't you, with your glossy fashion magazines, MAC makeup palates and budget pink bottles of celebrity perfumes!” She swung the edge of the sword at my face and ducked to the side, parrying her blade back in an arc that I should have recovered quickly enough from to then turn the blade into her stomach. “Did you love to wear pretty little girlie dresses and pink lipstick and carry fabulous handbags?” She laughed as she fought, teasing me. “Did you lie awake at night crying into your pretty pillow because you weren't a real girl? Oh, boo-hoo, how sad! Poor little Emma Bunton, desperately wanting to wear pretty little frilly things, but afraid of what all her real male friends would think of her if they knew!”

“You really talk too much, Elizabeth,” I said as I danced back a step or two out of her reach. I'd forgotten that Seremides would have told her all about me, and who I was on Earth before the Kur machines changed my body irrevocably and for the better.

“Did you hate yourself, Emma Bunton? Did you look in the mirror and loathe your body? Did you pray you'd wake up one morning with perky breasts and that you'd be smooth between your legs?”

She really did love the sound of her own voice. But I was happy for her to keep talking. Talking during a fight uses up precious breath. That makes you just a little bit more tired. Keep talking, bitch.

Keep your weapon ready, Brinn had told Simon during sword training in the mornings. Always keep your weapon ready. Generally, your sword should be extended a comfortable distance away from your body, and toward your opponent's throat. Above all else it’s intimidating and means you’re half way there even from a passive stance to gutting him. This is referred to as putting him 'on point'.

Oh, and there is never any room for dramatic shit in a sword fight. It shouldn’t be anything more than well timed and well placed blows and parries.

I ducked another wild swing from Elizabeth. I was beginning to get a feel for the pattern and rhythm of her attacks now.

Elbows bent, and close to your body – Brinn had always laboured that point to Simon in the practise yard as I had watched. An inexperienced fighter tends to stretch out his arms in order to keep his opponent further away, but this will hurt your ability to thrust and parry quickly. Brinn proved that time and time again with practise wooden swords when he fought Simon. He always 'killed' him quickly whenever Simon over extended his arm. Extend your sword towards your opponent, not your arms.

And then I saw my moment.

I snapped forward in a sudden strike, putting all this advice to the test and as Elizabeth jumped back in surprise several seconds too late, I saw a deep slash open up in her robes that accompanied the pressure I had momentarily felt as my blade had cut through into firm flesh. First blood to Emma Anderson, patron sword mistress of pretty pink lipstick and 'fuck me' heels.

I fell back into my guard stance and grinned as Elizabeth now clutched at the side of her body.

“Oops. That’s got to hurt,” I said.

But if I'd been better, that would have been a match winning cut with no come back. Brinn had always emphasised that you had to make the first strike count. Although a skilled fighter can keep up combat for extended periods, a real sword fight is quite often determined by the first blow—often decided in less than 30 seconds. I should have put her down with a thrust rather than a slash.

“Guess you’re going to have to refer to me as Scary Spice now, Elizabeth.” I raised my blade so she could clearly see the blood dripping from its edge. I watched as she took a clumsy step back and bumped against a table, knocking scrolls to the floor. Perhaps the cut was a lot deeper than I had thought, or maybe she was trying to make me think that and make a mistake?

“I could have saved everyone…” said Elizabeth through gritted teeth. To my amazement she dropped her blade and leaned back against the wall for support, with both hands to her stomach. I saw blood staining her fingers within seconds. If this was a trick on her part then I couldn’t see where it was going. “Women on Gor would have…” her words trailed away as she gradually slid down the side of the wall to crash onto the floor in a seated position. I moved cautiously forward and when I was close enough, I kicked her sword so that it slid too far across the floor for her to possibly seize it again. She made no attempt to stop me.

“Elizabeth?” I had my blade outstretched so if this was a trick she wouldn’t do much more than jump onto its point.

“Congratulations, Emma, you’ve killed me...” There was more blood now seeping between her fingers as she used both hands to press down on the wound. “Women everywhere have a lifetime of slavery to thank you for now…”

“You asked for this! I never wanted to fight you, but you always had to follow a path of death and destruction! None of this was necessary!”

“All of it was necessary, you stupid fucking brainless bimbo!” snarled Elizabeth with what strength and life she had left in her.

“How badly did I cut you, Elizabeth?”

She answered by holding up one of her two hands, palm facing me. It was dripping with fresh blood.

“Does it hurt?”

“You ask some stupid fucking questions, Baby Spice,” snarled Elizabeth. “You’ve slashed my stomach open! I'm holding my guts in with my hands. Of course it fucking HURTS!”

I nodded and lowered the sword. “There’s nothing I can do for you. I’m sorry. I had to stop you, but it’s not in me to be cruel like you are. If I had pain killers, I’d give them to you.”

“Oh stop trying to be so fucking decent! Just kill me. It’s over. I’m not getting up from this. Give me the Viking death,” said Elizabeth. Her robes looked damp around the stomach area, but because of the red colour of the material it was difficult to see how much blood she had lost.

“I’m not going to kill you in cold blood. It’s not in me. I’m sorry.”

“Then just fuck off. I don’t want my last five minutes to be spent listening to your excuses.” Elizabeth was beginning to find it hard to breathe. There was a hoarse gasping as she took each breath.

“I don’t think we should just leave her here,” said Marissa. “How do we know she’s actually going to die?” Marissa crossed her arms and regarded the slumped and fallen body of Elizabeth. “Her wound may not be as bad as we think it is. We can’t even see how much blood she’s losing. It could be a trick. Finish her off, Emma.”

“I can’t kill people in cold blood, Mistress,” I said. “I just can’t.”

“She tried to kill us!” said Marissa angrily. “She put me into the Thassa!”

“So you kill her then. To be honest I won’t stand in your way.”

“I’m… I’m not sure I can do that either,” said Marisa after a while.

“Fine. Congratulations. That means you’re a decent human being like me it seems. Can we get moving?”

“Well, if we’re not going to kill her, we should at least tie her up.”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” I said as I gazed down at Elizabeth. She was clearly still conscious. “I imagine she has a knife, possibly even poison hair pins. I wouldn’t put it past her to use them on us if we got near enough.”

“Oh.” Marissa considered this and took a step back, even though she was hardly in the range of a stabbing attack.

“That is the sort of thing you’d do, isn’t it, Elizabeth?” I said, looking at her. Elizabeth just smiled and coughed in a shuddering way that then made her look ill.

“Do you have a poison hair pin?” asked Marissa 'helpfully'.

“Come closer and find out, kajira,” said Elizabeth. Her eyes were firm and crazy looking.

“Fuck this,” I said with a shrug of my shoulders. “I don’t think we should go anywhere near her, and if we’re not going to kill her with a sword, then there’s nothing more to discuss. Brinn and Simon are about to be served up as breakfast downstairs.” I walked over to the table and picked up the darkness globe and the corresponding glass goggles, and then pocketed a crystal stoppered bottle of perfume that I saw on a shelf. I had a use for that if my initial plan was going to be required.

“If you haven’t bled to death by the time we free Brinn, we’ll send him to bind you. I’m sure the Priest Kings will enjoy interrogating you for further details of Kurii assets and logistics on Gor. Your information may be out of date, but who knows. They don’t strike me as an alien race who changes their spy networks regularly.”

Elizabeth smiled again. “No farewell hug, Baby Spice?”

“I wouldn’t hug you if you were Tom Hardy, frankly. If you die from blood loss before we get back, well, it’s no more than you deserve.”

Marissa crept carefully along the far wall opposite the one where Elizabeth lay, to join me and Chloe. She really didn’t want to be anywhere near the mad woman. Elizabeth saw the woman’s fear and smiled, relishing that small last victory.

“Three little kajiras… so soft and helpless before the might of Gor. Enjoy your steel collars you pathetic girls. I could have given all of you  the world!”

There were probably more words, but I didn’t hang around to hear them. Brinn and Simon were about to be eaten in the basement, and time was running out.


The central chamber of the basement was dominated by a sunken stone pit around which the women of New Tharna stood on an elevated wooden platform that encircled the circumference of the pit with hand rails to prevent accidental falling. I counted seventeen women in total in their flowing red gowns and silver masks, and with maybe one or two absences this corresponded with the number of women I had counted at the feast.

I caught its scent before I actually saw it. The smell of damp matted fur wafted through the breeze, carried by the salt air that channelled through the tunnels, stairways and cold chambers of the basement areas. Kratoa, the great Kur, moved with surprising grace as he scaled down the brick work from an upper alcove in the sunken chamber. High above the pit was a window of sorts that obviously led to his lair. There were screams and sounds of alarm from the assembled women for they were now looking at the Kur without the comforting security of Elizabeth standing beside them. Several of the women backed away from the edge of the pit as the great beast clambered down and dropped the last ten feet or so onto the reinforced platform. It swung its great shaggy head to the left and then the right, taking in the sight of the many red robes and silver masks. It knew these women to be the ignorant followers of the Kur daughter as Elizabeth liked to think of herself, and so it did not seek to frighten them. Instead it rose up onto its hind legs and adjusted the damaged translator unit that it kept permanently hung from his shoulders. The electronic crackling voice echoed in the chamber as it spoke in gravel like tones.

“You fear me and that is natural. But we are…” the beast seemed to search for the correct word which presumably was uncommon in Kur circles, “friends… we share our goals. Do not alarmed. I feed this morning but not on you.” And then it turned its enormous maw towards the deep stone pit from where I heard the scramble of feet and a cry of alarm that I recognised as coming from Simon. No doubt Brinn was with Simon in the depths of that pit, but unlike Simon he would not cry out in alarm. He would meet his death with dignity.

The Kur sniffed the air but with the women in attendance around the edge of the pit it could not make out the scents of Chloe, Marissa and myself, or rather it could pick out our scents, but mixed in with the other women the beast would assume we were simply part of the throng. I was actually very scared now because in just a few moments I was going to have to act. The beast would descend into the pit presumably to devour the men. I had a short sword which would be suicidal against the Kur, except for the fact I also carried Elizabeth’s darkness globe and goggles. Even so, I wasn’t going to face a blinded Kur with a short sword – that would be Brinn’s job and he was more than welcome to it.

“Time to feast,” roared the great Kur as he now bounded to the edge of the pit and peered down at his breakfast. “For you… time to die.” and then he sprang with the agility I’d witnessed many years ago, springing from side to side of the pit until he landed heavily on the stone floor fifteen feet or so below. The walls of the pit were wet with mould and slime, and would be treacherous for humans to climb as it would prove nearly impossible to secure hand and foot grips. But there was an extendable ladder to one side that could be lowered down.

I quickly pointed it out to Chloe and whispered, “Assuming I survive what I’m about to do, you’ll need to lower the ladder when the beast is dead and the women are milling around in panic.”

“Rather you than me,” said Chloe as she recognised what I was about to do. “Good luck Emma.” And then she kissed me on the cheek and hugged me.

“Brinn is really going to owe me for this.” And then I rose from my knees and with the short sword gripped tightly in both hands I ran straight past the red robed women and on to the edge of the pit.

I didn’t stop, and my momentum carried me over the safety rail as I leapt and lunged down, aiming squarely for the curved back of the crouching Kur who now faced a bewildered and doomed Simon and Brinn. I landed hard on the beast, plunging the point of the sword into his back as I fell, which made for a softer landing than the stone floor below me. The Kur roared in pain and surprise and as I expected, simply shrugged me aside. Unfortunately the precious weapon remained lodged in the Kur’s broad back, and I was now unarmed and half stunned. I heard my name being called, but whether it was by Brinn, Simon, or one of the girls, I had no idea. 

Chloe had been just behind me on the ramp platform that encircled the pit, and she called out to Brinn as she threw the goggles towards his outstretched hands. He caught the fragile goggles in mid flight, though he didn’t immediately understand what he was supposed to do with them until he saw the Kurii globe in the belt net at my waist where I lay. Then he understood and he placed them over his eyes. The Kur was roaring in pain and anger as it reared up onto its hind legs before me. Like the men of Gor it underestimated the danger presented by a female of my species, otherwise it would have brought its claws down and killed me immediately. More fool it. I was going to show the great beast that human women were not the ineffectual creatures it supposed them to be. I had the flask of perfume in my right hand, and as I struggled to some sort of crouch from lying on my back, I bit the stopper out with my teeth and threw the contents directly at the Kur. I had hoped to splash his nose, but the perfume mostly struck his chin, neck and upper chest instead. I had to hope it would still be pungent enough to ruin his sense of smell regardless. If I was wrong in my thinking, then we would all be dead within seconds. The Kur has a very effective sense of smell, so unlike humans it is not completely helpless in the dark. And dark it was now going to be. As the beast leapt for me, I ran my fingers over the sigils on the black-light globe and instantly the singularity point within the device expanded out to mask the entire basement chamber in absolute darkness. Simultaneously I forward rolled towards the beast, knowing it was the only direction to go with any chance of surviving its leap. I guessed correctly as the beast struck the floor where I had been lying. But I didn’t stop, I continued to roll forward towards the far side of the pit, trusting now in Brinn – trusting in the fact that he could see the beast, that he could see me, that he could see the short sword sticking out from its back, and that the beast was now not only blind, but also with a ruined sense of smell from the strong perfume that would mask our human scents.

My body struck a far wall which put an end to my forward rolling. Now I lay there as a slave-girl might, making myself small, folding my knees up to my chest, shrinking back, keeping my head down, with my arms curled about my knees. I could see nothing and I had to trust that Brinn, who could still see, would ensure the beast wouldn’t find me.

I knew Brinn’s first move would be to draw the sword from the Kur’s back, and by the sound of the animal like roar I knew that’s what he had done. The beast would be flailing about in the darkness with his long forearms, trying to rake his invisible assailant with those savage claws, but Brinn was agile, and he was fighting a blind opponent, and so he ducked, he veered, he moved in to slash the beast’s belly, its neck, its snout, and each time he would feint back out of its reach. It was going to be a death of many cuts, rather than an actual battle. My only fear was that I might be trampled in the process.

I suddenly felt a hand seize me by my arm and throw me to one side just before what I assume must have been the Kur charged past where I lay. Brinn could see me. Brinn would not let me be killed. I rolled helplessly, thrown by my Master, trusting that he knew what he was doing. I lay silently wherever I fell, wherever he threw me, knowing he would keep me from harm. Brinn was silent as he fought. There would be no war cries of the Sardar mountains, just the swift cutting, slashing and stabbing in what was a fight to the death. Once again I felt myself picked up and thrown to another side moments before the Kur struck the wall close to where I had lain. And then there was a final roar as the Gorean blade found the creatures throat one last time. There was a thump as the heavy alien body struck the stone floor, and then I heard Brinn’s voice in the darkness.

“Emma, it’s over. Give us light.”

And I did. For a moment though I couldn’t find the glove. The netting had got tangled on my side and my fingers fumbled and I feared I had lost the globe, but then I felt the finger indentations that were the sigils, and I slid my fingers back along them and the singularity point of the darkness shrank back to an infinitely small point within the globe. I blinked my eyes and screamed as I saw the great clawed paw of the Kur mere inches from my face where its body had fallen prone. Brinn stood nearby, panting, gasping for breath, with a bloodied short sword in his hand. Simon lay stunned by the side of the circular wall, where he had fallen after being struck by a glancing blow. He seemed to be alive though.

Brinn might not have agreed, but despite the Kur lying dead, and despite Elizabeth dying in the house upstairs, I knew we were still in considerable danger. We remained trapped in this pit, and if the free women of Tharna had any sense they would take the opportunity to kill us now. It would be simple enough to find a crossbow and shoot us one at a time like ducks in a barrel, or failing that, simply stone us to death. There wasn’t much we could do, trapped in this sunken hole, but I counted on the fact that the women would be in a state of panic and confusion after the use of the Kur globe. And yes, now that light was restored, I saw that at least half the women were backing away towards the two basement entrances. A few of the other women however were standing their ground and calling for us to be killed. They had no idea that Elizabeth was as good as dead, otherwise they might have fled.

Three of the women began searching for ranged weapons. Luckily there were none in the basement chamber, but there would be weapons to hand upstairs. Brinn had immediately come to me as soon as I powered the globe down, and despite my protests that he had better things to do, he was examining my body for injuries. His hands felt good on me, as he turned me on to my belly, carefully moved my limbs to see if any bones were broken. I was bruised and black in places, and my thigh was bleeding from where I had fallen badly, but that aside I was in good shape.

“We need to get out of here,” I said to Brinn as I prayed Chloe and Marissa would hold their nerve and do what we had planned. And from the commotion above on the circular platform it seemed they were doing just that. Chloe and Marissa now stood at one of the two entrances into the chamber, and they were holding their heavy brass candle sticks in both hands. To the sound of shocked screams from the Tharna women, Chloe and Marissa moved in quickly along the narrow platform that was only two bodies wide. No one would be able to slip past them, and as they advanced along the platform they began striking out at the unarmed red robed Free Women. It was brave of Chloe to do so, for this was punishable by death, but under the circumstances I couldn’t see Brinn punishing her for it. The women began screaming as the heavy blows rained down, breaking outstretched hands and then they did what I hoped they might do – they began fleeing towards the other entrance on the platform, inciting a panic amongst the women who were yet out of reach of my friends. Once panic sets in it’s hard to control it, which is why so many historical armies rout at key points in a battle.

Marissa and Chloe were screaming as they swung the heavy candlesticks to the left and right, clearing a space forward. The red robed women of Tharna fell over one another in the stampede to avoid broken bones, and then all thought of shooting or stoning us to death with weapons from upstairs was forgotten. Marissa kept pushing forward past the mechanical ladder as Chloe paused to pull the lever that released that ladder. It fell down with a loud crash, fixed in place along the side of the wall on the left of the pit. Brinn was immediately climbing the ladder with his sword in his right hand the moment the ladder settled in place. Within seconds he was on the platform, and now the women really did panic. If the sudden attack by Marissa was bad enough, the sight of a warrior of the Sardar bearing down on them was enough for the Tharna women to give up all hope and to run screaming for the only available exit they could reach. Perhaps half the women got through before Brinn was upon them, pulling them back one at a time, clubbing them hard with the hilt of his sword. They fell, crying, stunned as he continued to pull them down on at a time. No doubt some of them ended up with broken noses or broken jaw bones. By the time the chamber was empty, Brinn had eight stunned women lying on the wooden platform in various states of semi-consciousness.

But some of the women had stood their ground and fought, even though it was complete stupidity to do so. I saw one red robed woman draw a knife, turn and face Brinn as he came upon her with his gladius. Yes it was a brave thing to do, but she didn’t realistically stand a chance. Perhaps she thought Brinn would hesitate when facing a woman? Perhaps she thought he might be unable to bring himself to hurt her? Perhaps she thought he was weakened from his time in the pit, or maybe she could get under the guard of his sword and strike him with the dagger before he could step back to bring the distance in his favour? No, Brinn simply slashed at her knife hand, almost severing it. The woman screamed as the blade clattered to the floor and her hand hung from an inch thick strip of flesh and fat after Brinn’s blade had almost amputated it. And then Brinn simply pushed her with his free hand over the edge of the balcony rail and down into the deep pit. She landed with a sickening thump and her screams abruptly ceased. Another woman had committed to an attack before she could think again after seeing what had happened to her colleague. As she stepped forward, Brinn simply caught her neck with the back swing of his blade and hacked through to the neck bone. She too was dead.

And that was enough for the remaining women of Tharna who crowded on the raised platform. Now the screams were shrill and deafening as they surged in a frenzied mob to escape away from the warrior with his bloodied sword. Those closest to the archway managed to get through it, while Brinn clubbed down the women unlucky enough to be nearest him, with their backs turned. Provided a woman did not draw a weapon, Brinn was content to simply stun them with the hilt of his sword. One other woman half drew a knife but then seeing Brinn raise his sword again, she wept, threw herself down onto the ground and cast the blade away. Brinn ordered her to remain on her belly on pain of death if she dared move. She did as he said and was still there, trembling, when Marissa took hold of her wrists and tied them behind the small of her back.

“Bind them all,” said Brinn to Marissa as he advanced on through the archway that the other women had fled through. Marissa used the belts of each woman to secure her wrists behind her back. Chloe joined her and then I was up the ladder and I too was binding a number of the Tharna women. I pulled away the silver mask and tore down the scarlet hood of a luscious brown haired girl with high cheek bones. I tore her robes severely at the neck line to reveal her throat and the swell of her breasts before I twisted her hands behind her back and lashed them together. She moaned, cried out, still conscious, but bleeding from a blow to the head as I tied her. She was too weak from the blow to truly resist, but even so she struggled as I then took the remaining length of the belt tie and tied it to the belt tie of the girl who lay closest to her. We were tying the girls back to back in pairs for added security.

Echoing through the archway we heard distant screams as Brinn pursued the other women, catching them one at time in the halls of the great house. The windows of course were barred, and the heavy wooden doors were locked shut. The women were trapped and run as they might, they would be hunted down without mercy by the fierce warrior of the Sardar.

The eight women were beginning to come to their senses by the time Marissa, Chloe and I had finished binding them. I glanced round and saw that Marissa had gone much further than I had – she had found a knife on the belt of one of the women who had succumbed to her heavy candlestick, and she had slit the gowns of the women from throat to navel, stripping them fully to the waist. It was I suppose her revenge for the way they had treated her since being captured on the wharf in Port Kar. She now lined the women up on their knees, with their wrists bound behind their bodies, backs to the stone wall. Those women that Chloe and I had bound, Marissa now slit their rich gowns open to the waist too, despite their pleas for mercy.

“I think one of us needs to check that Simon is okay,” I suggested as I gazed down at his stunned body in the pit.

“Leave it to me,” said Chloe as she scrambled down the ladder. She dropped the last few feet onto the floor of the pit and ran quickly to Simon’s side. I left her to it and joined Marissa instead with the prisoners.

“Any particular reason why you stripped them?” I asked her.

“It saves time for when the men will want to assess which ones will be suitable for the collar.” There were several cries from the women as they heard Marissa say that.

“I’d say at least six of them show promise in that regard,” I said as I examined them myself.

The bound Tharna women demonstrated a range of emotions. Some were simply terrified at what had happened, some were ashamed that they had been face stripped and their bodies had been stripped by Marissa to the waist, while some remained defiant and angry that three slave-girls had dared to do this to them. One of the women, a striking brunette, hissed at me as I gazed at her. The woman beside her tried bribery. “Free me,” she begged. “I am rich! Free me before the warrior returns and I will give you your freedom and make you wealthy beyond your dreams. I can do that! Just free my wrists and get me out of here.”

I smiled, hearing that, for I did not trust any of these haughty women to keep their promise to a slave girl. No doubt if I did help them the only reward I might earn would be a brutal beating afterwards for having dared lay hands on their bodies in the first place, followed by being sold to a slaver.

“Mistress is very generous,” I said as I gazed down at her.

“I mean it! Quickly now…” She scuffled round on her knees, turning her bound body so that her wrists might be obvious. Those wrists were of course secured also to the wrists of the girl next to her, and so she was pulled round when the first woman tried to move. “Just untie me before he returns and you will be a free woman again with money.”

She must think I was stupid. Even if I did free her, where would she go? Even now the remaining Free Women of Tharna were being hunted by Brinn throughout the house. He knew exactly how many of them there were and presumably he intended to find and secure each and every one of them. We heard another shrill scream marking the capture of another red robed woman from the second floor. The doors were bolted. The windows were barred. The women were trapped. There was nowhere for them to run to in their panic.

It did feel good to have these Free Women bound and helpless, kneeling before me. I can’t really describe just how badly I have been treated by Free Women in the years since I was made a slave. I try not to be spiteful and resentful, but when it comes to Gorean Free Women it is very hard not to be. They are simply shits to me. Curiously I don’t think they quite understood what their fate was to be. Like many Free Women, they assume they might be spared slavery, they assume they might simply be captives instead. But at least six of these eight would make excellent slaves. And even the other two could be sold to work in a mill or some other form of labour.

“Your breasts are bare,” I said to the women. She blushed and turned further to her side to try and keep her nudity from me. “And your face is stripped. You should be ashamed of yourself,” I added.

“How dare you!” She hissed, but she had turned her face away, for my words stung her pride.

My muscles were beginning to feel stiff and sore as I led Marissa back up the stairs to the main house. Chloe had elected to remain behind in the basement pit to tend to Simon who was now awake but dazed with minor concussion from being struck by a random blow from the Kur. Luckily he had not felt the claws otherwise his guts might now be hanging from his belly.

“We’ll be fine, Emma,” said Chloe from the bottom of the pit. “Check on everyone else and see that Brinn is okay. I'll be with you again in five minutes once I've spoken to Simon.”

“We’ve left the ladder in place so come on up once Simon is feeling well enough to move,” I said back. And then I lifted myself up and navigated across the wooden platform to the distant archway. To my surprise Marissa had gone and found a slave switch and was now brandishing it at the bound, kneeling line of Tharna women. They all had their heads bowed now before her, and four of the women had red switch marks visible on their breasts where she had struck them for disobedience. They were all quiet now, including the one who had promised me freedom and wealth for untying her wrists.

“You’re quite good at this, Mistress,” I said as I admired her handiwork.

“Of course, Emma, I am a Free Woman. I know how to handle slaves.” She regarded me with a smile.

“I suppose our pretence is over now,” I said with a sigh.

“It is,” said Marissa as she stood there proudly, or as proudly as a woman can do in a slave tunic and steel collar. “I will be eternally grateful to you though, have no fear on that account.”

“You mean it?” I stood there, feeling uncertain now. Her previous promises weren’t exactly binding. I was still a slave, and if I had deeply offended her last night she could easily have me punished for it. “I took some liberties with you, Mistress…”

“Hush, we wont ever talk of them again, Emma,” said Marissa as she moved forward and kissed me affectionately on the forehead as I bowed my head. “You did what you had to do in the circumstances. Maybe you crossed the line at times. I will pretend I can’t remember the details.”

I smiled at that. “I cant remember them either, Mistress.”

“Of course. I’d have to whip you if you could,” she said with a smile as she touched my nose with the tip of her finger. “I like you, Emma. I shouldn’t like a slave, but I do.”

“You’re not bad for a Free Woman either, Mistress. We could almost be friends.”

“Impossible,” said Marissa with a smile as she ruffled my hair. “But a Mistress can be fond of an animal.”

I sighed. “That’s about as good as I can expect I suppose. And Chloe? She didn’t understand you were still free when she spoke the way she did in the rowing boat. You said you would not punish her. I beg you to hold to that promise, Mistress.”

“And I shall. Nothing happened in the boat. Nothing any of us can ever remember.”

I nodded. “Come, the sooner we wrap things up, the sooner we’ll be back in Samos’s hall, and the sooner you can lose that collar and be given robes and gowns again.”

As we passed through the corridors of the house we came across more of the Tharna women. They were invariably stripped, sobbing and tied tightly with whatever cords or bindings Brinn had managed to locate in the building. A few wore slave bracelets, for there was no shortage of them in this house. Some of the women were bruised. One or two were concussed where they had struggled and resisted. We found one who was dead from a sword thrust through her belly. Understand that warriors will kill a woman if she angers them. They do not have the Earth sense of not harming a woman. In situations like this women learn to submit or die. Most submitted.

“There’s something you need to know, Emma,” said Marissa as we walked on through the halls and chambers, admiring Brinn’s handiwork. I was sickened by the sight of the dead woman, for I was still sensitive to acts of violence, but I understand that Brinn could not afford to take chances when he was outnumbered so heavily.

“Understand what, Mistress?”

“I want your Master,” she said. “I am going to seduce him when I am free again. I will offer myself to him as a Free Woman. I will allow him the use of my body.”

“My Master has slaves for that,” I said, though I was alarmed at the thought of a Free Woman offering herself to Brinn in the privacy of her home. I wasn’t sure whether Brinn had any desire to have sexual intercourse with a Free Woman, on a Free Woman’s terms, but I didn’t want to find out the hard way. I was skilled at scaring away slaves from Brinn, but I could do nothing in the case of a Free Woman.

“Nevertheless, I think I am desirable to men. I will invite him to my home, offer him food and wine, and then dim the lights and retire with him to a bed chamber where I will present myself on a couch. I will tell him I have feelings for him, and I will part my gowns so that he can see me.”

“That is very bold of you, Mistress.” No, I really didn’t like the sound of this. “But think of your dignity.”

“I want Brinn’s touch. I want to couple with him. I know that now. I nearly died tonight. I will offer myself to him on his terms.”

I really didn’t want to hear this.

“I owe you my life, Emma, and I am grateful, but do not try to turn Brinn against me. I will know if you do.” Her voice was stern now, offering a dire warning of sorts. “We may Free Companion if he finds me pleasing. I would like that. I would be agreeable to that. I am telling you this now so that you understand what will happen, and you can deal with it when it does. I do not want to hurt you, Emma, but I will if you stand before me and Brinn.”

“I see.”

“I will permit Brinn to use you on occasion, but you will be chained at night in another part of the house when you are not specifically being used. I will never attempt to separate you from your children. You will always have them. But I will encourage Brinn to think of you as just one of his many slaves. If he must use slaves I would hope he will not favour any of them.”

“I see.”

“I am free, Emma. I know this is not what you want to hear right now, but it is the way things will be. Brinn will desire me. I will make him desire me. I will have him for myself. You yourself have told me that I am slave beautiful.”

“You are, Mistress. You are very beautiful.”

“You said I would fetch a good price on the slave block. I think Brinn will like what he sees when I offer myself to him in my silken chambers. And Samos will favour the union I think. It will strengthen our ties to him. I come from a good family of high caste. I will be a good match for Brinn of the Sardar.”

“I see.” Marissa couldn’t see, but I balled my right hand into a fist as I struggled to control myself.

“I will see that you do not want for anything, of course. You will live comfortably on the estate, but you must understand I will find your presence unsettling because of your past history with Brinn. I would like you to take this into consideration and make an effort to avoid us when we are together. It will be better that way.”

I gazed at her and thought to myself that she didn’t realise I still had the power to humiliate her when Samos would inevitably ask me to recount how she had behaved. I could tell Samos of her confession in the bedroom chamber and of her words when we nearly died in the lagoon. I could ruin her reputation at the very least, and perhaps keep her in a collar. And yet… she was acting out of love and need and she didn’t truly want to hurt me. She could have kept her intentions secret. My mind was in turmoil now. There was no guarantee of course that Brinn would have any long term interest in Marissa or in any Free Woman. Certainly he had never expressed any interest in Free Companionship. All these words from Marissa might just be pipe dreams that would never come to fruition. But she was beautiful – slave beautiful even. Could she seduce my Master? Could she supplant me in the household, in his affections? I didn’t think so, but I couldn’t know for certain. All I knew was I only had a little time in which to decide what I would do before Marissa returned to her fine robes, gowns and veils.

Yes, I could still ruin her.

“Emma, talk to me. Say something other than ‘I see’. I’m doing you the courtesy of telling you this. I’m a Free Woman – I didn’t have to warn you in advance. It’s a courtesy because of what you’ve done for me tonight,” said Marissa, for my lack of response seemed to unsettle her.

“I don’t know what you want me to say, Mistress. You’re going to seduce my Master and win him over as your Free Companion. As you say, you are Free and I am not. My opinion doesn’t seem to matter.” I didn’t look at her. Yes, I was angry. Who wouldn’t be?

“I don’t want to hurt you. I will see that you are treated well, Emma. I promise you that. I would prefer it if you understood the situation and at least accepted it with a smile.”

With a smile… How stupid she was. Why were Gorean Free Women so stupid? If I was going to do something like this to her, if she was the slave and I was free, I don’t think I would give her fair warning while I was still wearing a slave tunic and a collar. I could ruin her with just a few words to Samos. Was she really so sure of her superiority that she didn’t realise that? But I turned round and I gave her the soft smile she longed to see. “I understand, Mistress. Mistress is kind to tell me now.”

“Good. You are a valuable slave, Emma, and I appreciate your resourcefulness. Do not fear that I will ever ask for you to be sold. You will remain on the estate, but I will expect you to make yourself demure and silent when I am with Brinn. Try not to be in the same chambers as us when we are together. You understand that is for the best, yes?”

“Of course, Mistress, I understand how my presence might be an unsettling reminder.” I lowered my gaze as she spoke. It was of course a habit. After so many years I just reacted this way when a Free Woman spoke to me. But deep down I was furious.

We came now to the set of chambers where we had left Elizabeth bleeding and dying. “If she’s not dead already then we should tie her up for Brinn to deal with.”

“I shall present her to Brinn if you don’t mind, Emma. She will be my gift to Samos, and an indication of what I have done tonight in service of his great work. I shall present her naked, in chains. Behold, I will say, the enemy of the Priest Kings, helpless and stripped for your pleasure. It will be good for my career. It will impress Brinn. Samos will reward me with status and gold. We did after all defeat Elizabeth together.”

And I think she really believed that. But then when we rounded the corner and entered the work room, we found Elizabeth gone. There was a trail of blood that led to a tapestry hanging on one of the stone walls., but no sign of Elizabeth herself.

“I don’t fucking believe this,” I said as I ran towards the tapestry and brushed it aside. As I feared there was an open doorway set into the stone and another secret passage that led downstairs. “She has more fucking lives than a cat.” I ran down the stairs, forgetting even to find a weapon in my haste to ensure she didn’t get away from me a second time. But by the time I reached the lower sub basement that seemed to be separate from the larger main basement, I found simply another door that presumably led to a tunnel. The door however was bolted shut and I couldn’t open it. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!” I struck the door futilely with my fists in frustration.

No doubt Brinn would get the door open eventually with the aid of tools, but I had little doubt that Elizabeth would be long gone by the time he did. Perhaps the tunnel led to a boat hidden on one side of the island. It would be sensible for Elizabeth to have contingency escape plans in case the worst happened. How far she could get though as an unaccompanied woman without a Kur to aid her was anyone’s guess. Samos would soon have men looking for her in Port Kar.

“She’s gone,” said Marissa in dismay. How very observant of her. “This is your fault, Emma!”

“What?” I turned round as Marissa joined me at the foot of the stairs beside the locked tunnel door.

“You were in such a hurry that you didn’t secure Elizabeth Bentley. This is all on you.” Marissa stood there, fuming. Her fortunes would have risen dramatically if she could have led Elizabeth into Samos’s hall, naked, on a leash. That spectacular win would have eclipsed the indignities she had suffered in achieving the end game.

“We didn’t have time to secure her Mistress. Brinn and Simon were about to be killed. And we were afraid she might have a poison hair pin within easy reach.”

“You don’t know that, Emma! You don’t know that! I think there would have been time. I don't think she had a poison hair pin! You made the wrong decision! YOU let Elizabeth Bentley escape!” Marissa was livid now. “You stupid slut!”

I nearly hit her. I so nearly hit her. But just in time I controlled myself. “Yes, Mistress.”

Marissa paced about the small enclosed space at the foot of the stairs in anger. “We had her! We had her! She would have been mine! This has cost me dearly, you stupid girl!” And then she struck me with the palm of her hand across my face. I flinched, but took the blow.

“I saved your life…” I said quietly. Several empty seconds ticked by as Marissa suddenly realised what she had said and done to me. I just gazed at her with eyes lowered, the disappointment etched on my features.

“I am so sorry…” she said as she stepped forward and touched my arm. “I… I shouldn’t have said that… done that…”

“I saved your life,” I said again.

“I am sorry, Emma. I am. This is the way I have always been with slaves. I didn’t mean it with you. I was angry, frustrated that Elizabeth had slipped away. It’s not your fault. I am truly sorry. You did your best.”

Free Women. Free fucking Women. They will never change. Never.

“Do you want to whip me, Mistress?” I asked with raised eyes as I crossed my wrists. “Shall I adopt the whipping position?”

“No… please, no, Emma. I shouldn’t have said that. It was wrong of me. Forgive me.”

I nodded. We could never really be friends, for she was free and I was a slave. She was grateful to me, but we could never truly be friends. That is how it is on Gor. Friends have arguments from time to time. They fall out temporarily over small things. The difference here is that Marissa could have me beaten if that happened. Oh she might regret it after the event, but she could still do it, probably would do it in the heat of the moment, and I would have no come back whatsoever. I should not have anything to do with Free Women if I could possibly help it. Stay away from them. Try not to be noticed. Marissa might turn on me without warning, even if she did feel grateful now.

“Come, let us find Brinn,” she said after a while.

It wasn’t difficult to locate Brinn, we simply followed the sound of the screams. When we found him it was in an upstairs bedroom to the left of the main corridor, where a woman of Tharna had barricaded herself inside with a single door bolt, and Brinn had simply kicked it open. We found her stripped, her red robes cut away from her pale body, as Brinn forced her to her belly and bound her wrists and ankles together. I saw Chloe run along the corridor towards us at the same time.

“Simon's okay,” she said. “I've left him on one of the beds.”

“Emma,” said Brinn with a smile, seeing me hover at the door. “I think by my counting this is the last one. The others are scattered through the house, either tied with thongs or locked in slave bracelets. A few unfortunately fought back and had to be killed.” He finished his swift ties and stood up, still naked, still elated with his success. “I told you things would work out well for me. An opportunity always arises, and when it does I take advantage of it.”

He honestly believes that. Well, I think he does.

I was feeling quite smug and pleased with myself as I prowled the room like a cat on heat and approached Brinn with my most sexy walk. “So… is there something you’d like to say to me, Master?” I asked with a soft purr. I had after all saved his life in the pit. He would be sooo damn grateful now.

“Yes, Emma, there is. Come here.” Brinn regarded me closely as I approached and stood before him with one leg flexed. He ran his hands over my lower back, around my ass and around my thighs, softly stroking me, assessing me almost. It felt good and I let him know it did with a look of complete arousal. “Well?” I said as I looked up into his eyes. He would be incredibly grateful for what I had done, but I wanted him to acknowledge it while Marissa could hear. “Aren’t you going to say something?”

Brinn nodded. “I was correct in my suspicions. I think you’ve put on a little extra weight since I left the Sardar.”

“What?!” I pulled away from him, an angry expression on my face, but he quickly caught my left wist and pulled me back, where he ran his hands over my ass again.

“Yes, I thought as much. Your ass and thighs have more flesh on them than before. I’d say you’re four to five pounds over your optimum weight. You’ve been eating too much rich food while I’ve been away.”

“What the fuck?! I’m not fat!” I struggled to pull away again, furious that this was the first thing he wanted to say to me after all I had done for him, Simon and Port Kar.

“Five pounds, Emma, maybe even six…” he seemed thoughtful. “I’d have to weigh you to be sure. Your ass is definitely more fleshy.” He felt again. “It may be your obsession with the baklava. There won't be any more baklava treats for you.”

“I don’t have a fat ass!” I tried to push him away with my right hand, but it was like pushing against a wall.

“I’ll put you on a strict diet when we return to the Sardar,” said Brinn. “Slave gruel and fresh vegetables only. And you'll be assigned strenuous chores. Exercise and a simple diet will strip the excess weight away.”

“Chores! I‘m the fucking First Girl!” I pushed at him again, my face flushing red with embarrassment. “The First Girl doesn't do chores!”

“The sooner you lose the five pounds, Emma, the sooner you won’t have to work during the day doing chores. It won’t take long.”

“I’m not fat!” I screamed as Brinn released me. Despite myself I ran my hands over my thighs and ass. Was it my imagination or was I a little less firm than a couple of months ago? No! That couldn’t be possible. I suddenly felt very self conscious. Marissa was definitely thinner than me. But that was because I had more ample slave curves. That was the only reason wasn’t it? I felt my ass again while Brinn looked on and laughed. “Please Master, can I have something to wear?” I said, my face still red with embarrassment. I felt very self conscious now.

“Why? Do you want to hide that fat ass?” enquired Brinn in a mocking tone.

“It’s not a fat ass!” I cringed and ran back to the side of the room, livid. Marissa looked on with an amused smile. Fuck her, the skinny bitch. Five pounds wasn’t much, but I suppose it would be visible somewhere on my body. Oh God… did I have a fat ass now? I turned my face away and felt Chloe put her arm around me and whisper, “its okay, Emma, you’re not fat. You look great. It really doesn’t show.”

“What doesn’t show?” I said in alarm.

“Um, I mean there’s nothing to show…” said Chloe quickly.

“Oh God, you think I’ve put on weight too, don’t you!” I said in alarm.

Chloe bit her lower lip and looked a little anxious. “Only a few pounds, Emma. I didn’t really want to say. It looks cute on you though. It makes you look a little more curvaceous…” she was searching for the right words.

“Curvaceous? You mean I do have a fat ass!” I whimpered. “I’m not eating anything until I get back to my normal size now!”

“You will eat what I give you to eat,” said Brinn. “Do not be ridiculous, Emma, it’s easy to control your diet and exercise. You’ll lose the weight in two to three weeks, gradually and sensibly.”

“Please can I have something to wear! Please!” I was really self conscious now.

Marissa stood there with a mocking smile on her face. “I thought you were always like that, Emma. I had no idea.”

“And Chloe, come here girl,” said Brinn with pleasure as he regarded the Taharian beauty. “You look ravishing as always.” Chloe ran, delighted, towards Brinn, eager as ever to bask in the admiration and lust of a man, for my friend really was a grade one slut of the highest magnitude. I sighed as Brinn took her in his arms, kissed her, and then gave her ass a playful slap, which was the sort of thing he tended to do.

“Master,” she said in that delighted purr her voice becomes when she's feeling frisky.

“I hope you've been looking after Emma while I've been away,” said Brinn. “We both know how stressed she gets when I'm not around to look after her myself.”

“Oh yes, Master,” said Chloe as she nestled in close to him. “We both know she's ever so scatter brained,” she said, with a humorous wink in my direction. I simply folded my arms and looked away while they both got smoochy. My only saving grace was that Brinn's affection for Chloe was annoying Marissa ten fold.

“And unlike my First Girl, you've remained slim and toned,” said Brinn as he explored her body with his hands. “No diet or exercise needed for you it seems.”

“If you overlook her fat ankles...” I said with a sniff. 

Chloe simply stuck her tongue out at me as she got all slinky with my Master.     

“Ah, and the noble Lady Marissa,” said Brinn disengaging himself from Chloe as he now noticed the Free Woman hovering at the edge of the door, peering round it so as to reveal as little of her body as possible. “Come inside.” When Marissa chose not to, Brinn added “Now, Lady…” in a rather firmer voice. Marissa stepped forward and there was no mistaking the way Brinn gazed at her lithe body.

“You will forgive me, Lady,” said Brinn as his erection showed quite clearly due to his nudity, “but you have an exquisitely sexual body, and I am ordinarily used to seeing you fully robed in concealing gowns. To see you like this now… well.” A combination of the the sight of Marissa in her slave tunic and collar and the fondling just now of Chloe and myself had Brinn’s penis standing to full attention. Like most Gorean men though he wasn’t at all ashamed of being seen like this. It was perfectly natural to him to react this way to the sight and touch of alluring woman.

“Please, Sir… this is humiliating enough for me….” She said as she tried not to look at that stiff penis on display. His state of sexual arousal was a sharp reminder of how she now looked. Her face flushed red with the thought.

“I understand this must be an uncomfortable sight for you, Lady. Let me rectify things at once.” And then suddenly without warning Brinn seized my wrists, threw me onto the couch in the bedroom and, as I squealed in shock, parted my thighs and without any foreplay at all, entered me. I think he simply wanted to lose the erection to spare Marissa any further embarrassment, and so he fucked me quickly, coming after a couple of minutes and then withdrawing again. I lay there on the bed, not having orgasmed myself, but having enjoyed the sudden and unexpected sex nevertheless. “Stay there, Emma, on your back. You look lovely like that,” he said as he cleaned his cock with my hair.

“I hope this is better now, Lady” said Brinn as he turned back to face Marissa, his penis now flaccid for a while at least.

Marissa sniffed and regarded me with an annoyed expression. Perhaps she was jealous that Brinn had not thrown her onto the soft couch onto her back, and that he had not pulled her tunic up above her waist and fucked her instead. She had no doubt watched what had been done to me, and if her body was as hormonally rich as I thought it was, it must have filled her with an agonising need.

I suppose it is possible that I may have squirmed deliciously on the couch, squealing and moaning in pleasure rather more than normal, because I knew the Lady Marissa would be watching from the other side of the room. Too, I may now have been lying in the soft furs, a look of content ravishment upon my face as I lay on my back, supine, as ordered to, my hands reaching out above my head to clutch the slave ring at the headboard. I do not truly know if this was the case, but if so it was a subtle and enjoyable way to get back at the Mistress as she in turn remained an untouched virgin.

“I think we need to clarify your situation,” said Brinn to Marissa as he approached her. She in turn shrank back against the wall and pressed the palms of her hands to the brick work as she regarded him. Brinn raised her chin a little with the fingers of his left hand, making clear the collar on her neck. “Are you actually free?” he asked.

“Yes!” There was urgency in her voice that was quite understandable. I smiled softly, imagining how weak in the knees she must be about now with Brinn standing so close to her, his naked body within easy reach of her hands.

“And yet you wear a steel collar. Did you submit to a free man or woman?”

“No!” This was of course true. Marissa had only submitted to me. “I would not! I did not!”

“Is this true, Emma?” asked Brinn without turning around.

“It is, Master. The collar was a pretence of sorts to save her life when she was discovered on the wharf where we were observing the conspirators. We contrived that she pretended to submit to me. I believe under merchant law she remains a free woman. She should be treated as one.”

Was Brinn disappointed at hearing that? It was hard to tell.

Are you surprised that after what Marissa had told me she intended to do, that I would still support her claims to freedom? Do you think I was naïve, stupid, or perhaps soft? No, I was none of those, for in the time it had taken to find Brinn my mind had been racing with the fear of her taking my place in Brinn’s affections. Logically this wouldn’t happen, but fear is an emotive force that transcends logic. You can have a loved one going in for an operation with a 95% chance of success but you still worry uncontrollably about that other 5%. Perhaps Elizabeth is right when she claims that an inability to fear anything has liberated her from the oppressive nature of life. Anyway, by the time we found Brinn I had come to the conclusion that Marissa would be more dangerous if she remained in a collar, if she was declared a slave, if she was branded and taught to please men. I would be better off if she remained frigid, untutored in the arts of sex, incapable of competing with pleasure slaves. To Brinn then she would be a dried up husk of bread, whereas I would be a sumptuous feast. Yes, he might out of curiosity couple with her a few times, but the experience would be disappointing. She wouldn’t know what to do, and while she remained free Brinn would be reluctant to impress upon her the various ways of pleasuring a man. There remains a wide gulf between free women and slaves, and Marissa while she remained free could never cross that gulf. But enslaved she might prove dangerous. If that collar remained locked around her neck she might in time become quite the talented little slut, and perhaps she would wheedle her way into Brinn’s bed more times than I cared to consider. She was certainly beautiful enough. So no, I decided it was not in my best interests for Marissa to become a slave. Let her compete with me while she wore the stuffy constrictive robes of a Free Woman. Brinn would find her amusing, but little more than that. It would be I that was sent to his couch each night. I would ensure that Marissa was restored to full freedom. I did not want her lying at Brinn’s feet in a wisp of red pleasure silk, declaring her slave needs. Let her remain frigid, unsatisfied, desperate for the touch of a man but unfulfilled in that respect

The dignities and curse of freedom for women on Gor.

I look back now and I realise how relieved I must have been at that point. Surely my ordeal was at an end? I'd beaten Elizabeth, freed Brinn, and earned the gratitude of Samos of Port Kar. I had my life back. We would return to the estate on the Sardar and Brinn would be restored to his former position. Cassandra would depart and I would be with my children again.

I would have my life back.

Or so I thought.

I had no way of course of knowing what horror the next 24 hours had in store for me, and how it would change the course of my life once more.

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